US Desktop Search Volume Declines

September 12 2012 // SEO // 21 Comments

The latest comScore search engine rankings were released today. I’m sure many will focus on the small movements in market share between Google, Bing and Yahoo. Yet, there is big (really big) news buried in this release.

US Desktop Search Volume

I’ve been tracking this metric for more than seven years.

Monthly US Desktop Search Volume

August 2012 was the first time we’ve seen US desktop search volume decline year-over-year. Specifically, volume in August 2011 was 17,122 versus 17,046 in August 2012.

This is a big turning point for search.

Search Trends Matter

This doesn’t mean that search is dead, it’s simply moved from desktops to phones and tablets. Unfortunately, I don’t have a reliable source of search volume data for mobile search. The industry desperately needs one.

What it does mean is that mobile is not something you should think about, it’s something you must think about.

Nearly a year ago I wrote about these search trends so I won’t repeat those here (but go and read it … now). However, I think they did make a lot of SEOs look better than they were, helped Google rise to prominence and will make Facebook’s post IPO prospects far less rosy.

As an industry we need to start thinking about how search is going to evolve and the different type of context and intent implied by phones and tablets.

Search, it’s never boring.

Readability and SEO

August 13 2012 // SEO + Web Design // 100 Comments

Content marketing is the hot new thing in the wake of Google’s animal themed algorithm updates. Marketers are doubling down on content. Yet, the majority of content on the web is not optimized for readability.

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you present it.

What Is Readability?

There are a lot of definitions of readability, some of which stir up a fair amount of debate. My version is aligned with Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, Giles Colborne’s Simple and Usable, the legacy of David Ogilvy and the research of Jakob Nielsen.

Readability is about making your content accessible and comfortable. Never make it a chore.

Readability Improves SEO

hey girl I like your blog posts

If you make your content difficult to read the value of that content goes down. Lack of readability frustrates comprehension and reduces sharing. This, in turn, limits the social echo of your content and lowers the chances of it obtaining organic links.

In short, readability is a valuable but overlooked part of SEO. Here’s my guide to producing readable content.

People Don’t Read, They Scan

The first thing you have to come to grips with is that people are not reading every word. Study after study after study shows that people scan instead of read.

On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

That doesn’t mean you should skimp on good writing. Instead, you just need to structure your content with scanning in mind.

Use A Font Hierarchy

First You Looked Here, Then Here

One of the better ways to meet that scanning behavior is to use a font hierarchy. Too often I see people using the same font size for their subheads, thinking that a simple bold is going to make the difference. It doesn’t.

If you look back through this blog you’ll see how I figured this out over time. Older posts don’t use a proper font hierarchy and that makes them more difficult to read.

There are some guidelines on the proper ratio for your font hierarchy, but there are so many variables, from the font you’re using to the length of the piece to name just a few. My advice is to use five foot web design to make sure you can read your subheads from a distance. Sometimes I just read my subheads to see if they tell enough of the story by themselves.

I’ve settled on using 14px for body text with a 24px subhead and always want the subheads to be in one line.

Subheads Are Your Friends

The key is to allow people to see the sections of your post at a glance. Make your subheads large enough and descriptive enough so readers can determine whether they’ll actually take the time to read that section word for word.

Use subheads as an advertisement to that section of content.

Subheads are also a great way to logically outline your content. What are the different points and aspects of the topic you’re covering? Most of my blog posts (including this one) start as an outline, which is an asset to creating content that communicates and engages.

Legibility Matters

Using Impact As Body Text Font

Of course you need to use a font face that is legible. Above, I’ve used Chrome’s Developer Tools to change the font on a recent Google blog post to Impact instead of Arial. Impact works on LOLcats when it’s large white text with a black border on a photo background, but using Impact as your body text font? LOL!

There’s a interesting study that shows that the ability to retain information improves when you use unusual fonts. The problem is that people would abandon that content altogether if they weren’t in a controlled setting.

I like (and use) a nice san serif font like Helvetica. But don’t get hung up on the serif versus san serif argument. Research conducted by Alex Poole indicates that it’s likely a matter of personal preference.

So if you like Georgia or Times New Roman, go for it. Sure, there have been some studies that show different fonts produce different reading speeds, but I wouldn’t obsess over it.

Get Line Height Just Right

Legibility is actually the most straight forward part of the equation. Readability is composed of a combination of factors that include the font, size, line height (leading), character spacing (kerning), content width and other typographic variables.

One of the bigger components is line height. Lets look at the same content using different line heights.

Line Height Too Small To Read

Line Height Too Big to Read

Right Line Height For Reading

The first is too tight, the second too loose. They both frustrate easy reading. I think the line height I use (the third one) is decent. However, I found the golden ratio argument and calculator to be pretty compelling. So maybe I’ll increase my line height slightly.

Color Contrast

Bad Color Contrast

If you haven’t noticed I’m a big fan of black text on a white background. I’m in the Ogilvy camp on this one. Not only that but I see far too many people using colored fonts with some sort of colored background. Maybe the color palette is yellow and purple but there’s no good reason to have yellow type of a gray background. It’s difficult to read.

Don’t let a style guide get in the way of readability.

I’d rather go with the easy black on white. But if you’re going to start futzing with colors I recommend that you download and use this Contrast Analyzer tool to ensure it passes all of the various color tests.

Color Contrast Brightness ResultsColor Contrast Luminosity Results

Highlight The Important Stuff

You want your readers to walk away from your content having learned or at least remembered something, right? Make it easy for readers to find the important stuff by highlighting those points. This could mean bolding those sentences or, you know, actually highlighting them.

The goal is to make sure that the memorable stuff jumps out to the reader.

Use Short Paragraphs

Deal With It Glasses

There are studies on this but, isn’t this just common sense? Huge chunks of text are an instant turn-off to readers. For instance, why do you think there are only a few people in the SEO community who read patents? Those things have massive soul-crushing chunks of text that make your eyes cross.

Remember, you’re not reading Jonathan Franzen, that’s a different type of reading. Context is important.

In general, I keep my paragraphs to three to four sentences at most. And I’m never afraid to use one sentence paragraphs if I think it’s an important point I want to get across to readers.

I’m sure many of you might be thinking that long paragraphs are just fine. The right people will read it, the one’s who appreciate the fine art of writing, right? Wrong!

It’s not only your job to write well, but write in a way that is accessible.

Crush Pronouns

Him and Her instead of Romeo and Juliet

When you’re writing, you’re doing so within a mental flow. You’re making a logical argument and linking concepts in prior sentences and paragraphs with those in the current one. But what happens to the reader who is scanning that text? If they haven’t read the paragraph above word for word (or even at all), then those pesky pronouns are completely useless to the reader.

