Category Archives: internet marketing

Clarifying Your Online Message

When we have a new client which comes to us looking for help with their internet marketing campaign, there are two major steps which we take from the beginning. We need to weigh the quality of your content, and we need to determine the strength of the call to action, and how it relates to your marketing goal.

closelookGoing over just how important quality content is to your search engine optimization goals is like a broken record at times, but it’s importance can’t be stressed enough. What has been happening recently in the quality content department is a departure from the past methods of a client creating the articles and snippets of text required to differentiate themselves from everyone else in their niche, and they’ve gone the easy route of using the franchised copy in order to save time. To put it simply, it doesn’t matter if there are 100 people selling blue widgets on the internet, if your copy is different than theirs, and relevant to your site and your goals, you’ll wind up above them in the search results. Why? Because your content is quality, it’s relevant, and it’s unique. Make sure to include relevant terms about your products or services, or something about the supporting services around them. Another useful tactic is to prove yourself an authority in your market, and truly set yourself apart from the competition all in ways that any users can effortlessly see, and identify with.

Now the other side of quality content has to do with how you capitalize on it, with the call to action on your site. A call to action is different for every website and could be as simple as having someone submit their email for a monthly newsletter from your website. But if your call to action is lost within a busy website, if it isn’t clear to a user within a minute, then you’re going to lose out on market share. First impressions are the most important impressions, and on the internet you only have a few seconds to get your impression, and your message across to a user. If you’ve done all of the proper work and are sitting at the top of the search results and continue to have less than stellar conversions, contact us here at Freshtraffic so we can help you find what you’re missing. We’ll work closely with you to build your positions to where you need them to maximize your potential and help you identify your niche market. Take for example the previous example of selling blue widgets, it doesn’t do you any good to rank number one in the results pages for purple widgets if you don’t sell them. It may mean as simple a step as reworking the message of your content, or it may require a completely new online branding approach. When you’re ready to make your business grow in leaps and bounds, we’ll be ready.

The Myth of Dieing SEO

There is a re-occurring trend within the bloggosphere that search engine optimization is either dead, dieing, doesn’t work, or is a good way to get your website banned online. The only real issue with any of those assumptions is they’re all mostly false, if not entirely fiction.

viralWhen you hear the line that SEO is dead or dieing, it’s actually in a humorous context, because the article in question is written to be link bait, a very tried and true method for generating discussion about your website. There are some facets of the online marketing game which are outdated, whether they were deemed “illegal” by the search engines like using invisible text, mass stuffing keywords and the like. Or if they were just poor coding techniques to be used as a website, take the slow death of Flash as an example. The internet is the fastest growing business technology available to a business owner today, where people get caught up in particulars is that it is also changing as quickly as it is growing. The methods you can use to help build your online visibility these days are almost entirely different than what was used 18 years ago, but there are still some components which remain. The core concept driving SEO is the generation of highly relevant, quality content, used to prove to the search engines that your business is the authority in your niche.

One of the more fictitious arguments that SEO is dead and dieing, is that search engine companies like Bing and Google, hate the practice and want to ban all the practitioners of the art. Again, that’s another false statement, and in fact the search engines out there have freely available guides on how to use SEO to help your website perform at it’s best! The best practice guides are easily found with a quick search on any search engine, and even just by following those guides you can help a new site, a floundering website or even one which has fallen into the depths of the search results.

If you still find yourself believing for what ever reason that SEO is an unnecessary measure to be found online, then just remember that almost all searchers out there don’t even scroll to the bottom of the to 10 results on the first page, let alone visit page 2 or 3. If you’re not sitting in the top 5 for your niche market, I can promise you that you’re losing out on a significant amount of potential. But on the other hand, if you’re ready to experience what it’s like to be the biggest boy on the block, contact us here at Freshtraffic and we’ll begin the process of turning your business into the boss.

