Best Austin SEO Companies


Complete SEO

Complete SEO has been executing successful SEO campaigns in Austin for over a decade. They’re one of the top-reviewed firms and have an extensive client list of the who’s who of Austin. Their team provides SEO services on a month-to-month basis and serves clients in local and national markets. They provide free consultations for prospective clients.

Tasty Placement

Tasty Placement has been a leading name in SEO companies for over 14 years and is showing no signs of slowing down. They are one of only five Google marketing platform partners in Texas and one of 500 worldwide. In addition to this rare achievement, Tasty Placement also gained the highest level of Adwords Certification—meaning they can get the job done quickly, returning your investment in no time. With a published book on WordPress SEO and over 710 successful SEO campaigns (many in Austin Texas), their ability to perform speaks for itself. Tasty Placement can help with web design, search placement, social media, and other important aspects of SEO for your business. Tasty Placement has worked with businesses across several different industries and local markets, including home improvement services, law, finance education, legal, and more. When it comes to successfully utilizing SEO in your digital marketing plans, Tasty Placement has you covered.

Digitech Web Design

Digitech Web Design is one of the top names in the industry of website creation and execution. With over 112 completed projects in less than 10 years, they’ve quickly gained a lot of notice from other top names in the industry. They have worked with major global brands such as Universal, Waste Management, and the American Heart Association, just to name a few. They seek success in all areas of digital marketing by cultivating the perfect website for your specific demographic, bringing your branding to the best level possible through logo design and outreach, and top-of-the-line SEO marketing techniques to ensure your business quickly reaches your intended customer base. Their exclusive SEO marketing techniques differ from any other company. While other businesses seek a mass customer base, Digitech focuses on the customer base that would be most beneficial. They have received several awards, including Best Web Design Agency in Texas through Clutch, as well as one of the Top 1% Agencies in North America for Marketing and Advertising through Upcity.

Insignia SEO

Insignia SEO is driven by the success of your business. With a “your success is our success” approach, Insignia has spent years helping improve marketing strategies for businesses across varying industries. Insignia works with you to customize a unique, tailored experience that fits your specific needs. We can take on any business of any size, regional and national alike. Insignia will drive website visits, boost your search rankings, increase your brand visibility, and improve the quality of traffic for your business site. With over 30 years of collective internet marketing experience, they understand time-tested methods of lead-generation, as well as the need for adaptability to stay ahead of the game. With Insignia SEO, you’ll be receiving premium SEO solutions to all your marketing problems. Insignia SEO understands the highly competitive digital marketplace. They will be able to take your business and push it straight to the top, improving your customer acquisition and overall success.

Geek Powered Studios

Geek Powered Studios is a top-of-the-line, fully integrated digital marketing agency. Their team of Geeks is focused on helping your business not only compete, but rise to the top in our highly competitive digital market. They offer several services, including SEO, Email campaign management, digital marketing strategy, pay-per-clicks, and social media optimization, as well as web design and development. At Geek Powered Studios, they understand that every client is unique and, thus, will always adapt your SEO plan to fit your specific needs. Their plans are tailored to a site-by-site basis. They utilize comprehensive audits, audience research, and evolving strategies to ensure max results for your website. They are heavily focused on ensuring your return on investment and offer a flexible retainer to ensure they are meeting your needs month after month. Geek Powered Studios has recently received the 2021 Best PPC Agency in Austin through Geek Powered Studios will help your business stand out from the crowd.

Search RPM

Search RPM is a leading name in SEO in the Austin, Texas area. This company focuses on three areas of success when it comes to optimizing the approachability of your site. These focus areas include Technical SEO, Page-by-Page optimization, and PR outreach. This approach ensures that your business appears as high up as possible in search engine rankings. It also ensures that, once customers reach your site, every single page will make sense, be appealing, and keep the customer engaged and interested. Their PR outreach helps to solidify the customer’s return, as well as the acquisition of others. Search RPM uses an evolved approach to online branding and marketing that other companies simply don’t have. Their focus: design, measure, and evolve. Their team of marketing experts will work with you to create the perfect site for your business, measuring the traffic, and constantly evolving your site and continuing to improve your numbers.

The Search Engine Guys

The Search Engine Guys are a team of highly experienced individuals who focus on working with law firms to ensure the success of their firm’s website. They offer an impressive showcase of attractive website options, but you can also rely on them to create a completely custom design for your business. They won the 2019 Web Awards Legal Standard of Excellence for design, content, and interactivity. Since they focus on working with law firms, The Search Engine Guys understand the unique struggle of trying to make your firm stand out amongst all the others in your industry’s search results. What’s important, however, is that they know the proper layout, keywords, and other SEO techniques to combat these difficulties and bring potential clients to your page. The Search Engine Guys believe in being a true digital marketing partner. This means that they will work for you and with you to achieve results.

Effective Spend

Effective Spend is a top name in SEO in Austin, Texas. They focus their method around delivering measurable performance for your business through integrating paid search, paid social media, display media. When channeled through their innovative SEO approach and digital PR, your business will see a high ROI. Effective Spend prides itself on its in-house approach. They don’t just work for you, they work with you to ensure success. One creative way they do this is by providing account-based profit sharing with their employees. This has helped them to retain some of the best marketers in the business who only stand to gain from contributing to your success. They offer month-to-month contracts to demonstrate their desire to help you succeed. Effective Spend received the 2021 Best Places to Work for in Austin Award through They have also been on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in the Nation list for three years, rising 400 spots from their first appearance.


At Motoza, this company offers SEO without the snake oil. This means that they pride themselves on honest, collaborative, and transparent approaches for their SEO marketing techniques and business practices. Located in Austin, Texas, Motoza prides itself on the work that it has done for the community and takes pride in the location. They can provide services for both local and global companies. Their unique approach to SEO revolves around the premise that SEO is much more than page rankings. It involves customized marketing strategies and customer search intent. They believe in taking a holistic approach and can help you with several SEO needs—website development and management, pay-per-clicks, social media, search engine rankings, and more. Motoza offers a straightforward, honest approach to developing, executing, maintaining, and evolving your SEO plan to meet the current needs of the market. Motoza was awarded Best SEO Experts in Austin 2020 by They work over a multitude of industries, including e-commerce, enterprise, home services, legal, and healthcare.

Leverage Marketing

Leverage Marketing is a reliable SEO company that can truly provide anything that you need to enhance your business’s presence in the digital world. They offer completely customizable strategies to meet the needs of your specific business and industry. With decades of collective experience, Leverage Marketing can provide skilled approaches to every facet of digital marketing. This company uses the latest technology to provide cutting-edge digital marketing and revenue acquisition technologies. Leverage Marketing has also gained the prestigious status of being a Premier Google Partner. This company was built on entrepreneurial success and utilizes a unique process called the Digital Marketing Plan. They will work closely with you to determine the services you need. They are a full-service online marketing team that can help with every aspect of your digital presence. Leverage Marketing is dedicated to innovation, transparency, and long-term relationships. Their customized services and commitment ensure your business will see increased success in the highly competitive digital market.

Dash SEO

Dash SEO is an Austin-based company that focuses on SEO and Digital Marketing for a wide range of industries. Dash SEO helps your business thrive in today’s competitive digital marketplace. Their services will help you rank higher on search engine results, see an increase in website traffic, and enhance your brand awareness and online visibility. Dash SEO believes in providing quality leads and conversions to your website through successful techniques that evolve and change with the needs of the digital platforms. Dash SEO’s team might stretch across the globe, but it will feel like they are in-house once you experience their unique approach to SEO. They can easily adapt to any business model, location, or size. They offer several services, including SEO, pay-per-click, reputation marketing, social media strategies, and web design, to name a few. Dash SEO will be able to elevate your website—increasing your digital traffic and ensuring your business will see greater customer acquisition and retention.

Hang Ten SEO

Hang Ten SEO has a motto: “we live and breathe SEO.” This motto proves itself through the number of happy clients who have seen their pages rank higher and higher in search engine results. The owner, Tom Crandall, literally wrote the book on local SEO—a book available online, packed full of tips and tricks gathered over his 10 years of SEO experience. This company is dedicated to helping your company achieve better website traffic (leading to higher conversions). This is done through website design, as well as the implementation of vital SEO strategies. By providing a clear website layout and useful, relevant content, Hang Ten SEO can boost your engagement tremendously. They specialize in digital marketing consulting, on-page SEO, website development, local SEO, WordPress consulting, and  backlinking techniques. Hang Ten SEO takes pride in working with local businesses throughout the Austin, TX area to grow and better compete in their highly competitive markets.

Local Surge Media

Local Surge Media is an online SEO agency with a focus on businesses in the Austin, Texas area. The founders of this company began their SEO journey back in 1998, before the digital world exploded into how we experience it today. While their roots may be humble, this has provided ample time and experience to understand how the competitive digital marketing platform works. Local Surge Media will be able to help your business achieve greater visibility in search engine results—a must-have for any business trying to compete online. They have spent years developing website design techniques geared toward drawing in prospective leads and converting them into loyal customers. They can also work with you to improve your social media presence and email your subscribers. The techniques implemented by Local Surge Media will help you improve your conversion rates, grow your brand, and gain more profit.

Glide Design

Glide Design in Austin, Texas offers custom website design services to meet the needs of your business and boost your search engine rankings. Their business model revolves around building meaningful relationships, staying transparent with all matters and stages of your SEO plan, and investing in always seeking the “better way” of doing something. Glide Design provides quality custom web design that can enhance your user experience, as it will look great and run smoothly across all devices. Through their web development techniques, they will build a platform that is easy to update and has been tested through simulated live environments to ensure success. Your website will be measured, tested, and adapted to better your online traffic. Based on your desired approach, Glide Design can help with all aspects of digital marketing. They also work to ensure that your brand leaves a lasting impression, keeping customers coming back. Glide Design will work with you, starting with website creation and following through with maintenance, updates, and repairs.