Now, I’m not saying you should remove all pronouns but I do recommend that you go back after you’ve completed your piece and replace those that make sense.

But isn’t that going to make the content stilted? In a word, no.

Using nouns is a more accurate description of your content. You’re creating sign posts for your readers so they know exactly what they’re reading at all times.

Nouns help users and search engines better understand what your content is about.

I also believe in a type of visual osmosis. At a glance you’re able to digest a whole lot of what is on the page without actually reading it. It might be why it’s so difficult for computers to emulate the human evaluation of pages.

Remember too that when you are truly reading, those nouns are visual short codes. You’re not really reading the name of a character in say, Harry Potter, every single time they’re mentioned right? Nouns are a way for you to understand context.

Use Images

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

The web is getting more and more visual. Take advantage of that by using images to break up the flow of your content. Not only that, but you can use images to augment the text. You can tell a story or a joke with that image or make a connection for readers that they might not have made through the text.

Do not let me catch you writing content without at least one image. I mean it!

In addition to all of the benefits it has within the content it’s also vital to ensuring that your content is portable. If you’re lucky enough to have your content shared on social networks you must optimize for appearance. Because people scan (yup, again) their news feeds.

If your content doesn’t have a good image, or has a default image like a magnifying glass (I’m looking at you Google) or RSS icon, then the odds of that content being seen, read and shared go down precipitously.

Reduce Clutter

If you work in advertising or design for any amount of time you’ll hear people refer to white space. It’s that part of the page that is left untouched so that the remaining content can breath and shine.

Many websites try to cram as much as they can onto the page leaving very little white space. In fact, the Readability app is a reaction to these overly cluttered environments.

Your banner ad, your timed pop-up, your premium newsletter sign up, your Hello bar, your Greet Box, your social icons and a whole host of others might be distracting users from getting value from your content.

Link Your Paragraphs

Pass the Baton in Your Writing

I had an English teacher in high school who I absolutely hated. His name was Dr. Flynn. He was a tall, ill-tempered man who would bark out his lessons and become red-faced with rage at our incompetence and insolence.

I remember one week where we had to bring in a topic sentence every day. Each of us had to read our that sentence out loud at the beginning of class.





This was just about getting the topic sentence right, never mind how the first paragraph should detail all of the points you’d cover in the following paragraphs.

But what stuck with me most was the idea that the last sentence in a paragraph should be linked to the first sentence in the next paragraph. There was order and logic to how you constructed a paper or essay.

When I got to college I realized that Dr. Flynn had done me a huge favor. Because a lot of my classmates were clueless. When I mentioned some of the lessons he’d drilled into me, I’d get vacant stares in return. To this day I am still thankful for Dr. Flynn’s lessons.

So whether you call it story telling or creating a logical flow, make sure that you’re linking your paragraphs and sections so that it makes sense to the reader.

Reading Difficulty

Of course there’s also how you write. There are a number of different ways that you can assess the difficulty of a piece of content. How many words are in each sentence? How many syllables are in each word? How many sentences in each paragraph? On and on and on.

There are a number of tests to help assess the reading level of your content. Cloze, Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning Fog, Coleman Liau, SMOG and others can all be used to determine an objective reading difficulty. Arienne Holland put together a good list of online readability tools on the Raven Blog.

Your writing should be focused and concise. Now, I don’t always follow this advice. Many of my blog posts are a bit long and I do indulge in some word play from time to time.

I tend to believe that my personality comes through via my writing and it’s that type of authenticity that is compelling to readers. However, I do edit myself quite a bit, chopping whole chunks of text that, while enjoyable to have written, are superflous in nature.

And I rely heavily on other forms of readability to make up for this deficiency. So, do as I say, not as I do in this instance.


Readability is an overlooked part of SEO. Those who embrace readability will have a leg up as content marketing becomes more and more important. Because great content isn’t great unless it gets read.

(Thanks to Micah France for introducing me to Simple and Usable and to Rand Fishkin for inspiration.)

The Future of Twitter is Twumblr

August 02 2012 // Advertising + Social Media // 19 Comments

Twitter is changing and a lot of people don’t like it. Developers are howling at being cut out and users are concerned about change. But the fact of the matter is that for Twitter to flourish it’ll need to evolve. Twitter needs to become Twumblr.

The Internet Is Visual

Surprised and Shocked Looking Cat Drawing

Remember, Twitter was established before the launch of the iPhone or Chrome. Yeah, think about that. Twitter has been around for over six years with a virtually unchanged UX. During that time the Internet has changed dramatically. It’s become vastly more visual in nature.

Many argue Facebook built their business on pictures. Look at the popularity of Flipboard, Pinterest and Instagram. Not to mention the incredible power of memes.

Twitter Cards

In light of this trend, Twitter recently introduced Twitter Cards, new structured mark-up that essentially creates rich snippets for Tweets. (Here’s how you can implement them.)

What this does is transform Twitter from a text based medium to a visual medium. Right now the default for Twitter Cards is closed, but what would happen if the default was set to open?

Twitter Cards Make Twitter Look Like Tumblr

Suddenly Twitter looks a whole lot more like Tumblr, doesn’t it? And that’s not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. Nor does it seem like a bad idea to Twitter.

As for the platform itself, Costolo said Twitter is heading in a direction where its 140-character messages are not so much the main attraction but rather the caption to other forms of content.

That’s a really interesting insight from Twitter’s CEO. I’m not sure you could make it any more clear than that.

Advertising Demands Attention

The reason this is all so important is that advertising demands attention. Twitter simply doesn’t have enough of it right now. People don’t sit on or browse Twitter. Instead, Twitter functions like the digital version of those black electricity power lines that cut across our landscape, ferrying people to interesting content where it is then monetized.

You’d think being a utility of sorts would be a good place to be, but it requires charging for the delivery of that content. The problem is, Twitter doesn’t own the power plants (content) nor limits who uses their service. All they really own are those wires and that’s important but ultimately … a commodity.

Twitter realizes that they need to be a destination. They need attention and eyeballs so they can monetize that content. They don’t want you reading Tweets on LinkedIn or in a third-party application. They want you to read them where they can advertise against them.

There have been many arguments recently about whether Twitter is looking to usurp those publishers. That there’s a tension there that will ultimately cause a rift. There might be, but perhaps not if Twitter can pull this off (which is not altogether clear.)

Twitter Wants to Monetize Sets of Content

If we think about Twitter less as an Internet megaphone and more as a curation service, you begin to see how it benefits users, Twitter and publishers.

Your stream becomes a highly curated set of content. It’s that set of content that Twitter seeks to monetize, not each individual piece. It is then up to individual content creators to ensure their content is optimized for that environment. That means good titles and great visuals to take advantage of scanning behavior.

