The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

.htaccess for Windows Server: How To Use ISAPI Rewrite To Handle Canonicalization and Redirects For SEO


ISAPI Rewrite, .htaccess for Windows Server.If you’ve read previous blog posts of mine, then you know how important I think having a clean and crawlable website structure is for SEO. When performing SEO audits, it’s usually not long before the important topic of canonicalization comes up. Canonicalization is the process of ensuring that you don’t provide the same content at more than more URL. It’s also one of the hardest words in SEO to pronounce. :) If you don’t address canonicalization, you can end up with identical content at multiple URL’s, which can present duplicate content issues. And you don’t want duplicate content. For example, you don’t want your site to resolve at both non-www and www, at both http and https, using mixed case, having folders resolve with and without trailing slashes, etc.

In addition to handling canonicalization, you also want to have a system in place for handling 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect and will safely pass PageRank from one URL to another. This comes in handy in several situations. For example, if you go through a website redesign and your URL’s change, if you remove campaign landing pages, if you remove old pieces of content, etc. If you don’t 301 redirect these pages, you could end up paying dearly in organic search. Imagine hundreds, thousands, or millions of URL’s changing without 301 redirects in place. The impact could be catastrophic from an SEO standpoint.

Enter ISAPI Rewrite, .htaccess for Windows Server
So I’m sure you are wondering, what’s the best way to handle canonicalization and redirects for SEO? If you conduct some searches in Google, you’ll find many references to .htacess and mod_rewrite. Using mod_rewrite is a great solution, but it’s only for Apache Server, which is mainly run on linux servers. What about windows hosting? Is there a solution for .net-driven websites?

The good news is that there is a solid solution and it’s called ISAPI Rewrite. ISAPI Rewrite is an IIS filter that enables you handle URL rewriting and redirects via regular expressions. It’s an outstanding tool to have in your SEO arsenal and I have used it now for years. There are two versions of ISAPI Rewrite (verseions 2 and 3) and both enable you to handle most of what .htaccess can do. Actually, I think so much of ISAPI Rewrite, that it’s the topic of my latest post on Search Engine Journal.

So, to learn more about ISAPI Rewrite, the two versions available, and how to use it (including examples), please hop over to Search Engine Journal to read my post.

ISAPI Rewrite: Addressing Canonicalization and Redirects on Windows Server

GG

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

SES NY 2010 Series: Augmented Reality and Mobile Marketing, An Interview With Rachel Pasqua of iCrossing


Augmented Reality and Mobile Marketing.This is the second post in my SES NY 2010 series. The conference is only one week away and I’ll be covering it again via blogging and Twitter. As part of my coverage, I’m writing a few posts about sessions that piqued my curiosity. As I was scanning through the list of topics being covered at this year’s conference, it was hard not to be interested in the session about Augmented Reality (AR). AR is the hot new technology that merges real world data with computer generated elements, and it provides a world of opportunity for mobile marketers.

Last week I was able to speak with Rachel Pasqua, the Director of Mobile Marketing at iCrossing, who will be co-presenting the session titled “Augmented Reality: A Brave New World”. The session will focus on how marketers can use Augmented Reality to create new and engaging ways to connect with consumers. The session is being held from 4:45PM-5:45PM on Tuesday, March 23rd. And if you’re not that familiar with Augmented Reality, you’re not alone. Although there has been quite a bit of buzz about AR over the past year or so, there are still many marketers scratching their heads about how to best use the technology.

Augmented Reality and The Blistering Speed of Online Marketing
Online marketing is now moving at a blistering pace. That’s up from a staggering pace last year, and an astounding pace the year before. :) It’s part of what I love about the industry. Augmented Reality is one of the most recent advancements, and I find there’s a lot of confusion about what it actually is, how you can use it, and what the future looks like for the technology. Currently, the iPhone is driving AR, based on how many devices are in the market and the ability to easily develop iPhone apps. Then of course, you have the app store, which then makes it easy to market and sell apps once developed.

