Digital Marketing | Evolve Digital Labs

Digital Marketing refers to advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email, and mobile apps. The digital building blocks of this type of marketing provide objective data that can be assessed, categorized, and analyzed in ways that were previously impossible.

SEO Audits: more than just data

SEO Audits: More Than Just Data

Yesterday at the State of Search conference in Dallas, Derek gave a fantastic presentation about SEO Audits and how their main purpose should be to increase return on investment. What good is a 20-page report without direction for implementation? SEO has been changing since its inception, but one main difference between SEO today and SEO 15 years ago is awareness. Now, Derek pointed out, even the boss believes in SEO. Transparency is imperative as a result; you can’t manipulate clients into buying your BS (not that you would anyway, right?). Additionally, the margins of error are shrinking; there’s not an excuse to not supply the right data and supplement it with a plan of action. If you don’t do it, another SEO will. Derek at State of Search At Evolve, we always start with an SEO audit. Audits are fan-freaking-tastic, but utterly pointless if the end goal isn’t ROI. We put together a checklist that walks you through the most important parts of an SEO audit. (We might have mentioned it once or twice before.) The Onsite Analysis, Derek mentioned, is vital for identifying errors that trip up bots that try to crawl your site. Fixing them is always a good idea, as it can boost traffic, but it’s not an inclusive solution. You also have to check out the competition to figure out why they’re kicking ass and your not. Where do their links come from? What kind of content strategy are they rocking? This lets you know how much you’re slacking and what it will take to catch up (and hopefully inch ahead). Keyword research, the final portion of our audit, presents opportunity when performed correctly. A solid SEO will be smart about how keywords are listed and what data is used to find them. Derek says it’s simple: be relevant. Find keywords that present value and aren’t impossible to chase. State of Search conference What’s more awesome than checking things off our list? Solving problems. A strategic audit can accomplish both, but not without a realistic mindset that success in the SERPs requires an investment in substantial content. It’s clear that SEO is about transferring brand authority and trust to the digital realm. That’s why our ultimate goal as an agency is to empower brands through Search; we want our clients to understand that applying our recommendations will in turn boost their ability to provide solutions online.

5 simple tools for even simpler link building

5 simple tools for even simpler link building

Successful link building trends are continuing to evolve into genuine transactions: I have content that will appeal to your visitors. Feel free to use it, but please credit the original source.

I constantly rely on tools that simplify the sometimes-tedious link building process. You don’t need a bunch of training in SEO to use the link building tools that I mention below. You certainly don’t need to use black/gray hat tactics to find and hassle leads.

So while your head may not be spinning by the end of this list, maybe that’s a good thing. These tools may not be flashy, but they are essential.

1. Google’s Keyword Tool

Every good link building strategy, much like most other SEO strategies, starts with solid keyword research.  This is the most important part, as it will form the foundation for all of the following steps. This is also the hardest part; keyword research challenges you to brainstorm how the ideal audience is searching. Luckily, Google’s Keyword Tool helps us think like the consumer.

  • Is there a significant amount of traffic for the terms I am searching?
  • Which keywords relate to this term?
  • What sites are ranking for these similar terms?

If part of your link building strategy is to contribute a relevant guest post in exchange for a link to your content piece, this tool helps with idea generation for the subject, it can become frustrating to spin the subject in new ways.

Using Keyword Research tool for link building


2. Google Search

This is not really considered a tool, but it is incredibly useful. I couldn’t leave it off of the list. Once you have adopted the mindset of your target market, it’s time to test your theory. Conduct a Google search with that keyword and evaluate the sites that are coming up.

  • Is this what my target persona (let’s say a small business owner) is really interested in?
  • Do these sites have contact information for the webmaster?

The sites might be purposely ranking for the search term, meaning that they could be your competitors and probably won’t be very likely to promote your content. The point of this exercise is to filter your growing list of contenders down to those most likely to respond.