Of course Twitter will allow advertisers to promote content into that steam, but it is all on the premise that the set of content displayed is valuable and secures attention.

Frictionless Engagement

Instead, I’m far more interested in how this impacts engagement. Because Tumblr is on to something.

Frictionless Engagement Example from Wil Wheaton

They’ve reduced the friction of engagement by asking users to perform only one of two actions: reblog or like. And if you scroll back up and look at those open Twitter Cards you’ll note that the same metrics are displayed: retweets and favorites. That’s not a coincidence in my opinion.

The huge numbers on Tumblr are not an aberration either. There is a very connected and engaged audience there. Marketers should be falling over themselves to get their brands in front of these people.

This is also the reason I’m not convinced that limiting third-party development is some sort of death knell. It’s always hard to put the horse back in the barn, but you can have a decent developer ecosystem that builds value into your platform, not outside of it.

Conversation Killer?

Someecard About Conversation

The question for me is about conversation and comments. Tumblr is frustrating in this regard. Yet maybe that’s by design. Sure, you can integrate DISQUS into Tumblr but it’s certainly not the out-of-the-box default. Deeper engagement is found on the publisher site or other social networks.

The question to me is whether publishers want to own the conversation. Do they want users to comment and converse on their site? Many seem to think comments are more trouble than they’re worth but I have to believe that being the place where conversation is happening is good for business, if only for the extra page views.

That’s where Twitter has a problem. Because many use Twitter like a public instant messaging platform. The problem? It’s far from instant. You wind up having these clipped asynchronous conversations that feel like deep space time delay communication.

And the 140 character limit doesn’t even work to provide any type of real dialog. Other platforms like Google+ are far better at fostering strong conversations.

So, does Twitter want to try to hijack those conversations and foster deeper engagement on Twitter proper? To me, that’s the greater threat to publishers. Sure, Twitter wants to be a destination but not the destination.


Twitter needs to embrace radical change and evolve to stay relevant. The future of Twitter is one in which they monetize a visual set of ever changing curated content that captures attention but not conversation.

Ripples Bookmarklet

July 20 2012 // SEO + Social Media + Technology // 30 Comments

Who shared your post and how did it spread on Google+? That’s what Ripples can tell you, allowing you to find influencers and evangelists.

Google+ Ripples

You can find Ripples in the drop down menu on public posts.

Google Plus Ripples Drop Down

But I noticed that there was also a small URL entry field on the Ripples page.

Google Ripples URL Field

Sure enough you can drop in a URL and see Ripples for any page.

Google Ripples Example

(Interesting how each of my shares of this post are shown separately.)

Ripples Bookmarklet

I didn’t want to go traipsing back and forth to enter URLs, so I created a bookmarklet.

Find Ripples

Drag the link above to your bookmarks bar. Then click the bookmark whenever you want to see Ripples for the page you’re on. [Clarification] This is for non-Google+ URLs only. Ripples for Google+ URLs are only available via the drop-down menu.

So stop wondering and find out who’s sharing your content (or any content) on Google+.

I Don’t Guest Blog

July 15 2012 // SEO // 77 Comments

I don’t guest blog.

Resist Penguin Panic

You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting upon advice and tips on guest blogging. It’s not a new practice but interest and activity has spiked now that the Penguin update has made getting links more difficult.

The theory goes that you’re trading your content for exposure and a link. But is the desperation around the all mighty link clouding your judgement?

Who’s Brand Are You Building?

Build Your Own Brand

For me it comes down to a simple question. Who’s brand are you building? Perhaps I’m just selfish but if I’m going to spend the considerable amount of time and effort to create a blog post I want to make sure it’s building my brand. All too often guest posts don’t do that but instead simply build the brand of that blog instead.

Your opinions, thoughts and content are your intellectual property and I see no reason to fritter it away for so little. I’ve used the same argument when people ask me about unpaid internships. Why would I give away my time and effort for free? I know many argue that the experience gained is invaluable. It might be, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid for my work.

If you don’t value your time highly, others won’t either.

Second Billing

But what about all the great exposure you get through guest blogging? I’d argue you often aren’t getting that much exposure.

How often do you remember where you read something instead of who wrote it? It was on Search Engine Land or SEOmoz right? Sure there are some notable exceptions but I think they’re exceptions and not the rule.

For the sake of argument lets say that it does get your name out there, how many are following that link back to your site and subscribing? You’ll pick up a few subscribers but it’s not going to be a huge net gain. Why? There’s simply too much friction.

A reader first has to understand that it’s a guest post. Next, they have to seek out the link to the author’s site, usually at the bottom of the post in a bio section. Then they have to assess your site and actively subscribe. Lets hope you spent enough time creating great content for your site instead of others, right? Otherwise those few precious downstream clicks could be wasted.

In the end, they’re subscribed to that other blog, not yours.

Where’s The Traffic?

Empty City Highway

I’ve seen this numerous times from a marketing perspective in projecting traffic from syndication agreements. The business development team secures a relationship with a major Internet portal or site. That site gets hundreds of thousands of visits a day so appearing on that site is clearly going to drive huge traffic, right? Rarely!

A lot of the time people don’t understand the volume of traffic to a section or specific page. Think of it as the difference between broad match and exact match. The site might get a lot of traffic, but the individual post is going to get substantially less.

And what percentage of people are going to click-through from that content. You should think of that attribution link you get as the 10th position on a SERP, if you’re lucky.

The Right Links

The Right Stuff

Links are getting tougher to come by. But instead of using your intellectual capital for someone else to get a link (or maybe two) wouldn’t you rather spend it creating great content.

Think about what happens if you write something great for someone else. Where do you think people link? Yeah, it’s not to your site, that’s for sure! You can try to rationalize that the PageRank earned on that other site is then passed on to you but in the end I want my content to generate links for me.

Use your content to generate links for you, not someone else.

I’d rather those same blogs cite my content. Those are hard won and important links. Those are the ones I want and the ones I prefer to give to others.

Marketing Biz

The Soup Logo

You could argue that I’m a hypocrite because of my Marketing Biz column over at Marketing Land. (You’re an avid reader of course, right!?) But I don’t view that as a guest post.

Danny and Matt have been extremely generous in allowing me the freedom to curate and comment on whatever I feel is relevant each week. These are topics that I share on Twitter or Google+ but don’t on Blind Five Year Old. It’s not competing with my blog content, it’s a complement to my blog.

Am I helping them to build their brand? I hope so. But I think it’s an even trade since it’s a column that allows me to showcase my insights on a wider range of issues. In my delusions of grandeur I’d compare Marketing Biz to The Soup.

