Browsing "internet strategy"
The most recent effort to introduce a bill aimed at placing the responsibility of policing the internet, of sorts, and it’s content has been blocked by Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.
The PROTECT IP Act was layed out and written in such a fashion that it would fall to internet service providers and search engines to essentially censor the internet. The proposed aim was to reduce the flow of business to websites selling counterfit name brand products. And while the goal is a noble one, the powers granted to the government over the ISPs and search engines if they didn’t comply with their directives was too far reaching. Basically any business could rat out another to the government, who would then turn around and say “Block this website” to the search engines and service providers. If they didn’t comply, they’d be subject to the whims of the body put in place to oversee their actions.
The largest issue with the bill and the way it was written, the burden of proof was placed on the accused, not the accuser. In essence, if you wanted to stop a competitor from advertising on the web and placing within the SERPs, all you would need to do is accuse them of infringing on your copyrights. The burden of proof would then be placed on the accused and they would be basically blacklisted to the corners of the internet.
A strong advocate of the bill had his own take on the necessity of the bill:
“American consumers are too often deceived into thinking the products they are purchasing at these websites are legitimate because they are easily accessed through their home’s Internet service provider, found through well known search engines, and are complete with corporate advertising, credit card acceptance, and advertising links that make them appear legitimate”- Senator Patrick Leahy
It’s easy enough to debate his comment however with just the simple statement, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re looking to buy a Rolex and you stumble upon that “hidden” gem online where you can buy one for a 10th of the retail cost, I would bet you’re buying a counterfit. Big business has a problem with the counterfitters namely because they’re almost entirely fly by night. They’ll engage in ruthless cut throat, black hat SEO tactics to continually rank above them in the SERPs to gain the visibility. The most consistent way to “win” the counterfit war is to simply rank above the gamers of the system. Investing in your website, investing in organic SEO and most importantly, investing in your brands online visibility.
There are some general misconceptions about SEO which crop up from time to time and often come up when going over the process with clients. Some points are extremely valid questions to bring up while others receive ambiguous answers as it changes every day.
Some discussion points like “Why do we need to wait in building back links to our site?” for example tends to come up. To build up quality back links to your website takes time first of all, secondly if you were to go the shady route and buy thousands of links to boost your Page Rank, it’s a very quick way to get the search engines attention. And not in a good way!
“Why should I pay you every month when this other guy says he can do the same for a one shot job?” This is probably the largest misconception about the SEO industry and one of the hurdles which we are met with in dealing with new clients. The biggest reason that you can’t do just a once over and expect the results to carry on forever is because the internet doesn’t shut off. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t sleep, it’s always changing. And in order to compensate and keep up, the search engines do exactly the same. The change their algorithms, tweak the results and shift the rankings on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. Upkeep is absolutely essential to remain competitive in search engine optimization and someone telling you they can plant you firmly at the top for a one time cost of $200 is yanking your chain.
“SEO doesn’t seem so bad I’m sure our techs can do it here” This is perhaps the most closed minded statement to be encountered. I’ve written of it here on the blog before, but pick the right horse for the course. When you’re building a new website, contract a web designer. When you’re adding basic information to your site or updating information, use your techs. When you want to bring your brand and website up in the rankings, use a search engine optimization expert. Saying that your tech who does your database scripting will do your optimization for you is basically money lost at best. At worst, they try and shortcut your site and you get kicked from the index for breaking a rule or two.
There’s a new Google search results page being tested out in the wilds of the internet. Varying reports have been given at present, but there seems to be a central theme to the different layouts discussed. The most consistent trend that is being reported in the new pages is.. more white space in the results.
It doesn’t sound like a search game changing shift, but in reality it very much is. There are millions of people using the internet every day do a myriad of things. Searching, playing games, writing stories and blogs or researching who knows what. Almost all users use a 17 inch monitor or larger and the resolution to match. As strange as it may seem, monitor size and resolution also play into the new search results page and how it may affect your search ranking.
