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Design Your Site While Thinking of The Future

Mar 15, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

There are a lot of steps to consider when you have a website built for your business, there is no doubt about that, but there are a lot of pitfalls that you can run into if you’re not careful with your planning stage, hopefully with the help of this short blog post you can avoid some of the big ones. Your website is much more than just an online version of your business, it is your introduction to the world, and if done right your highest return on investment you can make in marketing.

websiteupgradeYour first major priority when coming up with a website is its design and its function. You should follow a clear, consistent theme ideally showcasing your services and view it as the beginning of building your online brand. Where the web is concerned, everyone has to start at the bottom, so if you truly want to make a mark for yourself, you need to be clear with who you are and what you offer. The function of your website is an important factor to remember, it boils down into two major usability points of your website. The first is the navigation of your website, it should be simple and easy to understand in how to use it. If your visitors can not discern how to find their way through your site, then you can expect your conversions to be low as well.

The second aspect you need to remember regarding the function of your website is the point of your site. Regardless of what you want your site to do now, you need to have some foresight into what your goals are as your user base increases. A major sticking point which can quickly increase your costs of having a site, is to turn a blind eye to the potential future of your business. If you offer a product for sale as an example, it would be in your best interest to offer online payments for your products. At this stage of the internet there is really no reason to not offer a payment or a shopping option for your products and services.

Just because you may have no present ideas to make sales online doesn’t mean that you should leave the functionality from building or improving your website. If you prefer, you can think of it as a cost incurred today, is saved in the future.

As an unrelated point, I should remember to push publish when I’m finished my blogs. :)

The Dark Future of Facebook Search

Mar 13, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

In the last few months Facebook has come out in the open about their own search offering, and if you are interested in trying it you can sign up for it. It’s an intriguing idea Graph search, but as numerous blogs and articles on the web quickly discovered, the results which are returned can be a little on the flaky side at times. You can even go so far as to somewhat toy with the search interface, and come up with some very unusual search settings as an example.

The service is still in its infancy, it has a lot of learning and lot of growing to do. One of the main complaints that has come up however, that has been consistent across all articles is the web search feature provided by Graph search is lacking. In fact, it’s lacking enough that it may as well be non-existent, so there were writers out there who had hoped that the service would improve over time. It seems that their prayers will go unanswered, for the time being at least, as Grady Burnett, VP of Global Marketing for Facebook said, in no uncertain terms there will be no external search engine. The actual quote from SMX West:

GB: I don’t see that happening. We called it “Graph Search” because we’re focused on letting people search the Facebook graph. So my answer would be no.

internetmapThere is going to be a handful of different responses to this message from the company, some will be cheering, others will be jeering of course, but those in the search industry who truly understand, won’t be surprised at all. When you consider all aspects of the internet, not just search and social, a picture will begin to form. This map obviously isn’t an exact replication of what the internet looks like, or how it’s divided, but it makes it easier to understand, and see why Zuckerberg, who built the largest social network in existence, isn’t worried about external search at the moment. There is so much more out there that isn’t Google or Bing or Yahoo to worry about, they’re only a fraction of what makes the web so massive.

Ever Lasting Search Battles

Mar 12, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

Search engines catch a lot of flack for various things, some of the items which top the list are privacy concerns, spam issues, and irrelevant search results. The laundry list of complaints and concerns that users come up with about the engines is as varied as the user, and can sometimes border on the silly; like the recent court case Google won.

WebsitegoalsAll things being even though, the complaints do have some merit as there are lingering issues with search and the results pages. There are some unscrupulous users out there that try and ruin it for the rest of us by gaming the search engines. Cloaking pages, hidden links, scraping genuinely great content and sometimes even just running a content generator that spits out nonsense. At a recent event, Matt Cutts came out and discussed some of the top issues that Google actively works on keeping from their search results. Some of the ones that you would expect are in the list, spam content that was auto generated, this usually reads like nonsense and is stuff to the brim with keywords. Not surprisingly, keyword stuffing also made that short list of immediate no-no’s, where SEO is concerned this is even a basic of the basics, you just don’t do it. As it should be expected, pages that are full of nonsense text for no reason at all, it isn’t too difficult to find unfortunately, as you can just run a search for “Lorem ipsum” and you’ll be able to find too many poor businesses out there who have no idea they’re being swindled.

One of the methods that was discussed which is still an issue online, is full on hacking of websites. It started when the web was born, and will likely always exist in some form or another. There are many different levels of hacking, and not all of them are malicious, web developers have been having to deal with Internet Explorer for years with some of these methods. But there are still malicious hackers out there, who will attempt to seize your website and use it to their advantage. You can deter most attempts however just by following safe web practices and ensuring your website software is up to date, and by taking the time to actually look at your own website from time to time. If something looks wrong, investigate and fix it before it becomes an issue.

Search engines and the internet are still very young technologies if you really break down the numbers, they have a lot of evolving to go through in their lifetime. There is clearly some massive potential for growth in all sectors, search, websites, and information sharing, etc, and for as many innovations we make there will be users who try to take advantage. Be aware of your website and it’s content, and try to keep in touch with your website admin and your SEO provider, you’ll be thankful you did.

Search Context Matters

Mar 11, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

A quick pop quiz for you, what do these terms all have in common: cheap, cost effective, reduced cost, low price, reduced price? If your first response is that they all are basically the same thing, then I could say that you’re correct. Wouldn’t you know it however, that the search engines, and the internet, don’t see things quite the same way?
synSearch engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo are great at the basics of figuring out what it is that you’re trying to find online. Using the above terms as an example, if you searched for a “cheap washing machine” you would expect to get ads for refurbished machines, maybe some Kajiji ads or even Craigslist offers. The problem with the way that search engines determine what you’re looking for though, really becomes apparent when you search for “low price washing machines”. They are the same terms, and mean the same to a person, but to a search engine bot they’re completely separate values, you could just as well be searching for washing machines in one instance and a space shuttle the next.

The bearing this has on you, as a website owner and online storefront, is you need to be clear in your message you present, and your website needs to support your message. If you are in the business of repairing and reselling washing machines, then you need to be clear that yours are both cheap, and low price. Search engines, for as amazing as they are for what they do, has no idea of context, and as a result you need to relay that information to them. You do this both with your content, and with your optimization efforts. When you’re ready to finally be known for all of your business services, the online branding experts are here to help.

Keeping Your SEO Accountable

Mar 8, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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.

closelookIt 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.

Changing The Search Game

Mar 7, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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.

leaderThe 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.

Manual Penalties Can Be Recovered From

Mar 6, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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?

breakthroughGoogle 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.

Baby Branding Steps

Mar 5, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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’babysteps 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.

Bing Needs to Shape Up

Mar 4, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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!

The Fears of an SEO

Feb 28, 2013   //   by freshtraffic   //   internet marketing  //  Comments Off

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.

poisonedThis 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.

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