Posts Tagged ‘WPO model’
If your website traffic from organic search has fallen over the past year, take some small solace in knowing you’re not alone—in fact, you’re in good (if not happy) company.
According to research from BuzzFeed, “Search traffic to publishers has taken a dive in the last eight months, with traffic from Google dropping more than 30%…While Google makes up the bulk of search traffic to publishers, traffic from all search engines has dropped by 20% in the same period.” Organic search visits have fallen significantly to A-list publishers like Time, Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly and Rolling Stone.
It’s not quite clear why this is happening. BuzzFeed mentions changes in behavior, greater use of social networks for content discovery, and a 52% increase in traffic from “‘Dark social,’ that netherland of direct traffic” (i.e., unknown sources), and concludes “We can draw a lot of assumptions but few conclusions from the drop in search traffic.”
The Tutorspree blog offers another possible answer: Google is intentionally de-emphasizing organic results (free clicks) in favor of search advertising results (for which it gets paid). While there’s no before and after (which would have been very helpful) and results will vary, obviously, based on the nature of the search, this example shows how organic results can comprise only a quarter or less of total screen real estate on a commercial search, with paid results accounting 60% of the visible display, and other results like maps or images taking up the remaining screen area.
And it’s not only Google. Both Google and Bing are now displaying fewer than ten organic search results on certain queries: eight, seven, even as few as four in some cases. That means organic results which used to appear in the middle or lower half of page one in search results are now banished to page two, significantly reducing the likelihood of attracting the click.
Finally, algorithmic changes implemented by Google (and subsequently mimicked by other search engines) over the past 18 months have impacted traffic to b2c and b2b websites. Much has been written about how Panda and Penguin may negatively impact rankings of commercial websites in search results.
Given that b2b websites attract, on average, more than 40% of all traffic from organic search (and close to 90% of that from Google), the results above are clearly of great concern. But what does it mean?
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What’s happening today, however, is that many b2b vendors, news publishers and other commercial website owners are doing the same things in the same way and actually getting different (worse) results—because the environment has changed.
So in order to maintain and grow website traffic, online marketing practices have to change as well. Companies need to take a broader view of their overall online visibility and embrace a web presence optimization (WPO) approach.
Why the WPO Model is Important
With potentially less future traffic available from search, given changes in both technology and user behavior, the WPO model is valuable because:
- • WPO is about total online visibility—not just search. Yes, SEO (which increases website visibility) is a key component of WPO, but it’s only one component. WPO is about creating valuable, highly relevant content and then leveraging across multiple channels. So if your prospective buyers are relying less on search but more on social media, or established industry news sources, or on expert “influencers,” or even on advertising, WPO is about making sure your brand is visible in all of those places.
- • WPO is about helping, not manipulating. Google wants (or at least claims to want) to provide searchers with the most relevant results for their queries. Searchers want to find the most relevant results. The WPO model is about creating the most relevant results for buyers looking for what you are offering, but also about being linked from, quoted in, recommended by, or sponsoring other relevant results.
- • WPO is Google-proof. Because it’s designed to help and not manipulate, the concepts of WPO should (theoretically at least) never run counter to Google algorithm changes. And if your prospective buyers are using Google less, WPO maximizes your brand’s visibility in whatever channels, media or sources they are using in its place.
How to Get Your Traffic Back
Here are a few concrete steps for using WPO principles to adapt to and counteract declining search traffic.
- • Figure out where your prospective buys are looking, and be there. Use social media and news monitoring tools to identify the online venues where your prospective buyers are hanging out, discussing your company, your industry, and your competitors.For many b2b companies, LinkedIn Groups are a rich environment for discovering and participating in these conversations. If your buyers are highly technical however, they may be more likely to hang at sites like Stack Overflow, CodeGuru or Spiceworks.
- • Experiment. Go beyond the “big three” social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and check out avenues for sharing like exploreB2B, Quora, Scoop.It, and for blogs specifically, Triberr.
- • In terms of generating “social shares,” either correlation doesn’t equal causation or Matt Cutts is being…at best misleading, at worst duplicitous. While social signals are a factor in search rankings, it’s much less clear how important they are.But in the end, it doesn’t matter—garnering social shares is valuable for web traffic and credibility-building regardless. What matters is knowing how to drive more traffic to your content from social networks and how to drive direct and search visits through social media optimization.
- • Use news releases for exposure, not backlinks. Until fairly recently, common SEO guidance was to “Create backlinks from (press releases) to…supporting pages on your website. Make sure the anchor text of the hyperlink is the keyword phrase you are optimizing for.” But Google now frowns on anchor text links in news releases.That doesn’t mean that news releases now have no value in driving site traffic, but it does change the strategy.First, make sure your news releases are truly newswortthy, and worth sharing. Second, optimize news releases themselves for search. Third, use news releases as part of an overall strategy to build and develop relationships with journalists, which over time can lead to citations and even backlinks which actually are valuable for driving direct and search visits to your website.
