Over the last few years we’ve written extensively about the value of search engine optimization, and that if you have the right pieces in place that the increased traffic and visibility can catapult your business into a realm you thought was maybe only a dream. But all of that valuable information aside, there is one vastly important piece of advice that rarely gets discussed – keeping your SEO provider accountable for their services.
It may seem a tall order, after all you’ve already hired them to do the job for you, because you’re not entirely sure what you need to do. But there are a few simple tips and guidelines you can use to try and keep track of the work that is being done to, and for your website. After you’ve chosen the people or agency to help you with your site, one of the first things you should try and gain a grasp of is your website stats report. As a service we offer a login to view your stats counter so you’re able to quickly view your over time growth, another method which is offered is a report delivered monthly. This allows you, as a business owner to quickly see how your traffic has improved, or is beginning to improve following the on page optimization which begins the moment you have signed on.
If you’re like some of our clients, and you like to be able to see visible changes in your site, some of the simpler things you can look for are evident. We often help you with your content, and work with you to ensure you are delivering the message you want, and help with your call to action. Whether it is a sale you’re after, their email address or just a survey completion, we’ll help you identify your conversion problems, and help you correct them. Because visibility doesn’t do you any good, if your conversion point is buried a half dozen pages deep into your site with no way to see or find it. Your call to action is the end goal for you as a client, getting that sale or that sign up is what you are after from your visitors, and it is the visitors that we can help deliver to you. Other simpler changes you can keep an eye out for are simple heading changes, title changes or content adjustments.
Just a handful of simple steps you can use as a client to keep track of your SEO professional you’ve hired to make sure they’re actually working on your website. There are other ways you can use to try and work out just everything that is going on behind the scenes, but the absolute simplest way to learn what has been happening is to pick up the phone and call. We are always happy to catch you up to date with what we’ve been doing to help your online presence.
With the way that search is always changing and evolving, you would have to think that someone, somewhere is going to hit on that perfect search machine. One that combines social signals, with personal preferences, some local results thrown in and to top it all off, be completely unbiased. While the likely hood of that happening in the near future isn’t bound to happen, it’s not impossible.
The first thing that needs to happen for that to become a reality however, is the entire web needs to be free to be indexed. That means forums, social sites, business pages, and any other site which holds any information or service for web use. So the first step would be everyone playing nice, and getting along, instead of locking away portions of websites from the information gathering devices, whether they be spiders or some new type of bot. After it has finally been able to find it’s way around the web and build up new version of a searchable index, then context can be used to create a search process. The real problem with this step is the creation of a new type of page index. There are a half dozen different types of search services out there, and everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. Currently it isn’t any real secret that Google is the king of the castle, but despite their prominence, the potential of them losing their spot still exists.
Using the premise that a new type of index does exist, and a new search technology exists to take advantage of it, this is the point where personal preferences take over. It is this point in search where everyone is unique, and for as different as we all are we still expect a familiar experience. But as an example, with the way that the web currently works, if you perform the same search at home and then on a computer that isn’t yours, you will get similar, although different results. This disparity is what will likely be the game changer for search, if you can receive consistent results, regardless of device, is when the next search king will be crowned. The solution is likely a cloud base type, where your preferences are stored virtually as opposed to locally, as well as the browser not being a program you install on your computer, rather one you just, access. The closest a company has gotten so far to deliver a product in this way, is Google at present with their Chromebook product. And while not terribly surprising that they’re the first to venture into a wholly cloud based product, it would be exciting to see others making the same steps.
So a little while back there was a major site, Interflora which effectively been kicked from the search engines for breaking the search engine rules and passing Page Rank via paid advertorials. That was a couple of weeks back, and they were completely removed from the results pages, now it seems that they’re back in position however. When so many are claiming foul and being wronged by the search engines, is it really just that easy to bounce back?
Google confronted the company on links that were the paid advertisements, as well as linking setups that they had labeled as toxic or suspicious. The number was so high and so evident, some sources saying it was as high as 70% of the links were toxic, that it the manual penalization team couldn’t miss it. Since the company had fallen out of grace with Google, they had a long row to hoe and a relatively short time to do it, as one of the biggest flower giving days the world over is coming up, Mothers day. Due to the circumstances of how they were handled within Google, how they went about dealing with their mistakes, and leveraging the tools available to them within Webmaster tools, their rebound begins to make more and more sense.
