When we have new clients which are chomping at the bit to take over the world with their website, it seems more and more often there has been some confusion just to how the SEO process works. For some reason, the idea that we as search engine optimization and online branding experts can just call Google and tell them to place you at the top of the listings, seems to be what we do. The demystifying of SEO is a somewhat difficult task at times, even more so when contacts believe you can walk on water.
With this issue fresh in mind from a recent conversation, I feel the need to reiterate some basic SEO facts for those who may hopefully read this post before jumping to conclusions. First off, optimization of your website is only a very small piece of the puzzle for your online business. Any SEO worth their salt will tell you that in order for you to be successful online not only do you need to be visible, but there needs to be a clear call to action on your landing page. It does you no good as an online store for example, to have visitors landing on your contact us or about us page. You want users to buy from you, optimizing your site to drive traffic to your catalogue is your goal.
Search engine optimization is not an over night or fly by night success. It’s been said a million times, organic optimization takes time. If you’re lucky and have a solid base to work with, it may take as little as a month or two, but the norm is closer to 12 weeks + to begin seeing consistently measurable results.
After these two basic points, then you get into the meat of the business which has been talked about at great length all across the web. You need to keep website usability in mind. You need to keep your all encompassing goal when writing new content and rehashing the old on your pages. You can completely derail an SEO campaign with as small a change as making a term into a plural as opposed to singular. Remember to keep your navigation menus clean and clear, the more accurate and simple you can make them the quicker your site can be crawled and indexed.
Just some very plain, basic facts about the SEO process (again) which just seem to keep eluding small and large business owners alike. For all of your search engine optimization and online branding success, you need only pick up the phone and give the experts a call.
As part of the education process with clients, we often have to explain to them that their position on the search index is basically directly tied to their success in their online business. It’s normally a fairly easy concept to grasp for most, as most people just don’t navigate past the first page of results. In other words, the more prominent your positioning for your terms, the higher chances of success.
In the last few days, Google has released a free tool which makes this even easier for businesses to see. It’s basically a monitoring system for their adwords platform, but the statistics it can quickly and easily generate are applicable. Being that the sample size is small at the moment, it will take some time for the numbers to become formal, but they portray almost exactly what SEOs have always known. Searchers don’t navigate much further than page 1, page 2 at most. Anyhow, now for some numbers!
A quick search on Google and your page will be comprised of 4 main elements: the search box with your term in it at the top, the organic results which will populate the bulk of the center of the page, search modifiers which will help you refine your search on the left side of the page and finally the adwords, which will be served at the top with a colored background, or on the far left of the screen. Adword groupings are as few as 1 to a page and I have seen as many as 8 different adword campaigns for a highly competitive search term on the page split between the top position and the left hand side. Google’s new tool will actually tell you precisely where your terms are being served on the page! Whether you’re in the top listings, the side listings and even which page you’re on.
Because of the information you’re able to glean from your positioning, you can actually calculate your ad potential for conversions. Some of the averages which are starting to be discussed may be a surprise to novices of the web and search. In terms of traffic, 97% of traffic generated came through from page 1 placement, 2% from page 2 placement and the traffic became abysmal beyond there. Essentially the lesson would be, if you’re not on Page 1, you’re missing out on 97% of your potential! Besides which page you’re served on, the position on the page also plays a big part. Any SEO worth his stones will tell you that being in the top 10 is a great start, but the top 5 is where the real money is. If you’re ready to stop messing with the little stuff and playing with the big boys, it’s time to step into the organic listings. And that is where the SEO experts come in.
Never would competitors admit they’ve made changes based on what each other implement, but it’s the oldest game of keep up that exists. Beginning today, Facebook is rolling out a whole bunch of new privacy and sharing controls which they say, have “been in the works for months”. It’s not like Google+ was tearing away tens of millions of users per day from Facebook, but the more granular and easy to use privacy controls were a big positive note for those already looking for a change in their social landscape.
Primarily, you’ll finally be given a stronger grip on your profile and how you share with your friends. Items can be public (everyone) or only shared with specific people or groups. Visibility of your profile as well will be able to be administered on a friend to friend basis if you desire. Allowing you to share the things you like with those who would appreciate them. In addition to being able to control your profile image on a deeper level, so to will you be able to control any tagging which may occur.
