I started my journey to earn an Executive Certificate in Internet Marketing from ASPE-ROI, which is accredited by Saint Louis University, with the three-day Google Online Marketing Boot Camp. The course was held at Dynamic Worldwide Training Consultants’ facility in Cary, N.C., and taught by digital strategist and owner of Dijital Farm, Jon Parks (@JonParks).
The course was intense, interactive and intriguing even for a senior marketing executive and communications expert with more than 20 years of professional experience in the management, analysis, research and execution of strategic marketing plans for a variety of B2B, B2C and nonprofit clients. Much to my surprise, three of seven class participants travelled from Japan to take the course and visit the Triangle area.
My desired outcome from this Google Online Marketing Boot Camp was to ensure my digital marketing skills were up-to-date, as well as to deepen my knowledge about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid search tools and Google Analytics. Mission accomplished!
Here are a few key takeaways and description of class experience.
DAY 1: SEO Strategy, Keyword Research, Information Architecture and Testing
Effective SEO Begins With Strategy
True with any effective marketing plans, SEO begins with strategy. The strategy must be aligned with companies’ overarching business goals and identify specific and measurable outcomes. A common goal for all organizations is to use SEO strategies and tactics to increase organic website traffic, but there are a multitude of ways SEO contributes to winning online market share from content, site optimization through meta and alt tags, linking and more.
Next Up? Keyword Research
I know firsthand – and it was reiterated in class by the instructor as well as attendees – keyword research is critical to all things in the world of online marketing, but it is also a tedious, timely and manual process. However, I was excited to learn about a few new, paid tools such as Google Webmaster (which acquired SEMrush.com) and Moz. These offer more sophistication and enhanced capabilities – as would be expected – than free tools such as Google AdWords or Spy Fu, and are available at different monthly price points.
Building the Information or Website Architecture
By utilizing your keyword research, you can group those words based on search rankings and competition levels by category, long-tail phrases and specific groupings or themes. This phase is also known as keyword mapping to determine the website navigation that will best enhance users’ experience. Keywords are used on both the front end and back end of truly optimized sites to generate the best results and drive more organic traffic.
TEST: Is Your Site Optimized for Search Engines?
The course went in depth for maximum optimization. Here’s a quick test.
If you can answer no to any of the following 10 questions, your site can be improved to rank higher among search engines.
- Does each URL include keywords?
- Are keywords included in all of your public-facing content?
- Do you use meta tags, meta descriptions, anchor text, alt tags for images, title tags and multiple level header tags? (Most Content Management Systems (CMS) have tools in place to help with these efforts).
- Does your site include relevant backlinks, and are they driving referral traffic? (Find out at ahrefs.com).
- Do you avoid duplicate content on your site?
- If moving, managing or otherwise changing the location of your site, have you included redirects?
- Does your site include canonicals?
- Does your site have broken links?
- Are you tracking and measuring your SEO efforts and if yes, are you seeing the conversions you want to achieve? (Another new tool – a free one to boot – mentioned in class is RankChecker. However, it only works in FireFox).
- Are you making the most of social media’s high ranking sites to further optimize your website?
DAY 2 – Paid Search aka Interrupted Advertising
Here’s a shocking statistic, although not exact. Google paid search accounts for approximately more than 90% of the online giant’s annual revenues. Paid search – which includes pay per click (PPC), Google Adwords, search engine management (SEM) and cost per click (CPC) advertising – is also becoming increasingly popular in today’s highly competitive global business world.
Paid search also offers businesses many benefits. Here’s my Top 7 list of paid search benefits.
- Target your audience – You choose who can see your ad
- Cost can be affordable – You pay what you want by setting a budget
- Drive consumer behavior – You direct the user to your desired content
- Generate quality leads – Paid search ads are always relevant to the searcher’s query
- Expand your reach – Approximately 30,000 Google searches take place every second
- Measure return on investment (ROI) – You can track every penny spent
- Provide additional prospect and customer insights – You can test different messages, different graphics, different call to actions to learn more about your target audiences
Begin with Google AdWords
There’s a lot of psychology behind search, and PPC is different than traditional advertising. Integrated marketing and communications plans typically include a balanced approach of online and offline strategies.
Here are 8 best practices for Google AdWords.
- Know your customers’ buying cycle – Online search drastically shortens the sales lifecycle and buyers make decisions faster
- Content matters – Ad copy must be as few words as possible, call to actions must motivate and inspire action
- Unique landing pages – Allow marketers to capture data insights, track online behavior and conversions
- Start with a minimum of 2 to 3 campaigns, a handful of groups and 100 keywords
- Use automatic rotation – This feature allows words to be self-optimized based on performance
- Pay attention to your Quality Score – The higher your score, the lower your cost
- Don’t play with dynamic keywords – This can negatively impact your quality score if you don’t know the intricacies, so tread cautiously or rely on AdWords experts
- Monitor performance – True with most online marketing strategies, you can measure what is, or is not, working and adjust accordingly
Google Display Network (GDN) Ads
The Google Network is also commonly referred to as a content network with contextual targeting campaigns and display advertising. It is different from search in that this type of advertising relies on other sites inside of the Google Network.
Here are 7 key takeaways I captured from this session.
- Always return to keywords
- Return to Google AdWords and create a new campaign for each display ad
- The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) provides graphic standards for display ad dimensions
- 4. Include clear, concise and enticing call to actions. Everyone wants to know What’s In It for Me (WIIFM).
- Do not use flash or animated gif files; they can cause problems
- Go far and wide to start and then narrow the campaign after some measurement (100 conversions offers a decent statistical analysis before you draw a conclusion)
- Be patient – Results take time, consistency and high frequency
DAY 3 – A Look into Google Analytics
Analytics doesn’t give you answers. It gives you data. Many people, however, don’t use this data to their advantage. There is not a substitute for actual user data. Data eliminates guesswork. It can be measured, and it’s a great way to stop the “because I’m a boss argument.”
Here are some interesting facts about Google Analytics, which offer free tools and can easily be linked to your website. Google Analytics:
- Started off as Urchin
- Became a free tool after Google’s purchase in 2005
- Uses Java Script to track activity by capturing cookies
- Scales easily for 1 to 1,000 individual websites
- Integrates with other Google tools
- Offers advanced reporting features and filters
- Provides enhanced market and business intelligence
- Allows you to set specific, measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)
I’ve barely touched the scope, depth and breadth of some of these key areas that were taught in this three-day Google Online Marketing Boot Camp (totaling 24 hours of class time). For me, it was a winner. It was on point, practical and took me deeper into subjects for which I already had first-hand experience and a good understanding. But even more impressive? ASPE offers a 100% guarantee if you are not fully satisfied with any of their courses. However, I promise you will not be disappointed. ASPE delivers on its brand and customer promise that you will gain new knowledge, real-world skills and hands-on training through lecture and practice labs.
Stay tuned for the next blog as I try my hand in a four-day, online, virtual class: Social Media Boot Camp.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christina Motley is the CEO and president of Christina Motley, LLC, for which she delivers on-demand, targeted marketing strategies and tactics to a variety of clients and industries. A seasoned integrated marketing executive, award-winning content developer and published author, Christina’s focus is on building brand loyalty, fostering customer engagement and driving new business. You can connect with her on Twitter @christinamotley and on LinkedIn.