Oh, You’re An SEO Expert? How Did You Come Up With That Title!

With over 15 years of experience in the search marketing industry, one of the things that takes me by surprise is how often the term “expert” is thrown around.

Unlike a medical doctor who goes through years of studying and training to only eventually reach a level where they can admit that they “practice” medicine, search marketers seem to believe that they can reach their apex level of understanding and execution within the first two years of working at a start up company or an unknown agency.

Because the search industry is still the new kid on the block, as far as traditional marketing and media are concerned, this pronouncement of expertise is allowed to exist largely because of consumer ignorance and employer negligence. Simply put, most small business owners are too busy to invest time and energy in learning search marketing strategies and large Fortune 1000 brands are too big to really care about anything in their marketing budgets that is not broadcasted through a television screen.

So how do businesses and brands assess the credibility and capabilities of the search marketing consultant or agency they are working with?

What experience and attributes allow a search marketer to claim a particular level of expertise?

While I cannot offer a literal blue print for how businesses and brands can identify the perfect consultant to work with, I can certainly say that there are a number of great questions to ask in determining what type of ”expert” you are working with.

Here are three questions to ask to understand the level of expertise your search marketer brings to the table.

1. Have You Ever Worked in Traditional Media?

There is a reason why businesses invest money in television and other forms of offline media. It is because they successfully drive immediate traffic and sales.

A 2011 study conducted by Thinkbox showed that TV is more than twice as effective at creating sales uplift per equivalent exposure, than the next best performing marketing medium.

So when you are looking to grow your brand through digital media, it is important that you connect with someone who also has professional experience working with traditional marketing.

This type of background sets brands up for success when their organic search campaigns plateau, as this experience allows you to understand what offline factors can be implemented to propel a client’s search metrics from traffic and search interest to click-through-rate and conversions.

From a search perspective, being able to identify offline media channels that increase top-of-mind awareness and drive offline consumers to digital properties is one of the most effective ways for improving search visibility, online authority and immediate conversions.

Someone who understands what goes into an entire marketing wheel and how each element can be manipulated and used to benefit the client is precisely the type of ”expert” businesses should be working with.

2. Do You Read or Do You Write?

American particle physicist Frank Oppenheimer said, ”The best way to learn is to teach”. Those words could not be any truer in the world of digital marketing.

learning-pyramid

In search marketing, there are two types of ”experts”. Those who read blogs and regurgitate the tips and advice they repeatedly see (usually on a 101 level site like Moz) and those who write the articles being read.

For the trained eye or the experienced search consultant, it is easy to identify those who read blog articles and do not conduct tests to understand the validity of what they read.

They usually use a lot of industry jargon like ”maximize your opportunity” without going into the ”how” and ”why” a particular strategy will do this. They also like to tell their clients that they, ”need to add more content to your site in order to rank well” without ever identifying what specific forms of content work best per industry, audience and niche as far as capturing the most qualified, ready-to-buy online consumer.

But for businesses and brands who are not able to make the distinction between those who can speak the part and those who can execute, miscalculating the credibility of your search marketer can lead to a variety of poor results that range from mismanaging your brand’s customer service reputation through social media, or setting up the wrong filters in your robot.txt file and blocking search crawlers from indexing your entire e-commerce website.

So when deciding what SEO firm or consultant you are going to work with, make sure that you choose someone who is an active contributor to the industry’s thought process, someone who influences and directs the strategies of others…Not the person who is being directed.

3. Are They Company All-Stars by Default?

Another significant consideration for qualifying someone as an ”expert” is their level of experience working with a variety of search marketing companies and agencies.

The idea that ”you only know what you know, and you don’t know what you don’t know” is completely true in digital marketing and unless the search consultant you are working with has had the opportunity to work for three of four different company’s, they are by default limited in knowledge and insight.

integrated-marketing

An ideal search-marketing manager is someone who has had the opportunity to approach digital marketing from a variety of angles. I personally began my career in sales, pitching local businesses geo-targeted search concepts and learning the pain points that most small business owners face on a daily basis, considering their marketing demands.

I then had the opportunity to manage content development for a start up company in Boston. Here I learned exactly what makes a particular form of content shareable and attractive enough to capture qualified online consumers, regardless of the type of industry or forms of services my clients were dedicated to.

