The decision was handed out yesterday from the FTC with Google versus everyone else basically, and while some people were happy with the decision, others obviously were not. In case you’ve missed any of the news surrounding the case, the very basic gist of what the complaint was that Google was controlling their monopoly of online search and marketing using anti-competitive practices.
There were a couple of good points made in the ruling, the main point being that a monopoly in a given market is not, by itself, illegal. In order to make a monopoly illegal, you need to gain, or maintain that hold using anti-competitive practices. This has been a long ongoing case in which the FTC poured over 9 million pages of documents after the charges were initially laid. And after all of that work, all of the discussions and meetings – Google has not violated any U.S. antitrust law.
It’s no real surprise that Google would be the target of such a case, they’re supremely dominant in the search industry. The Mountain View based giant accounted for 74.5% of all U.S. search advertising revenues in 2012. Microsoft on the other hand took in a significantly smaller share at 8% in the past year. The argument has long been that Google has been demoting or removing it’s rivals in their results pages in order to drive users to their own properties. And yet, after an investigation that nearly lasted for two years, and after what FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz described as “an incredibly thorough and careful investigation,” the FTC concluded unanimously that the evidence was lacking to charge Google.
While Google is going to make some changes in the way they do business, they’ve been cleared of any wrong doing where search is concerned, as it turns out they’re just better at it than the other options. From Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:
America’s antitrust laws are designed not to punish companies for growing too big or too unpopular, but to ensure no company stifles competition itself… The thriving Internet sector — a bright spot in America’s otherwise lackluster economy — shows no signs of suffering from too little competition.
There seems to be a fair amount of change coming on the search horizon, all of the previous updates over 2012 helped clean up the search results and with the growing acceptance of Google+ as a social network online marketing is set to make a transition. What exactly that transition will be, no one knows for sure in the search market, aside from the search engines that is. Just what Google and Microsoft have up their sleeves is anyones guess.
There have been the prediction blogs of what is to come in 2013, there have been the blogs reminiscing lost, or gained search rankings for 2012. But on the whole there seems to be two facets which are greatly worth considering for the coming search year. The first would be the social arena, if you don’t have a presence already it’s not too late to get in, but it will be a good bit of work, and the second is in the semantic side of search.
Social is easily described, having a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter page, as well as a blog all helps to draw your customers to your website. You can use the social side of the web in order to introduce sales, specials, or even the addition of a new product or service that you never previously offered in your business. The immediate benefit to using the social web is viewership, anyone and everyone who has subscribed to your feed has your new information the second you press that share button, instant traction. The barrier for entry as well, is extremely low, it’s your time. The more time you are able to put into your social pages and sites, the more potential traffic and news you can generate as a result. Google and Microsoft (Bing) haven’t fully taken on social signals as a heavy ranking factor, although they’re slowly getting there. Just how they will decide to leverage the social signals with other SEO efforts is yet to be seen however. 2013 could be another year of swings up and down the search results.
The other topic which bears some consideration is in the semantic side of search. Using proper markup in your webpages allows the search engines to easily and rapidly generate rich snippets for your website, increasing organic visibility and as a likely result generating more traffic to your site. One of the most basic forms of a rich snippet for example are the breadcrumbs which can be generated by search engine bots visiting your website. Take the search result for Facebook as an example, with only 10 results displayed on a search page, when the top 20% of the page is dominated with internal pages to your search query it definitely helps influence your clicks.
An interesting little theory for the New Year from Forbes: Apple is being eaten away inside by Google.
The Google Worm
Call it “the worm strategy”—because Google is attacking Apple from the inside out.Over the past six months, Google has begun to systematically replace core, Apple-made iOS apps with Google-made iOS apps.
And this leads to a world where? Well there’s Android users, surrounded by Google search, and there are iPhone users, downloading Google apps—all of which make Google search a prominent feature. Interesting Yes?
