SEO/SEM

November 03, 2010

SEO Tips and Tools (My Raw Notes)

Last week at #cmgrchat the theme was Blogging and Community but the topic of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM) was discussed also thoroughly. Throughout the discussion I promised @digitalmention to share my notes that I have collected few years ago, and here is the post I have promised.

Before you scroll down I have to mention that those are raw notes with SEO tips and links to tools that were intended for my sole use and purpose. You are welcome to use those, however keep in mind that some of the links and/or information may be outdated. I will be glad to answer any questions and to clarify any of the notes below – just drop me a comment, email or tweet.

Substantial part of the notes I took while reading the following book that I highly recommend:

Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site (2nd Edition)

Other very useful SEO/SEM resources on the Web are:

Majority of the information below as well as much more can be found in the resources above.

And here the notes…

 

Little Terminology

Link popularity:

  • The links to the site need to contain the keywords. This gives more weight to the link. So called anchor text.
  • Look for authority – those are web sites that have high rank; and request links from them to your site.

Keywords:

  • Keyword density (keyword weight) should be around 7%
  • Keyword proximity – how close are the search terms
  • Keyword prominence – where the search terms are found. The most important are:
    • Title
    • Headings and emphasized text
    • Body
    • Description

 

Searcher’s Behavior

  • Navigational, informational and transactional searchers – target last two
    • If you search for leads informational is the best – provide good content and links to the sites
  • Search engines take the snipped from the content – the content should contain the keywords close to each other
  • Use the 3-seconds rule: Can the buyer tell what are you selling in 3 seconds? If not, simplify your copy
  • Create content pages that lead the informational searchers to the lists of “product” you want them to buy
  • Provide entertainment on the site so people can spend more time on it and come more often

 

Steps to Follow in Your SEM Campaign

  • Identify the goals of your web site. Examples
    • Web sales
    • Offline sales
    • Leads
    • Market awareness
    • Information and entertainment
    • Persuasion
    • Influencing public opinion
    • Helping people
  • Target your first search marketing campaign
    • Choose the target area of your site – make matrix using the four metrics below and answer with Yes/No/Unknown. 
      • Pick something high profile (don’t pick sleepy product)
      • Make sure the business impact is measurable
      • Keep it simple (don’t collide with other marketing programs)
      • Make it practical (don’t use the best product if it will be hard to cooperate with the people developing it)
  • Focus on keyword searchers use
  • Asses your current situation
  • Calculate your first campaign’s opportunity (www.targeting.com)
    • Check your keyword demand
    • Discover your missed opportunities
    • Some statistics           
      48% of searchers click a result on the first page
      60% of these users click organic result
      ----------------------
      29% of all searchers click organic result on the first page
      Anecdotally between 1.8 and 2.8 results are clicked for every search, hence:  1.8 * 29 = 52 clicks per 100 searches
      ----------------------
      #1 - #3 -> 8% - 30% of the clicks for all searches
      #4 - #10 -> 0.5% - 7% of the clicks for all searches
      #11 - #30 -> 0.25% of the clicks for all searches

 

Some Useful Tools

http://www.marketleap.com/publinkpop/default.htm

http://www.marketleap.com/siteindex/default.htm

http://www.marketleap.com/verify/default.htm

http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html


Beware of Spider Traps


… And Create Spider Paths

  • Site Maps
    • Words used for links can have heavy weight
    • If category pages are used then descriptive paragraph can be added to each page
    • Links in Sitemaps should be ordered by level of importance because some spiders limit the number of links that will be indexed on a page
    • Try to include text on the sitemap
  • Country Maps

 