Right People Right Time

We often field phone calls and emails from people looking for help with their website, whether it is a design issue or a results page placement, we can help you out with the team we’ve built here. What we find more often than not, is that they were the unknowing recipient of someone who sold themselves as an individual who could do it all for them, and in the process got overall wishy washy results. It’s a topic I’ve had to go over every now and then to get that information back out there, but here it is again – use the right person for the job.

Web DesignThe danger of someone selling themselves as something that they are not online is easy to spot, if you know what to look for. It is when you have not been educated about, or have taken your own time to learn about the differences between website design, website development, and search engine optimization that you can fall into a less than ideal situation. In order to keep this explanation short, I’ll refer to WordPress and the way it is constructed when discussing the differences of development, design, and optimization.

Typically a WordPress website will require a number of different programming languages. The most commonly used are PHP, CSS, javascript, with mySQL as a database. The CSS and javascript of a website is used to style the page, it’s colors, and handle all of the interactive portions of a website – these are all design elements which are part of the user experience end of the site. PHP is the server side language used to handle everything behind the scenes, this is the portion of the development stage of the website work. The development portion of a website also handles aspects like checking credentials of a user when they log in, accessing the database for information etc, or dynamically changing the website based on certain conditions.

Then there is the optimization side of your online presence, because having an amazingly designed website that has no visibility is like building the fastest boat in the world and never putting it in the water. It will never reach it’s potential if you don’t take full advantage of it’s capabilities, and knowing the right people for the job is priority number one.

Local or National Results

Almost every time we get a phone inquiry from someone wanting to have their website optimized, there is a singular question which seems to trip everyone up. And it is an important question to get a clear answer too, because it dictates to us what kind of campaign we need to get your site geared up for. To try and help you answer that question for yourself when you’re ready to make that phone call, I’ll lay out some of the differences you need to consider – are you going after local visibility, or are you going after the big prize of national visibility.

The difference between a local results page, and national results page can be a staggering amount, the term that I’ve used in both searches is “best hotel”, and added the local of “in Winnipeg” to illustrate how different the results can be.

localTaking a look at the local results, you start off with reviews, prices, a map picture with locations, and after a scroll to the bottom of the page, you start to find the organic results for the search. While it looks like there are no adwords on the results page, the listings at the top noted as sponsored and the dialogue box notes that they may have paid to have the average room price, and ranking displayed within that box. Something else to note, besides the way the page is laid out, is the amount of results delivered – 19.1 million. In almost every case Google doesn’t really expect anyone to go all the way back to, page 1.9 million in this case, so they usually stop displaying results after page 100. For the purposes of the discussion however, we’ll note the results delivered at 19.1 million.

To acquire a search result that excludes localized data, you need to use the url switch /ncr, meaning “no country redirect”, and use “best hotel” as my search parameter.

nationalRight off the bat it’s clear that the results are completely different. There are no sponsored ads on the page, it consists entirely of organic results. Of those results, the top two are from review sites, followed by a couple of referral sites, then an actual hotel. Once you scroll to the bottom half of the page it’s a similar image, you have a couple reviews, Wikipedia articles and pictures, with a hotel chain bringing up the bottom of the top 10 results. No ads, no maps, no local locations, just a handful of review sites, two hotels and the definition of the word “hotel” on the page, and the total results delivered? Dwarfing the local page at 497 million it should be clear how different the local market competition can be versus the rest of the world, not that it should have been in question.

Now to go back to the initial question, are you looking for local search optimization, or national search optimization? Hopefully the brief descriptions and the images can help you determine your course of action.

Identify Your Online Branding and Marketing Goals

With the rise of digital marketing, it has made cultivating an effective online brand image more important to businesses than ever before. Whether you are trying to reach your audience across social media outlets or participating in PPC advertising, online marketing puts you face to face with your potential clients, making it essential to deliver a consistently positive impression. In order to reach the full potential of your online branding campaign, ensure your brand image is supported by your marketing, while your marketing supports your brand.

WebsitegoalsFirst thins first, you need to ensure you have a core understanding of your company’s identity. Sit down with your trusted business associates to help you determine the essence of what your business is about, keeping in mind these are the starting points of your branding mission. Be sure to include your marketing and sales department in the process, so you are working as a team to create a message that hits the sweet spot with your existing demographic, with a goal of growth. This is where you create consistency that outlines all communications, including online content and advertising.