Neon Ambition

Neon Ambition is committed to helping your business succeed by offering the ability to generate leads with its proven marketing strategies throughout several different industries. With years of combined experience, the team at Neon Ambition understands the importance of your digital presence in a highly competitive marketplace. Neon Ambition helps to increase visibility online by connecting you to the right audience. This is done through search-engine results and increased traffic. They also provide relevant content to help visitors understand why your business is unique. This, in turn, helps to boost conversion. Neon Ambition’s PPC team is one of the most experienced in the country. Neon Ambition is well-practiced at adapting to your specific needs and providing a customized approach to market strategies. They can also help with SEO, content marketing, social media presence, and website design. Neon Ambition implements and tests its approaches to ensure that your unique plan will be successful.

Social SEO

Social SEO is a leading name in digital marketing. With over 20 years of experience, Social SEO has helped numerous companies—large and small—build a digital presence that people have flocked to. They have worked with Jaguar, Land Rover, Don Julio, and Ace Hardware, just to name a few. They have built their name by focusing on the digital marketing needs of others. They offer SEO services, paid search, email marketing, social media marketing, video production, content strategy, and so much more. Social SEO helps by increasing your website visibility in search engine results. They ensure that the proper customer base is being reached and retained. They will provide monthly reports to ensure transparency and show exactly how the marketing techniques are helping. Social SEO believes in operating as a true partner. Your success is their success as well. Social SEO has received several awards, most recently having been rated #1 in Digital Marketing Firms in America.


Marion has helped numerous customers achieve better results in the online market. With agencies located in Houston and Austin, Texas, Marion has long been serving their communities to improve customer growth. Marion is a full-service marketing and design agency. They can both provide supplemental in-house marketing and serve as a fully outsourced marketing agency. Marion believes in taking a holistic approach. This is done through a mix of strategic, technical, and creative approaches, all combined to create the best content for your unique site. Marion offers services in SEO, PPC, branding, internet marketing, graphic design, print, and so much more. Marion will work with you to ensure that your SEO plan is exactly what you are looking for. They will tailor your website to boost search engine results, which in turn will bring more traffic onto your page. With great content, you’ll be able to captivate visitors and see a return on your investment quickly.

Blackhawk Digital Marketing

Blackhawk Digital Marketing proudly boasts that it is a one-stop-shop for all of your digital marketing needs. While located in Austin, Texas, this company has helped businesses all over the country increase their digital presence. Since 2016, Blackhawk Digital Marketing has strived to provide the best services to its clients. These services include branding and design, advertising campaigns, marketing technology, content development, and so much more. They have proven their success through working with clients such as Buc-ee’s, Duracell Lights, and ACL Radio, just to name a few. Regardless of the size of your business, they can help increase your digital presence by tailoring your site to meet the needs of your intended audience. They will work with you to tailor a unique strategy to meet your needs, as well as the specific needs of your industry. By trusting Blackhawk Digital Marketing, you’ll notice increased traffic to your site, an increased conversion rate, and a quick return on investment.

Author: Gab Goldenberg

PageRank was supposed to be a probability distribution of the likelihood of someone clicking a link.

When that changed, Google broke [because PageRank broke].

See also how AdSense should have passed PageRank (but obviously doesn’t).

It took recent events to expose publicly what a number of folks have been saying more quietly for a while.

Add my RSS feed to your reader if you want to stay up to date before the crowd gets up to date (and ruins things for you ;) ).

Broken Link Building – A Case Study

This guest post is by Ben Jackson, founder of SEO Discovery, an SEO blog with free tutorials, link building strategies, and more.

This is a case study of my broken link building campaign. These are the steps I took, the successes I had, and the mistakes I made.

What is broken link building?

In case you’re not familiar, broken link building is the process of finding an old resource that is now a 404 error page and rebuilding it. You then contact anyone still linking to this page and inform them that they have a broken link on their site and you have a similar, updated version of this resource on your site they can link to instead.

[Editor’s note: It’s like cloning expired sites for links.]

The Benefits of Broken Link Building

An advantage of broken link building is that the pages you recreate were already great link bait. Tons of people linked to it in the past so they will likely link to you now.

After your broken link building campaign you can also get more current links by sharing it through social media, social news sites, and any other outreach plan you have.

• It’s a great way to get in-content authority links.
An in-content, dofollow link on an authoritative page on an authoritative domain is arguably the best kind of link you can get.
• It bypasses most of the brainstorming involved with linkbait
The 404 page was already link bait, so you KNOW you’re going to get some links and the type of resource you’re going to recreate
• It’s an ever-green source of links
If you feel like you’re starting to run out of link sources, you can always get more links by doing some broken link building

Resources You’ll Need:

Xenu – for finding broken links
SEO Quake – for checking backlinks

There are a lot of ways to go about broken link building. Here’s the path that I took…

I started by finding some SEO and Internet Marketing blogs listed in Dmoz. I purposely selected a few sites that hadn’t been posted on for a year or longer. Current sites also have broken links, but I thought I would have a better picture of the sites of yester-year like this.

Once I gathered a list of about 5 sites, I ran each one through Xenu. Xenu is a site-wide broken link checker. My jaw drops every time I see someone checking for broken links page-by-page. There was just a post in SEO Moz about a plugin that checks one page at a time quickly. YAWN! Turn on Xenu, and walk away.

I had Xenu create a report for each site and then looked through the broken link section for any outgoing links leading to 404 pages.

Tip: You’ll find all kinds of links that won’t help you at all, but you can tell right away by the URL if a page is going to be good to recreate.

When you come across any link that could be a good page to rebuild, visit the page and check the backlinks it has with SEO Quake. If the link profile is good then you have a potential winner, save it in a notepad or other file. If it only has a few links then move on.

Tip: Don’t be discouraged if you go through a couple sites without luck at first. After your first time you can build a network of go-to sites in your niche.

Once you find a few broken URLs that have a good amount of backlinks, visit the Wayback Machine. Put in the URL and go back to when it was still online. This way you can see exactly what the resource was and how you can make the same thing, but much better and more modern.

Now this is a case study, so let me tell you exactly what I did…

One potential page to rebuild I found was a 404 page on a site called Dosh Dosh, you may remember it. The page had a good amount of backlinks, but it was very extensive and about a topic I didn’t feel particularly qualified to write about. What I then realized was that the site was still online, but every single page was a 404 error.

I then Googled “Dosh Dosh” and found a post listing 18 Must Read Posts at Dosh Dosh. I looked through this list and picked out the one I thought I could recreate with the most ease. The page also happened to have 690 backlinks.

Here’s the page I made on my site. I improved the Dosh Dosh version by including a few different metrics and putting the sites in one easy to use table.

While there were 690 links to the page at Dosh Dosh, the majority of them were repeat links from obscure and abandoned sites. However, I did find a good number of links with PR.

A lot of SEOs recommend developing a persona and building a relationship before requesting that the webmaster links to your page. Since I was emailing people mostly in the SEO industry I thought this would be annoying and I cut straight to the chase. I notified them of the broken link and also mentioned my similar and updated resource in my first email.

Who I emailed:

I emailed anyone who had a page with any PR. I also emailed a few who had 0 PR, but had decent Alexa rankings. I did this in hopes that the sites were still well-maintained and could potentially send traffic.

I ignored sites with 0 PR and very high Alexa rankings, and also pages that had tons of links on them.

Tip: Be careful not to email the same webmaster twice – that’s just awkward.

My Results:

I emailed about 40 different webmasters and got these results:

7 emailed me back and linked
3 emailed me back and didn’t link, 2 of them said they would
1 did not email me and linked
1 person emailed me back, linked to me, and wrote a blog post about how I was building links and linked to me again (an authoritative domain as well)

The PR break-down of the links:
PR 3 – 3
PR 1 -1
PR 0 – 5

It might seem like very little for a lot of effort, but there are many more benefits and potential links here.

• I emailed a lot of sites somewhat indiscriminately that haven’t been updated in a while – they might link eventually
• The post was a good addition to my site and easy to share and get traffic to since it was very useful
• Broken link building provides excellent insight for what makes for great link bait
• It can be a good way to make new contacts ie it’s why you’re reading this guest post now

Looking at my broken link page, you can easily discern a few of the keywords I was attempting to rank for. The only keyword that gained immediate traction was “social news sites“. My page is currently jumping between pages 2-3 for the keyword. Not bad for Keyword Difficulty score of “62% Highly Competitive” from SEO Moz.

Besides the links I got from my broken linking, I’ve linked to it once with partial match anchor text from a guest post I did for Business 2 Community, but I expect the ranking to increase relatively quickly once I begin building some exact match links.

What I Did Wrong

• I was not as organized as I should have been.

I didn’t copy down a list of URLs that I tried to get links from. This would have been especially helpful for the sites that I had to use an on-site contact form for. I would advise anyone doing this to copy down the URLs and email addresses of every single webmaster you contact, and what their response was.

• I didn’t have an outreach plan.

I got the links I could from the broken linking, but due to the nature of the page, I could have capitalized on my resource more as link bait. I shared the post on social sites, linked in a guest post, and also had a lot of “recent post” CommentLuv links from blog comments. This was okay, but not enough to get the linkerati on board.

• My page has a lot of outbound links

I could be getting more benefit to my site from the links I got if I didn’t have so many outbound links on the page. It’s a matter of SEO VS User Experience. Having the links clickable is draining the PR, but it also makes it easier for users.

[Editor’s note: I think this is a good thing: we know Google rewards good linking out.]

What do you think? Should I un-link the names of all the sites?
For now, I’m just building some exact match links and waiting to hear back from the busy webmasters at Copyblogger for a potential PR 5 link. Wish me luck ?

New SEO Plugin for WordPress: Internal Link Building

Note: If you download this, please link to this page from your blog or Tweet it.

Update 1 : The plugin has been downloaded 22,000 + times! And many webmasters use it on multiple sites, so it’s probably being used on closer to 25-30,000 sites!

