How much branding is too much?
Every time we meet with a client whether they are new or old, we always discuss their keyword targets and their online branding as it exists. The error that seems to consistently crop up is when you try and be to precise with your targets. Branding is a great marketing tool and to be easily and quickly recognizable is great, but there is such a thing as going too far. I’m going to use a tire shop as an example of how branding, while great, can quickly go bad as well.
As the shop owner of ABC Tires you need customers to keep your doors open and you need to market yourself to get those customers. You could go with print, radio, television or online, but you need to pick one. Having the specialty line 123-Z, is a great way to help pull in organic traffic online, as you can build pages and content and optimize them so that they can climb the results pages until you’re at the top. When you start to see that increased attention from a brand, and you push all of your focus into it is where you’ll actually find your shop starting to flounder in it’s use. At the core you are not a 123-Z sales outlet, you’re a tire shop and that is the marketing and branding image that needs to be stressed, not a single inventory item.
We have had clients see growth and traction on a specific set of keywords, and have tried to push hard into marketing onto those specific terms. Having a target to aim for is great for our use, because it allows us to tailor your online marketing campaign for your goals. But it can quickly get out of hand if all of the content and design starts to reflect only a single term. Diversity in your keyterms and in your marketing is vastly important, as you can actually lose traffic and conversions by being to exacting. You can’t see the forest through the trees if you focus only on your branded terms because they get the most conversions. While you want to be the first site that shows up for your company’s names in Google SERPs, you also want to be present for other search queries. Don’t be afraid to diversify your keyword strategy – you might find that with a few tweaks to your keyword strategy that a whole new world of customers lies just beyond the search engines, looking for you and what you have to offer.
There’s a main point that needs to be kept in mind when working with your website and search engine optimization. Your top priority needs to be your consumer, whether you are looking for sales, sign ups, etc. When you sit down to have a look at your website, your content, your print ads, you need to always know, you are not creating content for yourself. You’re creating this content to be digested by people you wish to attract.
Between the trillions of webpages, the thousands of television commercials, or the billions of pages of print advertising available, it may seem like a lost cause to try and be noticed. But no matter how daunting the obstacles might seem to be, there are ways to tackle the mountain of being found, and turn it into a simple bump in the road. A general rule of thumb to always have in mind when working on your brand, website or advertising – keep it simple. The more complex your imaging is, the more convoluted you make your content, all equate to putting up road blocks for your consumer. Often times, complexity is found in simplicity, keep your images crisp, clear and to the point of your brand, Coke and Pepsi are great examples of this. If you see a billboard painted completely red with a simple white wavy line drawn on it, you almost immediately think ‘Coca Cola’.
The same can be said of your written content you deliver, whether on your website or in print advertising if you still use newspaper adverts. Being cryptic, or non-descript in your text is more likely to hurt your advertising efforts rather than reward them. Think of your target demographic, the consumer which you wish to attract and even those who might see your advertising and be curious enough to search for you. Stay away from using strict industry only terms if you’re trying to improve awareness of your product. Having a clear, and concise call to action on your website is one the larger issues to over come when working with new clients. It is too easy to become caught up in trying to sell your company or products, and never get to the point of actually saying ‘Buy now!’.
Google recently wrote a blog about re-imagining some of the more influential advertising campaigns in the past 50+ years. One of the advertisers made the most relevant point, that covers every advertising avenue you could explore. “No matter what media you’re in, think about the content. Content is what matters.” – Amil Gargano
With the influx of so many SEO “experts” into the field over the last few years, it’s not really a surprise when discussion topics begin to crop up about some old topics. The most recent discussion which has had me pondering who might actually work with this individual, involved one of these aforementioned experts.
