Money is a great thing, it’s needed for pretty much everything you need or want in this world. There are times to save money, and there are times to spend it. With the new year still fresh, now is the time to spend on your online presence so you can make 2012 your best earning year to date.
Search engine optimization is, for some odd reason, still a largely overlooked advertising expenditure. The internet is the ultimate store front, it never rests, and is always waiting to bring customers to your doors. It takes time, patience, an understanding of your current website and traffic, and what your ultimate goals are to even begin to craft an SEO campaign to implement.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ version of optimization, as each and every client and website has it’s own unique set of problems. When you’re in the market for SEO, you need to bear that point in mind. If you’re searching for someone truly qualified in the area, there’s a very high chance they won’t have pre-packaged services for you to choose from. There are really 2 main steps when you’re hammering out the details of your costs associated with search engine optimization. The first, and one which affects your cost, is what is it that you’re trying to achieve and what key terms are you interested in. If you’re looking to rule the SERPs on a term which returns tens of millions of pages, your contract will have a steeper cost as opposed to a more niche market. The second step is where the compromising comes into play where terms are concerned.
Working as an SEO, we see the web a bit different than other people do. I know I haven’t browsed or used the internet the same way since I’ve began. Sometimes the keyterms clients choose need some adjustment, and through discussion we decide which route to pursue. It can mean the difference of a page 1 ranking, or a difference of a few thousand dollars in the term of a contract. Our goal in the end, is to bring you all the traffic you can convert, are you ready for the 2012 rush?
In what seems like a lucrative and exciting idea for any local business, it was announced recently that the possibility to pay for a guaranteed listing may be possible through Google, Bing and Yahoo. On the surface it seems like a great idea, especially for smaller businesses who may not have the time to wait for organic listings to kick in. But as anyone who has been in search engine marketing for more than a few days, the web just can’t work that way.
The idea for the paid inclusions was put forward as a program which was “officially approved” and in “cooperation” with search engines. The release stated:
“Local Paid Inclusion is a Google, Yahoo and Bing contracted service and is offered as an approved official program in cooperation with those search engines.
Local Paid Inclusion promotes a local business’ profile page, like those found in Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local, into a top position on the search result page for up to 30 keywords per profile page.”
The idea was simple, you could simply have your local page, and pay to have it ranked highly within the search results locally. But then, shortly after the news began to spread and be picked up, Bing, who serves Yahoo their results, threw their hat into the ring.
“Bing has no interest in paid inclusion into the local algo that artificially impacts ranking of algo results…”
And as for Google:
“We are not working on any program that enables a site to pay to increase ranking in organic search results.”
The idea that any company is going to guarantee a search result simply makes no sense, and it would be especially tricky in the local space. Local search results change, depending on your province, city and can even be influenced on the time of day.
There are many key elements once you’ve built your website which you need to stay on top of, besides trying to focus on search engine optimization. Updating content, perhaps having a blog or a Twitter account with which to interact with customers/clients, and if your niche demands it, publishing a newsletter or email campaign to keep subscribers in touch.
In the background of your website, there’s also another element which needs consistent attention. Everytime you add a page to your website, create a new form or maybe add a photo album, your sitemap needs to be attended to. A sitemap is exactly as the name implies, it’s a table of contents for every page on your site. If you add, change, or remove pages, you also need to update your sitemap to reflect the changes. Typically your sitemap will be in xml or html format, but the important point is: it needs to be updated everytime you make a change.
Until now, there’s never really been a way to validate your sitemap without waiting for a short while until the search engines pass by your site to index it. At that point you could sign into your webmaster tools or site analytics and verify that you’ve either done things right, or if you needed to make some adjustments. But now for those who may be a little less technically inclined, Google has added the ability to test your sitemap before the spiders get to it, to make sure that everything is done correctly. This update, as well as a handful of other new and upcoming changes to their site tools are detailed on their blog post.
Over the last couple of weeks people have been hacking and slashing at Google because they’ve rolled out a change to how your results pages show up when you conduct a search. They’ve dubbed the change “Search plus Your World” and the idea is you receive Google+ data while signed into your Google account and conduct a search. Personally, I really don’t see the issue with their idea and here’s why.