At this point you need to begin to determine what are the goals of your marketing campaign? Who do you want to reach? Figure out what you want to say and how can you say it in a way that emanates from your branding? These are some of the questions which must be addressed when drawing up a game plan on how to proceed with your online efforts. Remember that in the end, it’s all about serving the customer. So review your plan from the user’s perspective to better understand how your actions stand to impact your image.

The truly iconic companies, such as Apple for example, have achieved a brand image that resonates deeper than just a logo or slogan by painstakingly cultivating a supportive visual landscape and message. Take that feather for your own marketing cap, whether you are putting up a Facebook page or running paid advertisements, make the effort to design and brand content that’s unique to your organization and message. And then one of the best parts of utilizing online branding to your advantage, you can engage your customers directly, and collect useful data that can be analysed to further improve your business. Perfecting your online marketing efforts is a never ending process which requires continuous evaluation, reaction, and being proactive. By taking the time and learning from how your your message is being received, you can more precisely adjust your tone to optimize effectiveness.

Three Kinds of SEO Issues

taoofseoA good deal of the time when we’re working with a new client, we have to bite our own tongue when we’re getting the full story on previous optimization efforts. Sometimes we hit the jackpot in the game and find out that the site is new, built by an actually web developer who knows a thing or two about the best practices that you should be using and they are actively working on their content and images. When we run into this type of diamond in the rough client, we can shape their online presence to not only proudly display them, but drive them quickly up the results pages to where they want to be. This is a win/win situation for both us, and the business owner as they see a strong growth in business and online conversions, allowing them to grow into the market force they want to be.

On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve also had contact with those clients who have used every trick in the online marketing book to be noticed online. We have seen all sorts of bad habits, everything from multiple sites with identical content, and wondering why they can’t find any of their sites in the results, all the way up to some site owners using hidden text, divs. The least troublesome problems to deal with are the multiple identical sites, once we’re able to pin point which goal is the prize, we make it very clear that the clean up operation will take some time to take effect, but it can be fixed. Now the other shady tricks, we’ve gone so far as to recommend one person looking for our help to completely dump their site and start over with a new branding campaign. It was at that point we had learned they had put all of their eggs into the proverbial basket, and were stuck with what they had, and in the end we had our hands mostly tied with how much we could do for them. While no cause is completely lost, there are those which are somewhat unable to be fixed.

And the trend which has been cropping up more and more as of late, there are the DIY clients who felt they could build, optimize and manage their website all while running their business. The major issue that we have had working with these types of clients usually comes in the form of meddling, or the alteration of any on page and off page work we are using. The internet is a great and powerful informational tool, but here’s the thing aboud search engine optimization that the DIY crowd doesn’t fully understand yet: just because you followed the steps to an online guide about optimizing your website, doesn’t mean you have optimized your site. It is in the same difference of quality and time usage that you would find when you hire someone to professionally paint your interior of your home. Yes you can both do the job, but the pro will get the job done better, quicker, and correctly, we’ve all been to that friends house that has strange paint coverage.

It takes more than just going through the motions to be able to properly optimize a website, on or off site. Knowing what to do is only a sliver of the toolkit we employ as SEO experts here at Freshtraffic, don’t be so hasty to lump search engine optimization into the “I can do it myself” bag. It’s much more than just how to do your SEO, once you realize that point about online marketing, we’ll be ready to help you. Just because you think you can do what we do, doesn’t mean you can.

