It really shouldn’t have to be said, but search is changing, it’s evolving into a faster, finer tuned machine than it was 10 years ago. Within all of those changes, there are different focal points which are constantly being tweaked. Recently, MDGadvertising produced a great graphic outlining the current and future trend of local search.
The term ‘local search’ shouldn’t be an unfamiliar one, any business owner with a website absolutely needs to be concerned with their online exposure. The image which MDG produced puts a lot of the research gathered about local search into an easily digestible format. And some of the information while straight forward, is still exciting to read.
There are a number of factors directly affecting current local search growth. One is business owners and search engines for that matter, are getting better are targetting where it is you’re conducting your search from. If you’re searching in Winnipeg there’s no reason for Google/Bing/Yahoo to give you results for Regina for example if you’re looking for a new car or home repairs. A second large metric to consider is the widely increased use of mobile phones to conduct searches while on the go. It’s estimated that on average 33% of all mobile subscribers use their phones to conduct searches, and 20% of those do it on a daily basis.
All of this local search business has a lot of value in it, especially when you work hard at becoming a leader locally in your niche. It’s estimated that this year nearly $6 billion will be generated by local search and by 2015 that number will be over the $8 billion dollar range. A huge amount of cash flow, that seems to be going largely untapped. Because at present,
less than 40% of businesses have a local search presence on the SERPs. Local search is only starting to pick up, soon the game will be running a full speed. Have you taken the proper local search optimization steps?
So remember a little while back when Google decided to try the whole social thing and launched Buzz? And it cost them a few million because they “oops forgot privacy”? Well the FTC has finally decided how to handle the giant and it will throw a bone at the privacy concerned members of the public to boot.
For the next 20 years, Google will be subject to privacy monitoring from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. By using what are being called “deceptive practices”, the FTC will babysit the search giant thanks to its now dead Google Buzz social networking service. The investigation into Google’s privacy practices began after users complained that their Gmail contacts were made public, and that the steps to protect their privacy weren’t clear or effective.
When the service launched, Gmail users were given the option to participate in Buzz, but what Google failed to mention was that the people they email most often would be listed publicly. Those users that declined to participate were also automatically enrolled into at least some of the Buzz features without their consent, according to the FTC investigation.
“In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors,” the agency said. “The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.”
The FTC also added that Google had misled the public in regards to its privacy policies, and misrepresented its compliance with U.S. and E.U. Safe Harbor “or other privacy, security, or compliance programs.” So for the next 20 years Google is going to have a monkey on it’s back with the FTC being able to watch their every social change and if the search giant isn’t careful, may find itself back in hot water.
It’s been just around a month now that Google+ became open for business, and Google remains undaunted in its effort to go toe-to-toe with Facebook.
Vic Gundotra, vice president in charge of Google+ said, “We are in an enviable position that we have people who come to Google, we are in this for the long haul… By Christmas you will see Google+ strategy coming together.”
Google+ has attracted more than 40 million users since it opened to the public , but has a long way to catch up with Facebook’s membership of approximately 800 million.
Google is looking at tying all of their current Apps and extensions into Google+ accounts, the goal being able to synch the whole mess together with Docs, Youtube etc. Eventually, Google aims to open the platform to outside developers to make games and other kinds of installable “apps” that have been part of Facebook’s success.
Google is moving slowly and cautiously to make sure its social network is a safe, stable haven for families, friends, and other associates who connect with one another in “circles” created at the service.
Gundotra acknowledged that Facebook has the advantage of a “network affect,” in that complex webs of friends are established there and people might find it daunting to up and relocate to Google+.
“The incumbent (Facebook) has a huge advantage, if you play the same game, you are not going to win… So we are going to do it differently.”
One of the larger contrasts between the two networks, Google+ offers much more discretion on what you share, with whom.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out your mouth… We think a core attribute to being human is to curate.”
Google+ launched with a requirement that people use their real names online in order to let others find them more easily, but they are aiming to eventually allow people to use pseudonyms on your account as opposed to your real name. It’s been a thorn in the fledgling social network since early in it’s beta incarnation.
“We wanted this to be a product where you can discover people you know,” Gundotra said. “You don’t know ‘Captain Crunch’ or ‘Dog Fart’.”
Based on the rest of the discussion from the conference, it’s looking like Google can’t wait for Christmas to get here.
Around 18 months ago Google announced that it had a new search interface for the privacy concerned. This encrypted search, which encrypts both queries and results, was launched with the wireless user in mind I’d imagine. Seeing as it allowed for a level of privacy normally only enjoyed by a wired internet connection.
Now fast forward to today, on October 18, Google announced that it would begin pushing users with a Google account to Google’s encrypted search homepage. The move towards making search more private has some in the SEO sphere a bit troubled. Google is approaching this from an interesting angle as recently it’s being discussed that analytics is going to be changing as well to a different model of delivering search metrics.
