Category Archives: internet strategy

Google gets closer

Google has rolled out another new feature to search, and this time they’re getting to your roots. Currently dubbed Place Search, the idea is that all of the local information of Google Maps and listings are being turned into a searchable interface.

Couple in Google Instant, and the search page changes to show you their prediction as to what you’re looking for. Restaurants, appliance sales and repair or what ever else might tickle your fancy, if it’s local, it will have a new search results page. What you’ll find when the page comes up is phone numbers, address, a brief description of the ad as well as reviews if you happen to make a choice and click on a link.

Jackie Bavaro – Place Search’s product manager:

“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go…”
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”

She added:

“In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”

Local search just took a huge leap for Google, in a way it’s their answer to FourSquare local reporting and listing power. If you’re not being found now on Place Search, it’s the next step in the powerful world of SEO, and there’s only two places in the race for the top. Page one, or page none. Where are you?

The New Social Search – BingBook?

There was the big conference today from Microsoft Bing and Facebook, and from the sounds of things they’re trying to give the world of search a stiff shake. The partnership idea that’s been rolled out (very small snippet) is when you search for an item or topic on Bing, your socially relevant searches would appear first. Your friends likes/dislikes on a subject or topic that you’ve plugged in. Some good questions have been asked from the conference, items of privacy of course what with Facebooks infamous history thus far, and of course someone asked about the money incentive (no answer on that last one). The far reaching goal is that your search is tailored exclusively for you. It’s personalization of the SERPs for *everyone* who uses Bing.

About the privacy factor, the social search angle is functioning like a module within Bing. A module, which can be turned off should you choose to shut it.

Zuckerberg stated : “We have this idea. 500 million people can look you up on Facebook. We think why shouldn’t applications be able to do this to?”

Because everyone is searchable on Facebook, set to private or not, the train of thought is to allow applications the same level of trust. Bascially you’re allowing Bing, to see all of your informationg you’ve made public on Facebook, and makes that information searchable to your friends list.

The social search angle isn’t meant to completely remove the traditional SERPs page you’re accustomed to seeing, it’s being added to help personalize your queries and provide you with unique results, relevant to you. It’s an updated twist on the personalized search results you start to see within Google for example, minus the cookie saving sessions. The negative side I personally see at this juncture, would be the fact that you need to Opt-out of the service should you choose not to use it. Some would think Facebook learned their opt-in, opt-out lessons by now. Only time now will be the determining factor on this new idea.

Does your website need an update?

Appearance, usage, accessibility and speed. Four qualities which should be incredibly important to any website owner and doubly so for users. If a site isn’t appealing to the eye, easy to use, have intuitive navigation and is slow to browse, it’s almost certain to be skipped over by users first and search engines later.

The qualitites came to mind over a conversation with a friend, they’d lamented that the coroporate side had changed the website and made it unfriendly to use. Previously their site was css based, very little code written on page, and had a good deal of content to be indexed relevant to their rather competitive niche. The new look and layout for their site, abandoned CSS in favor of Java, Ajax and active scroll over elements on the page.

The new site is visually more appealing than the old one, the effects that were added with all of the new coding however, was unecessary. Dropping indexable, search engine friend CSS for Java and Ajax was a half step backwards though in the search wars. While the coding offers a great deal of flexibility in what your website can look like and do, it’s basically entirely skipped over by search engines. The website in question has been running a brief survey on the new look and feel, and so far the consistent response has been that past consistent users, have begun to use other portals to meet their needs. Their new site, while more appealing to look at, was too slow, difficult to navigate and wasn’t easy to understand at all.

It’s a good example of the addage, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”

Clever Content Not Always Best

Content is an incredibly powerful optimization metric on your website. It’s your effective communication to the search engines of the value of your website. Stuffing your page full of pictures, and not describing them in any way is almost a guaranteed way to get yourself lost online with little to no viewers via search. Now the flip side is also true, you can’t cram a thousand lines of text on a page and expect to rank on page 1 for your niche without using a degree of care.

The simplest way to describe it, you want to sculpt the language on your site, to appeal not only to the search engines, but to your visitors; current, and future of course. No one knows your business like you do, but a key point you need to be aware of as a business owner, is that your clients don’t know your business like you do. So don’t clutter your text with technical terms, or vague descriptions around products or processes. Making the assumption that your customers and clients know you as well as you or your salesmen do, can be a detrimental step in the structure of your content.

The number one rule when it comes to content generation?