3. Raven Tools Site Finder

Once you have a few keywords to start from, plug them into the Raven Tools’ Site Finder tool. This is such an amazing tool for link building because it finds the sites that link to the pages in the top search results for that keyword!  So really, it’s doing the work for you a you don’t need to run a huge backlink check for these sites and organize your data in an excel spreadsheet according to Page Authority.  This tool already organizes them so that the highest quality sites are near the top. What this means is that it is pulling out the most authoritative sites, which have a reason to link to the highest-ranking pages for the keyword you chose. So in other words, their site has some sort of connection to the key term, and they promote content built around that term, aka YOUR content. What more could you ask for?

  • Only reach out to the top 5-10 of the recommended URLs for each keyword in order to maximize the diversity (and hopefully, positive response) of the sites you are targeting
  • Start again with a different keyword
  • The list gets less authoritative as you move down, so moving horizontally across the list of keywords will ensure youare only reaching out to the most credible sites
Screenshot of Raven Tools site finder


4. SEOmoz Open Site Explorer

The obvious use for Open Site Explorer is to plug the URLs you just found in the site finder into this tool to make sure it has a strong enough domain and page authority. If a site’s Domain Authority is a measly 5, it’s not worth your time, and with Google’s ruthless Penguin Update on the loose, a link from a site with low credibility could actually hurt your site’s reputation. But there is an additional use for this tool. Look a little further down the page at the inbound links section.  What this is basically showing you are the sites, that link to the sites, that link to the sites, which rank for the keyword for which your target market is searching. Woah. What better way to find a community of highest authority sites discussing your content topic? Rinse and repeat for all of your keywords. And guess what? You’ve just generated a list of interested, qualified sites that can benefit from your content.

5. Boomerang Gmail Plugin

Once you have reached out to multiple webmasters, the last thing that you want to do is forget or give up if they haven’t responded right away. After a designated time frame, the plugin Boomerang automatically sends back any emails that have not received a response. This tool is crucial for me because with all of my other daily activities, it’s nearly impossible for me to remember when I reached out to whom. It might be easy to ignore a spreadsheet with the follow-up date marked, but it’s hard to ignore an influx of 25 new emails. (Especially if you practice inbox zero, right Derek?) There you have it, folks! There’s not a lot of flashiness to my link building outreach strategy, but it gets the job done. Without these 5 tools, I would be completely lost. How do you simplify link building?

You can’t afford to ignore Local Search

You can’t afford to ignore Local Search

The act of Googling has become such a natural part of our day (and our vocabulary), we often fail to acknowledge that there is a process. Users typically phrase their Google searches according to their stage in the research phase. Anyone who is just starting to explore his or her options might word the search so it is specific to a particular location. This is why paying attention to Local Search is invaluable. Those who specify a brand, however, clearly have previous knowledge and are performing additional research to find out if that brand is the right fit. Read more

Writing URLs the right way

Write URLs the Right Way

When it comes to URL structure, the name of the game is clarity. Search engines (as well as users) appreciate being able to grasp what a page is about just by looking at the URL. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Trim the fat

Keep URLs as precise as possible. Blog post titles can often make this difficult to achieve, but if the URL is made up of a string of words like /things-to-do-in-chicago-for-new-years-eve, people and search bots will at least be able to grasp the contents of the page. Plus, that particular URL contains keywords that will boost its ability to rank.

Be descriptive

Keywords, as briefly mentioned above, belong in URLs. If the content you create is directly related to the terms for which you’re attempting to rank, it only makes sense that a particular page’s URL summarizes the contents. It’s pretty common to incorporate the page’s title into the address. For example, our SEO Audit Checklist page has a URL ending with /seo-audit-checklist. Simple, direct, and descriptive. Everyone wins.

Nix the subdomains

Since writing this post, Matt Cutts (Head of webspam at Google) has announced that Google no longer perceives subdomains ( and subdirectories ( Which route you choose to organize your site structure can be based on personal preference and convenience. Here’s a video:

Hyphens vs. Underscores

Should we use hyphens or underscores? This was once a topic worth discussing, but today it’s pretty clear that hyphens are the preferred method for separating words in a URL. Matt Cutts explains in the video below why Google, in particular, favors the hyphen strategy. While this isn’t a huge factor when it comes to ranking, it is still worth keeping in mind as you create new pages.

