Expand Your Reach with Press Release Optimization

Press release optimization is the process of enhancing your release so that it will be seen by the readers you want to reach, whether they are journalists, editors or online influencers.

By optimizing your press releases for the web, you can get your message out to the widest possible audience and maximize media coverage.

There is a significant opportunity through press release optimization. Prospects are searching for your solutions on search engines, news search engines, news aggregators and blogs.

Today, it is not enough to send your release out on the news wires and post the html version on your site. You must reach online news media and beyond to get the kind of coverage your brand needs to succeed and thrive.

According to a survey by Middleberg/Ross:
• 98% of journalists go online daily
• 92% conduct online article research
• 81% conduct general searches
• 76% are looking for sources or experts
• 73% go online to find press releases

In addition to the media, there is a community of thought leaders, educators, analysts and researchers who do not see your release when you use traditional distribution channels. These valuable influencers get their news from RSS, blogs and news feeds. Your challenge is to reach this expanded audience.

Expand Your Reach
The scope of possible venues for your release is broader than ever before and is growing almost daily. With a well-optimized release you can reach influencers at channels including:
• Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live Search, Ask and more
• News Channels like Google News, Yahoo! News, MSNBC
• Tag-based search engines (social book marking)
• Technorati (tracking 112 million blogs)
• Blogs, many driving up to 500,000 visitors every day
• Hundreds of news feed aggregators
• Thousands of expert sites and subject-specific websites
• Syndicated Internet services (e.g. PRWeb) – searched eight million times a day

There are many reasons to go beyond traditional release distribution. There are five main benefits of optimized press releases:

1. Reach Qualified Influencers. You’ll significantly expand the reach of your press release to a highly qualified and targeted online audience.

2. Get more visibility on the major search engines. Online visibility on Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live Search and other search engines means greater opportunity for meaningful media coverage — online and offline.

3. Gain higher rankings. An optimized press release will obtain immediate links back to your site which will help with the “authority” of your site and improve rankings.

4. Increase company and brand visibility. Optimized releases drive traffic and increase brand awareness for corporate or brand website.

5. Expand your reach. Get more media coverage with online outlets not reached by traditional dissemination services.

Four Steps of Release Optimization
Getting the best results for your release is a four-step process: optimizing, distributing, tracking and archiving.

1. Optimization
Optimize the contents and links of each press release based on relevant keyphrases. This includes the generation of a static HTML version for posting on your main website to enhance your website rankings.

2. Distribution
Select the most appropriate media and news channels and disseminate your release across the best networks to maximize distribution in the most cost-effective manner. This includes the creation of an RSS feed for static sites and submission of the feed to a variety of services in conjunction with PRNewswire and BusinessWire.

3. Tracking
Monitor and measure your release’s success with metrics including feed subscribers, press release circulation, downloads, page views and hard-copy prints of each press release.

4. Archiving
Each time you distribute a well-optimized news release it’s an opportunity for short and long-term gain. Short-term, you can secure top rankings on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Long-term, with an on-going optimization campaign that uses best practices strategy, you create a fully optimized arsenal of releases that provides an archive of information for journalists and thought leaders.

The bottom line is, through effective press release optimization, your company can achieve a significant and measurable increase in brand visibility, web site traffic and sales.

Google’s Flash Update And Your SEO

Google sent ripples throughout the search and web communities in July by announcing it had been indexing Flash content and had launched a specific algorithm specifically for ranking Flash content. In this issue, Catalyst Organic Search Director Jason McGovern discusses how this change may affect your SEO campaign.Q: Why is it important that Google is indexing Flash?
Jason: This appears to be such big news because Flash has been incompatible with search. This has long frustrated web marketing professionals because it forced them to choose either the design impact and interactivity of Flash or the search performance and traffic of more traditional web platforms.

Now that Google has announced that it is indexing Flash content it would appear that site owners can have the designs they want without sacrificing traffic or rankings. However, appearances can be deceiving and this update may not have the impact many are hoping it will.

Q: How will this update affect search engine results?
Jason: The answer remains to be seen; searchers will definitely see Flash content in Google results pages, but no one will know how much more until we better understand Google’s plan for addressing the quality control, usability, and accessibility issues associated with Flash.