Ironically, one of the reasons that they were able to get back into position quickly was due to Google pouring all over their site and their links as they were clearly being naughty previously. They began that painstaking process of of cleaning out their poor backlinks and disavowing using the disavow tools in their Webmaster tools account. It’s a long, and arduous process, but by getting lots of people on the job they cleaned out their entire linking profile and stopped handing out Page Rank to various places on the web. There has been some speculation that properly recrawling every single page and link that was previously tied to the company should have taken months, and with the disavow tool still relatively new and uncertain of it’s inner workings, a couple of theories have cropped up regarding their speedy return. One is that Google manually took care of the process, which is possible seeing as they were well aware of what the company was doing. And the other contender as a possibility is that when the penalty that was leveraged against the site, was lifted even after only a small number of the links were crawled, kind of like a forgiveness nod for cleaning up a mess you created.
Where we are in the end is the company is back in the search pages, it’s linking profile, while not completely fixed, is noticeably better, and there are more questions unanswered rather than answered. It’s likely that due to their size as a business, that Google kept a very close eye on them and are being quite lenient with any remaining links that they may have. The sullen side of the web though is crying foul and chanting that the larger sites on the web get special considerations while the little guy wallows in the depths of the web. Only Google really knows what happened in the end, but regardless of why their return was so quick, it was a great litmus test of the disavow tool, manual reconsideration and search reinclusion requests.
Perspective is a funny thing, it can change the way you think, act, or can affect decisions you make. One of the main goals of online branding is to create an image of yourself that users can quickly and easily identify. If you’ve done your job supremely well, that branding will apply offline as well as online.
Let’s take a quick step back and clarify what a properly branded image can do for your business, and for an individual. Marketers and public relations departments have been successfully building brands and brand images for as long as there has been a radio. If during a conversion someone mentions the name Katy Perry, or Pepsi, you instantly can recall an image to your mind. You can remember a taste, or sound, and paired with that image invoked with a single word, you can form a decision. That level of brand recognition is priceless, and can make an unknown world famous if done correctly. Becoming a brand is easily the most powerful method of generating knowledge about your product or service, but it is also a process which requires time.
When you believe you are ready to make a move online to become a brand, you need to ensure you have the proper steps in place before you make that leap. Making the assumption that you already have a website live and are getting ready to make the push to becoming a brand, this is where you need to fully employ the skills of an online optimization expert. Your website and its content needs to be weighed and measured against the rules and regulations of the search engines, and your competitors. Your strengths need to be determined and we can then use them to increase your online visibility, and as a result build your brand online. The local web is only the beginning, once you’ve dominated the local web listings and branding, then we take you provincial, and then national. Just one small step at a time, and eventually we will help you build your brand, and your image bigger than you ever thought possible.
When you’re doing any kind of advertising and marketing, you need to eventually work out the numbers and decide whether or not it has been a worthwhile investment. Thankfully, that time frame for Microsoft has been a scant 4 months, during which they spent who knows how much money on their largely failed “Scroogled” advertising campaign.
It wasn’t pushed terribly hard over all advertising channels, but occasionally you would catch one of their ads, whether it was print, television or online. And the general premise was “Google isn’t playing by the rules, so come and use Bing!”. In a completely unsurprising event, the internet didn’t really notice that MS was stomping their feet and throwing a tantrum, except to maybe pat them on the head occasionally and have a chuckle at some of the videos they made. A link to my absolute favorite one of the handful I saw:
I’m guessing by the way they scripted the ad, Bing would have told you that if you use a pan on too high a heat you would start a fire?? Also, it’s somewhat cringe worthy that the way Bing has decided to upload their videos was to use Youtube, a wholly owned Google web property.
With their Scroogled campaign Microsoft was aiming to make it appear as if Google was infringing on every possible piece of private information, and while Google did start serving ads in Gmail over the past year, most Gmail users have reported that the ads aren’t an issue for them. And Microsofts new webmail service that has been relaunched from Live mail to Outlook.com now, even had the same type of ad service running once you’ve signed in. At least someone in the Bing world decided to actually watch one of the ads or read some of the print they put out, because their content is silly at best, an insult to general intelligence at the worst, and cancelled the entire campaign. Who knows what’s next on the Bing advertising plate for taking a crack at Googles share of the web, they’ve tried positive advertising, and negative attack ads, maybe some day someone will actually decide to take a look at their search tech and make some upgrades there, here’s hoping!
One of the major sticking points we have when engaging a new client, is when we begin to get into the optimization process and we begin discussing our process more in depth. Usually by this point the new client has had some time to browse the web a bit and unfortunately, read some of the information out there regarding SEO and AdWords.