Case sensitivity

Most sites opt for lowercase letters in URLs because the address is case sensitive; having lowercase letters across the board keeps things simple. On the flip side, creating URLs that are mixes of both upper and lowercase can potentially cause navigational difficulties or duplicate content. We recommend adding 301-redirects to uppercase-infused URLs, thus guiding users to the address you want them to visit. Facebook, for example, redirects users to if someone should happen to type Try it. While they may not carry as much authoritative weight as title tags, proper URL practices can certainly aid a site’s ability to rank. Sites that are built with SEO in mind are at a major advantage because their URLs are easy to crawl and understand from the start a not to mention they avoid the hassle of having to correct chaotic, confusing URLs later.

Killing and Empowering the Marketing Birds with One Stone

As a business owner or manager, you cannot deny the fact that you always want your employees working hard and you want your website (that beloved 24-hour employee) working even harder. As ambassadors of your brand, both your website and your employees are key components to generating profit. As their leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure they have the necessary means to do perform their duties.


Here’s my question to you : What would you be willing to give your employees in order to receive the greatest ROI? A few things that might come to mind:

  1. Money.

Yeah you’ll fork out that bonus if they can meet your goals, but HOW are you preparing your employees to meet those goals?

  1. Nothing.

How about they just do better because it’s their job, right? (This mindset doesn’t usually work.) The third option may not be on your radar – if it is, you may not be sure how to execute it.


  1. Resources.

And by resources, I mean content. Give your employees the type of content they can really leverage. The type of content they understand and they can stand behind. Here’s the best part : you only need to create this type of content once, and I’ll show you how to use it to knock out three important birds. Why should you put forth the time and investment to create these unique documents full of useful consumer information and unique selling points? Fair question. Let’s look at the birds together.

Visual of the different ways you can empower your brand through content


Sales. Start with your front line. The employee who needs supporting documents and he needs them fast. More specifically he needs the exact material the prospect is looking for in order to close the deal. Give it to him. Make it a few clicks away so he can deliver this to the prospect so quickly that he is still on the phone with the individual when it comes through their mailbox. This comes back to content creation. You have to create these materials and no one knows your brand better than you and your team. So put your heads together, conquer the most FAQs with easily digestible material, get it branded and make it your employees’ number one ally. We strive to do this at Evolve; the latest piece we published for the public is a tool for performing your own SEO audit. For those less aware of SEO, we invite them to download our Beginner’s Guide. Note: The easily digestible part is imperative. If you send over pages of PDFs filled to the margins with copy, you’re going to lose the prospect’s attention, AKA the sale. Instead use:

  • bullet points
  • infographics
  • images
  • headlines

They’ll love you for it, AKA buy your product or service. Website. Your website is highly important. At first glance, maybe it does answer all of your questions. But let’s face it you really shouldn’t have that many questions because you know all the ins and outs. However the exact type of person you WANT to purchase your product or service isn’t quite as lucky to already have that information in their arsenal. So how about we consider giving it to them? Let’s give them the exact documents we are talking about above : all I want you to do is make them available on your website. Go through the buying cycle on your site, from all perspectives (new buyer, returning visitor, etc.) and figure out at what point they are going to have questions and then place a link or a download to the information on your website.  Make sure those resources are top level because they will definitely be top of mind for your prospect. Search. You’re going to love this : by simply writing about what it is that your company offers and answering your customers’ questions (the documents we discussed above), you have already optimized your website for what your prospects will be searching. These documents might require additional optimization (and no, not keyword stuffing) just to make sure they are easily found, but you’ve got the hard part out of the way by already having the content created. Once you house these resources on your website, you have given the search engine robots the authority to go in and crawl all over those documents. They pull out the relevant information and then make your documents and in turn, your company, a search engine result for ANYONE looking for that information. Then what happens? Rankings start to increase and then… so do sales. As a business owner you cannot ignore the fact that your employees are your most valuable assets. It is important to keep them informed, educated and prepared for each and every day. If by doing so, you can also reap the benefits of a fully flushed out resource section on your website and a jump in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) then you’ve empowered quite a few birds with just one stone. Written by Ashley Hamilton. Find her on Twitter!

