Category Archives: internet marketing

How To Lose the Search Game

After putting in extensive time and effort into procuring a website and filling it with great content, it’s then that the single most important step you can take online needs to take place. Your search engine optimization efforts – do you hire the professionals, or do you try to take care of it in house. In case you’re asking, the right answer is always hire the professionals, but, if you do decide to take on more than just the basics of good design, there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of.

One of the primary steps you need to consider with a new website if you had one previous, is what to do with all of those old links and content. The right answer, is to properly 301 redirect them and make sure that you’re tieing everything together properly. If you don’t, you’ve basically destroyed any kind of history and relevancy you may have already built with the search engines. Just because you’re revamping your image and/or your marketing drive, doesn’t mean you immediately toss out what you had previous, think of your old site and links your bedrock. If you just toss it to the wind you’re cutting your legs out from under you.

Also in the same line of thinking, just because you may be the big fish in the pond for your industry, that means little or nothing on the search engines. Even if you’ve been the key player for the last 10 years, don’t automatically assume that you know how your current and prospective clients might try and search to find you. Proper keyword research is absolutely imperative in being able to be properly indexed and found online. Just like in the previous example, you’d be selling your site short if you don’t do it right.

Don’t be lazy and take shortcuts, whether it means in your website or in your optimization efforts. If you’ve hired someone to take care of your SEO for you (as you should) then make sure to get periodic updates from them so you can have an idea as to how you’re progressing online. It’s in our best interest to do our absolute best for you, because great ROI for you means great ROI for us, it goes both ways. If you’ve chosen to go your own way and try and perform SEO on your own, be extremely mindful that there are hundreds of ways to get caught up, even accidentally, in the search web. If you don’t know how to navigate through the myriad of mazes that is the search engine optimization process, then you should know enough to call in the big guns.

My last point has to do with the idea of being lazy, and not really knowing what you’re doing, but I won’t elaborate on it a whole bunch as the answer is very simple. Links – if you don’t have the time or the skill to properly build them, do not assume you can buy them. You never buy links.. ever.

Presidential SEO

So finally the election is finished, and the winner has been decided. If for some reason you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of days, Obama took the crown and is set to begin his second term as the President of the United States. And regardless of who you were rooting for, there were some interesting search discoveries over the last couple of months of the battle, which have their roots in search.

A few days back, there was a story run in the Wall Street Journal about how Google was serving up results pages in what some were thinking was a strange coincidence. It seemed that even with being signed out of a Google account, and being on a cookie free browser, the results when searching for Obama almost bcame personalized. The article that was published even went on to say that the search engine was biased when searching for obama and related news, with one story coming right out and saying that the candidates were being treated unfairly. While it would make for a great conspiracy story, the unexciting truth is that it’s just how the Google algo works. Google simply displayed results based on how people searched for terms, the example being

more people searched for “Obama” followed by searches for “Iran” than the number of people who searched for “Romney” followed by “Iran.”

That was the first interesting point, the second follows in a similar vein.

It’s not really news anymore that between the candidates there were hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigning, but it was interesting to find that Obama out bid Romney on search ads online at nearly three to one. Both were bidding on the big hitters like ”2012 election” and “2012 presidential polls” to lead people to their campaign websites, but it was the former President who owned the paid advertisements of the results pages. Sticking in the trend of online visibility, Obama had Romney beat across the board with more Facebook fans, website visitors and Youtube video views.

The largest demographic in the voting populace is shifting to a much younger, information hungry crowd, so being able to be found online should be an integral cog in any parties agenda. When you shake all the numbers out from organic results to paid search, it looks like in the end Obama simply out optimized his opponent, and as helped secure himself with a second term.

Latest Panda Update and Your Site

Recently Google confirmed that another Panda Update has happened. Worldwide, the update will impact only about 0.4% of queries that a regular user might notice, in the US that number reaches around 1.1%. This latest update makes the 21st confirmed Panda Update by Google and while it can leave site owners a bit leery, there are a few things that you can do to help your site.