This isn’t inherently a bad thing, as it leads to further understanding of why we perform some of the changes we do, but what inevitably happens is being pressed on topics which don’t have any bearing on their contract or campaign. I’ve mentioned this topic more than once, but it continually crops up from time to time, so I guess it’s time to discuss it briefly again. Starting with the short explanation regarding any information you read on a blog, message board, or forum regarding search marketing and the like: forget what you’ve read.
Now that the blunt answer is out of the way, a little more in depth reasoning as to why. The primary reasoning to stay away from the majority of the information available out there is that best case scenario – it will illicit more questions than answers. Worst case, it is just bad information, that has a nasty habit of cavorting about the web as real information. While a basic understanding of your campaign is important, we also always make sure to share with you what we are doing, and why we are doing it. A little bit of information can be a scary thing, but what is even more terrifying for SEO experts, is when that little bit of information, is bad information. While we are happy to answer your questions and concerns about your website and our process, sometimes the best thing you can do as a client is to let us do is to do our work. When you have a question, when you have a concern, absolutely call and ask our thoughts, but trust in the fact that we are extremely great at our job. We enjoy a contract renewal rate somewhere in the 90% range and many of our long term clients have been with us from the beginning in Winnipeg. Let us worry about the web, while you worry about your storefront.
Search engine optimization, internet marketing, online branding, being able to rank a website in the organic listings of the search engine results page has a handful of different monikers. The industry itself is as nearly as old as the web and its search engines, although the methods have drastically changed.
At the beginning of the commercial web, it was essentially no holds barred. Flash ads, pop ups, pop unders, hidden text, all of the things you’re not supposed to do to your website now, was fair game 20 years ago. If you tried any of the above methods however, you’ll not only be creating a poor user experience, but you’ll likely run onto the bad side of the search engines and likely end up with a lost position in the index. At Freshtraffic we’re very big proponents of everyone doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, horses for courses. Everyone has a skillset, whether it’s been taught, learned, or they have an inate talent for a job, we all have different ones. As for myself, I’ve been working and learning in the realm of on site optimization for the last 5 years. I’ve been poked, prodded and (although less now!) often told to stop trying to complicate the job and just do it.
Yes there is a point to the rant by the way, just bear with me a tad longer!
Groupon and sites like them were designed with the idea of bringing deals to the masses, and for the most part it works brilliantly. A business comes up with an idea, say a store has bought too many duvets so the offer a cover and a duvet at a great discount, but only for a limited time and in a limited amount. They create the deal, list it on Groupon and let the web do the rest of the work, simple, beneficial for all parties involved. I’ve never purchased anything through the service as nothing has really stood out to me, but there was this one offer that showed up that I had to take a closer look at. It was for what was titled as a web-master training package for what was listed as 90% savings over the actual cost, amazing deal! Working online for the last 5 years has shown me that there are clear lines that need to be drawn for designers, developers, marketers etc, just that there isn’t any confusion with a website. And basically what the program broke down into was a bunch of 30 day trial materials, and an instructional document, likely a pdf, with which you are supposed to teach yourself how to use more than a dozen different programs. The programs that you were learning to use comprised of everything from Flash, to Photoshop, to Dreamweaver and dozens of other web design and development programs. In the end, while reading the list of over 30 programs you were supposed to learn (many of them doubles of each other), the portion that genuinely made me angry was the 6 hour section dedicated to what they called internet marketing, both e-commerce and SEO.
That entire offer is in a nutshell, what is going wrong with the internet marketing world today. That individuals who finish this course, then turn around and try to bill themselves out as a search expert in a field after 6 hours of training. I’ve been at this for more than 5 years now, and I still have years of work and training to do, to think I could have learned everything for $150 and a handful of hours of reading! I fear for my profession at times, more and more when I see information spread around the web in this fashion. As an example, if you needed to completely renovate your house, would you hire a proper plumber, electrician and carpenter who has taken years of training and expertise to build their skillset? Or someone who took an online course for a few hours to do all of your work?
While Google is undoubtedly the largest search engine on the web with its trillion pages indexed, they are not the only tool out there with which to make your way around the web. But while there are hundreds of millions of web users out there, there is only a handful of search engines that really garner any real use.
Google, as mentioned previously clearly holds the dominant spot online and has for a number of years. With more than 2/3rds of the market share in search, it has an massive presence on the web. With the clout that they have with the worldwide market any business that has a website is keen to try and make a place for themselves on the front page. And the bigger the target, the more detractors one is bound to have, and Google definitely has the majority share. Privacy issues, a social platform that (at first) floundered and has grown somewhat stale, and a long list of competitors claiming anti-competitive behaviour it seems amazing that they could still be in business, but while they haven’t made friends with every user on the web, 66% is more than enough.
