It’s all true: Everything is fake

It’s all true: Everything is fake. Also mobile user counts are fake. No one has figured out how to count logged-out mobile users, as I learned at reddit. Every time someone switches cell towers, it looks like another user and inflates company user metrics.

Although this thread starts out in the New York Magazine, the Zerohedge cliffnotes are more readable here

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Statistics : Search Engine Marketing 2018

Here is a rare post in the Digital Marketing space worth bookmarking. Really useful information compiled in one blog.

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Search Results Page Features by Percent Clicks

You probably have wondered or really need to know how people click on results in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in order to bid on keywords in your Adwords campaigns. What percentage of clicks go to The Knowledge Graph, right?

Well its a bit more complicated than that because there are more thaqn a dozen different “features” on SERPs today. MOZ has a great visual over here

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The SEO Package Scam

Are you paying for an SEO Package from your website vendor? Many businesses do. Yet you probably have no idea what exactly you get for that monthly fee. You probably don’t even know how to ask your vendor for clarity on this expense – and proof that its has an ROI.

Problem solved. This article will get you oriented.

Website vendors often offer what they call “SEO Packages”. It’s technically called “Dynamic SEO”. That means your website consists of templates. Each page is a template. The page is a combination of text and wild-card terms that form the pages of your website that people see.

The wild-card terms are “keywords”. They are stored in a database and when a page is requested, the page is “dynamically” created on each view in a browser. All modern website engines use this template principal. For example, that is exactly how WordPress works.

30 minutes of data entry. Job complete.

Your vendor enters your keywords into a database table at setup – mind you, this is a one-time event. Those keywords are not magical either. The “keywords” are simply your business name, phone numbers, “geos” (PMA, etc.), product names. This is not hard work. Anyone who can type on a keyboard can do it.

Below is what a page template looks like. See the Title, Keywords, Description boxes? They are mostly filled with [wildcards] from the box on the right, which is how the database fills the page with your “keywords”. re. [Current Year] or [City] with some generic text in between. (and the content sure wasn’t written by Mark Twain).

Call [Dealership Phone] for more information.

Further; each page of your website contains these three meta data fields which are populated using those templates (instead of plain text).  This Meta data is used by search engines and that information forms the text you see on Google when you search. Your vendor may rearranged the template periodically, maybe every year. Maybe not. But that is meaningless, because the same template is distributed across all customer websites at the same time (they will call it an update and tell you they did it for free). That means your vendor’s websites (and your website) are all identical with only the wildcard keywords differentiating one business from the other.

Didn’t You Get the Memo?

Funny thing, in the initial presentations, they told you they build “The Best Search Engine Optimized Websites“, didn’t they? I know they did, because I’ve been in those presentations too. Well why do they later sell you an SEO Ad-On Package? They say its about “beating the other guy in search results”, right?

Your website is [NOT] special…

…because every other customer of your vendor has the exact same template. Not convinced yet? Just look at this example of a Google search for Ford dealers in Miami. (try it yourself) We can easily see they both have the same website vendor with the same Dynamic SEO Package (and that is why they are listed right next to each other near the bottom of the search results page) – that’s beat’en ’em!

That template is easy to spot when you know what to look for. There is only the placement of the [Dealership] wildcard position that differentiates these 2 listings. See it?

[Make] Dealer in [City],[State] | Used Cars [City]

[Dealership] is your source for new [Make]s and used cars in [City], [State]. Browse our full inventory online and then come on down for a test drive”. 

[The Robot] made me “Come on down”

See how this Dynamic SEO Package is working so well, it’s impossible to choose between Metro Ford and Midway Ford. They are both so SEO optimized I just can’t decide who sounds more like a robot.

And that is what you get, for a few hundred dollars a month!

Don’t pay for it. It’s already built into the website anyway.

Its pathetic that this is sold as an Add-On product, because the template is integrated into the website anyway, that’s just how it work, whether you pay for it or not. That’s why I call this one of the best SEO scams ever. These vendors are pulling down hundreds of thousands of dollars per month for doing almost nothing and the results are the very definition of mediocrity.

If you need help holding your vendors accountable and want to trim the waste in your digital budget, we do that.