Personal versus Business

I’d also draw a distinction here between personal and business. Because I actively recommend guest blogging for many clients but with some serious caveats.

First, they must establish a strong base of trust and authority on their own blog. Your site or blog has to be the main repository of information. Invest in your own content assets. You want people to recognize and come to you for insight, advice and information.

Next, they must actively be socializing their content by promoting it through their own social channels and by commenting on and citing their material on other blogs. Quite simply, you have to refuse to be ignored.

When you do look for guest blog opportunities they should be in complementary fields.

If you’re a plumber and you have a great post about how to save money on your bath remodel don’t seek out other plumbing blogs. Instead, seek out life hacking or money saving blogs. You want to stand out as an expert on a topic that isn’t fully covered by that site. You’re more likely to build your brand that way instead of giving all that expertise to a competing site.

Slow Success

The undercurrent in a lot of the guest blogging tips is that you can somehow use it to shortcut your way to success.

Monthly Traffic To Blind Five Year Old

The truth is it takes a long time to establish yourself in a community. I’ve blogged on Blind Five Year Old since September of 2008. Should I have thrown in the towel after a year? Two years?

I think I’ve gotten better at blogging and delivering valuable content. I’ve learned the value of commenting on other blogs and using different platforms to promote my content. But the magic ingredient was time. It took time to build a track record and a personal brand.

I know others have succeeded by guest blogging and maybe I’ll regret not doing so at some point. But I hope my journey shows that it’s not required and that there are many ways to get from point A to point B.


Think twice before you jump on the guest blogging bandwagon. Think about who’s brand your building and whether the content your producing is generating links for you or for someone else.

Google Analytics Y Axis Scale

June 20 2012 // Analytics // 6 Comments

One of the things that bothered me about the ‘new’ Google Analytics was the relative y axis. Google Analytics would chart traffic on a much smaller scale based on the time period and traffic volume.

Relative Y Axis

So if you had daily traffic between 12,000 and 14,000 visits the scale might be from 10,000 to 15,000. The result? Fluctuations in traffic appeared much bigger than they were in reality.

Top Secret Movie Big Phone Gag

This caused a number of people to panic. Frantic emails were sent. Even after they understood that the seemingly large drop in traffic was only 2% (and could be chalked up to a holiday weekend) the visual cue was unnerving. Information aesthetics matter!

Absolute Y Axis

I lived with (but didn’t like) the relative graphing feature. I mean, Google Analytics is a free product so I can’t get too worked up about it. But the other day as I refreshed one of my advanced segments the graph got all screwy and I had to reload Google Analytics entirely.

Google Analytics Graph with an Absolute Y Axis

The graph started from zero! Things looked ‘right’ again. Was this a permanent change? I reached out to Adam Singer who looped in Justin Cutroni who confirmed the return of the absolute axis.

We heard from a lot of people that the relative axis was sub-optimal. So the absolute axis is back!

I am very pleased that Google Analytics has reverted to the absolute axis and believe it conveys the information in a more ‘honest’ way. So, from one user, thank you.

Twitter Cards Are Rich Snippets For Tweets

June 18 2012 // SEO + Social Media + Technology // 29 Comments

On Thursday Twitter announced something called Twitter Cards. What are Twitter Cards? They’re essentially rich snippets for Tweets and I predict they’re going to be essential for making your content more portable.

Twitter Cards

There are actually three different types of cards: summary, photo and player. The summary is the default card while the photo and player cards are specifically for images and videos. Here’s the example Twitter provides for a summary card.

Twitter Card Example

Yes Twitter, you definitely have my attention.

Transforming Twitter?

Twitter Cards could transform Twitter from the text based default it has languished in for years to one that will compete with the more appealing and popular visual feeds like Instagram, Path, Foursquare, Tumblr, Google+ and Facebook, the latter two most notably on mobile.

If the summary card is open by default your Twitter stream would look vastly different. It might also change the behavior of those using Twitter and cause people to trim the number of those they follow.

Twitter desperately needs to capture more time and attention to fully realize their advertising business. Transforming the feed through Twitter Cards could be a big step in the right direction.

Twitter Card Properties

All of the cards support some basic properties.

Basic Twitter Card Properties

You can optionally (and ideally) also include attribution in your Twitter Card.

Twitter Card Attribution

The summary card is probably the easiest one of the three with very few required properties.

Twitter Summary Card Properties

Note that you can only have one card per post. If you have the time, I recommend you read through the Twitter Card documentation.

Twitter and Open Graph Tags

You might be thinking to yourself, good god, I have to figure out another set of markup? Well, not exactly. Twitter will actually fall back on Open Graph tags should you already have those in place.

But the Open Graph tags aren’t comprehensive. So if you’ve got Open Graph tags in place then you’ll just need to add a few more to get the most out of Twitter Cards. In particular, you won’t get the attribution which is very attractive in my opinion.

As an aside, there’s no mention of whether Twitter will parse markup or fall back even further to standard markup like the title tag or meta description.

How To Implement Twitter Cards

I have the Open Graph tags on Blind Five Year Old but decided to implement all of the Twitter tags because I want to be certain I have full control over what is being delivered. I think portability is increasingly important so I’m not going to take any chances.

Now, a lot of what I’m going to show you is based on prior hacks and on the plugins I happen to use. So you may not be able to replicate what I do exactly, but it should give you an idea of how you can do it yourself.

Check Your Head

Check Your Head

The first thing to understand is where to put these tags. They go in the <head> of your posts. The <head> is essentially an area (invisible to the user) located before the actual content of a page. It’s where you give instructions to browsers and search engines about the page. This can be all sorts of things from the title to styling of a page. It’s also where you declare the values for all these tags.

Think of it this way, you need special glasses to watch that 3D movie, the <head> is where you’d be given those glasses.

View Page Source

You can see what’s in the <head> by doing a simple right mouse click on any page and selecting ‘View Page Source’.

View Page Source

That will open up a new tab with a whole mess of code for you to review and inspect.

Page Head

My <head> is a bit messy with all the stuff I’ve done and use, but it still works and at some point I’ll come back around to clean it up. Next, we’ll make sure these new Twitter tags show up here.

Edit Your Header

In WordPress, go to your Dashboard and select Appearance > Editor.

WordPress Appearance Editor

Next, select the header file which will likely be header.php.

Edit Header.php File

This is where you’re going to be placing your code.

Now before you go any further, copy all of the code in your header.php and paste it into a text editor. So if you happen to screw things up you can just copy back your old header.php file and start again. (Seriously, do this! I’ve broken my site so many times and it’s that backup copy I have in a text file that often saves the day.)

