Category Archives: internet strategy

Are You Being Used?

Every time we pick up a new client it is, for the most part, the same conversation back and forth as it has been since the beginning. Yes you need to be on page and no don’t worry about running banner advertisements on your website.

Not surprisingly a lot of people understand the need to be on page 1, but a point that doesn’t often get discussed is – you also want to be in the top 3 if at all possible. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious and important being if you’re at the top of the page the basic understanding is that you’re there on purpose. Your business knows what it’s about and is a leader in its field.

Banner ads are a bit of an odd one to discuss with site owners, especially with how outdated of an advertising model it really is. Don’t get me wrong they definitely had their place, and still do to a degree, but the use and focus of them needs to adapt in order to best capitalize on the real estate that they use on a website. They’re not frequently clicked for example, but that’s no reason to not make the content on them highly relevant or click bait worthy.

I felt it was a couple of points to discuss after reading an article that included handy heat mapped images. If you’re unsure what a heat map is, the simplest explanation is it’s a graphical view of what a user is focusing on the screen or clicking on with their mouse. There’s some interesting points to note in each image, and each image supports the discussions we’ve had with clients in regards to how people use the web and potential visitors may use their website.

searchOn the Google results page for example there are a couple of points to consider, the purple X markings are mouse activity, where the user has clicked on the page with their cursor; the red lines are approximate comparisons of monitor resolutions. Knowing those two pieces of information if it wasn’t readily apparent before then it should be entirely clear that being number 1, 2 or 3 is almost a mandatory result where the search results are concerned. We often get into a discussion with clients where we talk about being ‘below the fold’ that is the area of the screen where a user has to scoll in order to find them on the results page. Knowing that bit of information and using the red lines as approximate screen size and resolution it’s a clear cut example of being at the top of page 2 (if the visitor ends up there) is more beneficial than being at the bottom of page 1.

bannersThe second image with the banner ads highlighted in yellow are a clear demonstration that when users visit your website, banner ads just are used so infrequently that they hardly register on the heat mapped areas. That doesn’t mean however that they’re not completely useless, they can still absolutely be used for brand awareness and if you were to leverage your own banner areas to promote specials or sales on your website you would absolutely be able to take advantage of the real estate on your site.

Have a closer look at the heat mapped images attached, then have a look at your search results for your search terms and your website – how would your site stack up?

Stop Throwing Away Money

growthWe find here that we field a lot of inquiring phone calls from business owners looking for help with their online marketing. That’s find and great, but one of the questions that I often receive the longest pause when gathering information is when I ask what their goal is – are you going after a local market or a national market?

Recently a survey found that four out of five smartphone users conduct mobile searches to find nearby businesses offering the products and services they want. I’m sure that you’ve found that you do it yourself in this particular scenario – you’re out shopping and you find the item you’re after and you whip out your phone and start searching and comparing reviews and prices. An old school sales average tells the story that for every 10 pitches you’ll likely garner a sale, it’s one of those rules that are just known. If your site is built correctly though and you’re active with your mobile and local presence that average can jump to one in five instead of one in 10. Just let that sink in for a moment, and then contact your providers and make sure that you’ve been setup with local and mobile optimization in mind. Have your product lists, prices, phone numbers and physical addresses are some of the most important elements to include on your website, and absolutely required when targeting local customer groups.

An inconvenient truth is that most businesses are missing local opportunities because it is seen as more work than it is worth. Setting aside the improved positions in the results pages, making sure to give your site and products the extra TLC to be viewed and found on mobile will begin improving your conversions and fatten your bottom line.

Size Doesn’t Matter Online

localContrary to what some corners of the internet like to share, that Google, Bing and all the other search engines are trying to steal you away, they really have no interest in keeping you on their search pages long term. They want you searching for answers and clicking on your chosen result, not hanging out on a blank page with a search box in it. But what does that do for a local business, maybe a little mom and pop store that only has one or two employees? Regardless of your size, you can still leverage the search engines to help grow your business, and believe it or not on the internet everyone has a shot at being number one.

One of the big changes in the last couple of months has been the drive towards semantic natural searching by the search engines. It is an approach and change designed to make searching a simpler affair for the user, the goal for example being “what is the best restaurant 6 blocks from here”. Smart phones and tablets are very good at what they do and with how convenient they are to carry and use this sort of search isn’t that far off in the future. You can already use a search like “best restaurant in winnipeg” and get a fairly decent set of results based on both consumer and editorialized reviews. So what can you do as a mom and pop to take advatage?

For starters if you have a website with a brick and mortar location then you should have your Google+ local listing filled out and attributed to you. Formerly known as Google Places, the local listings are the results you see that show up on the map with the lettered marker points directing you exactly where to go. It allows Google to verify your listing and location with you and tells the search engine that you’re a real business with doors and walls and everything! It’s a very simple step to take which only helps your visibility and actually leads into the next point – customer reviews.

