There has been blogs written many times about the cost of SEO and about how the return on investment is one of the highest in the marketing industry, there are times when optimization is just not in the budget. Whether you’re a brand new business with little to no marketing capital, or perhaps an aging business that needs to completely rework your advertising and marketing campaigns. Don’t fret however if you can’t pour vast amounts of money into organic SEO, there are still a couple of tricks you can do which can at least help you in your local marketplace.
First off, if you have a business, then you’ll have a name for it. There are a few free avenues you can explore to begin promoting yourself to your local area and if done right, your name will spread. Facebook, while primarily a social location for friends and families also has their own business listings. Instead of creating a personal profile, you create a business page with which you can begin to share information with your customers and clients in an open format. Within Facebook as well, you can use paid advertisements which will display on profiles which are interested in your business. Pre-qualified traffic can go a long way to helping your bottom line. The ad placements within Facebook do have a cost however, but the page listing does not.
Also tieing in with the free angle, using a Twitter account can be a creative way to send out advertisements for flash sales or discounts to your subscribers. Frequently updating your sales or hosting a conversation in your stream is a free way to generate buzz about your business and your products.
If you find that the information you need or want to share with your customers is too long for Twitter, having a branded blog is a great step forward to get the word out. Use your blog to promote new products which need a description, or a place to layout the details of an upcoming contest or sale. A blog is a free, simple way to get stories out to your current and future customer base.
Continuing in the realm of free, be sure to also create your Google Places page. Creating a quality page with all of your relevant location and contact information can place you within the organic search listings should you be part of the search terms entered. The Places pages are displayed just as the Google Maps listings used to be, typically at the top of the organic listings with their identifiable red arrow markings.
Those are only a handful of the free local advertising tools you can use as a business owner. When you’ve generated the traffic and are starting to improve your bottom line that’s when it’s time to take the plunge and invest in a quality built website and start building your brand on a wider scale.
The anti-trust hearings versus Google and their supposed stranglehold of the web has been continuing in front of the senate. There are people on all sides of the argument it seems, Google on the defensive, Microsoft and a few others decrying that they’ve been wronged by the search giant. And one of the most basic arguments that Schmidt has used to rebut all of the claims of unfair business could very well win the day. Schmidt’s defence basically says:
“Google faces competition from numerous sources including other general search engines (such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, and Blekko); specialized search sites, including travel sites (like Expedia and Travelocity), restaurant reviews (like Yelp), and shopping sites (like Amazon and eBay); social media sites (like Facebook); and mobile applications beyond count, just to name a few.”
Now on one hand, yes Google can provide all of the services that are available on the web, but there are simply better options. If you’re big into social networking, Facebook is still the king, if you travel a lot you use Expedia to find tickets and deals. I’ve personally used Amazon, eBay and Kajiji to post and purchase items and even the smaller search engines like Blekko have their place and a few tricks that Google just can’t do.
So Schmidt’s argument that there are options available online, users just need to navigate to them, is utterly true. Google doesn’t so much have a dominance of the internet, as it has a dominating presence in the search arena. And there are many out there who would point out, Bing, Yahoo and the littls start ups like Blekko which come along, chip away little by little at that armour. Google’s search advantage or position isn’t going to disappear or diminish in any great capacity until a revolutionary game changer makes itself known, just as Larry and Sergei did with Google.
So don’t worry about Google’s “dominating web presence” so much, instead use your keyboard and mouse and investigate the alternatives. Just because one site offers similar products, doesn’t automatically mean you have to use them. After all, you wouldn’t call Coca-Cola to order some Pepsi.
The numbers are becoming more and more visible, and since it’s launch in late June, Google+ has attracted 25 million users in about a month. Facebook, in contrast, took about three years to reach those levels , while Twitter took just over 30 months. According to ComScore. Google+ has since hit the 50 million users mark.
So how could it be that people are calling Google+ dead in the water so soon? You could blame it in part on Googles checkered social history, or even on the privacy gaffs they experienced their first time out with Buzz. Some bloggers have recently used the terms “Google is dead” and “Google+ is worse than a ghost town” to describe their Google+ accounts and activity. The strongest language would have to be a Forbes commentator saying “Google+ is a failure no matter what the numbers say”. Harsh descriptions for what has been described as an alternative social network with the Hangouts and the strong security options built in.
Even with all of these doom callers, there are just as many reminding users out there to give it time. The internet wasn’t built in a day, Facebook didn’t reach social dominance overnight and Google+ will need some nurturing time despite explosive growth early on. A strong point to consider, just like SEO didn’t exist 10 years ago, the idea of a social network didn’t exist just 4 years ago.
The measure that’s been decided of success for a social network is the level of activity on the site. When you hold up the measuring stick of “700,000 pieces of sharing per minute” to *any* social network it’s going to look like a failure. Something that also needs to be kept in mind, if you’re experiencing a dead or slow social network, that is a result of the people you’re following and your own level of sharing. If you don’t share any information within your circles then why should you receive any feedback or activity into your account?