Drop In The Code

Now it’s time to actually put the code in place. You’re going to put it directly before the closing </head> tag.

Twitter Card Code

I’ve posted a version of the Twitter Card code on Pastebin so you can easily copy and tweak it for your own site. (Do not just copy and paste it into your own file!)

The first line is a comment and does not actually show up on the page nor give any instructions. It just makes it easier for me to see where this code resides once it’s live.

The second line starts with a statement that I only want this on posts. This is accomplished with the if(is_single()) function.

Next I declare the card type (summary) and then the creator (my Twitter handle). I’ve hard coded the creator since I’m the only author on Blind Five Year Old. If you run a single author blog then it’s easy to do this. If you run a multi-author blog or site you’ll have to build in some logic and get the Twitter handle for the author of that post.

To get the URL I simply echo the get_permalink() function. The echo is essentially saying to not only find the permalink but to put what it finds there into the code.

To get the title I echo the get_the_title() function. Yeah, that’s a pretty self explanatory function isn’t it?

For the description I echo the get_post_meta() function which is a collection of meta data about posts. I’m asking for a specific piece of that meta. In this case it’s the _aioseop_description which is the meta description I’ve entered via the All In One SEO Pack.

I sort of cheated by doing a Google search that brought me to a WordPress Support thread that contained the right syntax for this field. If you didn’t know this you’d have to go and find the name of this field in your database via something like phpMyAdmin.

You might also be able to use the_excerpt() or to echo get_the_excerpt() here but I like the specificity since I know I’ve entered something for the meta description myself.

For the image, I’ve essentially replicated what I do to get the Open Graph image but changed the property to name (swapping og for twitter) and content to value. Again, you really don’t need to do this since Twitter says they’ll fall back on the Open Graph image. But I feel better having it explicitly spelled out.

Read through my Snippet Optimization post to learn more about how to use a simple custom field (og_img) to generate a featured image for each post. Seriously, it’s not that hard to do.

After you put your code in you hit update file and then go to a post and view source. Hopefully you see the Twitter Card markup populating correctly. (Check this post for an example.) If not, go back and try again paying close attention to the syntax of your code.

At present Twitter does not have a testing tool like Facebook or Google, but it’s something we may see in the future.

(Please comment if you can improve on, see errors in or can provide additional details such as tips for other platforms or field names for other plugins. A special thanks to Ron Kuris who helped to debug my PHP code.)

A Velvet Rope?

I need To See Some ID LOLcat

It is unclear who exactly will be able to participate in Twitter Cards initially.

To participate in the program, you should (a) read the documentation below, (b) determine whether you wish to support Twitter cards, and then (c) apply to participate. As we roll out this new feature to users and publishers, we are looking for sites with great content and those that drive active discussion and activity on Twitter.

It sounds like Twitter is going to review each site and create a whitelist for those they wish to support. But I have to think that this will become an open standard in short order. So get a jump on things and implement Twitter Cards now.


Twitter Cards are rich snippets for Tweets. Implementing Twitter Cards could transform Twitter into a more appealing visual feed and makes optimizing your Twitter Card an essential part of social portability.

Want Links? Reduce Friction and Destroy Inertia!

June 07 2012 // SEO // 18 Comments

I’ve never been a big fan of going out and trying to ‘build’ links. I’ve done it and it’s worked in varying degrees. But I never thought it was a long-term solution. Instead, I thought (a lot) about how to get more organic links. The kind of links everyone wants. There has to be a way to get more ‘real’ links, right?

Yes, there is.

Friction and Inertia

Inertia Is One Hairy Monster

I spent a few years building product and embraced the idea of reducing friction. Make it easier for users to perform a task. This simple concept can be applied to getting links. Because the real goal is to make it easier for users to follow through on their natural evangelism.

All too often that desire is thwarted and squelched. Why? Inertia is a big hairy monster. So any amount of friction that gets in the way stops people in their tracks. You’re fighting for their time and attention. And let me tell you, there’s not a lot of that to go around.

Sometimes you’re reducing the friction of your own content. Sometimes you’re reducing the friction of people getting to your content. That’s right it still starts with … content.

Make It Awesome

Be Awesome Instead

You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating. Valuable content obliterates inertia. People are compelled to share and link to great content.

Yes, you could crank out a bunch of good content but then you’d have to work and hustle to get links. Instead, put the time into the content so others will do the linking for you.

Being awesome reduces friction.

A lot of you who think you’re producing great content … aren’t. Even if you are, sometimes it doesn’t look like it.

Make It Readable

First You Looked Here, Then Here

Don’t make me work to read your content. I don’t want massive chunks of text that make my eyes glaze over. I don’t want paragraph after paragraph of text all in the same font size. I don’t want to figure out what’s really important.

It’s not just what you say but how you say it.

So always have at least one image in your content. No exceptions. Always use a font hierarchy to better break up your content into scannable chunks. Bold and/or highlight the important parts like you would in a textbook (that you still hope you can sell back to the campus bookstore).

Make It Portable

Portable Music

Make it easy for people to share your content. Sure, sharing doesn’t mean you’re getting a link (now), but if you believe in the social echo, then you know the more times your content is shared the better chance you have of getting links.

The first step is making your sharing options highly available. I am a big fan of the floating share bar (that one following you down the page right now). You might also experiment with adding a call to action to frame those buttons.

Sometimes you have to shove inertia in the back when it’s not looking.

Next you have to make sure that your content looks good when it’s shared. Reduce the friction for people who are viewing your content on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn. Having the right title and image are critical as these things scroll through a social feed.

We’ve moved beyond just making sure your RSS icon isn’t the sharing image (I did that for a while). It’s time to optimize your titles for social and come up with images that are going to both attract and add value to your content. Your social snippet should tell a story. Draw the user in and make them want to know more. You’re supposed to be a marketer, right?

Make Comments

Lets assume you’ve got all your ducks in a row in terms of content. Now it’s time to reduce the friction of people getting to your content.

Blog commenting is actually a great way to do this. This is not some scrapebox astroturfing campaign nor is it about finding do-follow blogs. Remember, this isn’t really about getting a link, it’s about getting people to your content.

Seek out other high quality pieces of content where you can add value. If a user is reading something related to what I’ve written about and I think my content is complementary I want to reduce the friction of that user finding it. What do I do?  I link to my content in a comment.

Now, there’s a bit of an art to this because you don’t just want to pop in and say ‘this post is okay but my post is the boom-diggity, go read it now’. That’s not being a good member of your community. Read the post and make a constructive comment. Remember that comments are just another form of content. Treat them as such.