What Is Augmented Reality?
As mentioned above, Augmented Reality combines computer generated elements with real world data. For example, an AR Twitter app for your iPhone might superimpose other Twitter user profiles that are in your vicinity, based on the GPS signal on your mobile device. Another example would be the ability to virtually try on clothes via an application that uses your webcam mixed with computer images from an online store. Although there are endless ideas for using Augmented Reality, the technology is still extremely new (which somewhat limits the real-world possibilities for marketers in the short-term). You can build the best app in the world, but it’s worthless if few people understand how to use it! Many of the AR apps available now still struggle with providing the value needed to gain traction, but that’s definitely starting to change. For example, Zugara recently launched a shopping app that enables you to virtually try on clothes via your webcam. It looks pretty cool, and definitely provides more value than many of the AR apps on the market. I expect more of these types of AR apps to hit the market in 2010.

My Interview About Augmented Reality With Rachel Pasqua
Rachel Pasqua of iCrossing.Based on my interest in Augmented Reality, I was able to track down Rachel Pasqua to ask her some questions about her session. Since Rachel is neck deep in mobile marketing, I was eager to hear her thoughts about Augmented Reality, the future of the technology, and how marketers can use AR to connect with consumers. I found that Rachel provided a very real-world view of the technology (no pun intended).

So without further ado, here is my interview with Rachel:

Glenn: What are the top two or three things people will learn at your session?

Rachel: Like most new technologies, AR is mostly being used right now for its own sake (because marketers are excited about using this new technology.) My presentation, entitled "What's the ROI of AR?" will focus on ways in which various verticals can use Augmented Reality to support real marketing goals, as well as simple tips for getting started.

Glenn: Can you provide some innovative ways that companies are starting to use AR in their marketing efforts?

Rachel: The only truly innovative usage I have seen so far is the United States Postal Service’s Virtual Box Simulator https://www.prioritymail.com/simulator.asp It's a great example of AR being used to provide a service and improve the overall customer experience.

Glenn: Is there a high cost of entry to developing AR applications? Also, what type of turnaround is there for developing an app?

Rachel: The cost of developing an app all depends on the complexity of the app itself, what you put into it, and who develops it. You could get a freelance app developer to build you one for ~$25K or you could hire a hot agency to concept, design and market one for $150K+. Like all digital marketing, it really all depends on what you're trying to achieve. There are several AR SDKs out there that can be used to implement the actual AR functionality so there's not much additional cost to developing an AR app versus any other kind.

Glenn: Are there many vendors or developers that are up to speed on the technology?

Rachel: Yes, many - AR is one of the most promising new areas of mobile marketing so this is something developers are pretty excited about.

Glenn: Are there services, software or tools on the market that can help companies develop and employ their own applications (without external development)?

Rachel: The LAYAR API is probably the best known right now. http://layar.com/

Glenn: Are there any case studies you are going to provide (along with statistics) about AR apps?

Rachel: None that I'm aware of just yet - this is all so new and most examples are gratuitous use of technology rather than well planned out marketing initiatives.

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If you are interested in learning more about mobile marketing and how Augmented Reality works, then you should definitely check out Rachel’s session at SES. Again, the session is titled “Augmented Reality: A Brave New World” and is being held from 4:45PM-5:45PM on Tuesday, March 23rd. I believe the session will give you a solid understanding of how AR is currently being used, as well as what the future looks like for the technology. Now, let me go virtually try on some new cargo shorts via Zugara. :)

If you have any questions, post them below. Either Rachel or myself will respond.

GG

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SES NY 2010 Series: Getting Penalized and Banned in Search, An Interview With Michael Stebbins from Market Motive


How to get penalized and banned in Google.It’s that time of year again. SES New York is only a few weeks away and I’ll be covering the conference again via blogging and Twitter. As part of my coverage, I’ll be writing a blog posts previewing some of the sessions that I’m excited about attending. My first post is about a session titled “Post Mortem: Banned Site Forensics” and it will be co-presented by Michael Stebbins, the CEO of Market Motive, and Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOmoz, on Tuesday, March 23rd at 12:45. During the session, Michael and Rand will share some of the most egregious tactics that can get you in trouble, and also how to deal with getting penalized or banned. I had a chance to interview Michael last week about the session and you will find the interview below.

