Retaining Your Image Through Upgrading

With the way that the internet is continuing to evolve, and will continue to evolve and grow for the foreseeable future, it is common place to want to change and update your website. And while making a change or giving your site a face lift normally isn’t too great of a concern, you can’t just start hacking away and changing the way your site has always worked. If you’re not careful with your methodology, you could end up disappearing from your online position, and virtual loss will translate into real world loss.

Web DesignSo if your site has a dated look, or you have a desire to revamp your image, don’t fret because it is possible to do, you just need to follow a few steps first. If you want to retain all of the authority that you’ve gained in your niche marketplace, it is best when you decide to build a new website to follow a few guidelines. One of the first steps you need to ensure, is that your goal, and your content remains the same. Your images, text, even if you can keep your navigation functioning the same, it doesn’t matter how strong your SEO is if you completely change your message. Sometimes even the most seemingly innocuous changes can wreak havoc on an optimization campaign. It is always wise to run any content changes passed your SEO provider to ensure it won’t throw a wrench into the works.

Once you’ve worked out that you are keeping the same content, the web development team needs to work it’s magic and try it’s best to retain the same URL structure to your new website. Really basic example would be if your product page is named products.html, that your new page on a new design is named products.html or even products. If keeping the same structure is impossible for what ever reason, then persevere to ensure that proper 301 redirects are in place so that the search engines, and users, can find their new counterparts. And when you’re ready to launch the new design, you really should not see a change in rankings or indexation by the search engines. But like with any major website design change, you need to test, test and test again to make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Losing Your Search Data

With the always growing concern over privacy online, it wasn’t a great shock that Google announced that their browser, Chrome, is moving to an entirely encrypted service. Currently the beta version of the browser provides private search features for logged in users, and they’re quickly working towards that being a default for all users, signed into your Google account or not.

It’s a mildly distressing point when you drill down into your analytics, because at present the average is somewhere between 20-30% of analytics traffic is coming up as “Not Provided”. Up until the last year or so, when a user conducted a search, made a choice, our analytics tools would show the URL that “refers” the visitor to that page, and would typically include what the visitor searched for. Now when someone performs that same search, the referring URL just looked like www.google.com. The analytics didn’t know how to provide a proper break down of traffic with that referrer, so instead it started giving results of “not provided”. And when you’re dealing with online optimization, not being aware of what your target audience is searching for can be a distressing blow, in the short term.

chrome-secureIt’s highly likely that the amount of users taking advantage of secure search methods will continue to grow, especially after Chrome makes it a default setting for all users of it’s browser. But just because the referrer is no longer being provided, it doesn’t mean all is lost. As a website owner, you’re losing the ability to easily see how trends are shifting in search for your particular niche, but you can counter that simply by being up to date with your clients and customers. You should be on the cusp of shifting trends in your industry if you expect to be a leader. Additionally, those search terms are not entirely lost, you just need to look in a different place. You should have Google Webmaster tools setup to monitor your website, and within that toolkit you can see the last 90 days of search terms for your site, with up to 2000 key terms. The data isn’t gone, it’s just in a different spot, and with the utilization of your entire toolkit you can still find any answers you seek.

Taking SEO Into Your Own Hands

social-mediaNow that Facebook is entering the search arena with it’s own version of search, which still has a fair amount of work to do on a large scale, it’s a good time for you to go back through your website and make sure you’ve crossed all of your t’s and dotted your i’s. There are a handful of basic practices that you can implement as a website owner, without the assistance of an expert, but only one piece of advice: If you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t do it.

First things first, when you’re ready to try putting together some basic SEO, you need to understand it is not a one shot deal. A change you make today, will need tweaking in a week, and every week there after. Website optimization is not impossible to take on yourself, just understand the time investment, and attention to detail required.

One of the points you need to focus upon first, is you need to examine the goal of your website. Are you trying to sell a product or service? Or are you looking to entice users to sign up for a newsletter or email? Examine your end goal, and keep that goal in mind while going through your website. There are a number of free services you can leverage to engage your customers and clients, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are free to use services that are a direct interaction with your current, and prospective customers. Where the cost is incurred, is your time. The more you are able to engage your audience, the more likely you are to grow your following.