22,000 downloads of Internal Link Building

(Click to enlarge)

Update 2 : To download the plugin, you need to add my RSS feed to your reader. The download link is now in my RSS feed’s footer . That is to say you can find a link to download below any post, but only if you read via RSS.

Some folks have complained about the need to subscribe. And I understand where you’re coming from – it feels a little pushy and you probably already have a bunch of subscriptions.

But there are good reasons to subscribe to my rss feed (besides it being free):

1) To hear about updates to the plugin or new plugins and SEO tools I release.

2) To learn new SEO techniques. If you like my plugin, aren’t my other SEO ideas worth your attention?

Key info on Internal Link Building:

Internal Link Building gives you an admin panel to assign keywords to given destination URLs. The point being that your website will link within itself a la Wikipedia – every time a keyword occurs, it links to the page you defined.

Internal Link Building plugin admin panel

So: You can rank like Wikipedia, without being Wikipedia. Ok, that’s exaggeration, but the tool improves your internal navigation / link structure a lot.

I got the idea from Jim Boykin’s Internet Marketing Ninjas, which includes a similar tool.

Also note: Marios Alexandrou of All Thing SEM updated the plugin for WP 2.9+ and currently handles tech support.

Functionality Specifics:

To use the plugin, the settings page is under the Posts menu -> Keywords in 2.7+. It’s under Manage -> Keywords, in older versions of WP (up to 2.5 or 2.6) .

Edit Keywords From The Posts Menu

1. This plugin allows you to mass-upload keywords. So you just need to prepare a CSV file in Excel and then copy-paste it into the mass-upload box in your admin panel and then click upload! This is great for larger sites targeting multiple keywords that want to speed things up.

2. It’s up to you whether you make cAsE ReLeVaNT to your links. Check the “Exact Match” checkbox for it to only match when the case is the same as you typed the word into the admin panel. Leave it unchecked to have all cases link to your selected page.

3. Post-level overrides of globally-assigned keywords. Maki, of Dosh Dosh Internet Marketing, pointed out that similar plugins exist. True, but they don’t allow post-level overriding of a given keyword. This plugin does. So if I can link to my homepage every time the words SEO or internet marketing appear, but then link to, Tad Chef’s SEO 2.0 blog with the word SEO, or Joy’s internet marketing.

Internal Link Building plugin post-level override

4. Link to sources or affiliate links whom you reference a lot. That, for me, would be useful so I could cite Maki, SEOmoz, XMCP, and others more easily.

5. Build internal links automatically to pages you regularly reference. For instance, I can just say add my rss feed to your reader and the phrase gets linked on its own.

6. Make a link nofollow. For example, if you link to particular Wikipedia pages a lot then set the nofollow to be automatic.

Add lots of keywords, have them link once or more times, use exact match if wanted, nofollow some links etc.

Click to expand:

Add multiple keywords to one page, or one keyword to multiple pages, have it nofollow, have it link numerous instances on the page, use exact matching or not etc.

7. Link multiple keywords to a single URL. Target all a page’s keywords at once! Just put a space, a  pipe (eg |) and a space between the multiple keywords. E.g. affiliate | affiliate marketing. More efficiency! More time savings!

8. Link a single keyword to multiple URLs. I’m not quite sure why you’d want to do this, but some people asked for it, so there you go!

9. Pick the number of times a keyword will link to a particular URL. If you only want the words social media to link to your social media category once, you can do that. Notice that social gets linked next, since I also have that keyword assigned to link to the same page.


1. Will this plugin overwrite links in older posts using keywords I set to link to particular pages?

– Where a post already links out using given keywords, the plugin will NOT overwrite it.

2. Can we make this link out in a post only a set number of times?

– Yes, this is possible with the new version of the plugin.

3. Can we make a set of URLs to link to, and have it link at random?

– Yes, this is possible. The plugin has been updated, so if you downloaded it on the first or second day it was live, you might want to get the new one. You just need to separate the URLs with | symbols in the URL field.

4. How is this plugin different from other similar plugins?

– They do not have the post-level override functionality. They also don’t have mass upload through a CSV copy-paste functionality. A third difference is that multiple keywords can link to a given URL, or one keyword can link to multiple URLs (see #6 and #7 for more).

6. Where is the post-level override?

– It’s in a box below the main content area in /wp-admin/post.php (or post-new.php). I.e. When you write/edit individual posts, scroll down and you’ll see it.

7. How do I link multiple keywords to URL, or one keyword to multiple URLs?

– Type the different keywords or URLs out with a pipe symbol ( | ) in between them. It’s found just above the enter key on most qwerty keyboards; you press shift+| to make it appear (without shift you’ll get a backslash: \ ) .

8. How do I install this?

– Download the file. Upload it to the wp-content/plugins/ . Login to WordPress. Activate it within the plugins admin page.

Like this plugin idea? Be the first to hear about future releases

Plugin Bug Fixes

1) Apostrophes within keywords can now be used. So if your friend O’harra is always getting links from you, just set up O’harra and don’t worry about it.

2) URLs that are just being shown, e.g. are no longer having keywords within them linking out. E.g. services won’t link to a page you’ve set.

3) Posts and pages that are set as link-love destinations won’t link to themselves. Yay! Better aesthetics :).

4) Blockquotes and lists can now feature links within them. So go ahead and cite this:

Internal Link Building is awesome!

5) Simple Tags can now work with ILB, with a little ‘child’s play’ hacking on your part, per my awesome developer Aaron.

7) Image tags with keywords in them (e.g. in the alt or title) are no longer breaking.

8 ) Jeff and John of SEO Design Solutions got the plugin up to date for WP 2.7 and removed the bug on the new post / post editing admin panels.

9) Chris Balicki of Web Systems helped out earlier as did Matt Longley of Site Source 101.

Bonus Advantage of Internal Link Building

This is something I’ve noticed since installing the plugin: My average pageviews seen per visitor has gone up from 1.4-1.5 to 1.9-2.0. Woohoo! Go extra frequency/repetition and brand recall!

How I Built 4 Personas For My SEO Site

sBy observing patterns in visitor intent and demographics, conversion optimization and redesigns can be planned more intelligently. The patterns you identify can be used to create personas. Through my use of 4Q visitor surveys, I’ve learned the top reasons people visit SEO ROI Services and developed corresponding personas.

What’s a persona?

A persona is an imaginary user who is representative of a user group. The main thrust of their representativeness is in terms of their objective in visiting the site and/or using any given page, as well as their demographics and tech savviness.

Creating personas will help me to:

  • plan my site’s redesign with users in mind,
  • scope it better and avoid scope creep,
  • create a better information architecture,
  • tweak small things in the interim, until the big redesign.
  • And when I do user-testing, I can aim to get more accurately representative testers.

Some people talk about having more empathy for visitors by creating personas. Empathy helps you serve users’ needs by tailoring your site to their behaviour. If you can do that well, accurately, thoroughly and on a consistent basis, you’re going to be very successful.

Read on to find out why people visit my seo site, find out about the personas I’ve built around those purposes, and the action items that I’ve derived from creating these personas. I’ll summarize the persona-building and action-item development process at the end of this post, and give links to more reading on the topic.

The 5 big reasons people visit SEO ROI Services are as follows. The links lead to a section on each persona, lower down on this page.

  1. To read my blog. (Thanks guys, I’m flattered :D!)
  2. To do “research.”
  3. To seek “technical support.”
  4. To “buy.”
  5. To “Other, please specify.” (Personally, I’ve always wanted to “other, please specify”…)

There’s some overlap between categories – e.g. blog readers and researchers – but that’s OK. That doesn’t affect the principles of creating personas, except perhaps to the prominence you accord one of your visitors’ purpose.

Blog Readers

As a traffic source, you guys often type in my domain name or use other “loyalty” navigation (bookmarks, feedreaders). Another primary source is other blogs that link here and some social media traffic, such as Sphinn, Twitter or Facebook.

Amongst those visiting to read my blog, user satisfaction is generally very high. I get comments like

Genuine, personal SEO advice from Gab, who seems to know his stuff… this has been invaluable to me,” or “A very creative legal approach to an important internet marketing issue.”

From further discussions I’ve had with you, you’re often looking for advanced ideas for both the sake of entertainment and gaining a competitive edge. A number of you like that the content gets you thinking. This is education as intellectual recreation.

Based on the readers I know personally, those of you reading my blog tend to be young, roughly 20 – 45 years old, with perhaps skew towards the early-mid career web professional or independent webmaster.

In plain English, that means lots of SEOs and internet marketers ages 27 – 35. Plus some bloggers, web designers and developers thrown in for good measure.

In that respect, you’re fairly representative of the industry, I’d say. Therefore, I can also make an educated guess that demographically, most of you are guys and not girls.

Additionally, based on age, you’re most likely to be at the stage of your life where you’re looking to get married within the next 3-4 years, or else recently married. If you have kids, they’re probably in the babies – infants range, and thus you likely are overworked, underslept, but very well supplied with affection. Of course, if you’re a search vet, your kids might be a bit older.

As to technographic savvy, you guys are above average. You’re fairly comfortable with your browser, which is probably customized with a few extensions, as well as a blog, social media profiles and involvement, perhaps an RSS reader, almost certainly a cell phone and/or multi-purpose mobile doodad like an iPhone. You’re on broadband internet or faster, shop and buy online, and perhaps have some tech-oriented hobbies like video-gaming or digital photography.

Last minute addition: Per this data from SEOmoz, most people reading SEOmoz’s blog are owners/webmasters for small-midsize sites. Guys like Willy Franzen, who runs a site on entry level jobs. The next most popular answer was seo company/agency worker, followed by inhouse SEM. See also SEOmoz’s Industry Survey Results.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, which doesn’t need to change that much, luckily…

To this point, most of these things have been educated guesses. Let’s see how accurate they’ve been. I’m searching Flickr now, for a creative-commons licensed picture of a “tech geek.”