Q: Does this mean Flash is now search friendly?
Jason: Not necessarily. Flash content may not be as bad for search as it was a few weeks ago, but there’s no evidence yet suggesting it is as search friendly as HTML text. Considering the issues inherent in Flash, we feel that Google will not treat Flash and HTML content equally for some time.

Google is first and foremost a text-based search engine and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future. Flash, on the other hand, is primarily for non-textual content: movies, images, and audio. Google can only index text and links from Flash movies. Unless your Flash content has a significant text component, it likely won’t be any more search-friendly now than it was before Google’s announcement.

Q: Can all search engines index Flash content?
Jason: No. Currently Google is the only search engine that has announced it can crawl and index Flash content. We suspect Yahoo! will be making a similar announcement in the upcoming months as they have access to the same technology that Google is using to index Flash content.

Q: What does this mean for SEO campaigns?
Jason: At this time, we recommend proceeding as though nothing has changed. While we’re cautiously optimistic, there is too much uncertainty surrounding this update to justify increasing your site’s Flash content or changing how your site handles Flash.

Q: Which sites will benefit the most from this update?
Jason: Sites with large amounts of Flash-based text and links and unique URLs for all pages will benefit the most from this update. Websites that are completely Flash-based, or do not have unique URLs for all pages, or sites that have large amounts of Flash-based video and audio content in lieu of text will not benefit much, if at all, from this update.

Q: How can site owners optimize Flash content?
Jason: Most site owners won’t need to do anything to optimize their sites, Google will crawl them automatically. To make sure Google can crawl your site’s Flash content simply follow these steps:

1. Make sure your Flash content isn’t blocked via robots.txt file or robots meta tags.
2. Directly reference Flash content from your web pages. Avoid referencing external Flash files through client-side scripting.
3. Make sure Flash content (or the page hosting it) is accessible to search spiders via hypertext link or XML sitemap file.
4. Limit, if not eliminate, the use of Flash detection scripts; these scripts often inadvertently prevent search engines from accessing Flash content.

Q: Do site owners still need SWFObject?
Jason: SWFObject is a Flash-delivery mechanism that uses JavaScript to identify and render Flash content. It has become increasingly popular over the last few years because of its compatibility with search. Ironically, because it uses JavaScript to reference external SWF files, it seems very likely this Flash delivery mechanism will prevent search engine spiders from accessing a page’s Flash content. Site owners may consider removing SWFObject from their sites; we’d recommend against such an approach at this time of the likelihood such a move would have little to no search benefit.

Q: Is there any Flash site owners should avoid?
Jason: Yes. Despite this announcement from Google, we strongly recommend against the following:
• Websites created entirely in Flash
• Flash-based navigation
• Flash-based splash pages

Q: What’s the most important thing to learn from this announcement?
Jason: If you’re building or even thinking of building a website with large amounts of Flash content, you need to contact your SEO team immediately. If engaged early enough in the development cycle, experienced SEO professionals can help you and your design/development teams leverage this recent Google update for maximum effect.

About Jason McGovern
Jason is Catalyst’s Organic Search Director. In addition to leading Catalyst’s SEO discipline, Jason is attached to several well-known brands, including Pfizer, P&G, and Novartis. He has over eight years of search and Internet marketing experience and before Catalyst has served as a marketing manager, web developer, and copywriter. Jason has a B.S. in Biology from Allegheny College.

How to Manage Multiple Brands Online

The growing interest in search marketing, and a greater understanding of its value, are intensifying competition online. For companies with multiple brands, this competition is even more extreme as brands compete with each other for valuable search “shelf space.” In this interview, Catalyst Account Director Ann Kane discusses strategies and tactics for managing multiple brands online.

Q: Has search competition reached a plateau?
Ann: No, there is ever-increasing competition across search. We can look at it from two perspectives. First, more competitors are entering the space and more players are becoming savvier about search. Even for companies who have historically invested in search, there is no guarantee that they are going to stay leaders online and ahead of the competition.

Second, in addition to direct competitors, companies have to consider their indirect competitors. A search competitor is anyone that is competing with you for the top 5 to 10 spaces on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This may be an organization that does not share your industry or your target market. Companies need to look at substitutes as competitors. Even your own retail partners and distributors become your competitors online.