Getting Penalized or Banned in Search
If you work in SEO long enough, you’ll eventually hear the nightmare stories about sites getting penalized or banned by the search engines. I actually monitored a site a few months ago (a major brand) that was pulled from Google’s index for a five to six week period before being reincluded by the search giant. I can’t imagine how much money the company lost during that timeframe. It took me only ten minutes of digging to understand what they were doing wrong (and the tactic was blatantly against Google’s webmaster guidelines). That was a bad move and I’m sure it cost them dearly.

But every company being penalized doesn’t set out to break the rules. I’ve seen many instances of companies implementing dark grey to black hat tactics simply based on a lack of experience. They might have read about how to quickly rank highly on some random blog and went ahead and implemented those tactics. They weren’t necessarily trying to game the system, but ended up making changes that could get them in trouble. Sure, they might jump up the rankings for a few weeks or months, but they also might eventually get caught. That’s typically when the companies getting penalized or banned seek professional assistance.

Michael Stebbins of Market Motive.Needless to say, this is an important topic in SEO and why I chose to write about the session here on my blog. Michael has a wealth of experience in helping companies that have been penalized or banned, and was able to take a few minutes last week to answer some of my questions.

So without further ado, here is my interview with Michael Stebbins:

Glenn: What are the top three or four things people will learn at your session?

Michael: We'll cover which sins are forgivable and which ones can result in indefinite exclusion from the search results. We’ll also cover how to know if your site is banned in the first place. We get calls for help where site owners are certain they've been banned and it turns out the site is still indexed, but is penalized. Being penalized and being banned are very different outcomes. I'll show attendees a way to know for sure. We’ll then cover the five most common reasons sites are taken out of the index and I'll show the do's and don'ts in the reinclusion process.

Glenn: In your opinion, what are the leading causes/tactics for sites getting banned (over the past 12 to 18 months)?

Michael: Nearly all the “unforgivable” sins center around trying to fool the search engines into believing your site is more popular than it really is. The bots are getting smarter, but they are still blind and deaf. Since they cannot emulate a human behind a browser this leaves some opportunities for unscrupulous site owners to manipulate what the engines read versus what real people see and experience.

Glenn: As the engines have evolved, how have tactics for getting penalized evolved? i.e. How have older tactics like white on white text, keyword stuffing, cloaking, etc. evolved to more advanced forms of breaking the rules?

Michael: Google keeps this information close to the vest. But Bing recently posted what they are looking for to identify web spam. If you understand Google's motivation to show relevant sites, and combine this with some technical knowledge of how a bot finds and reads a web page, it's not too hard to figure out what the engines are looking for. Only certain false popularity techniques can be picked up with a bot at this time. The rest have to be reported and then checked via a manual review.

Glenn: Based on your experience, what are some of the top misconceptions about getting penalized by the engines?

Michael: It's funny, or actually it's not so funny, but nearly everyone who gets a site banned denies that they've done anything wrong. It's like a crime drama where the “victim” hides evidence out of embarrassment or denial. Eventually, we figure it out and are able to help. Another one that keeps coming up is denial of service after over-using Google resources. The denial of service relates to queries to Google's data -- not to inclusion in the index.

Glenn: Are there times where a smaller SEO violation can lead to a website completely getting pulled from the index?

Michael: Absolutely. We've found sites that trigger manual review for a forgivable sin, but once under review, an unforgivable sin is discovered and the site is beyond recovery at that point. Picture a driver getting pulled over for a tail light infraction only to get arrested for a bank robbery.

Glenn: Based on your experience helping sites that have been penalized or banned, how long does it take to bounce back from a penalty? (If a site owner goes through the process of fixing the issue and then filing a reinclusion request).

Michael: We've seen reinclusion in two weeks, but we've seen hundreds of sites that have little hope of ever being reincluded.

Glenn: Are there any case studies you are going to present during your session (along with statistics) about sites that were penalized?

Michael: I'll use some anonymized data to give examples of statistical data that can trigger a review. But for obvious reasons, we don't want to expose sites that were banned or are working on a reinclusion.

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Based on the importance of the subject matter, along with Michael and Rand’s experience, I believe this is a session that is hard to miss… I think the information being presented can help clients, agencies, consultants, and in-house SEO’s all better understand how to keep their sites in good standing. I’ll be attending the session on Tuesday and tweeting core points as they come up. Again, the session is scheduled for 12:45-1:45 on Tuesday, March 23rd.