The Value of Keyword Segmentation & Expansion

A Look into the Overreliance on Broad Match

So you’ve started your Paid Search campaigns, and you are seeing acceptable performance results. You have diligently created your campaigns and ad groups with both general and specific keywords and are driving consumers to targeted pages within your website. What is the next step in improving your campaign?

Broad keyword matching is an effective means of traffic generation, but it is not the most effective at generating qualified traffic at profitable levels. When utilizing broad match you are effectively relinquishing control of your campaign to the search engine, while degrading the overall efficiency of your campaign. First, broad match allows the search engine to both determine what search queries to serve your ads on and what your click cost will be. Second, your keywords quality score is determined by the relevancy of your keyword to the SERPs and the CTR your term is achieving. Third, your bid is determined by the broad match term, which is likely matching to both highly qualified and unqualified keywords. Reliance on broad match allows the unqualified traffic to continue and prevents your ability to bid more aggressively on qualified terms. Wouldn’t you prefer to take that control back from the search engine?

By taking advantage of the wealth of information that your analytics reporting and the search engines offer, you have everything you need to regain control over your account. Both Google Adwords and Microsoft Adcenter offer reports and tools that will assist you in taking back control of your PPC campaigns. Formerly referred to as the “Search Query Report,” this information shows the advertiser the keyword phrases entering in the search engine on which your ads are being served. Recently, this optimization approach was applied to a client’s existing Paid Search account. For our purposes, let’s call them Acme Solutions. Acme had an established account ($500K/yr. spend) which initially existed as roughly 4,000 keywords, with the campaign being primarily reliant on broad match terms for traffic generation. Through extensive keyword expansion (see example below), the results effectively removed the need for use of broad match by incorporating those SERPs as keywords within the account. Although keyword expansion is a never ending process, the account currently stands at 80,000 keywords, and not a single broad match term. The results speak for themselves:

  • Impression Volume: -9%
  • Click Volume: +46%
  • CTR: +61%
  • Avg. CPC: -17%
  • Avg. Position: -12% (3.3 to 2.9)
  • Impression Share: +5%
  • Lost IS (Rank): -18%
  • Lost IS (Budget): -91%
  • Invalid Click Rate: -15%
  • CPT: -25%

These results were achieved based upon one primary premise: Broad match is the enemy. Profitability in Paid Search does not permit laziness, and laziness is exactly what broad match permits. Utilize the tools the engines give you, and take your campaign back from the search engine!

Example image of how keyword segmentation looks

Other articles you may be interested in: Optimize press releases for search engines New SEO Audit for Penguin Update Victims Landing pages lowdown

Takeaways from #LinkLove in Boston


Takeaways from #LinkLove in Boston.