Another factor is how search has evolved. We are seeing more types of competitors because of universal search. With blended search results, in addition to text, consumers may now select from images and videos posted by other consumers. These results require marketers to optimize a broader set of digital assets as search engines test integrated results.

Q: Is it common to see companies with multiple brands in the same online space?
Ann: Yes, it is very common, especially when a company has a core competitive advantage in the space and wants to maximize the value of search. For example one of our clients has three different drugs for the same condition, each treating a different population. For this client, ownership of the space means that doctors and patients recognize that the company has a product portfolio with a drug for everyone. Search captures people across the decision-making process, from the top of the funnel when they may just be learning about a condition to those already in treatment. Therefore, it is not just relevant to one specific brand in their portfolio.

Companies with multiple brands need to employ different tactical strategies to differentiate brands from each other and from their competition. That is when it becomes even more valuable to have a single search strategist managing both Paid Search marketing and Search Engine Optimization efforts. A dedicated team can stay on top of the space, analyze where you reside and determine where the growth or white space is.

Q: What are the challenges of managing search campaigns for multiple brands?
Ann: One challenge is internal competition. In Paid Search that equates to overall cost impact. If both brands are aggressively bidding on the same top keyphrases for the top position, you are driving up your own costs.

Another challenge is balancing visibility and engagement. With proper differentiation, your click-through rate may actually drop and cost-per-click may creep up, but when you look at the brand level you may be getting a higher quality visitor. You need to make sure that you target an audience that is more specific to your solution set.

Another challenge is the narrow space restrictions of the Search Engine Results Pages. With advertisers limited to 25 characters in a headline and 70 in the body copy, you have to be very targeted in your claim and adhere to best practices. These restrictions complicate the overall management.

For example, best practices dictate that an ad should run as much of the actual search query in the ad copy as possible. And this means a portion of the headline or descriptions lines will be bolded so that eyes track to it. However, with three different products we can’t necessarily adhere to that because of space constraints and the need to differentiate between brands.

Q: How can an advertiser with multiple brands differentiate brands from each other and from their competitors?
Ann: Sometimes it is on the long tail where consumers are looking for niche products. When the problem that the consumer is searching on is the same for multiple brands, the differentiation must lie in the solution. For example, if a company offers several brands of cleaner, it must differentiate whether it is a floor or dish cleaner, liquid or detergent. It is also important to layer in different calls to action. This way you will funnel consumers to your site that are more apt to be looking for your specific solutions. You need to differentiate product benefits, call to action, category, product type, and the specific offer in the ad copy.

Q: Do tandem paid search campaigns cannibalize each other?
Ann: With multiple brands you have to expect a certain level of cannibalization across the board. You will compete for some of the top of the funnel searchers. The benefits of tandem campaigns are that at the franchise level you own more of the search shelf and the searchers that do click-through are likely to have a higher purchase intent.

Q: What are strategies you recommend for these advertisers?
Ann: With multiple brands speaking in same space, the ads need to be as targeted as possible. As search becomes a larger share of the marketing platform, it has to be integrated earlier in the process. Online advertisers must capture the value of the offline holistic messaging. Whatever the company is saying the major claim is has to be integrated into the ad copy. For example, if you offer a treatment with an annual versus a monthly dosage, you must make sure you can incorporate that point of differentiation into the ad copy. Another benefit of incorporating the offline message is that searchers will be predisposed to interact with the online ad because they have already been exposed to it.

Q: Is it more challenging to manage multiple brands online or offline?
Ann: All media has limitations — TV and radio ads are typically 30 or 15 seconds and billboards are only 5 seconds of exposure. Every advertiser would like more time and space. But we do the best we can within these limitations.

With multiple brands online it is even more crucial to test the messaging. For example, you may think the product benefit is annual versus monthly dosage. But with proper testing you might find that consumers prefer pill versus liquid form. No matter how small the issue, you must be willing to test and let consumers drive back what they see as the value.

Q: Are the strategies different for Paid Search and SEO?
Ann: We are always looking for opportunity and white space — where are people going to be receptive to our message? When you have multiple brands, you have the opportunity to balance paid and organic search in order to extend your ownership of the channel.

