Interview with Jim Boykin and Melissa Ward

You came to Ukraine yesterday. What is your first impression? Did you have any expectations or stereotypes about Ukraine?

Jim – We’ve been here for less than 24 hours: incredibly beautiful. The architecture, some of the old buildings and churches are beautiful. People seem incredibly nice. I don’t know if I had any preconceived ideas about Ukraine. I knew very little. I read the Wikipedia before going, the history sounded really interesting.

Melissa – I have to say it’s busier than I thought it would be, more crowded, lots of cars on the roads, I didn’t expect that. So, you have a busy business district here that took me by surprise.

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Could you give some tips how can our country, which is not well-known in the US, in general and search engine optimization companies in particular, enter your market and get its share of it?

J – There is Ann Smarty. I don’t know if people in Ukraine realize how famous she is.

We do.

J – She had the advantage of writing in English and writing very popular pieces. It’s Jim Boykin from Internet Marketing Ninjas at Optimization 2011certainly a benefit if you know English. In the United States everything is Google. It takes form 70 to 80% of the traffic. After Google there is Yahoo and Bing that together are 20 to 30%, and then there is a couple of little tiny ones like Blekko. The latter is the new one. People in the US either love Google or hate Google, but there isn’t much choice: if you want to be in the game in the US, you have to follow by Google’s rules, follow everything Google does and wants. This industry is kind of old, but because it changes so much and there are so many new things happening, it’s still easy to get into the game now.

I would say getting into this market, if people want to choose a specialty and become an expert on it, it’s not too hard to do it in one particular area. There aren’t a lot of mobile experts or analytic experts or people specializing in Twitter or Facebook or VK. So I guess, if I was living in Ukraine and wanted to get into US scene, I would, probably, pick one topic and try to become the world expert at it, just keep writing about that topic.

I found an analytic expert. He is living in Israel. One person just said: I may be an analytic expert here, that’s all that I’m going to do. And now he is right famous out of Israel. There are so many good places and search engine journal that are looking for people to rate. So it doesn’t matter if you are from Ukraine, or Israel, or anywhere. It’s a beautiful opportunity.

M – I’d like to add to that, by doing a lot of that, you might get invited to panels at different conferences and that’s when your name or the company name really starts getting out.

Let’s go to Panda. We have a very crucial question for us, because we have a lot of clients that have projects whose content can’t be possibly unique, like huge online stores. Their descriptions of products and devices are almost the same everywhere. What is the solution for that? Is it possible at all?

J – The official answer is you need a lot of unique content. If you have 100 products, you need to find an expert on those products, an enthusiast, and they have to write such wonderful content, original research.

But…

J – I say this all with a laugh, because we know it’s not possible. But that’s what Google wants.

And I have one more theory about Panda. Do you think that Google is forcing some nichesites off the organic search results to force them into Google AdWords? Is it possible or it’s a crazy idea?

J – Oh, Conspiracy theories 🙂 It’s interesting that every time Google does an update, the Panda update, they always produce a list of winners and losers, who went down on rankings and who went up. All Google’s properties go up, they are always the winners, even though all these properties scrape. I mean, do you remember Dmoz and Google directories? They have so much stuff like that, where they just scrape other people’s stuff and yet their stuff is clean and moves up even though it duplicates, scrapes content from other websites. Google’s always are the winners.

Is Google doing to get people to spend money on AdWords? I honestly don’t think so. I do think they are honestly trying to get rid of poor results. One of the biggest things with Panda is the pogo sticking: someone types in widgets into Google, they look at the search results, let’s say they click on #1 bobsay, they go to bobsay, but then they go back to that Google search. And then they go to #2. And then they don’t come back. Google says: #1 – no solution, not good, #2 – solution.

So they count the behavior? Yeah?

J –That’s a big part of what their measuring. Google also looks at the click-through rate. If you are #1, you should be getting like 42% of all clicks, you are #2 you should be getting 14%, #3 – 11%. If you are #3 and you are getting 30% of all clicks, Google says: ‘Ah, you must be better’. #2 is only getting 2% of clicks, they push him down. Google has been doing the click-through rate for a while. But then they seem to take it to the next level, which is the bounce back to Google. Not bounce rate in your analytics, because somebody can go to a page, find the answer and leave. So the analytics isn’t accurate. The information that you really need, Google doesn’t show you and that’s who went to your site from a search result and then they went back to Google and didn’t return to you. So that’s a huge part. There’s a bunch of other stuff, like time on page, especially if they run your site for seconds and then go right back to Google.

I usually use button ‘open in new tab’, and lot of people do this.

J – That’s right, yes. There are tens of exceptions, but the majority of the time most people search that way.

There is a handful of things that Google can look at. If you now have a 5000 page website and only 30 of your pages have backlinks to them from other websites. Maybe when you were a 500 page website 30 of your pages had backlinks, but you added all this additional content and no one is linked to it, no one has referenced it. You just can’t keep your site in top without having a type of effect, any types of signals to it. Not just links, but other types of signals as well like social signals. Well, there can be a bunch of factors to that.

They look at the traffic that goes to that page, they look at the user behavior on that page, it’s like they give you a few months to get traffic, to see what people do. And then they give you a page score, and if your page score is bad, you page is screwed forever. And if all your pages fit that same profile, it, kind of, pushes everything down. Even the pages that link to that stuff get pulled down. This is part of Panda too.

How to find those bad parts of the site, if you have a huge site? Say, several thousand pages, how to find the pages which aren’t good?

J – I wish that I could say: you pull up your analytics, you export this, you export that, you compare something with the bounce rate of this, then those are the bad pages. Unfortunately no one can do it for several reasons.