Choose Your Target Keywords

  • Choose the right words for your search; concentrate on keywords that are right for your site – if you cannot offer conversion for the keywords you are targeting it makes no sense to target them
    • Target hot words only for brand awareness
  • Don’t use words with multiple meanings
  • Don’t choose too cold words
  • Target longer phrases – 2 or 3 words
  • Keyword planning steps
    • Gather your keyword candidate list
      • Ask people around you how will they search for your web site
      • Focus first on nouns
      • Add adjectives after the nouns; list several different categories of adjectives like comparison, qualifier, function, attributes, action etc.
      • Ask the following questions
        • What do your customers need? What problem are they trying to solve? What words do they use to describe their needs and problems?
        • What content do we have on our site that would satisfy someone’s search? What words would you search for to find that content?
        • How would you describe your product to a novice?
        • What words do industry magazines and industry analysts use to describe your products? Is there a product category name that they use?
      • Check your current search referrals
      • Don’t target existing customers for search
    • Research each keyword candidate
    • Prioritize your keyword candidate list
      • Top priority – close match to your site’s content and is very popular or moderately popular or has high conversion rates
      • Medium priority – close match to your site and is somewhat popular with acceptable conversion rates
      • Low priority – close match to your site and has enough searches to be worth paid placement, but not worthy for organic search optimization efforts
      • Target the keywords based on the web conversion cycle – Learn, Shop, Buy

 

Content Optimization

  • What engines search for
    • Filters
      • Language filters
        • Language metatag - <meta http-equiv=”content-language” content=”en”> - engines never decide the language using this tag alone
        • Character encoding - <meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html; charset=shift-jis”>
        • Content analysis – metatags are used only if the language cannot be determined by the content
      • Country filters – by IP
      • Other filters
        • Pay special attention to improper language on message boards and forums because the site may be filtered for that
  • Search Ranking Factors
    • Page Ranking Factors – any particular page’s page factor is exactly the same for every query
      • Link popularity
      • Popularity data – search engines keep track what pages you visit with the help of the toolbars
      • URL length and depth – longer URLs reduce the page ranking
      • Freshness – if the page is not changed for a long time the rank will be lowered
      • Page style – use newspaper article style
      • Site organization – good and easy navigation
      • Spam-free
    • Query Ranking Factors
      • At least one of the keywords needs to be found on the page unless enough links containing the keyword link to the page
      • Keyword prominence – more weight have keywords in the title and the headings (placement) as well keywords closer to the beginning of a page element that they are (position) -> the most prominent keywords at the beginning of the title
      • Keyword density – search engines like 7% (mystery number)
      • Keyword frequency – how often the keyword is seen on the page; Note: Avoid spamming
      • Query intent – navigational (site’s home page), informational (pages rich on content) or transactional
      • Contextual relevancy – takes into account the searcher’s job, gender etc; also location, subject of pages viewed recently, recent search keywords etc.
      • Term rarity (multiple-word queries) – search engines take from the query the term that is most rare and filter the pages by it
      • Term proximity – how close to each other the terms are
  • Step by Step writing for search
    • Choose a landing page for a set of keywords – choose based on what the searcher wants to see and not what you want him to see
      • Use “keyword site:www.mywebsite.net” for finding good candidates
      • You can optimize more than one page for the same keyword and link between these pages – this will boost the ranking
    • Analyze the landing page’s metrics
      • Organic search rankings for the landing page sing multiple search engines
      • Search referrals
      • Web conversions – this one is the most important one
    • Audit the landing page
      http://ranks.nl/tools/spider.html
      www.sitecontentanalyzer.com
      www.webceo.com
      www.webposition.com
      http://www.majesticseo.com
      • Analyze the title
        • Use trigger words like local place names, low prices, prized features, and time sensitive offers
      • Analyze the snippet – these are excerpts of text from the page
        • Different engines use different ways to choose the snippet – very often they use a section of text where all or most of the keywords are found together. The first occurrence in proximity is frequently the excerpt chosen
        • The snippet algorithm changes over time so it is worth chasing it
      • Tune your description
        • It has far less weight than the body
      • Evaluate the body text
        • Using the keyword as first word is 100% prominence
        • Important places for keywords
          • Headings – receive higher weight with <h1> receiving the highest
          • Keywords at the beginning have more weight than at the end
          • Emphasized text – bold and emphasized texts
          • Links – important for intra-site links
          • Everything else
        • How to write good pages
          • Keep it short
          • Write with variety – use plural forms, verb tenses, different word order
          • Think location – for local businesses add the local names
          • Think local – when translating
          • Think like a newspaper reporter – start out with the most important information; continue to emphasize concepts; end with strong conclusion
          • Think like a direct marketer – think about the title and the snippet
          • Avoid tricks
        • HTML hints
          • Using <div> you can place the content early in the code but anywhere on the visible page
          • Non-text elements
            • Remove embedded scripts and style sheets
            • Avoid overemphasis on images
            • Avoid text hidden in images
            • Avoid poor alt text – don’t stuff keywords unrelated to the picture
      • Examine your link popularity
        • Quality of links is more important than the quantity
    • Improve your landing page’s content