There is only space for thirteen paid ads on Google. It is a fixed space; you cannot add another page like you can to a magazine. And with new competitors, if they all run best practice ad copy, the messaging becomes a commodity. And if you offer three brands with the same search terms you are part of setting the market price on those terms. But organically we find you have 15 to 20 words to build on. So if you have a limited paid budget for one product, or you want to lessen competition on the paid side, leverage that with another product on the organic side.

About Ann Kane
Ann Kane is an Account Director dedicated to Procter & Gamble and Novartis brands. She has nearly a decade of advertising and marketing experience, including work on brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Kayem Foods. During this time, she has worked collaboratively with clients, creative teams, and advertising partners to create effective, integrated plans. She recently earned her MBA from the Carroll School at Boston College.

Paid Search Q&A: How to Improve Your Campaign Performance

The strategies and tactics behind successful paid search marketing campaigns have grown dramatically in their complexity over the past few years.  If you haven’t changed your approach, you could be losing potential customers and squandering your paid search marketing budget. Read this month’s interview with Catalyst Vice President of Paid Search, Tim Breen, to find out how get the most from your paid search campaign.

Q: How has paid search marketing changed?

Tim: One of the major changes in paid search marketing is how the search engines determine your ad position and cost per click.  It used to be easy to determine, but not anymore.  Advertisers can no longer count on having their ads in the top paid search positions based solely on their bids and click-through rates.  Today, all the major search engines use complex algorithms to determine the position of ads and the amount advertisers pay per click.  The algorithms evaluate several factors such as the quality of the landing page the ad leads to, the relevance of the keyphrase and ad to the search term, the display URL, bid amount, and more. The products of these algorithms are the keyphrase and ad Quality Scores.

Q: What is “Quality Score”?

Tim: Many search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live, now assign Quality Scores to the keyphrases and ads in paid search campaigns to determine the position of an ad on a search result page and the cost per click for each keyphrase in the campaign.  The objective of the search engines is to rank the ads based on their relevance and the quality of the user experience when searchers click on the ad.  The quality score algorithms vary from search engine to search engine, but in general they are based on a variety of factors including the relevance of the keyphrase and the ad to the search term, the historical click-through rate of the ad, the display URL, the quality of the landing page, and other relevant factors. 

Q: Why is Quality Score so important?

Tim: Search engines are very concerned with user experience. Having the most relevant ads appear benefits everyone. Advertisers benefit by getting more highly qualified traffic in response to their ads. Search engines benefit because they only get paid when a user clicks on an ad. They don’t want to show an ad that’s not relevant and that’s not going to get a good click-through rate. And users benefit by having more relevant information returned to them.

Q: How can I improve my ads’ Quality Scores?

Tim: There are several steps you can take:

·      Carefully select the keyphrases in your campaign – a campaign that contains a high number of broad keyphrases will likely receive low click-through rates that will negatively impact your quality score.

·      Strategically group your keyphrases into campaigns and ad groups.  Poor performing keyphrases can drag down the overall quality score of other keyphrases in your ad group.  Assign broad keyphrases to their own ad groups.

·      Use negative keyphrases to prevent your ads from appearing for search terms that are not relevant to your product or service.  For example if you sell razors for shaving, you don’t want your ads to be displayed if someone searches for “razor scooter” or “Motorola Razor.”

·      Use phrase and exact match types for your keyphrases.  Broad or advanced match can cause your ads to be displayed to an untargeted audience which leads to low click-through rates.

·      Carefully select the landing pages for your ads. Avoid sending searchers directly to a page that requires them to enter personal information.  Make sure the landing page contains highly relevant information to the search term.

·      The display URL you select for your campaign can also affect your Quality Score.  If you have run campaigns in the past with a given URL, the click-through rate associated with those campaigns are now tied to that URL. If the historical campaigns received a high click-through rate, then it is advantageous to use that URL in future campaigns.

·      Use keyword insertion in your ad titles. Ads that contain the search term in the title are likely to generate higher click-through rates.

Q: How can I improve my landing pages?

Tim: Search engines want to be sure that the information mentioned in the ad is clearly displayed on the landing page to avoid destination disappointment. An example of this is an the ad that says, “Learn about a new drug for multiple sclerosis” but when you click on the ad it takes you to a page that describes symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The user will say, “Wait a minute, I was looking for new drug info, not a list of symptoms or questions to ask my doctor.”

