Category Archives: seo strategies

The Greatest Guessing Game

What is the greatest guessing game you ask? It’s the game which has made Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other search engine start ups and even failures, piles of money just by mention of the word. Search, is the greatest guessing game.

What happened when Google took the game and applied it’s own rules, was dominate the online community as it propelled itself forward, clawing and fighting for all of the infomation it could find. There are various illustrations of the web which come to mind when it’s pictured. Firstly as a web of course, of interconnecting websites and pages, all of which the search bots, spiders naturally, navigate their way around and build up this interconnectability between them. I’ve seen pictures of the internet visualized as planets in galaxies and solar systems, as continents on a map and even as a DNA strand at one point. The best visualization I can come up with is that of an ocean, and all of the websites and pages of the internet are just kind of floating around. People are like little fish, darting around from point to point, sometimes finding what they want, sometimes not. But it’s a fluid environment, never the same from day to day and always on the move.

An article written about which search engine is better at delivering relevant results was the inspiration for today. It tried to demonstrate that by using identical results in different search engines, that one could clearly deliver better and more relevant results than the other. The reality is I believe, much murkier than that. Google is absolutely a brand name, and used extensively in all walks of life. Bing is working hard on branding itself as a decision engine and not a search engine, but in the end both algorithms do primarily the same thing. They guess at what you’re looking for, they guess that they’re delivering you what you want to see and they guess mostly correct only because you’ve already told them what you want to see. Whether it’s via your search history, cookies saved on your computer or even your directly typed search query. Search is still just a game, and for now Google still plays it best. The internet and online technology being what it is, we’ll revisit the topic in a year and everything may be upside down.

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.

Practicing Safe Search

In the world of SEO, there’s the good guys and the bad guys. It’s discussed in great detail on a lot of websites, blogs and forums. So to contribute to the trend, I’ll briefly touch on the subject as well.

The big news as of late to hit the news reel is the royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it’s been in print, online, I’m certain it’s been on television and the radio by now as well. But before you run off and hit the web to find all the latest gossip about the couple, follow a few simple rules first.

1) Know full well, that with news which floods the web like this engagement, it’s a prime target for black hat SEO. What black hat is usually associated with are all of the wonderful malware infections which keep computer repairmen in business, and shady companies in cash. What happens is the black hatters pick a hot, fast rising trend, and “poison” the search results. With hundreds of millions of people using search daily, it’s easy to pull in a few unsuspecting curiousity seekers.

2) Don’t click a link, if you don’t recognize the url. When you perform a search in Google, you’ll have the blue link headline, the black description text, and a green url. If that green text is not a website you recognize easily (such as cnn.com or bbc.com for example) take a pass on the link! It doesn’t matter if the description says it has the latest on the wedding, your hard drive and OS will thank you later.

3) The easiest way to gather information via search is built right in now thankfully. All of the major search engines return relevant real time results as well as part of a search. If a topic is trending well, and people are posting about it, there’ll be social and real time search listings.

Do yourself a very big favor when it comes to search, just because the websites which rank in the top 5 say they have the dish on all of the secrets, think first and click later. Malware has larger implications than just slowing down your computer and providing nagging pop ups. It can start there, and go all the way up the ladder to identity theft, password stealing and/or keylogging.

Dynamic Diverse Search

There’s a new Google test which has caught fire on the web discussions over the weekend. Google has been running a test algorithm segment which displays your search as you type. Dynamically updating the page as you add, change, or remove your query.

The assumption is that the test has been rolled out to those with only a very high speed connection, as the nature of the results being delivered is unknown. It may be from a cached, prefetch server based on your previous searches, but it also may be entirely and completely dynamic in nature. Automatically fetching the results as you add a term.
Couple this recent test, in with the article decrying that Google is set to allow domain dominance on a search page, it will change the landscape of the SEO game somewhat.

Google said:
Today we’ve launched a change to our ranking algorithm that will make it much easier for users to find a large number of results from a single site. For queries that indicate a strong user interest in a particular domain, like [exhibitions at amnh], we’ll now show more results from the relevant site:Prior to today’s change, only two results from www.amnh.org would have appeared for this query. Now, we determine that the user is likely interested in the Museum of Natural History’s website, so seven results from the amnh.org domain appear. Since the user is looking for exhibitions at the museum, it’s far more likely that they’ll find what they’re looking for, faster. The last few results for this query are from other sites, preserving some diversity in the results.

This change could mean the difference in small business SEO, and will definitely encourage niche marketing campaigns. So it’s time to put on your creative thinking caps, hash out the creative copyright for your clients, and be ready to push for the niche search terms.
From a PR perspective though, it’s an interesting twist from Norvig’s comment earlier about wanting more diversity in search results. In having the second result to be as “different” from the first as possible to encourage diversity.

What are you pointing at?

