Category Archives: internet marketing

J.C. Penney Currently Being Punished

J.C. Penney has had their hand slapped obviously since they were caught breaking the good guy rules, as they should have. But it’s like there’s a white elephant in the room, that topic that no one wants to talk about. The ‘but how couldn’t they know’ side of the equation of their online marketing strategy.

It’s a dangerous loop to become trapped in when there are too many channels for information to pass through. And just like the game of Telephone when you’re a child (the passing of a phrase down a line of people), the message becomes lost in the end. The higher ups in the J.C. Penney organization deny that they knew of any shady business from their search engine marketing company and because of the way information travels it’s (unfortunately) probably true. The most unfortunate part of their whole marketing debacle is it’s just going to encourage the chain to bring all of their SEO efforts in house.

There’s two sides to this issue of course, and both have their pros and their cons. Bringing all of the tech and knowledge in house provides an exceptionally high level of control over the execution of their SEO strategy and much faster implementation of any changes they may desire. Out sourcing has the added benefit of not having to add to your staff and the cost can be offset to marketing, or worse, place the hands of your companies SEO into someone who thinks they can handle it. The very real, and unfortunate result of placing SEO into the hands of someone already within the company who only has an idea as to how best proceed is the likely outcome.

JCP is having their website manually checked on because they broke the rules of the search game. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on their website for some time to come I would imagine. But the violation which put them into this position, would have a very real chance to happen again if they should go the route to bring all of their SEO in house only and delegate it to a current employee who has an inkling of an idea.

Because when you take it down to brass tacks, the real SEO experts aren’t for hire by one company to stake their claim in one place. And a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing to have.

The Search Game

Most people have the memories of growing up, and watching their parents doing their jobs, what ever that may be. Watching your mom or grandmother make breads or mend clothes, watching your uncles fix cars and make the seemingly unworkable, run like new. But with no instruction, would it feel right to attempt the same feats?

Being mentored in a position or being groomed and trained to work in a specific field to meet clients and industry expectations is a vastly different process. To be trained as a chef, even a level 1 chef in the Canadian industry takes a minimum of 3 years to even wear the mantle of ‘Beginner’. To become a dentists assistant, that person who just puts a mirror in your mouth and secretly goes ‘so that’s what you had for lunch’ even goes to school and trains for a year; to become a dentist takes again, a minimum of 4+ years. Doctors go to school for 7 years and up, business professionals go to university and/or college for 2-5 years depending on their goals they’d like to meet. All of the industries crowded with professionals all maintain a minimum level of training in the average area of about 2 1/2 years of some kind of post secondary education.

So curious then, how is it that with just a handful of 1 hour webinars can someone become a search engine optimization expert? Is it possible that just by sitting by and watching the experts work, is enough to glean the necessary knowledge that it requires to be capable in the field? The best practices of SEO are trumpeted from every corner of the web marketing websites on the web so generic knowledge is readily available. But the time spent training your skill set, working on a dozen websites at a time, working over the code of the pages, managing the content and tinkering with the keywords is where the expertise begins to take shape.

The man who’s trained me with all I’ve learned wrote about it some time back, and I believe he said it best. If you think you’re an expert in the search engine optimization field, prove it. Create for yourself, a half dozen websites on various terms of various competetiveness. Then the easy part, make them list organically for each of their respective niches. Work the code, massage the content and prove to yourself that ‘Yes I can do SEO for clients’.

You don’t become an expert, by watching experts work. To even make the statement that you can accomplish the same level of skill in a single sitting that’s taken years of refinement reeks of ignorance. As the boss would say, ‘horses for courses, do what you’re good at’ and stay out of our sandbox lest we get sand in your eyes.

J.C. Penney and Google – An example in the making

Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.

The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.

Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.

JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.

In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.

Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.

Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).

A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.

Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.

Search Engine Optimization and You – Driving Qualified Traffic

There’s a massive amount of information on the Internet on absolutely everything, the downside of this of course is the (seemingly) even larger amounts of mis-information. This holds true in any industry, but when it comes to the topic of search engine optimization, it often seems that it’s not so much the fact and fiction mixed up. It’s more akin to the information being tossed in a blender and spread in a mess.

The most antagonizing part of all of the information out there, is that people who partake of what makes the most sense to them, claims to make them experts in the field. It’s from these same sources that the newest experts don’t even learn how to properly 301 a website, or are unable to tell the difference between paid links and paid advertisements.  Some of the latest crop have seemed to be of the belief that building websites to rank for obscure long tail terms, is the same skill as being able to rank a client for their desired and preferred terms.