You must take the user to a page that specifically talks about what you talked about in the ad. For example, if your ad says, “Save 10% in the next 30 days” you need to have a link directly to that special offer. With a campaign-specific landing page you’ll get better results, more conversions, a lower cost per click and ultimately a better ROI.

About Timothy Breen, Vice President of Search Marketing

Tim leads the account management and paid search engine marketing teams at Catalyst.  He has developed the business units into an industry leader that produces extraordinary results for our clients.  Tim brings more than 24 years of business development and marketing experience to Catalyst including twelve years of Internet marketing experience.


Optimize Your Digital Assets

Are you familiar with the term “Digital Asset Optimization?” If you are, you may know that it is the natural evolution of search marketing. If you aren’t, you’ll want to learn how to leverage this new opportunity for competitive advantage. Here Catalyst Search Marketing Strategist Eddie Emmanuel discusses this relatively new practice and how — and why — you can get on board.

Q: What is Digital Asset Optimization?
Eddie: The idea of digital assets expands beyond the normal text-driven pages that are synonymous with Search Engine Optimization. Digital assets include video, images, animations, and even audio files. These files have become assets because the Internet is no longer a text-only environment and search engines are adapting. With the introduction of Google Universal Search (GUS) last year, these files now appear alongside links to text on the Search Engine Results Pages. When optimized properly, these files are as important as text in driving traffic to your website.

Q: Why is it significant?
Eddie: Digital Asset Optimization is a more holistic approach to search that makes it easier for people to find the content they want via search, in the format they prefer, rather than relying on text documents. It is significant because consumers’ expectations are higher now, and searchers expect to find video. There’s a growing demand for multimedia web content. Internet users actively search videos, music files, podcasts, images and other digital media.

What makes it even more significant is that search engines are starting to give these pages equal weight and authority with text and they’re being included in the regular results if they’re optimized correctly. Prior to the introduction of Google Universal Search, which has inspired Ask, Yahoo!, and MSN/Live to provide their own “blended search,” you’d have to go to a specific video property like Google Video, Metacafe or YouTube to find these types of files. They would not come up in the regular search results. Because of GUS, you can now go to Google and it is not uncommon that one of the top five results is a video.

Q: How do Digital Asset Optimization and Search Engine Optimization work together?
Eddie: They are essential to one another and they operate using the same basic principles. You still need the content to differentiate what the page is about. It still has to be relevant to what the video or image or audio file is about. One difference is that there are more opportunities because video has multiple tags and attributes to optimize in order for users to find them.

Companies need to figure out how to best adjust their search marketing strategies to maintain a competitive advantage. One way to do that is to focus the right proportion of effort on standard text optimization as well as the optimization and promotion of all other digital assets. You want to give consumers the option to engage with your brand in the format they choose, not what we as marketers choose. Consumer empowerment will only improve the brand affinity.

Q: What is the most important facet of Digital Asset Optimization?
Eddie: The most important facets are engagement and brand protection. Optimizing these assets allows you to engage with consumers using new formats. Each asset, if leveraged properly, is another opportunity to engage a consumer. Secondly, you can maintain a position of credibility by having these assets listed in the search engine results pages. For example, a pharmaceutical company needs to be the authority on what its medication’s indications, side effects and treatment options are. We’ve seen negative videos put up by competitors and unhappy consumers. Posting a video allows you to protect your brand, promote a positive, consistent message, and differentiate from the competition. If you have videos that are important to your product or message you should optimize.

Q: What are the first steps of Digital Asset Optimization?
Eddie: Optimizing starts with an inventory of your company’s digital assets. You need to identify and categorize all of your multimedia, images, audio, video and any other relevant files.

The next step is to optimize the assets that you have using the same best practice SEO techniques as for any other website. The approach is not that much different from regular html-driven content – you still want relevant file names, browser titles, and appropriate content actually on the page with the video. If you have many videos it is a good idea to create html and xml video site maps for both users and search engine spiders to crawl, as well as an RSS feed for video sharing so that your videos can be found more easily.

Continue to link to other credible and authoritative sites relevant to your video. And find influencers – bloggers — to review your videos.

Third, create a digital asset strategy for your organization. Bringing your website up to speed with Digital Asset Optimization may take extra time in the beginning, but you will be providing both search engines and customers with the information they’re looking for — in the formats they’ll respond to.

