Browsing "internet marketing"
The web is a huge place, full of anything you can think of at any given time, because chances are if you can think of it, someone has made a website or web page for it somewhere. It could be as common as people writing about the latest movie or song, or it could be as low key as a new local band for instance, but if you were to hit up a search engine you will almost always find at least a webpage about it.
And with all of the billions and billions of web page and websites out there, it creates a market, and with any market comes the marketers. Search engine optimization, adwords, white hat, black hat, when you start reading about the industry you will find yourself running into terms which become more and more unfamiliar as you go. It’s no wonder that when you start having the conversation with a prospective, or sometimes even existing client, that the question comes up “Do you know how Google/Bing/Yahoo works? Can you promise me number 1?” Now the polite, short answer to that question is “No” and the long version is “No, we can’t promise number 1″. And then the inevitable happens, they utter the beginning of the worst phrase you can hear as an SEO “But I read/heard/was told that..”
Here’s the short reason why we can’t guarantee you number 1 in search for your business: the web and the search algorithms are always changing. When Sergei and Larry initially created the Google algorithm to run around and start indexing the web, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear they never imagined it would get so massive. It’s rumored that the algorithm that runs now has somewhere between 250 and 300 ranking factors in it as it parses your website. And some of the confusion for those on the outside of the market, is when they read an article about how someone has cracked the algorithm to always rank on the top. I apologize for being up front, but anyone who tries to tell their clients that is a conman. At this stage of the search game, with as long as the algorithms have been changing and adapting, I doubt there is any one person employed by Google or Bing, who can sit down and tell you just how it works. Because at this point, they are just too big, too complex, and take into account so many different points that it’s mind boggling.
So your best course of action, is to adhere to the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t get crazy with your site, don’t get too smart with your content and follow the best practice guidelines; and you’ll be okay.
Continuing in the thread of website basics, it’s time to delve into a couple of additional facets of the online game. We’ll have a look at two website components, your navigation, and the images which you use to compliment your content.
The navigation of your website, while a basic component, fulfills a number of other functions as well. Depending on the visual aspect you desire for your site, your navigation can fill in an accent role in a color scheme, to being an active engaging portion of your site. But while you’re using your navigation to help make your site more appealing, you need to bear in mind that people aren’t the only visitors to your website, you have to think of the search engines as well. It’s not unusual to find new clients whose navigation menus have been built with fly away java scripts, animated roll overs, or even a menu built entirely in flash. While these elements sometimes provide a great visual experience, when the search engines are concerned your navigation menu is invisible. Many of the fly aways and flash aspects for your navigation can actually be written by CSS scripting, which is all text to the search engines, and they’re sole goal is to index text. When you’re building your site, or having it revamped, be sure to take the time and spend the extra dollar, and have your navigation built as much as possible via CSS. You’ll thank me later.
Secondly, the images which you use on your website is an important feature to bear in mind. While you’re building, or updating your website it’s good practice to pepper your content with images which can be used to accentuate your content for quick consumption. The number one point you need to bear in mind, is the size of the image you wish to include. The internet is often referred to as being a system of tubes, and if your images are too large, you can slow down your websites performance. A good way to keep your images under control, is to have your graphic designer provide you with a jpeg or a gif version of your completed image. Graphic designers often work with very large file types, and website owners try to upload these images directly to their site and then become worried why their pages begin taking much longer to load. To give an idea of how large some of the graphics become, it’s not uncommon to receive a finished image in the area of 40 megabytes and up. In terms of comparison, the average jpeg file is only a few kilobytes, it’s like filling a shot glass with water from a tap as opposed to a bath tub. The more appropriate way to be able to link your large, beautiful images to your website, is to embed the jpegs within your content, and create a link to your larger image, so that it’s not loading each time your site is brought up.
With Google commanding somewhere around 2/3′s of the internet search market, it’s important to remember the basic steps we’ve discussed here. Simple navigation, a solid website built as simple as possible, while maintaining an aesthetic that you enjoy and solid content with which to bait and capture the bots, and your target audience.
Of these items, it’s content which can actually make or break your online presence. Your content is the meat of your website, it’s what captures the search engines attention and is what makes you relevant to your target market. If you’ve written it well, made sure that it’s relevant to the theme of your business then you’ve started yourself on the road to the top. When it does come to your content though, you need to also keep in mind the people that you want to read your information. Most visitors to a website, if they can’t find their information quickly and easily, will just as soon click that back button if they can’t find their way to the content they desire. It’s a great idea therefore, to break up the monotony of your website and have snippets of highly relevant information, stand out on your pages. Bolded text, italicized, and placed high in your pages helps deliver a message quickly and clearly to visitors to your site.