To say Google+ is already dead, is premature speculation at this point. Time will tell just how successful the search giant can be in the social arena, but with the recent addition of the games panel, the named hangouts and the collaboration which is possible with your circles on Google+. Giving Google the time to mature their social product is necessary before calling it dead.
It’s been just over a week now that Google allowed open registration to test the Google+ platform and what a week it’s been. At last count, the budding social network had in the neighborhood of 25 million users in the “invite only” beta. In the last 10 days of open registration, traffic to the site has jumped like water hitting hot oil. Visits for the week of Sept. 17th were up 1269%, blasting to 15 million visits over the 1.1 million of the week previous.
Rough estimates with that increase in traffic, is that the fledgling social site is likely near the 50 million users mark. It’s literally a drop in the bucket in terms of the traffic Facebook gets, nearly 2 billion, but it’s made Google+ jump from number 54 in ranking to number 8 on the Hitwise social networking and forums category of sites. Currently that ranks Google+ squarely behind MySpace (yes it’s *still* around) and climbing higher.
Just as analysts are estimating that G+ has nearly 50 million users at this point, that doesn’t mean you can start building a social profile full of your high school friends and distant family. The numbers seen on G+ are primarily the early crowd, the tech generation who likes to tinker with stuff which may or may not work 100%. Something to consider says the Hitwise results, is that the numbers do not include any mobile search traffic or traffic coming in via the Google bar, so the visits are most likely much higher.
Google+ made its debut in late June with a limited number of users, and a Google+ invite quickly became the hottest ticket in town. The hysteria died down a bit after Google started allowing users to send out invites, but there was a lot of talk about whether Google had finally landed on a social networking product that could compete with Facebook.
With 25 million users at last count to Facebook’s 750 million, Google+ clearly has a long way to go. Still, it’s clear that Facebook and Google+ are taking cues from one another. Google+ has some very Facebook-esque privacy features and cribs the Facebook news feed structure. But Facebook recently unveiled some friends features that look a lot like Google+ Circles.
It won’t be a showdown of any kind until the users say so, but at this point it looks like G+ is making strong strides in the social arena and put the gaff of Google Buzz behind them.
There’s been a shift lately in the Google+ world, it’s not longer set as invite only status. Just in case you haven’t noticed, just visit Google and you can sign up for your G+ account. That said, there’s been a number of changes and improvements to the social site, all of which to improve your experience on the site.
One of the biggest differences initially between Facebook and G+ were the Hangouts which were offered on Google+. Being able to invite groups of your friends to literally video chat to each other and, well hangout together. This past week there have been some upgrades to the service.
Hangout via Cellphone
Taking a cue from Skype, Google+ now offers live hangout streaming on your mobile phone. It is however, currently only supported on Android 2.3+ phones with front facing cameras.
Speaking to a large audience just got a little bit easier. The recent launch of Hangouts On Air allows you to interact with a large group of your Google+ buds, or just view as a spectator. There’s even an option to record your session. The addition of this option in particular promotes training, and webinars.
To tie in to the idea of being able to reach a wide audience at once, Google+ has also added the ability to share each others screens (if enabled) and a sketchpad almost like using a white board to instruct.
Google has added integration with your existing Google docs with the Hangout feature as well. Share a document with a co-worker, link up together in a hangout and you can work together in real time to complete your projects in time.
Have a need to talk to others in a particular industry or with similar interests? Look for a public hangout about that topic and connect. Or create your own. This is a great opportunity for an up and coming designer looking to reach out to fashion bloggers, other designers, or to collaborate on designs to do so no matter where they are in the world.
Use these hangouts to meet up with a support group and invite others to join in on the conversation as well. Hold an online networking event and connect with prospective customers too. The possibilities are endless.
And two of the biggest ideas that have been added would have to be the access to the Hangout API to allow programmers to begin work on real time apps. And the one you would have expected, but wasn’t actually a part of Google+ until recently, was integration with search. Relevant content and connections will show up in addition to relevant posts. Easily sort through and find content related to what you’re looking for.
This isn’t all of the updates the giant has planned for their social site of course, it’s merely a beginning, but they’re great out of the gate. Hopefully they can continue the trend.
It’s the beginning of the ‘social’ part of the Google+ platform. Google has released the first public APIs for Google+ so that external developers can start working with the fledgling social networking site and planning applications for it.
This first batch of APIs lets developers fetch only public data from profiles in a read-only manner, and access is limited to what Google calls a “courtesy usage quota” for now. Google sees this initial API release as the first step in building a more powerful developer platform.