 

Attracting Links

  • Bow-tie theory
    • Core pages – 30% (high importance)
    • Origination pages – 24%
    • Destination pages – 24% (high importance)
    • Disconnected pages – 22%
  • High importance for ranking has the text in the links to the page
  • Search Engines evaluate the link popularity in 4 different ways:
    • Link quantity
    • Link quality
    • Anchor text
    • Link relevancy
  • Hub and authority pages
    • Hub pages – pages that link to several or many other pages on similar subject
    • Authority pages – pages that are linked to by many other pages on a particular subject
  • Which sites can deliver the most qualified visitors to yours:
    • Sites with lots of traffic
    • Sites related to yours
    • Sites with less competition
  • Hints
    • Look for links that will increase your conversions/will drive the most qualified visitors
    • Seek out relevant, popular sites, especially sites that do not have many competing links on them
    • How the engines check sites “within family”
    • When considering outbound links
      • Is the site well written and credible? – this is a good service to your visitors
      • Is the site content strongly related to yours?
      • Is the site competitor to yours?

 

Step-by-step Link Building

  • Make your site is a link magnet
    • Identify link landing pages – similar to search landing pages
      • Complementary product or service
      • Valuable information – article, FAQ, a blog, a newsletter, a white paper, e-book etc
      • An authoritative source of information – the landing page can be the right place to find links to the most trustworthy pages about a subject
      • A desirable tool – suggest ideas based on interest
      • A business relationship
    • Design the right landing pages
      • Reinforce the topic – to attract links, you must know what the subject of your page is; have a strong idea what the anchor text should be – use the same text as a prominent heading on the page and in the title tag
      • Never change the topic
      • Deliver excellent content
      • Use link-friendly URLs
      • Take down the roadblocks – show directly the page and don’t ask for more information before that (like registration, country etc.)
      • Keep good company – request links from quality sites only
      • Draw visitors deeper – make sure they are invited into the site
    • Link landing pages can be the same as search landing pages
  • Perform a link audit
  • Identify sources of links
    • Find a reason why some site should link to you
      • How does this help their visitors?
      • Do you offer a complementary product or service?
      • Information their visitors need?
      • Useful tool?
      • Do you have an existing business relationship?
      • Are you going to offer their customers discount?
      • Will you pay them to link?
      • Will you link back to them
    • Why do you want them to link to you?
      • Does it draw high traffic?
      • Is it qualified traffic for your conversions?
      • Does it have high quality content?
      • Is that content relevant to your site?
    • Types of links
      • Internal links
        • Carefully select the anchor text
      • Relational links – links from existing business relationships
      • Solicited links
        • Does the site contain creditable, well-written information?
        • Does the site’s content relate to yours in a strong way?
        • Are the visitors to the site the kinds of visitors you want at your site?
        • Is the site a competitor of yours? – don’t waste time requesting links from such
        • Where to search for such sites?
      • Paid links
  • Negotiate your links
    • Address it to a person
    • Use a compelling subject line
    • Use a simple body format (no HTML, no pictures)
    • Prove you visited the recipient’s site – do this in the first paragraph
    • Sell – need a very simple but compelling reason for an endorsement to your site; for two way link request make sure you have already placed the link on your site
    • Identify the page to be linked from – use different anchor text every time
    • Identify the page to link to
    • Ask for response
  • Link management tools

