A high-level understanding of the “Google tools universe” (GTU) is an important step when allocating a marketing budget. All businesses have administrative and information needs. Google provides a wide range of tools, many at zero financial cost, to help address those needs. All Google Tools require some time for learning and interacting. Knowing which ones provide the greatest return on your relevant market will reduce the decision paralysis that accompanies early use.
For the purposes of this article, we refer to the graphic “Google Tools Universe” created by Alex Kine for a presentation to the November SSN meetup on 11/13/12. In addition to the tools illustrated here, non-profit organizations have a broad set of tools and applications available through Google Non-Profit. You can ask your SEO or Google specialist to guide you. We will focus on Google today because Google accounts for four times more search traffic than its nearest competitor, Bing.
One of the key attributes of the GTU is that everything is interconnected. Efforts in one channel support and reinforce efforts elsewhere. For example, using rich snippets from schema.org and building out a robust Google+ site will positively impact search results on Google.
Organic Search (unpaid or “natural search”) is the set of search results that are in the main part of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The rest of the results on a SERP are “paid search”, or PPC.
The percentage of clicks that come from organic search will vary. It is common to see results that range from 60% to over 90%. Some Internet marketers report that 60% of all visitors to their sites came from Google Organic Search. Comparing Organic to PPC it is common to see that over 95% of search traffic comes from organic and less than 5% from PPC. Given this knowledge, it is reasonable to allocate a proportionate amount of resources to getting organic search right.
Google makes many changes over time that impact how high your website ranks, for a given set of search terms. The top or number one spot will likely account for a majority of clicks. Therefore, the coveted top position is worth your time and attention. Google’s official position is that what makes a good website good for the viewer also makes it attractive to the search engine. So, just doing whatever you can to make your site easy to navigate, worth reading, and connected to others in your field should be enough.
The reality is that a variety of factors, some specific to the site content, some related to mechanics or architecture of site design, and some related to factors that aren’t on the site at all will impact your Google search results rank, or “PageRank”. These factors are endlessly considered by analysts competing with one another for that top spot. This process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it is an essential part of any thorough digital marketing strategy. A non-expert can do a lot of SEO work on their own, but keeping up with industry changes, new Google algorithms, and being aware of what actions will result in losing PageRank are just a few of the factors that can be managed more effectively by a Search Professional.
Google Analytics is a performance analysis and segmentation tool that helps you determine what viewers are doing on your website, and how they got there. It shows all traffic to your website (not just from Google). It includes the search terms people used to get there, the pages they viewed, and how long they stayed. Analytics is also setup to track conversions. A conversion might range from casual viewing to a visitor taking a specific action. Examples include making a purchase, requesting an appointment, placing a phone call or downloading marketing content. In web analytics circles, conversions are grouped in goals, and goals are defined by how they are measured. These measures are called Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), and tend to be the primary way businesses and marketers measure success. KPI’s include whether a website is sufficiently helping a business meet its marketing goals.
Webmaster tools forms the foundation for performance analysis. It gives you web-traffic data for specific search words (also known as keywords). Webmaster tools is also a valuable diagnostic tool to find out if your site has been infected with virus or malware, if there are errors in your html code, and if there are errors that prevent Google’s machines to scan your website’s pages. If Google cannot properly scan (“crawl”) your pages, they will receive no search traffic. So, this can be a critical component of successful Search Optimization.
Google+ Local (formerly Google Places)
Google+ Local is Google’s effort to bring businesses and organizations into their Social Network Google+. Google+ Local integrates professional reviews from Zagat, user-generated reviews (in the style of Yelp), with maps and localization information that is provided by your browser (based on your IP address and also from location of nearby wireless signals) or mobile device.
Users can rate your Google+ Place without writing a review, and searchers can see your cumulative score on a 30 point Zagat scale. Have your customers leave reviews on your Google+ page, and then engage and respond positively to reviews, especially negative reviews.