Here are some hints that you can get as to what is the bad section. You can go into your analytics there is a couple of items that you can look at. If you were hit by Panda, you can look at your traffic before and after. And part of what you can look at is which sections of the website took the biggest hit, as far as traffic. If you find that this traffic fell by 95%, and this part of your site’s traffic fell by 40%, this was, probably, good stuff and this was stuff they didn’t like.

You also look at the surrounding pages as well. You can get some hints from working at bounce rate, so if the bounce rate is high, you can think what the user is doing there. If they are finding the answer, that’s fine. You also can run some duplicate content tools. Some of the easiest are, if you have product descriptions across 200 pages, take one page, grab a section of text, copy it, go to Google, put it in search and see if you have 100 pages that all have that same section. This stuff years ago Google would put into supplementary results, but that wasn’t going to hurt your good stuff. And now that stuff hurts your good stuff.

I think I gave you a couple of answers to that: look at your analytics, think like the user, track for duplicate content across the website and remove that stuff, have your expert rewrite it.

Melissa, Do you have some examples of funny stories in social media? Maybe an epic fail?

M – I have a bad story. There is a night club over by us, who was posting up about events that were happening. I don’t do their social media, I’ll say that first. So, they were posting up and saying that there was special music, and there was going to be rap that night only they put an ‘e’ at the end of ‘rap’. They sent it up, and they left it there. Nobody ever corrected it. That’s a fairly big faux pas, that’s a fairly big mistake in social media.

That’s a kind of PR, black PR.

M – I would say that the best successes are people who write well and pay attention. Those are definitely the key focuses.

J – I’ve seen a lot of people set up social accounts and then not monitor. I ran into one of them. It’s a big company. And no one was paying any attention to the comments that were made in there. In fact it was filled up with spam every day. For the last two weeks one guy was going in, saying something really mean about them. The 3rd day he said: ‘How long is it going to take you, assholes, to find this?’ And then 4th day, 5th day, it had been going on for two weeks. Every single day this guy was posting really nasty things.

M – In terms of being an administrator, one of the best changes that Facebook made is that you can set up your account now so that when somebody posts on your page, interacts with your page at all, you can get an e-mail or a text message, so that you know right away as soon as somebody has posted something to your page, and if you need to react to it, you can. Huge mistake when people set up pages, thinking ‘Oh good, maybe I’ll get Google ranking on, etc.’, and then just walk away from them. Facebook is more about reputation and positioning yourself as an expert more so than anything else.

In your opinion, if take for example twitter, is it okay for brand to be always funny, playing jokes all the time and to make people follow you just because of the jokes, not because of your brand and your products?

M – Every company, every brand has a personality. It’s not always just about you, though, you – the brand, it’s who you want to do business with. If you want to do business with people who really react to the type of marketing, well then you are attracting the people to what you want. My take would be that, if you are constantly telling jokes, but you never ever talk about it is that you do, people are going to have a hard time identifying with you. So you do well in terms of your get of followers, and maybe you do well in terms of people interacting with you, but none of that will convert, you won’t make any sales.

It’s more like brand marketing.

J – There is an opposite, so many companies, the only thing that they post is about their products. How are you going to build up a following?

M – Right, and that’s the other extreme. I was talking with Jim and I said: we need to post more photos about stuff that happens at the office, when we do a pizza day or something like that. We need to share more of that stuff, because then people who do business with us or people who do interact with the brand will get to know us. You know, they are not doing SEO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

They are dull people.

J –  All right, we are, we goof around and have pizza too. We have a lot of different personalities in the office. You should share them and goof on each other a little bit too, because, from a brand perspective, it shows that you love what you do, you are really enjoying you time, working, doing SEO and SMM.

Are you always online on Twitter, on Facebook?

M – Except for my time in Ukraine, because my phone doesn’t work here 🙂 I would say that I’m, probably, way too connected sometimes, because I babysit our pages and a couple of client pages, so I want to know if something bad happens. I check Facebook Places, my Twitter and Facebook are attached to my phone. What I like about that is that, on the personal side, people have the opportunity to meet me as a mom or I ride motorcycles and participate in other things. But they also get to see the social media expert side, because they see me interacting with brands and other people, and making connections, being responsive, in our industry the fact that you have to be a responsive person to be able to promote social media as a service. If you go off and post something and then you ignore everybody then nobody is going to think that you are good at your job.

And do you have the same profile for personal and professional purposes?

I don’t separate. It’s Melissa Ward person, Internet Marketing Ninjas is the business page, but people who are connected to me can get to my life.

Just a few questions about local promotion. Is it popular in the USA to use local, regional promotion?

J – Yes, it’s becoming very popular. They used to have Google Local, but now they are in the regular organic results. Google’s taken that a step further. They used to have a pack of local stuff: here are 7 local companies, here’s Google Map and where each company is. There could be result #1, 2, then a pack of local. What they’ve recently just started to do is some of these are no longer in the group, they are just regular results. So within the last year and a half local has become really big. 7% of people have claimed their Facebook, their Google Places. Only 7% of US businesses have claimed their business. So it’s a huge opportunity to brake in for some local experts.

M – If Google doesn’t get people to put reviews on Google Local, it aggregates them in from other websites. So Google Local ties very strongly with reputation, management and all of that.

We know the story that they used to count just the number of reviews and now they are counting their quality.

J – Yes, and they bought a restaurant review business about one or two months ago, Zagat or something, and it’s quality of reviews is a big thing, because if you have a bunch of bad reviews this is going to bring your ranking down.

Do you often get requests from clients for local search and, if it’s not a secret, what’s the average bill for the services to promote a local search?

J – It’ll be, probably, a 1000$ upfront and about 400 a month.

M – For monitor. And it’s becoming a more popular service, especially in terms of SEO.

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Interview with Jim Boykin and Melissa Ward

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