So, be there or get banned by Google. Just kidding. :)

If you have any questions, post them below. Either Michael or myself will respond.

GG

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Advanced Segmentation in Google Analytics: How to Set Up and Use Advanced Segments to Analyze Social Media Traffic


How to set up and use advanced segments in Google Analytics to analyze social media traffic.When I’m helping clients analyze website traffic and performance, I try and help them avoid the time-consuming process of “report browsing”. Instead, I emphasize entering the process with a very specific goal in mind. You need a purpose when diving into reporting or else you run the risk of spending hours scanning metrics with nothing to show at the end but a headache and a bottle of Visine. I also emphasize focusing on actionable data, or information you can analyze and then make decisions based on. This is why segmentation is so important. I’ll explain more about segments below, but for now think of a segment as a slice of your site traffic (based on traffic source, type of visitor, etc.) For the example I provide in this post, visitors from Social Media websites could be a segment of your site traffic.

Back to web analytics and actionable data. Aggregate data from a broad view of your site traffic doesn’t tell you very much. However, data related to specific traffic sources, locations, keywords, and campaigns can reveal incredible information (and you can act on that data). For example, an aggregate website bounce rate of 70% tells you almost nothing. You cannot take action from that metric alone, since you might have dozens of traffic sources all with varying bounce rates. Some may be low (15-20%), while others may be extremely high (90%+). If you just focus on the average bounce rate at the site level, you won’t be able to make an impact easily. On the flip side, if you had a 70% bounce rate for a specific ad group in paid search (which focuses on a specific theme based on your product line), then you know there’s a problem. That’s actionable data. You can then start to analyze the keywords you are bidding on, the ad text you are using, the landing pages you are driving visitors to, etc. And actionable data impacts conversion, revenue, registrations, and overall campaign performance.

The Social Media Segment
With all the buzz about social media marketing, many companies are trying to figure out how to effectively analyze traffic from social media sites. Sure, it’s easy to see visits from social media sites, but in order to understand the impact of that traffic, you need to dig deeper and have a clearer view. It’s sometimes hard to analyze the specific data you want when several sources of traffic are mixed in your reporting. It can get extremely frustrating to say the least. For example, what content on your site do social media visitors consume the most, how engaged is that traffic segment, how much revenue do they generate, do they return to your site, so on and so forth. So, wouldn’t it be great to isolate that traffic and then run Google Analytics reporting just for that custom segment? The good news is that you can set this up using one of the most powerful features of Google Analytics – Advanced Segmentation.

What is Advanced Segmentation?
Setting up advanced segments in Google Analytics enables you to analyze very specific slices of traffic. Instead of analyzing reporting based on major types of traffic, you can slice and dice the traffic to glean actionable insights. For example, you can set up segments for social media traffic, visitors from specific countries or cities, visitors that searched for specific keywords, campaign traffic, etc. You get the picture. It’s extremely flexible and the segments you choose to set up are based on your specific online marketing initiatives. Once you set up an advanced segment, you will only view data for that segment while you traverse your reporting in Google Analytics. Advanced Segmentation is incredibly handy, and again, you gain actionable intelligence from the reporting for the segment you are analyzing. You can view the Google Analytics help area for more information about advanced segmentation.

Setting Up Your Social Media Segment
Let’s say you’ve been focusing heavily on social media marketing and want to gain a clearer picture of how that traffic is performing. For argument’s sake, let’s say you have a Facebook page and accounts at Twitter, Stumbleupon, Delicious, and Digg. You hired a social media marketer who is managing each account and that person has started gaining traction. Based on your social media efforts, you want to find out as much as possible about how that segment is performing. Sure, you could go into referring sources and view some top-level data for each traffic source, but you want more. You want to drill into several more reports to see what content they are viewing, how much revenue they are generating, which events they are triggering, where they are located geographically, etc. Let’s get started.

How to Set Up Your Social Media Segment in Google Analytics:

1. Log into Google Analytics and find the Advanced Segments dropdown in the upper right-hand corner of your reporting. It will be located above the date range and the default segment will say “All Visits”.

Finding the advanced segments dropdown:
Finding advanced segments in Google Analytics.

