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Making the Most of Google Analytics

Sterling Communications -Google Analytics on Computer

If you’re building or managing a website, Google Analytics is your best friend. It provides voluminous insight into visitor behaviors, demographics, and traffic on any site. Of course, because it’s such a robust tool, Google Analytics can also be challenging for new or inexperienced users; there is simply too much data and it’s hard to know what’s important. Categorization terminology such as “source,” “medium,” and “unique page views” can trip up new users or send them down time-consuming and unproductive rabbit holes. Furthermore, Google Analytics supports multiple ways to do similar things, which only adds to the confusion. All that said, I’ve found the most prevalent source of befuddlement for new Google Analytics users stems from not knowing why they are looking at the data. The question you should always ask yourself before diving in is, “What am I trying to find?”

Be specific. What exact problem do you need to solve? What key question do you need answered? What specifically do you want to know? Once you define what you’re looking for, you can target your use of Google Analytics. It will give you insight, and you can knowledgeably adjust website content or design to improve overall user experience.

If you’re a beginner, here are the three most important categories to focus on:

  • Location, which tells you where your visitors are coming from
  • Medium, which tells you how they got there (social media? Google? another site?)
  • Site content, which tells you what interests them most

Focusing on these three brackets will give you a solid foundation for understanding: 1) how your site is functioning in the greater digital ecosystem; 2) whether you’re drawing the visitors you desire; and 3) where to direct any improvement efforts.

Best Practices for Google Analytics

While every Google Analytics investigation is a unique endeavor, there are best practices for using the tool. My tips for new users are: (more…)

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Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly to Avoid Google’s Mobilegeddon

Public domain via Wikipedia

Google updates its search algorithm up to 500-600 times per year. Normally these changes don’t turn heads. However, today Google launched a search engine algorithm update that some are referring to as Mobilegeddon.

The news? Google is giving preference to mobile-friendly sites when running searches from mobile devices.

The search engine giant assigns priority in search results to websites designed specifically to work on smartphones in an attempt to improve the experience when people search from their smartphones. Google wants developers to make their sites look and function better on smaller screens: for example, by using bigger text, and links that are farther apart and easier to tap. According to USA Today, more than half of all Google-based searches now come from mobile devices. With TechCrunch reporting that 44% of the Fortune 500 companies failing Google’s mobile-friendly tests, this is a big deal.

In short: if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it could materially affect your company’s search rankings. (more…)

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6 SEO Tips for Killer Content

It may be true that SEO has been around a long time, but it is still the most powerful earned, nonpaid source of traffic on the web.
— Rand Fishkin, Moz Founder

Content creation continues to spark discussion. Almost everyone has an opinion on what elements are most critical to success—some tout measuring ROI, others say having a documented content strategy is the most critical element, and still others believe everything hinges on reaching target markets across all the different stages of the buyer journey. That said, it seems that everyone can agree on this fundamental tenet: begin with your target audience in mind. This means being empathetic to how the people you want to know about you search for, consume, and share content.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s a catch: it doesn’t matter how well-targeted your content is…if your target isn’t reading it. The good news is that SEO can help. SEO, like content development, is part science and part art; fully integrating your SEO and content marketing strategies ensures that your intended targets will easily find your content. (more…)


Extending Your PR Reach With Targeted Keywords

HogwartWhen Universal Orlando went to unveil The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2007, they didn’t take out a $10,000,000 Super Bowl Ad or even a $10,000 Google PPC ad campaign. Instead, Cindy Gordon, VP of Marketing at the Orlando resort, did what is becoming more and more common these days to get the word out; they approached influential Harry Potter bloggers, just seven of them to be exact, and within 24 hours 350 million people worldwide had heard of the new attraction.

This account clearly demonstrates the value of social media and what is becoming the new PR. And while this approach was brilliant, it’s important not to be too impressed by those numbers.  While most of those 350 million would love a trip to the Harry Potter World, how many of those can actually afford the trip from Europe, South America, Canada or wherever else they happened to live when they read the news? There are roughly 72 million families in the United States alone. How many of those family breadwinners who would be buying the tickets read those blogs or got the shares on their Facebook walls about the grand opening? And how many of the very targeted consumers searching in Google for family vacation ideas found those blogs in their queries?

So what more could Cindy Gordon have done?

I know you’re thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding! More? She got 350,000,000 views!” I admit that’s impressive, and I say give Cindy and all expense paid trip to Orlando Harry Potter World for that.  Ok. Ok. Send her to Paris instead.

But I also say there’s a whole other tree that’s ripe for the picking with some really tasty fruit, so why not go after that as well?

