Category Archives: search engine optimization

The Danger of Knowing a Little

Working in the field of search engine optimization, you can sometimes run into one of your most dangerous client. Dangerous perhaps, is a rather strong word but let me explain a little and then you can make your own judgement.

There are millions of pages on the internet about SEO, SEM, social marketing, etc. There are experts that number into the millions as well if you were to believe all of the results when you search for search engine optimization expert as well. A problem with having so much.. information available for consumption is you tend to end up with large amounts of people who think they know what they’re doing. And more often than not, that blog that they read only told them a portion of the steps necessary where SEO is concerned. This point, is where the ‘dangerous’ part stems from.

When you’re dealing with a client who has done a lot of reading on the web about SEO, you start to run into some frustrating situations. Hopefully they just like to have a conversation occasionally about SEO, ideally questioning what they’ve actually read for themselves. Your worst case scenario would have to be your client poking around at the work that you do on their site for them and, at best unravelling it, or at worst completely ruining it. And as terrifying as that may seem, it can even get worse yet. When your client has a tech who actively builds onto and maintains their site, it can turn into a bit of a stand off.

It’s a thin line to walk when your client thinks they know what SEO is, but that line gets blurred when they try to push what they know as the method they would like you to use on their site. Horses for courses, if you don’t know what you’re doing where SEO is concerned, it’s best that you just sit back and work out how to capitalize on the influx of new traffic.

The Power of Linking in SEO

Republican Rick Santorum has had a few.. issues over the course of his public running for the head of the US office. All politics and personal opinions aside, Santorum has run into the most recent iteration of what used to be known as Google bombing.

A few years back if you visited Google and searched for the term ‘miserable failure’ the first result used to be the then president of the US, George Bush. Santorum unfortunately hasn’t been so lucky with what he’s become associated with, but the methods as to why he’s momentarily stuck there is due, in part, to how SEO works.

The bare basic principles of SEO – you create content, you contact people to link to it and repeat over and over again until you’re the king of the mountain. Backlinks, the fuel for SEO is what keeps you flying high in the rankings. An extremely popular social community, Reddit, has decided that the politician will remain associated with this alternate meaning for the near future at the very least.

You can think of the woes that he is experiencing as you will, on a technical note however it needs examination and repeating. Until Google, Bing and Yahoo outright remove a website from it’s index, it can and will continue to rank for the term(s) with which it’s been written to be found for. The act of completely removing a site from the index is an extreme measure that the search engines rarely wield, let alone with permanency. It needs to be noted that irregardless of the poor quality of the links, the relevance and sheer number linking to the offending website are what is keeping the politician tied to his less than stellar ‘definition’. To quickly deal with the issue the search engines could enforce a nofollow on the Reddit site but Google in particular deems itself a color blind indexing machine. Mr. Santorum would do well to contract the skills of a search engine optimization expert to assist with his character control.

Google Punishes Itself

So Google made a little bit of a blunder with their Chrome advertising it seems and what was the end result? Well perhaps the best way to understand what happened and it’s ensuing result, the algorithm needs to be a little more understood.

The Google search algorithm was intentionally designed to go out and read as much of the content of the web as it could find. It pays no heed to race, color or quality of the content. It doesn’t care how pretty your pictures are, how impressive your flash intro is or how quickly you can flip through your menu items on your navigation bar. It takes in the content of the web and spits it out when you ask it a question. It’s because it’s so simple that there needed to be filters put into place and penalties levied against people who either managed either by accident or on purpose to get around the quality controls put in place.

Paying for pagerank, that intangible mega star of the Google world, is a heavily punishable offence in the quality control guidelines. So it came as a rather big surprise when it was found suddenly, that Google was seemingly paying for advertising which was passing pagerank to its Google Chrome web page. The skeptics of the web automatically assumed that the Google machine would just shrug, apologize to the web, as they didn’t intend for it to happen, and everyone would be on their way. The outcome however, was actually the opposite.

