Category Archives: search engine optimization

Another Google Car

At what lengths do you go, to save yourself or your business some cash? Where do you decide to trim your budget. Production? Acquisition? Marketing? Development? Depending on your niche and business model there are many more to add to the list I’d wager. So when it comes right down to it and you need to find some money, where do you trim, all too often the budget cuts fall on the marketing angle. And the first place that gets the shaft, is online marketing more than not.

The argument usually heard is that it’s not tangible, you can’t track any results or gains with it. The internet is a virtual world of switches, capacitors and electrical connections, so in a touchable tangible sense it’s not “real”. The numbers however, the web is full of numbers which are very easily countable. That machine you use on your desk at the office and at home everyday is, at it’s core, an overgrown calculator. Traffic, sales, visitors and unique first time viewers are all metrics easily tracked by the software that expert SEOs use to demonstrate to clients that what we do works like gang busters.

And a question that we are asked time and time again is: “Why should I retain you on a contract if the guy down the street says he can do the same for me for only $300?” And since people keep asking, the simplest and honest to god answer is maintenance. See, the internet never sleeps, never rests and is always changing. Google, the king of search and search marketing is the same. Always changing the algorithm, making it faster, smarter and it can throw the entire results page into disarray when they make a number of changes at once. Retaining your position on the SERPs in the midst of these changes is why we’re the best. And it’s why we can command the costs required for the care we give to your online marketplace. Now, if you’re still unsatisfied that this is the case, a simple analogy for you in easy to understand terms.

Your website is a car and Google is it’s engine. The internet are the roads you travel endlessly. Knowing you need a tune up (SEO) you look for a mechanic to tend to your car, and decide to settle for the budget variety to save a few dollars and settle in for a rest. Waking up, you find out that your Google engine has decided that it doesn’t like unleaded fuel anymore and instead wants diesel. So back to your mechanic who tells you ‘Sorry, I don’t know what I need to do to work with diesel’. And instead of driving your way to the top, you’re stuck, stranded on the side of the road with a stalled site (car), and work done on your engine that no longer works.

If you need to save some budget dollars and decide to focus on marketing, then trim your budget in the old, untraceable metrics like television, radio, newspapers and billboards. Playing catch up on the web is an exponentially more difficult game the longer you wait Winnipeg, time to get a move on.

New Google Results

It’s not a new trend that Google is always tweaking the way their search works, or how the results are displayed. And they’ve made another change live, which drives home the importance of being certain your website is optimized.

Normally when you conduct a search on Google, the results you’ll receive are a mix of the most relevant websites which contain your terms. Occasionally, when it was applicable, the same website may show up twice, if the algorithm deemed it applied. This recent change however, can return up to 4 results from the same website with shorter descriptive text in the results. The remaining results on the page will be the other varied relevant websites. Now why should this concern someone working on climbing the SERPs? Well, when you perform a search, the results page you’ll see contains the top 10 results. And if 4 of those top 10 are from the same website, odds are you may not have even made page one. The change is recent with Google, and if you’re ranking 5 and less on page one of their results, if your not diligent with your SEO you may soon find yourself on page two!

Page one of the Google SERPs is a difficult nut to crack, and with this recent change it’s added another level of finesse which has to be used as your site is optimized. When interested small business owners reach out to the SEO experts, it’s often they balk a little when they learn what the actual cost is to hire a professional; but if you think a pro is expensive, try hiring an amateur. Search engine optimization is the best return on investment in the online market place, so what is it worth to you to be found.

No Master of All

There are a great many different trades out there, with widely varying skillsets. Chefs, mechanics, electrical engineers basically you could list jobs until you run out of breath. But just because someone once cooked breakfast, I wouldn’t assume that they could handle a full course meal for 100 guests. The skillset just isn’t there.

So it’s the same for search engine optimization and search engine marketing. The terms are very different, and different measures and skills need to be applied when working with the two. As a for instance, the largest difference in SEO and SEM is placement within the SERPs. SEO will return organic placements, in the center of the page only partially based on your content if it was deemed relevant to the search parameters. SEM on the other hand, will net you a place within the sponsored links area of the SERPs, where compelling ad copy can net customers. Different skills for different results.