The whole idea about marketing your business is about driving qualified visitors to your website, where hopefully your SEO company has advised you on how to build your site to facilitate conversions. Whether it’s convincing visitors to sign up for your news letter, or to buy your product, or sign up for your discussion forums, the idea of pushing and marketing your site is to increase your bottom line, what ever it may be.  Say for example your business is in making shoes, and your website has a built in shopping cart so your customers can buy custom footwear direct. Along comes the newest ‘expert’ in SEO and builds your site around a long tail search along the lines of ‘custom designed walking equipment’. You may shake your head an scoff at the idea, but it happens, and happens far too often.

No, this doesn’t mean that long tail searches are dead in any way, there are users out there who don’t use the Google Instant feature, or simply type out their entire query. But the point of my description was to drive home the idea that search engine optimization isn’t about tricking the search engines, isn’t about spamming on blog comments and posts and it isn’t about tricking visitors into visiting your website. It’s about driving qualified traffic to your site with the decision to purchase your product, or sign up for your newsletter or become involved in your community. Real SEO performed by the real SEO experts drives measurable, qualified traffic to your website to make your bottom line better.

The Cost of Facebook Ads

Facebook has become the most visited site above Google and all others online. It’s not uncommon to find a story about Facebook versus Google/Bing/Yahoo or about how they’ve reached 500 million plus members. Millions upon millions of people communicate, play and flit away hours on the site, and the site is reportedly worth billions.

But at the end of the day, is it really a financially savvy move to advertise on Facebook? In 2009 it was, as the cost for a click was only 27 cents, but for a click through rate of only just over half of 0.1%. And as time goes on you’d expect things to get better, but in 2010 the cost per click actually nearly doubled in cost to 49 cents, and the click through rate dropped. With so many member accounts, it’s hard to believe that the advertising model has such a bleak factual bottom line.

With the benefits of advertising on Facebook being parlayed as being targetted via friends within the site, the numbers display the honest truth. While ads may last longer, and be presented more relevant on your Facebook pages, you’re less likely to use them than if you were to find them else where online. Even banner ads on websites performed better on the bottom line. Oh well, at least there’s Mafia Wars and Farmville right?

A Little Company that do BIG THINGS

We heard this statement the other night from President Obama in his state of the union speech, it made me smile, why? because we are exactly that.

Since our inception on a coffee table back in the UK this is exactly how we have seen ourselves.

Over the years we’ve done big things with major brands like Sony, Sanyo & Best Buy, we’ve worked with celebrities & governments to making a small back street vendor a major player online across North America beating the likes of Sears & Costco, A little company that do big things.

What do we do? Well, everything to do with online search & branding, we have a team buying domain names daily, in fact we see opportunities before most others do, an example was the presidents quote of A little company that do big things, we bought that domain within 5 minutes of him mentioning it, a great slogan, we have done the same with others, company’s spend millions marketing there new project with traditional media, TV ads & Newspapers without first securing the web domains they will need to secure the brand first, how stupid is that at $10 a throw? then they complain when someone beats them to the punch and they have to pay Big Bucks to a little company for there ignorance, it’s just business.

We also run and manage Google Adwords accounts for clients, that’s easy considering I was consulting when the program was being built by Google, but what we really excel at is SEO, yes we know everyone can do this, if this is true then why don’t the company’s or individuals selling the service show up for themselves for major terms on the search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, it’s a no brainer, if they cannot list themselves, how do they list you?

Like Obama said, The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.

Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution, Innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.

Call a little company that do big things today on 204.942.4200 it could change your life.

Online Marketing for 2011

And with the Happy New Year celebrations behind us all, it’s that time again where people make those resolutions to themselves to lose weight, be a happier person, exercise more etc. The very nature of resolutions is a noble one, but unfortunately most people shoot too high, disappoint themselves for not being able to perform or maintain and end up quitting all together. The best method, is baby steps of course.

Of course I can’t tell you if you need to exercise more, or eat better, but I can promise that if you take baby steps involved with your online marketing, you will see results, and results which will leave you very happy and in a very strong position for the next holiday shopping spree.

Your first baby step, should involve actually breaking down your current online agenda. Is your website up to date? Has your site been built with tons of active elements like Flash or Java menus? Is it easy to navigate your website? It’s hard, but try and imagine visiting your website for the first time as a new visitor, can you find information quickly and easily? It’s a small, but extremely important step in reprioritizing your online efforts in the new year. If you can realize what needs to be fixed after all, you can move forward with confidence.

Your next step, after having a good honest look at your website, should be a stark examination of your current online marketing efforts. Are you an AdWords afficionado? Does your web copy read naturally, or is it full of technical jargon about your product or services? It’s a fine line to sell yourself online to new clients, you need to be able to explain yourself as simply as possible, as accurate and concise as can be.