- • Use directories based on their relevance and value, but as with news releases—not just for backlinks. In early 2013, Google devalued general directory links for search rankings. That is, the old SEO strategy of improving search ranking simply by building or buying lots of links from broad-topic web directories is no longer effective. That does not mean, however, that all directories are worthless.
- • It’s still worthwhile to seek out backlinks from quality, human-edited, industry-specific online directories, such as vendor directories published by trade publications and industry associations. The two key questions to ask are 1) would your prospective buyers actually be likely to find my site and visit it from this directory? And 2), do you feel good about your company being listed in this directory (or does it feel a bit sleazy to be listed alongside online casinos, web pharmacies, miracle weight loss, make-big-money-now schemes and the like)?
- • Use guest blog posts for exposure (and if you get a backlink–that’s a bonus). Guest-posting is still a viable SEO practice, for the moment at least. But it is commonly abused through poor approaches. Best practice is to develop a relationship with the blogger before asking for the guest post opportunity; asking for the opportunity with a personal note; understanding their audience and proposing a topic that is suitable; and not requesting (or worse, requiring) any specific quid pro quo.
- • Finally, don’t over-rely on paid advertising but do make it part of your online marketing mix. Experiment with AdWords, social network advertising, Bizo, and other ad networks. Many offer pay-per-click or even pay-per-conversion options, so costs and results are controllable. While paid advertising has no effect on SEO, it does increase your brand’s online exposure and drives traffic to specific landing pages and offers.
In the end, no one knows whether the broad drop in search traffic is a temporary aberration or a long-term trend. But utilizing WPO tactics to broaden your brand’s online exposure and potential sources of web traffic is a winning strategy either way.
I was reminded of that famous quote from Mark Twain recently in a Twitter exchange about the web presence optimization framework. Although the framework has been for the most part enthusiastically embraced (and dozens of people have downloaded the framework white paper), a few people on Twitter questioned the need for a “new” marketing concept.
While “search plus social plus content” is inarguably inelegant, it was suggested that other terms such as “online marketing” or “inbound marketing” already covered the concept of web presence optimization (WPO). Although those are clearly important concepts, they don’t cover the spectrum of an organization’s web presence and related activities, which is why the WPO model was introduced nearly three years ago.
Since its introduction, the concept has been embraced by tools vendors and covered in publications like iMedia Connection, Search Engine Watch, Business2Community and Social Media Today, and Website Magazine.
Nevertheless, the point raised on Twitter is valid: a number of overlapping terms in use address at least parts of the digital marketing and PR mix. Perhaps the definitions below will help to clarify the role of WPO as an overarching management framework.
Web Presence Optimization (WPO)
Web presence is essentially web visibility; it’s about being as ubiquitous and easy-to-find as possible when buyers are searching for information about what you and your competitors sell. Anything about your company or products that appears somewhere online—whether owned, earned or paid content—contributes to your web presence.
Tracking over time and against competitors as well as managing and continually improving this for relevant, maximum exposure is optimization. By using unified metrics, you can manage and coordinate the efforts of specialists in various disciplines, including content development, social media, SEO, PR, online advertising, and reputation management, resulting in efficient and effective optimization of an organization’s total web presence in order to drive business results.
According to content management guru Joe Pulizzi, “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. A content marketing strategy can leverage all story channels (print, online, in-person, mobile, social, etc.).”
Content marketing is arguably one component of WPO even though it includes offline venues such as print which don’t contribute to web presence. It’s also focused on owned (internally produced) media and does not include metrics or competitive benchmarking.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Per BusinessDictionary.com, SEO is “the process of improving traffic to a given website by increasing the site’s visibility in search engine results. Websites improve search engine optimization by improving content, making sure that the pages are able to be indexed correctly, and ensuring that the content is unique.”
SEO includes technical factors (making sure sites load quickly and are easy to crawl), content factors (keyword research, content optimization, meta tags) and linking factors (building internal and external links).
While SEO is affected by PR and social media activities, metrics, and competitive actions, it’s internally focused (owned media), cannot be used to manage PR or social media marketing activities (except as they relate specifically to website optimization) and is separate from paid search or other online advertising activities.
In the words of HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, inbound marketing is “where you help yourself ‘get found’ by people already learning about and shopping in your industry. In order to do this, you need to set your website up like a ‘hub’ for your industry that attracts visitors naturally through search engines, the blogosphere, and social media.”
Like WPO, inbound marketing incorporates metrics, content creation and optimization, social media, and (in some cases) search engine marketing. Valuable as it is, however, it doesn’t provide the overall online visibility management framework that WPO does because the latter also includes PR, online advertising, competitive benchmarking and earned content.
