Category Archives: internet marketing

Local Search Booming

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?

 

Promote Your Site The Right Way

An issue that some small business owners who try and handle all aspects of their marketing campaigns encounter, is time. Especially when it comes to the online marketing aspect of the business, being able to consistently put time and effort into your website is a crucial element.

There are a number of small business owners out there who are self-made, done it all on their own types so it’s only logical (in their mind) that they can handle all of their site maintenance as well. What’s quickly and unfortunately learned, is slapping quick fixes and changes which you may read in a forum or blog can be a hindrance to your online marketing efforts.

Another common misconception surrounding the online advertising industry is it’s a one shot done deal. The truth of the online world is completely different however, as it never sleeps, stops or even slows down. When you’ve broken down your site and completed all of the changes and updates to your content to help your positioning, no sooner have you finished than you need to start all over again with your competitors.

So when you realize, as a business owner, that you don’t have the time, the knowledge or the expertise to help your business rank at the top of the SERPs, it’s time to call in the experts. The most dangerous thing you can do to your website is trying to interpret search signals and make changes to your site based on speculation in a forum or a blog. Information taken out of context can bury your site if you’re not careful.

SEO Will Always Be Relevant

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.

SEO Stop Words

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.

Unrelated Keywords
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.

Time To Move Forward Winnipeg

When Fresh first came to Winnipeg, to say there was some resistance to the notion of online marketing and branding would be putting it mildly. Responses to the idea that business and the world were going online and digital ranged from the “convince me first” crowd to the flat out “not happening I don’t need it” group. It seemed that the larger the company we approached, the more resistance was met. The majority of our clients a few years ago weren’t even in Canada, let alone Winnipeg.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.” But nobody ever thinks they’re stupid, right? You certainly can’t come right out and say as much to them. So, how can we identify and combat stupidity? Aggressive stupidity goes by another name at many organizations these days … management.

That’s not meant to be a kick in the teeth to all business owners, but if the door to real innovation, to real growth as a company is perpetually closed, then if the shoe fits. It’s rather difficult to hold a straight face when the manager of a company can tell you in a meeting they can’t afford to market or update their website, when they’ve said in the same meeting they’re spending upwards of $3000 on a single advertisement in a newspaper. Or on a block of mid-day radio spots, or a 20 second television commercial which only comes on after midnight. Marketing and advertising priorities need to change, Winnipeg business owners need to get with the times.

In the end, though, whether or not you’re successful boils down to how hard you work.. and a little bit of luck. But Thomas Jefferson had it absolutely correct when he said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Free Search Listing Options

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.

Is Siri a Metaphor That could Define The Future Of Local Search?

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.

http://blumenthals.com/blog/

Manitoba Bold Initiative

The Manitoba Bold Initiative, What is it? Well from what I read it’s about being bold with your ideas for making Manitoba a better place.

As part of its efforts to inject some bold ideas into the economic policies during the current provincial election, Dave Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and spokesman for Manitoba Bold, said the clean energy and technology sectors have the most potential for growth. I could agree with some of that.

I also watched streaming video coverage at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café on transportation, venture capital and Manitoba’s revenue model featuring CentrePort Canada CEO Diane Gray, Prairie Fire Growth Ventures CEO Harry Schulz, and Pitblado Law’s Brian Bowman. (By the way people Brian writes a great blog)

Now I can tell you that in my 4 years since I arrived in Manitoba I have been called Bold, also Arrogant, Blunt, Cocky, Candid and a pain in the ass plus a few more, but until this province and some of the so called business leaders in Manitoba get that the world has changed, the way people and business communicate has changed and have the courage to grab the bull by the horns to make us change, until then, these leaders in Manitoba will still be playing catch up with the rest of the world (and other provinces). You can only treat people so long like mushrooms by keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit.

I don’t profess to be a politician, nor will I ever be that way, but being bold in Manitoba, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the powers that be and so called decision makers don’t like it one bit.

I doesn’t matter if you’re proved right down the line, their egos won’t let them, they like you to toe the line, their line and it is exactly that small town mentality that holds Manitoba back and I think they like that way. They need to be BOLD and take the necessary steps to WIN if they want to.

When I arrived in 2007 we had Selling Winnipeg to the World, where did that go?, oh yes they used up all the money then went out to the public domain with begging bowl asking for more money, they got it too $6 million, it then got changed to Yes Winnipeg, Destination Winnipeg was changed back to Economic Development & Tourism after running short of money and getting another government handout, Winnipeg’s Inland Port got changed to Centreport Canada in 2008 with a big handout from the tax payers, over $200 million. We also had the the Human Rights Museum starting off.

So in 2007 up until today I have tried to be very bold, in fact I went to see all of the above entity’s and offered my help, why not?, after all I was let into Canada as a world expert in my field, even the BBC called me when I arrived, (come on that has to be impressive). I had worked with large organizations before, governments, celebrities and so on and was successful in all our workings, why not help Manitoba? I live here now.

Not on your nelly, this is the real problem with Manitoba, not just me, I know other people and companies who have had the same shuns. Manitobans don’t trust outsiders, it takes a while for them to warm to you, it also depends if you tow the line, they hate the idea of you making any money, god forbid they don’t get there share and they always know someone else who works out of a basement or small office who went to college or night school for 3 weeks who learned to be an expert. Old boys club.