One of the simplest things that you can do for your online position is to create a dialogue between you and your customers. Keeping them apprised of developments in your business or your product, and encouraging discussion. It can lend your site ongoing, timely stuff to encourage the Google algorithms that feature content based on freshness.

What this can do is attract your audience to interact with you. User interaction signals like a comment discussion, can help your site gain higher prominence in Google local results. Having an active blog can also develop into more subscribers and frequent visits, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open. Blogging enables you to rank in Blog Search results as well as assisting with regular keyword results. Ultimately your goal, is gaining more prominent positions in your local search result.

An added benefit of blogging is it provides you with your own voice, in case anyone ever tries to attack your company online. You can think of writing your own blog as a linchpin of proactive online reputation management. Because where the internet is concerned, it’s forever and once it’s out there anyone can find it. This is also your simplest route into the social media market, as you can develop your own Facebook fan page, Google+ page and a Twitter feed, and link your blog directly to it. This provides your business with a solid bedrock for developing your own, unique social media presence. Using your blog as a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want.

Earning Your Investment

In the online digital world that we’re moving towards, there are a lot of intangible elements that can leave you wanting for more. Are my documents really safe to be stored only in a cloud service? How can I discerne how my visitors interact with my website? Is it possible for me to work out a precise return on investment for my SEO and PPC (pay per click) campaigns?

With there being so many extra variables, it’s difficult to acurately answer those types of questions, as each case is unique. Some cloud services are much more reliable than others for example, while even the biggest and best companies don’t sell themselves as having 100% uptime. Because where the web is concerned, it’s still has more than enough unknown variables affecting performance. There has been software, which reports assumptions of how visitors interact with your website for example, basing it’s calculations on mouse point duration and location. It takes the clicks that users perform on your website and use the aforementioned mouse position to determine your highest activity zones on your website. It’s still a best guess scenario at any rate, as it can only assume that each visitor to your site is actively engaged, and not tabbed out of the screen leaving you with a false positive.

Return on investment, is also one of those intangible variables that can be difficult to distinguish where search engine optimization is concerned. Pay per click is different in that you are actively bidding on your traffic and visitors, banking on their impulses to make conversions. Google Adwords for example can give you a calculated percentage of what each click through visitor was worth for you, so you can determine if your Adwords cost is justified, so you can make a solid decision on that investment. SEO is a tougher variable to work with, as your site content has to be that much better. Once you’ve worked on your campaign well enough to rank organically, you need to then work on your content to determine if it will elicit the response you want, whether it’s a newsletter sign up, email address or a direct purchase. There are a handful of sites which are built to help you work out the return on your SEO investment, some of which run with a hefty price tag. Organic optimization is the business of bringing your website relevant traffic, if your content is well done, you’ll convert to the type of result you’re looking for. Sometimes the information you’re seeking, is only a few clicks away, and you will learn how you’re being found.

Canadian Online Shopping

Now that Halloween is officially over, the shopping rush of Christmas is going to begin. Each and every year there is billions of dollars to be made online as more and more often shoppers are using the web to avoid the holiday masses in store. Here in Canada we have about 1 in 5 gifts purchased online, and while that might seem like a sizable amount, the reality is we’re well behind the pack.

A great quote about our current state of online shopping:

E-commerce could be a much, much larger trend in Canada if consumers had more places to shop online.
Rafe Petkovic, Google Canada

In terms of saturation, Canada is 5 to 6 years behind the rest of the world for online shopping, much where the UK was in 2006/07. There is an upside to our situation however, and it exists mainly because everyone else already did the work, all we would have to do is copy it, for lack of a better description. Can we improve our online offerings and move more towards the digital world with the rest of the world? Absolutely, all of the trials and tribulations with building the online shopping centers have already been ironed out.