Rank Checking Tools

 

Resources

 

  Advertisement

 

 

   

 

June 11, 2009

Does your blog content suck and why?

image Last week I was going through my RSS feeds (the ones described in one of my previous posts Using Yahoo Pipes and Google Reader to Read Only the Important Stuff) and saw the following lame post (NOFOLLOW still used despite the PageRank sculpting changes:)). My short and unconstructive critique is: LAME. My long and “a little bit” constructive (but sarcastic) critique could be something like this:

  • Dude, check the language first! I am not a native English speaker (to be honest I have never being taught English) but I am pretty sure the Queen of England will look quite confused if she reads your post.
  • One sentence != one paragraph! Make them at least two in a paragraph – people should be able to take a breath every 10 secs or so.
  • Related to the previous one - period in English Grammar doesn’t denote the end of paragraph but the end of sentence. I see you know what comma is! Now is time to read the next lesson from English Grammar for Dummies.
  • And last but maybe the only one people will care about. Why the hell are you increasing the carbon footprint of the planet with your useless post? What is the added value of your words and why should people read them? What is your point? Google is great and Microsoft is evil? Yeah, like we’ve never heard of that one before. Didn’t you hear that we moved to the phase where both companies are evil?

 

Anticipating people’s reaction I will say that deterioration of content quality is old news. Allowing everybody to do what previously only professionals were able to do (like blogging and journalism) is reason for the worsened content quality - old news again. But we as bloggers are responsible for that content and should make sure that more than one person (me, myself and I) benefit from our content.

 

Here are couple of reasons why I think lot of bloggers publish content that sucks:

  • They publish content almost every day. It is true that search engines like “fresh” content but bloggers should ask themselves what “fresh” means. Is it, “fresh” by date or “fresh” by perspective?
  • They write for SEO and not for humans. Their posts have no flow and no story, and are published because they want to get traffic for certain keywords. Yeah! I think this is the way blogs are abused. But the books teach us that we should have blog to direct traffic to our sites.
  • They are not passionate about the topic. They HAVE to write something in order to have “fresh” (by date) content, and choose topics that are already covered, or they are not so interested in, or don’t understand deeply enough, or… or… or… The point is that if you are not passionate about the topic your write, you will produce poor content.
  • They hurry to publish “something” about the latest news. There are few bloggers who get the information first hand. The rest of us are either under NDA and cannot spread the news or just hear the news from somebody else. Every day I see in my RSS feeds tens and even hundreds of posts  that repeat the same information.
  • Their language is poor. I cannot give better example than the post above. But blog post doesn’t need to be so horrible to be considered poor by your English teacher. Using simple words and sentences; not making your point clear; not engaging with the reader – all this makes your content boring.
  • They blast their new post on every social networking tool they know. social networking became like the email spam – Facebook has 200M users so lets send to all of them my new blog post! It is annoying when you go to targeted community or niche social site and you get irrelevant content. Take for example Sphinn – there is so much spam that the moderators can’t keep with it. (BTW, here is a link to the Sphinn submission of the post above – I am wondering why Sphinn moderators still keep this one active).

 

Few questions we should ask ourselves before writing a new post (and I am warning you – this is already written on the web, and “yes” I am most probably repeating somebody’s words, but… I’ll do it anyway:)):

  • Is the post you want to submit something people care about? Don’t understand this one wrong – to care about something doesn’t mean to be the latest news that everybody is talking about. Blogging is not always about the news and I see it more as tool to help and educate others than the vehicle to submit the latest celebrity news.
  • Are you adding value with your post? Sure, you can express your opinion about everything on the Web but… Is your opinion something that others will appreciate? Or question? Or trigger conversation? Or just educate somebody? 
  • Are you spending enough time researching your new topic? You cannot always write your posts on the fly (or maybe you can but you are exception). In order to get depth and breath in your post you need to spend some time in researching. Try to find out what other people think about the topic; link to their posts and start conversation.
  • What is the best place to promote your post and engage with your target audience? Depending on the topic there are different communities you can engage with. Target the right one and don’t blast your post randomly.