The Dangers Of The Social Web

There is a quickly growing trend on the web that has gained a ton of coverage about why it is the “go to” tool where your business is concerned. And while it can be a very powerful tool to use to gain exposure for your business and it’s services, it needs to be done correctly and consistently. It’s not search engine optimization or search engine marketing that is causing recent growth, it’s using the social media side of the web.

social-mediaUsing social media to gain visibility on the web is a perfect avenue for any small business owner as the cost of entry is zero where dollars are concerned, it really requires only your time. You need to make sure though, that if you decide to go down the social media avenue that you are ready to do what is necessary to maintain your business’s image. Using Facebook and Twitter for example is a great way to get out the message that you’re having a limited time sale, and you can broadcast that out instantly to anyone following your posts or tweets. Therein lies one of the automatic problems though where social media is concerned, your follower base and how do/did you acquire them. If you’ve done your homework, and you’re genuinely active on the social web then you will easily attract a qualified audience, those who are interested in your products and services. Your ideal best case scenario for social media is to use it as just another means of conversation with your customer base, as it can allow for rapid problem solving if an issue should arise, and it can bring changed products and services to the fore front when needed.

There is however, a dark side to the social side of the web in the form of detractors, competitors, and sometimes there are just some users out to cause a fuss. When you’re confronted with these types of issues, it can very quickly paint a picture of what type of business owner you are to the rest of your audience, subscribed to your feeds or not. The quip that bad news travels fast is never more true than when you’re in the social space, and if you mishandle a customer or client interaction you can find your business on a slippery downward slope.

Here are just a few questions you need to ask yourself before you get your business involved in the circus that is known as the social web. If you find it difficult to answer the following questions, or you don’t have clear answers, then you and your business are not ready for the social side of the internet. And just because “everyone” is using social media to gain exposure, doesn’t mean it is required in your online profile, if the job isn’t handled correctly it can sink your business just as well as improve it.

Can we benefit from a social media presence?
How do we build our audience?
Who is going to work our social accounts?
How do we announce sales/service changes/updates on our social accounts?
How do we handle negative feedback on our social accounts?

New Client Issues – Old Problems

When we work with a site owner one of the first questions we always make sure to ask them is if they’ve worked with any other SEO agency first. Ideally the answer is no, but as the industry becomes more and more populated with people trying to make a quick buck, the ratio of yes to no has slowly started to sway to the yes side of the scale. One of the biggest reasons we tend to worry is simple, we don’t know what we’re walking into when we take on someone elses problems which they either have created, or may have even inherited themselves. One of the most common issues that we happen to find when we dig into their online profile however, is one of duplicate content.

poisonedThere are unfortunately private SEOs and even some agencies who tell you that as long as you change enough of the text, your content can be rehashed again and again without incurring any sort of penalty. But in truth, here’s the thing that they either don’t tell you, or don’t know for themselves: search engines don’t want to list several pages that all say the same thing, so they look for content that is unique from everyone else. If you’re just spinning the same 600 words over and over again into different pages and blog posts, they’ll recognize it and it isn’t the SEO that catches the force of the penalty stick, it’s you and your website. Almost every time we find this to be the issue, our response may come across as a daunting task, but it’s for the best, we highly advise a complete rewrite and revamp of your site wide content. Cleaning up your own content and navigation is a major milestone to helping you improve your online branding image.

There is another side of this coin, and there really isn’t any one on the web that is immune to the problem, automated content scrapers and straight up content thieves. There are a few protections which can be used to safeguard your content on your website, but even then it wouldn’t be too surprising to find that someone somewhere has nabbed your content for themselves. Using as simple a tag as the ‘rel=author’ and linking it to your Google+ social profile is a quick and simple way to let Google know that you are the original creator of this content, and all others from that point forward will, hopefully, be ranked below you for your own content. For the most part thankfully, you don’t need to worry about scraper sites as the search engines are aware of them and they aren’t going to carry much weight in the search results in the end anyhow. The websites which blatantly steal your content however is a different sort of animal, and since you already use the proper markup to show that you are the original creator of the content in question, you can go so far as to file a DMCA removal request to have your content removed from the offending website(s).

Unfortunately duplicate content issues are not an issue which will be going away any time soon, thankfully the search engines have gotten faster, smarter, and there are more and more tools being developed which can show who created what content first, and when.