There is a downside however, and it’s one that we frequently meet here at Fresh. The business owners who are resistent to change, growth, and adapting the online world and business model. When Jerry opened the offices here in Winnipeg, he was often met with resistence when outlining a new plan for an online presence even though the methods are proven successful in much tougher markets. In 2011 in the US, 70% of Internet users were online shoppers and for the UK that number was 82.5%. Canada was sitting at just under 57% of users were online shoppers, and the only one stopping that number from going up are the business owners.

The steps that are needed to be made to have a successful online shopping destination are not small ones, and make no mistake about the cost, because you get what you pay for. If you try and go cheap on a website or a shopping portal, just to get your name in the game, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you shipping issues, security issues or problems with payment processing. It’s a job that needs to be monitored, that needs to be guided and needs a proven professional company to do it right. Christmas is fast approaching, it’s only 7 weeks away, are you ready or able to properly serve your customers?

Do You Need Social

Search engine optimization as new as it is as an industry, still seems to raise the ire of in house company marketers. When a company has an advertising budget to use to be able to drive people to their business, whether it’s on or offline, it’s where online marketing becomes a problem.

The reason it becomes a problem, is because crafty marketers will try their hardest to think outside the box and find that niche strategy that lands the large influx of new customers or clients. One of the newer trends to online marketing is the idea that social marketing is thee benchmark requirement now, if you’re not using social then you’re losing out. The truth of the matter though? If you really, really wanted to you could entirely skip social media marketing and do just fine. Social media marketing and trying to take advantage of the potential there in isn’t the next big thing in the sense that if you’re not doing it you automatically lose, all it really does is give you another means to communicate with your customers/clients/consumer base.

It works like this, you set your business up with a Facebook page, a Google+ page and maybe a Twitter account, add the maintenance of these pages into your already packed full scheduled needs. Now you need a dedicated person to manage these pages, whether it’s posting a flash sale for example, or maybe it’s to respond to some criticism that’s trying to be pushed onto your brand or business image. This is a full time job, in and of itself, and if mismanaged can lead to negative repurcussions with your image directly offline. Now, is having a social media presence a positive aspect for your brand/business? Yes, but it needs to be managed, and no it is not required to be found in the results pages.

If you’re thinking about making the plunge into the social sector, ask yourself these few questions before you do, you may end up saving yourself a large amount of time and headaches down the road.

1)Do our customers ask for our Facebook/Twitter/Google+ name?
2)Is our customer base shrinking because of the lack of a social space?
3)Do we have too many testimonials and positive reviews to post on our website?
4)Are we missing out on conversions due to lack of a social presence?

The ‘Why’ of Content

A phrase often uttered where online marketing is discussed is ‘Content is king’. Even the search engines are in on the act, with many of their guides directly mentioning to keep tabs on content, it’s creation and how you have it on your site. What no one has really every asked or wondered in these discussions, seems to be the why part of the equation, why is content so important.

Firstly, content is a rather broad term, it can be text on your site, images, videos, interactive forms, almost anything you can place on your site to engage visitors is deemed as content. Once you have your content on your site, it’s up to either yourself, or your visitors to spread it around the web. Some of the faster ways you can do that for yourself would be via a Twitter or Facebook feed, obviously one with your clients as followers. The idea is that your followers link to your content, and help spread the word that you’re the leading authority in widget and doohicky sales in town.

This is where your content has started to generate back links to your website, and where your authority can be proven in your niche market. This you could call the third step of being relevant in the search engines, as the path to this point has been Content -> Followers -> Back links. If you follow the hype that the greener SEOs out there try to sell, it’s that you have no control over who links to your content, and to a degree they are correct. Almost every small business owner out there doesn’t have the hours in the day to devote to creating content, monitoring followers and the policing where there links are coming from. There aren’t really even that many who know how to view their backlinks profile in a search engine.