On the other hand of the spectrum, you have your entire articles placed within your pages for the audience you wanted to have continually return to your site. This is for that captivated visitor, whom you’ve already sold your business or website to. To a reader, all information is generally good information. The more they know about the product, your company and anything else that increases your credibility will help them feel secure in doing business with you instead of a competitor. Text is an important part of the decision-making process. From the homepage to categories and sub-categories to the actual product page, the reader is intensely interested in what you have to say, as it will be the determining factor in whether you get a conversion or not.
Good website marketing isn’t about building a site for any one type of visitor, it’s about building a site that speaks to as many different visitor types as possible without alienating any. You must have the right pieces in the right places in the right way. Skimmable content allows you to target all types of readers and give them even more than they want. That way, everyone has a positive experience.
When you’re looking at building a website, there are the fundamentals you need to take care of. Do you have your content ready for the site? Basically, have you written more than just a few lines of your idea, have you actually fleshed it out, to make it meaningful both to your target audience, and to your ideal theme. Once you have the words, you need to take the time to get together the visual aspect, do you have your images? Are they clear and easily display what point you’re trying to get across? Or do they clash against your written content by not clearly showing what you’re trying to convey.
Once you have those two very basic points together, you need to then consult a web designer to help bring your dream to life. And it’s at this stage, that it seems that there is a general unknown aspect to the process. It’s not enough to have an amazing idea, product, or service anymore, you also need to consider two more, somewhat major, components which will make up your online persona. The first you need to consider, is your website address, or URL. Ideally, in a perfect world you could create your address (domain name) out of a keyword or perhaps two, which is simple to remember, and relevant to your business. The odds of this happening however, get slimmer each and every day with the ability of anyone to purchase any domain name, provided it hasn’t already been scooped up.
But lets pretend that you had no problems snatching up your domain, and now you’re ready to build. This is the key point where even a little knowledge can help your cause greatly. You have your content and pictures, you’ve managed to snag the perfect domain name, now you need somewhere to park yourself. Your own little corner of the internet where you can upload everything and make it accessible to the world. You need a web host, and as simple a step as that may seem, there are some points you can cover which will make your online life immeasurably simpler. Procuring a web host isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, and if you take the time to look around you can very easily recoup the costs of having a quality host. Web hosting works very similar to SEO on the cost to quality scale. If you cheap out on picking up a host, chances are pretty good you’re going to have issues with them. It can be anything from slow website performance, to improperly configured servers. Spending a few extra dollars on a web host can net you a fully accessible, fully configurable host with unlimited bandwidth, extremely flexible architecture to build your website with, and nearly 100% uptime for your site. Nothing is more embarrassing than directing someone to your website as your primary contact point, and having to explain to them that your site performs poorly, just so you could save a couple of dollars.
You can’t knock them for trying, and even though they’re well out of the search market share race, Yahoo has thrown another punch in the fight to stay relevant. Their new piece of software, Axis, is actually an interesting project, born with the idea to make searching quicker, and synchronous across your devices.
When you’re on your PC or laptop, you can only use their new tool as a browser plugin, giving you a more visual display of your searches. With the results pulled directly from Bing powered search, you can browse through your results in a manner more akin to flipping album covers in your media player. The results are the same, powered by Bing as they have for the last while, just delivered in a different package. As well as having a bottom screen bar taking up some of your screen real estate, you’re also given tabs on the left and right of your screen, to quickly navigate deeper into your search results. It’s a different take on a new game, and basically eliminates using the back button to locate exactly what you were looking for.
There is a bigger difference when you start to use Axis on your iPhone or iPad however. The app functions more like an instant share button, allowing you to spread the word about the newest deal you’ve found. It also allows you to quickly send those results to any of your contacts, and has added a new spin to mobile browsing with letting you preview your destination. Currently no other app has the capability in the marketplace, and by innovating Yahoo, with Axis, has kept themselves relevant in the search marketing game. A bonus for the company is they’ve also allowed you to synch your devices when signed into your Yahoo account, so while looking for that home repair guide on your desktop, you can open up that same page on your iPad and get right down to work, as it will have your spot saved right where you left off.
With mobile marketing and mobile search growing at a massive rate for the next few years to come, by pushing into this market early Yahoo has definitely made themselves a player in the meantime, and likely a part of the game for at least a few more years to come.