Apparently they’ve noticed that when they made content changes on their website, it has zero impact on their search rankings. The point which this began to bother me, is somewhere along the way this search engine otpimization expert had learned or decided that your content was what would make you or break you online. That is true to an extent, but just like you need more than just flour to make a cake, your content isn’t the only factor that will make your website king. Content is not the only piece of the puzzle, just like social isn’t, just like working for quality links isn’t, just like a properly coded and built web site isn’t. They’re all pieces in the SEO puzzle, they need to be put together properly and completely to make you a leader in your field.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo have maintained for years that the content of your website is tantamount to your ranking within the SERPs, but it’s not the only deciding factor. Your tags, your headers, your images all tell a story to the spiders who digest your content and file your website accordingly. If you own a business which makes blue shoes and your content is about red umbrellas with tagged pictures of yellow bananas, then you’re not going to get too far on the SERPs for any term as you’re not relevant to any of them. If however, you’ve created your website, developed your content around blue shoes, provided and tagged pictures of them and optimized your web site properly? You will be viewed as highly relevant should anyone search for the topic ‘blue shoes’ online.
I think the best way to describe how content relates to your SERPs appearance would be – your content is how you tell the spiders who you are. If your content is relevant to all of the elements present on your website, you will be rewarded for your hard work. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to craft your content to be as relevant to your niche as possible, then there should be no surprise if you do not appear in the index for terms you may wish to rank for.
There are many steps which are part of a successful organic SEO campaign. There’s all of the little steps like writing good content, making sure you have the titles and meta tags in place and having a menu which is comprehensive. When you’re finished with the good practices pages, you begin to read about one of the time intensive steps of the campaign, link building.
Since Panda has reared it’s head over the last year or so, there’s been chatter about how the SEO game has fundamentally changed. That scrapers and content aggregators, the black hatters and the link buyers would just disappear and we’d have pristine, precise results. Time has started play it’s part and while the scrapers, aggregators, black hatters and link buyers have mostly been swept away, there has recently been a new call to revamp the way the system has been working. The desire to change the link building metric portion of the search game sometimes comes up in discussion as the points for and against the practice are argued. When you break it all down to the basic points, primarily every search engine will tell you the same thing: content is king. If you produce quality, relevant content, you will rank in the SERPs.
The kicker about producing this kind of content however, is you will naturally receive back links to your site and it’s pages. When you’re a new site and you need to visit and email possible consumers and possible partners in the same niches, building those back links takes time. But they will be built, they will be taken as a metric by the search engines and until an algorithm can come along which can read and evaluate content as a user would, link building will be relevant. It will be an important portion of any and every organic SEO campaign no matter how big or how small. The success of your link building campaign can be directly tied to how much work you’re willing to put into contacting those who are in an industry which compliments your own.
There are a lot of tips out there online about search engine optimization and the methods you can put to use to rank higher in the Google/Bing/Yahoo SERPs. You can find some of the same type of posts on our blog here as well. You’ll find discussion of white hat techniques, black hat techniques, the common steps known as well as some of the not so obvious ones.
What you don’t find very often however, are posts about what not to do, or what to look out for when you’re looking at contracting a company to perform SEO on your website. While the search engines are somewhat flexible in what you’re allowed to do, there are most definately some tricks which can get you black marked, all the way to completely kicked from the SERPs.
So, when you’re looking for a company to perform optimization on your site, keep your ears open for any of the below terms. If there is mention of using any of these practices, it’s time to run for the hills.
Using Cloaked content
This is one of the most common, and most likely to get your company banned, practices out there. For the most part, when you create content for your site you’re telling the search engines what your site is for. Google/Bing/Yahoo then lists the website under the titles and keywords that is found in that content. Cloaking content is when a company shows Google content, and then shows viewers different content such as ads or links to malware infected sites. This is what is cloaking and will get a site removed from Google in very short order.
A lot of blogs talk about how the meta data for keywords and description are defunct, but Google often looks to these as indicators of keywords that make up a site. For example a site about water softeners will often contain content relevant to that industry. Some companies, however, try to gain new content by what is known as “keyword stuffing”. Mainly this involves hiding keywords with single pixel sized font or camouflaging text the same as the background color to try and get listed more often, for more terms. It may seem to work short term, but it will get a site removed from the SERPs.
