According to Hitwise, Facebook just became more popular than Google Search.
become the most visited website for the week. Facebook.com recently reached the #1 ranking on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day as well as the weekend of March 6th and 7th. The market share of visits to Facebook.com increased 185% last week as compared to the same week in 2009, while visits to Google.com increased 9% during the same time frame. Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week
Not sure of HitWises methodology – why aren’t they comparing all Google’s web functions, including Maps and Mail? – but good on Facebook! For a site that didn’t exist in 2003, that is quite some achievement.
What does this mean for the future of search marketing?
Given the lock-in for return visits, it’s unsurprising that Facebook might receive more visits than a search engine. However, the most important aspect of different channels, as far as a web marketer is concerned, is: does the traffic convert to cash at some point?
Social Media Marketing, like SEO, is a tatic. However, if the tactic don’t translate into more business, then it’s a waste of time. Whatever channel you use, it is important to establish KPIs – key performance indicators – that measure the effectiveness of your tactics, and directly relate to the success of you business.
For example, one of the KPIs often mentioned in SMM is volume metrics, such as number of followers, subscribers etc. If we were to relate this metric back to our business objectives, we’d ask how does having a higher number of followers, or people claiming to be followers, result in more business? How many of those followers are really engaging with you? Or are they, literally, just making up the numbers?
I’ve seen social media companies fudge this aspect. Some play around with the term ROI, changing the “I” from “investment” to “influence”, or to “interest”, and use the number of followers as evidence of the level of interest in a clients services or brand.
The bottom line is the golden KPI. It can become blurred in bigger organizations, but for the little guy, it is crucial.
Volume Metrics Can Be Deceiving
Search marketers know that the volume game can be an illusion when it comes to making money.
“Jokes” may be a very popular keyword term, but it’s not making people any money because there is no commercial intent. “Second mortgages” is not a particularly popular term in terms of volume, but is lucrative as it has clear commercial intent. A high position for second mortgages in search rankings will make you money.
Conversely, how difficult would it be to get buzz around the term “second mortgages” via social media? Sure, with some inventive twisting and disguising of the true message it could be done, but really, it’s pushing water uphill. The social environment isn’t really suited to such a message.
Choose The Right Environment
The two channels are like apples and oranges.
Different environments work for different messages. Social media is great for generating awareness, getting people talking, and when integrated with an SEO strategy can be a great way of getting links. Primarily, it’s a brand strategy. However, because it is a social environment, there is less tolerance of overt commercial activity that in direct channels.
Typical social media measurements include:
- Business outcomes – can you link the campaign to specific interactions, such as sales?
- Influencer Reach – how many influencers picked up on your message and spread it?
- Audience Reach – how many visitors saw your message? Link this metric to…
- Engagement – how many of those people who saw you message contacted you, or took a desired action?
Conversely, SEO isn’t much use for building brand awareness or encouraging people to talk about your message. The environment is similar to direct marketing. It is well suited to direct response and commercial activity, as the intent of the user can be determined, and if that intent is commercial, then people welcome commercial messages.
What Is Your Business
Hanging out and being cool on Facebook isn’t a business
Business on the web typically falls into one of nine groups. Which is yours?
- Brokerage – bringing buyers and sellers together
- Advertising – displaying/selling advertising
- Infomediary – run programs such as ad networks
- Merchant – sell stuff
- Manufacturer (Direct) – make and sell stuff
- Affiliate – sell other peoples stuff and take a commission
- Community – leverage your community to sell something else
- Subscription – sell content/training on an on-going basis
- Utility – pay as you go usage
Decide which business you are in. When deciding on marketing and advertising tactics, ask yourself which environment is best suited to developing your business, then develop KPIs that support that business. You key KPI should be the bottom line – either this activity returns more money than you spend, or it doesn’t.
A few years ago Google’s chief economist Hal Varian explained that scale is over-rated:
We’re very skeptical about the scale argument, as you might expect. There’s a lot of aspects to this subject that are not very well understood.
So in all of this stuff, the scale arguments are pretty bogus in our view because it’s not the quantity or quality of the ingredients that make a difference, it’s the recipes. We think we’re where we are today because we’ve got better recipes and we have better recipes because we spent 10 years working on search improving the performance of the algorithm.
Wednesday Google’s chief scientist Peter Norvig shared his view:
We don’t have better algorithms than anyone else. We just have more data.