Number one reason, if you’re signed into your Google account, searching Google.com, why would it surprise you to find publicly available information from Google+ in your results pages if it’s relevant? And from all of the screenshots of the integrated social results, a click of a button and they’re gone. Another argument I’ve seen about Google integrating the information into the SERPs is they are prioritizing its own content instead of linking out to third-party sites, which arguably is the whole point of a search engine. Valid point to bring up, but again, you can simply shut the option off with a few clicks at most. In the online world where 800 million or so people are used to the “opt-out” model thanks to Facebook, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for another major web player to try it. Twitter and Facebook even backed a small browser bookmark of sorts to help cull out the Google+ results from your results pages. It’s outraged enough people, that bloggers are already forcasting that Bing is the new King of Search.
It’s perhaps those last two points which contributed to my puzzlement. For all of the people up in arms with Google and switching over to Bing, I can only assume two things. You were born on January 1, 2012 and you don’t have a Facebook account; amazing really considering there are so many. Here’s a brief excerpt from an article stabbing at the changes Google has recently made:
The new feature is baked right into Google and aims to personalize your search results by including Google+ data when you are signed into your Google account.
And here, is an excerpt from an article written in May 2011:
The worlds of SEO and social media were rocked the other day when Bing announced they will incorporate Facebook data into their search results for the most personal social-search integration to hit the web. What does this mean for the user? If you search for something on Bing and are logged into your Facebook account, you will see which pages, products and websites your friends Like and recommend high in the results, regardless of where that page ranks in the general SERP.
Perhaps Facebook should recite the idiom, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, as Bing and Facebook have been at social search integration coming up quickly on a year of implementation.
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’s been a shift in the algorithm lately, as most in search are aware of and it may have a little to do with a Google blog post recently put up. In it, Google commented on websites with heavy advertising at the top of the page, forcing visitors to search for the actual content and about how things are going to change.
From their post it reads that there are complaints about having to basically search for results twice on the web. When a user clicks on what they deem the most relevant to their search and they’re greeted with a website which is heavy with advertisements on the top of the page; they’re needing to search the website again for their content. Top heavy advertisements on websites were mentioned as being so heavily populated with ads, a user has to scroll to even begin to find content. Google also mentioned that for going forward, those websites which are advertisement heavy, ‘may not rank as highly as before’.
Now don’t fret if you have an ad block on your website, you’re not going to be kicked into the basement of search. This change is going to affect less than 1% of searches conducted globally. So unless you’re in the business of having tons of spam on your webpages, you should be just fine. As usual when there are any kind of algorithm changes, no doubt in a few days the ‘end of SEO’ will be heralded online for the beginning of the year. But those who have been playing the game from the beginning, who helped shape just how search works and hammer out the rules, they should be the ones you watch. Until it comes from one of the real search experts that SEO is dead, I’ll just keep on plugging along.
An optimized website
What they say: Even if you don’t actually sell products online, a website gives potential customers and investors the opportunity to find out more about you and your company. For a website to be effective and bring new customers and investors to your doors it needs to be seen. Search engine optimization can help position your website on the first few pages of the search engines which means it’s much more likely to receive visitors.
As well as ensuring the copywriting on your website is optimized with keywords, you need to make sure your web developers or designers have created an SEO friendly website.
With 65,000 new websites coming online every day, not including new pages and blog added to existing websites daily the chances of you ever seeing high traffic and rankings without a BIG cost is near on impossible. Nobody ever mentions the cost do they.
Fact: Investment for marketing the website from approx. $1500 – $20,000 per month depending on size and your competition.
Active social media channels
What they say: Having a profile set up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (plus the numerous other social media networks) isn’t enough. For your social media campaign to be a success you need to continually interact with your network.
And to be honest who gives a crap what bus stop or pizza shop you’re at or what you have just eaten, Your top score on a farm game or flirting teens pretending while the parents are out. Get a life. Limited for business unless very local.
Fact: A full-time job to do it properly along with a full-time salary approx. $30,000 – $50,000 per annum.
An up to date blog
What they say: Blogging is one of the quickest and easiest ways to forge an identity for yourself online. Blogs allow you to share your expertise with your visitors and it encourages them to see you as a leading authority in your industry sector. As you build up your blog with opinion pieces, news stories and reviews you will create an online resource for your blog visitors.
Fact: Takes your time and money, time is money or employ someone to do it, another salary.
While there is a lot of information and help out there to get you started, do not be taken in by all the BS that people and company’s shovel out. Sure Google also has SEO guidelines which cover what you should and should not be doing in order to create a well optimized website. Check it out Rand at SEOMoz have a multitude of free blogs, videos and podcasts on their website to help people understand the basic (and more advanced) SEO techniques too, but the cold hard facts are it takes time, money and knowledge to be a real player. As I have said many times, pay peanuts and you will get monkey’s.