Tagging, the attachment of a name to a photo on Facebook, can be harmless or harmful depending on the image used. Previously if you were tagged in a photo, it would appear as part of your profile, and you would need to ask to have it removed or report the picture. The change that’s being made in this area allows you the option to remove the photo from your profile, even with your name remains tagged in your friends/colleagues picture. So now you’re able to control somewhat if someone tries to attach your name to a distasteful image.
It’s only a smattering of the privacy controls that Facebook is working on doling out to their userbase. Easier to understand and granular are the order of the day and going forward, although it does bring up a thought. If Facebook did have the changes percolating and waiting for months, why did it take the beta test of Google+ for them to finally push them out? Perhaps suddenly Facebook realized there was another game in the social arena, and considering the strength of the backer, couldn’t wait to hold anything back. There is of course another option I’m personally more inclined to believe, that Facebook liked Google+ privacy controls and used the same model.
Let us partake in a litmus test, if you don’t know what that is here’s a very basic definition for you : A test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision. So here’s the question to answer: Do you have a website for your business? If the answer is yes then the answer to this next question is yes as well; you need to have a solid SEO plan in place.
It’s not voodoo or black magic, it’s not about putting videos up on Youtube and tweeting to your Facebook fans (that’s social marketing and it works as well) SEO is about making the search engines love your website. SEO is about telling the world that “Yes I am the authority on <your niche> in <your location>. I can take care of all of your needs.”
Now here comes the tricky part, there are some simple things you’re going to need to come to grips with when it comes to search engine optimization. The number one point you need to realize is: SEO costs money. Who’d have thought that having someone go through your website, clean up it’s code, properly build it’s navigation and make it faster online would cost money! It’s like putting a new engine in your car, if you’re incapable of putting the hours and skills into doing the work yourself, you’re better off paying the professionals. Even those very simpe steps I mentioned can help to increase traffic and visitors to your website. Another extremely important point, arguably the most important, SEO is not an instant quick fix to your search rankings. It takes time to re-tune your website, update the content and clean the code. After all of that the spiders need to come and crawl your site and decide if it’s better than the last one you had and how you would stack up against your peers now. You could be re-indexed in a day, you could be re-indexed in 2 weeks. You may be on page 6 when you started your campaign and after first pass you’re up to page 3, while not the page 1 where all of the action is you’ve literally improved 100% from where you previously were. The most common metric we tell our clients new and old is, you’ll begin to see significant long lasting results in a 6 month plus time frame.
Enough of those two big scary ideas (money and time), lets talk more about what’s going to happen to your website once you’re up in the rankings. Sitting on page 1 enjoying all of the new visitors you’re receiving, you need to begin to take a good hard look at your home page. Traffic is useless without a conversion of some sort. Sign up for my newsletter, subscribe to our coupon book, buy our product. You need a call to action on your website where visitors arrive. Because if people show up to the party and there’s no party, then the visit was wasted.
To recap: SEO will cost you money and it will take time. Once your campaign is in full swing, breakdown your website and determine your call to action on your landing page. Because without these 3 key understandings, it doesn’t matter if you’re number 1 on the SERPs, or number 1000.
So in the world of search there’s a handful of true search engines, those little boxes of which you type in your current question or conundrum and off you go into the wild internet. We have Bing, which holds onto somewhere around 27% or so of the search market, Google who holds onto the lions share of search at just over 65%, and all those little crumbs in the bottom are search engines like Ask.com etc.
It’s not difficult to find press about how Bing is making massive inroads into Googles share of search, or how last year Bing grew by over 90%.. blah blah blah. When you boil the numbers all the way down however, all you’re really left with is Google and Bing, and the only way Bing is going to make positive growth in search is to take it from Google. So using misleading titles to the tune of Bing overtaking Google, or Bing Grows 90% over the year are nearly wholely misleading. Even with all of this “incredible growth”, with all of the addins and marketing strategies Microsoft throws at Bing they’re left with a fairly large problem. Despite owning more than 25% of the worlds search volume, Bing doesn’t make any money for Microsoft.
That may not seem like it makes any sense, but look at it from a different perspective, try and see it from the advertising angle of things. The sole product sold by search engines are the advertisements that appear on search pages, which are sold not for a set amount, but based on how many times customers click on an ad tied to the search phrase that brought the user to the page. And since Google has such a huge search market share, they’re rolling in cash right from the start because of their cost per click for their adword programs. Now the one biggest reason Bing doesn’t make money, isn’t because they have a smaller search share than Google alone, as it turns out, the cost per click tied to their advertising model is as much as 1/5 the cost of Googles cost. As bad as that may sound as a revenue model, it actually gets a little worse for the Bing machine. Less CPC looks great on the surface, but as an advertiser it brings up the issue of what is driving that low cost. Bing has less traffic than Google at the outset, the CPC to serve the same ad on Bing is cheaper than Google and in the end it translates into less ad impressions on the Microsoft search engine.