An interesting blog post from Bing has been gaining steam in discussion forums, and unsurprisingly, it pokes fun at Google and the recent Penguin update. A little poem of sorts has been made up, and it goes something like this:
Animal kingdom hurting ROI?
Pandas and penguins, oh my!
Take control and tell the fauna “Bye Bye”,
With these helpful suggestions to diversify!
It’s a silly little rhyme, but it has great sense in it; diversify. They go on to explain that by diversifying your websites optimization techniques, you can soften, or even eliminate the blow felt across the web with algorithm changes. If your organic optimization is flowing strong and healthy, focus on a weaker area, perhaps pay per click optimization and help to boost it’s output. Organic results are typically the hardest hit in search when there is an algorithm update or a sweeping change made ala Panda or Penguin. By having your additional channels of traffic performing at their peak, you can protect your position online and react if there is a drastic change occuring.
The Bing post went on to make great points as well, diversification aside, about how to manage your presence on the web. Keep an ear to the ground for any new and trending websites or aggregators, like Pinterest just a couple of months ago. It went from a simple board where people can share interests quickly and easily, to having a Pin button begin popping up on almost every major site out there. Pinterest had some key factors which helped make it incredibly relevant, strong, rapid growth, easily adopted technology, the media got on board quickly which spread the word and add in the interaction of friends and family and it took off like a rocket. Keeping your eyes on the horizon and watching for a trend can be an extremely helpful safety net.
There were a few great other points that were covered in the post, a lot of them were really just basics that cover some of the most basic SEO skillset. Like taking care of your sitemaps, are all of the links relevant and none broken. Same with your robots file, when was the last time you had a look at it’s contents to ensure it was still correctly configured? Do you have social sharing on the pages you want to have sharing on, and have you managed to keep any duplicate content issues down to nothing. Very, very basic work, not even necessarily from a search engine optimization stand point, but just from a webmaster stand point. Keep it clean, keep it basic, follow the news and trends, and you’ll be ready for the algorithm shifts across nearly all search engines.
The largest news on the web as of late, has got to be the flurry of activity surrounding Facebook. And just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last while, Facebooks IPO is about to break into the open.
The largest IPO being put forward in history, Facebook is about to offer itself up for just north of $100b (yes that’s a ‘B’) to the stock buying market. It’s a massive pool of cash that it wouldn’t be uncalled for if Zuckerberg would hop into a giant vault and swim around a bit ala Scrooge McDuck. The offering smashes the other tech giants in comparison, and obliterates Googles offering of just under $3b just a few years ago. A fair amount of hype has cropped up surrounding the number, along with the murmuring of Facebook possibly even taking out Google with their incoming influx of cash.
There is however, the other side of the equation, Google and Facebook aren’t in competing markets. Facebook, is the dominating social network online with nearly a billion accounts, and Google is the reigning king of search. Both players have dominated their respective markets, and have carved their own living out of paid advertising. And it’s the advertising angle, that some marketers believe where Facebook will be stealing money right out of Googles coffers.
Recently at SMX London, Amit Singhal opened the talks with some rather interesting information about Google, and about how they have no idea how it all works. That’s a rather broad statement actually, and there is some definition to be made. During the question period, someone asked Amit how much money Google makes on algorithm changes. Contrary to what the tinfoil hat wearing people believe, Singhal was adamant: “no revenue measurement is included in our evaluation of a rankings change.”
That might seem rather preposterous when you look at how their revenue model works, after all the search giant has made its seemingly limitless billions on search. Going on further, Singhal even opened up on the fact that no one knows exactly how everything works (all of unpaid search, AdWords, Android, etc.), he has a pretty good idea of how all of unpaid search works. Just some interesting food for thought, as the conspiracy theorists out there seem to think Google tweaks the algorithm when they want a cash injection.
Since we covered the very basics of how web developers, designers, business owners and SEOs could work together a little better yesterday, lets get into a tad more detail. Taking it a little slower, we’ll just discuss a handful of some of the terms you’re going to run into when working with a search engine optimization firm.
Once we’ve had the chance to take a good hard look at your website, one of the first few things you’ll find us talking about is about conducting keyword research. Basically all this means to you as a website owner, is we need to know what terms you’re interested in ranking with, and we’ll break down your content to see if those keywords exist in a workable combination. It’s also a step taken when we search for your current listings, and breaking down how you stack up versus your competitors. It’s a simple step, one which gets abused at times unfortunately when some believe that spamming their keyword as many times as possible is a good thing. Also tieing into your website and it’s current performance, is Page Rank. It’s actually not as huge a metric as it once was, but it’s a ranking system created by Google’s Larry Page which gives your site a number based on a number of factors. Authority of incoming links, the quality of your content and website, and this rank is passed on through out your site. It used to seem that the higher your page rank, the higher you sit in the SERPs, but Google hasn’t been as diligent in up keeping their system, with Panda and Penguin being introduced in the last couple of years.
