The cost of doing business with pay-per-click advertising has risen sharply over the past decade. So much so, many small business owners are wondering if the price they’re paying to get their message out is worth the return on their investment.

As Darren Dahl reports for the New York Times, larger companies joining the PPC craze has caused rates to skyrocket and nearly priced out smaller competitors.

AdGooroo, a research firm specializing in the PPC market, reports that more than nine out of ten companies spend less than $10-thousand a month on PPC advertising. At the other end of that spectrum, however, are giants like Amazon and University of Phoenix, who spent $54-million and $37.9-million respectively in the first half of 2012 alone.

The advice many experts offer is to scale back PPC ads and make keywords as specific as possible to your business. General keywords like ‘life insurance’ or ‘car sales’ put you in direct competition with a number of companies, many of whom have much deeper pockets.

PPC also shouldn’t be your only advertising platform. Branching out into social media and search is crucial to drive as much traffic to your site as possible.

It’s worth looking into SEO services to improve your organic search rankings. There’s even services online that pledge to manage your social media marketing accounts, as well. When you own a small business, time and money come at a premium and online advertising is becoming costly for both.

Longtail SEO is beginning to become the dominant method for article marketers to be successful in the results pages, as well as strengthening brand visibility and awareness. It is the most effective method for most marketers.

In the past, the problem for many has been deciding whether to invest energy, time and money into marketing a single primary keyword, which might receive a high volume of searches every month, or possibly to focus on a longtail keyphrase. The longtail keyphrase might only get a small amount of search queries every month, but it allows for the business to achieve the top ranking, which receives the most traffic.

Trying to focus on a single keyword puts you at a disadvantage. It may get queried more than your longtail phrase, but it will be such a crowded market, you would be lucky to get on the third page or results. When most traffic goes to the very first result, being on the third page isn’t going to get you many visitors.

Longtail phrases on the other hand put you in a much higher ranking on SERPs for less popular related queries, which will net you more traffic overall. As Justin Arnold, writer for The Mightier Pen, puts it, you have to choose between theoretical popularity, and actual sales traffic.

Choosing a longtail phrase is much too big of a subject to cover here, but the main idea is to think about claiming a corner of the market. People are searching for more specific queries, so marketing a longtail phrase for your specific area of the market puts you in a good place to actually get some sales.


As with any Google service, AdWords is constantly innovating and improving. Lisa Raehsler recently put out her list of the 10 best recent AdWords improvements at Search Engine Watch.

1. Media Ads

This one hasn’t been fully made available yet, but could be huge for certain businesses. The ad includes two links, one to a landing page and one to a relevant video, which is expandable from the ad.

2. Product Listings

These ads are linked to a Google Merchant account and show your product to users searching for a relevant keyword. Also currently in limited release.

3. Enhance Sitelinks

New sitelinks are larger and actually appear like regular ads, but they’re connected to one closely related ‘umbrella’ ad. CTR have reportedly significantly improved with the enhancement.

4. Remarketing

Currently in beta testing, advertisers will soon have the opportunity to use a consumers previous search for keywords to show them relevant ads on subsequent searches.

5. Offers extensions

Ads and offers combined. Your specfic promotion or coupon is included with your ad and can be saved to a Google offers account.

6. Reminder extensions

Users can send themselves an email from your ad reminding them about a sale, opening or special. Just started in beta.

7. Remarketing in Analytics

Build targeting lists in analytics using a variety of factors, including referral source or the site the user came from. These lists are easily integrated in AdWords.

8. Dynamic Display

Target specific users based on their activity or websites based on their audience. Display ads will link with a Merchant account to show your relevant products.

9. Comparison ads

It’s a cost-per-lead model that does just what it sounds like. Compare your prices to other companies. This one may be a long way from full release, but it’s being tested on financial companies.

10.  App promotion

Advertise your app to app users. AdWords does most of the work here providing the graphics, formatting and updating the rating ad reviews.

I recently wrote about the release of Google’s Disavow Links tool, but there are some more questions popping up that need answering. So, let’s cover a little bit more about the tool.

