Browsing "internet marketing"
An interesting question that crops up from time to time that still surprises me, is when a client we’ve been working with for a number of months asks if social media is “worth it”.
Where social media is concerned, there’s a short answer to that question, as well as the long version. The short answer would be a unquestioning yes, while the longer version isn’t negative, although it’s not as clearly positive as the short version. There is a real reason behind the difference in the answers however, and I’ll get to those in a minute. But first I’ll give a few pointers as to why social media is a good thing to do in general.
The way that I’ve found is simplest to describe social media marketing to clients with the least amount of confusion is to use the idea of parking lot flyers. You know the ones, when you go to the mall to pick up your holiday shopping and you come outside to find a flyer underneath your wiper blades or a card tucked into your window frame. It’s mildly inconvenient, only in that you have a slip of paper or cardboard to deal with, but chances are in that split second while you deal with you, you’ll be reading the content of that piece of paper. You get your message out to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in very short order, but there’s no immediate response or interaction between you. That’s the clear short answer of “yes social media marketing is good”.
Social marketing methods like using Twitter or Facebook kind of fall into the same level of advertisement quality. The key difference though where the web is concerned is how actively you want to engage your potential audience. And this is where the grey area comes into play with using that type of audience interaction. With the flyer idea, it’s like a fire and forget method, and you get what you get in the end. The conversion and retention rates are likely to be low, but you’re going for a saturation effect. But where online is concerned, you’ll be able to directly correspond with your customer base, so you can engage them in conversation, whether it’s to answer questions about your advertising campaign or perhaps a special that you’re trying to promote. The long answer of “yes it’s good but..” is you will only get as much out of social media marketing as you’re able to put into it. If you can only setup a campaign but pay no attention to it, you’re just as well off paying a couple of youths to distribute flyers in a mall parking lot.
There are any number of missteps that can affect your website and how it ranks online, but there is one in particular which gets under an SEOs skin quicker than any other. Any guesses as to what that might be?
Instead of playing 20 questions to try and take up a bunch of time let’s just come right out and talk about it. The most trouble some aspect of any search campaign isn’t the search engines themselves. It can often turn out to be a business owner, or an internal IT guy at a business who feels they “know enough” to do the same work that we do as search professionals. I’ve been over it a number of times, but you will always get what you pay for in the professional business world, and when you try and double dip in expertise it can most often end up costing your business time and money. And where even a day of traffic could potentially cost your business substantial sums, thousands of dollars – millions maybe, are the temporary savings worth it?
A little bit of knowledge can be a very dangerous thing in these cases.
The over abundance of information available online is a blessing, and a curse. It allows us as a professional agency an avenue to share with our clients to explain trends, topics, and some of the methods which we use to help their search positioning. Those are the explainable, tangible metrics that are easy for the layman to understand about the search game. Where the trouble starts is with all of the nuances associated with the game, and for every visible aspect there are ten hidden facets. Just a very simple example of how much difference even a letter can make, try a singular and a plural search – something like ‘house for sale’ and ‘houses for sale’. To a person there is virtually no difference, a single letter ‘s’ is all that separates the two terms. But to a search engine they are almost entirely different searches, and your results will be different from my own.
It’s a point that I learned very early on while being coached in the industry, but even something as innocuous as a letter, can make all the difference between being number 1, and being invisible.
More often than not you’re looking to have your website visibility increased when contracting an online branding agecny, but as a different train of thought, did you realize you can use them to hide your website as well from the search engines?
To clarify a tad, you don’t typically engage a marketing agency to hide your business, but there are cases where you would want to keep the search engines at bay. Depending on the way your site is constructed for example, you’ll want to keep them out of your image files, or perhaps you have an extensive pdf collection hosted on your site, and you’d rather keep them from being indexed as part of your website. Maybe it’s even a new website build being done to update your look and content, and that needs to be completely hidden from the search engines until you’re ready to go live, just in case the bots get confused – they’re not intelligent at all in this respect. For those reasons, I submit a short list, on how not to be found on the search engines.
One of the simplest and quickest ways to be hidden from the search engines is by editing your web hosts robots.txt file. Not all website owners have access to change this file, but when you can it can be used to restrict search engine behaviour like nothing else. With just a simple phrase, ‘disallow’, you can completely obscure your site or pages from being found by search engine spiders. But just as uncle Ben said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ you need to be extremely careful with what you choose to disallow to the search engines, you may inadvertently block key components or pages of your site, rendering any search engine marketing efforts useless.