Simply defined, white space is literally just the amount of blank space between elements on a web page. By adding more white space to the search results pages, Google has effectively lengthened the page, meaning to get to number 10 of the top 10 results, you have to scroll down on the page. Just as in the real world, location is everything when it comes to search results. If you’re not in the top 10, you’re not betting the views you need to be competitive as a very high percentage of search users don’t click on page 2 let alone page 5 of their search results. It’s been seen in demographics as well, most users don’t even scroll down to the bottom of the top 10 of their searches!
At present most users see the top 5 or 6 on their search results page. If Google were to decide to go live with this change of adding more white space, you would only see the top 4, or 3 even depending on your monitor and resolution. If you were happy and content seeing that you were sitting at number 5 or 6 in your niche, it may be time to take a long hard look at your current site to see if you can kick start some forward gains. The top 3 when it comes to being found is becoming more and more important.
The Panda update has been out for a little while now and while some users have reported a rankings decline it seems that for the most part if your site wasn’t being scraped of content, you’re doing just fine. But the underlying point is, Google is going to adjust the algorithm again. They’ll tweak, tune and make mistakes. They have thousands of employees, it’s difficult enough when you have a team of 10 working together let alone a small town of people making adjustments.
So what is next on the chopping block for the Google bot? Only Google can tell you, but there are definitely points to be considered which are up for grabs. One of the most likely candidates for being demoted in search, are the bogus blog posts full of anchor text going out to different sites. We’ve all run into them at some point, usually when you’re looking for information on how to change a sink tap or what type of air conditioner to buy this coming summer. You arrive at a blog post with a dozen different anchors in it, that doesn’t really tell you anything concrete about your search topic. They still come up rather prominent on the SERPs, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them culled in the next big update however.
Other points which I’ve seen discussed are adding links into the footer of websites and site stat counters. Both of these as of this current writing, have had their link weight devalued already, but that doesn’t mean that the search gods won’t turn them down some more. Footer links are great to use as internal site navigation, and if you’re honest with yourself having a visible stat counter on your website is gawdy at best.
The last point of issue seems to be that some website owners are reporting vast amounts of erroneous links pointing to their websites from domains of ill repute. Using back links as part of their evaluation method, the search engines are tied to this as one of the metrics with which they rank websites in search. The issue stems from the issue that you can’t fully control who links to your website. You can actively search for the backlinks pointing to your website, and if you don’t like where they’re coming from you can merely ask for them to be removed. It’s a double edged sword which needs to be monitored, no one is immune to the Google ban hammer. Just ask JC Penny..
When you’ve decided you need to give your website a facelift, whether it’s dated images or content or perhaps to remove flash or java elements, you may find that you’re in a pool of options much deeper than you bargained for. Joomla, Drupal, PHP, ASP, there are easily a hundred different types of content management systems you can make use of. Personally as an SEO I prefer working with HTML and CSS as it’s elegant in it’s simplicity.
Why a content management system? Because it’s easier for the end user after the site is completely built. It allows the owner of the site to be able to login to the site, to make any changes or additions that they may deem necessary, it allows the designer to create a site to your specs and leave it with you to manage in the end. This is a great idea from a designers view as maintenance and upkeep are out of their hands. As a user however, if you’re not mindful of the content you add and change, you could accidentally find yourself kicked out of the SERPs. The safest way to ensure that all of the rules and guidelines are being followed is to be in league with a search engine optimization expert. Someone who you can contact and who can direct your online efforts to better position yourself on the organic search listings.
What type of website you have built, also determines the level of difficulty your SEO will be confronted with online. There are nuances and intricacies which exist in code which can go so far as having as simple a mistake as an extra space in the page completely takes your site down. It’s of importance when you’re contracting someone to perform your SEO, that they know your CMS and are comfortable in using it.
There needs to be some distiction made about those who are truly search engine optimization experts and web designers. Web designers selling themselves as SEO experts aren’t going to do you the services you may need or require to get the results you desire. Purely SEO companies will most likely not be able to design and build you the website look you desire for your brand. Just like you wouldn’t hire a plumber to build your house, you don’t hire a web designer to perform your SEO.