“For all of you developers who have been asking for a Google+ API, this is the start. Experiment with it. Build apps on it. Give us your feedback and ideas,”
- Chris Chabot Google+ Developer Relations
Having a thriving developer community, as Twitter and Facebook have done, has proven a must for social networking sites to succeed, so a lot is riding on the Google+ platform. Twitter announced in July that some 750,000 developers have built about 1 million applications for its microblogging service.
Interestingly, Google is holding off on adopting for Google+ the OpenSocial APIs that it originally developed in 2007 and championed for years as a better alternative to proprietary tools for specific platforms like Facebook’s.
The OpenSocial technology has been adopted by a number of consumer and enterprise social networking providers and its development is managed and overseen by the nonprofit OpenSocial Foundation.
When asked about plans to let developers build Google+ applications using the OpenSocial APIs, a Google spokeswoman said via email that at this time the Google+ platform doesn’t support the OpenSocial APIs.
“However, we are using lots of the technology that was developed as part of OpenSocial, including the gadget application packaging model, and the Portable Contacts JSON schema, to power Google+ games. As we define the +Platform APIs, we are paying close attention to the future direction of the OpenSocial APIs, and converging wherever possible.”
Developers can use the OpenSocial APIs to build applications for other Google sites and services, including the Orkut social networking site and the iGoogle personalized home page service.
Never would competitors admit they’ve made changes based on what each other implement, but it’s the oldest game of keep up that exists. Beginning today, Facebook is rolling out a whole bunch of new privacy and sharing controls which they say, have “been in the works for months”. It’s not like Google+ was tearing away tens of millions of users per day from Facebook, but the more granular and easy to use privacy controls were a big positive note for those already looking for a change in their social landscape.
Primarily, you’ll finally be given a stronger grip on your profile and how you share with your friends. Items can be public (everyone) or only shared with specific people or groups. Visibility of your profile as well will be able to be administered on a friend to friend basis if you desire. Allowing you to share the things you like with those who would appreciate them. In addition to being able to control your profile image on a deeper level, so to will you be able to control any tagging which may occur.
Tagging, the attachment of a name to a photo on Facebook, can be harmless or harmful depending on the image used. Previously if you were tagged in a photo, it would appear as part of your profile, and you would need to ask to have it removed or report the picture. The change that’s being made in this area allows you the option to remove the photo from your profile, even with your name remains tagged in your friends/colleagues picture. So now you’re able to control somewhat if someone tries to attach your name to a distasteful image.
It’s only a smattering of the privacy controls that Facebook is working on doling out to their userbase. Easier to understand and granular are the order of the day and going forward, although it does bring up a thought. If Facebook did have the changes percolating and waiting for months, why did it take the beta test of Google+ for them to finally push them out? Perhaps suddenly Facebook realized there was another game in the social arena, and considering the strength of the backer, couldn’t wait to hold anything back. There is of course another option I’m personally more inclined to believe, that Facebook liked Google+ privacy controls and used the same model.
When Google launched their first salvo into the social war with Buzz, they made some really big mistakes. Allowing anyone who was on your contact list basically be able to browse your contacts was a pretty big breach of trust for any social network, and it nearly sunk all of Google’s aspirations in one swoop. But fast forward 18 months or so and we’re over a month into their latest social offering with Google+.
They’ve made some serious improvements to their social understanding by watching the explosive growth of Facebook and their flop with Buzz. Privacy controls are easy and intuitive to manipulate, friends are easy to arrange and messaging controls are plain and straight forward. It’s easy to say that Google+ may be a contender in the social arena with hitting 25 million accounts in a fraction of the time that Facebook had, but public understanding and acceptance need to be used to temper their growth. People are beginning to understand the nature of social web sites with Facebook having been the king for so long. Many, myself included, find they have as much as entire friend feeds blocked as all they do is play Farmville or Cafe World. Facebook boasts having high day to day activity and retention rates, but if the majority of those people are just there to play games the quality of the use is definitely in question.
But just like Google’s AdSense and paid advertising you see on results pages, those game players on Facebook are served ads. Social Media Marketing is a very real avenue to explore if your a small company on a tight budget. Google+ at present doesn’t have business options setup, but they’ve made clear that yes, they are coming. So get your practice in with Facebook, Twitter tweets and PPC/AdSense marketing because even with a “paltry” 25 million users, Google+ will be a qualified market for advertising.
All of the taglines you generate with Twitter, Facebook and soon with Google+, may have more strength than you might think. Nicholas Schiefer recently won a Canada Wide science fair and made interesting inroads in the realm of search. The 17 year old is being compared to Mark Zuckerberg for his idea and implementation of his search algorithm, and those are no small shoes to fill.