 

And here are few we should ask ourselves after we write the post BUT BEFORE we hit Publish. The best way to do it is to save a draft, go to sleep and re-read the post on the next morning.

  • When you read your post again, do you still think it should be published? After thinking for some time you may decide that your post is irrelevant, or not written well, not interesting enough, or just too… hmm… you. Well, if this is the case either delete it or rework it.
  • Try to imagine your readers and their reaction. Anticipate their comments. Do you expect comments at all? Prepare yourself to answer their questions or reply to their comments. Is your point solid or weak?

 

Hitting Publish is just the beginning. Your blog post can die immediately (as most of our posts do), can live for awhile, or can become sticky. Of course we all want the last one but most of us are still looking for a way to get there. When the time passes you should ask yourself – Did my post bring me closer to my goal (whatever your goal is)?

 

Now I will go back to the beginning. You may be wondering why I linked to my post about Yahoo Pipes. My goal when creating those was to filter content I am not interested in. It seems now I am back to zero – after using them for few months I am still getting posts like the one above. It is time to start the next round from the battle against content overload.

June 06, 2009

IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkit Beta - Hard to Find but Maybe Useful

IIS SEO Toolkit Beta is part of Microsoft Web Platform Installer Beta and as Lauren Cooney and Ann Smarty from Search Engine Journal reported it was released on June 3rd. However the link from Lauren Cooney’s post send you to an older version of the installer so you better use the Search Engine Journal one, which points to the SEO Toolkit’s Web Page on IIS Web Site.

 

How to Install and Run It

Starting the download presents you with a cluttered UI where you can select bunch of things. Initially I wasn’t able to spot the toolkit option and had to click on the tabs and read every entry but when it seems What’s New tab proved to be the right place anyway (see the picture below). Download is only 0.5 MB and the installation is quite fast.

 

image

 

If you expected to have stand alone application then you will be… heh, surprised, disappointed or whatever feeling you find appropriate. I was just frustrated because I couldn’t get to it immediately and had to read the IIS SEO Toolkit documentation. The tool is part of IIS Manager However I found the IIS Site Analysis - Video Walkthrough quite useful.

 

Running the Site Analysis tool on my blog spitted out the following results:


image

 

First Impressions

At first I was shocked to see that I have 15 broken links (of course I started with the red line items:)) on the site but after some digging into the report I found out that the tool considers the beacons (1px GIFs) as broken links (those are coming from the Amazon affiliate links). A little bit annoying because lot of sites still use the beacons for affiliate links. It may become tedious tasks to sort out all those “broken” links from the real ones.

 

I was also quite confused with the number of errors and warnings I received but after careful analysis it came out that all those were valid.

 

It was disappointing that the Robots Exclusion and Sitemap and Site Indexes tools from the toolkit work only on sites living on the local machine. It would be useful to get those available for any web site.

 

The Useful Features

In just a few minutes I was able to identify quite two-three things I had to fix on my blog:

  • It seems I had a broken link in one of my posts that generated lot of noise in the report. Most of the errors and warnings were reported because this broken link. My suggestion would be to keep track of the broken links and not use those pages in the other reports.
  • It seems I have to remove few directories from the crawling list to avoid multiple canonical formats issues.

 

The Site Analysis tool provides good statistics and information about:

  • HTTP Headers
  • Page title
  • Page description
  • Page keywords (outdated concept for SEO though)
  • Page headings
  • Page information like encoding, content type, last modified etc.
  • Performance information like size and time to download
  • Word analysis like words counts (total and unique), 2 word phrases, 3 word phrases (something useful would be keyword density and prominence)
  • Link analysis like inbound links, outbound links, link paths etc. as well as link text information

 

In general the tool is a good start and can be a base for something very useful. It is only Beta 1 and according to the announcement made by CarlosAg from IIS Product Team there will be more features coming. People dealing with SEO have a long list of features they would like to see in such a tool and hopefully they will not get disappointed.