Keep
It
Simple
Silly

On the social front of your site or experience, there’s been a mashup of the trendiest, retweetable terms determined. It seems that while there’s no sure fire way to have your news or posts immediately rebroadcasted, there are ways to help increase your chances. The most popular terms for titles would have to be “How to”, “Increase”, and “Social Media”. In theory, a surefire way to have your post picked up and passed around would be to use that text as your title, and craft an article around it. Apparently however, “Trust”, “Talk” and “Sentiment” seem to be very undesireable text tweets. Food for thought.

The Process of Dispelling SEO Myths

As with any industry, and any news source, there’s always a degree of fluff and grandeur applied to stories. It’s not different in the search world, although at times there are headlines which just strike as odd.

Take for instance the headline stating “Bing overtakes Yahoo for number 2 in search”. If you’re new to the game, that might seem like a pretty big deal, considering search engines generate cash in one way, by having users. If however, you haven’t had your head buried in sand for the last few months, you knew this was happening. Technically, Yahoo doesn’t exist as a search engine anymore, it’s just a name. Yahoo search is powered by Bing now, so the idea that Bing has overtaken them, isn’t entirely true; it’s more like they consumed them.

It follows the same line of surprise as when we have an inquiry call, and they utter a comment like “The last company I spoke to said they could have me on page 1 within a week”. It takes a minute to collect the thoughts, and re-itterate to them that SEO and SEM are not the same marketing strategies. They have some fundamental principles in common, how ever, they work differently. Driving a persons website to page 1 within a week is not SEO, if anything it’s SEM and AdWords promotion. Maybe if you owned the 1 website on the internet which serviced the niche market there’s a slim possibility it could happen. And by slim, I mean take the number of online pages in your niche (blogs, forums, picture repositories etc), double it at least, and that’s your chances of landing page 1 in a week. It’s almost always after saying something along the lines of “SEO isn’t the same as SEM” that callers make the statement “Oh, they never told me there was a difference” And that’s when the light is turned on, and the truth is realized, they’ve been sold snake oil.

The first right step was made, they called the experts. We’ll dispel the myths, we’ll uncover the truths, and we’ll tell you how it is. If we can help you, and you want our help, give us a call. If you’d rather continue on paying for AdWords campaigns, more power too you. Just remember, Google has shaken the search tree with adding Instant into the mix. Relevant, organic page 1 results are going to be returning as the creme de la creme of online marketing. This is only just the beginning.

Time to be Found – Google Instant

So the big news so far this week would most definitely have to go to the newest change in Google search, Google Instant.

Google Instant is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.

In a nutshell, Google is completetly your searches for you as you type, so no need to hit that enter button. They broke down the search time in a basic format. It takes about 9 seconds to type a query, 1 second to return results, and on average, 15 seconds to select your best choice. The idea, is that Instant will reduce search times by as much as 5 seconds!

Unless your a professional racer of some sorts, 5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it can mean the difference between an ad impression, click through, or new visitor to your site. As a business owner, you need to decide and realize what your time, product and online presence are worth to you. Google Instant isn’t available widely, and can be shut off by users who dislike the service. But, what are you worth? Is your competitors site optimized better? Is your nearest rival perhaps in a better search position on the “normal” SERPs? With the looming introduction of permanent Instant, how much is your online brand worth to you? A difference of 5 seconds could mean the difference between a new contract, or being on the receiving end of a dusty unused website.

Positive Bounce Rate?

Of all the verbage thrown around when working with online marketing, a term that is often used as a negative, would have to be bounce rate. Used usually as “The bounce rate of your site/page/products is why you don’t have conversions” It’s seen as a black spot on a site, and needs to be handled as soon as possible. Bounce rate can also be used as a metric for growth as well how ever, if your SEO expert is on the ball, they’ll understand how to analyse and adjust your pages to change that rate.

A definition via Wikipedia:

Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate) is a term used in web site traffic analysis. It essentially represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site.

A visitor can bounce by:
Clicking on a link to a page on a different web site
Closing an open window or tab
Typing a new URL
Clicking the “Back” button to leave the site
Session timeout

Using the above list, you can begin to personally gauge where your pages may be going awry with a high bounce rate. Do you include links to external sites? If you do, are those sites also yours? Do you have loud music/sounds or flashy videos on your site which may startle people and annoy them to closing your page? Is there nothing eye catching on the page to compell visitors to stay on your site? Session timeouts are generally gauged in the 30 minute range, and if a visitor hasn’t purchased your product, or visited other pages on your site within that time frame, then you need to begin, by looking at your content.

Just as a rule of thumb, remember that your SEO can bring you visitors, it’s up to you to convert those visitors to customers and/or clients.