Meet James Wilcox, whose picture showed up in said search. He’s a male in a relationship, who looks about 30 years old.

James the Geek
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

by clompers

He has several pictures of his Motorola Razr2 cell phone and video game screenshots in his Flickr profile. Flickr is a social media network whose purpose is to allow people to share their photography

He has a website under construction, and an interest in Flock, the “social browser” powered by Mozilla.

Pretty accurate first attempt at creating a persona, wouldn’t you say? It’s obvious that searching for “tech geek” helped find someone with the right technographics, but there are still numerous other points I was on the mark with. Also, I repeated the experience with a few more relevant keywords, and came up with similar profiles. I’m pretty proud of what I came up with, anyways. (Interesting note: I was actually going to call the persona Jim, before finding James… scary close!)

Action Items for James:

  • As a savvy user, I can have him do the online version of card sorting by tagging my posts. This will create better content organization – the way users would see it – either in the immediate future or once I redesign. In design-speak, this creates superior information architecture.
  • Incentivize him to return / leave comments / be a brand evangelist by providing sneak preview access to tools before public release.
  • Write content oriented towards his worldview. How To Deal With Slacking Teammates. Get The Boss’ Buy-in For Social Media. “Why Great SEO Works Like Marriage {Subhead: The client/husband should always get the last two words: ‘yes dear!’}”
  • Survey blog readers to find out what topics they find most interesting. (While we’re at it, I’m listening, guys – let me hear it :D! )


You guys are more likely to be referred by Google. I know that because you

  1. Have said so in 4Q,
  2. Make comments that directly or indirectly indicate you’re new here, like ‘nice website’, or ‘first time visitor’, when I know that the majority of my Google traffic is new here
  3. Make comments reflecting queries I know I rank for.

Also, you tend to be slightly less satisfied than other users. For better or worse, I get a fair amount of traffic on keywords that are either irrelevant to my content or else poorly articulating the user’s needs.

For example, this post on disguising your text link ads as adsense gets a bunch of people looking for things like “disguising links” or variations on that. One person wrote:

“I wanted to know how to disguise my domain with text but just didn’t understand what i was supposed to do It was n’t [sic] made simple enough”

Uh, I don’t know how to disguise your domain either. Do you want to cloak it? Do you want to redirect it? Do you want to hide the destination of your links? Something else?

For those of you running forums, these visitors are your easy wins to convert searchers into members. Hide the answer behind a registration form. Anyways, the result is that this large segment of my visitors more often leaves unsatisfied, relative to my average.

Shouldn’t I create relevant content for those pages, even if it’s not related to my main theme? Maybe – I’ve made changes this weekend to that effect on my top 5 bouncy pages (tip from Maki). And for those where I just can’t create that content for legal reasons, how can I unrank for the keywords whose traffic I’m not interested in?

For now, I’ve edited the titles and meta-descriptions to better qualify the visitors who clickthrough. Some keywords have included ‘advertising presentation’ ‘serps’ (a foreign pension acronym, apparently) and ‘how to disguise links’). I’ll probably add some content where it’s relevant, though I can find better uses of my time for now.

Who are you?

Like the blog readers, I’d say you’re young, generally. Let’s say that you are 18 – 26. Perhaps even younger than the average, as my visitor feedback and search queries indicate a certain number of people who are plausibly looking for information to use in college.

For example, I’ve had the following feedback: “I’m writing a term paper for my statistics class on the role of Facebook as a marketing tool. Was hoping for some charts etc.”

Others are likely entry-level employees preparing presentations for their bosses. “My purpose is still a bit vague but I would like the most up to date information on social media user stats.”

Another item which came up fairly frequently was that you guys are internet marketers with either some knowledge of the blogosphere – as indicated by comments that you’d return later – or of SEO in particular, as seen by a reference to Dan Thies, of SEO Research Labs.

Finally, because “research” is such a vague term, it’s not all that helpful at indicating to me how I could better satisfy you guys. I wish 4Q would let me define specific objectives so I can see what exactly people have in mind when they say that. But your comments are indicative, as quoted above.

Danny Dover

Meet Danny Dover and Rebecca Kelley, guys! I’ve actually met and hung out with them both in person, and they’re pretty cool, bright folks. In his mid-20s, Danny’s an SEOmoz employee “currently attending the University of Washington” who says, “I like to spend a lot of my time simply studying the internet.”

Rebecca graduated from the University of Washington in Arts, with a Spanish minor. She writes, “I compete in triathlons and marathons. I like to think of myself as a mediocre yet stubborn athlete.”

Both Rebecca and Danny have got a bit of a fun/playful side to them. Rebecca’s recent post on getting a massage had me laughing out loud, hard. It’s not the first time, either. And Danny writes in the ‘Fun Facts’ part of his bio:

Lisa Barone and Rebecca Kelley - SES NY 2007
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

“Every year I try to do one good act of revenge. My favorite ones have been tin foiling all of my friend’s possessions and filling a different friend’s room with packing peanuts. I spent a year secretly collecting packing peanuts before filling the room. My friends don’t play pranks on me anymore. ”
Lisa “I wannabe in the foreground” Barone and Rebecca Kelley by Tamar Weinberg

Action Items for Danny and Rebecca:

  • Write better titles and descriptions, then refine them periodically, when I notice above-average bounce rates.
  • Make use of the Table of Contents plugin, as I keep telling myself I’ll do.
  • Create comprehensive, Wikipedia style posts so that I can not only satisfy loyal readers, but the “vague intent” searchers. This relates to better category SEO.
  • Feature charts, statistics and broad-appeal images when writing/editing for this group.
  • Target these visitors to turn them into subscribers, since many are internet marketers.
  • Try and please this segment with humorous, wise- @#!*% content.

Tech Support Seekers

Similar to researchers, my intuition tells me you guys visit from Google.

However, there’s one big difference with researchers, and that is that you tend to know less than people who are “researching,” based on the depth of feedback I’m getting and some of the behaviour I’m seeing. For example, one person used it as a contact form.

Some other comments have included:

“26.03.2009 too early for any answer”
“22.03.2009 i don’t know, too early to say”

This tells me that the technographics – that’s fancy talk for tech savvy – of this user group is less. Kind of obvious in hindsight, but I initially thought these were my savviest users looking for help on advanced, thorny issues. Those guys probably fall more into the researchers category.

From personal experience with clients, I’d argue that this group is most likely to be composed of the mid-career business owner or marketing expert, who’s now learning about the web. You know a lot about business and are comfortable promoting offline, but you’re not entirely up to speed on social media, web technologies (and buzzwords!) like Ajax, and creating search-friendly websites.

You’re 40 years old with a wife and 3 kids, a dog, a nice house in suburbia that’s mostly paid off and are probably a college graduate. Meet Ewell Smith, Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board Executive Director!

Ice machine dedication, St. Bernard, La., 08.23.06 033
Attribution License

by lsgcp

“Smith got involved in marketing and promotions about a year after earning an MBA degree from the University of New Orleans. He also has a psychology degree from Louisiana State University.

He says he came to the realization that marketing was his strength when he worked for New Orleans Publishing Group. He became involved with a company that promoted concerts and special events.

He later signed on as marketing manager for Southern Forest Products Association, the trade organization for southern pine timber. While there, Smith conceptualized the first branding of a wood species, coining the slogan “Southern Pine By Design,” for which he earned national accolades.” (Source: All Business)

Action Items for Ewell Smith and other Tech Support Seekers:

  • Use plain English, rather than SEO jargon. Review previous posts for jargon and minimize its use (without compromising search traffic from savvier researchers who know the jargon).
  • Add an SEO jargon glossary and expand the FAQ section, orienting it towards business questions.
  • Link the jargon to the glossary.
  • Expand the SEO FAQ.
  • Tie things back towards their experience
  • Promote my one-hour consultation service more prominently, while keeping a balance to offer tech support for quickie questions.

Buyers and “Others”

But for buyers, I’ve still sold SEO services to a number of folks, and there tends to be a certain ‘profile’ that emerges when I think about it.

Demographically speaking, buyers tend to be in the marketing director or business owner type of segment described above, under tech support seekers. They also often rely on the advice of [often younger] assistants, which makes catering to the blog reader and researcher segment equally important. I’ve seen that a few times already, in my interactions with clients.

Their household income is low 6 figures, speaking generally, and they’re generally college-educated and have serious business skills from a decade or two or work experience.

These aren’t the guys you can fool with promises of “guaranteed rankings,” but they are a bit anxious about not knowing all the technical side of stuff. (Note: It’s not like I’d recommend making that promise anyways, since it’s a blatant lie … you can’t guarantee that a girl will go out with your friend, so how can you guarantee Google will like any given site?)

I call this persona “Sam,” after the friendly hotel owner in his late 40s or early 50s who was my first ongoing-services client. He relied on his marketing director, Dino Santelli, for help with web design (Dino also handles a movie extras agency of his own) issues and was fairly anxious about getting SEO done right.

My first meeting with them I showed them rankings I’d achieved on my own sites as well as an SEOmoz PageStrength report (as the tool was then known) and after some hesitation, we started working together.

I wrote the above from personal experience. And as it turns out, this profile was pretty spot on, as per this research on who “internet executives” tend to be.

Action Items for Sam:

  • Educating these people builds trust, so aim to get in-person meetings by offering to create an on-the-spot a free “5 action item” to-do list they can take away from the meeting. Limit this to eligible people – those that fit this persona.
  • Come in to said meetings with background research done, and also leave them with bonus material that will both educate them and build trust. See SEOmoz’s Trifecta reports, for example.
  • Prepare analogies for common SEO questions that can be easily referred to and understood in verbal communication. K.I.S.S.
  • Aim to meet people in this group when networking at shows like SMX.

Unfortunately, 4Q visitor surveys hasn’t collected much feedback from you. All I know is that you’re visiting. Thus neither that nor my web analytics are especially useful for building personas as with the other groups.