Make Lemonade

Life Give You Lemons, Keep Them, Because, Hey, Free Lemons

I’ve done this type of blog commenting quite a bit. In fact, I’ve done it so much that Akismet thinks I’m a spammer. This bummed me out and I was rather irked for a while. I swore off commenting and even wrote something about it to get it out of my system.

But here’s what I learned. By landing in the spam folder I created a natural opportunity to contact the blog owner. Now, I’m not exactly shy that way anyway but it’s nice to have an excuse to ping someone and see if they can fish your comment out of spam. I’ve inadvertently reduced the friction of chatting with someone from my community.

See what I did there?

Give Answers

You can do the same type of thing you do with commenting with answers. Hang out on Quora or other Q&A sites and answer questions, using your content (and those of others) to support your answers. You’re simply reducing the friction of people getting to your content.

You don’t want to be a self-promoting whore, so don’t force it. But odds are that if you’re answering something you’ve probably got some content that might help shed additional insight on that topic. I mean, you’re not just running around answering questions at random, are you?

Answer Links on Quora

One of the techniques I use is to simply refer to my content as additional or related reading as I did in this example from a SlideShare SEO question. I recommend you follow that link to see my answer. It should give you an idea of what a constructive answer looks like.

Be Authentic

Be You

One of the intangibles here is being authentic. A lot of clients will ask about how they can hire someone to do their link outreach (aka community management) or manage their social marketing efforts.

I’m happy to provide them with options but the truth is that having one of your own do this is far more effective. The reason is that they’re going to be authentic. You just can’t fake that level of interest and passion.

When I ran telemarketing programs (a long time ago now) I used to tell callers that what you put out there is what you’d get back. If you were in a bad mood or weren’t confident, the person on the other end of the phone was going to be unenthusiastic and wary.

People are pretty good at sniffing out fakes and posers and search engines are starting to get better at it too. Don’t give people a reason to doubt your motivations and actions.

Being authentic reduces friction.

Be Responsive

Inbox Zero
Talk to the people in your community. Respond to those who comment on your blog. When someone takes the time to email you, get back to them.

Don’t build links build relationships.

Sure that’s a trite little soundbite but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’ve struggled with this lately because I’ve been crazy busy. So this is a reminder to myself to aspire to being as responsive as I can.

Offer Embeds

You’ve done all of the above and you still want some other ways to reduce friction and destroy inertia? Okay.

I still like widgets and badges as ways to reduce the friction to obtaining links. Now, these are high-risk, high-reward type of endeavors. You need to understand your audience, have a viable distribution channel and deliver enough value through these assets to overcome inertia.

If you’re going to go this route you also need to ensure that the anchor text on these widgets is rotating between 3 to 5 variations. This is more important with the looming specter of Penguin but I’ve been doing this for ages. It’s just smart.

Run Contests

8-Bit Winner

What better way to reduce friction than a contest. Any type of ego based content provides people with an impetus to link to you. In fact, the people in the contest will actively solicit their followers to help them ‘win’. Appealing to ego is a surefire way to reduce friction.

You also see this in action with posts with built in reciprocity. These include interviews and ‘best of’ lists of people, sites or content.

Don’t go overboard. You don’t run a contest just for the sake of getting the links. You should have a real goal for identifying something of value through the contest. And mix in interviews and lists sparingly.

Curate Content

What, you’re still here? Well okay, here’s one more tip. Curate content in your vertical.

I’m not talking about some fire hose of everything you’re reading or sharing what’s ‘popular’. Instead, get good at picking out what’s really interesting and valuable. Become a resource for your industry. Do not take this lightly.

Remember, you’re fighting for time and attention. Becoming a source of information means you’ve carved out a very valuable portion of attention. As a result, you’ll also make friends with the folks in your industry (destroying inertia) and be able to reach more people with your own content.

I hope my Twitter and Google+ feeds are good examples.

Analogy Time

Tortoise And Bugs Bunny

The best thing about most of these is that they are sustainable and act a lot like compound interest. They build on each other and it begins adding up to more and more over time. But time is a factor. This does not happen overnight.

Those other methods of ‘building’ links are sort of like payday loans. Sure, they get you what you need but you’re paying a lot for it and you’re not building any interest. That means you’re going to have to take out another payday loan and then another and another.


The best way to get links is by reducing friction and destroying inertia. Help people to follow through on their natural evangelism by making it easy for them to get to your content and to share it with others.

SEO Short Stories

May 29 2012 // Humor + SEO // 12 Comments

I’ve wanted to comment on a number of the debates going on in the SEO community but every time I started to write about it, it felt wrong and boring.

So instead, I wrote a few short stories about SEO that (hopefully) convey my perspective. I’ll leave you to decide what I’m talking about and hope you find it as entertaining to read as it was to write.

Law & Order: Silicon Valley

Detective Gorem O Rly?

The room was hot, the two-way mirror smudged with sweaty fingerprints. The pea green paint on the wall was peeling and the battered metal table clanked as the well dressed man fidgeted under interrogation.

The grizzled detective paced back-and-forth rubbing his stubbled jaw.

“We know you did it,” he growled.

I did not kill my wife,” the husband said, deliberately stressing the first word.

“You’re good with words, I’ll give you that,” the detective sneered. “Maybe you didn’t pull the trigger but you might as well have. You walk into the bank, take out five grand in cash and BANG, next week your wife is dead.”

He punctuated the last line by pounding the table with his fist. The husband jerked upright at the sound giving the detective the opening he wanted. Moving around the table the grabbed him by the collar. “Tell me who you paid to do it.”

“Fine,” the husband said sagging back in his chair. “I’ll tell you, but I want a deal.”

A commercial break later the detective is staring at the husband from outside the interrogation room. It’s oddly dark as he chats with the young Assistant District Attorney who announced herself by clacking into the room in her high heels.

“Guy says the killer’s been busy,” he tells her.

“You believe him?”

The detective nods. “Yeah, went through some old cases and the MO wasn’t hard to spot.”

“Okay, pick ’em up. We’ll charge them both,” she says with curt finality.

The Mountain View Speeding Ticket

So Ya Thank You're A Tough Guy Huh?

You’re pulled over on the side of the road watching the cop slowly walk up to your candy apple red Porche in the side view mirror.

Hands on his hips CHiPs style, the cop asks you a simple question. “Do you know how fast you were going?”

What a stupid question you think to yourself. Of course you know how fast you were going. In this instance you’d blown past the normal 10 mph buffer zone of the speed limit. You were in a hurry.

“No officer, I don’t,” you say laconically.

The cop isn’t wearing sunglasses but instead some sort of strange asymmetrical band that makes you think of the Death Star attack sequence from Star Wars.

“Too fast,” he says and begins to tap you out a ticket on his Galaxy Nexus. As he does an old maroon Ford Aerostar minivan roars by doing at least 90 mph. The cop doesn’t seem to notice and that bugs the shit out of you.

