There is to this day a general misunderstanding about search engine optimization and just what it can do for your website and business; SEO will not sell your product for you.
What optimizing for search does do however is give you visibility online, a very important component of online sales to be sure but it’s only one side of the coin. For the sake of explaining assumptions will be made – seeing as how you likely have your own website for your business it would be somewhat safe to say that there is some experience selling yourself or your wares to your intended audience. When you’re working on a sale for yourself a solid general rule to follow would be around 1 in 10 or so, for every 10 contacts that you make you’ll earn a sale – it may seem low but this is from a strictly hard sell stand point. From that stand point the most difficult part of making that sale isn’t actually the conversation with the customer, it’s generating that initial point of contact. The days of people wandering down the sidewalk and walking into a store front that intrigues them are dwindling, increasingly often consumers are turning to the internet to procure their desired goods.
If you already have a website then a good 30% of the work is done already, you have the potential to turn that previous hard sell approach into a soft sell, qualified visitors to your site are there because they want what you have. That’s where SEO, aka internet marketing can help turn a paltry 10-20 visitors a month into hundreds, if not thousands if your market is big enough. What we can bring your business and website as SEO professionals is visibility, you are looking for the aforementioned qualified consumers – whether you want a sale, a sign up, or an contact me later email, search engine optimization can help make that happen.
What we can not do however, is actually force that sale for you and your website. Every now and then during a campaign there is a tipping point where we sit down with our clients and essentially have the following conversation. Now that we’ve addressed your technical and optimization issues, it’s time to talk about your conversion points and methods. What makes that conversation frustrating is when the advice is ignored or discounted because now that you have all that visibility and traffic your sales will go up the same amount, right?
Have you ever stopped to consider why your website may not be performing quite as well as it used too? It is always worth it to stop and have a close look at what your offering as an online presence to the public, because sometimes a face lift is in order.
Online marketing and branding is still a rather new avenue of growth for every business out there, and it’s one that needs to be monitored and measured appropriately to make sure you’re getting the most you possibly can out of it. Every now and then we have a client come to us with their woes of poor online performance and when we look at their website it’s like looking through a time warp. An outdated appearance on a website can be detrimental to an otherwise successful business offline. Tech is always improving and we’re a long way from using tables and basic HTML scripting to design and build websites, having a recognizable and intuitive website design is a significant part of a successful online presence.
Businesses are always growing and changing and sometimes your old mission statement and goal doesn’t match your current model. It doesn’t mean that you need to completely redesign and develop your website, but it can always help to revisit your content and your vision to make sure that your websites message matches that of your vision. Also to keep in mind is just how does your website react when you visit it with a smart phone or a tablet? If your site isn’t at least somewhat responsive you’re only losing out on providing your visitors with both their desired and required experience. If your site is difficult to use and navigate then your visitors are likely to leave in favor of finding someone else to provide them with their needs.
As strange as it might seem, we’ve been approached by some people looking for help online and found that while they have an incredible site, and a great message and content they’re just not meeting their conversion goals. There are usually only a couple of reasons that we can boil this down too, one of them being that the conversion message, or call to action is lost in the complexity of the site. Keep your message and conversion message simple and you’re more likely to end up with that coveted sale. Additionally we have even had some site owners come to us and have found that their designer of their site neglected to allow indexing of their site via an htaccess or robots.txt file. There is always time for you to reevaluate your website it’s content and it’s call to action, and always make sure that if you need assistance with any of your online issues to make sure to call the experts here at Freshtraffic.
The internet is a pretty big place and with Facebook throwing its hat in the search ring with their trillion of connections made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a search engine doesn’t immediately deliver exactly what you’re looking for with your first search.
Google is often placed under the microscope when complaints about the web or search quality come up, but it seems exceedingly rare that anyone actually talks about how big a job it is to be a search engine. Using Facebooks example of having an index of a trillion connections made using their social software alone, it should be clear that the web is a huge place. An estimate of the size of the internet is somewhere over 100 trillion web pages and users and complainers are often quick to pass judgement on the search engines when they couldn’t find what they want. Google is the largest and most widely used search engine on the web, still holding onto more than 2/3 of the audience out there and even they don’t even try to get close to curating that massive amount of pages.