You’ve determined your end goal, and settled on the time and attention required to attend to your SEO and social efforts, this is where you need to temper yourself. Every day there is an amazing new piece of software, or website out there that can tell you exactly what to do to become number 1 in search. They claim to have all of the answers for social and search, when in fact all they have is an untested idea. Don’t forget the basics, just to chase what might be, the fundamentals of website optimization remain the same. Clarify your message, stay away from sites and services that claim to promise number 1, and engage your audience on the social front. Adhering even to just those very basic points will help you to improve your positioning online.

Catapult Your Online Marketing

We’ve written countless times about the basics of online marketing and that the trying to work with the search engines, not against them, is a constantly shifting landscape. Once you’ve followed the basics, gotten your site steadily climbing the results pages and are working on your back link profile there is one more key component you can add that will help your position and your site. Take a look at your site, your content, and your activity on your pages and think to yourself: Would I link to my own content?

linkfishYou need to add some link bait to your site occasionally, so instead of continually hunting for back links, others in your industry (hopefully) will be following you and decide to naturally link to you because of your content. This is usually referred to as creating link bait, and it’s one of the quickest ways that you can build up a quality link profile for your website. You can start creating your link bait content by knowing what you’re talking about, everyone has an opinion and if you’re knowledgeable about yours, there is no reason not to share it. Sharing opinions is a great way to start a dialogue with people, whether it’s your customers or others in your business space, it gets people talking, and talking about you.

Everyone has a hiccup every now and then when it comes to creating your content, especially if you’re the lone person responsible for it, so don’t be scared to talk to your co-workers. Sometimes a brief conversation can help you decide on a blog topic, a new page to create or a way that you can help drum up news or a flash sale for a product or service that you may offer. We all need inspiration sometimes, and everything becomes easier when you ask for a helping hand. Being able to write a high quality page or article is fine, but if you’re unable to grab any attention with it, or drum up some discussion with it then you won’t garner a great deal of backlinks from it, if any at all.

Facebook Forcing Googles Hand

The new Facebook Graph search has a grip on the social world of course, being assisted on the web search by Bing. It doesn’t take but a few minutes of typing “Facebook Graph” into a search bar to find that there are more than a few people hailing the new service as taking the fight to Google. The information and the action of the new Facebook feature however, doesn’t have me convinced that Google has a whole lot to worry about.

facebookThe first part of the feature that struck me as a tad odd, was the introduction of using your social signals to deliver search results which have been tailored to suit you. Based on your friends activity and online postings, your search becomes filtered, delivering you only the topics and trends which apply to you. It places you within a search bubble, and there has been a growing outcry against Google delivering personalized results to people for the last year and a bit, so why the introduction of a Facebook search should suddenly change peoples opinions struck me a little odd.

They put together a convincing trailer about the graph search on their site, but the offering from Facebook left me rather unconvinced as to it’s full usefulness. With somewhere around a billion users, and with user profiles that are nearly five times in friend size (from 100 friends on average 5 years ago to 500 now), it seemed to me that the “searches” that were performed in the video, would have been questions you already knew the answers to. Regardless of the amount of friends you might have on your list in Facebook, you already know and can identify those nearest to you that share your interests. You don’t need to search for them or what they may like, because you already likely know.

One of the greatest advantages however to the introduction of a search service to Facebook, is the cost of advertising. Google has long been an incredibly dominant force in the web advertising space with its Adwords and Adsense programs, and depending on the terms you wanted to pursue your costs could climb rapidly. The ideal revenue model for the Facebook Graph search service would be the same idea, an advertising model that caters to what you may be searching for at the moment. And on the surface that may look like it spells doom for Google and the way it does business, but it is actually a very good thing. Competition drives creativity, it promotes change and spurs innovation. Google has always said they want people to enter the search space, and Facebook is working on it now. We’ll have to keep watch on it to see just how far it can go.

Is Facebook Dieing Or Evolving

Later today there is going to be an announcement, it’ll be a change to the way you conduct yourself online, and will likely affect your friends and family as well. Late yesterday I saw word of the impending news, and in just a few hours the tech world will get it’s answer, just what could Facebook have planned?

Zuckerberg-FB-pressThere’s been a lot of ideas thrown around about the future of Facebook, with discussions covering almost everything from phone hardware and/or software, to search engines. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook is the largest social site on the web, and with somewhere near a billion members for a user base they have the potential market to influence massive online change. As for what option really makes sense for the company is anyones guess, but you can bet that there is going to be a massive audience tuning in for it.