Search Engine Optimization, we’re in the business of driving your website to the top of the search results relevant to your industry. A lot of the time, it sounds too good to be true, that when reaching this position you can literally count yourself as a leader. So you sit back, relax and watch as the visitors pour in. And then you start to notice something you didn’t prepare yourself for, your visitors start dropping off.
Where you once were receiving hundreds of qualified visitors to your site, you’ve watched it drop off to a trickle of where you were at your peak. So what happened? Did your SEO expert fail you? Possibly, we do make mistakes from time to time. But the first rule of SEO is KISS it; Keep It Simple Stupid. With that in mind, grab your pencils and paper and let’s take a look at what are the contributing factors to dropped traffic.
First and foremost, check your content. Have you been creating fresh and compelling content for your site? Have you allowed your SEO to read it before you upload it to your site or did you just toss up what ever jargon you happened to jot down in a hurry? The search engines have always proclaimed that content is king and when your content doesn’t measure up anymore, you’re going to lose your crown. That means when you’re being creative, you need to bear in mind your visitor base. Do they understand industry terms? Or do you need to use generic terms. Will they be able to handle acronyms and specific statements about your products and services? Being hasty in the creation process can be a huge contributor to losing traffic to your site. Properly spelled, grammatically correct and most of all relevant to your site content, can drive you to the top of the mountain and keep you there like an anchor.
Another avenue to explore for you, have you done any massive changes to your website either functionality or design? If you’ve changed the way your navigation works on your site and didn’t properly relay that information to the search engines, you’ll likely slip off of search until the spiders find all of your content again.
Have you kept an open and consistent dialogue with your SEO expert? When a change is requested that needs to be completed, you need to bear in mind that the internet doesn’t stop. It doesn’t sleep, rest, eat or use the washroom. The bots are always out there, always searching, parsing and indexing. A requested change needs to happen as soon as possible. Lost time when making changes can make a huge impact on your search position.
The marketing game has changed significantly in the last 10 years with the growth of the search engines. Gone are the days of dumping a quarter of a million dollars into an ad campaign and waiting for the kick back from it. International marketing superstardom can be had with a well coded website with strong quality content created by one person sitting behind a keyboard.
There’s a million and one ways to make yourself found online, local, mobile, social, organic, ppc and within each of these there are countless other methods to work on. Let’s start with the assumption that you’ve followed all of the best practices when it comes to building your website.
You’ve used CSS and XML to create a uniform and attractive look. Used even simple things such as a doctype to tell your browser what it is that it’s reading. Creative, compelling content with a strong call to action which drives your visitors to buy your product, sign up for your news letter or forum and continue visiting your pages. Your images are tagged, your categories are tagged, you’ve worked hard at being the best in your niche market and are steadily enjoying the growing fruits of your labor. And then you learn, there is more which you can do to increase your traffic flow, visibility and as a result, improve your bottom line.
There’s always more which can be done in marketing yourself online, more steps which you can take to become more visible. That step you’ve taken to tag all of your images on your website properly? Congratulations, by taking a very simple step you’ve helped increase your visibility in the image searchs in both Bing and Google. With properly tagged and titled images, it helps your customers reach your site when you have clear pictures for your product to be seen.
Another strong step is issuing news about your company consistently. Whether you’ve closed that massive new merger which will allow you to double production or support, or even if all you’ve done is decided to hold a spring cleaning sale. It’s important to remain active in the eyes of your customer. This is where a blog is an amazing tool for your business, both small and large. It’s an ideal space for all of the aforementioned releases, as well as a location for your clients and customers to reply to your posts and even suggest improvements if some are needed in their eyes.
If you’ve cornered your niche market, and created your very own brand image offline, it’s extremely important to continue that leverage online. As an example, it wouldn’t do Pepsi or Coca-Cola any good to have direct queries for their brand name, direct users to competitors websites. It’s lost revenue and a lost avenue for income.
And if you provide a product or a service which has many steps or intricacies, it only helps your case to develop your very own how to pages on your website. If you provide a specific style of door knocker as an example, providing clear and concise directions on your website on how to install and care for your product can help instantly transform a curious searcher, into a new customer.