Avoiding Common Website Mistakes

Being in the business of online marketing, website design and development and search engine optimization we get all sorts of needs and wants from people who contact us for any, or all of the previous mentioned services. It isn’t difficult at all to find some of the horror stories online about these services, and regardless of how many contacts we field in a year, there are always common themes that we find that we need to sway people away from.

leaderOne of the biggest issues that we run into is actually one of purpose, we’re contacted to help someone build their website or assist their current sites positions, and we find that there is no clear purpose or reason behind it. You need to have a goal in business and in a website, and if you need to take the time to discern what you would like it to be prior to getting in over your head. The clarity of purpose behind your business needs to be conferred on your website as well, whether it’s informational, services, or a product that you’re trying to sell, using a shotgun approach to online marketing isn’t going to help you.

Within the scope of deciding what your goal of having a website is, is also the content that makes up your pages. The written text, the images and even the navigation topics all play the role of guiding your visitors to your end goal – a sale, sign up or a contact lead. Lack of content, or of updating content is a thorn in any marketers side, because we’re not in your business, we can not create your content for you. The biggest take away from requesting new or updated content should be one of importance, the sooner we can go over and work with your content the sooner we can get it implemented into your online strategy, and time is everything online. Where organic is concerned, time is your enemy more than anything, so taking your time delivering as a client is a poor choice.

The next step of a marketing strategy we find hiccups with is tied to the content as well, and that’s when we find that between all of the variables, there is no call to action. If you’re in the business for example of selling online books, you want to make sure that you’re crystal clear in that endeavour, and make sure your content supports your business goals. Using the online book retailer as an example, you can talk about how large your library is and about your author profit margins and about how you help sponsor amateur novelists and the like all you want. But none of those points help you sell your product, which in this case is an e-book. Always be closing, because if you don’t tell your visitor what you want from them, they can’t give it to you.

Web Designer or Web Developer

websiteupgradeWhen you’ve decided that you need a website for yourself, you need to have an idea as to what kind of a world you’re stepping into. It’s not like setting up an ad in your local newspaper that takes a phone number and a catch phrase, even the most basic of websites needs your attention while being developed in order to meet your needs. One of the most basic questions you need to first answer for yourself is do you need a website designer, or a website developer? While their titles and roles may seem similar on the surface, they’re as different as a plumber is to a mechanic.

Back in the beginning where a ‘brochure’ site (static content, basically putting your company’s brochure online), was the norm, you basically had one guy make up your entire site. It was very easy, the design was mostly copied from print materials, and there was little to no focus on user experience. Businesses simply wanted to know, or feel they had some degree of an online presence.

Fast forward to today and that task has been divided up by specialized individuals. While you are busy managing the product or services, you’ll have UI designers handling the design side of your website, engineers or developers handling the server side, and front end website developers handling the resources that interact with the browser.

The role of the front end website developer is specific, and it needs to be specific because the job is far more involved than it was back when static websites were the norm. There are a multitude of browsers to worry about (IE8, IE9, IE10, Firefox, Chrome, Safari), on a multitude of devices (mobile, tablet, desktop), and with clients requesting a specific look or experience, you actually have a lot of logic moving to the client-side and the server side scripting becomes merely a means to deliver your data.

With Freshtraffic having a dedicated in house website designer, we can focus on your design, usability, and ensure everything meets your branding requirements. As more and more of the general population has moved online, the expectation for a good user experience on your site has dramatically increased, so having a dedicated designer for this was imperative.

On the other side of the spectrum, the server side landscape changed quite a bit. With the wide growth and use of web specific languages of PHP and ASP, and the explosion of languages such as Ruby, Python, Java and even ASP having a website developer is also greatly important. Being able to mold your data and shape the back end usability so you can directly administer your own website is just as important as the user experience on the front end. Together we have an amazing team built within Freshtraffic to deliver the best results for online branding in Winnipeg. When it’s time to put your best foot forward online, we already have our team in place and ready to help you grow. With how rapidly the web has changed, just be aware that the role ‘web designer’ was long broken up into dedicated services, and those roles have their own dedicated professionals. It had become far too much for one person to deliver on their own.