Matt Cutts, via is Google+ account had the following to say of the incident:

“Google was trying to buy video ads about Chrome, and these sponsored posts were an inadvertent result of that. If you investigated the two dozen or so sponsored posts (as the webspam team immediately did), the posts typically showed a Google Chrome video but didn’t actually link to Google Chrome… we did find one sponsored post that linked to www.google.com/chrome in a way that flowed PageRank.. we only found a single sponsored post that actually linked to Google’s Chrome page and passed PageRank, that’s still a violation of our quality guidelines”

So okay, it was found out there was a minor slip in what was intended and what was the actual result, so what did they do?

“In response, the webspam team has taken manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome for at least 60 days. After that, someone on the Chrome side can submit a reconsideration request documenting their clean-up just like any other company would. During the 60 days, the PageRank of www.google.com/chrome will also be lowered to reflect the fact that we also won’t trust outgoing links from that page.”

If anyone ever questioned as to whether the machine would point it’s gun at itself, question no longer. As the webspam team has shown, no one is above the rules set with quality searches in mind. So bear in mind when you next work on your websites SEO, ensure that you’re following the best practices and the search guidelines readily found all over the web, else you’ll find yourself flung deeper into the ranks than you could imagine.

The Uncertain Costs of SEO

A question often asked in the course of a discussion with a client, whether new or existing, is how do we determine our costs as a search engine optimization company. It’s not a single, or simple answer as each clients needs are unique as anyone fully involved in the industry will tell you.

One of the factors which determines your cost for your SEO, is what types of keyterms you desire to optimize your website for. If you own a company which manufactures toys and you’re the new kid on the block, being able to drive your website up in the SERPs is going to be difficult. Doing just a generic search for the term ‘toys’ returns 1.9b (yes, billion) pages. Granted that’s a rather generic term to try and optimize for, but each term is met with it’s own challenges to overcome where keywords are concerned. The number of terms you’d wish to be optimized for also lend to the maintenance cost of your website.

Another determining factor that affects your overall cost is the overall quality of your website and it’s content. If we need to sit down with you and assist you in rewriting each and every page due to lack of quality content, it’s a necessary step which needs to be in place before we even begin to think about scouring the web looking for back links for your site. As well, if your website is full of choppy code which needs to be addressed, or even if your website is so woefully out of date that a complete rebuild is in order, these also contribute to the overall costs.

These are only a couple of the factors which contribute to your companies online advertising budget, thankfully however if you need to rebuild your website or rewrite your content those are often one time costs. The consistent maintenance which needs to be addressed to continue ranking well in the SERPs however, is where the majority of your budget needs to be directed. And as the web becomes more and more competitive, that budget will need to be adjusted every 12 months or so.

2011 Website Audit & Construction Guidelines

If you’re building yourself a website for the purposes of getting your brand out there and it’s your first foray into online marketing, there are some key points you need to keep in mind. Whether it’s your first step into digitizing your presence, or you’re well versed with the jargon, a refresher course is always a prudent way to dissect your presence and how effective your search engine optimization has been implemented.

How is your content written? Is it clearly worded for visitors to quickly find what they’re looking for? Or have you crammed your pages with industry specific terms which only those ‘in the know’ could have any knowledge of? When you’re creating content for your website, new or established you need to keep your target demographic in mind. You also need to bear in mind the overall theme of your site as you create your content. Your keyword balance needs to in the forefront of your mind as does your target audience.

You should take the time to examine your website navigation and how your pages flow as you follow your pages. Is your menu well ordered and intuitive to the user? Or do you have it crammed with every single page within your website? Just because you may offer 35 different services as a company, doesn’t mean you need to build your menu with a flyout of 35 different pages. A sitemap takes care of a great deal of the indexing for the robots and allows them to follow it to double check your links for you.

A consideration to keep in mind as well, what is your target area. Are you searching for multi-national rankings, or do you want to own your local market. Your site needs to be tailored to your needs, sometimes shooting for a smaller target, can lead to larger gains as time goes on. These are only just a few of the good practices you should employ as a website owner or builder, but they’ll go a long way towards helping reach your goal of ranking well on the SERPs.

Search Engine Solutions

When I arrived in Canada 4 years ago, the first people to contact me was a company working with a big yellow book. I had a lovely lunch meeting with the people, I gave them my thoughts & ideas on how they could move forward into this new digital world capitulating the planet and of course my contact information.