That other tree is clearly seen in the screenshot below showing just a few of the searches made in Google by a very targeted audience looking for family vacation ideas. Those numbers aren’t anything to sneeze at either, especially given the fact that many already had their checkbooks out when they conducted those searches.


Don’t let the ripe fruit fall.

Cindy went after the low-hanging fruit, and with very little effort and no money, the word spread around the world.  But if you have fruit trees like I do, then you’ll know that oftentimes the sweetest, ripest fruit is just out of reach – not so easy to pick, but well worth the effort. Targeting the right – and more lucrative – audience with your PR, content marketing, and SEO campaigns can be just as sweet.

So how do you do that?

  1. First understand what your target audience needs (i.e., their pain). In this example, that could be a family vacation.
  2. Then decide how THEY might look for it regularly in search engines.  For example, “family vacation ideas” or “best vacation spots for kids,” or any number of other targeted keywords.
  3. Perform research using Google AdWords tool or other SEO tools to find out more phrases that are used.
  4. Once you know the best terms to use, include them in all your communications about your offering – your press releases, website content, online ads, blog articles, Shares, Tweets, emails, etc.

In Cindy’s case, she could have even killed two birds with one stone. She could have gotten both the low-hanging and the ripe fruit if she also included targeted keywords in the communication she used with the influential bloggers so that they would get those keywords imprinted in their minds and perhaps use them in their blogs too. And why? So that she would have had a broader reach into another market that was ready to buy.

The secret to the success of any PR or SEO campaign is to focus first on your target audience. If you really know who they are, understand their pain and then provide for them the solution they need, you’re going to get the results that matter most – and that might not just be an impressive head count.

Kathy Long is the CEO and SEO expert at Kat & Mouse Co., a full-service internet marketing company in Saratoga, CA. Follow her on Twitter @KatndMouse.

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When is public relations more than PR?

'Aerial Of The Confluence' Fine Art Print by Sam AbellPublic relations has been at the heart of Sterling Communications since our founding in 1989. Relating to the public, in case it hasn’t become obvious this decade, requires far more than mere “PR.”

Public relations — at least to our high-tech and cleantech clients — has grown far beyond press releases about new products, speaking slots at tech conferences, or interviews with editors and analysts. These days, our clients want strategies and solutions for relating to the public through social media campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), website design, mobile apps, and even internal communications.

And they want this help integrated with their own marketing, sales, and business objectives in ways where results are unambiguous and meaningful.

Few other smaller agencies offer integrated communications, and none we know of are working to redefine “PR” this drastically. From a marketing perspective, creating a new category is challenging and expensive. Clients looking to define a new Magic Quadrant, for example, can spend enormous sums just to get analysts up to speed with their perspective — and with no guarantee of success.

Yet, new and existing clients keep asking us for insights, strategies and assistance with integrating their traditional and online communications. At the most basic level, clients want three things: awareness, influence and engagement. Awareness of what they stand for in the market, influence with the people who then influence decision makers in their industry, and engagement with the public in meaningful ways. Our job, then, is to provide the strategy, content, and results needed to make that a reality.

In 2013, you’ll begin to see some shifts in Sterling’s own PR as we raise awareness of this new approach, work to influence the industry about new opportunities, and engage with the public in ways that provide everyone involved with greater resources and better solutions. Currently, we’re providing integrated communications — a true confluence of traditional PR, social media, web design, SEO, and online marketing — for several clients. By the end of January, we’ll be able to share with everyone some of this fantastic new work.

If you’d like to learn more, let us know.

Kawika Holbrook is creative director at Sterling and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @kawika or connected with him on LinkedIn.

Photo credit: ‘Aerial of the Confluence‘ fine art print by Sam Abell.


8 Steps to Optimize Your Content for Search and Social

“Advertising is just renting the space. Content marketing is owning it.” — Arnie Kuenn

More and more, businesses are seeing the value of content marketing as an advertising tool and a way to position themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries. Content is the currency of the web. Buyers need content that makes them more knowledgeable on whatever topic they search for; businesses that provide that information will win. I was fortunate to hear a talk on this subject last month by Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, a search, social and content marketing services company.

Content marketing strengthens the role of both search and social in our lives. The more good information there is on the Internet, the more people will go there to look for it. Content marketing’s goal is to get searchers to your website. The statistics Kuenn provided about search were really surprising and intriguing:

  • 93 percent of all buyers online or in stores use search prior to making a purchase
  • 86 percent of searchers conduct non-branded queries. (Ex: What is the best surfboard?)
  • 94 percent of buyers click on organic links versus six percent on paid links for branded queries.