So the question in the end really, is there ever really going to be a solid competitor to the Google machine? If a multi-billion dollar a year company can’t even step into the same arena as the giant and succeed, who truly can? I say bring them all on, competition is what made the web what it is today, more will only make it better.
Unless you’re a member of the tinfoil hat group, you’ve undoubtedly used the internet and a search engine at some point in the last few days. You may have used Bing, maybe Google, but you had that need for information. Irregardless of which search engine you decided to partake in, you made your choices based on what you learned. But if you’ve ever been curious, ever taken the time, the results from Bing and Google can sometimes completely differ for the exact same search.
Effective searching is, strangely enough, a skill that everyone who is online should have, yet few do. It’s actually difficult sometimes to explain to clients, both existing and prospective, that the more complicated you make search in your head, the more frustrating your SEO campaign will be to you. The first problem as a business and website owner that you need to overcome, is the idea that when people search for you online, they use niche or specialized terms as they work. Unfortunately however, this is where things begin to go over the top in complication. If you own a website and business which fixes vacuums, then it’s in your best interest to optimize and build your site around that theme. The wrong approach to take would be to try and optimize your site around all of the different brands you deal with, instead of using an all encompassing term.
Different search engines display their results differently as well, and you’ll show up for different terms in them. Some of the points which will influence where, when and how you appear are things like your content, your url structure can even influence your positioning some what as can the lack of content. There’s no such thing as too much content, provided of course it’s relevant to your business and website. Keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and before you know it you’ll be showing up in the SERPs for all sorts of terms and phrases relevant to your business.
There has been a fair amount of chatter lately about the possiblity of the bear being let loose in the wild. The bear in this scenario, while invoking a cute and cuddly image, has been anything but to some webmasters out there. I’m referring to the Panda update which was primarily implemented earlier this year in February, which in the last few days speculation has arised it’s currently loose. Google of course is tight lipped about it’s algorithm and of their method of being deployed, this all together just leads to more specualtion and hyperbole.
One of the stranger aspects of the search game and the internet in general, it seems that people forget the internet is always changing. It’s not shifting a little, it doesn’t even shift somewhat throughout the week. It’s constantly shifting, pages being created, websites being launched and search, shopping and social algorithms are continually being tweaked and modified. And because these algorithms are always changing, always moving, so do the indexes. Shopping, social, search, none of the indexes you search for and look at today, even somewhat resemble what you would have found even a few months ago.
Is Google+ a contender, or is it merely a flash in the pan like Wave and Buzz were? If the recent trends where the beta testing of Google+ are the be taken seriously, then Google’s iteration of the social network is most definitely a contender. Even Mark Zuckerberg seems to be taking the upstart seriously as he’s recently reactivated his Plus account and has been spending some time using the network. It’s most definately a good idea and competition of course breeds innovation. Only good things can really come from the continued growth of Google+.
Saying that the social network being offered by Google is a contender in the social space, really isn’t as massive a deal as at first glance. Calling Google+ a contender in social is much the same as calling Bing a contender in the search game. Bing is holding onto a solid 1/3 of search volume occuring online, and if you use the same percentages for argument sakes, that would give Google+ a strong membership somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million members. Definitely a contender, have you tried Google+?
There’s rumor of another Panda update on the way, so it might be a good time for all web designers and programmers to do an in depth web site audit. The purpose: to identify and rectify and potential problems which may conflict with the coming update.
The previous Panda applications to the search index have mad a couple of general changes to the way the algorithm works. One factor which has gotten the axe is the Google index has become more stringent with the presence of scraped content. This hit the content farms the hardest initially, but it also managed to scoop up a number of innocent site owners in a round about way. The scneario played out as: web site owner publishes unique content, relevant to their niche. Keyword rich, interesting and informative it quickly begins to climb the search rankings in it’s niche. Along comes a scraper or aggregator from a major mashing site. Suddenly, you realize your original content has been dropped and the aggregator has essentially taken your place. It’s a scenario which has bitten creative owners in the backside for a long time but became a pronounced issue with the introduction of the Panda update. Legitimate creators were being bounced from the index along with the scrapers in a wide reaching effort to reduce web spam. It opened the doors to a long and arduous process to have your website and it’s content reconsidered for inclusion to the index.