After that, I was recruited to directly manage and guide all search strategies and development for Fortune 1000 brands, including Duracell, Febreze and Oral-B.

If I had not been able to experience organic search and digital marketing from these various perspectives, the value that I would be able to offer my clients would be extremely limited.

So when looking to hire a search marketing firm or a consultant to bring your digital efforts to the next level, make sure you are working with talent that is matched by diverse experience.

Knowledge Is Power In Life and In Search Marketing

Since the search marketing industry is still in its beginning stages considering how long traditional forms of media have existed, there remains an incomplete, fragmented set of values and principles that define what a true digital marketing ”expert” is.

While certainly, everyone has to go through various points of their career in order to gain true expertise, that does not mean that your company has to be anyone’s ”what can we learn from this failure” experience.

Understanding how diverse your search marketers are in their approach to general marketing and how in tune they are with industry best practices in theory and in action, will go a long way in ensuring that your company is able to consistently reach its online goals and maximize its opportunity for growth.

Jason Corrigan

Are You Being Used?

Every time we pick up a new client it is, for the most part, the same conversation back and forth as it has been since the beginning. Yes you need to be on page and no don’t worry about running banner advertisements on your website.

Not surprisingly a lot of people understand the need to be on page 1, but a point that doesn’t often get discussed is – you also want to be in the top 3 if at all possible. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious and important being if you’re at the top of the page the basic understanding is that you’re there on purpose. Your business knows what it’s about and is a leader in its field.

Banner ads are a bit of an odd one to discuss with site owners, especially with how outdated of an advertising model it really is. Don’t get me wrong they definitely had their place, and still do to a degree, but the use and focus of them needs to adapt in order to best capitalize on the real estate that they use on a website. They’re not frequently clicked for example, but that’s no reason to not make the content on them highly relevant or click bait worthy.

I felt it was a couple of points to discuss after reading an article that included handy heat mapped images. If you’re unsure what a heat map is, the simplest explanation is it’s a graphical view of what a user is focusing on the screen or clicking on with their mouse. There’s some interesting points to note in each image, and each image supports the discussions we’ve had with clients in regards to how people use the web and potential visitors may use their website.

searchOn the Google results page for example there are a couple of points to consider, the purple X markings are mouse activity, where the user has clicked on the page with their cursor; the red lines are approximate comparisons of monitor resolutions. Knowing those two pieces of information if it wasn’t readily apparent before then it should be entirely clear that being number 1, 2 or 3 is almost a mandatory result where the search results are concerned. We often get into a discussion with clients where we talk about being ‘below the fold’ that is the area of the screen where a user has to scoll in order to find them on the results page. Knowing that bit of information and using the red lines as approximate screen size and resolution it’s a clear cut example of being at the top of page 2 (if the visitor ends up there) is more beneficial than being at the bottom of page 1.

bannersThe second image with the banner ads highlighted in yellow are a clear demonstration that when users visit your website, banner ads just are used so infrequently that they hardly register on the heat mapped areas. That doesn’t mean however that they’re not completely useless, they can still absolutely be used for brand awareness and if you were to leverage your own banner areas to promote specials or sales on your website you would absolutely be able to take advantage of the real estate on your site.

Have a closer look at the heat mapped images attached, then have a look at your search results for your search terms and your website – how would your site stack up?

Spending Money To Make Money

growthWith organic search (the center of the page results) often the leading driver of website traffic, it’s vitally important to make sure that those visitors are performing the tasks that you want. This is where you need to think about your conversion rate optimization, where we sit down and break down for you what pages are working and which pages aren’t.

With the proper tools it’s fairly simple to determine what visitors are doing on your website and from there you can shape their experience when they arrive. If you’re looking for a product purchase for example and you notice that you have a sudden influx of visitors looking for mitts and toques landing on your internal pages, it would be a good idea to take a good hard look at those landing pages to make sure the message is being delivered correctly. After all it won’t do you any good if they’re wanting to buy winter wear and you’re not prominently displaying it on your outerwear pages or on your front page, it leads to an increasing bounce rate that can cause search engines to unduly scrutinize your website.