About Eddie Emmanuel
Eddie Emmanuel is a Catalyst Search Marketing Strategist who is dedicated to A&E TV, Novartis, Diomed, and RainSoft brands. He has five years of experience in Search Marketing. Before joining Catalyst he worked as a Marketing Consultant at Shoebuy.com and an SEO Marketer at iProspect. He has a B.A. from Emerson College in Communications.

Outrank Your Online Competition

The steady increase in search engine use is rewriting the rules of marketing as organizations decide how best to incorporate the realities of Web 2.0 into their plans. One effect of search is that dissimilar entities become competitors when they are listed alongside each other on the Search Engine Results Pages. Now being competitive requires that you position your brand properly – not only against companies in your traditional space — but also against those who appear in the results of Google and Yahoo. Here Catalyst Search Marketing Strategist Sarah McCracken answers questions about defining your online competitors.

Q:  What is the difference between online and traditional competitors?
Sarah: Traditional competitors are those in your market space. They are companies in your industry that provide the same products and services as you do to your target market. An online competitor is very different. This is actually an entity that is competing with you for the top 5 to 10 spaces on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This may be an organization that does not share your industry or your target market.

For example, the Discovery Channel is one of the History Channel’s biggest traditional competitors since it offers similar programming. On the other hand, online competitors of the History Channel are government sites, educational sites and Wikipedia because they contain historical information and appear when a searcher is looking for that type of content online. The global nature of the Internet and the fact that control has shifted from advertisers to consumers are factors that allow non-traditional competitors to move into new spaces online.

Q: Why is it important to differentiate between online and offline competitors?
Sarah: Many companies are so focused on conquering their offline competition they don’t realize they’re being ambushed online. An organization that does not properly identify and differentiate between these two will lose qualified website traffic and potential customers. Online competitors may be companies that you would not consider as being in your space and therefore not a factor in attracting customers. But although they may not be your direct competitors for revenue they are your rivals for visibility, which ultimately impacts revenue.

One example is the competition between Coke and Pepsi. If you search for “soft drinks” online you expect to see Coke and Pepsi at the top of the SERPs, but that is not the case. Instead the SERPs include informational sites, health sites discussing the effect of soft drinks on our overall health, and educational sites. While these organizations are not competing in the soft drink industry with Coke and Pepsi, they are gaining prominent online visibility, pushing Coke’s and Pepsi’s rankings lower, and possibly redirecting potential customers.

Q. How can you find out who your online competitors are?
Sarah: The first step is to search on any major search engine for keywords that relate to your core business practices and see who comes up on the first page of the results. Companies selling products should search on the names and types of high converting products. For example, if you are a company that sells Red Sox memorabilia you could search on “Red Sox t-shirts.”

Q: What is a pitfall you should avoid?
Sarah: People tend to search for problems online, while companies tend to optimize around the solution they offer. If you are looking for competitors in your space, you also need to search on the problem, not only the solution. For example, if you spill red wine on your shirt, you may search for “remove red wine stain” instead of a specific product name. If you are a company that specializes in stain treatments and laundry detergent you want to make sure your pages are optimized beyond the terms “stain treatments” and ”laundry detergent” to include tips on how these products can remove specific stains. One of the best reasons to work with a search marketing firm is their expertise in figuring out what the consumer is searching for on the SERPs and defining the proper search terms.

Q: How does knowing your competitors influence your keyphrase strategy?
Sarah: We use online competition as one input into designing a successful keyphrase strategy for our clients. The first step is to identify your competitors in order to analyze their sites. This analysis reveals the keywords they are targeting — terms that relate to your business that you might not have considered. These are particularly important if they are high volume keyphrases. In addition to identifying your competitors, you need to know how they describe their products and services, as well as the amount of content they have on their site, including the keyphrase density and whether they use keyphrases not only in the text on pages, but also in optimizing images and videos.

Q: Is this something a brand manager can do or do you recommend professional help?
Sarah: A trained brand manager can absolutely do it; however, in order to maximize visibility and really understand what’s going on in the online space it is beneficial to get assistance from someone who specializes in search. People trained in search are taught to think about the Web in a way brand managers might not be used to. They also have access to tools and studies that may not be available to brand managers.