First off, the tool does not immediately take effect. This is one of many reasons Google suggests publishers try to remove questionable links first by working with site owners hosting links, or companies that they may have purchased links through.

Instead of disavowing the links immediately, “it can take weeks for that to go into effect,” said Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team at a keynote during the Pubcon conference. Google also has reserved the right to not use submissions if it feels they are questionable.

It is important to be accurate when making your file to submit to Google. Because of the delay in processing the file, it may take another few weeks to “reavow” links you didn’t mean to discount.

Once you have submitted a file to Google, you can download it, change it, and then resubmit.

The tool is mainly designed for site owners affected by the Penguin Update, which was focused on hitting sites that may have purchased links or gained them through spamming. Before, Google ignored bad links, but now they act as a negative mark against the site.

This change prompted fear in some of the SEO industry that site owners would create bad links pointing to their site, or “negative SEO.” This tool helps to ensure that negative SEO is not a worry by allowing you to disavow any of those types of links.

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land has even more information about the tool, and Matt Cutts has a 10 minute long video answering questions.


Online branding ruins everything you thought you knew about branding. It is no longer strictly a marketing activity for multinationals with million dollar budgets. Online branding is simple and practically free.

The internet allows businesses of all sizes to participate with their webpages, secondary sites, social media outlets, and company blogs. These areas are also exactly where it is important to establish a successful branding strategy. But how?

It is first important to remember branding is a lot more than a name and a logo. It is a philosophy encompassing the values and way of doing things. Branding alone can increase the perceived value of any kind of product by creating an image that depicts the product as more than its actual value. Gucci is just a clothing designer, but because of the image cultivated around the brand, their products are perceived as higher value than most others.

Ray Vellest, writer for Web Designer Depot, argues the most important aspect of creating this type of image is consistency. Making sure all of your messages are on point establishes an idea in potential customers’ minds.

People associate Gucci with luxury because they only present images of their products with luxury settings. The people in their ads are always dressed in some form of high fashion, and in an extravagant setting.

Similarly, Louis Vuitton has had a long running campaign of images of pop culture icons with their luggage, and they choose these celebrities carefully. Sean Connery, Madonna, and Keith Richards have all been in ads for Louis Vuitton, and the imagery suggests that of the “rebellious” upper class.

When bringing this strategy online, think digital presence consistency. Start with your username, or profile. Using the same username across the web is a big step towards creating brand consistency online. It brings continuity to interactions customers have with the persona or company through various methods.

Another method of establishing consistency is visually. You begin working with the company’s logo, keeping it absolutely consistent across all platforms. But it is also important to design a secondary logo that will fit within the square profile image space alloted by social media platforms. The second logo has to be a visual continuation of the first.

When interacting with potential customers online, you need to be keeping a consistent voice as well. Many companies have multiple people handling their social media accounts, but their voice needs to match the voice of the company. To do this, define your tone by finding one that matches your brand image. Law firms should maintain a serious and formal tone, while a record store, for instance, has more liberty to be less formal and maybe opinionistic.

By creating a consistent image all across the web, you can begin to cultivate the type of branding that huge corportations spend millions on every year. It is as simple as keeping everything focused in the same direction, and sending the same message.


Bing Ads recently made Sitelink Extensions available to all U.S. users, which allows advertisers up to 10 sitelinks to their ads. This helps consumers navigate directly to their desired page, rather than landing on the homepage and having to find their way around.

As Pamela Parker reports for Search Engine Land, during beta testing, click-through-rates for ads with sitelinks improved by as much as 25-percent over standard ads.

In another tweak, advertisers no longer need to be logged in to use the ad preview tool.

The latest research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which examines the first half of 2012, finds that the biggest contributor to online advertising in the U.S. continues to be spending on Search Marketing.

With 48% of all interactive advertising in the first half of the year, search ads brought in $8.1 billion.  It is also 19% higher than during the same period of 2011.

Performance pricing, usually cost-per-click, remains the dominant pricing model and has continued to get stronger.