Now, as most people who know will testify, I don’t usually sugarcoat anything, shoot from the hip is a term used a lot here in Canada and I do, It’s just the way I am.

So today as I watch the demise of a once great institution taking place, I ask myself could I really of helped? The answer MOST DEFINATLY.

Can the Yellow Pages be SavedIf fact, with a little tweaking they could rule the search engine results pages, seriously, and that’s were the real dollars are, plus advertisers would flock back to be at the top of Google.

Now could the hierarchy on the east coast put up with a straight talking Brit? now that’s another question, they could’nt the first time. I did foresee the autotrader’s problems and mentioned it, they lost money on that one. I also told them about the Google Adwords reseller program/agreement they have and what would happen with that a full 12months before it did, psychic, no, Internet experience and common business sense.

They were great at selling advertising in a book every business wanted to be in, there not very good at the Internet game. They may have some good technicians, programmers and traditional marketers in house and they certainly have a few pretty faces, Ive seen them first hand :-) But they don’t have anyone near capable for the online strategy stuff that could relight the company back into a leader they once were.

Need proof? how much have they recently spent on videos, marketing, brochures, Adwords etc promoting the new search engine solutions  program, Mucho $$$$ and where do the list organically on search? They should be totally dominating this term.

Now, solution, get expert help, pay the dollars, it wont be cheap, take the company ego’s out of the room, don’t expect a slick marketer in a pinstripe suit showing you a PowerPoint or YouTube video, these guys know shit, the ones who know in this game don’t look or work like that, we just know.

It’s never over until the fat lady sings, do something now or you will be hearing those dulcet tones sooner than you think.

Dont let Bill Gates be right. The old-fashioned printed Yellow Pages used to be the way that people  found local business, but not anymore. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has gone so  far as to predict the  Yellow Pages will be officially dead 2012 .

 

Link Building And SEO

There are many steps which are part of a successful organic SEO campaign. There’s all of the little steps like writing good content, making sure you have the titles and meta tags in place and having a menu which is comprehensive. When you’re finished with the good practices pages, you begin to read about one of the time intensive steps of the campaign, link building.

Since Panda has reared it’s head over the last year or so, there’s been chatter about how the SEO game has fundamentally changed. That scrapers and content aggregators, the black hatters and the link buyers would just disappear and we’d have pristine, precise results. Time has started play it’s part and while the scrapers, aggregators, black hatters and link buyers have mostly been swept away, there has recently been a new call to revamp the way the system has been working. The desire to change the link building metric portion of the search game sometimes comes up in discussion as the points for and against the practice are argued. When you break it all down to the basic points, primarily every search engine will tell you the same thing: content is king. If you produce quality, relevant content, you will rank in the SERPs.

The kicker about producing this kind of content however, is you will naturally receive back links to your site and it’s pages. When you’re a new site and you need to visit and email possible consumers and possible partners in the same niches, building those back links takes time. But they will be built, they will be taken as a metric by the search engines and until an algorithm can come along which can read and evaluate content as a user would, link building will be relevant. It will be an important portion of any and every organic SEO campaign no matter how big or how small. The success of your link building campaign can be directly tied to how much work you’re willing to put into contacting those who are in an industry which compliments your own.

Google Puts The Shield Up

Around 18 months ago Google announced that it had a new search interface for the privacy concerned. This encrypted search, which encrypts both queries and results, was launched with the wireless user in mind I’d imagine. Seeing as it allowed for a level of privacy normally only enjoyed by a wired internet connection.

Now fast forward to today, on October 18, Google announced that it would begin pushing users with a Google account to Google’s encrypted search homepage. The move towards making search more private has some in the SEO sphere a bit troubled. Google is approaching this from an interesting angle as recently it’s being discussed that analytics is going to be changing as well to a different model of delivering search metrics.

The flip side of offering more secure searches and results to WiFi users and the portion which has some in the SEO community worked up, it also means that searches performed and returned in this manner won’t display the keywords which were used to conduct the search. Google search product manager Evelyn Kao wrote in Google’s official blog,

“When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”

Paid search results will still pass on the same information as in a non-encrypted search. The only information which will be available will be from webmaster tools and even then it will only provide the top terms for the last 30 days, with no details as to which pages were visited on site. That’s the scary side if you’re an inexperienced SEO who may work on the darker side of the grey scale.