That’s where it ends for you “other purpose” visitors, except for the time I found out you were looking for a contact form and I had none! Fixed :D!

How To Build Your Own Personas

1. Focus on BIG audience segments! You need to prioritize the biggest groups in your audience first, to make the most effective use of your time.

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get bogged down into an eternal sea of insignificant changes because this or that person had a unique view/purpose when visiting.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Stephen Covey Jr. gives the analogy of a bucket that you fill with small rocks, then little rocks. The sea of pebbles fill the bucket and block out the few big rocks. But if you put the big rocks in first, the pebbles can fit around the pebbles. That’s true of optimizing your site, too – focusing on individual users won’t get you anywhere fast.

For example, my post attracted someone looking for Toys R Us locations and contact info in South Africa! Obviously, I’m not going to bother updating the page for that person (sorry!).

So what size should your user groups be? How many personas should you make? It depends on your resources for acting on the information, firstly, and the diversity of your audience, secondly. The more resources you have available to take action, and the more diverse your audience (esp. as seen by traffic sources), the more personas you can use.

For a relatively small site like mine, a handful of personas is just fine, because I couldn’t handle optimizing for more. On a Fortune 500 ecommerce site, you’re likely to have more diversity in your audience visitors and more resources to deal with different customer types (hence “for him” and “for her” type navigation and ‘women’s clothes’ search queries).

2. Discover visitors’ intent.

(i) Use 4Q Visitor Surveys to have them verbalize to you what their visit’s purpose is. It’s free! If you’re a bigshot company, I’d speak to iPerceptions about getting a custom solution with better reporting and that deals with the problems I’ve identified in my 4Q service review.

(ii) Check your web analytics for your top volume search phrases, since these also indicate intent.

(iii) Finally, look at your bounce rates to get implicit communication of where your website isn’t matching visitors’ intent. I give the hattip to Maki of DoshDosh for tipping me off as to how he finds pages to improve on his site.

He looks at his top entry pages, defined as those pages getting the most traffic from outside his site. Then he selects the 10 with the highest bounce rates amongst those pages and works to improve them.

3. Compare intent with demographics and technographics.


This is personal! Essentially, you want to get an idea who this person is, as that can inform what content you show them, how you phrase the content, and your site’s functionality. This means knowing your site’s demographics and technographics.

Demographics means personal traits, usually the kind you can stereotype someone by. (Not that you should stereotype people, but it’s possible to make some practical assumptions relative to your audience’s traits. For example, a site about getting out of debt can assume that promoting sports cars won’t hit home with its audience.)

Demographic data includes:

  1. Age
  2. Gender (See: What women want in websites, hattip this post at seomoz)
  3. Education
  4. Location
  5. Income
  6. Career-level
  7. Marital status
  8. Interests & Hobbies
  9. Race
  10. Religion
  11. Politics

Obviously, some of these are more relevant than others, depending on what site you run. Race is irrelevant to building my reputation in SEO, as are religion and politics. But if you’re running a political blog, obviously those three matter a lot. Conversely, a politics blog doesn’t have that much use for knowing someone’s income, unless they’re making an advertising rate card.

To figure out demographics, I encourage you to use Quantcast demographics on a site you’re curious about, or another site with similar content but more traffic. You can correlate it to Microsoft’s demographics tool. Very handy sites, both of them! See these social media demographics, for instance.


Technographics means tech savviness. How knowledgeable is your target audience relative to computers? How experienced are they? Steve Krug’s famous usability book, Don’t Make Me Think, will have different applications depending on your audience. Sites oriented to graphic designers or women can afford to be more subtle with their calls-to-action. FOR MEN, MAKE THAT CALL TO ACTION OBVIOUS. “CLICK HERE FOR OUR PENIS ENHANCER PILL.”

(Fun aside: Referral data tells me that people from the competitive

[read: spammy (porn, pills, poker)]

parts of the web use and recommend my internal link building plugin. If the spammers use it for SEO, I think that’s a pretty strong testimonial that it works. Not to mention it’s patterned off Wikipedia…)

4. Name the personas, and refer to them as you create your site! Steve Krug suggests that this helps you empathize better, as do Tim Ash and the Eisenbergs, all of which names are tops in the conversion optimization industry.

What are your site’s personas? Can I add other action items to the personas I’ve created for my site above? Do you have any other comments, questions or constructive criticism? I’d love to hear anything you can share, and will add dofollow links here for quality comments – you can choose the anchor text :D.

For more on personas, try the following:

  2. – “Thus, a major virtue of Personas is the establishment of empathy and understanding of the individuals who use the product. It is important that each Persona seems real, allowing the designer to ask, “how would Mary respond to this?” or Peter, or Bashinka? “

If you liked this post featuring my ideas on personas, you’ll want to come back in the future for more of the same. To save yourself browsing time later, why not add my rss feed to your reader now?


Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Sphinn Interview Series: David ‘theGypsy’ Harry

Author: Gab Goldenberg

A long, long time ago… almost 2 years to the month… I asked a bunch of cool Sphinners I was getting to know for their advice and insights on that great search marketing network we know as Sphinn. For various reasons, I never published those interviews – until now! (SEOptimise reminded me.) In light of Twitter and Facebook’s exponential growth in the past 2 years, the changes in the link graph this has engendered, and related developments, these answers are pretty interesting.

Dave runs the SEO training center known as the Dojo. He’s got some remarkable testimonials, not least of which because of who is giving them. I recognized 4-5 names.


“Well sheee-it there monsieur Gabs, not sure what use this will be but I said I would give ‘er a go and I shall…. Right away I just wanted to say that while I appreciate your kind words and invitation to get social, I spend as much time playing the devil’s advocate in the world of Social Media Marketing as I do support it. I am certainly not a social media darling ( almost a Social Media Ninja though….)

Without further ado… let’s get into it;

What benefits have you seen from your activity at Sphinn ?

Well, I suppose the real benefits have been;

1. Making new friends
2. Padding my address book
3. Maxing out my reader
4. Some increased visibility
5. And of course access to learning something new every day 🙂

I am old school Social Networking 1.0 also known as being a forum hound. I really look at Sphinn as more of a place to exchange knowledge and talk shop. I haven’t actually benefited financially, as don’t look to it for revenue or promotion, just a place to hang out.

Share 3 – 5 key elements of your success with Sphinn.

Well, there’s the rub eh? I am not so sure what one measures ‘success’ with as far as the Sphinn-o-sphere is concerned. If it is measured by the dweeb with way too much time on his hands that likes hanging around the fringes of the campfire… then, man, I am kicking ass. I am not so sure I am actually all that successful (or not). Seriously, I didn’t even come close to even being a runner up in the Sphinn Awards (wink); though I did once devise a plan to dominate the place.

What other social networks do you participate in (Digg/clones, Facebook/LinkedIn/Myspace, Ning-type sites, forums, specific blogs you comment on a lot)? Can you share your usernames there, and what type of content you’d consider sharing with the other members of those sites as well as what you wouldn’t pass on?

Well G I don’t really get out much. I spend much of my time running around swatting imaginary flies from the air while puffing on a pipe and singing ‘Everything is Coming Up Roses’. Or in simpler terms, I don’t really have a ton of time for the social spaces.

If not at Sphinn, I hang out at some forums (time permitting) and that’s the extent of it. I doubt I could manage more than one Digg/Pligg clone at a time anyways. I do enjoy Stumbling now and again though. I can easily be found by a search for my nic; theGypsy.

What features (besides those announced, like “Mark as spam/Bury”) would you like to see on Sphinn?

Wow, I have never really thought about that one. I suppose if I had to dream one up I would have the option of being updated about new comments for discussions you’re involved in. That would certainly increase the community involvement aspect I would think.

Are you a socialist or a medium? [Note: This was me trying to be witty by playing on social media, but I think it was too vague an allusion for anyone to catch…]

While I think some of the tenets of socialism have merit, I am far more drawn to talking to the dead. Really, imagine the parties? Heck, I could have a few glasses of cognac with Karl Marx and have the best of both worlds. Erm…… did I miss a memo on this one? I am guessing my answer wasn’t what you were after huh? Then I shall defer and go with; enigma.

Define the term: “Sphinn doctor.” [More awful wordplay.]

Sure, that’s the guy you call when the little blue button ain’t working on your site. Can you define the term ‘smartass’?

I think folks that you might think of as a Sphinn Doctor may from time to time become Sphinn-addicts in need of said doctor themselves. It really is a circular course one can travel.

I am waiting until ‘social media burnout’ works it’s way into the medical profession and then maybe Danny can get some in house ‘Sphinn Doctors’ the heal their ills. Man, there is a comedy bit; Sphinn-a-holics Anonymous with Doctor Dan.

Besides only submitting their own stuff or only sphinning their own stuff, what are some common mistakes people make with social media?

Taking it too seriously. I have seen a lot of emotional moments amongst the socialites that feel unreciprocated and have suffered a few lapses in sanity myself along the way.

I go back to my outlook as far as having somewhere to play with others in my industry. If the most I expect from the exercise is some good times and shared knowledge, it is easier not to be distracted by the trappings. If you aren’t enjoying yourself any longer it will be very hard to participate productively. Forget the 15 minutes of fame or traffic spikes. Enjoy yourself.

Tell us a minimum 3 non-Sphinn items about yourself that people could use to catch your eye on Sphinn (i.e. to Sphinnbait you).

1. Anything to do with geeky SEO such as; Patents, Algorithms, Data, White Papers, Behavioural Metrics, I like that kind of gobble-d-goop. I started life off as a business planner/accountant.
2. Humor is an area I have an affinity for and so anything that lightens the mood or has me spitting my brew all over the keyboard is a great idea.
3. Ranting is another cathartic exercise in my world and so any good rant is going to catch my attention.

Which of Cialdini’s 6 principles do you feel most important to gaining influence and why? Can you share some anecdotes?