And this is why you see so many hucksters hyping trash, committing fraud, scamming users, cutting corners, and working legal loopholes at launch time to try to grow marketshare *at any cost*
Build the scale and you have the cashflow and feedback mechanisms in place to test viral marketing strategies, improve conversion rates, increase real (and perceived) relevancy, and lock in users.
“In a July 19, 2005 e-mail to YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen wrote: ‘jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site. We’re going to have a tough time defending the fact that we’re not liable for the copyrighted material on the site because we didn’t put it up when one of the co-founders is blatantly stealing content from other sites and trying to get everyone to see it.’”
“Our dirty little secret… is that we actually just want to sell out quickly,” said Karim at one point. In an e-mail, Chen talked about “concentrat[ing] all of our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.” – Ars Technica
Welcome to the exciting world of innovation in online media!
Without brand you have nothing.
With brand even a wounded duck full of unauthorized scraped content like YouTube or Mahalo somehow manages flight, at least for a while. Then you only need to find someone dumb enough to buy the growth story and purchase the bag of smoke before the fire emerges.
Of course people don’t have to cut corners, lie, cheat, and steal to build a real business. Those are the strategies employed by people trying to sell value where none exists. You can do just fine by dominating a small niche THEN leveraging data to grow. It is not sexy. You probably can’t hype it to the media. It might not lead to an 8 or 9 figure payday. But then you won’t have to describe your strategy as “whatever tactics, however evil.”
There are quite a few spy tools on the market currently, some more heavily promoted than others. They come in a variety of flavors such as SEO spy tools, PPC spy tools, and some which do both.
Spy tools can be useful in an SEO and/or a PPC campaign. However, many of these tools essentially try to extrapolate scraped results which can lead to some fairly inaccurate results. Also, these tools occasionally come up with in-house metrics (of which they really don’t give you much useful info about how they arrived at the data the present from these “proprietary” metrics”) to help try and differentiate their offerings from their competition.
Spy Tool Reviews
There is a much more in-depth review, with examples, up in our members forum. Here, we will do overviews of some of the more popular tools on the market. Specifically, we will be taking a look at:
Value of Spy Tools
The idea that you are missing out on something is a core marketing tactic so even if you are comfortable with one tool chances are you’ve been tempted to go with another. Keep in mind, from a cost standpoint, the ROI you would take by just finding a few decent keywords to target will likely far outweigh any cost associated with these tools. Your business probably won’t collapse if you pick an A minus tool versus an A plus tool and none of these tools are able to make concrete decisions for you. What these tools provide are additional data points for you to consider in your own research.
We hope you’ll find these reviews useful. There are perhaps a few other services we missed given how many of these tools as there are and our primary focus on SEO. If these reviews are well received we could also review everything from Quantcast & Alexa right on through to AdGooroo, but we need to know if you would be interested in those types of reviews. If there are any other cool products or services you would like us to review just let us know.
A few disclaimers: some of these services have given us free review accounts, whereas we have paid for some of the others. And some of these tools offer affiliate programs, but all reviews were done without those 2 factors influencing the editorial. Most these reviews do not have affiliate links in them (I think SEM Rush is the only one which does have an affiliate link right now), and Aaron reviewed SEM Rush before they even had a public affiliate program.
Already an SEO Book subscriber?
- We license SEM Rush’s SEO data for our competitive research tool.
- The second post in this thread has some killer member’s only tips for getting the most out of competitive research tools.
- This thread is also awesome, and these three threads really shows how to use these tools in a way that really kicks arse.
If you can’t make $1,000’s from reading those threads then you certainly are not a professional grade SEO.
Compete takes pricing to a different level but has some unique features as well. They have a few different pricing levels but to get all the features you need to dial it up at $499 per month. Although, some of their lower price points may provide good value depending on what you might use them for.
Compete Site Profiles
Here is how compete gets their data.
Here is a screen shot of their site profile overlay
It’s kind of like a semi-analytics program view of things which includes:
- Unique Visitors
- Page Views
- Average Stay
- Demographic Info
- Link through’s to Referral and Search Analytics (discussed further down)
Data is available in 7 day, 30 day, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year, and 2 year increments.
The audience profile tab is similar to quantcast and is only available to the verified site owner (unless the site has made it’s info public) and the sub-domain tab shows sub-domains associated with the main domain.
Enterprise users, where there is no standard pricing listed…also get access to category profiles and behavioral categories as shown below:
You also get the option to compare up to 5 sites at once in their site profile section
Those are the options in the profiles section. These statistics are far beyond what most traditional spy tools offer and can be very useful when comparing large sites as small sites do not fare very well with these types of data sets (this is not specific to compete, it’s pretty much industry wide).