However Google faces exactly the same problem that everyone else does: how do you monetize mobile? This is something that no one has managed to worked out as yet:
The key driver is that mobile CPMs are only 15 percent of desktop CPMs. As traffic migrates, seven ads on mobile bring the same revenue as one on the desktop, not good, because the lower CPMs coincide with lower click-through rates. With me so far?
The problem is traffic is flooding from desktop to mobile and no one has yet really worked out how to make good money from mobile traffic. And there’s no certainty at all, although a good bet would be that if there is a solution to be found, that it will be Google that finds it, in the same way they did with AdWords for Web 1.0. ( I knew that would come back to haunt me one day) did they find it? or was it nicked from Overture, that’s another story.
Anyways gaining great chunks of iOS traffic through apps is just great, but that traffic still has to be monetised, so get working on ideas my friends, there’s money to be made here.
As always at this time of year we give our predictions for SEO for the following year, this year we have gathered some help from our friends & other search experts in the field who have given there twist on things to come.
In 2013, the SEO Role must go above and beyond. For example, a basic SEO strategy would obviously include some amount of reporting (for keyword rankings and traffic numbers at the least); however, I find myself analyzing the data to help my client better understand their demographic. Where are visitors accessing the site from, when do they access the site, and what are they specifically looking for when they are on the site?
All of these questions—and more—are in hopes of helping them identify new ways to effectively reach their customer base and ultimately make them more successful. It is SEO’s job to provide meaningful help.
Rand says links and rankings are just means to an end, not the end itself.
What clients really want is not better rankings and more links; they want to make more money.
The SEOs who understood and understand where Google is going and what their clients really want are the ones who are still in business and doing well. For them, the job of a SEO is content relevancy (public relations), user experience, web design, conversions, traffic segmentation, call tracking, research, writing, and anything else that sells products and services and leads to more profits for the client not just short-term, but long-term as well.
Most of all, the job of an SEO is to see the future. Those who can’t will go out of business and take their clients with them.
In conclusion, each of these experts—coming from multiple perspectives–agree that SEO will become a much broader and more complex function in 2013. Yet it will also become more vital than ever before, as it converges with every variety of online presence and marketing.
SEO 2013 predictions
As the digital era gave rise to technology and platforms that allow the average consumer to do anything from producing Web content to creating widely read digital publications, the publishing industry gave birth to countless niche sites that focus on everything from fitness to design. Given the ease of content distribution, some of these “super blogs” have been adding users at high rates and establishing themselves as authorities on their respective topics. Even major publications have been launching niche blogs under their umbrella to cater to specific topics, showcase particular writers, or keep their readers continuously updated on the latest news. Others, such as AOL, which now owns TechCrunch and Engadget, and Gawker, owner of Gizmodo, Jezebel and Lifehacker, have been simply acquiring high-traffic blogs as they build up their publishing portfolios.
As digital publications and super blogs get smarter and begin to tap into online and mobile advertising, it will become a major revenue stream for the top players worldwide. In the past year alone, newspapers have lost $13 in print revenue for every dollar earned in digital revenue. However, the future is bright in digital. There’s been a 60 percent increase in digital ad sales in newspapers and magazines and a burst from $76 million to an impressive $100 million is expected in 2013. Naturally, these super blogs, along with their highly focused audiences, will become major destinations for online ad dollars in 2013.
Some more Digital Advertising Predictions for 2013
So not such big of a news announcement as it’s all over the social and even some news channels, but in case you missed it the prophecy was wrong. The interpretations of the Mayan long calender proved false, as most people with sense knew it would, and the world did not end.
But while the physical world didn’t end overnight, Google was busy pushing out yet another update to the Panda algorithm, just in time for Christmas. This is the 23rd update since Panda first came into the search scene on February 24, 2011. The latest update affected nearly double the amount of queries, but if you consider that accounts for only 1.3% of results it’s a rather small sampling. There was also the non-update from last week, where the web acted like there was an update running, but Google said there was no such event. Perhaps it was a precursor to what we’ve seen over the last day or so with the new algorithm shift.