Sorry Gab, but influence peddling is not my area once more. I am but a humble bean-counting business building by the numbers kind of guy. My favorite way to influence people is to make them money or to otherwise create a beneficial component to the relationship. Influence is a fickle mistress best left to sheepherders not bean counters.

What is the future of social media?

I am not really sure; I am not much of a prognosticator to be honest.

But if you look larger than the usual suspects to folks like CNN, you can see a greater role for user-generated content in the media world. I marvel at the folks scrambling to be an ‘iReporter’ and larger media outlets cashing in on these financially feasible contractors. What happens should the media outlets start to compensate these content generators? Is it still social? I wonder where the lines of social get crossed with commerce what the ultimate storyline will be. I embrace with my capitalist arms the website owners making a killing from these fine folks, but how long the sheep continue to follow may dictate the ultimate evolution of ‘social’ media.

And something to get to know me better?

That’s easy; I love animals… here’s my collection;

1 Cat

3 Dogs

2 Lizards

2 Snakes

2 Tarantulas

2 Hermit Frogs

Thanks for caring Gabs… I told ya I wasn’t much for the Social Media world. I hope it is usable brother :0)


If you liked this post on social media, add my RSS feed to your reader to read the next interviews as they’re published!

Welcome Search Newz visitors! It seems that Search Newz’s syndicated version of my article, “If You Listened When Google Announced Submarine Crawling,” which follows up the one you’re seeing now, forgot to link to an important Matt Cutts video. So there’s the link to help you out. Anyways, on with the show – here’s what submarine crawling is all about, as interpreted from Matt Cutts’ explanations.

Matt Cutts’ post and this Webmaster Central post recently explained that “high quality” sites are being given special treatment – submarine crawling.

We all know that links from high-quality sites are more valuable than those from average or mediocre sites. Now, Matt and Google have given us a new measurement for finding high-quality sites – submarine crawling – and thus high-quality link prospects.

Russian Submarine







Russian Submarine courtesy of Orpheus Grey.

So WHAT is Submarine Crawling?

In essence, it’s self-motivated crawling with the purpose of discovering “deep” web content (hence me calling it “submarine crawling”). What I mean is that Google is proactively crawling your site in new and unique ways because it associates high-quality material with your own domain, and not because it’s reacting to a link pointing at your site, or any other signal.

Some parts of the web are poorly linked to, though they may have high-quality content. And since both humans and search engines discover new content based on links, these parts of the web can be invisible to the SEs.

(Aside: Hence another moniker for this part of the web: “The Invisible Web.”)

From a search engineer’s perspective, delivering relevant results featuring premium content is imperative. Therefore, if you know that a site has premium content, you can go back to it and try and mine it with submarine crawling to discover new premium content for your index.

It’s the 80/20 rule applied to search: 80% of your premium content comes from 20% of the web.

So knowing that Google is self-motivated (i.e. does not need external motivation like links) to crawl these sites. And specifically, to submarine crawl them for their deep content. Where SEOs are concerned, this is great news as far as attracting longtail traffic and evaluating the potential value of a link. (The text link brokers of the world had no – public – comment. 😉 )

  • Moral of the story 1: If you listen closely to what Matt and Google say, you can imply tips and ideas for your search marketing.
  • Moral of the story 2: Due to domain age factors and self-reinforcing rankings (where people google a topic, then link to what’s ranking), if you don’t achieve high-quality status with Google asap, optimizing for Google is only going to get harder as things move forward. The 80/20 rule is a self-reinforcing trend in search; that’s why Wikipedia is in the top 10 results for 970 of the top 1000 most popular keywords.

Further reading on Crawling, Link Value, and self-reinforcing rankings:

Wiep’s Link Value Factors is a good starting location. More recently, he’s also got this post on link building job interviews which touches on some of this stuff (his Internet Marketing company is hiring, FYI).

Bill Slawski has a new post (featuring more layman’s language, yay!!) on MSN’s treatment of old domains in ranking sites, in the context of a patent of theirs. An excerpt:

“A new patent application from Microsoft adds another twist, by also ranking domains based upon the ages of domains which link to those domains.

“This patent application assumes that newer domains have a ‘higher likelihood of being spam and/or being a part of a web farm that attempts to artificially inflate domain rankings for domains in the web farm.’”

(Meaning get started building your site’s trustworthiness in the SEs’ eyes before it’s too late. I note in passing that this post is about Google, but these points from MSN are valid regardless of engine, and the 80/20 rule in search is just reinforcing itself with every passing day.)

Jeff Quipp claims not to be an SEO but an “authority builder.” Sounds like someone’s ahead of the curve… got insider information you’d like to share Jeff 😉 ? That post was followed by “What is authority?” and Authority Building Tools.

My How to write robots.txt & Sebastian’s whole robots.txt categoryrobots meta tag category and his X Robots Tag category are also worth reading.

If you liked this, why don’t you add my RSS feed to your reader, or perhaps a link to this page?

Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl SEO Consulting and Clientside SEM), Michael Gray (Graywolf’s SEO blog) and Rae Hoffman (Sugarrae Website Audits & SEO) were lucky enough to kick back with me at SMX West, so in my infinite generosity I decided to let them school me on some of the finer points of being an independent webmaster. This is intermediate level stuff mostly (my fault for not having better questions; see the end of this post for your chance to followup with your own questions), but there are a few nuggets in here for those of you who pay attention.

Todd Malicoat, Gab Goldenberg, Michael Gray

I began by asking Todd what he was up to in terms of personal projects.

He’s doing affiliate marketing, and his focus at the moment is on developing thicker, fully built out sites in “high dollar” niches. Most affiliate marketing industries have lots of saturation though, so Todd suggests that people getting into the game build a niche site first since it’ll be easier.

“Do something you like, that’s profitable, then cross-promote other sites [that are more lucrative],” said the Stuntman.

Michael Gray joined the conversation at this point and gave me the example of the Motley Fool, who has built a community of passionate users. My notes are hazy on this point, but I think he was getting at the fact that a passionate community can be a valuable asset, especially as it makes your revenue defensible against search engine mood swings.

“Write as you enjoy it,” Mike said, “or your site will be indefensible.” Also, if you can create one, a brand is an extra line of defense.

The conversation moved to blackhat issues at this point.

Mike highlighted that some of the drug spammers promote are illegal to sell without a license. Further to this insight, Mike contributed what I think is a somewhat obvious point yet hasn’t been made in any blog/forum/site/book I read, which is saying something: “Blackhats today need technical proficiency. You need to be a programmer. There are no blackhat marketers,” [ the way there are successful whitehat SEOs whose success is based on their marketing prowess and comes in spite of not being skilled with code].

We got back to the less shady side of things, and I asked the trio what they did for content and whether they hired any out.

At this point, Rae chimed in with her usual, helpful insight, “Where are the waiters and what’s it take to get another beer here?!”

Rae Hoffman

Rae’s been hiring her content creation out and recruiting people off of Craigslist (sound familiar, SEOmoz?). That’s apparently worked out great, and both Todd and Michael are doing the same now. This made me wonder about quality control.

“Plenty of people like Lord Of The Rings and write their own spinoffs of it,” Gray said, “but they’re not necessarily good writers.” So Mike uses Problogger’s job boards. (On a related note, I’ve been sitting on Hire Bloggers .com if anyone’s in the market; it gets some typeins every month.) Another source he goes to is to tap bloggers already in the space.

Another tip Mike shared on managing writers is to use a 30 day probation period. “I can tell if they going to work out within about two weeks,” Mike said, “but 30 days gives me leeway just in case and allows for testing their ability to meet an editorial schedule.” He continued, “Keep them on a tight leash at the start and be sure to check their references.

Aside: Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start emphasizes doing this at the start of the selection process, and using it to screen out people, by seeing who only gets mild, noncommital references. I’m reading it now and it’s a great book. And even better than reading Guy’s advice, you can read this case study on how SEOmoz recruited Jane Copland!

After a brief segue by Rae about some linkbait of hers attracting links from TechCrunch and follow-on links for a total of 200,000 page views and later continuing to send 5,000 – 8,000 referrals a day, we moved to the topic of raising barriers to entry.

As mentioned above, it’s important to build a community. But it’s not as simple as just buying a vBulletin license and telling friends. You need to understand the dynamics of user participation online, according to Todd and Mike.

First, you need readership. Most of your readers and users will be passive content consumers.

The second step after that is that your commenters will start appearing. At this point, you need to start and nurture the conversation.

Finally, and usually, after a long period of starting and nurturing the conversation, your users will carry it on themselves.

The question, then, is how do you build up readership?

Todd emphasized the importance of having a strong start. “Get your exceptional content out first,” he told me. The point here is to get it bookmarked or have a “check-in the history” (not sure if he meant that your browser history will show a checkmark next to it). Todd’s point [as I took it] was that you want people to have a positive recollection of your site the second time they visit, and the third, etc.

Another highly overlooked tip Todd shared was to link out to people promiscuously. But the timing should happen after your content is awesome enough to make a good impression once people check out who is linking to them and come by to visit your site.

And that’s where we wrapped things up. Well, not quite. Todd, Michael, and Rae all offered to answer follow up questions I might have, so rather than be a guru-hog, I’m going to turn the floor over to you, dear readers, and let you submit questions (by leaving a comment). Those that are most original/likely to produce useful responses will get passed on. Big kudos to the trio :D!

Liked this? You have a huge choice of what to do next: subscribe to my RSS feed, give it social media love at StumbleUpon or Sphinn, link back, comment, check out related posts … Or if you’re really smart, sign up for SMX Social Media – Mike’s going to be speaking there, and you’re sure to meet other great folks to learn a lot from, just like I got to meet the triple threat gang!