I spent last Monday in Boston for Distilled’s exceptionally thorough Link Love conference. My intention was to live blog throughout the day, but I unfortunately failed to fully charge my laptop and was dismayed to discover that the amphitheater where we met had no outlets. #Fail Late is better than never, as they say, which is why I am thankful to have scratched notes all over my Link Love booklet. I’ll do my best to decipher my awful handwriting and possibly pass on some of the insight to you. I’ll be honest, my head is just starting to stop whirring. A lot of the talks were outside my comfort zone, and it wasn’t very easy to relate to what was being said. Still, I now have access to fantastic tips, tools, and tactics that I didn’t before. Over time I’ll digest everything and be much more rounded for it. I’m already starting to feel a tingle of SEO confidence. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz kicked off the presentations with an unexpected twist. His segment, boldly entitled “F#$%! Link Building. Content Marketing FTW” quickly dived in to the reality that SEOs are sort of controlling the linking system. It used to be a small fraction of these “linkinati” members that knew how to manipulate the algorithms, but that number has grown to an enormous number of marketers. The problem is that marketers are the only ones doing it, thus throwing off the effectiveness of link building. At least that’s how Google is starting to see it. Link signals, Rand said, are starting to subtly shrink in potency, and new sharing styles, such as social signals, are influencing the search engine results. My main takeaway from Rand’s presentation is that content is still king (no surprise there; I’ve been preaching those words myself). Still, it was refreshing to hear it from the mouth of an industry pioneer. Content goes beyond blog posts and the exact products or services that a brand offers. The last thing a brand should do is limit itself to writing about what it does. Content is essentially storytelling, and storytelling strengthens brands and transfers trust. Infographics, clever tools, even freebies can set your brand apart from others. It requires thinking of relative, but unique, ideas for content creation. Honestly, I agreed with Rand 100%. But the real issue, at least in my experience, is figuring out how to convey this conviction to clients who might be somewhat skeptical. The easiest way to accomplish that is to build a few success stories, and you know what? Challenge accepted. The second speaker I saw was an unfamiliar (to me) bloke by the name of Justin Briggs. It didn’t take me long to realize that Justin is a very intelligent guy, and while much of his presentation was stressful (because I didn’t have the materials to adequately document it, nor the mental capacity to actually retain the nitty-gritty), I left with an outstanding revelation about link building: outcome reporting trumps operational reporting. In other words, if you’re focusing solely on the acquisition of links, how do you even know if it’s worth the time and effort? Justin helped me realize that link building is a waste if the links aren’t increasing ROI. The value of a link shouldn’t be based on the cost it took to acquire it. So what is operational reporting? 

  • PageRank
  • Anchor text
  • Domain authority
  • Page authority
  • mozRank

What is outcome reporting? 

  • Visits
  • Number of keywords
  • Goal completions
  • Conversions

Justin sort of went Information Superhighway at this point, leaving me wheezing in the dust. There’s a lot of his presentation that I need to chew on slowly. What I do fully understand is that I need to start changing the way I perceive link building and what success really means. Because if I get 100 links to my site, but no increase in conversions a what in the world was the point in the time I took to get there? Ross Hudgens was the third presenter, and he spoke about “stealing” content for your website or clients. Of course, his whole spiel was actually about repurposing content, rather than actually swiping it in an unethical fashion. From Ross I learned about a fantastic source called Hacker News. This website is a hub of data-driven articles, perfectly ripe for the plucking and reworking. For people like myself who are more prone to connect with visual design, an infographic is an ideal presentation of otherwise. It can become useful and interesting to an entirely new audience. Ross continued his presentation with some other useful tips, and he did a wonderful job. Still, the Hacker News bit is what really hit home with me. Following Ross was Rhea Drysdale from Outspoken Media. She described the importance of having a link building calendar. Clients work with agencies because they want to feel good. They need the support of an outside source directing their efforts, and providing solid ideas for content marketing. Then she skipped to the process of content marketing:

  • a. Proposal
  • b. Intake
  • c. Research and discovery
  • d. Strategy approval
  • e. Implementation
  • f. Tracking

