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SEO Tip of the Month: The Keyword Checklist

by Jason Doucette on November 30, 2011

This one’s so obvious I’m almost embarrassed to write about it.

But not as embarrassed as I was when I realized I wasn’t using it…

True story: for months I’d been trying to improve one of my personal sites’ ranking for a particular keyword, but it kept hovering around the number 5 spot. This was even more annoying because the number 1 site actually had a link to my site at the beginning of their top-ranked page!

It wasn’t until I ran my own site through the checklist I’m about to share that I realized the problem, or at least one of the key ones: I didn’t have my primary keywords in the page’s title tag!

The forehead slap heard ’round the world, that was…

So, no matter how simple these items might seem, have a look at one of your underperforming pages and see how you score against this keyword checklist:

Keyword in title tag. When you go to the page, can you see your keyword or key phrase on the top bar of the browser, ideally right at the beginning?

keyword in title

Keyword in URL. This is less vital (though studies claim that having the keyword right in your domain name is a huge advantage,) but if your content management software lets you specify the content URL, make sure you’ve got your keyword placement there.

keyword in url

Keyword in a header tag. Somewhere on your page, is there an h1 or h2 HTML tag that includes your keyword or key phrase, showing that it’s actually an important part of the document?

Keyword in meta description. Google’s actually gone on record as saying they don’t look at this tag, but it’s what users see when they look at your new top Google result, which will drive them to click through, which is what brings you the traffic that this is all about.

So yes, in other words, is the keyword everywhere it can be that’ll tip Google off?

Oh, and one more thing: one keyword per page. Don’t try to run the checklist for multiple keywords on the same page, have multiple pages instead.  You’re obviously going to have more than just your primary keyword on the page, and you’ll probably get some residual interest from these other keywords, but don’t let them distract you from your page’s primary goal.

There are two types of search engine optimization: on page, where you make changes to your own site structure and content to improve search engine rankings, and off page, where you get targeted links to your site.

If you’d like to expand the checklist to include off page factors, the best way to do that is to start looking at the pages that link to you and make sure that at least some of these links have your keyword in the link text.

Thrust Labs doesn’t do off page SEO, but we can certainly help with your on page efforts! For a free evaluation, get in touch!

Old email lists have hidden value

by Jason Doucette on November 18, 2011

Strangers' Hall by ell brownAt Thrust Labs, we’ve always been big fans of email marketing and newsletters, but we don’t always practice what we preach. Sending out regular communications takes work, and it’s easy to push it to a long series of tomorrows. In fact, we had one old email list with thousands of subscribers that we recently decided to reactivate after more than a year and a half of dormancy!

That’s right, a year and a half of zero communications. Frankly, I thought we were going to be flagged as spammers, but check this out: out of a 3580-member list, we ended up with an open rate of 35% and less than 40 opt outs!

Now, it’s super-important to remember that these are people who haven’t gotten an email in over a year and a half. In fact, many of them would have signed up shortly after the last mailing, which means they’ve been on a list for 18 months and have never heard from us.

That’s what makes the next part so cool:

I wrote the email as a personal letter, so from me as opposed to from a company (there was branding, but it was my name at the end of the mail.) And just for fun I asked people to hit reply and tell me what they wanted out of the website.

Here’s a warning: if you tell people to do something, many of them will. I’m still digging my way out of the inbox mayhem that I caused, but at last count about 80 people replied personally to me in response to the mailing, for a reply rate of 2.2% that made me wish I had something for sale in that email…

(In fact, one of the subscribers did go to the site and buy something through an ad for some in-house products, which more than paid for my time setting up the mailing.)

We’re moving forward with weekly or bi-weekly mailings, and we’ll probably start gathering stats on the active users and trimming out the ones who never respond so we can boost the open rate for later sponsorship opportunities, but all in all it was a very pleasant surprise for an asset we though was completely devalued!

Key takeaways:

  • Even if you have no idea what your emails will eventually be about, start collecting visitor information now. As you saw in this test, people waited a long time for that mail and were still happy to get it.
  • Don’t discount old lists! Sure, they might not perform as well as newer ones, but those leads have already been paid for, so your reactivation costs are going to be much lower than the cost of getting new subscribers.

If you aren’t collecting visitor email addresses, even if you don’t have a plan in place on what to do with them, please get in touch! Thrust Labs doesn’t build mailing systems but we can recommend several and assist with the installation so you can start building deeper relationships across multiple touch points with your audience.

