With JC Penny & Overstock.com getting penalized from Google for trying to outfox the search engines, what lesson can you learn from these stumbles?
Be careful when it comes to technology you may not fully understand. Let me say this again, Be careful when it comes to technology you may not fully understand.
Today, countless organizations—small businesses especially—are being told that their fortunes will improve if they learn to harness the magical powers of SEO. If you own or operate a Web site for your business, the come-ons are no doubt familiar: “I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines,” goes one popular one.
Do organizations fall for these pitches? They sure do. In fact, entire industries have become enamoured with SEO. Take the media business. Today, many publishing companies are putting more investment into search gimmicks than in quality content. The result? Fewer impactful features, more animated slide shows and plenty of SEO-optimized headlines, including one from The Washington Post that read simply, “SEO headline here.”
Infatuation with SEO and related technologies extends to companies of all types. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), North American spending on search marketing is growing nearly 15 percent annually and will top $17 billion this year. This is in addition to the vast sums spent on SEO technology and consulting.
With these figures search has seized the attention of scores of business executives worldwide, Sooner or later, every competitive company will develop or invest in SEO capabilities. When this happens, distinguishing your organization with basic SEO technology and knowledge will become very difficult.
There are signs that some SEO companies are having to go to greater extremes to produce results for their clients. Is the sun is about to set on SEO. It might, but don’t cancel your contract with your SEO provider just yet, For the foreseeable future, SEO technology will remain a very valuable business tool, but only if you keep a competitive advantage. For that, you’re going to have to focus on business basics, including your innovation, prices and operational excellence.
Some thoughts echoed from Inder Sidhu the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco
Content You have 2 options:
1) Good content without promotion
2) Good content with promotion.
#2 wins every single time. As long as there is a profit motive for good content, there is a profit motive for promoting it. SEO is one tool. SMO is another.
So why does word of mouth from brand advocates work?
Consumers trust Word of Mouth. Which means conversion rates are higher.
You don’t pay advocates. There are costs of course, but you’re not paying advocates to make referrals.
Brand Advocates are not just for Christmas. Paid clicks are ‘perishable’ advocates are not.
I’d add a couple of other reasons myself:
Advocates are integrated marketers. They are online, offline and through the line. They don’t differentiate the way your agency or media campaigns do.
They give your marketing campaigns wings. Advocates are often spurred to advocate your products and services when they come across your marketing messages. They increase coverage and impact of your other marketing activity.
Advocacy means UGC. Brand Advocates write nice things online about your brand. They create keyword rich content just because they love you. And we all know what search engines love.
Longer and Deeper love. One other benefit of identifying and cultivating your brand advocates is of course that they are likely to stay more loyal for longer – so your CRM gets a boost too.
So advocates are great, but how do you find them? aren’t they as elusive as a four leaf clover?
The answer is so simple it hurts. You ask them! The simplest survey question of them all ”How likely are you to recommend us?” – and BINGO, you know who your advocates are. Now you just need to cultivate them.
“Traditional marketing has companies speak to many to reach one. Today we speak to one to reach many.”
Strategizing localized search is an emerging search engine optimization trend.
Businesses that are listed on Google Maps and Google Places become one step ahead of the competition. These listings also lay down the foundation for a mobile marketing campaign, which is predicted to become a major force the search industry.
Google is planning to install a Google Instant-like function for portable devices, which could make localized search even more relevant.
There’s something to be said about the myths which surround SEO as an industry. In a way it adds a layer of ‘magic’ to the processes which can drive your website to the top of search. On the other hand, it allows the cheaters and snake oil salesmen to get in the door to respectable, naive business owners who only have half an idea.
Let’s face it, the world is going digital and online, the cloud is the next major leap forward as one of it’s goal is to eliminate the need for mass amounts of software on individual machines. Every major player in industry has recognized this fact, newspapers especially which have been hit substantially in the shift to online content generation and consumption. Radio and television have both added online content distribution to their industries, even going so far to use specialty content only available on their site to drive visitors. But they all know, the multi-million dollar advertising industries are slowly shifting their budgets to include online optimization in bigger and bigger steps.
Now if all of the big boys get it, that the world and it’s people are shifting online, what’s with all of the hesitation? Because unfortunately in the end business is ignorant and resistant to change. There’s short cut takers and cheaters in every industry, not just in the SEO/SEM world, and just like every other industry, when they’re caught, they’re thrust out into the light and are left to burn. The growing pains that the SEO industry is experiencing in Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg in particular, is one of naivete. Winnipeg is a small city on the global marketplace, but with it’s geo-location it should be a significatly larger player that it is. All we need now is for the old, naive, ignorant and resistant guard to change, and let the youth take over. I’ve heard it said a number of times that once you’ve lived in Winnipeg it’s hard to really want to plant roots anywhere else. My reason why (unfortunately) is because Winnipeg just doesn’t change; at least not fast enough to be a global player.
Most people have the memories of growing up, and watching their parents doing their jobs, what ever that may be. Watching your mom or grandmother make breads or mend clothes, watching your uncles fix cars and make the seemingly unworkable, run like new. But with no instruction, would it feel right to attempt the same feats?
