I spotted an interesting post fromĀ iCrossing via their Twitter account today. It’s about some rumours that are flying round the web on the topic of Google adding a breadcrumb trail beneath each search results on the SERPs. A grand idea and one that should help to give users an insight into the structure of your website before they even visit it (it’d be even better if each stage of the breadcrumb was clickable), however some site owners may not be so pleased.

How pleased they would be would depend on exactly how Google implemented something like this. If they can work out your site structure via the main sections, or via the page title (which would seem to be how the example on iCrossings blog shows it) then it will be a good thing for most site owners. But if they worked it out from directory structure (for example) that would cause a whole world of pain for site owners everywhere.

I think it’s most likely that this will be like Site Links (the links to main sections of a site that only appear under the ‘chosen few’ results that deserve it) and won’t be applied to all websites on the result pages. It does show the power of Google though as changes like this will always hurt somebody who has a legacy or large site and can’t afford to change it to optimise it for the new SERPs. A good reminder of why pragmatic design is so important when building a site, particularly when thinking about the structure and how that may work as your website grows over time (don’t forget your content plan)!

So we’re officially in a recession now (according to official government figures via the BBC) with no sign of things getting better anytime soon. Marketing budgets are being slashed by many and redundancies are spreading like wildfire. So, if you want to either make the most of your marketing budget, or if you’re in marketing and you want to hold onto your job, where should you be putting your money in online?

It’s pretty simple to be honest, just keep spending but make sure it’s working for you!

Something I’ve been doing for many years is capping all my online marketing spend through the use of a CPA (cost per acquisition) limit. Work out what you can afford to spend per sale/referral/lead and still make a profit, optimise your use of the various marketing channels available to keep your cost per acquisition under the limit, and then keep spending!

Hard to justify in the current climate? Just build a business model to show your boss (or yourself) which demonstrates the returns available by keeping spend tied to a CPA.

This is one of my bugbears, especially with regards to PPC (paid search). If it’s working for you, your campaigns are optimised continuously, and you’re coming in under your CPA, then why not throw more money at the campaign? Yes, you have to be diligent to ensure that your CPA limits are adhered to, but once you have it embedded as a process in your organisation it’s not that difficult to grow your spend and as a result your return.

So where should the marketing spend go (in online)? Well, into channels which are measurable and where you can track the returns. Paid search, affiliate marketing, banners (yes, you can work to a CPA if you use the right tools), social media campaigns, viral and of course natural search (search engine optimisation). Of course SEO deserves a different CPA to other channels as it’s naturally cheaper to do as long as you stick to the principles and don’t get sold by an agency looking to charge you the earth for something that costs nothing but common sense.

Search engine marketers aren’t having an easy time with Google these days.

Google have made a change to the search results interface which aims to make it more Digg/Wiki like by allowing users to move results up and down the list, delete sites from a results set and even add sites into a set of results.

For the user this is actually a really nice piece of functionality as it allows you to tailor search results to make them more relevant to you, I’m assuming it’s all stored in your web history so future searches keep the customisation.

What this does do is make it really hard for a search engine marketer to know whether what they see as the top ten results on Google is what the users are seeing. In most cases the answer is probably no now.

I think it’s a great move though and could actually help to focus the search engine optimisation industry on making pages more relevant through improving content and engaging users as that is what will encourage them to keep a result high up their list!

Full details on the Google Blog.

Sometimes even a mega-company like Google casn get beaten to the mark with a new piece of functionality that they should really be providing themselves. The reasons for this? Perhaps they overstretch themselves with their range of products and can’t focus enough to add the bells and whistles we’d all like? Or maybe they get a product to the point where it gets traction and keeps acquiring users and then leave it open for the rest of us to add the bells and whistles functional pieces?

Whatever the reason, there are occasions when great additions are made to their services which they aren’t responsible. The latest of these that I’ve come across is something called Glync which has been created by a company called Virante.

