Browsing "internet marketing"
Later today there is going to be an announcement, it’ll be a change to the way you conduct yourself online, and will likely affect your friends and family as well. Late yesterday I saw word of the impending news, and in just a few hours the tech world will get it’s answer, just what could Facebook have planned?
There’s been a lot of ideas thrown around about the future of Facebook, with discussions covering almost everything from phone hardware and/or software, to search engines. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook is the largest social site on the web, and with somewhere near a billion members for a user base they have the potential market to influence massive online change. As for what option really makes sense for the company is anyones guess, but you can bet that there is going to be a massive audience tuning in for it.
Facebook likely won’t be going down the road of building their own phone, while the company has a strong digital presence, it wouldn’t likely translate into as strong an audience in the hardware market. A great option, and one that makes sense especially since they recently closed their purchase of Instagram, would be to add video support to the platform. It’s already globally accepted as a way to rapidly share the photos you take, it would make sense in a number of ways to offer the same feature to any videos that are taken. Not only would this allow Facebook to monetize any videos that are put up by placing ads in the stream, but it would give a reason for YouTube to possibly step up it’s game as well. It has been the dominant online video source for ever it seems.
And then there’s the elephant in the room, the question that has been asked of Zuckerberg and the Facebook machine a number of times – are you building a search engine. Other times when the question was pointedly asked, they have sometimes shied away from the question by avoiding it, and other times saying no, not yet. Perhaps today is the day, where Facebook announces their own search engine, driven entirely by social signals? Even if today is the day that Facebook does let loose with a new search engine, or even a coming one, the true effect of what that could do to the online scope is unknown. There would be a great deal of unknown territory, as a search engine driven by social signals would be prone to massive manipulation, both positive and negative. And with a user base of somewhere around a billion members, that’s a lot of leverage that can sway an algorithm one way or the other. The other question that could be asked, is what happens to those people who remove their accounts, either by deleting or deactivating them, what happens to their social links they may have bestowed? Over the last month in the UK there have been more than a half million accounts deleted from the social service, what would happen to a search service if a mass migration hit the site? So many unknown variables, stay tuned to the web in a few hours and the picture will begin to become clearer.
The next frontier that Facebook needs to conquer is search. That would help it significantly expand revenues and, in turn, its market value. Search, I would say, is a very high priority for Facebook and may be the announcement due Tuesday might well be that. Facebook has this incredible treasure trove of unstructured data on the site, but can it finally put it to good use?
Research firm eMarketer estimates that Facebook, the No. 2 company in the U.S. mobile advertising market, had an 8.8 percent share last year —up from zero in 2011. That compared with No. 1 Google’s 56.6 percent. This year, Facebook is expected to grow its share to 12.2 percent, while remaining far behind Google, but we all know the real dollars is in search.
Facebook’ biggest challenge however and potentially its most lucrative opportunity, a chance to topple Google as the king of search. Will that ever happen?
Since Google has been given the all clear signal from the FTC about the charges of them using anti-competitive behaviour, it loosens the reins a bit for the company. To be completely fair, the evolution of search and the ever present forward advancements should be evidence that the industry has never really stopped evolving.
Bing sold itself initially as a decision engine, conduct your search and you can make a decision then and there instead of digging through results pages. Then, just a short time later they started to re-brand themselves again, into the “do” engine. It’s been a year since then, and while they’ve had their hiccups (and tantrums) along the way, they’re also growing and changing with the web. It’s not just the internet that’s evolving, to technologies like IPV6, fiber connections and what not, users are evolving and changing at just as frantic a pace. Bing recognized this, and has been trying to tap into the market of people who are ready to make a choice now. Google has also recognized this in online users, when they introduced their “instant” version of search results. Instant search is basically a cached version of search results which begin to appear, if you have the feature turned on, as quickly as you can type your query. It was just one step of many to come, by both search engines to engage a quickly growing user base, those who want information now, not just options to dig through.
So what’s to come with search in the future? No one really knows for sure, but Google and Bing both have their teams working furiously to try and embrace the changing landscape. Amit Singhal, Googles head of search was even heard to say:
I would be so bold to predict that in the next two years, you’ll have a conversational search engine that you can talk to like you’re talking to me.