Wor(l)d of Mouth

It’s not an unsual method of finding a service or product, you ask your friends and family for their opinions. It helps you form your own preliminary opinion, and with a few questions in mind you go for it. The trend however is shifting with the realization that word of mouth, has been changing more into world of mouth.

In a new Cone Inc. report indicates that consumers don’t take word of mouth as gospel when making their decisions. Eighty-one percent of respondents agreed with the statement,

“After getting a recommendation about a product or service I may want to purchase, I go online to do additional research about that product or service before deciding whether to purchase it.”

One of the surprising finds, was the disproval of the thought that bad news travels faster than good news. Online, the sway power of good reviews and news of a product or service was proven more potent than bad news and reviews. Only 68 percent of respondants admitted to changing their minds based on bad reviews, where as 80 percent agreed, positive reviews found online solidified their decisions of a recommended product or service.

These numbers in mind, it’s worth noting that while search engine optimization and search engine marketing are incredibly important to your business, it’s just as important to focus some of your attention to the social interaction of your client base. Whether it’s having a submitted question and answer form, a Twitter feed where client concerns can be addressed, or a Facebook page and wall, it’s worth the time to put in direct client interaction. Face time with your customers is still paramount in the digital world, and as the numbers from the Cone Inc. report shows, having a positive image online will help you immensely.

Local Social Media – The Webs Future

Social networking is the new kid on the internet block, with Facebook being the most obvious example of it’s popularity, it won’t be going anywhere soon. Full of games, groups, and social calendars, employers and businesses often block the websites access as it erodes their employees productivity. Users often get spam wall postings from friends who play the games like Mafia Wars or Farmville, and a general malcontent seems to be evident about such, until people are shown how to block the messages.

But is it all bad? A recent survey by Pew and Elon found that:

85% of nearly a thousand techies agreed, the social benefits of Facebook, Twitter, etc, will outweigh the negatives over the coming decade. E-mail, instant messaging, social networking, and similar Web services offer simple ways to forge and rediscover social ties that can make a difference in people’s lives.

So all the spam, time lost, and invites from long lost relatives, being sociable on the internet isn’t a bad thing. The larger agreement between the panel was that the social interaction created by the internet, and the services available, has enriched their life currently, and can be seen to help encourage this growth. It may sound like it’s a too good to be true scenario, but if you begin as a business, to think of it only in cost investment first; all of the social networks are free to join and use. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google Buzz and apps, all quick to join, setup, and share your information with those you invite to share with.

Of course there’s the downside mentioned earlier. Time wasted on sites, not to mention the stigma of lost face to face interaction, and the recent privacy concerns of some sites. But Pew and Elon didn’t select their panel from random passing people from the public. They used the social services to reach their findings. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs were all tapped for their answers and opinions. Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Nicholas Carr, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark were only a few of the people who provided their feedback.

Newmark: “The Net is about people connecting online, for commerce, politics, and personally, and we already see that enhances real-life relationships. Location-based social networking, in particular, will be a big part of our lives.

As large as the world is, as diverse as the population seems. The more people discover about themselves, the more they wish to build, and form relationships around themselves locally. Local social media networking looks to be the way forward.

SEO Basics – Sitemaps

There’s a kaleidoscope of steps, styles, methods and opinions about the right way to implement search engine optimization (SEO) for your site. But, there are a few points which are generally accepted. Points such as:

  • Quality content is extremely important
  • Working actively to accrue quality links and backlinks is also paramount
  • Apply K.I.S.S. to your site

One of the most overlooked steps, which should be mentioned more often is having an accurate, up to date sitemap for your website. You can think of a sitemap as the formal written index of your web pages. Up until recently, multiple sitemaps were needed if you desired to have all of your content listed easily. Be it images, text, videos, your geo location, and a news section. An individual sitemap for each was required to speed up the indexing process of those assets. Google introduced the XML sitemap 5 years ago, and have just recently changed the game a little.

Instead of multiple sitemaps, webmasters can now submit one XML sitemap to include all of your websites features. From Google:

With the increasing number of specialized formats, we’d like to make it easier for you by supporting Sitemaps that can include multiple content types in the same file.
An example:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″
xmlns:image=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1″
xmlns:video=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1″>
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/foo.html</loc>
<image:image>
<image:loc>http://example.com/image.jpg</image:loc>
</image:image>
<video:video>
<video:content_loc>http://www.example.com/videoABC.flv</video:content_loc>
<video:title>Grilling tofu for summer</video:title>
</video:video>
</url>
</urlset>

The idea of the inclusion for multiple content types within one sitemap was to streamline the entire process for webmasters and their clients.