Category Archives: online marketing

Not So Obvious Benefits of SEO

seo-keyOne of the better things that you can do for your company is to market yourselves online properly. I know it sounds rehashed to always be talking about it, but there’s very good reasons why you should be looking online for your growth.

Benefit #1 – Cost
The barrier of entry to get involved with online marketing can vary greatly depending on your business model of course, but there is always a few niches that can be explored. Typically the due diligence while working with a new client exposes the terms that they would like to be visible for and more often than not their visitors are searching for something different all together. The differences can be as seemingly insignificant as adding a letter to a term or as radical as completely changing your course in marketing which can all impact the cost of your online campaign.

The point of the first benefit, however steep the cost may be ties the next few points together in a neat little bow.

Benefit #2 – ROI
The return on investment where online marketing and branding is concerned is second to none. When you’re bringing hundreds if not thousands of visitors to your site on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis you may end up experiencing something you were unprepared for – not being able to meet the demand suddenly imposed upon you and your business.

Benefit #3 – Qualified Audience
Quality and properly executed organic marketing campaigns bring something special to your business that print, radio and television advertising can’t claim – the audience that has found your website was actively looking for you. Old advertising and media methods are great if you’re just after pure saturation in the marketplace, but how much of your advertising dollars in those avenues are being lost due to being irrelevant to the viewer/listener/reader? Having an already qualified visitor ending up on your website is half way to having your desired conversion on your site whether it’s a sign up, a sale or a contact form filled out.

Step 2 – Follow The Rules of The Game

Time for a little bit of free advice for you and your website, especially if you happen to be an affiliate or a licensed dealer for a larger company.

taoofseoThere are definitely some positive aspects when you work as a dealer or an affiliate for a larger business or brand. You gain the instant recognition and the branding power built by the advertising dollars that have already been spent. You also usually have access to their marketing teams and some of their infrastructure in order to help develop and grow a web presence for yourself. Oodles of content, images, videos and more marketing materials than you would likely know what to realistically do with. Usually the conversation with the branding team consists of them telling you that as you build your site and use their assets, consists of being advised to just go ahead and copy what they’ve written and if you have any issues just link people back to their website.

Please, if you’re an affiliate or a dealer for a brand don’t do this.

Having all of their promotional materials, text content and images is an amazing start to your website and being able to promote their product but the last thing you want to do is follow that type of marketing advice. Instead what you want to do is use their text content as a guide and recreate it in a way that benefits your business and it’s location instead of copying it word for word. The images are less of a concern, as you can’t really edit them without losing the quality that some branding companies put into their photos. When you copy and paste your dealers content you’re basically telling the search engines that you’re selling their product – see my content is the same and I have the affiliate links and everything! And the search engines will promptly drop you down the page for that branding term as well, for precisely those points. Regardless of who you are, how large your brand is or how much money you make, if you try and skimp on the rules of the search game then you’re going to lose. Just ask BMW, Teleflora or JC Penny, they all had their own problems of course, but they’re multi-billion dollar brands and the search engines had no qualms about doling out penalties when they were necessary. Remember that with your small business when you’re ready to bring your site online, take the time to rewrite the content to make it relevant for you and your business. Cheat at your own peril.

We Can Bring You The World

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.

growthWhat 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?

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.

Have You Found Your Place Online

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.

growthOnline 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.

Once More Unto The Breach

seoThere 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.

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.

The Death of Facebook

facebookIt’s one thing to read news and conjecture about the death of search engine optimization, but it’s another point all together when the provider comes forward and admits that their organic search is failing.

No the news hasn’t come from any major search engine, but it has come from the worlds largest social network – Facebook. It has really only been a year or so since Facebook has come out with their graph search – their newest search iteration that tries to show you what is included in your social circles in only a few keystrokes. There were two main points that they’ve shared that has raised the ire search marketers across the web.

We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site (Facebook). We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.

So in short, now that Facebook has the attention of somewhere north of a billion users, they’re telling business page owners that if you want to be seen, you’re better off paying them if you want to be seen.

So if you have a business page on Facebook, you aren’t completely lost with the surprising information – you do have options that you can exercise instead of just abandoning the Facebook ship. One of the primary things you can do if you don’t want to deal with the changes is to completely jump ship for the other social media services out there – LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ namely. They all have their pros and cons, LinkedIn is a more professional social network and allows you to build a professional relationship around their network of users. Twitter allows you to speak instantly, and clearly to anyone who wants to listen, and Google+ while still relatively unused as a social service, has developed an almost rabid fan following of users.

Your other choice is to roll with the punches that Facebook is throwing your way and adapt to their upcoming changes and see where you come out on the other side. While paid advertising works on any network whether it’s social or search, you need to understand that a high portion of your budget is going to become general advertising overhead. It also needs to be understood that if you decide to use Facebook as a traffic generator, that your budget will have to also increase as you’ll essentially be paying people to see your page and website.

It is yet to be determined what the outcome for Facebook will be with this change to their organic algorithm, but with the change just being announced it has already caused some major friction in the search game, the social impact is yet to be seen.

What To Dominate – Search Or Social

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?

social-mediaNot 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.

SEO Predictions for 2013

As always at this time of year we give our predictions for SEO for the following year, this year we have gathered some help from our friends & other search experts in the field who have given there twist on things to come.

In 2013, the SEO Role must go above and beyond. For example, a basic SEO strategy would obviously include some amount of reporting (for keyword rankings and traffic numbers at the least); however, I find myself analyzing the data to help my client better understand their demographic. Where are visitors accessing the site from, when do they access the site, and what are they specifically looking for when they are on the site?
All of these questions—and more—are in hopes of helping them identify new ways to effectively reach their customer base and ultimately make them more successful. It is SEO’s job to provide meaningful help.

Rand says links and rankings are just means to an end, not the end itself.

What clients really want is not better rankings and more links; they want to make more money.

The SEOs who understood and understand where Google is going and what their clients really want are the ones who are still in business and doing well. For them, the job of a SEO is content relevancy (public relations), user experience, web design, conversions, traffic segmentation, call tracking, research, writing, and anything else that sells products and services and leads to more profits for the client not just short-term, but long-term as well.

Most of all, the job of an SEO is to see the future. Those who can’t will go out of business and take their clients with them.

In conclusion, each of these experts—coming from multiple perspectives–agree that SEO will become a much broader and more complex function in 2013. Yet it will also become more vital than ever before, as it converges with every variety of online presence and marketing.

 

SEO 2013 predictions
SEO 2013 predictions