What excitement there was in the Bleeding Edge cave recently when we discovered that the Web site for which we assumed responsibility in April – after our promotion to advertising executive for the spouse’s small business – had gained a Google PageRank of 3.
The average Web user probably isn’t aware of the significance of the Web analysis algorithm developed by Google co-founder Larry Page, and the increasingly manic fixation of an entire industry of search engine optimisation and marketing experts on understanding and honestly (and in some cases dishonestly) exploiting it.
You could remain entirely unaware of the existence of the PageRank universe unless you installed the Google Toolbar and started observed the movements of a tiny green band in the toolbar’s central white slot, as you navigate from one site to another.
It’s a long way from our paltry 3 to the maximum PageRank of 10, but that sudden elevation from zero was enormously encouraging, if symptomatic of an increasingly obsessive state of mind.
We’re beginning to wonder, in fact, if OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) isn’t an inevitable consequence of PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, which was revolutionised by Larry’s eponymous rating system, and Google’s multi-billion-dollar AdWords system.
We’re the first to admit that we’ve become obsessed by PageRank and Google’s other analytic tools. We don’t have time for television these days. Instead we read books like Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, now available in a second edition for $44.95. If you’re paying $1 per click to Larry Page’s enterprise (and many businesses pay a good deal more), it’s an insignificant sum.
All those hours with Steve influenced us to change many of the elements of our Web page which were influenced by the elements of conventional graphic design, but unfortunately made it highly unlikely visitors would easily find what they were looking for, and stay around long enough to become customers.
We’ve also had to drop everything we’ve learned in a lifetime of professional writing, and develop a different way of communicating. Our guide in that area has been linguist Janice “Ginny” Redish, through her book, Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works ($55, Morgan Kaufmann).
Her advice helped us to let go of at least half of the words on the site and hold readers’ attention longer – facts which we confirmed by installing the code for Google Analytics. We used that extraordinary free tool to discover where our visitors came from, and analyse statistics like bounce rates (immediate exits by visitors), time spent on the site and the response to different pages.
We’ve also spent hours learning the intricacies of Joomla!, the CMS (Content Management System) that manages our Web site.
The results have been gratifying. Aside from the improved PageRank, we’ve increased the Click Through Rate on our AdWords more than ten-fold – admittedly from a tiny base.
Managing AdWords campaigns is a tricky business. You have to choose the right keywords – the search terms your prospective customers use when looking for the services you provide – and construct three-line text ads with no more than 95 characters that will perform well against your competitors’ efforts.
You can learn a good deal about the black arts of AdWords if you’re prepared to buy services like those offered at perrymarshall.com. A relatively modest investment in one of Perry Marshall’s products helped us immensely in our early days.
But the process requires constant monitoring, testing and refining. Because we also have columns to write, and Google PageRanks to improve, we’re leaning towards outsourcing the responsibility to an expert.
There’s no shortage of people with dubious pretensions to expertise in the world of Web design and online marketing, and it’s essential, in our opinion, to obtain a recommendation from a trustworthy source … preferably after you’ve done enough homework to understand the principles.
In our case, we had a conversation with Adam Blake, who runs a home nursing company called Kinder Caring. His business was spending around $100,000 a year on Yellow Pages advertising. He spent another $70,000 with a marketing consultancy that failed conspicuously to contribute to the bottom line.
Eventually he signed up with search engine marketing expert Philip Shaw, at CleverClicks.com. He’s transferred his ad spend to Google AdWords, and in the process cut his expenditure in half, and increased sales by 25 per cent.
Shaw is a former accountant and investment banker who worked with Woolworths and the National Bank, before re-educating himself and establishing CleverClicks as a project-management consultancy that looks after the complete mix of online marketing, including Web design, search engine optimisation and online advertising campaigns.
We’ve committed some funds to developing a more complex campaign with CleverClicks, and we’ll report on the results. In the meantime, we’re doing some heavy reading on the art of turning a PageRank of 3 into a PageRank of 5.