The second most widely used search engine is really two, as it delivers results for both bots, Bing and Yahoo gobble up the majority of the remaining search activity. The Yahoo results pages for more than a year so far have been provided by a Bing search bot, as opposed to running their own bot, and building their own index of websites on the web. And while this still allows the adopters of the Yahoo portal a way to browse the web, they’re not being delivered their own true results. The new CEO at Yahoo however, seeks to change all of that, hopefully 2013 has some shaking up in the search world. Bing as a search service has been trying hard for a couple of years to break into the market that Google dominates. With some clever ideas with image search, flyout snippets of search pages and sometimes widely differing results at times from Google, Bing has a share of the market that hasn’t shifted much in a number of years. Perhaps they can rekindle their search agreement with Facebook and together they can develop a full fledged social search service, only time will tell.
In the last little bit of the search world, you have some of the little guys who are trying to shake up the web. Blekko, one of the more interesting search services out there is a great way to pick your way through a search results page that bills itself as being spam free. Your experiences will vary wildly based on what, and how you search, but with their usage of what they describe as slashtag which allows you to greatly fine tune your search parameters. It’s an interesting technology and definitely gives a differing view of the web and it’s offerings. Another small fry in the search landscape, but one which can cater to those concerned with privacy is Duckduckgo. It has the same clean search ui as the others with a basic text input box, but it delivers you results from “outside the search bubble” they describe that other search engines put you in. It is a great option to have a look at what the web might look like with no search history to go on, the results can be interesting to say the least.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how the web works, about how search works and that some people think there is a different set of rules if you have a large wallet you can spread around. What seems to escape a lot of users memory or knowledge however, is just how different the web would be if search engines of any kind didn’t exist.
The rules that govern the online world are still very fluid as they’re always being re-evaluated, by the users of the web and government bodies across the globe. Google is often used as the target in any change or suggestion to the activity online, and with good reason. When Google made their place on the web, they changed the way everyone uses the web from that day forward, as up until that point there hadn’t been a full indexing of the web by anyone, the idea was ludicrous. They changed the way the web was used from that day forward, and they were very aware of the ramifications of their new position on the internet. There have been a few in the course of their lifetime that have run afoul of the rules which Google uses to build their results pages, and contrary to some of the noise found on the web, you can’t buy your way out of breaking the rules.
Six or so years ago Google came out and said plainly that selling links will damage your rankings in the results pages, and began by hitting some of the largest businesses on the web, Forbes, Sun Times, BMW at one point and many others through out the years. Just in case you were wondering if they had gotten lazy in recent years, the search engine has recently killed the page rank on more than 150 UK news sites for selling links, and it wasn’t just a small drop either, they lost all of their Page Rank. So in case you were wondering, yes they still pay attention, no it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, and yes they will still penalize you if you break the rules.
There are a number of ways to market your business online, the two more prevalent methods are search engine optimization, and using social media to help you garner attention and traffic. Although it’s a little a lesser known method to use to help bolster your online visibility, AdWords, or search engine marketing is a very powerful tool which when used properly can definitely attract highly qualified customers to your website.
Typically the paid results show to the side, or sometimes above the results page after performing a search. The links are often on a different color background and their formatting is different. And if all of those were not strong enough indicators that they’re different than the organic results you’ve received, in the corner of that different colored box you’ll find a small snippet of text that says ‘Sponsored Links’. Think of it as paid advertisement that is trying to capture those impulse buyers out there, the people who buy a package of gum or a magazine in the check out line at the grocery store. If your ad copy is well written, your bid is high enough and you’re trying to build a brand for yourself, AdWords is a medium you definitely need to explore.
The point of the short explanation of adwords and their use, has to do with a court case that was recently settled in the US. It was between two rival companies, and one took the other to court because of their questionable use of adwords marketing. Referring to them as Company A and Company B, it went something like this: Company A wanted to try and garner traffic from searches completed using Company B’s name, so Company A used the AdWords platform so they would also appear on the results page. The judge in the case cleared Company A of any wrong doing, even though Company B argued that it was a breach of privacy, when in fact it was clever, albeit shady, marketing. If Company B had done their job marketing themselves correctly, and had used AdWords as well to ensure they capitalized on searches using their name, then there wouldn’t have been a case to begin with. From now on I’m sure they’ll be more likely to consult with those who know what they’re doing, in order to protect their online brand.