Here are his eight steps for the convergence of search, social and content marketing:

  1. Strategy development
    • Your strategy will evolve through the whole process.
    • Why are you creating the content you are creating?
    • Who is your audience?
    • Who are you? – Determine your voice.
    • What types of content will you create?
    • How will you develop your content?
    • When will you develop your content?
    • What does success look like?
    • What is difference a year from now?
  2. Research
    • Get as much of your staff together as you can (face-to-face) and ask them what they get asked all the time.
    • The content you produce should answer those questions.
    • Look at Q &A sites: what questions are people asking most frequently?
    • Put your content in a spreadsheet and create an editorial calendar.
  3. Content creation – ideas for different types of content
    • Interviews – help make you the expert
    • Videos – interviews, fun, behind the scenes, user generated.
    • Lists (ex: best places to ski)
    • Curation or aggregation (11 lessons, 7 tips, etc.)
    • Free guides – good content that people will share, generate leads, build your list for you (ex: Guide to the best Southern California beaches)
    • When you produce content, it stays on the web until you want to take it down. Although the content may not be fresh, it will generate leads and traffic.
    • Content that is longer than 1,800 words tends to get more links than shorter posts.
  4. Content optimization
    • Check list: webpages, news, local, images and videos
    • Links pointing to your content
    • Titles and title tags (viewed in search results)
    • Description meta tag (viewed in search results)
    • Image alt text tags
    • H1 Tag (headline tag – only one!)
    • Page load times
    • Freshness of content
    • URL structure (short and includes keywords)
  5. Content promotion
    • Understand who your customer is and where they are online.
    • Conduct PR and blogger pitches
    • Develop relationships and build partnerships
    • People share your ideas, link to your content. Mentions and shares are signals (especially G+)
    • Pinterest?
  6. Content distribution
    • What channels are the best fit for the type of content you want to share?
    • Who would be most interested in this content and where are they?
  7. Link building
    • Who or if someone will link to your content is out of your hands.
    • Promotion, distribution and value of content are the biggest determining factors.
  8. Measurement
    • Measure for successes and failures
    • Check your rankings, traffic, conversions and other key metrics
    • Focus on the strategies that are providing the best ROI and keep rolling out the content

Happy curating!

Monika Hathaway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Jazzpatron



Agile Engagement, from the Mouths of the Experts

I have long considered the concept of agile engagement, and what it means to me as a PR professional increasingly moving into the social media realm. As time goes on, it becomes a larger part of my day-to-day role.  So, it was with great interest that I listened in on a recent PR Newswire-sponsored webcast entitled “Agile Engagement Unlocked.” Presenters included Kelly LeVoyer, director of marketing editorial at SAS Software, and Valerie Jennings, CEO of Jennings Social Media Marketing, whose discussion centered around the agile engagement construct created by PR Newswire.



What is Integrated Marketing?

As if there weren’t already enough ambiguity in our line of work (seriously, how many times have friends or family members asked you, “so, what do you do, exactly?”), PR has evolved so much over recent years that PR professionals themselves are hotly debating what exactly defines this profession nowadays.

While our job function at its core is still relating to the public, the term “public relations” just doesn’t quite encapsulate everything we do anymore. Recently, the term Integrated Marketing has emerged and has become increasingly popular in defining what is essentially today’s “PR 2.0.”

The rise of social media can be largely credited with changing our industry, as it has put more brands directly in communication with their end users. And while traditional media is still a critical channel of communication, success in PR as we know it today also requires fluency in social media. One must be comfortable with Facebook and Twitter, all while keeping an eye out for the next big thing to come along. A year ago, no one had heard of Pinterest. Today it rivals Twitter in terms of traffic referrals, and is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful channels in social media marketing.

In addition to social media, integrated marketing encompasses a wide array of other communications roles. Today’s practitioner must have experience – or at least familiarity – with functions such as:

These all affect a brand’s public persona, so it makes sense that they would morph with traditional PR into today’s integrated marketing function.

While integrated marketing isn’t a perfect descriptor (people will still inevitably ask, “so what do you do, again?”), it does seem to be a better fit than the oversimplified, “public relations.” What are your thoughts? Is integrated marketing is the new PR?

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.


Can SEO Be Used as a Weapon?

According to a recent Wired article, yes, it can.  Seo-services

In the article, author David Kravets points to a website called, which functions solely for the purpose of posting Florida mug shots (available via public record, thanks to Florida’s liberal transparency laws), and generates revenue from the Web traffic and resulting advertising.

Kravets tells the story of Philip Cabibi, a 31 year-old Florida man who sat down one evening to perform a ritual familiar to most of us in the digital generation: “the ego search” or “googling oneself.” You can imagine Mr. Cabibi’s dismay when he realized that a drunk driving arrest from 2007 had come back to haunt him in the form of his mug shot on page one of his search results, thanks to (more…)