November 07, 2008

What is "SEO gap" and is it useful?

Maybe people who are deeper in SEO than myself have already heard about "SEO gap" and there may be people who think it is useful but...

First, I need to clarify what "SEO gap" is. You start with identifying the search leader and its market share for certain region. Good source for information is Comscore. For example let's take Google as the leading search provider in US and assume its market share is 75% (the number is close but may not be completely acurate). Then you look at your analytics data and you see that from all search engine referrals you have, those from Google are 82%. Here is the math:

SEO Gap = Referrals from Search Engine - Search Engine Market Share

For the example above:

SEO Gap = 82% - 75% = +7%

So far, so good! Now you know how to calculate a number and you even have a name for it. Now what? What does this number tell you?

My personal opinion is that calculating SEO Gap is result of "analysis paralysis" (term is trade marked by Robert Kiyosaki but I really like it:)). On the question "Why is this useful to know?" I never get satisfactory answer from our BI team, but I see this every month in our scorecard. The answer I most often get is:

  • Knowing the SEO gap you know how much the traffic you get from the search engine deviates from the market share for this search engine and this is your opportunity

Normally I don't get it (stupid me:)) and ask follow-up questions. It is logical to think that being in the negative numbers is not good for your web site and my first question is: "So, we would like to be in the positive numbers - right?" The answer to this one really messes up my mind. No, you don't want to be in the positive numbers because this means that you don't get enough traffic from the non-leading search engines and you eat from their traffic (read "you lose users who use other search engines"). As it comes out the ideal number is 0% (ZERO). Zero means you get exactly enough traffic from this search engine as you are supposed to get. Period. And what? What does this tell me? Why do I need to know this? What is the action I can take when I know that? "If you are not ZERO you know that you need to go and optimize either for this search engine or other engines", is one of the answers. Yes, but I don't know which one is the engine second by market share and how do I compare to it (because you don't have it on the scorecard). And even if I know, how does this help me?... I really got distracted (even in my post). I pay too much attention to a number and I don't look anymore at my business.

Here is why. Let's assume that I receive 10M referrals from search engines in that region and Google has 75% market share. Let's assume that my site is at ZERO SEO gap, which translates to 7.5M referrals from Google. Woohoo! I am good! Sure, I am if I don't look at my competitors. They may get 30M referrals from search engines and their SEO gap may be -35%. If you do the math this translates to 30M * (75% - 35%) = 30M * 40% = 12M. Am I good? Of course not! I suck! Because I spend time calculating number that needs 1/2h to explain and many more hours to translate to the scorecard while my competitors spend time to drive traffic and maybe improve their rankings, keep people on their sites, improve content to encourage linking and who knows what else. If I can summarize with two words: my competitor "drives business", while I "invent numbers".

What I learned is that if I am in the Web business I should not spend my time inventing numbers; I should spend my time (and my BI team's time) more wisely and measure the right things, not some hypothetical "what if" scenarios. I should be practical, not theoretical - my Web site is a business for me and not a science project.

By the way, how do you feel when somebody tells you: "Your goal is to be ZERO"? Really excited - aren't you?

October 07, 2008

Staples found an easy way to lose money - AdSense

My first post was supposed to be about my positive experience with Comcast, and I even have the post drafted, but I couldn’t let this one go just like that. Yesterday I was looking for TV stand for our living room and did search on Google for the terms “tv stands”. I browsed here and there in the organic results and decided to try the links from the paid ads on the right. Everything was fine until I clicked on one from Staples. It linked to… an error page. Initially I though this is just an intermittent issue with their server and I went back, searched again and clicked on the link to Staples… again (this time it was ranked differently, and title and description were different but the URL was still pointing to staples). Guess what? Generic error… again! Slowly I started getting frustrated. It is not only sending me to an error page but the error message is really stupid:

“Generic Error
A system error has occurred. Please continue to staples.com.”