Just as SEO and SEM differ, so does the practice of SEO, web design and web programming. Web designers who sell themselves as web programmers who can also list you page one for SEO, that’s an exceedingly wide range of skills. Often these skillsets can mesh and work well with one another, but just as the saying goes “jack of all trades, master of none” if you try and contract a do it all for your online branding, you’ll find your results lacking.

Web designers typically aren’t interested in what’s necessary for organic SEO to be most efficient, as it really has nothing to do with how aesthetically pleasing the page is. Web programmers conversely, are likely to use a lot of dynamic coding which doesn’t play well with organic SEO either. There is a middle ground, where an aesthetically pleasing website, can be active and interactic for your users. Ensuring you properly weigh out a budget for your web design, programming *and* SEO separately, is your first step to running your way up the SERPs.

The Need for Progressive Optimization (SEO Maintenance)

 When it comes to SEO many people make the mistake of thinking that search engine optimization as an action. They are wrong. SEO is a process that must be continually maintained for as long as you wish your website to competitively rank for certain keywords.

Imagine you had purchased a car with the intention of racing. You then spent a great deal of time; money and effort in upgrading that car competitively. After many performance upgrades you take it to the tracks and enter it to compete against millions of other cars of varying performance and experience. You do not however invest in a pit crew or a maintenance crew. Would you realistically expect your car to come in first place? You do not get new tires, or fuel or any of the other equipment and services needed to keep your car operational let alone competitive. You do however continue to enter your car in the race. Months later, when you check on its performance how surprised would you be to find out that its doing even worse in those races then when it started?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works the same way. The car is your website, the performance upgrade is SEO and the pit crew is progressive optimization.

SEO maintenance is the continued optimization of your search engine marketing campaign. The internet is constantly undergoing changes as is the algorithms used to prioritize websites rankings within the search engines.

There are many factors used by search engines to determine ranking. A major factor is the relevancy and authority of a subject related to keyword phrases. If your content is not being upgraded or updated then it stands to reason that your site content is less relevant then a competing site with up to date information.

Once you do obtain high ranking within the search engines, it is essential that progressive optimization is performed to keep those rankings. Make no mistake, your rankings will change. The search engines are constantly making changes to their algorithm which will affect the rankings for your keyword phrases. Sometimes this change will have a positive effect, often it will result in lower ranking. Sites have been known to disappear from search engine results entirely after an algorithmic change. It is important be aware of any such algorithmic changes and be prepared to counter any drop in ranking.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you and your competitors are all striving for the same rankings within the search engines. Your increase in rank comes at the expense of a competitors ranking. Remember your competitors are also trying to regain or improve their own search engine rankings as well. Without continually optimizing your own site, your competitors will overpass you and push your ranking results off of the first page, then off the second and so on.

Understanding the SEO Industry

One of the challenges facing any new industry is creating a demand for and an awareness of the industry in the mind of the consumer. Since many Website owners have only a general idea of what search engine optimization (SEO) is and how it works, I’ve come up with an analogy from another industry that makes it easier to understand.

Search Engine Marketers = Ad Agencies

Search engine marketers dealing with paid listings are very similar to ad agencies in offline media. They work with the message and the creative to get people to take action: to buy, subscribe or register. They have budgets and are able to monitor results and tweak campaigns to get the maximum return for their clients.

It’s pretty easy to see the parallels between SEMs and ad agencies, but a little harder to understand the role of search engine optimizers, as they relate to the “free” search listings.

Search Engine Optimizers = Public Relations Firms

A search engine optimizer is actually very similar to a public relations firm in the offline world. Public relations firms try to get their clients mentioned in news stories and featured in print and broadcast media, i.e., they obtain “free” publicity. An SEO consultant attempts to get their client’s site listed highly in the “editorial” or “free” listings of the search engines. As with offline media, the editorial content (or listings) often carries more credibility with consumers.

Just as a public relations firm carefully writes press releases and formats them in a way that is favorable to the news media, a search engine optimizer adjusts the code and wording in a site to present it in the way that the search engines prefer to read it. A good SEO (just like a good PR firm) will create content that is interesting and useful, making it much more likely to be ranked well (or be newsworthy).

PR firms often act as image consultants as well, working with the company and its executives to make sure they present the best possible impression when meeting with the press. They make sure their message is consistent and in keeping with their brand, to help firmly cement the company’s image in the mind of the customer. A professional SEO often does the same thing for a site, making design or usability recommendations to ensure that once people arrive they will easily be able to find what they need.