About Sarah McCracken
Sarah McCracken is a Catalyst Search Marketing Strategist who is dedicated to The History Channel, Iron Mountain and Biogen Idec. She has seven years of experience in Search Marketing. Before joining Catalyst she worked as a Marketing Manager for Shoebuy.com and as an Algorithmic Team Leader for iProspect.com. She has a B.A. from Susquehanna University in Corporate Communications.

Reputation Management in a Web 2.0 World

Reputation Management in a Web 2.0 World

Finding out what is being said about your company, its brand and products is becoming increasingly difficult as it becomes easier for your customers to voice their praise, or complaints, online. In the world of online marketing, social media and blogs, an organization’s reputation can be enhanced or tarnished in the time it takes a post to spread across the Web.

Hoping that negative or positive postings will come to your attention simply isn’t enough anymore. Online reputation management requires an understanding of how information is posted, shared and tracked on the Internet. In this issue, Catalyst Director of Project Management Jennie Bendowitz answers questions about protecting your brand in a Web 2.0 world.

Q: What is the difference between SERP brand monitoring and reputation management?
Jennie: Brand monitoring simply means scrutinizing the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to identify positive, negative and neutral uses of your brand name online. Reputation management refers to proactively engaging with what you find online. Being able to be responsive to negative postings is very important. You want to be able to respond to the writer, get them to retract or, even better, update or correct their posting.

Q: What are the benefits of reputation management?
Jennie: Reputation management is essential to protect your brand on the Internet, strengthen customer relations and outpace the competition. In general, marketers have a natural tendency to think only positive things of our products. Monitoring the SERPs also provides us with a holistic view and high-level market research. For example, we recommend analyzing tagline searches prior to launching a new campaign to see what results you get.

Q: Does reputation management vary across industries?
Jennie: Yes, it has different applications depending on the industry. For example, in the consumer packaged goods arena, online brand monitoring can be an extension of influencer and brand advocate discovery. You can find out how people feel about the brand, and engage with them and their peers. A second option is market research, gathering feedback for future product development.

In the healthcare space, reputation management has a different use. Because of regulatory oversight, pharmaceutical companies are required to respond to postings regarding adverse effects. Reputation management takes on a more proactive role in which companies prepare legally approved website content with which to shape the message and respond to any negative buzz online. They also prepare unbranded landing pages for people searching on “[medication] reactions” so searchers hear their message instead of a competitor’s (or anyone else’s for that matter) on the topic.

Q: What’s the difference between monitoring Paid and Organic search results?
Jennie: In the sponsored, or paid listings, it is important to identify anyone who is misusing or abusing your trademark or brand name to prevent infringement, inappropriate use or worse, brand-jacking. One example of domain hijacking is “Swiffer.” If you type “Swiffer” into Google, there is a URL with three Fs — swifffer.com. Most searchers don’t look at the URL to see if they are linking to the legitimate company.

On the Organic side, you want to monitor select keyphrases for your brand to be vigilant for any posted threats, boycotts or other negative publicity. You can then evaluate the risk and determine appropriate action for both positive and negative postings.

Q: What should brand managers monitor?
Jennie: At the very least you should track your brand name in the SERPs, including variations on brand, to protect your brand equity. The brand manager or the company should come up with a tolerance level to establish what percentage of negative messaging the company will tolerate.

Q: What can a brand manager do if they do uncover negative postings online?
Jennie: You need to investigate the facts internally before taking action. Be honest. Explain what you have done to rectify any issue and offer to resolve any complaints personally or have a senior-level staff member offer to try to continue discussion offline. Rally friends, clients, peers and utilize your allies. You should always optimize your online assets – web pages, videos, press releases, and images – and obtain third-party links to reputable sites to get higher rankings and push negative postings down.

About Jennie Bendowitz
Jennie Bendowitz is the Director of Project Management dedicated to Biogen Idec, Novartis and Proctor & Gamble. She has seven years of experience in project management and nine years online marketing experience. Before joining Catalyst she worked at ACIS (American Council of International Studies) managing all aspects of the ACIS and divisional websites. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree from Boston University’s School of Management.