Working with clients can be difficult when they have their own separate agenda, which they typically do. The bigger brands sometimes need to follow protocol involving the signatures and approvals of several department heads before SEO efforts can scoot along. Consistent, open communication is crucial for these clients to understand that SEOs need in order to move forward. We’re big-picture people. Our plans typically cover spans of many months, and calendars keep things progressing. I haven’t quite explored the examples Rhea provided for calendar-creating, but her main point is that we as SEOs should strategically structure our link building efforts around time frames that mesh with the clients’ availability and expectations. Even beyond that, calendars push the process along by organizing different responsibilities and updates of efforts. After lunch we heard from the oh-so-engaging Wil Reynolds.  Everyone in the audience was captivated by his presentation on finding influencers and forming relationships, or as he worded it: stalking. I’m not going to explain the details of his presentation because I have neither his charm nor charismatic flair that everyone loves. Wil reminded us that the core of link building, especially when it stems from those you consider to have authority and influence, is to form relationships. It was a very humbling experience to watch this SEO guru, whom I’ve admired for months, speak about his thorough, consistent, adamant attempt to connect with one of his heros. I’ll admit that the whole Link Love conference was humbling, as it made me blatantly clear of how small of a guppy I am in this ocean of SEOs and how much I have left to learn. Still, Wil’s presentation was very enlightening, and I’ve already put a couple of his “stalker” tactics in motion. The final presenter I saw was John Doherty of Distilled. John is someone I’ve been following closely for the past couple of months or so because he is super infatuated with with various tools available for link building. And I am not. Yet. Let me also point out that he is a very sharp (and kind) fellow, and I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of meeting him during one of the breaks. John’s presentation was a lot to take in, but fortunately I have the slides to reference (all 119 of ’em!) Again, I’m not going to dish out the details because there’s simply too much to cover. John’s presentation sent me home with some very concrete challenges, because I can tell you right now that use and understanding of SEO tools, even one as common as Excel, is not my strong point. It’s my nature to hate them as much as tax season (which makes my stomach churn). After all, I joined the Evolve team as a part-time content creator back in June. I knew as much about SEO as I did the electromagnetic spectrum. I’m now to the point where I want to expand my territories and take on a few additional responsibilities. Learning these tools will increase my efficiency and spur my success, and I’m ready to start! Unfortunately, I actually left the conference early, three quarters in. Can you imagine what state my brain would have been in if I’d stayed to hear Tom Critchlow, Colby Almond, and Adam Audette? One word: mush. But I’m happy to have access to the slides, at least. Who knows, maybe I’ll even create a Pinterest account, since Colby’s topic (about which everyone raved via the #linklove hashtag) was on the impact of that very social media website. The entire Link Love experience was beyond words (although I’ve just spewed more than 1,000), and I’m lucky to work for an agency that sends its least experienced employee to a Distilled conference, as fast-paced and detailed as it was (the image to the right shows my desperate attempt to document the first two presentations sans laptop. Pretty pathetic, huh?). Thanks to everyone who shared their expertise and wisdom. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say it was refreshing and encouraging to be reminded why we are in this industry. #SEO #FTW Written by Emily Wisely, Digital Coordinator at Evolve. Find her on Twitter (em_wisely)!

Where Does Content Fit into the SEO Audit?

Our SEO Audit, as we have mentioned, covers three main areas. The first is an On-Site Analysis that determines the quality of your site. This is a thorough dissection of the factors of your website and its pages that affect the way users and search engines perceive and gauge your site. Evolve will run reports that reveal how well the search engines can crawl your pages. Page Ranking pie chart   We examine the visual aesthetics and usability of your site to see whether visitors will enjoy exploring your pages. The second part of the audit is the Competitive Analysis. Here we closely scrutinize the brand’s top three competitors and compare how each one performs online. We examine the keywords they target, the quality and quantity of inbound links from outside sources, and the level of content that is displayed on their website pages. The final step of our SEO Audit is our keyword research, which we deliver to the client to use at their discretion. Ideally these terms will be leveraged in multiple ways, such as paid Search campaigns, on-site content, and link building efforts. Evolve’s SEO Audit is an extensive report, addressing all areas that require a webmaster’s attention and action. One recurring theme that we stress is the importance of content. You’ve heard us exclaim “Content is King!” because it is true. In this digital realm, content sits on the royal throne. This chart from SEOmoz categorizes the various factors of a website that influence its ability to succeed. Read on to discover the ways content is part of our SEO Audit. Content greatly impacts a website’s ability to rank well in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and it affects the likelihood of a user choosing your site from the millions of query results. Evolve dives into the back end of your site, the areas that most brands try to forget about. This is where we take a peek at the Title Tags and Meta Descriptions, which are the snippets of text that show up in the SERPs. If they are not relevant, unique, enticing, and descriptive, we recommend changes that will increase the probability of users clicking through to your website. We also review the keywords used, since these terms have a significant role in determining which terms you rank for when the search engine bots crawl your site. Getting users to your website is one thing; the other challenge is keeping them there. That’s where content comes into play once again. Effective communication and a clear, consistent message can spike your conversion rates. Some brands still have the mindset that a greater density of keywords will boost rankings for the terms used. That is not the case; rather, content should be written for people, not search engines. Well-written content can be the difference between someone bouncing from your site and completing a conversion. Finally, content is the source of your influence. Search engines gauge website authority based on how many outside sites link to your website. The more links you get, especially from valid sources, the greater influence you will have. Solid content is the best way to gain natural inbound links. It doesn’t have to be confined to the pages of your site, either. Our link building methods are “white hat,” meaning they do not involve shady link buying. The SEO Audit, as mentioned, features keyword research that can inspire your link building efforts.