Not All Search Engine Optimizers Are the Same

There are different kinds of SEOs, just as there are different kinds of PR firms. Some PR firms merely churn out press releases on a regular schedule. They spend their time faxing and following up on items that may or may not be newsworthy. They make very little attempt to be creative or find truly newsworthy events within the company — they simply send a regular stream of minor happenings out via press releases. They may even try to sneak releases past screening personnel or exaggerate the truth in order to get a mention in the media. Ineffective PR firms waste your money; an unethical one can even hurt your company’s image.

The parallel in the SEO industry is those SEOs that use deceptive practices to place their clients’ sites in the engines. One such tactic would be the use of software to churn out keyword-stuffed pages instead of attempting to improve the site itself. Another tactic would be showing search engines different content than a human visitor would see. These are strategies that work in the short term. But just as a newspaper editor will eventually start throwing out all of the low-value press releases from a company that has proved they don’t provide good content, a search engine will eventually do the same to pages using deceptive techniques and which don’t provide any value to site visitors. Eventually, those SEOs will find that their clients’ sites are penalized or banned.

Neither public relations nor search engine optimization are forms of black magic; anyone can learn what needs to be done to get a company noticed. There are PR companies who see the media as something to be manipulated, just as there are SEO companies who see the search engines that way. However, you’ll find that it’s much more productive when an SEO actually works with the search engines, rather than against them.

Google gets closer

Google has rolled out another new feature to search, and this time they’re getting to your roots. Currently dubbed Place Search, the idea is that all of the local information of Google Maps and listings are being turned into a searchable interface.

Couple in Google Instant, and the search page changes to show you their prediction as to what you’re looking for. Restaurants, appliance sales and repair or what ever else might tickle your fancy, if it’s local, it will have a new search results page. What you’ll find when the page comes up is phone numbers, address, a brief description of the ad as well as reviews if you happen to make a choice and click on a link.

Jackie Bavaro – Place Search’s product manager:

“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go…”
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”

She added:

“In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”

Local search just took a huge leap for Google, in a way it’s their answer to FourSquare local reporting and listing power. If you’re not being found now on Place Search, it’s the next step in the powerful world of SEO, and there’s only two places in the race for the top. Page one, or page none. Where are you?

SEO is Dead!? Again?

In the not so new news, the death of SEO is being cried again. The cause this time is the Facebook and Bing partnership. I’ve read about the social search changes that have been incorporated, and just as Google shrugged it off, I’m inclined to do the same.

The changes that Bing and Facebook bring together is definitely interesting, no doubt. However, the idea that the entire industry of search marketing, search engine optimization and search engine rankings being dealt a deathblow by this partnership is laughable. If anything, the new partnership relies on SEO and SEM to function appropriately.

For another perspective, imagine going into a hardware store, and seeing all of the isles and rows numbered and having short labels for the contents of each row. Makes your shopping trip quick and efficient to know that you can find power drills and skill saws in the power tools isle. This would be a very basic example of SEO. Now applying the new Facebook/Bing method, you’re in that same hardware store, nothing is labelled or itemized (because it’s killed SEO remember) but you know there’s a power drill in there that your friend likes and owns. Great to know that your buddy has a favorite tool that you were thinking about, but how do you go about finding it?

Two very basic examples, but they illustrate the interpretation of the new personalized search Bing and Facebook are rolling out. Social Media Optimization (SMO) isn’t a new idea, it’s not revolutionary, it’s adwords on a more personal level. It displays information relative and relavant to your account and what it knows about you, not for your searchs. One last point to consider and digest, without search engine optimization, social media optimization wouldn’t exist, and without SEO, SMO will disappear.

Clever Content Not Always Best

Content is an incredibly powerful optimization metric on your website. It’s your effective communication to the search engines of the value of your website. Stuffing your page full of pictures, and not describing them in any way is almost a guaranteed way to get yourself lost online with little to no viewers via search. Now the flip side is also true, you can’t cram a thousand lines of text on a page and expect to rank on page 1 for your niche without using a degree of care.

The simplest way to describe it, you want to sculpt the language on your site, to appeal not only to the search engines, but to your visitors; current, and future of course. No one knows your business like you do, but a key point you need to be aware of as a business owner, is that your clients don’t know your business like you do. So don’t clutter your text with technical terms, or vague descriptions around products or processes. Making the assumption that your customers and clients know you as well as you or your salesmen do, can be a detrimental step in the structure of your content.