As much things change with the search world however, for the time being there are a few points you need to continue to work with. Remember the basics, and follow the best practices guidelines for building and maintaining your website. Your keywords are important, you can’t just slam a ton of text on your site and expect the search engines to sort it out for you, it needs to be properly written and useful to your users for the engines to take notice. Your website titles, they should follow some sort of relation to your business or service, but again, shouldn’t be filled to overflowing with keywords as that’s a no-no in the guidelines. Your URL structure is important too, as it can be used to create quick, and simple navigation for users and for crawlers as they go over your site. Having your pages properly named, and instead of using query strings for a dynamic site only helps your site gain brownie points online. As an example, what’s easier to remember on a website, an www.yourwebsite.com/about-us/ url, or www.yourwebsite.com/?q=7s9b992 . And lastly, it’s slowly making it’s way out, but your metatags still have some information to share with the search engines and your users, as you can layout what keywords you deem important and the description you use for your website. The future is definitely on the way for search, but you can’t move forward and completely forget what got you there in the first place.
Since you have your website built and online, you’ve added some great content and attached some analytics to monitor your traffic. You’ll start to notice a term in the layout that often gets more read into it than it really means – bounce rate.
Your websites bounce rate isn’t a mystery, all of the answers as to why people would leave your website are right in front of you, on your website. Where the confusion sometimes comes from is when users start to confuse the terms bounce rate and exit rate, as they’re not the same thing. WOrking with the definition of bounce rate from Wikipedia:
It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.
Then, compare this to the base meaning of exit rate:
represents the percentage of visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific page
and you can see why they might get confused as they seem the same on the surface.
To begin with bounce rates, there is no such definitive value with which to balance your websites individual bounce rate. If you have a website built to sell running shoes for example, customers in search of loafers who searched for comfortable shoes will likely “bounce” off of your site once they see a front page full of cross trainers. With your analytics installed on your website, the only real clue and method to deduce why your bounce rate may be at a given level, is to go through your keyword breakdown, and see if there is a discrepancy there. If you find that you’re listing for terms which don’t entirely match with the goal of your site, you’ll experience a bounce rate roughly equal to the ratio of unrelated terms.
The exit rate from your website, may not in fact be a bad thing, depending of course on the aim of your website. If you act as a referral site for example, and you have a high exit rate to the sales or sign up site, then you’ve served your purpose. If you’re concerned that your bounce rate seems to be higher than you believe it should be, examine your content, and examine your message. All of the answers are there for the picking, you just need to take the time to work out the kinks.
When you’re busy at your computer, or even just taking some downtime and cruising around on Facebook connecting with your friends and family, have you ever wondered how the one of the two largest online properties continue to operate? They offer their services for free access, and you don’t even need to sign up to use it, at least in Googles case. If you’ve found that when you think about it, you really don’t know where their money comes from, you’re not alone.
In a survey conducted in August of last year it turns out that just over a third of internet users out there believe that search engines sell their data to marketers. Another third thought that maybe other companies pay annual dues to use those websites and even 20% of respondents thought that the sites offered premium features. While Google is somewhat transparent about how they make their dough, adwords and ad placements via adsense, Facebook is still working on fleshing out a clear revenue model. They have ads that are on every sidebar and profile page on the site, but with metrics showing that interaction on those ads being rather low, and with costs still high, it hadn’t fleshed out as reliable as of yet. At least in Googles court they’re not selling your information to marketers, still haven’t seen a clear answer from the Facebook side of the web however.
It’s been a number of years now, I think most who work full time on the web have stopped counting, but Google is the dominant force in the search world. Globally rocking somewhere around an 80% share with desktop users and where mobile is concerned, there really isn’t anyone else in the game. It’s no wonder that with the way the last year has gone with Panda/Penguin updates that some businesses have found themselves floundering, as it looks like they put all of their eggs into one, big, Google basket. Most analytic software can tell you where your traffic came from, whether it be Google, Bing, Facebook, or even from a referral link of sorts from a community driven site like Reddit. Using that information you can build a chart of sorts to get an idea of where your traffic is coming from. It’s likely you’ll find that a high percentage of your traffic, 65% and up does indeed come from Google, but if it starts getting higher than that you need to take a look at your website, and about diversifying your online position. In an ideal world, you’ll be getting almost an equal share of traffic from different sites, with Google making up the largest portion of the pie, say 50% or so, and the rest from other online sources. Because just like those who found themselves at the mercy of Panda and Penguin, if you’re relying too heavily on Google traffic, you’ll be in the dumps if you break any rules.
While you can’t make everyone happy all of the time, you can make most of your customers/clients happy most of the time, one of you will make a mistake and ultimately someone will leave with bad feelings. There are a number of things you can do in this situation when you’ve been on the receiving end of a bad review. Here’s a tip: throwing a fit is the wrong answer.