One element that none of the above concepts address, but is addressed in WPO, is that third-party content (from customers, journalists, bloggers or other influencers) has value in influencing the buyer’s decision-making process, even when it doesn’t lead directly to a lead or sale. Third-party content is often viewed as more objective and credible than company-produced content, making it critical to track, measure and share.
According to About.com, “Online Marketing is the art and science of selling products and/or services over digital networks, such as the Internet and cellular phone networks. The art of online marketing involves finding the right online marketing mix of strategies that appeals to your target market and will actually translate into sales.”
Though it incorporates SEM, online advertising, search optimization, and content marketing, online marketing is transaction-oriented: it’s focused on activities that lead directly to sales for generally low-consideration items including frequently-purchased or impulse-buy consumer goods and low-value business supplies.
WPO, in contrast, has a broader focus on earned content (e.g. social and press) and overall online visibility, which is important for high-value, considered-purchase consumer goods and b2b sales where web research may lead to an online or offline sale.
While this was originally an umbrella term for various types of activities similar to online marketing, Marketing Land notes that the term has since become to large extent co-opted by get-rich quick hoaxes, pyramid schemes and other scams.
As WPO is all about building online credibility, it’s the farthest thing from Internet marketing.
All of which means…
In the end, the Twitterers’ concern about buzzword proliferation isn’t misplaced. Buzzwords are often used to obscure, confuse, or spin. But WPO genuinely illuminates the actionable key metrics of online visibility, enabling marketing executives to make smart decisions about coordinating PR, SEO, SEM, social, and content marketing efforts.
Recent research makes clear that, for high-value consumer purchases as well as b2b procurement, being as “findable” as possible online is critical to winning the business.
Of course that means it’s imperative to produce relevant, compelling, optimized content for your company’s website and blog, but online visibility goes beyond that. It also requires an active presence and network of relationships in social media, coverage in industry press, and carefully targeted online advertising to be where your prospective buyers are looking, when they are looking.
Optimizing online visibility then requires the coordination of public relations (PR), content development, social networking, SEO, digital advertising and marketing communications efforts. Without coordination, the efforts of these different individuals or groups are like the blind men and the elephant; none of the experts are wrong, but none get the big picture either.
We refer to this maximization of online visibility as web presence optimization (WPO): the combination of PR, content, SEO, SEM, marcom and social media efforts to make a company as ubiquitous as possible, with relevant content, everywhere online that prospective customers are looking when they are searching for what the company offers.
As a practical matter, the WPO process includes:
Research: a number of questions need to be answered before a tactical WPO plan can be roughed out, such as: where are your prospective customers congregating online? (e.g., are they more likely to use Facebook or a specialized discussion forum? What online publications do they read? What groups do they belong to?) What topics are they most interested in exploring or discussing? How are your competitors approaching the market?
Execution: this includes multiple avenues of content creation, distribution and follow-up. For example, a news release may be written, search-optimized and then distributed through wire service like Marketwire or PRWeb. But it may also be sent to specific journalists and bloggers, who need to be followed up with, shared socially, and have any questions or comments responded to.
Measurement: What was the result—how much online visibility was achieved with a particular piece of content? How much website traffic did it drive? How many conversions? How does this compare to other activities? Lessons learned and intelligence gleaned from these metrics feed back into the execution phase, driving and refining additional projects.
(This is the essence of the web presence optimization strategy and approach we’ve been using at KC Associates for the past year. We research a client’s current competitive and digital landscape, develop a WPO and content strategy, execute, measure and refine.)
The WPO framework has evolved over the past 34 months from the spaghetti-ish original WPO model to the refined definition of web presence optimization a year ago to today’s streamlined version focused on the five broad areas of presence:
Content strategy is developed based on market interests, competitor moves and company or product differentiation then shared through one (or more often a combination) of channels. Content creation, optimization, distribution and sharing results in five types of measurable online presence:
Press Presence (news release pickups, news articles, product reviews, publication-sponsored directories, etc.)
Social Presence (tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, social bookmarks, videos on YouTube, presentations on SlideShare, etc.)
Website Presence (content published on a company’s own website, blog or microsite which ranks highly and attracts organic search traffic)
Industry Presence (trade association articles, association membership lists or directories, trade show exhibitor lists, industry analyst coverage, etc.)
Paid Presence (search engine ads, banner ads on trade or publication sites, social network ads)
To learn more about the WPO framework, check out this free whitepaper.
The coordination of the various specialties—PR, social, SEO, SEM, content marketing—depends upon having a clear, unified view of actionable metrics. This single, comprehensive (but not overwhelming) view of results keeps a team in alignment about next steps, what to do more of, what to drop, and what to do differently.