SEO-PRO Advanced Internet Marketing

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SEO-PRO // Advanced Internet Marketing

Monday, October 27, 2008

eBay to expand into Jobs, Property and Travel is looking to diversify its auction model into new business areas. It was revealed that the site was in talks with several big brands to support its move into Jobs, Property and Travel.

The site's "Motors" channel is its most successful niche development. Although eBay has tried to make a travel channel work in the past, they have decided to get help from one of the bigger travel companies in the UK (not XL holidays...) While uses the excellent Expedia as a branded travel partner, the UK site is still out for tender. A joint revenue share will be available for the right company with a big enough brand and a capable development team.

Recruitment websites
As the recruitment and property markets have taken big financial hits recently, travel will be probably be the channel developed first. It will be interesting to see how a Jobs section will function with eBay's community.
I have worked on numerous recruitment websites and count myself as an expert at recruitment SEO and while each recruitment site works within its own niche, all sites function in more or less the same way so any new or original functionality would attract candidates.

The auction model won't need to be applied to each of the new channels and Buy It Now could be a good option for some of the products and services on offer. eBay will be quite flexible and will welcome creative ideas to provide a compelling service in these areas.

Travel websites
While several travel sites struggle with the volatile fuel prices, the biggest companies, Thomson and First Choice continue to achieve good levels of profit, this stems from the general lack of confidence in smaller travel companies after XL went bust and left 80,000 people stranded. eBay would want to work with a larger brand for this project too, so First Choice/Thomson would be most likely to begin the partnership with eBay.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Last Click Wins? The Online Marketing Lottery

The "Last Click" model is a system that attributes a sale to the online marketing channel that got the sale. So if a user clicks on your PPC ad on Google and proceeds to buy from your website, PPC is attributed the sale. If we know that PPC generates 40% of your weekly sales, you can calculate spend for PPC. You can do the same with all the channels using various website tracking and analytics software. Some of the other channels include: natural search (SEO), paid search (PPC), display advertising (banners and placements) and email (marketing newsletters).

Your online marketing channels should perform better as a whole than in isolation. While this seems like an obvious statement, I mean it is because of the other supporting channels you "Warm up" the customer.

So a channel that is not attributed a sale (using the "Last Click" model), may have helped a sale happen in another channel. This is the "Warm up" process.

Here is an example:

1. A user reads a positive review of your garden furniture on an affiliate site.

2. The user sees the garden furniture brand name on the affiliate site.

3. The user searches Google for the official site.

4. The user finds the official site in the natural search results and purchases.

So all credit goes to the SEO (Natural Search) marketing channel, when the affiliate channel helped the process, and might have swayed the user in the purchase.

The Last Click model doesn’t reflect the combined effect of all the channels. Ideally we would want the Affiliate and SEO channels to be credited with this sale. Otherwise, a quick look through our sales chart will show Affiliates contributed no sales. An online marketing manager might then decide to scrap their Affiliate channel, because they didn't see where it contributed value to the user journey.

Solving this problem will take more advanced Clickstream Analysis software, but as all E-Business depends on accurately plotting the user journey, this software is either in use now or in development.

Ecommerce will be a great place once this software is available commonly. The level of detail in which you can measure the performance of your online marketing spend will only encourage businesses to go online. While initially there could be some data protection issues and users against in depth tracking, in time this will be less of a problem.

Good clickstream analysis will enable E-Commerce to become even more cost effective and predictable; where else can you get that right now?

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Affiliates XL at selling holidays

A friend of mine booked a holiday this summer to a resort in Spain. He spoke about how he'd enjoyed his time and how he'd booked online. (This was all prior to the recent XL closure and all the panic in the travel industry). He mentioned the name of the company and asked me how and why they could sell holidays online without a shop.

I casually searched the company and found the site, and as I went into an oft repeated speech about the cost benefits and secure transactions available to users online, I discovered the site was actually an affiliate website. The smug expression on my face went as soon as I saw all the affiliate links.

Noticing my sudden silence, my friend asked what was wrong… Well, nothing really, I’d just found an affiliate site that did a really good job of letting a user search and find a suitable holiday without the site looking like a complete mess of spam links and “optimised” copy about cheap flights and holidays to Florida. This site looked like the product of a good design and development team, and not something penned by Stevie Wonder with the input of a khazakstan based usability consultant called Borat. I was even more shocked to realise my friend had bought via the affiliate too. (I’d heard of travel and holiday affiliates generating serious money, but I was never totally convinced. This might be because affiliate marketing still hasn’t shaken off its dodgy spam image, even though it generated over £3b of sales last year in the UK alone.)

This brings me onto the importance of the function and interactions you offer users on your site. What struck me about the affiliate site was that there was functionality that benefited the user rather than endless amounts of copy sprinkled with some SEO links and affiliate tracking links. They have probably realised faster than several big name companies, that having a webpage with an actual purpose and use for a user is about as good as a well SEO'd site.

The intelligent affiliate sites worked out long ago that they were not the experts on travel, so why try to compete with Thomson on that front? Play to your own strengths, that’s what they say. Their strength was in SEO/web design and online marketing and so on. So they focused on where they could be superior to Thomson, that brought about innovations like interactive maps, RSS deal feeds and so on.

I have always thought that an affiliate site needs to compete in a different area to add value. Instead of competing with them, the affiliate should be looking at where their client is weak and targeting that area. The affiliates that do this usually have the sites you find and actually use instead of just being dazzled by the "optimised" copy.

A footnote to XL holidays
This must be quite a frustrating read for ex-employees of XL travel, it seems the only winners in travel at the moment are the very big brands and the travel businesses that are small and don’t depend on the volatile fuel market (affiliates and partners for example). They can survive the current storm surrounding the travel industry. The other smaller brands will be viewed as a high stakes gamble by the customer, and many more will go bust.

How low can the airlines go before they begin to run at a loss? Can Ryanair and EasyJet run anymore efficiently and make profits?

Plenty of websites will get some serious traffic from the flurry of searches for “XL”. Most companies in this area have brand pages that have optimised text to pick up searches for their ex-competitors brand terms.

The fast acting sites are usually the ones that understand the web best in any industry.It’s probably the cheapest and most efficient way to get passengers, so I imagine seeing a few offline agents being shut down and the money being invested where it works harder.

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