Browsing "search engine optimization"
When you’ve finally gotten your website online there are a million steps that you need to take in order to be ranked at the top of your niche market on the results pages. Instead of trying to explain each point, we’ll take a different tack this time around, how about a list of things of what not to do on your website.
If you’re not managing your site yourself, hopefully the person or agency you have contracted is on the ball and has a clue about how not to run afoul of the rules. If your site gets hit by a spam penalty, whether by the algorithm automatically or if you’ve been flagged manually, it isn’t the end of the world it can be fixed. But let’s get started so you can have a cheat sheet for yourself to check on your agencies efforts where your website is concerned. A note just before we get into things, these are not hard and fast rules, the internet isn’t even remotely a black and white entity, so take everything you read below with a grain of salt.
Misspelling words is an every day thing, everyone does it billions of times per day. But one way that you can run on the wrong side of the web spam team is if you happen to register a domain name with a misspelled version of a highly notable brand name in your niche with the idea to try and generate traffic off of the misspelled term. This is a good example of the web not being black and white, anyone can register any domain name so long as it’s available – but that doesn’t mean that the search engines don’t have a say in where it’ll place it in the results pages.
Having a meta refresh in your homepage, effectively locking visitors into your website by messing with their browser control. It’s not uncommon that when you arrive at the wrong website you hit the back button or the backspace key to return to the page you were at. But using a method like a meta refresh in the header of your websites home page removes that option to a visitor to your site. The basic sequence of events with this type of refresh is when a visitor lands on your page, it refreshes itself a time or two so that when they press the back button, they don’t actually leave the site. Instead they’ve just refreshed the page again and they’re back where they don’t want to be. It’s a frustrating experience in general for users, and a no-no with the search engines.
Having your website encoded entirely in Flash, Java and even some versions of Ajax or Silverlight which require specific browser plugins to function correctly. While this isn’t a negative with the search engines specifically, using entirely visual only coding effectively hides your website from the search engines. Being that Google, Bing and other engines look for text on a website, the text on a Flash and even sometimes Java scripts isn’t readable by them so they assume it’s a blank page. They are getting better at digging the text out, but they’re not all the way there yet so keep that in mind when a designer approaches you with a flashy visual display that has no real text elements. Along the same line of thinking but this time where users are concerned, more and more people are accessing the web with tablets and phones. iPads and iPhones take up a sizable share of the mobile marketplace and they can not display any Flash and some Java, your site would literally be invisible and unusable to an iPad user if you had an entirely Flash built website.
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.
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.
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
Came across this great infographic by Aaron Wall at SEOBook, what I found most interesting was the deluded people mentioned, here at Fresh Traffic we have been coming across people like this from day one of the internet. The truth of the matter is that most people who say or mention this are on the list, why? simple they cannot do it.
Click to enlarge to pdf version
So Google has released a new twist in their search algorithm that it hopes will better catch people who spam the results or purposely do things to rank better that are against Google’s publishers guidelines. After all is said and done, Google says it will impact about 3% of search queries. That may not seem like a whole lot, but consider the fact they serve millions of searchers a day, 3% definitely adds up.
From their blog:
In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.
In the last day or so since their change has been online, some of the results are starting to be noticed. At the forefront, it looks like brands and genuine news sites, those that write the news, not aggregate it, are gaining rank back. At the other end of the site, we have those aforementioned aggregator sites, template sites which can be built and filled with scraped content in a matter of minutes, and news portal sites, those used to file searches into pages.
The over arching goal of this change in the algorithm is a simple one: Google wants creators of unique, quality content to get their chance to shine in the results. Up until this shift, and for the next while until it settles in to work, scraper bots and aggregators would just nab that great content and use it on their own sites, not linking back (most cases) to the original source. Just as a side note, this is not Google attacking or trying to circumvent any legitimate search engine optimization on yours, or anyone elses website. The real target are scrapers, black hat operators and those who try and game the system instead of trying to make it work for them.
There’s a main point that needs to be kept in mind when working with your website and search engine optimization. Your top priority needs to be your consumer, whether you are looking for sales, sign ups, etc. When you sit down to have a look at your website, your content, your print ads, you need to always know, you are not creating content for yourself. You’re creating this content to be digested by people you wish to attract.
Between the trillions of webpages, the thousands of television commercials, or the billions of pages of print advertising available, it may seem like a lost cause to try and be noticed. But no matter how daunting the obstacles might seem to be, there are ways to tackle the mountain of being found, and turn it into a simple bump in the road. A general rule of thumb to always have in mind when working on your brand, website or advertising – keep it simple. The more complex your imaging is, the more convoluted you make your content, all equate to putting up road blocks for your consumer. Often times, complexity is found in simplicity, keep your images crisp, clear and to the point of your brand, Coke and Pepsi are great examples of this. If you see a billboard painted completely red with a simple white wavy line drawn on it, you almost immediately think ‘Coca Cola’.