1) Try talking to the complainant
If everything worked in a perfect world, then you would never have any bad reviews or unhappy customers ever, but sorry to say, it will happen eventually. In almost every case where an author of a bad review was asked why they chose to write it, it was after they tried contacting, or dealing with the company directly. The black mark only came to exist once those avenues were exhausted, so if you have someone on the phone with a complaint, or someone at your door with a grievance, it’s in your businesses best interest to deal with it as quickly and promptly as possible.
2) Sleep on it
If you’ve managed to miss the window of opportunity to deal with the customer before they air their dirty laundry on the internet, the best thing you can do for yourself, and for your business is to do nothing. At least at first, once you read or hear of a scathing review, it’s human nature to want to lash out to protect yourself and your interests. It’s a normal response and one that you don’t need to fret about having, but it’s the wrong response. In the online world of word of mouth, those who fire the first shot often win. Consumers usually side with the reviewer, who is often perceived as the “nothing-to-gain” victim facing a profit-focused business owner. While consumers expect local businesses to show a more personal side in how they speak with customers, there is little sympathy for defensive and unprofessional responses. So sleep on the review, send the author an email or private message if possible, and attempt to correct what ever the issue was. You may find that by taking the time to calmly address the complaint, that the review becomes modified to reflect your attempts at correction, or even disappears altogether.
3) Wait and see
If you’ve attempted to correct the issue with the services provided which made your customer/client so upset, and had no success, the next available action for you to resort to is to wait and see what the public does. Community review sites like Yelp, allow businesses to post their own version of events relating to a review, so it gives you a window of opportunity to share your side of the story. Because every business has had one of them: that obnoxious customer who wouldn’t be satisfied no matter what your recourse. As a respondent online to a bad review, you won’t win any friends or arguments by slinging insults back and forth at each other.
Once that bad review has been written, all avenues exhausted for reconciliation, and the bad press is still there, you do have an option to deal with the situation. You could bury it. You don’t physically bury it of course, but you make it a point to your customers that have positive experiences to post to the same review site, as well as others, to speak of their encounter with your business. It won’t happen initially, but over time the good will steadily drown out the bad, until it’s finally, entirely buried.
With the vast majority of the world becoming more and more digital and available online, there is so much opportunity for business growth and expansion that it’s almost dizzying. There are new areas of customers, there is no open or close time as your site can be online and selling your products or services for you 24/7. Internet marketing and proper online branding can place you and your business in the position to experience massive growth in business and in connections, all the way from the local sector to the global one.
But there is also the other side of the coin, the flip side of the web and it can be a terrible place. Not referencing black hat SEO or any of the under handed tricks that can be used to rank highly or do shady business. I’m speaking about online reviews, and online reputation management – they say that bad news travels faster than good, and that goes ten fold online.
Any business, especially the smaller local ones face high stakes when it comes to online reviews and their online reputation. According to a study conducted last year, approximately 72% of consumers surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Yelp is one the more well known services which feature reviews of businesses, and businesses are beginning to encourage their visitors to use the service to rate them by offering prizes to verified posters. So where is the driving force behind that decision? A Harvard study conducted in 2011 found that a one-star increase among Yelp reviews of Seattle restaurants led to 5-9% growth in revenue.
Hitting a little closer to home, it was nearly a disastrous year downtown for some businesses as they were built and improved up around the newly returned Winnipeg Jets franchise to town. When the league was locked out and there was no hockey going on, those businesses began to falter. For any one of them to receive a bad review due to poor food, service, attitude, or what have you, it will be the death of their business. Negative reviews can happen, will happen, as not everyone is happy 100% of the time, but there are correct ways to respond, and incorrect ways. We’ll begin to cover that ground tomorrow, as it’s not a short topic.
You work long enough in the world of online marketing and you begin to recognize a handful of different client types. You can eventually group them into about 5 or so different client types, some more difficult to work with than others.
1) Believes they know your job because of a post client
This type of client is usually the type of client who may recognize that they need help online, but will continually question every step or change that you’ve made. While not entirely a negative client to have in your portfolio, it can lead to some difficulty if they enjoy tinkering with their website because they read something on a forum one time.
2)Needs to control every aspect client
This client, while more than happy to help increase their search positioning, is very tight fisted with the keys to the kingdom. They often are very slow with providing proper access needed to perform all of the tasks which can make your life as an SEO much easier on a day to day basis. When you need to make a change to their sites code, or heaven forbid, their content, you might suddenly find that you no longer have the required access with whish to work. Once you’ve touched base with the steps you need to take, and why, you normally receive the required access, but still extremely bothersome none the less.