When you factor in that many pages on the web and an algorithm that sorts, ranks and tries to properly place every one that it crawls <em>and</em> that it can deliver your results pages in less than a half second it should really be amazing that it can be done at all. Constant updates and improvements to the algorithm that does the bulk of the work can alter the pages you see when you search, and even sometimes appears to completely break the results pages as was the impression when Panda and Penguin were integrated into the algorithm. As an exercise in just how massive an undertaking this can be, and how Google and the other search engines aren’t out to get you and your site specifically give this a go. Imagine you have 100 pennies in your possession all with a different year on them, after shaking them all up in a can pick out the one with the year of your birth on it, if you don’t pick out your year it goes back into the can. You might get it in the first few or it may take you 30 – 40 tries, now repeat that experiment 100,000,000 more times and you’ll have a sample of how much work the search algorithms do every time they perform your search.
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.
Just 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.
There is always a someone talking about how SEO is a dead industry, and more often than not the doomsayers used a very specific type of optimization methods.
When the online marketing game started it was a fairly simple matter to get almost any website listed. You didn’t even really need to have any content of merit or even any kind of following to your website. You didn’t even need to have an okay website never mind a high quality one and as for any kind of best practice guide it didn’t really exist in the beginning. There were no pure white hat methods, although there were many black hat methods and it took a while before the search engines even began to lay penalties to some of the worst offenders. This all started with real gusto across the web in the mid to late 90s.
As the web grew and expanded and as the search engine bots, crawlers and tech got better, the types of things that you should do and shouldn’t do began to become clearer. After a few years of clean up, the search engines and their algorithms fell almost into a routine. You could build a site, create or scrape some content, point any kind of a backlink at it and make a site start to show up in the results pages. It was at this point that the terms ‘search engine optimization’ really started to become widespread and the notion that you could make money from SEO started to become an avenue for people who frequented blogs and discussion forums about the quickest and easiest way to make a dollar online. This was in around 2005-2010 era of SEO, when the industry became suddenly inundated with experts in the field. It really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, that these are the same folk who are calling SEO a dead industry these days.
In the last few years SEO has had some major shifts with the algorithm much the same as the industry saw in 2003 with the Florida update which cleaned up a great deal of the spam across the web. Penguin and Panda were the most recent additions to the Google algorithm which changed the world of SEO enough that the prior blogged about methods of spammy content and tons of anchor text and backlinks disappeared as a viable strategy. They were very simple methods, easy to implement and even easier to spam multiple sites to help drive a target to the top of the results pages. But since the means and the methods became unusable as a reliable way to rank a site, it is suddenly the end of SEO as a viable means of marketing. So the next time you’re approached by an agency who tells you that ‘SEO is dead’ take a moment and remember that the industry is far from dead – if anything it’s growing. It’s only the that the wheat has finally been separated from the chaff.
With the explosive growth of the web and the rapid pace of business development online it managed to catch a lot of the older, more established industries with their proverbial pants down. And every now and then, one of them tries to make a change to catch up to the pace of the web.
The Wall Street Journal introduced one of the first methods of pay for news services by an online newspaper, they saw the coming of the storm and instituted the first known version in ’97. They started off slowly, but in less than ten years they had garnered more than a million readers and have been going strong ever since. Had more ‘old media’ agencies like radio and newspaper followed their example then it’s likely they wouldn’t complain about the loss of consumers as they head to the web to get more of the news that they want.
The WSJ did the right thing for them when it was needed in order to not only survive the online marketplace, but to thrive as well.
But every now and then, there is a surprise and a business does something completely unexpected, and launches a business idea that is completely out of their scope of services that it’s startling to see; like a newspaper suddenly offering website design and development services. Now to be fair, that’s not entirely out of their range of business as they do have an advertising department and offering designers up for websites isn’t out of their realm of possibility. They already create ads to run in their papers and flyers, so it’s not entirely foreign that they would be able to help out for businesses that might need a website. When they start offering up search engine optimization services though, now we’re talking about leaving their realm of expertise completely. There is a very specific set of skills that is required in order to be able to properly work an SEO campaign, and the odds that a newspaper can meet those needs is slim at best. Horses for courses as they say, and the last time I looked a print newspaper is almost the exact opposite of the online market.
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.
A 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.
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.