As a small business if you don’t have at least $20k a year to throw at marketing your online presence, forget it, you will never even scratch the surface, if some company gives you bullshit about the must have Facebook, twitter and rest accounts, run for the hills, these usually are the wannabe online marketers, with sharp tongues (usually forked) and snappy suits. You can get business from social, but it’s limited, search is and has been #1 from the start and will continue for a very long time.
Ask yourself what you do when you want something, whether on your phone, laptop or desktop, you search first.
Opinions are those of the writer.
In just a few more hours, the internet will be officially on strike in demonstration of the resistance being put forth versus the SOPA bill currently trying to be pushed in the States. There are a great number of sites ‘going dark’ in support of the event, with the idea that it will give web users an indication as to what the web may be like, should this bill, or any like it, come to pass.
Some popular web destinations like Reddit which bills itself as the front page of the internet, Facebook, Wikipedia, Tucows and even Google are gearing up to participate in tomorrows black out. There is some very strong language circulating where SOPA is concerned, going so far as to even name the bill an attack on free speech on the web. Those who support the bill being passed are deeming the blackout as a knee jerk reaction, trying to emphasize the bill in a bad light, the documents are out there for you to make your own decision.
Google has come along with a handy dandy guide as well, to assist with going dark in support of tomorrows events, which also come in handy should you need some downtime to work on your website. The advice comes in the form of enabling a 503 header return for your website which is your way to tell web spiders to come back later, your site is currently unavailable. This handy implementation will work should you decide to be part of tomorrows protest and come in handy should you need to work on your site in an emergency.
It’s fairly easy to return the 503 instruction for bots, especially if you have root access on your server. Adding the following line to your .htaccess file can take care of it for you:
RewriteRule .* /path/to/file/myerror503page.php
just adjust the instruction in accordance to your webserver. What this will do, is redirect visitors to your site to the error page for you, as well as taking care of any spiders poking around so as not to thwart any search engine optimization efforts you’ve been working on for your site.
How did the internet get started? Here is one story you might find interesting
In ancient Israel , it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot.
And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.
And she said unto Abraham, her husband, “Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?
And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, “How, dear?”
And Dot replied, “I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah’s Pony Stable (UPS).”
Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.
To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures – Hebrew To The People (HTTP).
And the young men did take to Dot Com’s trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.
And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. And indeed did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates’ drumheads and drumsticks.
And Dot did say, “Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others.” And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said, “We need a name that reflects what we are.”
And Dot replied, “Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators.” “YAHOO,” said Abraham. And because it was Dot’s idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.
Abraham’s cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot’s drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God’s Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
That is how it all began. And that’s the truth.
So Google made a little bit of a blunder with their Chrome advertising it seems and what was the end result? Well perhaps the best way to understand what happened and it’s ensuing result, the algorithm needs to be a little more understood.
The Google search algorithm was intentionally designed to go out and read as much of the content of the web as it could find. It pays no heed to race, color or quality of the content. It doesn’t care how pretty your pictures are, how impressive your flash intro is or how quickly you can flip through your menu items on your navigation bar. It takes in the content of the web and spits it out when you ask it a question. It’s because it’s so simple that there needed to be filters put into place and penalties levied against people who either managed either by accident or on purpose to get around the quality controls put in place.
Paying for pagerank, that intangible mega star of the Google world, is a heavily punishable offence in the quality control guidelines. So it came as a rather big surprise when it was found suddenly, that Google was seemingly paying for advertising which was passing pagerank to its Google Chrome web page. The skeptics of the web automatically assumed that the Google machine would just shrug, apologize to the web, as they didn’t intend for it to happen, and everyone would be on their way. The outcome however, was actually the opposite.
Matt Cutts, via is Google+ account had the following to say of the incident:
“Google was trying to buy video ads about Chrome, and these sponsored posts were an inadvertent result of that. If you investigated the two dozen or so sponsored posts (as the webspam team immediately did), the posts typically showed a Google Chrome video but didn’t actually link to Google Chrome… we did find one sponsored post that linked to www.google.com/chrome in a way that flowed PageRank.. we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines”
So okay, it was found out there was a minor slip in what was intended and what was the actual result, so what did they do?
“In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of www.google.com/chrome will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.”
If anyone ever questioned as to whether the machine would point it’s gun at itself, question no longer. As the webspam team has shown, no one is above the rules set with quality searches in mind. So bear in mind when you next work on your websites SEO, ensure that you’re following the best practices and the search guidelines readily found all over the web, else you’ll find yourself flung deeper into the ranks than you could imagine.