For graphs of the data, visit Pamela Parker’s write up over at Search Engine Land.


In order to improve your existing online ad campaigns and discover new opportunities that you’re currently missing, you have to study the analytics. Trend line analysis is likely included whether you use AdWords, Microsoft AdCenter or any other platform and it saves you from poring over column after column of numbers. Instead, you are presented with an easy to read and, more importantly, an easy to digest report.

Matt Van Wagner has an in-depth report on different types of trend line reports and how to use trend line analysis at Search Engine Land.

Let’s look at some potential errors to avoid and how to make these reports work for you.

First and foremost, you have to understand the context of any report and be sure to enter proper parameters. If your reporting time is too short, you may see a graph suggesting a problem that isn’t really there. You may also notice a simple fluxuation of variables beyond your control and perceive it as a problem with your campaign.

Before making any changes, do some investigating. Take the guesswork out of online advertising and diagnose the problem. Then, you will know what needs to be changed, or what can be left as is.

Always keep your specific campaign goals in mind. For some, conversion rates improving but total conversions going down could be a problem. However, if it’s in line with that campaigns goals, then you’ll probably want to leave the campaign untouched.

Sometimes it’s what you decide not to change that will make the biggest difference.

With time, you’ll start to be able to recognize at a glance a graph showing the early signs of trouble. Be sure you understand not only what each individual trackable metric means, but also how they relate to each other.

If you’ve ever received a notification from Google about a manual spam action based on “unnatural links” pointing to your webpage, Google has a new tool for you.

Links are one of the most known about factors Google uses to order search results, and they examine the links between sites to decide which pages are reputable. As you probably know, this is the foundation of PageRank, another of the most well-known “signals” Google uses to order search results. Google is concerned about spammers trying to take advantage of PageRank, and often they have to take manual action.

The notification you may have received in Webmaster Tools about those unnatural links suggests you got caught up in linkspam. Linkspam is the use of paid links, link exchanges, and other tactics like those. The best response to the message would be to remove as many low quality links as possible from your site. This keeps Google off of your back, and will improve the reputation of your site as a whole.

If you can’t seem to get rid of all of the links for some reason, Google’s new tool can help you out. The Disavow Links page allows you to input URLs which you would like disavowed from your site, and the “domain :” keyword will help you disavow links across all pages on a specific site.

Everyone is allowed one disavow file per website, and the file is shared among site owners through Webmaster Tools.

If you need assistance finding bad links in your site, the “Links to Your Site” feature in Webmaster Tools can also assist you in starting your search.

Google’s Webmaster Central Blog included a few quick answers in their announcement for the tool for questions you may have, noting that most sites will not need to use the feature in any way unless they’ve received a notification.


Now as much as ever, the web design industry and the SEO industry are intertwined. The question that arises anytime a business industry and a creative industry become so connected is whether the business side limits the creative side or not.

Most in the web design industry will agree that SEO shouldn’t limit web designers at all. SEO is important, but limiting art isn’t necessary.

One of the most important things for web designers and SEO professionals to be concerned about is load times. Lots of designers want to make amazing headers, but these lead to slow load times. There are sites where load times do matter less. Portfolio sites should have plenty of quality graphics of work, but in these instances SEO doesn’t matter.

For commercial websites however, fast load times are essential because customers will go elsewhere rather than wait.

For those that think standard navigation practices limit their artistic license, think about this. The job of a web designer isn’t just to create an aeshtetically pleasant site, but to make one that is also functional and user-friendly. Breadcrumbs and easily accessible navigation systems make users happy, and it allows them to see all of the well designed areas of the site.

Overall, if you aren’t designing overly flashy sites, SEO shouldn’t be limiting your abilities as a designer. The latest SEO practices rely on quality content, and the designer’s job is to to deliver this content is a good looking package. If anything, SEO guidelines will help you understand how to create a site your viewers will like.

For some more pros and cons of the relationship between SEO and web design, Rean Jean Uehara has a great article at 1stwebdesigner.