With all of the algorithm updates it can leave some of those who are uninitiated in search caught floundering without knowing that they’ve done anything really wrong. It happens fairly often that we have a very small business contact us for search engine optimization of their site, when all they really can afford, is to take the time to use the AdWords platform effectively. Adwords is the paid version of search results, often referred to as pay per click or search engine marketing, as you’re directly paying for position on the search page. The other large difference between PPC and SEO is the way the ads are displayed, AdWords results are listed as ‘Sponsored Listings’ and have a place on the far right of the page. The major limiting factor that directly contributes to your success in the SEM market, is your operating budget. There is no such thing as an unlimited budget, as every time a viewer clicks on one of your ads it will cost your business money.
There are some very simple rules you can thankfully assign to your ads though, which can help save you some much needed budget. You can schedule specific time frames where your ads are used in the bid system for example. If you sell sleeping pills for example, you could have your ads run only from 6pm until 6am daily, trying to appeal to your target demographic. It’s a very rough idea, but clearly shows the intent. One of the other very powerful tools you can use to shape your traffic and your views, is to use the negative search feature to block your ads from displaying on searches which don’t fit your business. A basic example would have to be if your business sells house slippers, you don’t need your ads to be showing for people who need or want outdoor foot wear. Two very simple, basic tools that already exist within the platform that allow small businesses to handle their advertising for themselves. With a little diligence, and careful crafting you can ensure your visibility with the biggest companies out there.
A topic that we have touched upon a number of times on the blog here is the discussion of skill sets. There is no all in one tool box when it comes to being a successful company online, you need to make sure to put the right tools in place. You should have your content and all of its creation, that is usually down to the business owner or visionary offering the services. You then need sales people, or if you are not into sales, a work force devoted to spreading your information, both on and offline. When you do have a website, you need to have a web team in place to manage your site, and finally online marketing. You need to have a dedicated team or individual in place who can manage your online branding efforts.
Being that we are an online focused company, we tend to see some prime examples of either one of two extremes. Either we have a client who decided that they could handle everything in house, and quickly learned that online management is a full time job in itself. The other side of the coin we find are others in our space, web designers or developers who try and sell themselves off as SEOs as well. When we have a new client who has come to us because they have learned they can’t manage the workload on their own, it is a great day. Primarily for them, for as long as they haven’t broken any of the rules, we can assist with their positioning easily.
An unfortunate thorn in our side however, are the individuals out there who bill themselves as a one stop shop for all things online. Cumulatively at Fresh, we have somewhere north of 40 years of experience in the online market, ranging from development, design, and optimization. We have always billed ourselves as online branding and internet marketing experts, but we can help you out if you need a new website designed and developed as well. And when it comes down to it, everyone within Fresh does the job they’re best at. A designer to design the sites, a developer to make them light and quick. One person taking care of the on site and on page work and the boss taking care of the finished product. If he finds a change that needs to be made, whether it’s in design, development or with the on site optimization, it gets sent back to be addressed before it goes live.
The idiom “horses for courses” is a phrase I came to know well working here at Fresh, basically meaning is what suits one person may not suit another. But it is that stringent starting point that has allowed us to provide our clients with the results they deserve and demand, both with their website and their online marketing efforts. 2012 will very soon be behind us, we will be ready come 2013 for you and your business, to help you succeed.
There is a saying that goes something like “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck”. It seems however, that contrary to the aforementioned saying, that even though everything pointed to an algorithm shift late last week, there wasn’t one. All of the signs were there, and the search results pages reacted in such a way that it seemed clear there was one.
Some of the signs that you can look for on the surface are fairly obvious, but some of the shifts need a long term history to double check information against. One of the first things you see as a user, when your results page comes up and you find you don’t recognize any of the returned values, that would be your first clue that there is activity within the algorithm. These shifts don’t often drastically affect the long term results, but an example of a large shift would be when Panda, Penguin, and the EMD (Exact Match Domain) were implemented.