Wake up you sad Muppets, put your ego’s aside, get your ass into gear, pay the money and go make this province what it can become, Great. You will need help though, truly, from an internet prospective you are light years behind, and this is where all the action is happening, I know and would be happy to call out every single so called internet marketing and social media agency in Winnipeg who do work here, why? Because I have spoken to most, helped most, have emails from most asking for help, or a job or to provide white label services for them before deciding to go off and sell their little knowledge to unqualified business buyers and the like.

BE BOLD, This year alone my company will have supplied over 15 million visitors to Manitoba websites, we also keep blogging and telling business to protect your brand, stop putting the cart before the horse, so when Manitoba business leaders start talking about Manitoba Clean Energy or Manitoba Entrepreneurship’s and Start up Nations and Transportation Hubs without protecting these wonderful ideas, it does make you wonder.

On closing, these are opinions of the writer only, please no more attorney letters, if the cap fits wear it. Be Bold and venture into a new world, we are waiting here for you and happy to help should you want it.

The Basis of SEO

When we have new clients which are chomping at the bit to take over the world with their website, it seems more and more often there has been some confusion just to how the SEO process works. For some reason, the idea that we as search engine optimization and online branding experts can just call Google and tell them to place you at the top of the listings, seems to be what we do. The demystifying of SEO is a somewhat difficult task at times, even more so when contacts believe you can walk on water.

With this issue fresh in mind from a recent conversation, I feel the need to reiterate some basic SEO facts for those who may hopefully read this post before jumping to conclusions. First off, optimization of your website is only a very small piece of the puzzle for your online business. Any SEO worth their salt will tell you that in order for you to be successful online not only do you need to be visible, but there needs to be a clear call to action on your landing page. It does you no good as an online store for example, to have visitors landing on your contact us or about us page. You want users to buy from you, optimizing your site to drive traffic to your catalogue is your goal.

Search engine optimization is not an over night or fly by night success. It’s been said a million times, organic optimization takes time. If you’re lucky and have a solid base to work with, it may take as little as a month or two, but the norm is closer to 12 weeks + to begin seeing consistently measurable results.

After these two basic points, then you get into the meat of the business which has been talked about at great length all across the web. You need to keep website usability in mind. You need to keep your all encompassing goal when writing new content and rehashing the old on your pages. You can completely derail an SEO campaign with as small a change as making a term into a plural as opposed to singular. Remember to keep your navigation menus clean and clear, the more accurate and simple you can make them the quicker your site can be crawled and indexed.

Just some very plain, basic facts about the SEO process (again) which just seem to keep eluding small and large business owners alike. For all of your search engine optimization and online branding success, you need only pick up the phone and give the experts a call.

Social Marketing & Semantic Search Evolution

When Google launched their first salvo into the social war with Buzz, they made some really big mistakes. Allowing anyone who was on your contact list basically be able to browse your contacts was a pretty big breach of trust for any social network, and it nearly sunk all of Google’s aspirations in one swoop. But fast forward 18 months or so and we’re over a month into their latest social offering with Google+.

They’ve made some serious improvements to their social understanding by watching the explosive growth of Facebook and their flop with Buzz. Privacy controls are easy and intuitive to manipulate, friends are easy to arrange and messaging controls are plain and straight forward. It’s easy to say that Google+ may be a contender in the social arena with hitting 25 million accounts in a fraction of the time that Facebook had, but public understanding and acceptance need to be used to temper their growth. People are beginning to understand the nature of social web sites with Facebook having been the king for so long. Many, myself included, find they have as much as entire friend feeds blocked as all they do is play Farmville or Cafe World. Facebook boasts having high day to day activity and retention rates, but if the majority of those people are just there to play games the quality of the use is definitely in question.

But just like Google’s AdSense and paid advertising you see on results pages, those game players on Facebook are served ads. Social Media Marketing is a very real avenue to explore if your a small company on a tight budget. Google+ at present doesn’t have business options setup, but they’ve made clear that yes, they are coming. So get your practice in with Facebook, Twitter tweets and PPC/AdSense marketing because even with a “paltry” 25 million users, Google+ will be a qualified market for advertising.

All of the taglines you generate with Twitter, Facebook and soon with Google+, may have more strength than you might think. Nicholas Schiefer recently won a Canada Wide science fair and made interesting inroads in the realm of search. The 17 year old is being compared to Mark Zuckerberg for his idea and implementation of his search algorithm, and those are no small shoes to fill.

The algorithm as it’s written, searches short documents like tweets, Facebook statuses and news headlines for starters. That 140 character string of gold is crunched and parsed by his infant algorithm to deliver results. It may not seem much different from what Google, Bing or Yahoo offer, but where it does get different is when his search algorithm applies context to the results. The advantages of a semantic algorithm which could determine context in the results it retrieves would be a great improvement in the realm of social search. As an example, you’ve been out for dinner and had a poor experience, you could use that type of search engine to determine if others have had the same experience. It’s possible to do so with the existing search engines, but it takes a bit of work to sort through the results to find customer reviews if you don’t include it as part of your initial search. It’s an impressive start for a young man who may be a part of changing the way the world searches. Time will tell how interested the world is in semantic, contextual searching should Mr. Schiefer continue his project.