Well, under a new patent which was approved this past week, Google will have an idea just what you do like to point at. The patent, titled “System and method for modulating search relevancy using pointer activity monitoring” was filed in 2005, and granted this week. The patent is described as a system for monitoring the movements of a user controlled mouse pointer in a web browser, identifying when the pointer movies into a predefined region and when it moves out of said region.

So basically you can think of it as using a hotbox link area for an image, or a div tag in CSS. Google can assign an area for analysis on their SERPs page, and track where searchers mouse moves. What type of information, and how it could possibly be applied in the realm of SEO is still to be determined. It could however, give Google a better understanding as to how well a SERPs page comprised of blended (both paid and organic results) results fares.

And, in the realm of satire, these headers are from a live website, who noticed Google flagged their website as a possible spam site. Internet cookies for those who can see what’s wrong. Who said Google doesn’t read meta tags?

<meta name=”author” content=”” />

<meta name=”alexa” content=”100″></meta>

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noodp” />

<meta name=”pagerank™” content=”10″></meta>

<meta name=”revisit” content=”2 days”></meta>

<meta name=”revisit-after” content=”2 days”></meta>

<meta name=”robots” content=”all, index, follow”></meta>

<meta name=”distribution” content=”global” />

<meta name=”rating” content=”general” />

<meta name=”resourse-type” content=”documents” />

<meta name=”serps” content=”1, 2, 3, 10, 11, ATF”></meta>

<meta name=”relevance” content=”high” />

SEO Tip – Social Engine Optimization

Earlier in the week Facebooks own version of SEOsocial engine optimization, to turn a phrase, lit up in the newsworld as their version of tackling Google. Seeing however, that the idea is powered somewhat, by users liking a page, it doesn’t seem to have any cards on the search giant. That doesn’t mean however, that the idea shouldn’t be ignored; social optimization is just as important to your business provided you have the Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The average internet user is already notorious for fast browsing and merely scanning content by nature. Add into the mix, the chaos of social media, and the attention span for the content in front of them drops again.

Creating compelling, relevant, and provoking content is a major key to success in gaining a high amount of links, votes, and traffic to your content. Not forgetting however, style and structure for your content, is a major factor to being successful in social media. We’ll go over just a few basic points in terms of social optimization, to help your pages receive the “Like” that you desire.

Try using shorter sentences – Writing your most relevant, compelling, attractive information in short, informational phrases can be the turning point in keeping a user from clicking that back button. Keeping your key phrases and termsin shorter, easier to digest sentences and paragraphs allows the searcher to quickly determine that you meet their requirements on the social web.

Table of Contents – If you’ve shortened your information as much as possible, and still have miles upon miles of text, construct a table of contents and with anchors within. This allows for quick navigation to interesting sections within, and provides that extra usability that can be very helpful.

Bullet points and Lists – Breaking your more complex portions into bullet points or lists allows for quick and simple reading. Breaking down your page down in such a fashion also lends to easy linking within the page and site.

Photos and images – Using amazing imagery within your pages helps to draw visitors to your page, while your written content is designed to keep it. “A picture is worth 1000 words” afterall. Just be sure your images, are relevant to the content.

Social media is here to stay, and it’s best to get used to the idea. Your pages and content need to be attractive, intelligent, and compelling with their first impression. Taking the time to be sure that your social optimization is up to par is well worth the time investment. Building a loyal visitor and fan base in the social media sector of the web, will ensure long term viability in the marketplace.

Mayday? Again?

The third time’s the charm, the idiom basically dictating that the third attempt at something is likely to yield the results desired, apparently didn’t sit well with Google.

The algorithm change which happened April 28th – May 3rd, nicknamed Mayday, showed a shift in long tailed search results. It’s been hashed, and rehashed all over the web, but basically put, it was done on purpose, it was done for quality purposes, and it’s completely algorithmical; no human interaction at all.

Since the Mayday change, there have been 3 more seeming drastic shifts in the SERPs, with some seeing changes as little as 10% shift, to as much as an 80% drop in results. Reports of spam sites taking front page placements, poorly written, poorly constructed, and ad filled pages replacing formerly authoritive, professional sites. The shifts being discussed have all been around long tail returns, with the shorter queries having only slightly adjusted.

After all the ideas have been discussed, the tin foil hat theories disected, there emerges one common, agreed upon result: the first week of July will be a doozy.

Know your SEO

There are many schools of thought dealing with online marketing, how to do it, how not to do it. Who to talk to, who you should avoid. A post or two ago I mentioned how strange it was that since Fresh has moved into Winnipeg, that SEO companies all of a sudden appeared out of the woodwork. The idea of this writing, is to just share some basics of what you should consider when looking at your online marketing strategy.

1. Optimization Experts – These are the individuals and firms that have been around for quite a while, come with years of experience, and clearly offer a healthy organic approach to search engine optimization and marketing. They know how to market themselves. These are the individuals and companies that stand out and very well should from the other type of SEO’s. Have you seen them in multiple areas online? Are the search results for their name filled with nice juicy related content?