The number one rule when it comes to content generation?

Keep
It
Simple
Silly

On the social front of your site or experience, there’s been a mashup of the trendiest, retweetable terms determined. It seems that while there’s no sure fire way to have your news or posts immediately rebroadcasted, there are ways to help increase your chances. The most popular terms for titles would have to be “How to”, “Increase”, and “Social Media”. In theory, a surefire way to have your post picked up and passed around would be to use that text as your title, and craft an article around it. Apparently however, “Trust”, “Talk” and “Sentiment” seem to be very undesireable text tweets. Food for thought.

The Process of Dispelling SEO Myths

As with any industry, and any news source, there’s always a degree of fluff and grandeur applied to stories. It’s not different in the search world, although at times there are headlines which just strike as odd.

Take for instance the headline stating “Bing overtakes Yahoo for number 2 in search”. If you’re new to the game, that might seem like a pretty big deal, considering search engines generate cash in one way, by having users. If however, you haven’t had your head buried in sand for the last few months, you knew this was happening. Technically, Yahoo doesn’t exist as a search engine anymore, it’s just a name. Yahoo search is powered by Bing now, so the idea that Bing has overtaken them, isn’t entirely true; it’s more like they consumed them.

It follows the same line of surprise as when we have an inquiry call, and they utter a comment like “The last company I spoke to said they could have me on page 1 within a week”. It takes a minute to collect the thoughts, and re-itterate to them that SEO and SEM are not the same marketing strategies. They have some fundamental principles in common, how ever, they work differently. Driving a persons website to page 1 within a week is not SEO, if anything it’s SEM and AdWords promotion. Maybe if you owned the 1 website on the internet which serviced the niche market there’s a slim possibility it could happen. And by slim, I mean take the number of online pages in your niche (blogs, forums, picture repositories etc), double it at least, and that’s your chances of landing page 1 in a week. It’s almost always after saying something along the lines of “SEO isn’t the same as SEM” that callers make the statement “Oh, they never told me there was a difference” And that’s when the light is turned on, and the truth is realized, they’ve been sold snake oil.

The first right step was made, they called the experts. We’ll dispel the myths, we’ll uncover the truths, and we’ll tell you how it is. If we can help you, and you want our help, give us a call. If you’d rather continue on paying for AdWords campaigns, more power too you. Just remember, Google has shaken the search tree with adding Instant into the mix. Relevant, organic page 1 results are going to be returning as the creme de la creme of online marketing. This is only just the beginning.

The Rebirth of SEO

The world wide web is growing everyday, with any and all sorts of content which you can imagine. Google, the largest, most widely used search engine globally, has the leading edge in the speed of searching, and delivering the web to each individual users needs. billions upon billions of pages viewed, indexed, and ready to serve.

The introduction of Google Instant, the displaying of search results while you type your search terms, should have come as no surprise. In terms of speed and reliability, it’s definitely faster (if only by a few seconds at times) than finishing a well formed query. Through their closed testing, one of Googles statements pertaining to longer searchs versus shorter, longer is not always better. Whether you type in 1 word and receive a viable, useable result, or use a 4-5 word query which returns the same result, it’s the few seconds here and there, which can end up meaning big on the bottom line. Both as an online business, and as an online consumer.

There’s been the calls of Google Instant being the death of SEO, and/or the end of SEM. When in fact it will be much the opposite. The introduction of instant search will help seperate the wheat from the chaff in the search business. It became a popular niche if you will, for anyone and everyone to become an SEO expert overnight by long tail optimizing for people online. It began to devalue the true worth of the real experts, those of us who can drive our clients campaigns to page 1 with three and less terms. Honing your skills and knowledge to be razor sharp in adapting to the algorithmic shifts as necessary, to maintain rankings, and continually build upon it’s success, and improve.

Google Instant isn’t the end of SEO, it’s not the death of SEM. It’s a new birth, the reset button on the industry that’s been long overdue. As the brands and businesses who targetted only long tail terms scratch their heads and wonder where their traffic has been trickling off to, and while the garage and Twitter based “SEO experts” struggle, the leaders in the industry can rest easy. Knowing that our ability, our knowledge, and our skills will rank our clients on Page 1.. Google Instant search or not.