2. Click the “All Visits” dropdown and find the link on the left-hand side that reads “Create a new advanced segment”.

Creating a new advanced segment:
Creating a new advanced segment.

3. Now you will see a slick drag and drop interface for creating your custom segment. I love that Google Analytics made this so intuitive. On the left hand side, you will find a list of dimensions and metrics that you can use to create your custom segment. On the right-hand side, you will find an area where you can drag those dimensions or metrics and then define them. Clicking the arrows next to each category on the left hand side will reveal all of the dimensions and metrics you can utilize.

Dragging metrics and dimensions to define a new segment:
Dragging metrics and dimensions to create a new segment.

4. For our purposes, we want to define several referring sources as our segment (various social media websites). Click the arrow icon next to “Traffic Sources” and then drag the “Source” tab to the area that says “Dimension or Metric”. The “Source” tab is located near the bottom of the list under “Traffic Sources”. When you drag the source tab over the box labeled “dimension or metric”, you will see the bounding box change from a light grey dotted line to a dark grey dotted line (indicating that you can drop it there). Once you drop the source tab in the box, Google Analytics will let you type the first few letters of the site in a text field to select the specific traffic source. Google Analytics will also auto-populate the field with your current traffic sources (as you type). So, if you start typing Twitter, you will be able to select Twitter.com. You will also notice a “condition” dropdown, which gives you the flexibility for setting matching options. For our purpose, we want to use “Matches Exactly” as we want the exact social media website.

Entering specific traffic sources to define the custom segment:
Entering specific traffic sources to define a segment.

5. Once you set up Twitter.com, you can add more traffic sources by clicking the “Add or statement” link and then dragging another “Source” tab to the dimension or metric box. Start typing Digg and then select Digg.com. Note, Google Analytics will only auto-populate sites where visits exist for your website. So if you don’t have any visitors from Digg.com, then it won’t show up. You will need to manually enter Digg.com in the field if that’s the case.

Adding more traffic sources to your custom segment:
Using the add or statement to include more metrics or dimensions.

6. Add traffic sources for Stumbleupon, Facebook, and Delicious as explained above.

7. Name your custom segment by typing in the text field below the drag and drop section you have been using up to this point. You can enter something like “Social Media Traffic” for this example.

Naming your advanced segment:
Naming your advanced segment.

8. At this point, you can click “Test Segment” to see the data that Google Analytics will pull for the segment. The “Test Segment” link is located on the right side of the screen next to your various social media traffic sources. It’s not required that you test the segment, but it’s always a good idea to ensure you set up your custom segment properly.

9. Finally, when you are ready, click “Create Segment”, which is located next to the Name Segment field mentioned earlier.

10. After creating your segment, you will be sent back to your Google Analytics reporting. Note, your new segment will not be active at this point. You will still be viewing “All Visits” until you manually select your segment. To do this, find the “Advanced Segments” area again in the upper right-hand corner of the reporting and click the “All Visits” dropdown. You should see your new segment titled “Social Media Traffic” in the list. You can click the checkbox next to “All Visits” to remove that segment from your reporting and instead check the box next to “Social Media Traffic” to include the segment in your reporting. When you click “Apply” at the bottom of the advanced segments form, you will be able to view only social media traffic in your Google Analytics reports (as defined by your segment). Voila, you’re done.

Now comes the fun part. Go ahead and browse your reporting to view data just for your social media segment. This includes the content the segment is consuming, locations they are visiting from, conversions, revenue, event tracking, return visitors, etc. Pretty cool, right? Note, you can also activate multiple segments at one time to compare them in your reporting. But, that’s for another blog post. :)

Go Ahead, Segment Away…
Although this was a quick tutorial, I hope you have a better understanding of what advanced segments are and how to use them to analyze specific slices of traffic. Based on how flexible and powerful advanced segmentation is, I plan to write more about the topic in future blog posts. So go ahead and log into Google Analytics and create some custom segments. Don’t worry about corrupting your reporting or messing up any of your data. Advanced Segments won’t hurt any of your current profiles or reporting. It simply filters data for you based on the dimensions and metrics you choose. It’s like a segmentation sandbox (less the shovel and pail of course). Have fun.

GG

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