The other half of the coming story, Google hasn’t released any information as to how many signed in users perform searches. With the deeper introduction of real time searches, friend shares and the like, I’d be inclined to believe that it’s going to take a fair while before there’s any sizable changes in the SERPs.

SEO Will Always Be Relevant

There aren’t any magic tricks you can do to make your site rise in the search rankings. You could spend the rest of your life reading detailed guides to SEO and meticulously cramming keywords into every possible tag on your website. But for companies with limited resources, it’s critical to focus on the SEO strategies that yield the best results.

For those with absolutely no resources to build and develop a website, WordPress offers you a great option. The use is free, learning to develop the software and build a website only takes a week, maybe two weeks at the most. And with a host of plugins available to help with optimization, WordPress has made the basics as simple as they could have.

You can use Google to tell you what people are searching for. Load up Google and start searching what you *think* is relevant to your business niche. Do you come up in search? If not, visit the top 10 websites as they’ve been deemed more relevant than your own site. You won’t be able to discern 100% of a companies SEO campaign by visiting their website, but you may be able to pinpoint why they’re placed higher than you are.

Keywords are the bread and butter of search, the search indexes out there are founded on them. However, shorter keywords are significantly more competitive than, what you’ll find referred to as, long tail keywords. Using long tail searches like search engine optimization in winnipeg is often a simpler approach into a market as opposed to trying to balance a site around a more competitive keyword like seo, or seo winnipeg.

If all you have is time to invest into performing optimization on your businesses website, I’m sorry to say you’re likely not going to rank in the top 5 for your niche business model. However, that does not mean that you should just give up or ignore the best practices and basics of optimization. Create a solid website, fill it with quality content and promote yourself to your clients. In time, you absolutely carve out your own little corner of the web.

SEO Stop Words

There are a lot of tips out there online about search engine optimization and the methods you can put to use to rank higher in the Google/Bing/Yahoo SERPs. You can find some of the same type of posts on our blog here as well. You’ll find discussion of white hat techniques, black hat techniques, the common steps known as well as some of the not so obvious ones.

What you don’t find very often however, are posts about what not to do, or what to look out for when you’re looking at contracting a company to perform SEO on your website. While the search engines are somewhat flexible in what you’re allowed to do, there are most definately some tricks which can get you black marked, all the way to completely kicked from the SERPs.

So, when you’re looking for a company to perform optimization on your site, keep your ears open for any of the below terms. If there is mention of using any of these practices, it’s time to run for the hills.

Using Cloaked content
This is one of the most common, and most likely to get your company banned, practices out there. For the most part, when you create content for your site you’re telling the search engines what your site is for. Google/Bing/Yahoo then lists the website under the titles and keywords that is found in that content. Cloaking content is when a company shows Google content, and then shows viewers different content such as ads or links to malware infected sites. This is what is cloaking and will get a site removed from Google in very short order.

Unrelated Keywords
A lot of blogs talk about how the meta data for keywords and description are defunct, but Google often looks to these as indicators of keywords that make up a site. For example a site about water softeners will often contain content relevant to that industry. Some companies, however, try to gain new content by what is known as “keyword stuffing”. Mainly this involves hiding keywords with single pixel sized font or camouflaging text the same as the background color to try and get listed more often, for more terms. It may seem to work short term, but it will get a site removed from the SERPs.

Duplicate content Websites
Some novice SEOs and SEO companies try to increase rankings by putting the exact same content on different pages on multiple sites. Typically they also use a scraper tool to gather quality content from websites for their own. Search engines have gotten adept at catching this and will happily penalize, a website that has too much duplicate content.

Auto Generating Content
Another poor technique is to use a program to write content for your website. This is exactly as it sounds, taking one article and then having a program rewrite the article by changing a few sentences and keywords over and over again.

Those are only a few of the terms you need to be aware of when speaking with an SEO company. Absolutely stressing the point that if any of the above techniques are mentioned as a tool they use, avoid them at all costs. There is no shortcut to success in online marketing, real SEO takes time and the more time and effort you can put into it, the bigger return on investment you can expect.