In the quest for online dominance, where do you believe is the best place to lay your allegiance – Do you go after organic dominance, social dominance, or diversify?
Not that it should really be a difficult question, but putting all of your eggs in one basket, whether it be organic or social, has never been a good idea. There are pros an cons to each area of online visibility the question that really needs to be asked and answered is what type of balance should you go after as a website owner?
Going after the top of the charts for organic listings is an almost immeasurably powerful position. When you’re in the top 3 results for your key term targets you can easily enjoy 95% or more traffic than being at number 5 or 6 on the results pages. The direct benefit of being in those top spots can be the difference between sending your staff on a paid holiday as a Christmas bonus, or taking them all out to McDonalds for lunch. In a survey conducted earlier this year it was determined that being number 1 for your search term safely netted you more than a third of all traffic for that term, while being number 5 and less, dropped you to the 5% of all traffic. And the reason is actually fairly simple – users like quick and easy to get to their end destination. When a user searches for a service, say they need a banner printer locally, it’s unlikely that they will scroll down the first page passed the first couple of results as they’ll get a listing of all of the local businesses that can provide them with a banner. And when you incorporate into the organic results the inclusion of maps results when someone is looking for a business, it’s even more likely that the user won’t scroll down the page.
The only real downside to organic search engine marketing is the time factor, it takes time for your site to be listed appropriately. And with the constant changes to the search engine algorithms, what is best practices today, may be a red flag the next, it’s a continually evolving landscape that needs to monitored and tended to. As a result of the due diligence required to appropriately monitor the fluctuating search changes, there is often the cost required to keep your SEO on call in order to meet the changes head on.
Social dominance is a whole other ball of wax that requires a different spin in order to capitalize on the marketplace. When you become a force to be reckoned with in the social arena your business enjoys the fandom of (hopefully) thousands of immediate customers and subscribers that are already part of your qualified consumer base. The potential of viral marketing is currently unmatched in how quickly it can bring your company to the attention of your local audience, and potentially even the world. So in short, the social area provides you with a prequalified audience of consumers, the quick sharing of information across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc), and the potential to go viral and become world known in a relatively short time frame.
A negative to the added visibility and power of the social arena though is first off, it takes a fair bit of time to acquire your consumer base and make them believers in your products and service. It’s much like you’re contracting them to be your sales force by sharing your message as you share with them, and this required a fair bit of personal dedication. And with the potential to go viral with an incredible message (like the recent Westjet video) the potential to run afoul of the internet exists as well. Being active in the social arena needs to be carefully tempered, and your marketing team needs to be diligent in their handling of customers, both positive and negative so as not to find themselves on the wrong side of the news.
How much branding is too much?
Every time we meet with a client whether they are new or old, we always discuss their keyword targets and their online branding as it exists. The error that seems to consistently crop up is when you try and be to precise with your targets. Branding is a great marketing tool and to be easily and quickly recognizable is great, but there is such a thing as going too far. I’m going to use a tire shop as an example of how branding, while great, can quickly go bad as well.
As the shop owner of ABC Tires you need customers to keep your doors open and you need to market yourself to get those customers. You could go with print, radio, television or online, but you need to pick one. Having the specialty line 123-Z, is a great way to help pull in organic traffic online, as you can build pages and content and optimize them so that they can climb the results pages until you’re at the top. When you start to see that increased attention from a brand, and you push all of your focus into it is where you’ll actually find your shop starting to flounder in it’s use. At the core you are not a 123-Z sales outlet, you’re a tire shop and that is the marketing and branding image that needs to be stressed, not a single inventory item.
We have had clients see growth and traction on a specific set of keywords, and have tried to push hard into marketing onto those specific terms. Having a target to aim for is great for our use, because it allows us to tailor your online marketing campaign for your goals. But it can quickly get out of hand if all of the content and design starts to reflect only a single term. Diversity in your keyterms and in your marketing is vastly important, as you can actually lose traffic and conversions by being to exacting. You can’t see the forest through the trees if you focus only on your branded terms because they get the most conversions. While you want to be the first site that shows up for your company’s names in Google SERPs, you also want to be present for other search queries. Don’t be afraid to diversify your keyword strategy – you might find that with a few tweaks to your keyword strategy that a whole new world of customers lies just beyond the search engines, looking for you and what you have to offer.