The same can be said of your written content you deliver, whether on your website or in print advertising if you still use newspaper adverts. Being cryptic, or non-descript in your text is more likely to hurt your advertising efforts rather than reward them. Think of your target demographic, the consumer which you wish to attract and even those who might see your advertising and be curious enough to search for you. Stay away from using strict industry only terms if you’re trying to improve awareness of your product. Having a clear, and concise call to action on your website is one the larger issues to over come when working with new clients. It is too easy to become caught up in trying to sell your company or products, and never get to the point of actually saying ‘Buy now!’.
Google recently wrote a blog about re-imagining some of the more influential advertising campaigns in the past 50+ years. One of the advertisers made the most relevant point, that covers every advertising avenue you could explore. “No matter what media you’re in, think about the content. Content is what matters.” – Amil Gargano
When it comes to search engine optimization and it’s a fairly well known point of the industry that it’s not a quick fix. It’s not like bidding on ads for AdWords positioning, it’s not using dirty, black hat techniques to try and trick the search spiders to rank. It’s a time proven and tested method of working your website, its content and proving that your site is the most relevant in your niche.
There are time proven methods and even step by step guides listed with most search engines about what you should do to improve your websites chances at ranking well. Relevant content, a clean and consistently built website, and even being compliant to web standards are all part of the basics to being well placed within the SERPs.
But while your website needs strong consistency, it’s also important to work with your content and to monitor your competitors positions. Periodically changing your content, to maintain relevancy and to try and capitalize on possible or burgeoning trends. Small changes and tweaks are like food for the search engines, they will continually return to your site and go through your pages until you’ve reached the position you desire in the results. Bear in mind that there is a line where change is conncerned on your pages, you need to ensure that you remain consistent to your theme and what you already are known for. Deviation too great, can harm your positioning, both current and future if you’re not mindful.
Branding, it’s what makes your business and it’s purposes widely known, usually by mention of name and reputation only. It’s like when someone mentions the name Pepsi, or Coca Cola, you know immediately what is being talked about and can picture the products.
There’s a bit of a razing argument going around lately about how if you’re a “real brand” that you shouldn’t, or won’t have to worry about the search engines. The argument is basically online shoppers don’t search for brands nearly as often as they Google generic categories and phrases. Which is somewhat true, and the article goes on to argue that ‘everybody’ automatically knows that Amazon sells online books and knows that eBay is the number one online auction site. The problem with this argument, is that the average online user doesn’t strictly use a search engine to search for a single term. Most of the time users are searching for an article or they’ve seen a product or service which they want to research.
Even when a user is searching for a specific brand name or service, it’s typically typed directly into a search engine to quickly find their desired destination. It’s a fallacy to think that the only time a person uses a search engine is when they have no idea what they’re looking for. Small business, large business, branded and not branded all need to recognize that search engine optimization is more and more becoming a required marketing tool. To believe that your company, name and brand will be easily found online only because of your brand, is a misinformed position, typically trumpeted by old media advertisers. Do not get trapped in the idea that your name, your brand and your company are too big to fail in search, because more often than not it’s the little guys who rank better than the brands because they embrace the high return on investment where search is concerned.
Have you noticed any shifts over the last couple of days in your search results? As a site owner or an SEO for a client, have you noticed any changes as of late? You wouldn’t be alone in taking note, and you would be correct. It has recently been confirmed that Panda had been unleashed on the web again, making it even more accurate and more sensitive to changes online.
Some site owners are noting huge gains in their organic results, perhaps because they’ve attended to any issues that cropped up when Panda first passed over their site and erroneously booted them. On the other hand, some sites were hit harder than they have been previously by the update, and continue to flounder in the search pool. It may be a good, or a bad point, but Google also came out and said that the entire update hasn’t finished yet, it probably will only do so tomorrow. As well, there are still some high numbers being reported on forums, about being dumped in the results by Panda, but if you’ve been on your game and following the good practices guide you should be sitting just fine.
For all of the updates that are done to the various search engines, for all of the tweaks they do to their algorithms there remains a very simple truth. Stick to the basics and it’ll work. It may take longer than trying to work out every single step of the algo, but so long as you concern yourself with sticking to the best practices guides provided by the search engines, your site will list. And will continue to list, so long as you haven’t done anything naughty that is, to get yourself kicked out of the SERPs.