Monday, September 17, 2012

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) vs Adwords PPC

If you build it, they will come...
or maybe not when it comes to websites.

Getting your site found on the Internet can be a huge boost to your business, but how exactly do you make this happen?

As a web designer, I do search engine optimization (SEO) and I get asked this question all the time. There are two front runner choices.
  1. Attempt to optimize one or more of your website pages to rank high for a desired keyword phrase. Successful SEO allows your website to rank high on it's own (this is called an "organic listing".)
  2. Use Google Adwords PPC (pay-per-click). Granted, there are other search engines you could also advertise on, but since Google makes up 70% of the search engine market, they may be all you need or at very least, the first one to start with.

It's not my intention to go into a detailed explanation of how to go about executing either of those two choices. I should also mention that in addition to doing SEO for my clients, I am a participant in the Google Engage Program. In other words, I have been trained by Google to manage Adword campaigns for clients and have been doing so for many years.

Back to the question of this post... should you attempt to get your website optimized for organic high ranks or go the Adwords Campaign route?

Organic Listings
If you are trying to rank high on an easy phrase, SEO for sure is the way to go. An easy phrase might be unique words that aren't found on many sites (assuming people are searching for those words), or maybe you're in a small town or one without much competition and the searcher includes the town name in the search phrase. Those tend to be pretty easy to win at.

I'm certainly not saying that tougher phrases should be avoided, just know that there's no guarantee of success no matter who does it or what they tell you. Often success will take multiple attempts and since search engines tend to visit your site about every six weeks, it can take a while before they index your newly optimized page. If it takes several attempts to get it right, It could be months before this method works.

There is a thought that organic listings are better because they are free. Then you do your home work and find that dedicated SEO companies can charge in the thousands per page with slow results.

I do SEO all the time and am quite good at it, but I make sure my clients have realistic expectations and unlike just about any SEO firm you might find, I don't charge unless I am successful.

Adwords Campaigns
Let's address this one point right up front, it will cost you every single time someone clicks on your ad, regardless of what happens after that. How much? Well that depends on what words you're bidding on and how much the competition is driving up the price. My experience on average you are probably looking at $1-$3 per click. Adwords gives you the ability to set a limit on how much the bid can be and  what the monthly budget is. However both of these limits will effect how high your ad will rank and how often they will show.

Now for the really good part; you can rank #1 for any search phrase you want by this afternoon. That's right!

Adwords also give you the ability to limit your ads to only show within certain geographic locations. This way you are not wasting clicks out of your service area.

When I manage these campaigns for my clients, I create the ads, help you select the keywords to bid on and setup and monitor the campaigns. There is no doubt that this is the easiest way to achieve results and they work.

Bottom Line
Okay, so what's the bottom line? Here's what I would recommend. As I said for easy phrases, go SEO all the way - why not.

If you're not in a hurry and are willing to take the risk of marginal results, SEO is still a desired choice. However I might suggest that even if you decide to use SEO, you could temporarily setup Adwords campaigns in order to get immediate results and to help discover which keyword phrases people are actually using to find you. Once you discover the words people search for, you won't be wasting your efforts on ranking for phrases not used.

What do I do for my site?
I guess this answer may reveal a lot. Although I have used Adwords many times, I rely on SEO.  Here, give it a shot; google "web design st cloud, mn"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

St Cloud Times Online Edition Advertising Warning!!!

Before you advertise online with the St Cloud Times, read this!

WebWizard Works provides web design and hosting services, in addition to hosting the sites we create, we also have a separate division for hosting websites not created by us called HostWizard Works.

St Cloud Times Online Edition
For a while I've been meaning to run some leaderboard ads in the St Cloud Times Online Edition. I finally created a banner ad and contacted the St Cloud Times Online Edition to work out my advertising. The rates were acceptable however the representative was concerned over what exactly I would be advertising. Apparently Times Media is also in the web design business, therefore they won't run competitors ads. Good thing they don't also own a bank or car dealership... they'd loose a big chunk of their advertising revenue.

Isn't it a conflict of interest that the St Cloud Newspaper's parent company is involved in other businesses and has the policy (and power) to ban competitors from advertising in the city's main newspaper???

I assured the rep that I was advertising for my hosting division only, he replied with "Yes that would perfectly fine. Thanks!"

The next issue that came up is the fact that they charge 70% more if the leaderboard ad is "rich media". That's fine, rich media is normally flash or some sort of embedded script that creates movement. I, on the other hand wanted to use an GIF89a file format. In other words it would be a plain old animated GIF image and I was going to do something like have the click here button blink. They said... that's rich media. Nowhere on the Internet can I fine another place classifying a GIF of any kind as "rich media" and certainly not Star Tribune's online edition in the Twin Cities - which is where I'll be taking my advertising business.

Since when is a GIF of any kind "rich media"???

Ok, moving along... I made arrangements to run the ad. Afterwards from time to time I would go to the St Cloud Times Online Edition to check out other ads. I repeatedly noticed that the pages take a long time to load. That's understandable since they have a lot of content. I'm talking 9-23 seconds to completely load. The bad part is that the leaderboard ad (banner ad at top of page) seem to load very last. I started to feel a little concerned that 9-23 seconds is more than enough time for someone to start scrolling down the page pushing the top out of sight and completely missing the ad by the time it eventually appeared.

Top banner ad takes so long to load, it can be easily missed!!!

I contacted the rep and provided the load time info captured from a site that can officially measure such things. The rep implied "Load times vary for lots of reasons…user’s device, connection method, server traffic. You are right, our pages have lots of elements that affect load times…this is one of the reasons our Webmaster asks a lot of questions when people want to add more stuff to the umbrella. Our pages are designed to load ads last…but I don’t think your 9 seconds is a typical time."

That answer is all well and good except I didn't use my system to measure the load time. I used 3rd party online tool and did it multiple times over several days. It was never under 9 seconds and most the time in the high teens. As you can see from the answer above, they design the page to load the ads last.

Loading ads last rips you off!!!

I'm telling you folks, if you do this sort of advertising with the St Cloud Times Online Edition, you run a serious risk of paying for ad exposures that load so late they will never be seen. The viewer will have long since scrolled down the page.

Well, what do you know - I then heard back from the rep and he says "You do SEO, website developement, and some other things that compete with us. We can't accept advertising from you. Thanks."

I got dropped like a hot potato and why???

Not only had we already covered this, but my banner ad had been submitted and reviewed over a week earlier. I was expecting it to start running any day.

Given my profession, I probably have a little more awareness than the average advertiser regarding these matters and was starting to seriously wonder if I was making a mistake, but was still on course to proceed. Now that I think about it, they probably did me a favor.

I don't have money to throw away on advertising that won't be seen - Do you???