The algorithm as it’s written, searches short documents like tweets, Facebook statuses and news headlines for starters. That 140 character string of gold is crunched and parsed by his infant algorithm to deliver results. It may not seem much different from what Google, Bing or Yahoo offer, but where it does get different is when his search algorithm applies context to the results. The advantages of a semantic algorithm which could determine context in the results it retrieves would be a great improvement in the realm of social search. As an example, you’ve been out for dinner and had a poor experience, you could use that type of search engine to determine if others have had the same experience. It’s possible to do so with the existing search engines, but it takes a bit of work to sort through the results to find customer reviews if you don’t include it as part of your initial search. It’s an impressive start for a young man who may be a part of changing the way the world searches. Time will tell how interested the world is in semantic, contextual searching should Mr. Schiefer continue his project.
Let us partake in a litmus test, if you don’t know what that is here’s a very basic definition for you : A test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision. So here’s the question to answer: Do you have a website for your business? If the answer is yes then the answer to this next question is yes as well; you need to have a solid SEO plan in place.
It’s not voodoo or black magic, it’s not about putting videos up on Youtube and tweeting to your Facebook fans (that’s social marketing and it works as well) SEO is about making the search engines love your website. SEO is about telling the world that “Yes I am the authority on <your niche> in <your location>. I can take care of all of your needs.”
Now here comes the tricky part, there are some simple things you’re going to need to come to grips with when it comes to search engine optimization. The number one point you need to realize is: SEO costs money. Who’d have thought that having someone go through your website, clean up it’s code, properly build it’s navigation and make it faster online would cost money! It’s like putting a new engine in your car, if you’re incapable of putting the hours and skills into doing the work yourself, you’re better off paying the professionals. Even those very simpe steps I mentioned can help to increase traffic and visitors to your website. Another extremely important point, arguably the most important, SEO is not an instant quick fix to your search rankings. It takes time to re-tune your website, update the content and clean the code. After all of that the spiders need to come and crawl your site and decide if it’s better than the last one you had and how you would stack up against your peers now. You could be re-indexed in a day, you could be re-indexed in 2 weeks. You may be on page 6 when you started your campaign and after first pass you’re up to page 3, while not the page 1 where all of the action is you’ve literally improved 100% from where you previously were. The most common metric we tell our clients new and old is, you’ll begin to see significant long lasting results in a 6 month plus time frame.
Enough of those two big scary ideas (money and time), lets talk more about what’s going to happen to your website once you’re up in the rankings. Sitting on page 1 enjoying all of the new visitors you’re receiving, you need to begin to take a good hard look at your home page. Traffic is useless without a conversion of some sort. Sign up for my newsletter, subscribe to our coupon book, buy our product. You need a call to action on your website where visitors arrive. Because if people show up to the party and there’s no party, then the visit was wasted.
To recap: SEO will cost you money and it will take time. Once your campaign is in full swing, breakdown your website and determine your call to action on your landing page. Because without these 3 key understandings, it doesn’t matter if you’re number 1 on the SERPs, or number 1000.
So if you’ve been tracking your sites progress on Googles search results pages, and you noticed some funny movement in the last week or so, you’re not imagining things. Google came out with it finally and admitted, yes they’ve had another regular update, but with Panda as part of the equation this time. Some have noticed that their sites have shifted a half dozen places or so, and some have noticed that for some of their optimized terms they’ve just completely disappeared.
As shocking and distrubing as it may be to suddenly find you’re not in the results where you were in the previous weeks, you may want to hold off on that complete site revamp to address your disappearance. To put it another way, Google took their search index, full of billions and billions of terms, tossed it up in the air and all of the websites are still coming down. Being filtered into all of their most relevant terms based on the current algorithm, it’s safe to wait just a few more days to see what happens through the weekend.
Google and +1
So search, it’s a funny game, moving, shifting, always changing. Facebook has their ‘Like’ button, which Bing has added their own special metric and weight to. And Google has their newer +1 button which they’ve come out and said basically ‘Yes it’s good for you to have on your site along side the Like button’. Basic fact though, the implementation of the +1 button on your site was actually bogging it down as of late, cutting your performance in half by almost half in some extreme cases.
While the Facebook ‘Like’ button is a flat blue color, the +1 button is a script or two which glows and stands out from your web pages. Definitely a hindrance to performance conscientious site owners, it wasn’t long until another disturbing trend was noticed. Visitors to pages with the +1 button, were slowly and steadily dropping. Almost strangely and on cue, Google has released a new version of their +1 button, faster, sleeker and much more in line with current web speed standards.
And just like the Facebook button, and those scandalous people making a living selling their browser clicks. It seems that because the +1 button can have a positive effect on your search ranking, some of the less scrupulous SEO companies out there are now selling their clicks. It’s not much of a stretch or a surprise really, as there are grey SEOs to be found all over the web selling all manner of SEO tricks. Selling links, scraping and rewriting content for you, Facebook ‘Like’ sellers and now +1 sellers. Just cut the SEO juice from the button and it’s true use will emerge, content promotion because it’s genuinely good content.