Facebook likely won’t be going down the road of building their own phone, while the company has a strong digital presence, it wouldn’t likely translate into as strong an audience in the hardware market. A great option, and one that makes sense especially since they recently closed their purchase of Instagram, would be to add video support to the platform. It’s already globally accepted as a way to rapidly share the photos you take, it would make sense in a number of ways to offer the same feature to any videos that are taken. Not only would this allow Facebook to monetize any videos that are put up by placing ads in the stream, but it would give a reason for YouTube to possibly step up it’s game as well. It has been the dominant online video source for ever it seems.

And then there’s the elephant in the room, the question that has been asked of Zuckerberg and the Facebook machine a number of times – are you building a search engine. Other times when the question was pointedly asked, they have sometimes shied away from the question by avoiding it, and other times saying no, not yet. Perhaps today is the day, where Facebook announces their own search engine, driven entirely by social signals? Even if today is the day that Facebook does let loose with a new search engine, or even a coming one, the true effect of what that could do to the online scope is unknown. There would be a great deal of unknown territory, as a search engine driven by social signals would be prone to massive manipulation, both positive and negative. And with a user base of somewhere around a billion members, that’s a lot of leverage that can sway an algorithm one way or the other. The other question that could be asked, is what happens to those people who remove their accounts, either by deleting or deactivating them, what happens to their social links they may have bestowed? Over the last month in the UK there have been more than a half million accounts deleted from the social service, what would happen to a search service if a mass migration hit the site? So many unknown variables, stay tuned to the web in a few hours and the picture will begin to become clearer.

Facebook Search It’s Next Frontier

FacebookThe next frontier that Facebook needs to conquer is search. That would help it significantly expand revenues and, in turn, its market value. Search, I would say, is a very high priority for Facebook and may be the announcement due Tuesday might well be that. Facebook has this incredible treasure trove of unstructured data on the site, but can it finally put it to good use?

Research firm eMarketer estimates that Facebook, the No. 2 company in the U.S. mobile advertising market, had an 8.8 percent share last year —up from zero in 2011. That compared with No. 1 Google’s 56.6 percent. This year, Facebook is expected to grow its share to 12.2 percent, while remaining far behind Google, but we all know the real dollars is in search.

Facebook’ biggest challenge however and potentially its most lucrative opportunity, a chance to topple Google as the king of search. Will that ever happen?

Search is Changing Again

Since Google has been given the all clear signal from the FTC about the charges of them using anti-competitive behaviour, it loosens the reins a bit for the company. To be completely fair, the evolution of search and the ever present forward advancements should be evidence that the industry has never really stopped evolving.

Bing sold itself initially as a decision engine, conduct your search and you can make a decision then and there instead of digging through results pages. Then, just a short time later they started to re-brand themselves again, into the “do” engine. It’s been a year since then, and while they’ve had their hiccups (and tantrums) along the way, they’re also growing and changing with the web. It’s not just the internet that’s evolving, to technologies like IPV6, fiber connections and what not, users are evolving and changing at just as frantic a pace. Bing recognized this, and has been trying to tap into the market of people who are ready to make a choice now. Google has also recognized this in online users, when they introduced their “instant” version of search results. Instant search is basically a cached version of search results which begin to appear, if you have the feature turned on, as quickly as you can type your query. It was just one step of many to come, by both search engines to engage a quickly growing user base, those who want information now, not just options to dig through.future

So what’s to come with search in the future? No one really knows for sure, but Google and Bing both have their teams working furiously to try and embrace the changing landscape. Amit Singhal, Googles head of search was even heard to say:

I would be so bold to predict that in the next two years, you’ll have a conversational search engine that you can talk to like you’re talking to me.