Now that you have a clear staging point from which to begin, it’s time to bring in the experts. SEO and online marketing experts at Fresh Traffic draw on over 25 years of experience in providing Search Engine Optimization & Internet marketing solutions. As specialists in Online Brand Development & Search Engine Optimization, Fresh Traffic makes the Internet an accessible & successful addition to all businesses, driving more unique visitors & brand impressions to websites. We’re the best at bringing you the traffic you desire to your site, start the new year right and let 2011 be your best online year yet.

Holiday Spending 2010

The numbers for the past holiday season are starting to be tallied up, and we were a bunch of busy bodies. The question is, as a business owner, local or otherwise, does your earnings this season match up with the increased spending this year?

According to a MasterCard report, online holiday sales rose more than 15 percent, with consumers spending about $36 billion online. A 15 percent gain over last year is a great upswing in one of the busiest times of year and a great way to go into the new year. As a whole, the retail industry saw a 5.5 percent increase in sales for the season, the strongest performance in five years, with consumers spending $584 billion over the holidays.

Online sales increases this past year should be an even larger incentive for all business owners to improve their presence online in a big way. Some of the newer trends this season were mobile marketing, shopping via mobile phones. Intuitive marketers encouraged their businesses to harness the power in mobile technology, and leveraged services like Twitter to announce premium sales, issue coupons and offer very limited time flash sales with huge savings for customers.

Having a glance at the numbers for this holiday season, and having a read about some of the marketing tactics used, how did you fare this time around? Did you experience a 15% increase in sales? Did you leverage the power of local and mobile search to entice your customers into your location? With the power of the web, the world is your marketplace, but you should never forget where you are and those who are around you as well.

Local Online Brand Management for 2011

In the past, the most natural way for a small business to grow was with a solid reputation within it’s community. Spending a little cash here and there for a mail stuffer, newspaper ad and the obligatory ad in the yellow pages. The hard work, strong ethics, positive attitude and positive customer relationships could make a good business into a great one.
Time has shifted a little bit since then, but the basics remain the same. Treat your customers right, and it will help you attract clients in the future. Think about how being out with a friend you ask their opinion on a restuarant you’re curious about trying. Or about the local mechanic who started in his garage and found he needed more room so he opened a shop locally. Local reputation is very important to small and/or new businesses.

In 2011. it is expected that local online advertising efforts will grow north of $20 billion. Definitely much more than just chump change, local business owners seemingly are starting to realize that the yellowpages print ad they’ve used just isn’t cutting it anymore. But as an aside, brand management, or online reputation management, has become increasingly important. Where word of mouth has been increasingly become ‘world of mouth’ being able to manage your own business online has become a more important affair, becoming much more than just taking care of your AdWords account. And active blog tied to your company can help push you up the SERPs, so long as it’s kept active. Allowing comments to be posted onto the blog as well can help boost your positions, but it’s a double edged sword. Diligent management of the comments section is very important, to ensure you’re not having your competitors posting links back to their site, and piggy backing your climb up the rankings.

Online brand management has become more and more important as the world comes more to the online store to conduct business. The danger in improperly managing yourself online can drive your business to the ground if false company reviews are made to climb higher in the rankings than you rank organically.

SEO in 2011 – Are you ready?

There are a number of checks and balances online when it comes to SEO. And the more finely tuned you can make those points, the faster and more precise you can be in your climb to first place on the SERPs. With the year about to end, and being on the cusp of the next, here’s a quick checklist to see if you are ready to tackle 2011 online.

Website URL: When you’re looking at your websites url/address, it’s easy to forget that it is, or should be, second nature to you. Try to imagine you’re seeing it for the first time as a consumer. Is it easy to remember? Is it a complicated acronym of letters? Keep it simple and you’ll be further ahead from the get go. Another good rule of thumb, if it’s not memorable, it should be easily searchable.

Website Logo: Do you have an easily recognizable logo? Or is it plain, greyscale print on a white and black background. Think of your websites face, the brand image you’d like to project to the online world.

Website: Now this is a can of worms. Everything can affect both your search/SEO prospects, and your visitor prospects. Everything from color scheme, to layout, from menu placement to text placement affects your site. Try and remember what MySpace looked like 10 years ago with pixel graphics and sounds playing upon entering, does your website have any of those problems? If they do, it’s time to seek professional help.

Website Coding: The non visible portion of your website, is also what determines everything I mentioned in the general website rules. Embedded java, flash elements, active java elements working on your website all cause issue with both search, and can affect user experience as well.

These are just some very basic ideas on what to examine on your website with the pending holidays. If at the end of going through the preliminary list you find yourself making notes relating to improvements on your website, you know which is the kick off point for your online campaign in the New Year.