2. Web Designers – Web design and SEO are two very different things. Many web designers try to offer SEO on their websites but that doesn’t mean they know search engine optimization. That is not to say that every web designer out there is not capable of properly executing search engine marketing efforts but horses for their courses. A web design company which builds an SEO page during slow economic times should not be a choice.

3. Fly by Night SEO – It doesn’t take much to get a website up and running, don’t let some trust badge or Google logo on their website fool you. Many are taking one day training courses, maybe a webinar and all of a sudden they are an expert. Search for their name and see what you find online.

4. Offshore Optimization – It is ok to work with an offshore company, if your website is targeting the audience where that company is based. Why would you risk hiring someone to conduct SEO in a foreign country, if they don’t natively speak the language of your target audience? The inexpensive prices of going with someone oversees can be very appealing but you will pay for it in the long run.

5. Optimization Software – Software can not grow a business. A very large portion of SEO requires a human mind or touch. You need to be able to put yourself into the shoes of your audience, and software can not do that. There is no magic pill or easy way out with SEO. It takes time and patience, and proper monitoring and execution of all efforts.

This is all very simple, basic information that should be in the forefront of your mind when you consider your online marketing strategy. Search engine optimization is not a step to be taken casually, it needs to be taken with confidence in the experts you’ve hired to help push you to the top of the engines.

Social Media and SEO

A post or two back was a bit about why social media isn’t going to be surpassing search engine optimization as the “golden egg” in advertising as it were. Interestingly enough, there is even factual evidence to add to the mix.

Tracking the numbers, traffic and uptime firm Pingdom, has proven that Facebook is demolishing all comers in the social media arena with 260 billion page views. When it came to monthly page views, Facebook was front runner by more than 10 times the views that MySpace had. There were nearly 60 times more page views for Facebook than Twitter, which ranked 4th in the study. It’s not a huge surprise that Facebook is the dominant entity in social media, but as little as 18 months ago (June 2008) MySpace was still larger worldwide, and kept a hold on that title for a few more months in the states.

At that time as well, there were a couple of key points, on Facebook’s end, which made the service unfriendly and unsearchable by Google/MSN/Bing. Being hidden behind a login page, and long, complicated urls were partly an issue for the soon to be giant. Since that time Facebook has made some changes in their privacy policy which allow users information to be crawled and indexed and searchable online, if they allow access. Allowing users to reserve custom URL’s was also a boon, as businesses had another advantage in their SEO efforts, by being able to reserve their business name as a portion of their URL. Much more conducive to being searchable as opposed to a string of random database numbers.

Are these the only factors which contributed to Facebooks overwhelming success? Of course not, but, when social media, embraces SEO fundamentals as a built in function of their website, it’s obvious they know where the merits of the internet are. Because after all, what good is it to sell advertising on a social media site, if it can’t be searched? And the best way to be found?

Follow SEO basics and fundamentals.

Local domans vs Global domains

As a business owner, website owner, whether you’ve been online for a decade or are only stepping into the world wide market place; there’s an ever present question: to dot com or not to dot com? Lets take a look at some of the differences.

1. Clear geo-targeted name

To own a local domains, you actually need to go and buy them and register with a local authority. Because of this, local domains have always represented the best controlled and strictest identifier of a specific geography. There are exceptions of course, but these mostly have to do with certain domains, such as .tv (the tiny island state of Tuvalu) having found that their particular geography had a gold mine domain name it could use to generate revenue.

In other words, if the site was a French site, operating under a .fr domain, within hours of a search engine crawl, the site would show up in the area called “Pages de France” or pages from France—even if the site was actually hosted in the US.

2. Solid site architecture

The argument is often put forward that it’s too expensive to switch an existing dot com website with zillions of pages over to the relevant local domains its owners wish to target. It can, of course, be expensive to switch the domain used and this needs to be done with great care. However, when the cost of making the change is calculated, business will tend to find less financial value to the ongoing cost of SEO to compensate for not having the relevant local domain. This could mean additional local hosting costs or even substantial link building to overcome the disadvantages of the dot com. However, every businessman should have “going local” as an ultimate part of their long term plan.

3. People are inclined buy locally

Some SEOs may not see conversion factors as the most important in recommending which steps a client should take. Some users however, read URLs in the search engine results and that it can have a direct impact on how many of them click on links. Say you’re looking for a “second hand car” and you live in Canada. If you know nothing else about a website, which is most likely to be the most compelling: “secondhandcar.com” or “secondhandcar.ca?”

Even beyond the search results page, the local domain vs dot com plays in the mind of the user. “If this is a .ca and I live in Winnipeg, then they’re more likely to deliver” is a reasonable conclusion for most folks to draw.