Social Media and Healthcare

Social Media and Healthcare
Social media is a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored by today’s competitive companies. Last year, 73% of advertising and media executives surveyed said up to 20% of their marketing budgets are allocated to using and experimenting with new media platforms such as blogs. In 2008 pharmaceutical marketing professionals are looking for creative ways to tap into online media to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. One of the most effective ways of engaging physicians and consumers is through Web 2.0 social networking tools. In this month’s issue, Catalyst Search Marketing Project Manager Dan Ouellette discusses these tools.

Q: What is “social media?”
Dan: Social media, also called social networking, involves all of the shared aspects of being online, including blogs, forums, message boards, newsgroups, news feeds, bookmarking sites and sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

Q: Why is Social Media important?
Dan: Consumers – including physicians — are spending more and more time online and less and less time reading, listening to the radio, or watching TV. Media spending by all advertisers – not just pharma – needs to shift to new channels that consumers are using.

Social tools can improve multiple types of relationships for pharmaceutical companies. Patient-based social networks can help companies understand and react to patients; opinion leader blogs and forums can allow interactions with healthcare providers; and internal blogs can help leverage in-house knowledge to improve best practices.

For example, one of our clients is using a non-branded site with many social networking tools to engage consumers and help patients manage their high blood pressure. Companies can also brand a forum with advertising or become a member to raise awareness or share success stories.

Q: What are the benefits of social media?
Dan: Social media engages consumers on their terms and adds a new dimension to pharmaceutical advertising: engagement. Reach and frequency are the traditional factors used to measure marketing effectiveness and ROI. Social media can build brand awareness and strengthen connections with patients, physicians and healthcare providers. These tools can be used to create vertical communities around specific conditions. Linking to or from a blog can sometimes improve search rankings and increase web traffic. A blog that is updated frequently, with high quality content, will also boost site authority and rankings. Read More »

Search Marketing: The Last Mile

Whether you call it Closing the Loop, The Final Leg, or The Last Mile, the process of getting any deliverable – including information – to the final consumer is challenging. For marketers, The Last Mile means getting our message in front of customers, in a way that is relevant and timely, wherever they are – outdoors, at the movies, watching TV or on the Internet. In this interview, Catalyst Search Strategist Ann Kane tells why search marketing is “The Last Mile.”

Q: Why is search referred to as “The Last Mile?”
Ann: Search is considered a “Last Mile” vehicle as it is an interface that connects brands to consumers. Not only does it establish a direct line of communication, the connection is initiated by invitation of the consumer. Consumers are searching for solutions to a needs state, condition or problem. For marketers, this means they are receptive to messaging that provides them with a relevant solution. Both sides benefit when the outbound messaging from the brand complements the inbound line of communications by the consumer. Brands can also learn how to better deliver upon solutions to consumers needs with thoughtful analysis of the volume of data search marketing makes available.

Q: How do search marketing and offline marketing connect?
Ann: The basic tenet behind holistic marketing and campaign integration is that offline messaging drives consumers to search. The ever-growing reality is that consumers react to advertising and messaging from traditional communication channels like television, magazines and radio by going online and searching for more information. From our experience, we see offline messaging generates measurable increases in search queries and clicks.

The key to capturing this boost is to integrate messaging and timing from the traditional channels into search marketing plans. For marketers already running search campaigns, this could mean simply budgeting for incremental demand. For marketers who are new to search, we recommend testing a paid search campaign around offline activity.

Read More »

Channel Integration: How to Maximize Your Marketing Investment

Marketers now have opportunities – and challenges — we’ve never had before. With the diversity of channels and media, consumers have so many more options. Marketers must be prepared, no matter how a customer expresses interest, to respond to that intention. Search engine marketing is the vehicle for not only responding appropriately, but also converting that customer, tracking that customer, and gathering an incredible load of data on that customer’s behavior. But often this opportunity isn’t leveraged because of a simple lack of communication between web, print and broadcast marketers. Below, Catalyst VP Lee Tuttle gives his insights on how to improve communication between the online and offline teams.

Q: Why is it important for offline and online marketing teams to communicate?
A: The offline team is responsible for a multitude of channels — TV, direct mail, newspapers, yellow pages, magazines, radio, podcasts, and more. The online team manages paid search engine advertising and website optimization.

There are three main reasons you want these two teams to communicate well. 1) To ensure the brand delivers consistent messaging and user experience; 2) to maximize brand exposure; and 3) to make best use of your marketing investment.

Read More »