I also strongly encourage you to check out SEM Canada, where I just got accepted to speak and where many people with lots to teach will be speaking too. Andy Beal (Marketing Pilgrim), Christine Churchill (Key Relevance), Bill Slawski (SEO by the SEA / Key Relevance), Ken Jurina (Epiar), Jane Copland (SEOmoz), and Todd Friesen (aka Oilman) are just some of the big names who’re going to be there. So go register for SEM Canada now!

Oh, and if you’re lucky you can get a picture of Matt Cutts when he’s not throttling Mike:

Matt Cutts Michael Graywolf Gray
Liked this interview? Get my RSS feed.Todd Malicoat (Stuntdubl SEO Consulting and Clientside SEM), Michael Gray (Graywolf’s SEO blog) and Rae Hoffman (Sugarrae Website Audits & SEO)

Growing Online Business Trend: Commodification of Data

In the past few years, the three big engines have spent big dollars on acquiring data. Now free and/or affordable tools are making search data available to any SEO with a few bucks to spare. In this post, I’d like to share with you what I see as an emerging trend and one around which new businesses can be built.

You can buy scraped data. You can buy panel data. If you’re into site buying seriously, you might have considered buying analytics data independently of a site purchase, directly from the site owner himself or from others in the niche.

So the question is: what value can be extracted in the longterm from this trend towards data commodification?

Commodified Watches

(Mass commodities picture courtesy of Olivia.)

Short term, those people selling the data directly or using it to tweak their PPC algorithms and sell clicks more expensively have got value extraction nicely figured out. So trying to jump in now with a copycat business would likely make you an imitator or an idiot.

In any case, if you provide value immediately and only extract value in the longterm, your profits will be much greater (idea paraphrased from Aaron Wall). And the trend is only picking up pace as Google Suggest starts helping you get copyrighted data for free.

In the medium term, I believe that people will be able to add value by auditing the quality of the data.

If they can automate ways (read: create software) to audit data quality, all the better because then they can scale their business easily.

Of course, automated auditing can only go so far. My friend Scott Hendison created a new tool that helps you with analyzing the on-page SEO factors on your site. It’s useful for basic stuff, but if you want to get into deeper analysis, a pair of human eyes is necessary. The same will likely be said of new tools made to audit data quality.

In a particular way that data auditing might come into its own would be auditing analytics for the sake of advertising and site buying/selling.

Golf Club Direct Response Print AdFor advertising, I can think of three particular applications that would be useful, and would love to hear any ideas you have!

  1. One obvious application would be to have rate card data verified. Publishers with verified data could gain a competitive advantage over publishers whose data is unverified.
  2. Advertisers could also have particulars checked. For instance, how much search traffic a site attracts through keywords relevant to the advertiser (this traffic usually converts well for advertisers), or what the average historical CTR is for ads on a particular site (very important for CPM deals), etc.
  3. A third item would be to create a tool that figures out what percentage of visitors is shared between sites. The purpose of this is to increase the ads’ effectiveness by showing them to the same audience repeatedly, thus making the message more likely to be remembered/acted on. It’s possible to execute this cheap “retargeting” idea based off-link data (i.e. retargeting the same audience as you did initially), but if you have the actual traffic goings-and-comings, then you’re golden!

Direct response advertising pic courtesy of Clayton Makepeace’s forum, if memory serves. Save it to your own swipe file ;).

For site buying, I think businesses could be set up around providing analytics verification and due diligence services. There could even be a [paid-subscription] newsletter featuring sites that were audited and checked upon. Another route would be to set up a specialized auditing agency for servicing the site buying/site selling market. This should help smooth transactions and standardize processes for site purchases above a certain size.

The key to success with this data auditing will be extracting actionable insight from the data.

Data mining will grow as the volume of data overwhelms traditional analysts.

The analysts will resort to tools to help them make sense of this and figure out what to do based on the data at hand. Simultaneously, as the cost of data approaches nil, data mining services will be a valuable service that more and more people will consider.

I know from chatting with a certain gentleman on the way back from SMX Advanced that Visible Technologies (not to be confused with Visual Sciences, a powerful but totally un-user-friendly web analytics program), home to non-other than the brilliant Todd Friesen, are using QL2 data mining. Leading search marketing companies are already making partnerships with data analysts…

Other assorted implications of data becoming a commodity:

Collusion in ad pricing – Advertisers can collude to fix ad pricing and/or make the PPC market more open. Retailers who don’t participate and/or share their data will see themselves squeezed by their wholesalers, themselves under pressure from the other retailers who are participating in the data sharing and who are supplied by the same wholesalers.

MFUT sites – After Made-For-Adsense (MFA) sites, here comes the Made-For-Useless-Traffic site. Think of the real estate blogger selling you his search traffic data. He might then optimize for image search traffic to boost his earnings.


That can be worked around by excluding the purchase of non-industry-relevant traffic, within the data purchasing contract. However, these forms of exclusions also risk closing advertiser’s eyes to new markets they could get links from and build their distribution through.

Pollution of the datastream – As I wrote way back in my first Scratchpad column, people are going to be messing with their competitors’ analytics more and more. There’s always been referrer spam, sure, but SEOmoz recently covered bad bots spamming web analytics just to mess with people.

Commodity by Nick.

(Aside: SEOmoz’s main blog repeated the same stuff without crediting Youmoz’s post on it… bad Tom/Rebecca! lol)

As this datastream pollution becomes more prevalent, services will arise to combat these tactics and make them more prohibitive. Think of the data commoditization equivalent of the virus/antivirus wars.

The long arm of the law gets longer – Some groups that will very likely be affected include law enforcement and the military, who will likely partner with ISPs and proxy service providers.

In tandem with this, and to fight spammers who promote nasty crap like kiddie porn, plugins will arise to auto-forward such comment spam in these markets to law enforcement agencies. The agencies will then need to push the data through data mining programs and programs focused on pattern recognition.

The FBI’s first plugin for WordPress will both be a PR coup and a huge tool in its arsenal against pedophiles and child abuse.

ICANN will get its act together, step in, and crackdown on the registrars and resellers selling domains to these people, as the commoditization of data makes it more cost-effective to do so. I think ICANN is too greedy an organization to do this unless it becomes more strictly regulated, though I’d love to be proven wrong.

Vertical and Horizontal Data Industry Consolidation – Of course, if we have too much of a good thing… we puke. As the supply of data increases, some data providers will go under and the market will consolidate and stabilize to an extent. That should make the purchasing of data more convenient, but also more expensive.

The more successful data providers, imho, will package it together with value-added services like analysis, audit, frequency/retargeting estimations of shared traffic, etc. And SEOs will need to be savvier so that we can make the most effective actions at the earliest possible time.

Here are some action items for you to work on after reading this post:

1) Go buy a day’s membership at Spyfu, or get a few dozen credits at Compete and run a bunch of different reports on your site(s) and your competitors. Write some analysis and write 5 actionable ideas down based on the analysis. You score: a bonus from the boss.

2) Code the reporting program for law enforcement agencies and have it submit the pedophile spam alerts to the relevant enforcement agencies. You score: 1000 links from government websites!

3) Figure out a better way to act than my barren mind can think of and share it in the comments: you score dofollow links plus major props and a mention + links in the next Best of the Z List newsletter!

4) Create a business based off one of the ideas above (and make a donation to my “Foundation for the betterment of Gab’s bank account” 😉 ) ! If you already are, I’d love to hear how you came to the idea and what your focus is on. I can keep it to myself if possible, but anything you can share publicly would be awesome (plus I can give you links, like I said 🙂 ).

Liked this post on an emerging trend? Get my RSS feed! And please – share your thoughts, related trends and other ideas below :D. Free dofollow links for value-added comments ;).

Update: Check out this “How to forecast SEO ROI” article if calculating the ROI on SEO is the info you want.

What follows is an editorial/research article showing that SEO is valuable – but not explaining how to calculate it.

I was asked what the ROI on SEO is a few times at a recent business event, and decided that it was about time someone spoke up for us organic search marketing experts. The sad truth is that we SEO Experts are grossly underpaid! Let’s look at some stats (or damned lies, if you prefer).

According to a SEMPO report, the North American Search Marketing industry grew to $12 Billion in 2007. (Worldwide numbers are unavailable, but presumably much larger.)

According to the same report, 88% of search marketing dollars were spent on PPC while only 10.5% of that went to SEO. Various miscellaneous categories, including an amorphous “technology investment” (Analytics? Content management systems? Web design? Servers? …) capture the remaining handful of percentage points.

An older study from 2004, by Internet Retailer, showed respondents saying that the conversion rate of organic traffic (i.e. the traffic gained from SEO) was greater than that of PPC.

“Nearly one-half—46.1%—maintain that natural search delivers better sales conversions vs. 37.3% who cite pay-per-click as a better conversion generator and 16.6% who say paid and natural search perform equally as well.”

Conversion rate, for those of you who may be newer to the search marketing business, is the percentage of visitors who buy. If 3 out of 100 visitors buy your blue rattle, your conversion rate is 3%. So what the majority of the retailers above are saying, in other words, is that the ROI on SEO is better than that on PPC. This old SEO Chat case study also shares a higher conversion rate on organic results.

But wait, there’s more. Consider the fact that a majority of clicks on a page of search results go to the organic listings. I’ve just spent an hour and can’t figure out the keywords to unlock the studies to “prove” this, but since it’s so commonly known, I’ll ask you to take my word for now. If you do have a study to share on the CTR for SEO vs PPC, I’d be happy to see it.

Update: In the comments, Antonio of Marketing de Busca shared the following great post with data straight from the horse’s mouth: Avinash Kaushik (consultant at Google) cites 86% of clicks as going to the organic results and 14% going to the sponsored listings.

So, to summarize, here’s the situation in the search marketing industry.

  • landslide majority of the money spent on search marketing
  • Is going to attract a minority of the search engine traffic,
  • Which paid traffic provides a lower ROI than SEO.

Let’s be clear. PPC is a great way to build a business and gain sales, and it should be a key part of any balanced search campaign. There’s no doubt about it; only doing SEO can have you waste months optimizing for keywords that convert less well than others you could have targeted!