As much things change with the search world however, for the time being there are a few points you need to continue to work with. Remember the basics, and follow the best practices guidelines for building and maintaining your website. Your keywords are important, you can’t just slam a ton of text on your site and expect the search engines to sort it out for you, it needs to be properly written and useful to your users for the engines to take notice. Your website titles, they should follow some sort of relation to your business or service, but again, shouldn’t be filled to overflowing with keywords as that’s a no-no in the guidelines. Your URL structure is important too, as it can be used to create quick, and simple navigation for users and for crawlers as they go over your site. Having your pages properly named, and instead of using query strings for a dynamic site only helps your site gain brownie points online. As an example, what’s easier to remember on a website, an www.yourwebsite.com/about-us/ url, or www.yourwebsite.com/?q=7s9b992 . And lastly, it’s slowly making it’s way out, but your metatags still have some information to share with the search engines and your users, as you can layout what keywords you deem important and the description you use for your website. The future is definitely on the way for search, but you can’t move forward and completely forget what got you there in the first place.

Bouncing Visitors? Examine Your Message

Since you have your website built and online, you’ve added some great content and attached some analytics to monitor your traffic. You’ll start to notice a term in the layout that often gets more read into it than it really means – bounce rate.

bounce-rateYour websites bounce rate isn’t a mystery, all of the answers as to why people would leave your website are right in front of you, on your website. Where the confusion sometimes comes from is when users start to confuse the terms bounce rate and exit rate, as they’re not the same thing. WOrking with the definition of bounce rate from Wikipedia:

It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

Then, compare this to the base meaning of exit rate:

represents the percentage of visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific page

and you can see why they might get confused as they seem the same on the surface.

To begin with bounce rates, there is no such definitive value with which to balance your websites individual bounce rate. If you have a website built to sell running shoes for example, customers in search of loafers who searched for comfortable shoes will likely “bounce” off of your site once they see a front page full of cross trainers. With your analytics installed on your website, the only real clue and method to deduce why your bounce rate may be at a given level, is to go through your keyword breakdown, and see if there is a discrepancy there. If you find that you’re listing for terms which don’t entirely match with the goal of your site, you’ll experience a bounce rate roughly equal to the ratio of unrelated terms.

The exit rate from your website, may not in fact be a bad thing, depending of course on the aim of your website. If you act as a referral site for example, and you have a high exit rate to the sales or sign up site, then you’ve served your purpose. If you’re concerned that your bounce rate seems to be higher than you believe it should be, examine your content, and examine your message. All of the answers are there for the picking, you just need to take the time to work out the kinks.

Is Facebook Selling You Out?

fbWhen you’re busy at your computer, or even just taking some downtime and cruising around on Facebook connecting with your friends and family, have you ever wondered how the one of the two largest online properties continue to operate? They offer their services for free access, and you don’t even need to sign up to use it, at least in Googles case. If you’ve found that when you think about it, you really don’t know where their money comes from, you’re not alone.

In a survey conducted in August of last year it turns out that just over a third of internet users out there believe that search engines sell their data to marketers. Another third thought that maybe other companies pay annual dues to use those websites and even 20% of respondents thought that the sites offered premium features. While Google is somewhat transparent about how they make their dough, adwords and ad placements via adsense, Facebook is still working on fleshing out a clear revenue model. They have ads that are on every sidebar and profile page on the site, but with metrics showing that interaction on those ads being rather low, and with costs still high, it hadn’t fleshed out as reliable as of yet. At least in Googles court they’re not selling your information to marketers, still haven’t seen a clear answer from the Facebook side of the web however.

It’s been a number of years now, I think most who work full time on the web have stopped counting, but Google is the dominant force in the search world. Globally rocking somewhere around an 80% share with desktop users and where mobile is concerned, there really isn’t anyone else in the game. It’s no wonder that with the way the last year has gone with Panda/Penguin updates that some businesses have found themselves floundering, as it looks like they put all of their eggs into one, big, Google basket. Most analytic software can tell you where your traffic came from, whether it be Google, Bing, Facebook, or even from a referral link of sorts from a community driven site like Reddit. Using that information you can build a chart of sorts to get an idea of where your traffic is coming from. It’s likely you’ll find that a high percentage of your traffic, 65% and up does indeed come from Google, but if it starts getting higher than that you need to take a look at your website, and about diversifying your online position. In an ideal world, you’ll be getting almost an equal share of traffic from different sites, with Google making up the largest portion of the pie, say 50% or so, and the rest from other online sources. Because just like those who found themselves at the mercy of Panda and Penguin, if you’re relying too heavily on Google traffic, you’ll be in the dumps if you break any rules.