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Tap the news for large SEM returns

Current Events offer planty of opportunities for relevant and cost effective search traffic. Our panel of experts discusses the best way to leverage today’s breaking news cycle.

Dan Marques

Marketing associate, organic search, VistaPrint

As Google and other search engines begin to incorporate universal search initiatives, finding time-relevant content for current events is key, and one of the best sources for the engines to crawl is blogs.  Blogs are particularly useful since every time a blog post is written, a “ping” is sent telling the search engines to crawl the new blog post and index the content.

How can marketers leverage this opportunity? One of the best ways is by implementing and actively contributing to a blog.  Keep close ties to current events by browsing relevant news sources and setting up Google Alerts (www.Google.com/Alerts) for keywords related to your industry.  When relevant news items appear, quickly write a blog post in response to the current events.  Be sure to use relevant keywords in the blog post title and content to ensure it is crawled and indexed for keywords related to the news event.

Be sure the post is relevant to your company and theme of your blog.  Do not post about irrelevant news articles simply for the traffic potential.  Contribute valuable insights and opinions to the blogosphere.  To capture the maximum value from this strategy, be sure to have links on your blog to popular posts and  your main site, an e-mail sign-up box, and social bookmark links (if appropriate).  The benefits to this strategy are multiple: it helps to generate traffic and potential new subscribers to your blog, it positions your company as an expert on events relevant to your industry, and the potential links from other sites can increase your search engine rankings.  If it is possible to tie your company and products in an authentic way to the article, doing so can provide additional direct benefits.

The key is to be relevant, authentic, and insightful.  Doing so will ensure a successful news blogging initiative and lead to SEO benefits.

Stuart Larkins

VP search, DoubleClick Performics

Consumers rely on search engines to learn more when news breaks, especially if a preferred site offers inadequate coverage. Paid search engine marketing and natural search optimization can help marketers piggyback news stories to align products and services and win traffic and visitors, although SEM often enables a quicker response. Carefully choosing when, where and how to use this tactic can help marketers control costs and limit waste by generating targeted traffic.

Consider the recent “made in China” toy panic. Toy marketers sponsored such keyword ads as “safe toys” and “lead-free toys” as part of their SEM program, but so did lead test kit manufacturers. Choosing only the most appropriate keywords and using clear descriptive ad copy helps marketers attract consumers most likely to convert, and avoids wasteful click costs. Careful attention to competitors’ copy and some logical decision making can also help ads stand out in the crowd; only a few sponsored “safe toys” ads include the phrases “lead free,” “not made in China” or “made in the US” as part of their ad copy.

Marketers should make logical decisions about keywords and copy and monitor conversions. In this case, most marketers want to sell test kits or toys, but generally not both.

Keep the consumer’s objectives in mind to select the most effective keywords, ad copy and bid levels.  Consumers report higher satisfaction levels when campaigns are relevant.

Adam Edwards

Senior project manager, Connors Communications

Sun Tzu teaches us in the classic military treatise The Art of War that a victorious army wins first and then seeks battle while a defeated army first battles and then seeks victory. Be realistic and only fight battles you have a chance of winning — if you are not the leading publication or the best optimized site in your industry, focus on the long tail where you can make the most impact. The long tail of search consists of the more qualified yet less competitive search terms that together account for a significant amount of search traffic.

Also, it’s better to get on the first page of results on a less popular phrase than the fifth page behind the same headline everyone else writes. This is especially important when reporting on a newswire article or a popular meme in the blogosphere. Syndicated stories all have the same headline, meaning it’s harder to compete on those phrases. How can you get noticed? Think about what your audience searches on rather than the language used by particular companies or public officials.

Don’t just check your story for facts — do some competitive analysis before writing that headline. Use free tools to help you judge noteworthy search traffic that is off the beaten path such as Google Suggest, Yahoo Search Assist, or HitTail. Your best opportunity comes from writing on topics you’ve already covered. If you find a trend in the news that uniquely interests your readers, keep following it until your site becomes an authority. The bottom line: SEO is about finding your niche.

Melissa Mackey

Online marketing manager, Fluency Media

This fall, our firm was discussing a business relationship with a major public accounting agency.  We started looking at search terms relative to our prospective client to discover which accounting-related keywords were appearing most frequently.  During this process, the state of Michigan changed the name of a very controversial tax law that for years had been known as the Single Business Tax. The state overhauled the program, repealing the Single Business Tax and naming its replacement the Michigan Business Tax.

As we analyzed search results, “Michigan Business Tax” started showing up with a high rate of frequency, but the accounting firm had not updated its search-engine optimization or pay-per-click programs to include this key phrase.  Its Web site copy and purchased keywords still included the outdated “Single Business Tax.”

We notified the accounting firm of our findings, and it immediately made changes to its pay-per-click program and SEO elements of its Web pages, including title tags and content wording.  The accounting firm reported that, in a very short time, it began receiving increased traffic to its site from searches on “Michigan Business Tax.”

It’s surprising how rapidly this kind of change can show up in organic search — sometimes in as little as a day.

For us, understanding the importance of keeping keywords up to date in fast-changing times won us a new client.  A lesson for other businesses is to develop a method (e.g., Google alerts); to become aware of changes in the vernacular (“the Web” vs. “Web 2.0”);  to notice how developments are worded in news reports (sightings of “Martians” vs. sightings of “aliens”); or to observe a new name for an old service (“cell phones” vs. “smart phones” or “mobile.”)  These changes happen quickly, but you can earn big dividends if you stay on top of them

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