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Hey Google Search Terms (Recordings) in Google Ads

In the course of my work, its rare to be the first to stumble upon something special – at least I think I have. I don’t find anything about it when I Google it.

Everyone is aware that Google, Amazon, Apple, all record everything you speak into their (your) devices. But what they do with those recordings is none of your business. Well here is one place you can see it in action. (and proves that they are saving that recording)

If you manage Adwords (now Google Ads), you are familiar with the widgets in the overview. Lots of handy intel there. However, you may not have stumbled on Hey Google search terms or what I’d rather call “Search Recordings“. These are the  entire conversation your prospective customer is having with Google.

You find this in Google Ads > Overview tab > in the widget that says “New Words were used in Google searches that showed your ads“. Then look for the keyword bubble “google“. Mouse-over it, and then mouse-over the “+x more searches“. The pop-up contains the entire recording a shopper had with Hey Google. In my case, its not just the search regarding the original keyword. Its the whole enchilada, truncated at x number of characters, it seems. I’m almost sorry I couldn’t catch what the next thing “to pay..” was going to be. To pay what?

I think this is far more insightful than just looking at a list of search terms to get inside the head of my audience. Its like eavesdropping on a private conversation and stream of behavior that you probably couldn’t get if you were this persons spouse.

Creepy Line? Or Use It Before You Loose It!

I can’t help thinking that this post will cause havoc down at the campus in Mountain View and (this disturbance in the force) may cause our little window into the soul of our shoppers to disappear. Enjoy it while you can.

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Conversion Statistics

Just some useful statistics on conversions as I’ve found them somewhere else or from my client analytics. In the interest of keeping this usable as a reference tool, this is intentionally brief. Perhaps I’ll expand more on certain points as necessary. All statistics are no older than 2018.

@ 60% of all conversions happen during a single visit
@ 15% of conversions require two visits
@ 25% of all conversions require at least 3 or more visits

@ 70% of conversions happen on the same day as the first visit

**Typical Local Business traffic Sources
@ 25% Maps
@ 25% Organic

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The Domain Authority Fail

Have you gotten a proposal from an SEO firm that lists as one of the deliverable “Domain Authority Evaluation”?

If so, you should unceremoniously crumple it into a ball and shoot for the trash can. If it arrived by email, delete it.

Why do I think this is a sign that the firm is not reputable?

Recently a few clients have passed along proposals they received from Agencies or SEO Firms. There in big bullet point fashion is “Domain Authority Evaluation” or  “Domain Authority Audit” or “Domain Authority Research”.

Domain Authority has always been a simple concept. Its not worth mentioning in a proposal or report. It once meant the age of your domain name and website (in continuous service). “How long has your website been around?” See?

A long time = “good”.

Its brand-spanking new = “not great for your search rank. We’ll need to work harder to get your web pages indexed and ranking in search results.”

So its was enough to simply say in meetings “You bought your domain name in 2001, and the website has been in continuous service since 2002. That means it has solid domain authority, which means its been around long enough to have credibility with search engines, making it easier to rank in search results.” Or you would say, “I see you just bought your domain name last month and built a website. It probably does not have too much street-cred with the search engines. We’ll have to work harder…”

That’s the gist of it. Its not rocket science and it does not require any “research”. (and by the way, Google never-ever mentions “Domain Authority” anywhere)

Now if you are new to the business of SEO, you may have read about it at MOZ, (but your prospective client didn’t) and MOZ has redefined the term over recent years. What we once called “link authority” is now “Domain Authority” according to MOZ. I’m not going into the weeds on why their definition is misleading. Read about it here and you decide if it should have been redefined.

This business has always had a problem with terminology and acronym-over-dose. Doesn’t anyone like straight-forward and clear communications?

Well I do, and I know my clients do too. That’s why the term and its use in a proposal is a bad sign.

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Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

28% of Website Traffic is Non-Human…says Adobe in a Wall Street Journal article.
Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses

Adobe found that about 28% of website traffic showed strong “non-human signals,” leading the company to believe that the traffic came from bots or click farms.

Bot Traffic in Apache logs
Bot Traffic in my Apache logs

Anyone who runs a webserver would not disagree with that. It just takes a brand name company in tech to say it so that this stuff sticks to the wall.