Duplicate content Websites
Some novice SEOs and SEO companies try to increase rankings by putting the exact same content on different pages on multiple sites. Typically they also use a scraper tool to gather quality content from websites for their own. Search engines have gotten adept at catching this and will happily penalize, a website that has too much duplicate content.
Auto Generating Content
Another poor technique is to use a program to write content for your website. This is exactly as it sounds, taking one article and then having a program rewrite the article by changing a few sentences and keywords over and over again.
Those are only a few of the terms you need to be aware of when speaking with an SEO company. Absolutely stressing the point that if any of the above techniques are mentioned as a tool they use, avoid them at all costs. There is no shortcut to success in online marketing, real SEO takes time and the more time and effort you can put into it, the bigger return on investment you can expect.
If you own a website of any kind, and you pay attention to the traffic coming to and navigating it, you may discover that traffic is perhaps not flowing naturally through your pages. For example, a potential visitor arrives at your site, but upon not finding the information they were looking for quickly or efficiently they leave your site and head to a competitor. Another issue you might discover with visitors is a lot of traffic on pages which contain lots of images in regards to your market and you start to see them pop up on various other sites around the web.
There are a number of ways with which you can direct traffic on your website, the easiest of which is by building an easy to understand navigation menu highly visible on the page to help drive visitors where you would like them. Another method you can use to help direct visitors to your unique content would be to sculpt your traffic flow to your more popular interior pages on your site which contain more information than your front page. Think of it like setting up a series of traffic signals for the internet that helps people land on the pages they’re really looking for.
In the event of discovering your content is being scraped and used here or there on the internet, there are a couple of options easily and immediately available to you. You can contact the site owner and ask them to remove your content, and depending on the severity of the hijacking you may even be able to leverage the power of the DMC Act to help your case. If it’s a repeat offender, a more drastic way to deal with the prying eyes and light fingers would be to completely block their IP address from being able to access your website. It’s quick, fairly simple to implement and mostly absolute.
Using a method of blocking IP ranges can help you trim your traffic to the customers you’re truly interested in having using your site. For example with the recent buying frenzy that was created with Winnipegs new NHL team returning to town, the sales website could have essentially blocked all IPs that were not originating from Manitoba for the day of the sale and reversed the change when the sale was finished. At any rate, that would have cut down on the out of country ticket brokers from getting their hands on tickets they have no intention of using.
There’s a million and one ways to make yourself found online, local, mobile, social, organic, ppc and within each of these there are countless other methods to work on. Let’s start with the assumption that you’ve followed all of the best practices when it comes to building your website.
You’ve used CSS and XML to create a uniform and attractive look. Used even simple things such as a doctype to tell your browser what it is that it’s reading. Creative, compelling content with a strong call to action which drives your visitors to buy your product, sign up for your news letter or forum and continue visiting your pages. Your images are tagged, your categories are tagged, you’ve worked hard at being the best in your niche market and are steadily enjoying the growing fruits of your labor. And then you learn, there is more which you can do to increase your traffic flow, visibility and as a result, improve your bottom line.
There’s always more which can be done in marketing yourself online, more steps which you can take to become more visible. That step you’ve taken to tag all of your images on your website properly? Congratulations, by taking a very simple step you’ve helped increase your visibility in the image searchs in both Bing and Google. With properly tagged and titled images, it helps your customers reach your site when you have clear pictures for your product to be seen.
Another strong step is issuing news about your company consistently. Whether you’ve closed that massive new merger which will allow you to double production or support, or even if all you’ve done is decided to hold a spring cleaning sale. It’s important to remain active in the eyes of your customer. This is where a blog is an amazing tool for your business, both small and large. It’s an ideal space for all of the aforementioned releases, as well as a location for your clients and customers to reply to your posts and even suggest improvements if some are needed in their eyes.