Having an A+ rating is great where the local better business bureau is concerned, but even better for yourself is when you can encourage your customers to post a review to your local listings. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon, or even on your Google+ local profile it serves two fold for your business needs. First it lets visitors who find your site have a little bit of insight into how you conduct your business and how you might treat your customers. Even the negative reviews can be extremely helpful in this case, provided of course you can properly remedy the situation. And secondly it is like adding a notch on your belt for the search engines, just another way you’ve proven to them that you have an active visitor/customer base.

A final, and one of the more obvious steps that you’d be surprised to learn gets missed is to ensure you have your physical address on both your website, and your local profile. It’s a surprisingly often missed step where site owners are concerned which is sometimes lost with the addition of a contact form added to a website. It is assumed that a site visitor will automatically use a form or page to get a message or question into a site owner, but what if they would rather walk in your door and talk to a person? Or call and talk to someone to have their questions answered? You need to make sure your location and contact information is included in your website, your local profile listings and in doing so you’re likely to see increased foot traffic, as well as web traffic. The easier you are to find, the more likely you are to make a sale.

Giant Verus Giant

Shots have been fired across the bow of the Google command ship and they came from a source that is not only extremely early, but somewhat unlikely – Facebook.

Zuckerberg-FB-pressJust a short time ago Mark Zuckerberg came forward during the most recent Facebook earnings call to state in no uncertain terms that they will compete directly with Google to be the kings of search. Over the last year Facebook implemented their graph search which allows you to perform contextual searches based on your friends and what ever information they have shared with you, to hopefully find answers to what your question may be. They’re working on being more of a source of answers instead of a source of results all while targeting the mobile platform in order to facilitate mobile searches.

The Facebook graph search has by their records the largest index on hand, larger than any other web search engine. They estimate they have somewhere more than a trillion <em>connections</em> between their users, interests, groups etc. While the number sounds impressive to be sure, and while Zuckerberg believes that they happen to have the largest database on hand the proof will be found in the pudding as they say. The actual size of the index that Google has is difficult at best to try even try and envision as a number let alone an actual one, but the last count that seems to be passed around is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 billion pages, growing at a rate of 5+ billion pages per year based on people creating, modifying and changing their web presence.

Where the house of cards that Facebook has built for themselves as an opponent in a giant versus giant battle is also tied to their earnings call unfortunately. The likely timeline that Facebook could pose a realistic threat as a web search engine is in 10 years. 10 years on the web is an eternity where technology is concerned, and at the rate that Google and other search engines are growing and adapting, Facebook is likely to be left out in the cold when the time comes to fight.

The Power Of Your Name

A major decision when you’re working with your website is to decide what is your overall aim – are you going after customers and sign ups, or is it all part of a larger plan.

brandingA misconception which still seems to plague the online marketplace is just how valuable the web can be for you and your business. It seems that a portion of every client introduction has to be devoted to working out what the goal is for your company. If you’re looking to have people buy into your product or your service we have to work your site and its content in a different fashion than say, trying to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter.

Let’s presume for a moment you’re going for the sales approach this time around. One of the first questions that we’ll ask ourselves is ‘would I buy anything right now on this website’. Sometimes the conversion points are good on the site and we only have a few areas to tighten up, but more often than not the process to even begin to buy anything from the website is lost, or unintuitive to the visitor. One of the major hurdles when building and refining a website with a sales orientation is ensuring that the process is so simple the process can be completed with a few mouse clicks and with typing in billing and shipping information. The more difficult you make your process the less likely you are to succeed. Email signups or newsletter mail listings are another matter entirely where the web is concerned. It only takes a search in the news to find out that there are privacy concerns running rampant across the web. So when you come forward and are asking people for their email address, you need to do it in a more delicate way. And just like the sales approach of the web you need to make sure that the process is very simple, and very clear to understand.

The value behind the web that seems to slip by more people than not, is the power of the web in building, promoting and spreading your business as a brand name. Brand names are those ubiquitous terms or phrases that just instantly pop into your mind when someone says something like ‘soft drink’. You think of Coca Cola, or Pepsi, or one of your other favorites – the goal of branding your business online should always have this end in mind. Because regardless of whether you’re trying to make a sale, create a newsletter list or trying to be number one on page one, what should be your end all be all is your business being known as a brand.

Make 2014 Your Year in Search

freshcoolcats

A new year has dawned and the search game is as active as ever. You have a full clean slate ahead of your business and your website, but do you know what your goals are?

Last year was actually rather monumental in the world of search, we had farmers, pandas and penguins appearing seemingly from no where. There were the affiliate changes, the encrypted terms and semantic search that were all brought to the top headlines of blogs and posters across the web. All of them were large shifts in how the search results are created and displayed for sure, but the key aspect of their purpose remained the same – the better your visibility the more likely you are to get what you want out of the web.

There is a lot of potential for the coming year for search to be sure, but first we need to stop for a brief moment and take stock of the previous 12 months. A thorough understanding of what has been done and what the results have been will help dictate what needs to improve for the coming year. Whether it was a lackluster social profile, possibly a declining search presence or perhaps you put your nose to your grindstone and saw all of your positions jump over the last year.