So yes, Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses is true. Bob Hoffman says Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts. I love his stuff. Ya know, ten billion here, ten billion there…it starts to add up. Read more by Bob Hoffman.

According to another ad fraud expert, Dr. Augustine Fou, “No matter what you are hearing or reading about digital ad fraud, I can assure you it’s actually worse than you think.”

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Lies and Pretty SEO Reports

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

What is the single most frequent concern I hear from business owners?
“I don’t know if the Internet Marketing we are doing is working?”
What they mean can be 2-fold, but the bottom line is always the same – is someone doing anything and is it having any affect?

The shortest path between the question and the answer you seek is Reporting. (and a quick test…more on that in a moment)

The only way to know you are getting what you pay for is in the reporting, because you often cannot see “the work”. And even if you are shown “the work”, its still about the bottom line – sales. But measuring online visitors converting into in-store sales is not easy. ( and don’t let them tell you it is )

I’m going to let you in on a secret you probably already suspect is true, The SEO business is more about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” than actually doing the work and honestly reporting the results of that work.

So here are my back-of-napkin statics : 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) don’t actually do much “effective” work, and 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) work harder on pretty reports than doing the actual Work. Work is hard. Re-reporting Google Analytics is much easier and scales better.

I have been amazed to see how often the magic tricks (pretty reporting) sells better than the hard work. But it makes sense. Pretty reports make people feel good and provides cover for the subordinates whose job it is to hire and manage the Internet Marketing portion of the business. Thats why we at HARTENSTINE would rather work directly with hard-nosed owners rather their “expert” employees. ( we welcome hard-nosed expert employees )

Here is one scenario you may be familiar with :

You hire an SEO, SEO firm or advertising agency (that also does SEO). After some time has passed you are given a report or presentation which shows all the keywords your website now ranks for and how you dominate your target market. Everything is “Green” and improvements are abundant. The problem is, you probably didn’t get a report on these keywords BEFORE you hired them. And “dominate your market” is often based on some kinda logic you can’t quiet get your head around – but it sure is a pretty report.

It dawns on you that you might have fallen victim to “lies, damned SEO lies, and pretty reports”. Now what do you do? You either continue in the relationship spending money on feel good reporting, or you tell them you are having a sales crisis and can’t afford them anymore. Both of these scenarios play out everyday. But either way, you are not happy.

It does not have to be that way (or end that way). You only need someone who does the work and who reports in a transparent and honest way.

The Test

I use this litmus test because we can get our hands on the data. If your SEO is working, your CPV should decline. (Cost Per Visitor)

Take a look at your past PPC campaign Average CPC ( Average Cost Per Click ). All things being equal, Average Cost Per Visitor should decline as your Internet Marketing initiative kicks in. A better website, et al, with better PPC campaigns will get lower-cost clicks. This is an especially useful test if you suddenly turned everything over to an agency and increased your budget at the same time – everything changed and the reporting will look pretty different – but the Average Cost Per Visitor test will cut right through that lying reporting.

You can get a little more complex (and more accurate) by taking your Total Website Visitors and dividing that by your Total Online Spend. Thats a bit more meaningful way to calculate your Cost Per Visitor. Then do some calculations integrating In-Store Sales, and you should start to see a pattern emerge. Regardless of how you go about it, if you are not seeing more efficiency ( lower cost per visitor / increased sales ), you now know what to do to make things right.

Don’t fall for the magic tricks of pretty reporting.

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How to Add Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Like everything we do, the subject of this post is really “How to get better visibility in Google Search Results”. Isn’t that what everything is about?

Use this How To post as a way for you (business owners) to understand the scope of the subject as well. Its not just about Review snippets. Here is how Google describes it.

Integrate with Search to help grow your business > Enhance Your Presence on Search > Search is evolving beyond ten blue links to bring your content to people in much richer and faster ways. Learn how structured data markup can drive users to your content and services with rich results on the Search results page.

Here are the features you have at your disposal to accomplish that.

For most business we work with, this is what we want – Local Business schema

And finally the Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

Login to your Google Search Console (GSC) >
Structured Data Testing Tool >
Fetch & Validate >
Expand Reviews Section >

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