The flip side of offering more secure searches and results to WiFi users and the portion which has some in the SEO community worked up, it also means that searches performed and returned in this manner won’t display the keywords which were used to conduct the search. Google search product manager Evelyn Kao wrote in Google’s official blog,
“When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”
Paid search results will still pass on the same information as in a non-encrypted search. The only information which will be available will be from webmaster tools and even then it will only provide the top terms for the last 30 days, with no details as to which pages were visited on site. That’s the scary side if you’re an inexperienced SEO who may work on the darker side of the grey scale.
The other half of the coming story, Google hasn’t released any information as to how many signed in users perform searches. With the deeper introduction of real time searches, friend shares and the like, I’d be inclined to believe that it’s going to take a fair while before there’s any sizable changes in the SERPs.
There aren’t any magic tricks you can do to make your site rise in the search rankings. You could spend the rest of your life reading detailed guides to SEO and meticulously cramming keywords into every possible tag on your website. But for companies with limited resources, it’s critical to focus on the SEO strategies that yield the best results.
For those with absolutely no resources to build and develop a website, WordPress offers you a great option. The use is free, learning to develop the software and build a website only takes a week, maybe two weeks at the most. And with a host of plugins available to help with optimization, WordPress has made the basics as simple as they could have.
You can use Google to tell you what people are searching for. Load up Google and start searching what you *think* is relevant to your business niche. Do you come up in search? If not, visit the top 10 websites as they’ve been deemed more relevant than your own site. You won’t be able to discern 100% of a companies SEO campaign by visiting their website, but you may be able to pinpoint why they’re placed higher than you are.
Keywords are the bread and butter of search, the search indexes out there are founded on them. However, shorter keywords are significantly more competitive than, what you’ll find referred to as, long tail keywords. Using long tail searches like search engine optimization in winnipeg is often a simpler approach into a market as opposed to trying to balance a site around a more competitive keyword like seo, or seo winnipeg.
If all you have is time to invest into performing optimization on your businesses website, I’m sorry to say you’re likely not going to rank in the top 5 for your niche business model. However, that does not mean that you should just give up or ignore the best practices and basics of optimization. Create a solid website, fill it with quality content and promote yourself to your clients. In time, you absolutely carve out your own little corner of the web.
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.
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.
This is not a tribute to Steve Jobs directly. Although in the end it may be one of his greatest legacies.
I have been in the technology field for over 30 years. I have seen a number of radical changes that became metaphors for how things were supposed to be done. Many, but certainly not all, of these metaphors were created at the hands of Steve Jobs.
QWERTY defined the keyboard. The Apple II defined a generation of PCs. Sony defined what the home video recorder should be. The Mac defined what a Window and Window based programs should behave like. The iPhone defined how touch functions on a smartphone and what a smartphone is.
These defining products and the companies that produce them don’t always win the battle in the market place for various reasons but the idea sticks. The technology becomes iconic and lays the path for others to follow. Sometimes the followers overtake the creators, sometimes the creators win. The market is a brutal overseer.
Siri, the natural language interface for the new iPhone 4s, is one such product. It may not be the product that wins the battle in the market place, it may not be the specific product feature that everybody has to have in their pockets in 2015 but if it isn’t, whatever is there will be like Siri.
Imagine a world where you say to your phone: Find me the best Asian restaurant within 25 miles. Or: Text my wife to meet me at 21. Or: Schedule an appointment for me with Joe the PR Guy and send him a text. Or: Tell my friends on Facebook that our team won!
All of the sudden the only thing that matters is the answer. Nothing else. You won’t be looking at a search box, you won’t be landing on someone’s home page, you won’t be looking at an ad…In fact you won’t be looking at anything.
You won’t need to. Not all of your interaction will be voice driven but depending on your mobile needs a large portion of it could be. You no longer need to look at your phone to enter a query in a search box. You just ask for the answer and it will just give it to you.
The answer can come from a single source or a range of sources. The brand of search engine is no longer important, the brand of phone that you are asking the question on is. Your only relationship is with the phone. Either it works or it doesn’t. Search engines and web brands could potentially fade in importance.
The winner in this next interface battle gets to pick where and who it gets the answer from. If it needs three data sources, it uses three data sources. If it needs four, it looks at four. That complexity is all hidden and the user not only doesn’t need to visit multiple websites, the user doesn’t even need a special app. Siri, or something like it, becomes the great equalizer for data sources. An OS for voice as it were. It handles the complexities. You just need to ask it.
Will it do what Apple says it will? There was a time when you couldn’t trust what Apple or any technology firm said. You had to have it proven to you. Even though this is a new Apple, one molded by the demanding perfectionism of Steve Jobs, this is one of those times when you will need to know that the natural language interface works and it works seamlessly.
If it does, it becomes THE WAY that you want to interact with the device. The new QWERTY as it were. Maybe not all all the time but certainly with mobile search and more frequently than not with mobile local search.
It also become the great disintermediator in mobile. It may be the greatest disintermediator of all time. If it works.
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.