Photo by ell brown

get flashEarlier this month it was revealed that Adobe was ceasing development of its Flash Player for mobile devices. While they’ve committed to supporting existing installations with critical bug and security fixes, and some companies who have licensed the source code (notably RIM) have announced plans to continue developing the product, it seems clear that HTML5 and custom applications will be the route forward for enhancing the mobile experience.

The challenge here is that HTML5 video doesn’t support several key features that many content owners prefer, including streaming and digital rights management, or DRM.

As things stand today, if you want to allow access to video through a website, if you don’t use Flash to present it in a streaming format that permits the use of DRM, your content is easily downloadable by anyone who can watch it.

And yes, that means that if you want iPad and iPhone users (as well as what’s soon to be most mobile device users) to be able to watch your stuff through their web browser, you, your legal team, and your executives need to be prepared for the idea that this media won’t be fully under your control.

Our take? Video on the web just got an excuse to open up. Just like with music, content holders will gradually shift their content to either being open on the web or coralled in an app.

And to be clear, the ability to actually download this content, no matter how “openly available” it is, is limited to a very small subset of the population with the technical chops and the desire to download it, and chances are they already know how to find it through a torrent and so on.

Now, if you have video content that you need to have some additional control over, you do have a few options left to you.

The first is a dedicated app. This adds friction to your process, because your audience needs to download it first before they can start watching, and it requires special programming skills as well that might not be in the range of your organization (and full disclosure: it’s not an area that we’re looking to develop at Thrust Labs, so we can’t help with that, sorry!)

The next option is personalized video encoding, which is where we think things are going in this area. In this scenario, each video has extra data added to it that can be tied back to a unique viewer, so if the content does leak out, the source can be easily identified. This has been done with DVD screeners in the past and forensic watermarking solutions currently exist for web video by companies like Civolution.

And, of course, you can still use Flash combined with RTMPE streaming, Akamai token exchange, and desktop browsers.

The bottom line:

  • There’s no way to securely deliver video over the mobile web.
  • If someone wants your content badly enough, they’ll get it.
  • Look to apps or watermarking if you want greater security.

At Thrust Labs, we’ve been working with MiView, a leader in secure, invitation-based video delivery to develop many aspects of their platform. Let us put some of that expertise to work for you by developing the right video delivery platform that balances your needs to be seen with your concerns about your intellectual property: get in touch today!

Tablet usage stats that could change your life

by Jason Doucette on November 5, 2011

Well, if not your life, your project at least. Check out 30 Tablet Usage Statistics Every Marketer Should Know, as distilled by the nice folks at HubSpot.

Multi-channel fundraising can lead to 3x revenues

by Jason Doucette on October 7, 2011

Here’s a great infographic from Blackbaud, one of the leaders in nonprofit fundraising and communications software, who gathered some impressive stats from their user base.  Key insights: online donors are younger, have higher incomes, and give more initially and over time than offline donors.  The bad news? Online is only 10% of current donation revenue. The good news? Online giving increased 34.5% in 2010.  But the kicker? Combining online and offline marketing to the same donor base increased revenues threefold.  Read more here.

64% of US consumers check email several times a day

by Jason Doucette on August 31, 2011

Several gems from email marketing company ExactTarget, including the fact that not only are we generally obsessed with email (duh,) a shocking 93% of US online consumers are subscribed to at least one mailing list (and when you consider that 5% of US online consumers are somehow not using email at all, that’s pretty much everyone in the target demographic!)

While many of these email subscriptions are probably not corporate or marketing-related, I believe this is proof that opt-in newsletters with valuable content have gone from rare gems to something consumers have come to expect.  Do you have a regular relationship-building email campaign with your customers and prospects?  Check out the full report [PDF] for more tips on how to keep them engaged, both on email and via Facebook.

According to Ipsos Reid, 49% of online Canadians say their views of products and brands are influenced by recommendations of those in their social network.  In addition, 48% of those with a social network profile like or follow at least one brand or company.

But it’s not forever. While a lot of the work is done after the effort is spent getting the consumer to click the like or follow buttons, in that their friends will see the recommendation in various places online, 28% of online Canadians with a profile have removed the like or follow, typically citing a loss of interest.

These numbers skew to the younger crowd, as usual, with about a 2 to 1 ratio for both the follows and unfollows when you contrast the 18-34 set with the over 55s.

Action step: what are you doing to engage your fans once you’ve gotten their recommendation? Are you keeping them happy, engaged, and hopefully entertained, or are you robo-posting meaningless crap, if you’re posting anything at all?  How are you nurturing your relationship with your fans?



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