Regardless of what your past 12 months were like with the search engines, you now have a fresh, clean canvas ahead of you. Give us a call and we’ll make sure that you paint your vision of the coming year.

Change For Freshness in the Results

When it comes to search engine optimization and it’s a fairly well known point of the industry that it’s not a quick fix. It’s not like bidding on ads for AdWords positioning, it’s not using dirty, black hat techniques to try and trick the search spiders to rank. It’s a time proven and tested method of working your website, its content and proving that your site is the most relevant in your niche.

There are time proven methods and even step by step guides listed with most search engines about what you should do to improve your websites chances at ranking well. Relevant content, a clean and consistently built website, and even being compliant to web standards are all part of the basics to being well placed within the SERPs.

But while your website needs strong consistency, it’s also important to work with your content and to monitor your competitors positions. Periodically changing your content, to maintain relevancy and to try and capitalize on possible or burgeoning trends. Small changes and tweaks are like food for the search engines, they will continually return to your site and go through your pages until you’ve reached the position you desire in the results. Bear in mind that there is a line where change is conncerned on your pages, you need to ensure that you remain consistent to your theme and what you already are known for. Deviation too great, can harm your positioning, both current and future if you’re not mindful.

Entering New SEO Markets

There’s a reason that search engine optimizers are always working, always reading. The internet never sleeps, is always changing and there are thousands of new sites and pages coming online every day. The same is also true of the mobile side of the search world.

When you’ve finally honed your sights on the niche markets you would like to make improvements in, there is a step which even the experts sometimes miss. Once you have your search terms, conduct a cursory search on the terms and make a note of who the top ranked players are. It may seem like basic SEO, but it’s a step often missed, and the benefits are great if you put the time into it.

One of the number one things you can learn by working your competitors site out, is it site construction, or content which has then ahead of you online. If it is site construction which has you down in the results, perhaps it’s time to take a look at your own website. You may be due for a site revamp to bring you up to web standards, which can give you an extra positive mark in search. If it’s your content that’s lacking on your landing or home pages, you’ll be able to begin pinpointing the issue as you peruse the pages of your rivals. Careful though, as tempting as it may be, scraping or copying their content is a very big nono to the search engine gods.

The basics of SEO are overlooked a great deal of the time when working your way up the results pages. Once you’ve examined the sites which are ranking better than yours, it’s time to look within. Navigation, layout, content, and even if your website is up to general web standards. Sticking to the basics of SEO, is your first step to being able to climb the results pages.

Predicting Search Trends – The Moving Target

Valentine’s day, not really a holiday, but people are still out there shopping for that special someone. Some bought their gifts early, or if you’re the average guy you’re out there this afternoon picking up a few last minute things. But whether you’re shopping today, even if you’ve already finished your shopping, have you taken measures to capitalize onthis spending day?

It’s estimated that this year in the US they’ll be hitting the highest in the past 10 years in terms of spending. That includes everything from cards, candy, and flowers, to jewellery and ‘casual’ attire. The biggest spenders – ladies doting on their men who’ve been shopping since January and comprising more than 150% of the search volume. Men haven’t totally been out of the game however, and have even stepped up their play – jewellery and flower delivery searches have grown 10% and 20% respectively. The big step for this year though has been couples massage with 50% growth.

Now numbers are good to see and everything, but how does that break down as a business owner in the real world? On average Google handles 400 million searches per day, and during a shopping holiday like Valentine’s Day, search volumes are temporarily boosted. So if you’re in the jewellery market for example, you’d want to ramp up your SEO at least a couple of weeks before the big day, just to pump up visibility. The days do seem to fly by while you have your nose to the grindstone, but you need to observe how trends are shifting online. Being able to correctly and accurately predict the shifting trends online can mean the difference between lost income, and capitalizing on a gold mine in search.

Hitting Your Mobile Target

The mobile web, it’s where the search volumes are beginning to slowly shift as smart phone and tablet use continues to grow. Estimates are almost double from just a couple of years ago for the growth of mobile search and it’s worth, somewhere north of $8 billion for 2012 was the last estimate I’ve seen floating around online.

There are a few points which you can keep in mind when it comes to maximizing your mobile potential. Make sure to include reviews and testimonials on your site, and make them readily available in mobile searches. You have only a few seconds to grab a surfers attention in the mobile market, you need to put your absolute best foot forward. Another key point to keep in the forefront of your mobile strategy, be sure to leverage attractive images of your business and it’s services. It’s the first thing that draws a users eye to a result, so making it attractive should be top priority.

Something else to keep in mind, one of the most widely watched sports events occured over this passed weekend if you missed it, the Super Bowl. It’s not exactly the most convenient thing in the world to get up out of your seat when you’re in the midst of an exciting game, and Google released some interesting information on the search metrics about the game. Out of all of the searches conducted during the Super Bowl, 41% of them were made using a mobile device. According to Google, “Super Bowl ad related searches in the US rose 200% on desktop, 970% on tablets and a whopping 2700% on smartphones.” If you think those numbers are impressive, couple that with the fact that more than 110 million people in the US alone watched the game and that’s a huge amount of potential mobile searches.