Hello! I am looking for TV stands. I “continued” to staples.com. The home page had 3 different banners – one rotating for saving on bunch of stuff, another to save $5 on multipurpose paper and third one for 50% on some other paper, long list of categories, list of best sellers, and banner for helping fight breast cancer (I appreciate that one – at least they contribute to good cause). However I wasn’t able to see TV stands anywhere. I typed “tv stands” in the search box and list of about 30 items was presented to me. I didn’t like any of those and went away.

Tonight though, while browsing, I remembered Staples and decided to check whether they fixed the issue. I searched again for the same terms, and again Staples was one of the paid ads on the right. Aaaand… ta-daaa. Generic Error! “This is ridiculous”, I thought. Staples is a publicly traded company with $14B market capitalization, $20B revenue last quarter and gross profit over $5B. They should be able to afford decent web site. It isn’t something I developer alone in my spare time.

I really got curious and started analyzing the case. Here are some questions floating in my head while clicking around to get more information about Staples:

  • Why the heck Staples pays for ads that target TV stands? For me Staples is office supplies company and not furniture company.
  • How much they pay for those keywords? According to Google AdWords Keyword Tool “tv stands” is very highly competitive phrase for advertisers. This tells me that bidding can go up to few dollars for this phrase.
  • What is the search volume for this keyword? According to the same tool “tv stands” search volume is 550K for September while “tv stand” (without the “s”) is 673K for the same month. Staples link appeared only for “tv stands” (with the “s”) phrase, which means they bid only for this phrase. Also their ad is not present on every search, which means they don’t pay the highest bid.
  • Is TV stands one of their main items they sell? I went back to Staples’ web site and tried to find TV stands in the list of categories. It is under Furniture – Carts, Printer & TV Stands. Duh! I surely want to put my TV on a cart and roll it around. However there was no banner or something on the home page telling me that they want to promote TV stands and the lack of good landing page (the one with Generic Error I don’t consider landing) made me think that they just bid for all keywords matching one of their categories or items. How smart this is?… Hmmm, not smart for me.

For my calculations I decided to use $1 per click and assuming 5% click-through rate here is what I got 550K * 5% = 27.5K * $1 = $27.5K for September. Not so much for $14B company – they can afford it.

However if you are smart here is how you can approach the problem and save yourself $27K.

  • Make sure your landing page is always up. If you are running campaign for specific item, prepare good landing page showing the user the benefits to buy this item from your web site – lower price, broad selection, fast delivery… you chose. ERROR PAGE AS LANDING PAGE IS UNACCEPTABLE.
  • Bid only for keywords that describe items you specialize in. I know you sell also mops but you are flooring store, not cleaning supplies store. If you sell something as byproduct don’t bid for keywords describing it – it is just waste of money; you cannot provide such a good selection as a store specializing in cleaning supplies.
  • If you are running campaign for specific item make sure the landing page for the campaign is linked from the home page (and also other key pages). If you really want to get rid of those mops make sure people browsing your web site know that you sell mops.

And some more tips for the error pages:

  • Use descriptive error pages. Generic Error is a lame message to show to the user. You should always know what the error is. If your developer is so lazy and doesn’t want to catch every exception at least provide something more engaging like: “Ooops, we screw it up. Please excuse our laziness, but we are really not sure what happened”. At least it will make people laugh.
  • Give more options to navigate out of the error page. Don’t send the users to the home page only - give them options to search, browse categories, call a phone number etc.
  • Always provide link to report the problem. Not everybody will report an error but somebody will. If Staples provided this option I would have clicked on it. Always treat those reports with highest priority – you pay money for people to land on this page and if somebody reports error on it you should fix it immediately.

Hope you get the idea. Just one more thing – I clicked 5 times on the Staples’ ad for TV stands and bought nothing. I wonder how many other people did the same.