We’ve had experience occasionally as well with clients who are too eager to try and sell their products or services, so they create multiple pages and layouts trying to push the same points. Typically this is referred to in marketing of all mediums as split, or A/B testing and it’s an invaluable tool to determine what sells best on your website. You may find out that something as simple as making your SALE! banner orange instead of blue causes visitors to purchase more product, and with that type of information you can change some of your higher margin items to hopefully pull in more money for your business. A common mistake when working with this type of market testing though is you can be hit from the search engines with a bit of a penalty coming back at you related to duplicate content. And while all of the content is in fact yours and you’re merely trying to determine what works best, the search engines only see text on a page – not context. When you’re ready to learn how best to leverage this type of testing feel free to give us a call to help you grow your business.

And then there is one of the biggest issues of all and it isn’t one that is tied only to conversion marketing. We often assist clients in creating an updated website for themselves and train them in how to properly use the site if they’re so inclined, every now and then we see them creating more issues for themselves than they should – usually by changing content they’ve had us optimize for search or conversions. Or at the worst entirely removing that page from the website entirely. Now sometimes removing pages can be a positive step to conversion optimization, it can stream line the process for example where a sign up or a check out page is concerned, but if you’re too aggressive with your removals you can end up tanking your website and it’s conversion pages down the results pages if you’re not careful with how you instruct the search engines of your changes and updates.

There’s no real magic with how to properly take care of these issues, but it does require a distinct set of skills, one that seems to elude some of the shops that claim to sell SEO services to the masses. It is a rather disturbing thought to realize that there are still to this day companies out there trying to sell themselves as search experts who don’t even understand all of the basics of the industry.

Six Good Reasons Why You Might Want To Buy The New Apple iPhones

IPhone 6Apple finally launched its bigger iPhones this week as well as introducing the first new product in years called iWatch. Despite them being vanity products, there is a huge lure for consumers to get them!

1. These are the thinnest iPhones yet!

Apple calls the design of the new iPhones “a continuous, seamless design”. What it means is that the surface is texturally unbroken and the cover glass (“ion-strengthened, referring to a process in which a type of ion is exchanged for another to make the glass more durable) meets the anodized aluminium backing without tactile differentiation. With a thickness of 0.27 inches for the iPhone 6 and 0.28 for the iPhone 6 Plus, the two are the thinnest yet of all iPhones. But here’s the clincher: at 0.30 inches, the iPhone 5s is only fractionally thicker.

2. We’re also talking of an impressive display

The 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays of the two phones boast diagonal screens with “Retina HD” displays. And these displays come with notably higher resolution: 1334 by 750 pixels (326 pixels per inch, or over one million pixels, slightly higher than 720p) for the iPhone 6, and 1920 by 1080 pixels (401 pixels per inch, or over two million pixels, and native 1080p) for the iPhone 6 Plus. The new screens also have broader viewing angles, and both the phones have dramatically higher 1400:1 and 1300:1 contrast ratios, respectively, compared with the 4-inch 1136 by 640 pixels (326 pixels per inch) screen with 800:1 contrast ratio found on past models.

3. Of course, both are bigger too

The screens of both the phones make them bigger phones as well. 6.22 inches high by 3.06 inches wide (the iPhone 6 Plus) and 5.44 inches high by 2.64 inches wide (the iPhone 6), compared with the iPhone 5s’s 4.87 inches high by 2.31 inches wide.

4. Good news: both will have zippier processors

The A8 chip, Apple’s second-gen 64-bit offering with some 2 billion transistors, Apple says, sports up to “25% faster processing power and up to 50% faster graphics.” With these impressive numbers, rest assured that they’re better than some of the fastest phablets available currently.

5. Their batteries just got much better

The iPhone 6 Plus’ large battery, which Apple says lets it do up to 80 hours of audio (as compared to the 60 for the iPhone 5 and 50 for the iPhone 5s), 14 hours of video (11 and 10 for the iPhone 6 and 5s respectively), an hour or two more than the iPhone 6 and 5s when browsing over Wi-Fi, LTE and 3G, up to 24 hours of talk time over 3G (versus 14 and 10 for the iPhone 6 and 5s respectively) and 16 days of standby (versus just 10 days for both the iPhone 6 and 5s). Now these are definitely impressive numbers we’re talking.