Another variable which Panda introduced also ties in the first, the variable began to affect affiliate ecommerce websites. What had happened was, all of the affiliates had been given permission to use the same content as the original seller, and in doing so basically signed their own warrant for the Panda bot. The same net effect as previously discussed, legitimate business owners were finding they were being removed from the index where previously they had been able to make a comfortable living.
In the end when you’re in preparation for the upcoming Panda update, be sure to take a good, hard look at your content. Do your diligence and take every step to make sure your content is as unique, informative and informational as possible for your market to limit any accidental removals from the index. By not doing your homework, the only one to blame in the end is yourself.
Of all of the pieces of your website that needs to be impeccably clear, a call to action is arguably one of the most important. Bringing visitors to your website is irrelevant if you give them no instructions once they get there. Whether it’s as simple as signing up for a monthly newsletter, or as in depth as making a secure online purchase, the only way a visitor will know what you want them to do is if you tell them.
The application of a clear call to action can be done in a number of ways. different colored text, bold and clearly stated so nothing can be mistaken. Using graphics such as animated or flashing buttons is mostly frowned upon, but a static button which stands out from the background is entirely acceptable. It’s been found however, that using terms like ‘click here’, ‘submit’, and ‘go’ can be one of the absolute worst phrases you can use.
If you’re using the graphical approach to initiating a call to action, some of the same basic rules to website construction apply. Building the button in an elegant way which accents the website is strongly advisable as opposed to the garish flashing gif or flashing button. As for the text or message to be delivered, keeping it simple and to the point is the best idea. Using clear terms like ‘Download our annual report’ as the text of your graphic is a stronger and clearer statement than the ubiquitous ‘Click here!’.
So as a rule, when you’re auditing your own website you need to be certain you have a clear and visible call to action. If you’ve found that your bounce rate has been increasing, and overall your traffic is down, a quick rundown of your home page is definitely in order. It would be a shame to lose valuable traffic and customers because you don’t have a purpose for your visitors.
When you logon to your computer, fire up your browser and start your internet trek for knowledge, entertainment or what ever it is that has your mind occupied, are you going to be able to find your answer? It’s a question which has been gaining more and more traction in the last year or so, and DuckDuckGo, a new start up search engine has been shaking the search cage in an effort to forge it’s own path.
Recently they have put up a page detailing how when you perform a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo, you’re not getting a true results page. The screen shot of the search results clearly shows that different people will receive different results searching for ‘Egypt’ as a search term. Without reading the link text, it’s clear that the results pages are vastly different. But why are they different comes down to dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons. It can be as simple as your location in the country, the time of day or the trend in the news lately. The short pictorial provided on the DuckDuckGo page details essentially how search engines, Facebook, Twitter etc are all delivering pre-packaged results based on your web usage and they also contend that this shouldn’t be happening.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t save your search results, doesn’t pass your search terms onto referred websites, has a nifty red box they call zero click info (handled by Wolfram Alpha) which appears on some searches and after all that, is throwing their hat into the search engine ring. Being a new player at an old game is a tough market to break into, and DuckDuckGo is performing search in a way that is attempting to deliver a filtered *and* unfiltered internet. It’s a noble idea and does have some merit if you’d like to perform somewhat private searches on sensitive matters it may be an alternative for you. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer however both offer a cookieless browser which accomplishes the same result so you don’t really have to give up the engine you know and are familiar with.
The only real way to test if you genuinely live in a “search bubble” is to perform the same search, with 0 clicks on multiple computers. If you begin seeing that your results are significantly different than other peoples then perhaps you have a case. Personally after viewing the screenshots, when you look closely at the how many pages were fetched for each search term, there are tens of millions of pages of difference, so of course the results are going to be different. Part of Google, Bing and Yahoo’s success comes from the fact that they pass some search data to the referred website in the form of the search term, it’s what enabled the search engines to build their ad programs for web users. There are dozens of different variables when you receive your search results after you click that search button and even a simple variable like which data center sends you your results influences your page. If it happens to be running with an index which is a few hours older than others, you can very easily get different results when performing the same search multiple times.