Compete’s second tool set is the Analytics Tools set. Here you can search through Search Analytics (keywords) and Referral Analytics (sites referring traffic to the domain) as well as a variety of Ranked Lists.
This is pretty sweet as you can see what search engines the site’s SEO campaign is doing well in, as well as possible advertising opportunities for your site.
It also will show you Destination sites (where users go after landing on the site you are reviewing.)
In addition to messing around with some of the filters you can take a peek at historical data (trends, seasonal, etc) as noted here.
Compete offers ranked lists which you can filter in a few easy steps
Compete lets you look at ranked lists via 3 steps (one from each)
- Step 1 – unique visitors, visits, page views, time spent, monthly attention
- Step 2 – site ranking, ranking + unique visitors, ranking + all metrics
- Step 3 – top 200, 1,000, 15,000, 100,000, 500,000 domains
Compete’s Search Analytics show keywords referring traffic to a site (or two) with some pretty neat metrics:
- Highly Engaging Keywords – Keywords that make up 40% of the total time index and have a referral share greater than 0.01%
- High Traffic Keywords – Keywords that make up the top 40% of the search referral share
- Paid Keywords
- Natural Keywords
- Engaging Long Tail Keywords – Keywords making up the bottom 60% of search referral share, with a total time index of > .10
- Enthusiast Keywords – Keywords that make up the top 40% of Average Time Index and a Search Referral Share greater than 0.01
- Long Tail Keywords
- Total Time Index – scale of 100 with 100 being the term where the searcher came from…that made up the highest total time spent on the site for ALL visits.
- Average Time Index – scale of 100 with 100 being the term which resulted in the most average time per visit spent on the site.
You can also compare 2 sites like so:
The high price point of Compete might scare some users away, but consider that their data is not just relying on scraped Google/Yahoo/Bing results then extrapolated by some internal metrics. Compete is probably more useful to those who “compete” in really competitive markets with some sites as competition, although it can be useful to folks who may be involved in less competitive SERPS with smaller sites as competitors because they can use this data to investigate larger sites in their market, which may not be competitors but could yield helpful industry data.
iSpionage is a newer player in the spy tool market. They are much more PPC oriented than organic SEO oriented. They offer 3 tool sets:
- Keyword and Domain Research
- Keyword Monitor
- PPC Campaign Builder
Keyword and Domain Research
They index the top ten results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing (although I only saw G and Y).
They give you breakdowns of common spy tool elements such as:
- Competitors and Overlapping Keywords
- Ad Copy
- Keyword Specific Ads
- Average Search Volume
- Average Rank
- And so on..
The one really neat thing they offer is overlapping keywords between Yahoo and Google for a particular domain. I’m not aware of another spy tool that does that.
Their database does not seem to be very deep but they are newer so that’s to be expected.
The do show overlapping keywords, total keyword count, and a monthly budget under their competition tab.
Here is another spot where they compare Google and Yahoo, this time for overlapping keywords between sites.
This lets you search by domain name or keyword to get ideas for keywords to add into your campaign. You can also add your own manually after the keyword research option. Keyword Monitor will show you the following for your campaign + competition:
The impression share is not something I’ve noticed in most other tools and the other 4 metrics can be useful in determining which competitor might be a bit savior in the PPC game. Other metrics they will show you on the keyword level include whether or not the keyword has direct ranking affiliates, the average CPC/search volume, and total advertiser counts in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
The tool also shows you related keywords you may wish to add to your campaign or just place on your watch list.
PPC Campaign Builder
The campaign builder allows you to search for keywords via a keyword or domain name input. The steps are as follows:
Keyword Clean Up
This is where you can weed out keywords that contain certain words, are duplicates, or have special characters. You can also choose to remove extra spaces if needed.
Here you can set up ad groups and campaigns right from within iSpionage. It also gives you the option to create one ad group per keyword if you want to get that granular
Here you can input bid prices for Broad/Phrase/Exact match bids, set up your ads, and input the url. Then you can export for use in Google, Yahoo, or Bing PPC campaigns.
iSpionage has some promise and seems to be much more into the PPC market than the SEO market. If that’s the case then they are taking on some pretty big players as many of the spy tools offer both PPC and SEO data sets. They have some unique features and it will be interesting to see how they develop their product going forward.