Category Archives: internet marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Have You Ever Worked in Traditional Media?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Do You Read or Do You Write?

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

learning-pyramid

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

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

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

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

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

3. Are They Company All-Stars by Default?

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

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

integrated-marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge Is Power In Life and In Search Marketing

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

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

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

Jason Corrigan

Are You Being Used?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spending Money To Make Money

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

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

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

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

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

Google knows where you’ve been

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

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

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

googlemap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Scary

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg SEO Services on Kijii Beware

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of big RED PHONES, Just saying

 

Not So Obvious Benefits of SEO

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

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

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

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

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

Is Paid Advertising Worthless

Just a short time ago one of the largest sites on the entire web was hit with what looked like a manual penalty from Google. This week it sounds like they’re firing back with a little tongue in cheek report stating “there is no measurable benefit” to paid ads – aka Adwords.

MythsIt’s an interesting read as eBay is one of the largest ecommerce sites on the web and they would definitely have the budget and manpower to really determine how much paying for a service like Adwords really benefits them. For a quick review of just what Adwords are to search, they’re the paid advertisements that appear on the top, bottom or to the side of the search results page. They’re like the chocolate bar isle in the grocery store as when you click them you’re brought to exactly where you would expect to. Search for ‘buy cars winnipeg’ for example and you’ll see ads from companies like Ford and Hyundai at the top or side of the page, having paid to appear for that term. eBay contends that using paid advertising is ineffective and that in the majority of the cases they researched the leads generated were people already loyal customers of the company whose ad they clicked.

They did however admit that when using generic terms like a brand name search there may still be a benefit attached to spending on those ads.

Unlike branded search, where a firm’s website is usually in the top organic search slot, organic placement for non-branded terms vary widely

As a search marketer however there is a handful additional uses that Adwords can be used for. We can use paid ads as a test bed of sorts, just to gauge the interest of a set of terms in a specific location for example, over a very specific length of time; instead of investing man hours and effort optimizing for a set of terms that have no traction. Paying for a campaign also allows us to receive important keyword data, doubly important now that Google encrypts all of their searches coming through the results pages, this keyword data can allow us to adjust content based on interest quickly, and accurately.

For eBay to come out and say that paying for advertising isn’t worth the cost is a little short sighted, perhaps they’re just feeling a tad left out after being on the wrong side of the search engines wrath this past week.

Stop Throwing Away Money

growthWe find here that we field a lot of inquiring phone calls from business owners looking for help with their online marketing. That’s find and great, but one of the questions that I often receive the longest pause when gathering information is when I ask what their goal is – are you going after a local market or a national market?

Recently a survey found that four out of five smartphone users conduct mobile searches to find nearby businesses offering the products and services they want. I’m sure that you’ve found that you do it yourself in this particular scenario – you’re out shopping and you find the item you’re after and you whip out your phone and start searching and comparing reviews and prices. An old school sales average tells the story that for every 10 pitches you’ll likely garner a sale, it’s one of those rules that are just known. If your site is built correctly though and you’re active with your mobile and local presence that average can jump to one in five instead of one in 10. Just let that sink in for a moment, and then contact your providers and make sure that you’ve been setup with local and mobile optimization in mind. Have your product lists, prices, phone numbers and physical addresses are some of the most important elements to include on your website, and absolutely required when targeting local customer groups.

An inconvenient truth is that most businesses are missing local opportunities because it is seen as more work than it is worth. Setting aside the improved positions in the results pages, making sure to give your site and products the extra TLC to be viewed and found on mobile will begin improving your conversions and fatten your bottom line.

How Not To SEO

When you’ve finally gotten your website online there are a million steps that you need to take in order to be ranked at the top of your niche market on the results pages. Instead of trying to explain each point, we’ll take a different tack this time around, how about a list of things of what not to do on your website.

right-toolIf you’re not managing your site yourself, hopefully the person or agency you have contracted is on the ball and has a clue about how not to run afoul of the rules. If your site gets hit by a spam penalty, whether by the algorithm automatically or if you’ve been flagged manually, it isn’t the end of the world it can be fixed. But let’s get started so you can have a cheat sheet for yourself to check on your agencies efforts where your website is concerned. A note just before we get into things, these are not hard and fast rules, the internet isn’t even remotely a black and white entity, so take everything you read below with a grain of salt.

Misspelling words is an every day thing, everyone does it billions of times per day. But one way that you can run on the wrong side of the web spam team is if you happen to register a domain name with a misspelled version of a highly notable brand name in your niche with the idea to try and generate traffic off of the misspelled term. This is a good example of the web not being black and white, anyone can register any domain name so long as it’s available – but that doesn’t mean that the search engines don’t have a say in where it’ll place it in the results pages.

Having a meta refresh in your homepage, effectively locking visitors into your website by messing with their browser control. It’s not uncommon that when you arrive at the wrong website you hit the back button or the backspace key to return to the page you were at. But using a method like a meta refresh in the header of your websites home page removes that option to a visitor to your site. The basic sequence of events with this type of refresh is when a visitor lands on your page, it refreshes itself a time or two so that when they press the back button, they don’t actually leave the site. Instead they’ve just refreshed the page again and they’re back where they don’t want to be. It’s a frustrating experience in general for users, and a no-no with the search engines.

Having your website encoded entirely in Flash, Java and even some versions of Ajax or Silverlight which require specific browser plugins to function correctly. While this isn’t a negative with the search engines specifically, using entirely visual only coding effectively hides your website from the search engines. Being that Google, Bing and other engines look for text on a website, the text on a Flash and even sometimes Java scripts isn’t readable by them so they assume it’s a blank page. They are getting better at digging the text out, but they’re not all the way there yet so keep that in mind when a designer approaches you with a flashy visual display that has no real text elements. Along the same line of thinking but this time where users are concerned, more and more people are accessing the web with tablets and phones. iPads and iPhones take up a sizable share of the mobile marketplace and they can not display any Flash and some Java, your site would literally be invisible and unusable to an iPad user if you had an entirely Flash built website.

Finally Some Search Upgrades

closelookWhen you think of search results you often think of the biggest names in the game, Google being the biggest of them all. Bing sometimes shows up of course and they’re upping their game lately which is a very good thing for the internet as a whole.

The latest improvement that Bing is working on is actively leveraging the power of other search providers as well. The preliminary shots of how this is playing out is turning out to be handy to find local results and help you make a decision quicker than having only a single list of results in front of you. As an example, you may be looking for an dinner option for the evening, and if you use Bing for your search now you have the option of seeing additional results from sites like Yelp. Having more options in your search results page may seem counter intuitive but for everyone involved it’s an improvement. This follows somewhat in suit with how Google has had to open up their results page in the EU anti-trust settlement.

As a user, more options to make a decision is always a good thing. Not only does it allow you to possibly read some reviews and see personal experiences from other patrons, but you may get a handful of different results as well with which to base your decision.

As a business owner, having your name out there for even more potential terms than you’ve originally targeted can help grow your customer base. Making sure you have positive reviews and experiences will help your reputation with the other sites like Yelp or OpenTable, and also helps to reinforce your position in the organic results as well while growing your local customer loyalty.

Change is a great thing to be happening with the search engines and hopefully the inclusion of the other forms of providers only increases the quality of results as a whole.