Once we’ve determined what you want to rank for, how you stack up currently in your niche market and where to focus our efforts, you’re going to start hearing terms like geo-targeting, and click through rate a whole lot. Geo-targeting is the process of constructing your website and it’s pages, to be specifically relevant to certain areas. You can easily work in city geo-targeting into your site with adjustments to content, and you can even drill down into neighborhoods if you begin to use tools like AdWords etc. With targeting your website, you ensure that you’re working at capturing your target market, and increasing your over all click through rate. Click through rate, loosely defined, is the percentage of searchers who click on your link after performing a search. It’s a great metric to keep measurement of, as it can fairly quickly outline for you if a new campaign, or advertising strategy has had a positive or negative effect on your brand and business.
There is a huge amount of information and due diligence that needs to be done when you’re working on your companies website. You need to consider the technical, and aesthetic aspects of your site. Is it appealing to look at, or is it full of uncoordinated colors and themes. On the technical side of your site, does it load quickly, or have you filled it with pictures, videos, and sounds and it takes more than a few seconds to load? The internet doesn’t work around minutes, if you do not capture your audience in the first 3-5 seconds of being on your site that impression is lost. Take a good hard look at your navigation, your menu structure on your site. Is it written with clean code, easily crawlable and indexible or have you built it with scripts and images which have no relevance with search engines.
Have someone outside your business take a read of the content on your website, are they able to work out what it is that you do with just a quick glance? Often times, when a company is building a new site for themselves they can get carried away with their content, and they begin to create content which is too niche specific, resulting in lost visitors and relevance. Once you’ve gotten all of your content squared away, you can create proper links to your other web pages you’ve built, to try and help the bots to get at all of your available content and help push you that much further up the ranks. Think of your website like a sail boat, and your additional pages and content as added sails. The better job you do building them, the more power you’ll have behind you.
We’ve always maintained that those with certain skill sets should do certain jobs and stick to those jobs. Web designers should design, coders stick to coding, SEO’s stick to SEO and so on and so forth. There is however, one book that everyone should read and keep handy when building, repairing, or working on a website. Go hit up the Google Webmaster Guidelines for best practices for websites. It’s the best stepping stone you can use to begin to have a chance online, and while it won’t help you rank #1 for all of your niche terms, it will keep you from being targetted by their biggest updates; ala Panda and Penguin.
Currently Bing is going through a transformation of sorts, they’ve revamped their look and performance, changed up the way they do social, and tried to streamline everything overall. The current end result: in their own internal testing they’ve come out ahead of Google. A near 10% gain while Google lost 10% of their score during testing, so what’s Bing been up too?
Firstly, they’ve been working hard at incorporating more of the social web, into your search results. Earlier in the year, Google introduced their version of this idea as Search+ your world, and was met with the ire of masses. The claim was made that Google was favoring their own social network and shunning Facebook and Twitter, with Google counter arguing that they couldn’t gather information from those sources. Bing currently, manages to pull information on searches from all of these sources, Facebook, Twitter, as well as Google+. It may seem as though Google was just blowing hot air, but it needs to be mentioned that late last year Twitter did effectively block the search engine, and Facebook keeps a pretty tight handle on what gets out onto the web, even with open and social profiles. Microsoft Bing, currently has deals worked out with both of these parties to index their information, and Google+ profiles, if they’re set to public then everything on that page is indexed as a public website.
Bing used to have your social mixed in with your search results, but they decided to change that idea and went in a completely different direction. All of the social search results have been shoved off to the right side of your screen, where your friends, family and colleagues are ranked as per relevancy based on your search. Also included in those social results are people and items which may also be relevant to your search. The reason for the change according to Bing, is having the social results mixed in with organic, they felt that it diluted the page too much, and your searches would be affected.
So where does that leave us, Bing is in the process of launching their completely revamed search and social service, and they’ve made big gains in the search world, based on their own internal testing. A blog post on that point makes it a little clearer:
We regularly test unbranded results, removing any trace of Google and Bing branding. When we did this study in January of last year 34% people preferred Bing, while 38% preferred Google. The same unbranded study now shows that Bing Search results now have a much wider lead over Google’s. When shown unbranded search results 43% prefer Bing results while only 28% prefer Google results.