Being mentored in a position or being groomed and trained to work in a specific field to meet clients and industry expectations is a vastly different process. To be trained as a chef, even a level 1 chef in the Canadian industry takes a minimum of 3 years to even wear the mantle of ‘Beginner’. To become a dentists assistant, that person who just puts a mirror in your mouth and secretly goes ‘so that’s what you had for lunch’ even goes to school and trains for a year; to become a dentist takes again, a minimum of 4+ years. Doctors go to school for 7 years and up, business professionals go to university and/or college for 2-5 years depending on their goals they’d like to meet. All of the industries crowded with professionals all maintain a minimum level of training in the average area of about 2 1/2 years of some kind of post secondary education.
So curious then, how is it that with just a handful of 1 hour webinars can someone become a search engine optimization expert? Is it possible that just by sitting by and watching the experts work, is enough to glean the necessary knowledge that it requires to be capable in the field? The best practices of SEO are trumpeted from every corner of the web marketing websites on the web so generic knowledge is readily available. But the time spent training your skill set, working on a dozen websites at a time, working over the code of the pages, managing the content and tinkering with the keywords is where the expertise begins to take shape.
The man who’s trained me with all I’ve learned wrote about it some time back, and I believe he said it best. If you think you’re an expert in the search engine optimization field, prove it. Create for yourself, a half dozen websites on various terms of various competetiveness. Then the easy part, make them list organically for each of their respective niches. Work the code, massage the content and prove to yourself that ‘Yes I can do SEO for clients’.
You don’t become an expert, by watching experts work. To even make the statement that you can accomplish the same level of skill in a single sitting that’s taken years of refinement reeks of ignorance. As the boss would say, ‘horses for courses, do what you’re good at’ and stay out of our sandbox lest we get sand in your eyes.
Since it’s all over the news and has been talked about since word broke, here ‘s just another take on the J.C. Penney search gaff. The NYTimes did a piece titled “The dirty little secrets of search” and in it was outlined how J.C. Penney gamed Google into listing them for all sorts of terms, applicable to their stores, but always listing at the top irregardless of the search.
The chief way this occurred was through the value of backlinks coming into a site. When your search engine optimization expert does their work properly, the value of the backlinks coming into your site will be categorically relative to your site. J.C. Penney however had links for all sorts of things on what seemed like any kind of website. When it comes to broad analysis of buying links to link back to your site, Google frowns heavily on the practice and often the links are devalued, or even negatively valued, and your site can be negatively effected in such cases. Matt Cutts was questioned on the occurrence and admitted that although JCP.com was already dealt with three times previous, the most recent and wide reaching offence hadn’t been noted.
Some have said it’s because JCP spends so much money on AdWords, others have said it’s sloppy policing on Googles part. One thing that the NYTimes piece did however, was contact a black hat SEO marketer directly and asked their opinion on the matter, and I believe they hit it on the head the best. Think of search not as a one type tool (search) but as a dual purpose technology; informational and commercial. And while the black hat lauded the strength of Googles informational capabilities, he readily admitted that commercially the results were lack luster, a cess pool was the term used. The Google team has admitted fully that there’s a relevance problem as of late, which has become more pronounced with the advent of both Caffeine and Instant technologies into the Google search algorithm. It also needs to be noted however, that spammers didn’t all of a sudden triple their output, the right set of adjustments just haven’t been found yet to exclude them from the relevant results. Additionally since no one has thought to bring it up, the same (gamed) results would have shown up in Bing or Yahoo as well as they did in Google.
JCP is about to go through some growing pains, and will most likely learn a valuable lesson in search; always make a point to be aware of your hired SEOs track record . You may find yourself on the receiving end of a swat on the nose from the Google team.
In a bit of a change of pace, just a reminder that there are a few key points which need to be considered when working online whether as a new website owner just getting into the search marketing side of business. Or a long trusted brand both on and offline, that’s looking to stake a claim, or reinforce a position online.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly) – Keep your website simple in appearance, construction and use. That doesn’t mean like a printed sheet of paper, but flashy ads, a video clogged front page or fancy fly away graphical menus don’t help your position in the search world. All of the above technologies, without a lot of back work, can actually hurt your online marketing performance.
Relevant Content – Keep your copy relevant and consistent to what you want to be known for. If you’re a plumber, write about plumbing trends, technologies and concerns. If you’re a tailor, writing about style trends, materials and new patterns is helpful. As a carpenter you wouldn’t want to write about small engine repair or microwave ovens, it’s simply not pertinent to your business or your website.
Budget – Ahh money, the one aspect of the business that always seems to surprise people. The thing about advertising, is that advertising in earnest, with the idea to make contact with your customers or clients to earn a living, will cost you money. In North America, Canada especially, online marketing budgets are significantly below what they need to be to see the real rewards capable from high quality, skilled search optimization. It still makes no business sense how a company can have no problem throwing away thousands of dollars per month on a marketing metric which is untrackable (newspapers/radio), versus a significantly lower cost for a completely trackable one (SEO).