Getting a little more in depth with examining the results page, a fairly common result of the algorithm making any kind of a shift is having a page built of mainly internal pages. To explain, instead of seeing a results page with addresses of www.abc.ca, you see internal pages, www.abc.ca/our-story.html. It is a change that is less noticeable than having a page of results that you don’t recognize, but it is this change that those who work in the realm of search optimization will look for first.
A much more in depth analysis can take place with the SERPs if you have the historical data for a website you manage. This information is one of the larger metrics that we will use as SEOs to determine if there has been a sudden change. Using the historical data we’ve compiled monitoring your website while helping you improve your online rankings will enable us to give a clearer answer to any questions you may have if you’ve suddenly found you’re no longer on the front page.
There is a new player in the mobile search world, one hoping to possibly take on the incredible domination of Google on the mobile front. Facebook has retooled one of their previous features to function as a local search technology, with a catch or two. The function which has been updated, “Previously Nearby” showed you where your friends had checked-in. With the recent update to the feather, it now shows where your friends have checked-in but more importantly, it will also show you local businesses, it has become a local search tool.
You can use the feature to search or browse the listings based on ratings, friend check-ins, as well as the amount of Likes and recommendations. The first filter your search has to pass through is your friend network, but if your friends haven’t visited any of the local businesses the the larger Facebook network will act as the first line of ordering. The idea behind the change is to likely have more people use the check-in feature, as you won’t be able to rate a business if you do not. The basic service idea would be to show you where your friends have been, and how positive, or negative, their experience was.
As a business owner, there are a few hurdles you need to overcome in order to grow, or maintain your position. First and foremost, you would need a Facebook Page to even be inducted into their search service, no Page, no listing. Some of the social media branding advice from Facebook includes:
- Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
- Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
- Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place
At present the feature isn’t prominently on display on mobile devices, it is buried in one of the menus effectively rendering it invisible, but that is only the temporary setting. Facebook doesn’t have the massive database of customer reviews that Yelp has, or even that Google has in their database, but with the sheer amount of mobile users that Facebook has on a monthly bases (600 million active) it won’t take long for it to grow. The only one other catch that exists within the new Nearby app, is the use is currently only on the mobile platform. It is a sensible move, as users have to have a mobile connected device to use the check-in feature as it is, but it will likely make it’s desktop debut should everything go well on the mobile front. We may be seeing the first stages of Facebook making a play into the search world with this iteration of local reviews and results pages.
Not that it should be any great surprise, but when comScore released the the search data they’ve compiled for the November 2012 search volumes, Google was at the top of the pack. The search giant is still sitting neatly and strongly at the head of the marketplace with more than two thirds of the monthly search volume, with Bing and Yahoo (powered by Bing) search taking up just over a quarter of the search market.
It should be a rather pointed argument against the hype Bing enjoys conjuring up in the news, both search and technological, that even with their Bing it on challenge and the fuss that they made about the Google shopping services, public usage of Google actually went up from Octobers numbers. It doesn’t sound like much, it was 0.1% increase, but when you’re talking about billions of searches, even that small of a number means a massive amount of search data.
Last month there was somwhere in the neighborhood of 17 billion searches performed, and that was just in the U.S., so where did you and your website come up? If you find that you’re not able to easily answer that question without talking to your website administrators, there are a few basic steps you can look into. You won’t end up with a definite numbered position where you ranked in search, but it will give you an idea as to the kind of chances you’ve given your brand online to rank.
When you approved your site design, did you make sure to stay away from an all graphic, or highly graphic website with little to no textual content on your home page? Your home page is your primary bait which you use to display yourself online. Is your information relevant to your business, and are you an authority in your space? It’s incredibly important to make sure you have your content well written, and at the same time try and stay away from industry specific terms as you can cut yourself off from potential leads. Occasionally it’s a good idea to just read your website through, clicking on all of your navigation points to see if everything is in order and makes sense. Sometimes, you might give your own content a once over and realize that some information you’ve included is no longer applicable to your niche and instead of helping your visibility online, it’s hampering your position. Lastly, talk to your online branding associate and try and keep an open line of communication. Nothing can slow down your online growth like leaving emails and phone calls unanswered.