Since Mr.Page has taken hold of the reins of the Google ship, he’s made some clear moves to date. Appointing 7 executives who he can deal with directly in order to steamline any changes in their products, and to serve up a Google wide memo to prove just how serious they are about getting social.
Pages memo is quoted as: “strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products. If we’re successful, your bonus could be up to 25% bigger. If not, your bonus could be up to 25% less than target.”
So it’s time to take that 20% free initiative time and develop the next social step stone at the Google Plex. It’s interesting, and a little scary to see Page directing so much development power towards a single goal with the Google engineers, it’s going to be an interesting year in the social market I’d bet.
And as if not to play any favorites, the Department of Justice has decided that yes Google can have ITA, but we get to watch what you do with it. Oh and also, you need to share it with everyone. And development? You can’t put anymore money into it than ITA already has.
Those may come across as negative points, but on the whole they’ll help foster a more powerful travel search feature across multiple platforms. Everyone is a winner, Google gets what they want, and the travel industry gets to share on the level of innovation that is developed from becoming part of the Google machine.
Since it’s inception and it’s growth to become the go to search engine for the majority of internet users, Google has tweaked, modified, upgraded and changed the way you search continually. Under the hood that is, the algorithm has been tweaked so many times it barely resembles that innocent little spiderbot that began it’s journey 10+ years ago.
Every time that they make a change in the coding, or an indexing priority change it effects the search results page and it’s relevance for the users. Last year for example in order to speed up the experience of search, Google implemented the Caffeine update which indexed and cached pages faster than ever before. Doubling the experience with Google Instant they brought the average search down to less than 10 seconds for the average user. The most recent major change was the Panda or Farmer update which was put into play to try and exlude major content farms and spammy websites from search results.
And a new shift which is underway, which only Google knows will take place, Google is currently reevaluating the relevancy weight that’s given to keyword rich domain names. In a short video blog, Matt Cutts discusses a few differences between domains in that you can go differing ways in search. With a brandable name, or with a keyword rich domain. And while there’s something to be said for having a keyword rich domain, it also needs to be pointed out that more often than not, brandable urls and company names prevail online. Take Twitter for example, you wouldn’t search for twitter by using social micro blogging site, you’d type twitter in the search bar, or even just directly into the address bar.
So just to be a little more clear in what Google has admitted they’re currently working on. They’re analysing the relevance of keyword rich urls to ensure they’re delivering proper results. And they’re going to be adjusting the level of relevance they give to keyword rich domains. Bear this in mind when the next SEO “expert” you speak to, who’s working from his basement or garage urges to you that you need to have a url with your keywords in it. Because after all is said and done, what’s in a name?
Content You have 2 options:
1) Good content without promotion
2) Good content with promotion.
#2 wins every single time. As long as there is a profit motive for good content, there is a profit motive for promoting it. SEO is one tool. SMO is another.
So why does word of mouth from brand advocates work?
Consumers trust Word of Mouth. Which means conversion rates are higher.
You don’t pay advocates. There are costs of course, but you’re not paying advocates to make referrals.
Brand Advocates are not just for Christmas. Paid clicks are ‘perishable’ advocates are not.
I’d add a couple of other reasons myself:
Advocates are integrated marketers. They are online, offline and through the line. They don’t differentiate the way your agency or media campaigns do.
They give your marketing campaigns wings. Advocates are often spurred to advocate your products and services when they come across your marketing messages. They increase coverage and impact of your other marketing activity.
Advocacy means UGC. Brand Advocates write nice things online about your brand. They create keyword rich content just because they love you. And we all know what search engines love.
Longer and Deeper love. One other benefit of identifying and cultivating your brand advocates is of course that they are likely to stay more loyal for longer – so your CRM gets a boost too.
So advocates are great, but how do you find them? aren’t they as elusive as a four leaf clover?
The answer is so simple it hurts. You ask them! The simplest survey question of them all ”How likely are you to recommend us?” – and BINGO, you know who your advocates are. Now you just need to cultivate them.
“Traditional marketing has companies speak to many to reach one. Today we speak to one to reach many.”