This is where a small portion of the real search engine optimization work comes into play, online body guards. It is in our best interest to ensure that any single backlink you have coming to your site, is from a reliable and relevant source. Once you create your content and make it available online, it’s in the wild and you really do have no control over who links to it, but we have the time, the expertise, and the steps in place to take care of who links to your site and content. So in the end, a simple four steps as to why content is king could be viewed as follows:

Content -> Followers
^                            |
|                            v
Relevance < – Backlinks

The Last Resort in SEO

There’s been a number of changes in the search world over the past 15 years since it’s pseudo birth, but the changes that have happened in the last 12 months have been some of the largest ever. There have been the Panda updates, the Penguin changes, and the EMD (exact match domain) changes that have made search engine optimization a much more interesting job. And not that they’re the only search engine in the game, but leave it to Google to make the most news with any change, seeing as they own the vast majority of the market.

I’ve outlined what can happen when you make a mistake and breach one of the rules set forth by the engines. You can take a rankings hit, you could suffer a penalty in the form of maybe losing some (Google) Page Rank, or you could even be completely removed from the index if you’ve accumulated enough ‘strikes’ against your website or url. As search engine optimization experts it is our job to ensure that ourselves, nor our clients fall into any of the multitude of pitfalls which you can find yourself in. None of these scenarios are unrecoverable, although making sure to get back into the good graces of the search engines will take some time and an extensive SEO skillset.

However if you don’t have time, or any search engine optimization skills under your belt, or maybe you don’t have the budget to bring in the real search experts, there is a solution for your business. It is one which will still take time, but you don’t have to worry so much about the SEO skills initially, because you’re going to start down the road of rebranding. Completely rebuilding your brand image is really a last resort option to take for your business, as it can take almost a year to return to the search results pages. If you’ve found yourself far enough up the creek that rebranding is a more viable option than repairing the mistakes you’ve made, perhaps it’s time for an evaluation of your job description.

Google Gains and Losses

With Google making their gaff and releasing their earnings numbers in the middle of the day as opposed to the end of day, it caused a bit of excitement. So much do in fact, that trading on their stock had to be halted, due to their earnings being lower than expected.

The market had already been aggressive with the stock, estimating positive growth in the company. With the final numbers coming in lower than what was expected, it caused the knee jerk reaction that the stock experienced. But just how is it, that one of the most powerful online properties failed to increase earnings when they picked up notable acquisitions like Motorola? Perhaps the answer isn’t as complex as it seems on the surface.

When it comes to search there is a handful of (viable) options for being found online, Google, Bing etc. But one of the avenues that mostly levels the search playing field is paid search, or PPC. Pay per click is almost the gear equalizer, as it’s limited to daily budget and doesn’t have any real bearing on age of domain or rely on heavy back linking strategies, you just need to write a better ad than the other guy. The issue we’ve been seeing in the last 8 months or so is the cost per click on client campaigns, previous costs ran in the 35 to 40 cent range where now we’re seeing increases to the 3 dollar plus range.

It makes it vastly difficult for anyone who doesn’t have a budget of several hundred dollars, equating to budgets of several thousand dollars per month. Short term gains are much more difficult for the mid to small business owner and who knows, maybe a direct correlation was their bottom line.

SEO Myths and Where They Start

The myths surrounding SEO are many, everything ranging from what the algorithm contains, how to trick the engines to rank highly with no effort and everything in between. Just like all rumors, they have a beginning, and it seems someone is trying to start a new on on the Webmaster World forums.

A site owner who has ended up being ‘Penguinized’ on his site as he put it, has become overly paranoid about any and all content on his site. He has basically decided, that all user generated content is a potential red flag for spam on his site, and as a result had currently removed/disabled all of the content. The (potential) birth of the SEO myth that user generated content, comments, forums, or other ways to directly interact with your customers, can lead to a Google applying a penalty to your site.

Without any confusion, user generated content will notlead to any penalty to be levied against your site.

It’s topics like this one started on active forums and blogs that lead to a great deal of confusion in the search world. It might seem like an inoccuous discussion taking place in a proper forum by someone looking for information, but with the way the discussion was handled it has the potential to lead to long lasting repurcussions. Because what often ends up happening is someone new to the search world finds these posts, and begins to believe them and the myth continues, changes, and unfortunately grows.