But there’s also no doubt that there’s a huge ROI opportunity in SEO because such a relatively small percentage of search budgets is going to deliver organic results, not to mention that those results deliver a better ROI than PPC results. I look forward to hearing and responding to your comments, and suggest that if you liked this post, you subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed. You may also care to read this related guest post I wrote entitled, “What Every SEO Needs to Know about Branded Search ROI” and this on the three types of SEO consultants: Good, Rad, and Sexy.

Use Human Resources To Measure Social Media Marketing

Aha! I finally realized why measuring relationships is the best way to measure social media results! Two words: Opportunity Cost.
Attribution-ShareAlike Licenseby joelogon

The light version of the post:

“Not developing relationships – literally, social networking – carries with it a heavy cost in lost opportunities.” Human resources are experts at building relationships, so they should handle social media and maximize a firm’s opportunities, be it sales, recruiting, partnerships etc.

For details, read on.

The opportunity cost answer doesn’t come from sales, nor from marketing! It’s those sneaky HR people who had the answer up their sleeve all along. Them, and Dan Ariely, in his book, Predictably Irrational.

Ariely’s book highlights that behaviour is often motivated by one of two contexts – the social context or the market context.

The social context is where people do each other favours because they like one another and want/have/are building a relationship. It’s your mother in law’s Thanksgiving meal, for which she obviously doesn’t expect compensation and would be insulted if it were offered.

The market context is where people pay each other for products or services. The behaviour is motivated by this exchange of value, not some warm feelings towards the other party.

Ariely goes on to point out that companies have a difficult time trying to get into the social context, yet that the loyalty and latitude afforded such companies can be very valuable. Think of the employee who does unpaid overtime because his boss gave him 2 months paid vacation, without a second thought, when the employee’s wife was sick after giving birth.

(That’s actually a true story I read in a book called Sales Superstars, about someone in the courier industry.)

Well, generating that kind of loyalty and strong relationships exist between an employer and its employees are exactly what human resources are devoted to. Consider Sodexo’s excellent, succinct summary as to why companies offer benefits.

Loyalty Fidelity Broccoli digitally cross processed
by roland The aim of every successful company is to attract the best employees and to maintain their loyalty, satisfaction and motivation at and outside work.

A good chosen system of remuneration added by a good working system of benefits will increase your competitiveness by recruiting employees, will balance the steadily growing price of manpower in a flexible way and will help to motivate and stabilize the key company workers.

Similarly, my friend Tony Adam writes of the relationships he has built,

The people that I have established relationships with have led to great career opportunities, partnerships, knowledge, and most importantly, long lasting friendships.

And this is not just the way warm-and-fuzzy HR or social media people see things. Consider the responses to McKinsey’s survey of US executives.

The vast majority of US executives say that employee benefits help their companies attract and retain talent and that benefits are important to competitiveness, a new Quarterly survey finds.

This is as valuable as knowing your competitors’ keywords! Heck, it’s even more valuable because the best people will find you the best keywords and other SEO strategies before the competition figures them out! Let them play catch-up!

Ironically, I should have known this myself, since I’ve been an advocate of building relationships for the longest time, as a direct driver of SEO success. But what I think is novel about this post and the reason I wrote what might otherwise be dismissed as another “benefits of building relationships” piece, is the human resources angle.

This isn’t something companies aren’t familiar with. As the McKinsey survey respondents said – this attracts talent and keeps top companies competitive. If you’re not necessarily taking that talent inhouse, you’re still getting valuable business opportunities from those relationships.

Dan Soha, of Five Mill PPC, told me about a moderately successful affiliate campaign he created, which made him $400/month. Through a better relationship with the affiliate network, he got double the payout, which allowed him to scale. The campaign now does $10,000+ a month! How’s that for relationship ROI? You can read any affiliate marketing blog, and they’ll all tell you that relationships are what takes you from little league to pro sports.

Tony highlighted the same thing – opportunities have come his way via relationships. Not developing these relationships – literally, social networking – carries with it a heavy cost in lost opportunities.

Not an opportunity cost in the traditional sense of options that were on the table but neglected in favour of alternatives, but rather opportunities that never made it to the table. Because there wasn’t that connection there. There was no social context. And short of running an ad campaign saying, “We are looking for partners and new business opportunities, so come pitch us,” you won’t have friendly contacts approaching you. Because you won’t have those contacts. (Also, as Ariely notes, money is typically the most expensive way of paying for things (e.g. those that might otherwise be had free in a social context.)

Challenges and Opportunities in 2009
Attribution-NonCommercial License by Nicholas Macgowan

Here are some of the lost opportunities if you aren’t engaging in social networking, and measuring the relationship strength to ensure you’re doing a good job.

  • At the enterprise level, this means partnerships that can add millions to the bottom line.
  • This creates the (i) motivation and (ii) stability necessary for others to help you. To repeatedly top social broadcast media (e.g. Digg), you need the relationships to keep up.
  • For businesses of every size, this means getting fed crucial information. For example, I got a tip at an SMX Advanced party from these CMS guys about some reputation management a client needed, which we then acted on.

If you liked these ideas on social media and web analytics, why don’t you add my RSS feed to your reader?

What’s The ROI On Social Media?

Social media generates ROI in the form of networking benefits.

Social media ROI comes from the relationships you build on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Listen to the name – it’s social media. The point is to network, only online. Hence the related term, social media networking.

The benefits you gain from networking:

You attend industry trade shows and cocktails and so on to network. That networking leads to sales, partnerships, job opportunities, recruiting opportunities, increased exposure, etc.

Likewise, social media leads in turn to sales, partnerships, jobs, etc.

The problem with measuring social media ROI …

…Is that people want to measure social media as a direct response medium, like Google AdWords.

While social media can be a direct response medium, it’s different than paid search or direct mail. Why? It’s different because you first need to build a relationship before converting the prospect.

You wouldn’t respond to a stranger at an industry cocktail approaching you and offering his services. So why should social media be any different?

You need to establish a relationship and only later can you seek to get a response.

It’s for that reason that social media analytics need to measure relationships.

It’s why human resources should measure and manage social media marketing.

It’s for this kind of plainspoken insight [and humility] that you should get my latest posts by email or RSS.

I knew for a while that I wanted to try out, based on the referrals from my friends at Closed Loop Marketing and various blogs on usability I read (Future NowUsability Post), but I never really had the opportunity to go ahead and get on it.

A former client wanted to hire me again for SEO, despite the higher return provided by usability/conversion optimization, so I decided I’d go ahead and put the site to the test and see if it might not convince him of the value in usability testing.

(They’re a former client because I let them go once they were ranking well and I wanted to work on other projects.)

The site in question is for this downtown Montreal hotel, the Hotel de Paris. (Yes, I realize Montreal is not Paris; that’s the original name.)

Rather than drone on about how incredibly valuable the service was, I’m going to share the raw data of 1 of the users I tested and let that speak for itself.

And the written summary provided by Tatiana, the tester:

What would have caused you to leave this site?

* I really wanted to see the special offers for this site, but clicking on that didn’t bring anything up.

* The text was also hard to read as there wasn’t much contrast between the background and the text color on most of the pages, and all of the lists were horizontal (prose format) instead of vertical (bulleted lists) which saves space but makes it hard to quickly compare different choices.

* Having to agree to a policy that is written with abbreviations that I can’t decipher would have made me leave for a site where I didn’t have to guess what I was agreeing to.

* I don’t really like the idea of making an account on a site that I may only use once or at most once per year. I have enough accounts to keep track of online as it is.

What other ideas do you have about how this site could be improved?

* I had a real problem making comparisons between options on this site because of the way the information was formatted which started to become quite frustrating. Maybe adding icons or reformatting the lists so that they can be easily scanned would help.

[Me: Reformatting in a vertical table format for easy scanning would probably be a positive change; icons can help too if the legend explaining them is obvious enough.]

* The pictures on the front page were nice, but it wasn’t clear what the second picture was. It looked like a restaurant of some sort but didn’t say where. A label of some kind would have helped.

What did you like about the site?

* I liked that you could book online (although some of the dropdown menus didn’t work) and that availability was shown on the calendar.
* I liked that I could see the price breakdown before I paid. Especially since that seems to be the only place to find out about the taxes being charged and because the price looked wrong and it was a good way to check the calculations.

Anything else you would like to say to the owner of the site?

* I may have this wrong, but to me ‘double occupancy @ $89’ always meant that the price listed was per person (so the price for the room was 2x$89). But on your site when I book a room for two people, the price breakdown at ordering time shows 1x$89 for that same room for two people.

This seems wrong and the discrepancy affected which room I booked.

My Conclusion: I love the service and plan to use it much more in the future!

While I’d picked up some things like the non-working special offers button and a limited amount of room pictures, other problems she raised were novel to me.

To wit:

– I hadn’t considered that outsiders to the hotel wouldn’t know there’s a little restaurant/bistro on the premises. Tatiana’s confusion about the bistro picture shows a need for clearer captions than “Experience the charm of Montreal.”

To the same effect, the separate explanation about the bistro on the Hotel Highlights page is clearly insufficient.

– The pricing clarity is obviously an essential issue for any online transaction, but as I’m single and only book rooms for one person, the per person/double occupancy pricing problem never occurred to me.

Other problems I noticed myself while reviewing the site, but this test clarified their importance.

– I guessed that the abbreviation Cxl probably meant cancel. But outsiders to the hospitality industry can’t be expected to know insider jargon.

(This is also true for mystery meat navigation, like date-based blog archives.) Furthermore, as Tatiana’s video and written report highlight, this is something that could lose the sale.

– In the same vein, the pricing clarity thing is immensely important because you’re affecting your average order size if people think the rates are per person instead of the rate for the room.

The bottom line is that is an easy way to double your bottom line.

If you liked this case study and usability tool review, add my RSS feed to your reader.