A Call to Action – Often the missed point of a newer website owner, a call to action for your visitors is a required point of your website. A qualified and capable search engine optimization expert can bring you traffic, but if your website doesn’t direct your visitors what to do, they will leave until they find a site that does. If the point of your website is to sell, ensure you have a way to sell to your visitors with a Buy Now button, or a catalogue to order. If your desire is to attract people to sign up for your newsletter, make sure it’s prominently displayed as such.
Time – One of the most important requirements for SEO is time. Time for your website to be crawled and indexed, time for Google, Bing and Yahoo to place you within their index and the time it takes to balance your website versus the millions upon millions of pages also within your sector. It all takes time in the end, and if you try to circumvent the time component and go quick and dirty like J.C. Penney did? You’ll get caught, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you’ll be caught.
There’s a massive amount of information on the Internet on absolutely everything, the downside of this of course is the (seemingly) even larger amounts of mis-information. This holds true in any industry, but when it comes to the topic of search engine optimization, it often seems that it’s not so much the fact and fiction mixed up. It’s more akin to the information being tossed in a blender and spread in a mess.
The most antagonizing part of all of the information out there, is that people who partake of what makes the most sense to them, claims to make them experts in the field. It’s from these same sources that the newest experts don’t even learn how to properly 301 a website, or are unable to tell the difference between paid links and paid advertisements. Some of the latest crop have seemed to be of the belief that building websites to rank for obscure long tail terms, is the same skill as being able to rank a client for their desired and preferred terms.
The whole idea about marketing your business is about driving qualified visitors to your website, where hopefully your SEO company has advised you on how to build your site to facilitate conversions. Whether it’s convincing visitors to sign up for your news letter, or to buy your product, or sign up for your discussion forums, the idea of pushing and marketing your site is to increase your bottom line, what ever it may be. Say for example your business is in making shoes, and your website has a built in shopping cart so your customers can buy custom footwear direct. Along comes the newest ‘expert’ in SEO and builds your site around a long tail search along the lines of ‘custom designed walking equipment’. You may shake your head an scoff at the idea, but it happens, and happens far too often.
No, this doesn’t mean that long tail searches are dead in any way, there are users out there who don’t use the Google Instant feature, or simply type out their entire query. But the point of my description was to drive home the idea that search engine optimization isn’t about tricking the search engines, isn’t about spamming on blog comments and posts and it isn’t about tricking visitors into visiting your website. It’s about driving qualified traffic to your site with the decision to purchase your product, or sign up for your newsletter or become involved in your community. Real SEO performed by the real SEO experts drives measurable, qualified traffic to your website to make your bottom line better.
We heard this statement the other night from President Obama in his state of the union speech, it made me smile, why? because we are exactly that.
Since our inception on a coffee table back in the UK this is exactly how we have seen ourselves.
Over the years we’ve done big things with major brands like Sony, Sanyo & Best Buy, we’ve worked with celebrities & governments to making a small back street vendor a major player online across North America beating the likes of Sears & Costco, A little company that do big things.
What do we do? Well, everything to do with online search & branding, we have a team buying domain names daily, in fact we see opportunities before most others do, an example was the presidents quote of A little company that do big things, we bought that domain within 5 minutes of him mentioning it, a great slogan, we have done the same with others, company’s spend millions marketing there new project with traditional media, TV ads & Newspapers without first securing the web domains they will need to secure the brand first, how stupid is that at $10 a throw? then they complain when someone beats them to the punch and they have to pay Big Bucks to a little company for there ignorance, it’s just business.
We also run and manage Google Adwords accounts for clients, that’s easy considering I was consulting when the program was being built by Google, but what we really excel at is SEO, yes we know everyone can do this, if this is true then why don’t the company’s or individuals selling the service show up for themselves for major terms on the search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, it’s a no brainer, if they cannot list themselves, how do they list you?
Like Obama said, The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.
Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution, Innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.
Call a little company that do big things today on 204.942.4200 it could change your life.
When discussing with clients, both current and prospective, about the costs entailed with their SEO campaign, there’s almost always a measure of shock and or disbelief at the bottom line. Being that it’s a marketing industry at it’s base, and other marketing campaigns yield little to no tangible results, SEO offers a break down that can be examined.
You can determine if you’re attracting the proper type of visitor. Are your keywords effective, is your content driving your search rankings to help you climb to, and maintain a commanding position on the SERPs? Or are you only receiving immediate bounces to your site because you’re appearing on the wrong results pages? SEO when performed properly, and maintained rigorously on an ongoing basis, can give you these answers.
As for the costs associated to get the results you want, just like in any industry you get what you pay for. There are bucketfuls of “experts” out there who will do your websites SEO for you for $200-$400, but what will that really get you? Just like when you need maintenance done on your car or home, if you’re not a qualified professional to do the work, you pay for the services you require. Now say for instance, instead of having a contractor repair your basement foundation, you get your neighbor who you’ve seen mix concrete help you, imagine the recourse you have available when your basement walls begin to crack, leak and sag again.
Just as it is with the “experts” out there, when you’ve noticed that the $200 you’ve paid doesn’t deliver you any measurable, or quality results, there’s only one person to blame. Nickle and dime spending when it comes to your online branding and marketing has to leave the train of thought, you get what you pay for.
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.