Outsourcing Your Social Media Strategy

Outsourcing Your Social Media Strategy

Social media might be something your company has been avoiding. Or like so many businesses out there, you have created an account on each site, but have failed to reach an audience. Maintaining an active presence on social sites is time-consuming and often overwhelming, which is why many businesses outsource their reputation management strategies. There are many advantages to this arrangement, but before you leap into a contract, consider what is required to be truly successful.

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Retargeting: Advances in Search Engine Marketing

Retargeting: Advances in Search Engine Marketing

Lately Iave been stuffing my brain with as much Search knowledge as possible. It takes me back to the days of college general education courses, which pried me from my element and exposed my weaknesses. I’m really into literature, words, and language. Let’s discuss the internal conflicts of Fahrenheit 451 . Please, though, donat make me mess with fractions. Evolve has been a beneficial experience for me. I’ve strained my brain capacity by poring over Search-related articles, digesting new terms like “web analytics” and completely altering my perception of how the SEO industry operates. In a more concise fashion: I’ve learned and I continue to learn. Recently, I noticed a pattern in the banner ads I have seen on various web sites. I’ve always understood that paid search campaigns are based on specific keywords that users search for. I’ve got that. It makes sense. I also realize that on a search platform, such as Google, various businesses will display advertisements on the search engine result pages. (Or as the experts call it, the SERP.) One of the brands we have the privilege of working with is Comfy Sacks. I’ve researched them a lot and have explored their site a boatload of times.



Following my research, I was surprised to see the paid advertisements at the top and sides of the various blogs or websites I visited. I wondered (embarrassingly aloud) “why are these ads appearing on a blog about social media?” I had no idea how PPC worked beyond the SERPs. I’ve seen banner ads on specific sites, but I always figured that the site owners received payment from whomever the ads represented. Turns out, there’s a little feature called retargeting that search engines use to maximize companies’ PPC investments. After I had viewed Comfy Sacks’ site, the engines followed my tail, dropping hints of the brand as I moved to other pages. Retargeting acts as a subtle reminder: Psst! Remember us? You like us. It works. It works because the banner ads are directed to people who have already shown an interest. Retargeting works when websites insert a cookie into the user’s browser. Cookies are nothing new; they’re used on nearly every site for remembering passwords and usernames. Now they’re also used for personalizing banner ads on sites.

Retargeting is really an advanced form of direct marketing. What better way to advertise than to focus in on a particular niche? Traditionally, this was (and still is) initiated with the purchase of lists from database-creation companies like Acxiom. The lists purchased include contact information of consumers that fall into a specific category. Often these lists are compiled via credit card swipes or entry forms online. Did you recently receive an e-mail blast advertising a subscription to Popular Photography magazine? Could it be because you recently purchased a camera? You bet. It’s all about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. Due to retargeting, the chances of hitting “the right person” are greatly increased when the scope is significantly narrowed. Retargeting is great news for businesses. It’s been said that a customer needs to be contacted multiple times before following through with a sale. Retargeting banner ads can provide that persistence. It certainly improves the chances of a sale. And that’s always a good thing.

Written by Emily Wisely.