“Didn’t you see that guy,” you blurt out. “He was going way faster than me!”

The cop glances up from his phone to look at you, to acknowledge that you’ve spoken, but doesn’t reply and continues to tap away. God, what an asshole, you think. Doesn’t he know that he wouldn’t have a job without my tax dollars!

“There shouldn’t be any speed limit, you know,” you say as much to yourself as to the cop. “It should be like the autobahn where everyone can just drive as fast or as slow as they want.”

Another glance from the cop.

“And, I mean, the speed limit changes. It’s flexible. Did you know that they lowered the speed limit to 55 mph during the gas crisis in the 70s? Its’ all just arbitrary,” you say thinking that you’ve totally pwned him.

The cop pockets his phone and deliberately leans through the car window. Without cracking a smile he says, “Son, last I looked this isn’t Germany and it’s 2012.”

The Girl in Canada You Went All the Way With

Negative SEO

“You don’t know her,” Eugene says. “She’s from Canada.”

It’s the first day of High School and everyone is trying to look cool. Eugene has been strutting around telling everyone he knows that he went all the way with a girl over the summer.

“So you got laid by some girl from Canada?” Matt asks incredulously.

“Totally,” Eugene nods smugly.

“But you can’t tell me her name?” Matt asks.

“No,” Eugene says. “I mean, if I tell you her name you’re just going to look her up and ask her all sort of questions. She needs her privacy, you know.”

“Is she hot?”

“Oh yeah, she had curves in all the right places,” Eugene says with a Bogart accent, which doesn’t really tell Matt anything.

“So what exactly did you do?”

“Oh you know how it works, do I really have to explain it to you?” Eugene says condescendingly.

This conversation has played out over and over again throughout the ages. Clearly Matt doesn’t believe that some hot girl from Canada took Eugene’s virginity. In this case Matt’s absolutely correct.

Eugene spent the summer mooning over a girl working at the art house movie theater. “Enjoy the show” is the only thing she’s said to him. “Thanks” is the only thing he ever said in response.

That’s not to say that the hot girl from Canada doesn’t happen. It does from time to time. But sometimes important details are left out. The girl from Canada is sometimes a ‘lady of the night’.

The East Comes West

Get Off My Lawn

A long time ago there were a handful of people who saw an amazing opportunity. They moved out West and set-up shop right along a brand new railroad.

They built their business from scratch with their own hands. Not many had the gumption to do this so business was brisk. Not only that but you could get away with almost anything. Heck, the sheriff only rode into town once a month or so. The law just couldn’t keep up with the number of towns springing up.

The people riding the railroad were hearty folk. It took some doing to travel out West on the loud contraption. So they were willing to deal with folks they didn’t know or had heard of before and were careful not to get rooked. Of course, a few liked it so much they wanted to make it easier to visit.

Roads were built and that brought a lot more people to the town. Business was booming. But along with the visitors came a few others ready to set-up business. The town grew and suddenly you had to work a bit harder for your business. And the sheriff started coming around more often, so you had to be (or at least seem) more respectable.

The rich people back East began to realize that the West was going to make it. They’d thought it might have just been a fad but now they recognized their error. So they packed up their things, put on their Sunday best, and headed out West. The ‘old timers’ laughed as the newcomers flailed about trying to build like they had back East. They didn’t understand the West.

But over time they did figure it out. Once they did, they made sure everyone else back East knew that they were out West. They built huge signs that you could see from nearly anywhere and just couldn’t ignore. That’s when things really changed. Because suddenly everyone was out West. But these weren’t the hearty folks of old who were happy keep their back against the wall and one eye open at all times. They just followed those big signs.

The ‘old timers’ still knew a thing or two though. They could get things done behind the scenes, grease some wheels. And there were still some places left that were untouched by the taint of the East. Of course, there were others who saw what was coming and rebuilt their business mixing equal parts West and East.

Because it wasn’t too much longer until that town was a massive metropolis jam-packed with people. Unfortunately, it was getting increasingly confusing too. A new zoning board sprung into action. Their goal was to make it easier for folks to find what they needed. They built malls.

It was difficult to compete with the malls dotting the cityscape. Everyone and their brother’s sister’s dog was trying to get a spot next to those big East anchor stores. The ‘old timers’ walked through the malls shaking their heads, wondering how they’d been shoved aside. Telling themselves they were better than those from the East.

Sometimes they sat around in the park and talked about how unfair it was. They told stories of the crappiest of crappy strip mall they saw over in some suburb. Proof that the system was broken! Other times they turned on each other, brawling in a fit of rage. When they finally tired of the gossip they went back home and tried to recreate that time of yore, doing the same things they always did and expecting them to work.

Hardly anyone noticed.

SEO Remarketing

May 24 2012 // PPC + SEO // 30 Comments

The single easiest way to get more out of your SEO has nothing to do with traditional SEO. That’s right, the best way to improve your SEO is a Google Remarketing campaign.

What Is Remarketing?

Stalker LOLcat

Google often botches their description of products but this time they’ve actually nailed it with a concise description and example.

Remarketing lets you show ads to users who’ve previously visited your website as they browse the Web.

When you use remarketing, you’ll tag pages of your site that correspond to certain categories you want to promote. For example, you could add a “TV” tag on all of the pages where you sell televisions. You can then create an AdWords campaign to show highly relevant messages (such as ads displaying a special offer on TVs) to people who’ve visted these pages as they browse sites across the Google Display Network.

One of the points where people seem to get confused is that they think it’s only for traffic that originally came from paid search. That’s not the case. Remarketing can be used for all traffic that comes to your site.

You’ve spent time and effort to get someone to clickthrough on that search engine result and visit your site, yet comparatively few wind up converting. So why are you just letting them walk into the HTML sunset?

You have the opportunity to continue the dialog with those users, reminding them of their interaction with your site and brand as they visit other web properties. Take advantage of this feature!

Does Remarketing Work?

Relevant LOLcat

People might say don’t want these types of ads but their behavior says otherwise. Sure, sometimes it feels a bit creepy stalking people around the Interent, but the numbers are pretty clear. (Later on I’ll discuss how you might attempt to make remarketing less creepy, but for now lets focus on why and how well remarketing works.)

The why is pretty straightforward. You’re advertising to people who have already shown an interest in your site and product. Talk about fish in a barrel! Instead of spending money advertising to all of creation you advertise to people who already have a fairly strong affinity with your brand.

How well does it work? Well enough that you should try it yourself. Whether it’s the study that showed a 400% lift, or the comScore study that showed a 1,046% lift or the AdRoll study that showed a 75% lift the numbers around remarketing are uniformly positive. A natural skeptic, I’ve run remarketing campaigns and been impressed by the results.