If the robots.txt change is too broad a stroke for your case, but you still have certain areas you would like to restrict the search engines from finding certain pages, you can use a meta string of code in the head of each webpage you’d like to keep from being indexed. It’s even as easy as it sounds, all you need to do is add the switch meta=noindex to hide a certain page, and there are a handful of additional switches which could be added to sculpt search engines flow through your site.
The two last methods for restricting bot activity on your website are the biggest guns in the game, and that’s using 404 pages for dead ends, and if you really get serious, 301 redirects to send bots and visitors alike to a different destination all together. These are the big redirects however, affecting your visitors and bots alike, and are not to be taken lightly. Sculpting your traffic flow entirely to a different destination is one that needs to be taken with care and foresight. One improperly executed 301 or 404 in your website, could bring your entire marketing campaign crumbling to the ground.
There have been a number of major updates recently and while the search game keeps changing, our message will always remain the same. Being found online is important, becoming a brand is the real goal.
A couple of the major updates recently seems to have shaken up a good deal of some of the marketers in the SEO field, especially with the change to the way that keywords (aren’t) relayed anymore via stats. The ‘not provided’ change happened just around a month ago now, and some of the light weights in the search world are feeling a pinch without that keyword data it seems. It doesn’t take much searching on any search engine to find a blog about the end of SEO now that you can’t work with the keyword data that the engines previously provided. Short answer to them from us here at Freshtraffic would be something along the lines of see you later then.
The PageRank is another point that seems to still make waves with online marketing providers too, as it hasn’t been updated in months. PageRank was a handy tool to quickly determine how valuable Google viewed a website, and a lot of people seem to have taken that to heart. It isn’t a stretch to think that with the keyword data shut off, and the PageRank no longer being updated, that the use a PageRank as a ranking factor will be going the way of the dinosaurs. Not entirely a bad thing however, as it can allow for a more objective search experience, and hopefully increased competition between brands.
The other major change that has happened in the last month has been the Hummingbird update. It has introduced the idea of contextual search to the web, so now you can actually use a phrase like “Who won the 1954 Stanley Cup” (the Detroit Red Wings by the way). It has introduced a method of search that conforms more to the way that a person might use in actual conversation with another, that you can use questions to find what you’re interested in instead of trying to be clever in your searches.
All of the major changes over the last year have been towards a more fluid use of the search engine that Google has brought to the web. It’s much more streamlined, and allows for real online branding opportunities to be drawn upon. Why you would want to push for building a brand as opposed to strictly internet marketing? We’ll delve into that canyon next time.
There is a buzz that has been steadily getting louder with online marketing and while social media isn’t going away anytime soon, contrary to what some blogs and outlets decry it is not the one stop marketing shop that fills every niche for you.
The big brouhaha really took on a life of it’s own with some of the recent Google updates which led marketers to believe that in order to have any presence on the web, it was mandatory that you have, use, and promote your Google+ profile page. There have been a number of independent studies conducted and I’m not going to copy and paste hundreds of lines of text into the blog, the basic run down is that having a G+ profile is not the holy grail that it was purported to be; correlation does not imply causation. That is not to say however that there isn’t any merit in using Google’s social network, there is about as much success to be gleaned from using it as there is from Facebook, you just have to be clued in on how you use their social services.
Social media optimization and marketing has had a place in the marketing world ever since the days of Myspace and phpbb forums, and all the way back to professional sports. It’s the somewhat the same as running the advertising campaigns inside a baseball stadium that has the outfield lined with ads and sponsors, or like a hockey game with the boards around the ice dotted with advertisements. The best way to get your use out of social media marketing is to be very quick, and very clear with your message. As it is, there are users and companies out there who develop browser plugins and apps to block Facebook advertisements, both in the news feed and on the side panels due to their message being invasive to a users timeline. So you need to be able to deliver your message quickly, clearly and you need to realize that just because you post and advertise via social media that you can’t stop working on your website and it’s optimization. Social media optimization has no direct effect on your websites position in the results pages. If you were sitting on page 8 before making up a Facebook of Google+ post and do nothing to support your advertising, you’re not going to be making any rankings changes any time soon.
Misinformation and outright lies abound on the web regarding almost every topic out there, but it seems that one of the most proliferant out there are the myths and untruths about search engine optimization.
The most obvious one to bring up and discount right off the bat is that SEO itself is a dead industry. There have been a dozen or so very major updates to the search engine algorithm with Google, and everytime they make drastic changes the sky begins to fall. But to outright say that the search game itself is dead and over just because one of the players makes a change is heavy handed and sensationalist in order to generate an article full of link bait. Methods which properly used can actually generate a decent amount of link bait, one of the basic methods of generating traffic flow to a website, a.k.a – search engine optimization.