It’s a Firefox plugin which grants them access to store your data from Google Webmaster Tools to enable them to show you a graph showing the history of incoming links to your site and how that changes over time. An extremely useful tool, but in my opinion one which should be a standard feature of Googles webmaster tool set.

How long will this plugin be useful? Until Google decides to offer it themselves I’d say. That said, it is a very nice piece of functionality and the free version is most useful.

According to SEMPO (the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) it does.

Apparently money is shifting into search and away from print and classified at an increasing rate. The reason for this I’d surmise is that search is being seen as a way to follow consumers rather than just trying to put an ad in front of them. It’s now widely accepted that most markets have a need to be active in search so it’s natural for spend to shift towards it.

Key findings from the SEMPO study are:

  • The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
  • North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up significantly from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
  • Marketers are finding more search dollars by poaching budget from print magazine spending, website development, direct mail and other marketing programs
  • Paid placement captures 87.4 percent of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5 percent; paid inclusion, 0.07 percent, and technology investment, 1.4 percent.
  • Google AdWords remains the most popular search advertising program, but both Google and Yahoo sponsored search spending has decreased from a year ago

Here’s how the spend is shifting:

Shifting to search is great for all the SEO agencies out there but is also going to make their jobs a lot harder as they have to work for their money to get clients to the top of the listings. As competition grows, so it becomes more difficult to get dramatic improvements in position, some SEO agencies have had an easy ride in recent years and that’s going to get harder.

Other developments will also affect SEO such as the introduction of semantic search technology (as announced by Yahoo recently). Developments such as this could change the rankings entirely and again will mean the agencies have to stay ahead of the game and work hard (not a bad thing).

Marketing Sherpa has quizzed 420 top digital marketing experts about what they feel are the most effective methods for advertising online and which give the best ROI.

Search engine optimisation came top, this is not surprising as the ROI is incredible. Some changes take such little effort and can return such amazing gains that SEO will always be the top in a survey like this.

Second came behavioural targeting for adverts, slightly more surprising this one as I wasn’t aware the technology was quite there yet to get a better ROI than other ways of advertising such as paid search.

Paid search (or PPC) showed quite a drop in confidence in delivering ROI, however marketers said that the biggest increase in budgets would be in the paid search arena.

And the biggest trend in measurement for this year was voted to be the integration of search and email analytics with your standard onsite analytics thus completing the tracking of the customer journey. Integrating offline and online campaign tracking came second here, now that’s a holy grail and I don’t believe will be truly possible for a year or so longer.

Interesting study; more available here.

A report has been released by Anderson Analytics as the results of a survey of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (a 1,700 strong network of marketers at VP level or higher). The survey asked what marketing concepts these executives thought were going to be the top trends and concepts in 2008.

Worryingly, when asked which marketing concepts they felt were going to be most important the second highest answer turned out to be SEO!

Now, I don’t know whether marketers are unsure what search engine optimisation is or perhaps this was a particularly ‘offline’ group of marketers, but SEO is already hugely important and in my eyes if you haven’t grasped that yet then it’s a bit late. Saying that it will be the second most important concept next year is amazing to me. It’s been part of my life for 12 years and is really just part of the routine I go through for any digital project.

Here’s the rest of the list:
If you had to ask me what some of the concepts I thought were important for next year were (in digital), I’d say:

  • Offline/online translation (getting your offline campaigns translated in a seamless manner onto digital media, something that really isn’t being done very well at the moment)
  • Viral (campaigns should always be thought of as viral if they touch the web)
  • Widgets (cross pollination of marketing campaigns online using widgets)
  • Social media (yes, it’s huge this year, but next year should see it mature and the launch of OpenSocial will make it more important than ever)
  • Banners (controversial one this but we are now at a stage where banners should become more like widgets and really start to become properly engaging, whether this will happen I’m not sure as most agencies who design banners aren’t particularly forward thinking)

Underpinning all of those, and every other online marketing concept, should be SEO.

What do you think the key concepts of 2008 will be?

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