Yes, remarketing works.

Remarketing vs. Retargeting

Remarketing used to mean something a bit different before Google latched onto the term for their own retargeting product. So the definitions of remarketing and retargeting wind up being fuzzy.

In my mind, remarketing is essentially the easier and more straight forward version of retargeting. There are plenty of retargeting companies out there that do far more sophisticated things such as delivering dynamic ads based on other site behavior. It’s incredibly interesting and powerful but out of reach for many and, frankly, overkill in many respects.

Crawl before you walk before you run.

Setting Up A Remarketing Campaign

Setting up a remarketing campaign isn’t exactly hard but it’s not dead simple either. Here’s a streamlined guide to creating your own remarketing campaign. (Seriously, I tried to make this quick but there are a lot of steps so hang in there. It’s easier than it looks!)

You’ll need an AdWords account to run a remarketing campaign, however you don’t need to be running any other campaigns. This is an important distinction since you may find that a traditional AdWords campaign is pricey. You’re competing with a bunch of others for the same users.

With remarketing the number of competitors usually decreases and you’re certain that the user has already had an interaction with your brand, site or product. Fewer competitors and increased relevance is a winning combination.

Google AdWords Shared Library

Click on the Shared library link and then click on Audiences which will bring you to the following interface.

Google Adwords Select Audiences

Click the New audience button and you’ll have the option of selecting Remarketing list or Custom combination. For now, select Remarketing list.

Select Remarketing List

This brings up the following interface where you can create a new remarketing list.

Google Adwords Create a Remarketing List

Give your list a name and make it specific. If you’re just starting out with remarketing you may simply want to create a list of visitors to your site. I also recommend describing the list. Again, the more detail the better. It helps (a lot) once you start adding more lists.

The membership duration is the number of days that you’ll be remarketing to this list. The default is 30 days and the maximum is a whopping 540 days. So if someone visits your site and then leaves before converting, this is the number of days you’ll be advertising to them as they surf the web and visit other sites.

A lot of this depends on the length of your sales cycle, but in general I’d keep this at 90 days or less (for visitors). At this point you’re done and can hit the Save button.

Google Remarketing List Creation Successs

Here’s where it gets a little complicated. Because all you’ve done is tell Google what type of list you want to create. You’ve created the definition. Now you have to grab the code so you can start to build that list. So, click the Tag link.

Google Remarketing Code

Here’s the code that you’ll need to place on all of the pages you’d like to add to this list. The recommendation is to insert this code right before the closing </body> tag. For me, that meant editing my theme and placing this code into my footer.

Once you have this in place you’ll start ‘drop cookies’ on users and build that list.

Now, if you don’t want to spend time and money advertising to people who’ve already converted you need to create another list. You’ll go back in and repeat the same steps but this time name your list something like ‘Converted’. Once again, you need to place the tag for this list on the ‘success’ or ‘thank you’ page for that conversion event.

This isn’t always easy, so you can either commit to some frustrating but rewarding hours figuring out how to make this happen or get someone else who knows the code inside and out to do it in about 10 minutes.

So now you’ve got two lists, Visitors and Converted. It’s time to go and build a new Custom combination list.

Google Custom Combination Remarketing List

This gives you what will look similar to an Advanced Segment interface in Google Analytics.

Google Build a New Customer Combination List

You want to build a list of Prospects which means you want all of those people from Visitors but none of those from Converted. Click ‘select audiences’ and then use the drop down to select from your Remarketing lists. The UI here is pretty janky so try not to get frustrated.

Google Prospects Remarketing List

At the end this is how your Prospects list should look. Click Save and you’ve now got the list you want to use for your remarketing campaign.

Google Remarketing Audiences Lists

A big word of caution here. Your campaign will not begin to serve ads until your Audience reaches 500 users.

Now we’re finally ready to create a remarketing campaign. Google has done a better job on the UI here.

Create a Google Remarketing Campaign

Simply select Display Network only (remarketing) under the Campaign type drop down to get started.

Google Remarketing Campaign Settings

Fill out the basic settings and then you can decide whether you want to play around with ad scheduling and frequency capping. The latter is probably the easiest way to reduce the creepy factor of your remarketing campaign. So instead of showing your ad to a user 14 times in a day you may decide 3 a day is enough.

However, I’d leave this alone for now since you’re never quite sure if a user has truly seen that ad. It may not have been in view or they simply may have had banner blindness.

You could also decide not to show ads during certain times, thinking that those surfing between midnight at 6am might not be in the market for your product. Again, I’d leave this as is and not make any assumptions about what might trigger the user to re-engage.

Google Image Ads for Remarketing

You can choose to run a number of different ad types through a remarketing campaign. I prefer image ads that have a compelling and simple offer. But test it out for yourself and see what works for you.

Google Display Targeting Options

There are even greater levels of targeting available should you choose to only target people visiting certain topic areas. And Google does a good job with a simple venn diagram to show you what happens when you make these selections.

Again, I don’t see a compelling reason to do this until you’re running a super sophisticated remarketing campaign (i.e. – you might create different creative to serve to users as they visit different types of sites.)

Once your campaign is up and running you can start to look at how it performs.

Google Remarketing Results

Hopefully you’ve also implemented conversion tracking so you can see both 1-click conversions and view-through conversions. I know there’s a lot of debate about the value of view-through conversions. I tend to believe they are valuable. I’m not saying I’d attribute all of that conversion to the view, but the combined synergy of marketing channels is important.

Also, while the example above is highly redacted I can tell you that the remarketing campaign has the lowest CPA (on a 1-click basis) of all other campaigns except for branded search. Add in the view-through conversions (even discounting it by 50%) and remarketing is a monster winner.

Remarketing Isn’t SEO

If you’ve made it down here you might be muttering that this is all well and good but it’s not SEO. But it is if you think of SEO as generating productive traffic. My job as an SEO is to help clients get the most out of their marketing efforts.

In most of my initial conversations with clients, I ask if they’re running a remarketing campaign. Nearly all respond with ‘What’s that?’ or ‘No’. This makes me sad. Whether I wind up working with them or not, they can get so much more out of their efforts by implementing a remarketing campaign.

If I do wind up working with them, I’m going to want to drive the right visitors to the site, convert more of them in that first visit (CRO) but also give myself a chance to convert even more after that first visit.

SEO isn’t a one session proposition.


Get the most out of your SEO efforts by implementing a Google Remarketing campaign. Don’t let search engine visitors just leave your site. Extend the life and improve the effectiveness of your SEO by reminding visitors of their interaction with your site and brand as they visit other web properties.