And to somewhat follow in the same train of thought, if it isn’t dieing then it’s surely cheating if you can make a site rank for any of its key terms. Search engine optimization really isn’t a difficult advertising theme to understand if it is all you do every day. But when you have the joiners hopping on board comprised of web designers, and even old media industry giants like newspapers and yellow pages, when they’re unable to actually perform in the extremely competitive SEO arena it is easy to say that everyone else must cheat or spam to win. That’s just like the kid at school that hates losing who wants to take his ball home when he can’t keep up during the soccer game, either do the work to get better, or pay the people who can.
To continue a moment on the thought that search engine optimization isn’t a difficult industry if it’s what you do consistently, here is some free advice for all of the new comers out there. If you feel unsure about what you’re doing with SEO, or you’re unsure of a certain method or implementation of a tactic, stop. Stop trying to push your site up the search engines by following the posts you find in forums, and stop trying to get your IT guys to do the work that they’re not qualified to do. Properly working within the search world can sometimes be like a constantly moving game of hop scotch, if you miss a jump or step where you’re not supposed to, you’ll find yourself completely out of the game. Not a position you ever want to find yourself in.
If you really want to know, the real secret to high quality search engine optimization is you’re already here.
Ever since Google has passed it’s most recent milestone of 15 years of age, they have begun a new wave of algorithm changes. And true to the nature of the marketing world in general, SEO is once again dead as an industry.
I would like to get one point out of the way before we get too far into this, and that point is that search engine optimization is not going to die because of the recent changes. That’s a load off of my mind, now to address the most recent changes in the search world, and why the internet marketing world has changed, but only for the better.
Addressing the most recent update that Google acknowledged, one which they’ve nicknamed Hummingbird, has made a big splash on the scene over the weekend. The purpose of the change to the algorithm was to introduce more semantics into the search world, and is designed primarily to bring the user more relevant results, faster than before. It’s a great idea in the long run for search and for users, as the whole idea is to deliver highly relevant results to get you to your destination faster. But this change, regardless of how much it has changed the search algorithm is still not the end of SEO. The semantic addition to the algorithm for the first part, only makes highly relevant and optimized content be more friendly to the search engines. And the chief reason I know it isn’t the end of search is the algorithm was updated over a month ago. If search engine optimization was going to die due to the Hummingbird inclusion, it would already be dead and buried.
The other major addition to the search world has been the shift by Google in particular, to encrypt all of the search terms used when performing any search. I have already dissected why the encrypted searches aren’t a factor to any real online branding agency, so I don’t need to go into great depth. But just like the Hummingbird update isn’t going to end the search game, neither will the encrpyted search terms.
What these updates will do however is change the game enough that the posers won’t be able to swim in the deep end of the search pool anymore. Time is up kiddies, shuffle off to the shallow end or leave all together, it’s time for the big people to have a swim.
One of the most important steps in any endeavour regarding your businesses website is having a consistent point of contact between the client and the agency. With how easy it is to dig up information on anything you like on the internet however, this point of contact can quickly turn into a road block to moving ahead with a project.
There is absolutely no shortage of information online regarding search engine optimization and about it takes only a simple search to find millions of pages on the topic. A growing problem as of late that seems to be plaguing the industry is the increasingly rapid growth of poor information surrounding the subject. The inclusion of all of the searches being returned via Google turning into a value in your analytics hasn’t been helping the cause either, there has already been a handful of knee jerk reactions across the web and cries of “The end is near!” Here is the thing though, nothing has changed in the SEO world, only in the world of analytics. So before you subscribe to the theory of doom and gloom that the online marketing world is dead, call Freshtraffic, a real online branding agency and speak with someone that has a clue before you tank your website and it’s rankings.
Not to be left out, even the world of web development and design can be brought to it’s knees by an.. overly attentive client. When you’re having a website designed and developed to fit all of your wants and needs for your online presence, there is really only one major point to keep in mind – when your designer/developer strongly advises you use a certain method, you should probably pay attention as they have spent more time with your website than anyone else at that point. Depending on the software being used to develop with, and what your website needs are there are certain steps which need to be adhered to in order to maintain good web design practices all around. Where we run into some of the more egregarious problems again, comes from the prevalence of information on the web. It can be a daunting task in itself just to keep a design on track, and not end up with an example like below. Just remember we’re all in this together and are all working to achieve the same goal.
CLIENT: This red is terrible! Why did you pick this red!?
ME: It’s the red from your logo. I can change it to the blue if you would prefer.
CLIENT: No, no, no… I’m sending you a word doc right now. It’s perfect. Use that!