6. All hail the new cameras!

The cameras of both the phones are perhaps the coolest sounding improvements. The 1080p iSight camera in both phones is still 8MP with 1.5µ pixels and ƒ/2.2 aperture (like the iPhone 5s’s), but includes a new sensor that supports an autofocus-enhancing feature called “Focus Pixels”. It is the same as the ones we find in high-end DSLR cameras. Apple says that the autofocus in them is faster, and continuous (a great thing for video). With improved local tone mapping and noise reduction, you can shoot video at 30 or 60 FPS, and take slo-mo video at both 120 and 240 FPS. The cameras also include video stabilisation (the Plus includes optical as opposed to digital image stabilisation, meaning the lens moves to compensate for shaking), and the new phones can identify faces (and blinking, and smiling) more efficiently whether close up or further away.

And… now your panorama shots can be up to a whopping 43 pixels now.

The still-720p, 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera has been upgraded, too, with a new sensor and larger ƒ/2.2 aperture, bringing it up to par with the iSight in that regard. It can also do automatic high dynamic range in videos (the iPhone 5s only supports this in photo mode) and has a “burst” mode, which Apple says will let you take up to 10 photos a second.

SEO explained – 20 quick current factors

If you are reading this then you are investing time in understanding the topic which is a step in the right direction.

But let’s pause a bit and let me summarize the most important SEO.

1.) You need to have a website in the first place if you are a small and medium business owner.
2.) Your website and website text should contain those words and search terms you would like to be found for.
3.) Your website need to be complete and informative on your specialist subject field
4.) You should consider the cost of investing your time in order to employ SEO as a marketing strategy
5.) Don’t complicate things. To understand the competitive nature of your industry simply Google for searches you want to be found for and see the quality of the websites on the first pages.
6.) Backlinks are important. You can ask people in your industry to link to your website if the industries are related. If they are clients or suppliers who is happy with your services they should have no problem to link to your website. You can also buy links from directories such as Yellow Pages.
7.) Make use of free tools like Google Webmaster / Google my business / Google Analytics
8.) If you can honestly say that your website’s content is unique, fresh and of the best of a certain topic then you have done your bit and then you can realistically expect Google to view you the same over time.
9.) Make sure your website’s links are all working.
10.) Regularly blog / write newsletters if you can. Make it a habit by using your newsletters to stay in touch with potential clients.
11.) Use everyday language and keep things natural. Use the words which your clients use. They will use those words when doing searches.
12.) Continue religiously to build and develop your frequently asked questions section on your website. You typically answer questions from potential client in your everyday walk of life. Look at your email inbox and outbox for a rich source of content for the faq section of your website
13.) You need to have a userfriendly CMS website which you can update easily yourself. You do not want to wait for webmasters or pay webmasters each time you want to make a change. You need to get a website from Kwikwap and Buddy Web Design.
14.) Text on images can not be read by search engines. Vanity has a price. When using fancy graphics and images with important text on your webiste Search Engines will not be able to read the text on the images.
15.) Websites specialising on certain topics do better than general all purpose websites. EG a wooden floor website will do better for searches related to wooden floors than most general contractors or handyman websites simply because the websites are topic specific and the number of times certain keywords appear is relevant to the total number of words on your website.
16.) Ensure your website works on all devices as more than 50% of searches happens with mobile devices.
17.) In certain industries you simply can not avoid using directories, specifically the tourism industry
18.) Advertising with search engines like Google can be much cheaper than SEO when your time is viewed as valuable.
19.) Use photographs of you at work/your business place to describe what is happening on the photograph. It’s about the opportunity to ad text to the website and not only about having a pretty website.
20.) Be creative and make Youtube videos of your product and services. It’s free platforms and is also regarded as quality content.

by Francois F Marais

Google knows where you’ve been

If you have an Android or Apple smartphone or tablet, there’s a good chance Google has a fairly comprehensive idea of what you do and where you go every day.

Assuming you have the location history and location reporting settings activated — which you likely will if you regularly use apps like Google Maps, Facebook or Foursquare — and are logged on to a Google account, the various points of reference being recorded can be taken together to reveal a map of your movements.