3)Very helpful client
The dream client, fully recognizes that they need help online, has provided any and all access needed for you to complete your work and is more than happy to put you in touch with the people you need to reach. This is thankfully becoming more and more the norm in the industry, and while still a rare occurence in the wild of the internet, they do exist, do not give up hope!
4)Helpful, but uninformed client
These clients, while helpful in providing all of the access you require, are almost as troublesome as the client who needs to control every facet of your work, the troublesome part is they truly don’t understand they’re inhibiting your job by working on their website during or after you’ve made changes to their site. Or they have mistakenly uploaded an old backup of their website. Most of the time you just need to contact this client and let them know what they’ve done wrong, and why it’s a bad idea for them to make that type of mistake.
5)Disinterested, disillusioned client
This type of client has often been burned in the search arena, and while understanding of the fact that the world is going digital, really doesn’t believe that the work you do can impact their business. Often slow to pay for their services, or slow to provide you the contacts or access needed for you to truly excel at your work.
The decision was handed out yesterday from the FTC with Google versus everyone else basically, and while some people were happy with the decision, others obviously were not. In case you’ve missed any of the news surrounding the case, the very basic gist of what the complaint was that Google was controlling their monopoly of online search and marketing using anti-competitive practices.
There were a couple of good points made in the ruling, the main point being that a monopoly in a given market is not, by itself, illegal. In order to make a monopoly illegal, you need to gain, or maintain that hold using anti-competitive practices. This has been a long ongoing case in which the FTC poured over 9 million pages of documents after the charges were initially laid. And after all of that work, all of the discussions and meetings – Google has not violated any U.S. antitrust law.
It’s no real surprise that Google would be the target of such a case, they’re supremely dominant in the search industry. The Mountain View based giant accounted for 74.5% of all U.S. search advertising revenues in 2012. Microsoft on the other hand took in a significantly smaller share at 8% in the past year. The argument has long been that Google has been demoting or removing it’s rivals in their results pages in order to drive users to their own properties. And yet, after an investigation that nearly lasted for two years, and after what FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz described as “an incredibly thorough and careful investigation,” the FTC concluded unanimously that the evidence was lacking to charge Google.
While Google is going to make some changes in the way they do business, they’ve been cleared of any wrong doing where search is concerned, as it turns out they’re just better at it than the other options. From Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
America’s antitrust laws are designed not to punish companies for growing too big or too unpopular, but to ensure no company stifles competition itself… The thriving Internet sector — a bright spot in America’s otherwise lackluster economy — shows no signs of suffering from too little competition.
There seems to be a fair amount of change coming on the search horizon, all of the previous updates over 2012 helped clean up the search results and with the growing acceptance of Google+ as a social network online marketing is set to make a transition. What exactly that transition will be, no one knows for sure in the search market, aside from the search engines that is. Just what Google and Microsoft have up their sleeves is anyones guess.
There have been the prediction blogs of what is to come in 2013, there have been the blogs reminiscing lost, or gained search rankings for 2012. But on the whole there seems to be two facets which are greatly worth considering for the coming search year. The first would be the social arena, if you don’t have a presence already it’s not too late to get in, but it will be a good bit of work, and the second is in the semantic side of search.
Social is easily described, having a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter page, as well as a blog all helps to draw your customers to your website. You can use the social side of the web in order to introduce sales, specials, or even the addition of a new product or service that you never previously offered in your business. The immediate benefit to using the social web is viewership, anyone and everyone who has subscribed to your feed has your new information the second you press that share button, instant traction. The barrier for entry as well, is extremely low, it’s your time. The more time you are able to put into your social pages and sites, the more potential traffic and news you can generate as a result. Google and Microsoft (Bing) haven’t fully taken on social signals as a heavy ranking factor, although they’re slowly getting there. Just how they will decide to leverage the social signals with other SEO efforts is yet to be seen however. 2013 could be another year of swings up and down the search results.
The other topic which bears some consideration is in the semantic side of search. Using proper markup in your webpages allows the search engines to easily and rapidly generate rich snippets for your website, increasing organic visibility and as a likely result generating more traffic to your site. One of the most basic forms of a rich snippet for example are the breadcrumbs which can be generated by search engine bots visiting your website. Take the search result for Facebook as an example, with only 10 results displayed on a search page, when the top 20% of the page is dominated with internal pages to your search query it definitely helps influence your clicks.