Only then opening the file to find text with a rainbow gradient and neon pink shadow.
With the big changes over the last couple of months with the search engines it really shouldn’t be any surprise to hear, but for the tail end of 2013 heading into 2014, you will have to boost your online marketing budgets.
To start with the most recent change to always on secure search, Google has decided that it’s more important to encrypt all keyword data when someone is using their search service. Not a bad step to tell the truth, and they like to wave around the flag of ‘this is us protecting your privacy’. But it isn’t the encrypted key terms that brings cause to take a close look at the change, it’s more the fact that the AdWords players aren’t receiving the same list of hidden keywords. It has been known that using the AdWords platform is a great way to gain immediate traction in a new market you may be trying to break into, or a way to test marketing ideas, but in the end the keyword data analysis for paid vs organic were able to draw parallels. Now, it seems that the (much) deeper your pocket book is for paid search, the better sheaf of keyword analysis you’ll be able to receive for your efforts. Not the nicest of changes if you want to test a marketing idea to it’s fullest extent, but it’s all in the name of your privacy, right?
A little while back there was a rather large shake up with how the search engines also indexed your site and it’s backlink profile, and it caught some webmasters with the addition of some rules into the guidelines. Even little issues like ensuring that your own properties were correctly using the ‘no-follow’ attribute to link around the web became very time intensive projects, and who knows what’s to come as the online holiday shopping is about to commence. It seems that every year some company out there is made an example of due to nefarious backlink practices, the only real problem for them this time around is that the algorithms are much quicker at detecting, and doling out punishment for shady practices. If you are unsure if your agency is following the rules for backlinking, you need to check your webmaster tools and check the ‘Linked Pages’ section and you can peruse what you’re known for yourself.
The biggest change of the online marketing game however it seems has begun to show itself, and that’s the online branding image that your business and website need to project to the search engines. Having a strong, relevant brand online can highly influence your rankings dependant on your competitors. The shift towards brand bias has always been viewable in the search results, but it was always for the larger, more competitive terms out there. Brand bias has caught on however in most niches, large and small and who ever can step up to the plate first will have a decided advantage going forward into the holidays and into 2014.
With our highly successful online branding campaigns we have been able to ensure our clients positions for their niche targets, and have been able to grow their presence into unknown territory for the past few years. It’s time for the rest of the Winnipeg business class to realize that the way forward is online and when you call, Freshtraffic will be ready.
There are always changes in the search game, but with some of the recent changes is Google trying to change the rules enough so that they’re the only player in the game? Perhaps a little bit of a backstory is in order, I’ll aim to keep it as streamlined as possible.
A couple of years back Google introduced the newest addition to their search tool, if you wre signed into your account you could visit the secure version of Google.com to perform your searches. The end result of using the secure site was your keywords were not passed through to the website you eventually landed on, guaranteeing you some level of privacy – this was in 2010. This primary iteration of the search term accounted for maybe 10% in your analytics software. In 2011 they took it a step further and removed the need to use the secure site of Google.com, and instead pushed the privacy settings on to anyone who was signed into their account. In 2011 this translated to be the constant 25%-35% amount that search agencies grew accustomed to seeing in their analytics software when poring through a clients analytics. This was pushed slowly down the line and was added to the omnibar search in the Google Chrome browser and the search team mentioned they were working to make it a full time feature.
The most recent, and most drastic change has come about resulting in a full time secure search experience for any user, regardless of browser, being logged in or even having a Google account. The result from an analytics stand point? The result in analytics software jumped from a normal 25% to nearly 75% of the searches for a single day. Over the long term this would make any search agencies job more difficult to be sure. The thoughts are maybe this swift, unannounced change is due to the NSA spying scandal that has been making rounds in the news, another more lurid idea is that it has been done to boost ad sales in the Google AdWords platform.
The idea that Google would use the encrypted search results to push more businesses into using AdWords may sound outlandish, but over the last couple of years Google has made some interesting acquisitions. Between 2010 and 2013 Google purchased ownership, or partnership in strategic ad companies. One handles ad exchanges, another handles SEM and crowd sourced funding, and another goes even further to promote full advertising and ad handling services within Google. All of their purchases combined puts Google in display media advertising, social media agency growth, and has ownership and partnerships in different AdWords agencies.
So a quick recap takes us to where Google has picked up a handful of new advertising and ad delivery systems, as well as having implemented an entirely secure search environment. How these two systems work together is why it may be seen that Google made the drastic shift for their gain. Although the encrypted search returns a value of where organic search is concerned, paid search analytics are unaffected. Back to the original thought then, has Google changed the game enough that they’re trying to make themselves the only game on the web?