Google estimates that nearly a quarter of all searches and closer to half of all mobile searches have “local intent”. If someone is looking for a local solution, like a restaurant, auto repair, health-care provider, etc… the results that Google+ Local generate will get their attention, and drive traffic to your site. You should optimize for Google+ because ranking well for local search results in more impressions and higher ranking for your business.
User searches within Google Maps return a high percentage of Google+ local results, and users who search within Google+ will only see Google+ and Google+ local results. Your Google+ page won’t get buried with other websites or PPC ads. Google+ Local reinforces efforts that you make to improve Google Search and AdWords.
AdWords are those search results at the top of a SERP that have a colored background, or down the right column (under the word “ads”). You bid, auction style, to get an AdWords listing. Often, whoever is willing to pay the most per click ranks the highest.
Ads are shown based on a combination of how much is being bid for the relevant keyword and how successful the ad has been at motivating searchers to click. AdWords is commonly called Pay per Click (or PPC), because the marketer pays only when a searcher clicks on an ad. Payment for each time an ad appears is a different market, primarily used with banner ads, called “Cost per Thousand” views, or “CPM”. The M stands for “mille” the Latin word for “thousand”.
- Select words that searchers might use (keywords) when looking for your product or service
- Determine how much an average visit is worth.
- Set your budget, marketing expenses are limited to a specific amount per day, or per week, and can be targeted by day of the week, time of day, or other criteria.
- Write a compelling ad people will click on, because it doesn’t matter how much you bid for the AdWords ad to appear if nobody follows it to your site. This is a challenge, since less than a quarter of all clicks on most SERPs come from AdWords, but it can be rewarding if managed actively.
- Integrate with Analytics to provide data and detail about what drives viewers to your website, what engages them once they are there, and in many cases, how that behavior turns into sales.
If Dutch Bike Company will bid $3.00 per click, when a user searches for “bike shop”, and their budget is $100.00/day their ad will simply stop appearing after 33 clicks in a day. Although it may need to appear a hundred or more times, they only pay for the actual clicks. If your ad appears often and nobody clicks on it, Google might show other ads, which are bid at lower rates, but which return higher click rates.
Less than a quarter of all clicks on most SERPs come from AdWords, but it can be rewarding if managed actively. The latest edition of the AdWords interface can even reveal which keyword resulted in the ad appearing, and allows you to adjust keywords and bids accordingly. One key to earning profitable AdWords clicks and views is knowing how much a customer or web-visitor is worth, and actively managing the campaign to attract visitors with bids on lower costing keywords.
In the top right section of this chart, expensive keywords that lots of users search for, words like “Loans”, “Insurance”, “attorney”, and “mortgage”, those keywords do attract a lot of search volume, but also have a high value amongst businesses in that field. On the other hand in the lower right of this chart, the search term “lolcats” would get a lot of search volume, but very few marketers are interested in paying for it.
When Internet marketers talk about “long tail” keywords, we mean terms that have low search volume, so not many competitors are interested and bids are low, but they are meaningful to your website and address a specific need on behalf of searchers. Use Webmaster tools to help find effective, lower cost keywords that would be relevant to your AdWords campaign.
YouTube accounts for almost one-half of all videos posted on the web and more than one-half of all content that appears in video search. YouTube gets 14 Billion views per month (yes, per month), and it’s the third most visited site on the Internet (after Facebook and Google). Put relevant videos on YouTube and you will accomplish two things in terms of search.
- It is another avenue for you to link back to your main page (from the embedded link when you upload the video).
- It is a lot easier to get a video ranked in regular search results than an “ordinary” page.
Despite the fact that there are 35 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, there are even more web pages. Produce great video content that others want to embed on their site, embed the video on your own site, blog, etc… and make sure that the embedded link goes to your site. Here is an easy to follow tutorial. Each time the video is embedded, it counts as another link back to your site. The more often the video is embedded, the more links you get.
This article is only a toe in the water of the whole Google Tools Universe. We discussed fewer than one-quarter of all the items illustrated in the accompanying graphic. We briefly discussed where the value lies and how to begin earning that value. Further research is available for all of these subjects. You are encouraged to read more, learn more, and drive traffic to your site.