If you’ve cornered your niche market, and created your very own brand image offline, it’s extremely important to continue that leverage online. As an example, it wouldn’t do Pepsi or Coca-Cola any good to have direct queries for their brand name, direct users to competitors websites. It’s lost revenue and a lost avenue for income.
And if you provide a product or a service which has many steps or intricacies, it only helps your case to develop your very own how to pages on your website. If you provide a specific style of door knocker as an example, providing clear and concise directions on your website on how to install and care for your product can help instantly transform a curious searcher, into a new customer.
An issue within the SERPs which is becoming more and more common, are content aggregators are increasingly ranking higher than the original publisher of the content. It isn’t a cut and dry answer as to why, but there are some steps which can be taken to ensure credit is given where it’s due.
One of the simplest steps you can take if you discover that your content has been scraped, is to ask the aggregator to remove your content and provide them with the date you originally published the piece. If they’re unwilling to remove the content, the next best step would be to ensure that your company or website is linked to the article properly and the nofollow attribute is not present.
Another step you can take, albeit a more technical one, is to use a script to disable the right click action on your website. It’s a fairly simple, and non intrusive script which does exactly as said, it prevents right clicking on your website, and disabling text selection, and the cut and paste menu which pops up when used.
The more time intensive way to make sure your content is attributed to you, entails getting the search engines involved. You can submit to Google and Bing that you were the original creator of the document, and you provide the original publication date as well. The advantages to using this method are ideally, placement within the SERPs where you want to be, but unfortunately it will take time.
With how important content is to your online reputation and branding efforts, it’s well worth the time to check in on your copy every now and then. Making an effort to search for yourself, using some of your own keywords, will in most cases, be an eye opening experience about your website.
Content is an incredibly powerful optimization metric on your website. It’s your effective communication to the search engines of the value of your website. Stuffing your page full of pictures, and not describing them in any way is almost a guaranteed way to get yourself lost online with little to no viewers via search. Now the flip side is also true, you can’t cram a thousand lines of text on a page and expect to rank on page 1 for your niche without using a degree of care.
The simplest way to describe it, you want to sculpt the language on your site, to appeal not only to the search engines, but to your visitors; current, and future of course. No one knows your business like you do, but a key point you need to be aware of as a business owner, is that your clients don’t know your business like you do. So don’t clutter your text with technical terms, or vague descriptions around products or processes. Making the assumption that your customers and clients know you as well as you or your salesmen do, can be a detrimental step in the structure of your content.
The number one rule when it comes to content generation?
On the social front of your site or experience, there’s been a mashup of the trendiest, retweetable terms determined. It seems that while there’s no sure fire way to have your news or posts immediately rebroadcasted, there are ways to help increase your chances. The most popular terms for titles would have to be “How to”, “Increase”, and “Social Media”. In theory, a surefire way to have your post picked up and passed around would be to use that text as your title, and craft an article around it. Apparently however, “Trust”, “Talk” and “Sentiment” seem to be very undesireable text tweets. Food for thought.
There’s a kaleidoscope of steps, styles, methods and opinions about the right way to implement search engine optimization (SEO) for your site. But, there are a few points which are generally accepted. Points such as:
- Quality content is extremely important
- Working actively to accrue quality links and backlinks is also paramount
- Apply K.I.S.S. to your site
One of the most overlooked steps, which should be mentioned more often is having an accurate, up to date sitemap for your website. You can think of a sitemap as the formal written index of your web pages. Up until recently, multiple sitemaps were needed if you desired to have all of your content listed easily. Be it images, text, videos, your geo location, and a news section. An individual sitemap for each was required to speed up the indexing process of those assets. Google introduced the XML sitemap 5 years ago, and have just recently changed the game a little.
Instead of multiple sitemaps, webmasters can now submit one XML sitemap to include all of your websites features. From Google:
With the increasing number of specialized formats, we’d like to make it easier for you by supporting Sitemaps that can include multiple content types in the same file.
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<video:title>Grilling tofu for summer</video:title>
The idea of the inclusion for multiple content types within one sitemap was to streamline the entire process for webmasters and their clients.