Using a little-known Google site, you can actually view the data the firm has accumulated about your activities and see it expressed as a shockingly detailed map.

googlemap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, make sure you’re signed in to the same account you use on your phone, then go to this Google website. The default view shows your movements from today.

Scary

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg SEO Services on Kijii Beware

red phoneSo I’m searching through online and decided to have a look who’s advertising on Kijii in Winnipeg if anyone for SEO Services, sure enough we have a few people/companies advertising, I came across one a Winnipeg Tech company I have never heard of offering Guaranteed Page 1, with premium packages, websites and domain name sales for very little money, they even promised to recover ranking for you.

So intrigued I had to look further, sure enough it was a new domain, registered for 1 year in Feb 2014, ok straight away that’s a red flag to me, so I looked further, let’s go to google and type the domain name in, sure enough no ranking, not even the website came up, only the address they use on their Kijii ads, but it does have a local number, no address and just one page promising the earth.

Now having been in Winnipeg for 7 years now I have seen SEO experts and companies come and go, change their name and so on, so this one is probably no different, at a guess someone in a basement or another country targeting my local market, either way not very good.

But to Winnipeggers this might look great, we do tend to be bargain hunters here, but what pisses me about people like this is, it’s these kind of people that get the industry a bad name, they come in promising the world, we have had a few in Winnipeg the last few years, you tell people but they don’t listen, rip a few companies and leave and we get to pick-up the piece or it frightens them off from the net after being burned.

So business people of Manitoba, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Please do due diligence, go to Google, type in the name and see if you can get any more information on them, then search for what it is they do and promise, if they don’t list themselves, how are they going to list your company, it’s simple really.

Beware of big RED PHONES, Just saying

 

Doing basic on-page optimization

Once you identify your target keywords, make sure you include them into the title of your page, the body copy of your page, and if possible, the URL, Search Engines like Google are getting smarter about figuring out what a particular page is about, but it still helps to make it really clear your page is about a specific keyword.
Optimization recommendations:

A Web page’s title tag is still the most important attribute you can use from an SEO perspective, Use your main keyword phrase in the beginning of the page title tag. The first 64 characters of the title tag are shown as the click-though link in a Google search result. Every page of the website should have a unique page title tag.

Meta description a good description can attract visitors from the search results page. Include one or two keyword phrases that describe the page’s content, and keep meta descriptions under 160 characters.

The H1 tag is the main header of the page. Have only one H1 tag per page. This header needs to appeal to the page visitor and describe the page.
Use the page’s designated keyword phrase “at least once near the beginning of the content, and also anywhere it makes sense. Don’t use the keyword phrase, its variation or a synonym more than 4-5 times per page.

Alt tags are the floating descriptions that show up when you mouse over an image. It’s usually best practice to use keywords and their variations in the alt text of an image, and also in the image filename.

You should try optimize your top ten pages based on traffic and expand outward from there.

 

Not So Obvious Benefits of SEO

seo-keyOne of the better things that you can do for your company is to market yourselves online properly. I know it sounds rehashed to always be talking about it, but there’s very good reasons why you should be looking online for your growth.

Benefit #1 – Cost
The barrier of entry to get involved with online marketing can vary greatly depending on your business model of course, but there is always a few niches that can be explored. Typically the due diligence while working with a new client exposes the terms that they would like to be visible for and more often than not their visitors are searching for something different all together. The differences can be as seemingly insignificant as adding a letter to a term or as radical as completely changing your course in marketing which can all impact the cost of your online campaign.

The point of the first benefit, however steep the cost may be ties the next few points together in a neat little bow.

Benefit #2 – ROI
The return on investment where online marketing and branding is concerned is second to none. When you’re bringing hundreds if not thousands of visitors to your site on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis you may end up experiencing something you were unprepared for – not being able to meet the demand suddenly imposed upon you and your business.

Benefit #3 – Qualified Audience
Quality and properly executed organic marketing campaigns bring something special to your business that print, radio and television advertising can’t claim – the audience that has found your website was actively looking for you. Old advertising and media methods are great if you’re just after pure saturation in the marketplace, but how much of your advertising dollars in those avenues are being lost due to being irrelevant to the viewer/listener/reader? Having an already qualified visitor ending up on your website is half way to having your desired conversion on your site whether it’s a sign up, a sale or a contact form filled out.