When I arrived in Canada in August 2007 I got to speak with three print media giants in their own area, The Yellow Pages, Winnipeg Free Press & Winnipeg Sun, in that order.
I told each and every one of them that they needed to change outlook and the way they operate to make dollars and survive going forward, all thought I was some cocky nut from Blighty.
Funny how things work out, The YP, they owned autotrader at that time and took what I told them as a slap in the face on how they needed to change direction on how they advertise, worked online etc., they sold it to the Brits losing $500 million dollars. Full Story Here
Then I spoke with the Free Press on a couple of occasions thinking I might get more traction in my adopted city, they had a circulation of around 500,000 at the time if we believe the stats, again they thought this guy is nuts, all he does is go on about Online, Google and Social Media, we are starting our own stuff on our website selling cars, real estate and banner ads, we know what we are doing, a few years later they tell me they are doing their own app and this is going to be killer, I asked for who?, I learned last week they are changing again as all this has not panned out as expected, were losing revenue and oh we are building a new website too.
Thirdly the Winnipeg Sun, I had a great meeting with the then boss Kevin Klein, a nice guy who actually had some idea of what the future might hold, but unfortunately they were tied to some boat company and there advertising ways, not good either, so today they announce they are laying off 500 workers to save $45 million a year. Full Story Here
The morale of this story, don’t judge a book or the person even if the book might be slightly X Rated, if that book has been a best seller around the world, maybe, just maybe they could be something in there your missing that could help.
The world has changed dramatically on how we get news, tweets to our tablet hours before the main news announce it, mobile uploads at the scene, if you have not lived this way of life for the last decade it’s very hard to catch up.
Shit Kickers we are, we have never denied that, but it’s all for our clients, when they win we win and we win alot.
It has been about a year since Google began encrypting the search data automatically for it’s signed in users, which has crept up in the search metrics to be a rather hefty portion. As it has turned out, almost 40% of the keyword results to a group of 400+ websites has returned the ‘not provided’ Google Analytics.
The 40% statistic of ‘not provided’ is just an average sampling of what has been found, some sites reported as high as a 60% sampling of the returned value. As a user of the web, on the surface it looks like a great feature that being signed into your Google account does not disclose how you searched for a site, but as someone who works daily on the web has been a slight hinderance. A very basic break down of how, as marketers, we would use search metrics to handle our site traffic is:
keywords you searched
page you landed on
does content match
did you stay on the page
That’s just a very basic run down of how we use the information that is now hidden to Analytics users. Now that Analytics users are getting the returned value of ‘not provided’ keyword for as much as 40% of their search results, it makes it tougher for them to discern visitor flow through to their website.
It sounds on the surface like a win for user privacy and control of your information, but in reality it makes targeted marketing campaigns much more difficult. Think of it in terms of shotgun marketing versus precisely tuned, instead of finding exactly what you’re looking for in your search results page, you have to start playing the back and forth game. Click a result, if it’s not what you want, search again and try again. It can make the process much more drawn out than it should be.
We’re firm believers that you choose the right tool for the job, and that’s why here at Fresh I am not a web designer. I can optimize a site, I can make it run like it’s on lightning and clean and organize code to an point of near OCD. Design a site however, and I fail horribly in the aesthetic aspect. It’s at that point that we bring in a proper designer to create the product image, and I take it from there.
It is very important that we do this too, as just as it’s a time consuming process to work the optimization to a proper level, so is the design of a site, all the way down to the color scheme. Color isn’t so much as a deciding factor in the case of organic search optimization, but you need to consider what visitor you’re building your site for. People, not crawlers are what is going to bring you the return on your website investment, and if a visitor is immediately turned off by the aesthetic of your site and clicks that back button, you can just as well chalk it up to a negative mark to the search engine results pages. If visitors don’t like spending time on your site, it won’t matter if you have the best content in the world, they won’t link back to it and you won’t build relevance which won’t help drive you up the results. It’s a circular issue, and it can all come down to a simple website trait, even just your color scheme.
It’s been offline for a great while, but anyone who used the web 10 years ago remembers the visual atrocity that was the Geocity personal pages. Gif laden with pixel graphics and flashing banners, it was a difficult task to navigate through them to find what content you might happen to be looking for at the time. I’m sure there are enough people out there who remember trying to read yellow text on a green background a time or two. The web has thankfully matured to a much better point, with high resolution graphics and some vastly talented designers coming up with some incredibly detailed and interactive websites.
So when you’re working on your image of your website, remember to keep things easy on the eyes. You can be stylish and still be functional, make your site easy to navigate and read. Make sure your images and graphics blend in naturally with your site and try and stick to color schemes that don’t assault your senses. It seems like such a trivial point when you think of the bigger picture, but even just the colors of your website can drive your site around on the results pages.
After putting in extensive time and effort into procuring a website and filling it with great content, it’s then that the single most important step you can take online needs to take place. Your search engine optimization efforts – do you hire the professionals, or do you try to take care of it in house. In case you’re asking, the right answer is always hire the professionals, but, if you do decide to take on more than just the basics of good design, there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of.
One of the primary steps you need to consider with a new website if you had one previous, is what to do with all of those old links and content. The right answer, is to properly 301 redirect them and make sure that you’re tieing everything together properly. If you don’t, you’ve basically destroyed any kind of history and relevancy you may have already built with the search engines. Just because you’re revamping your image and/or your marketing drive, doesn’t mean you immediately toss out what you had previous, think of your old site and links your bedrock. If you just toss it to the wind you’re cutting your legs out from under you.
Also in the same line of thinking, just because you may be the big fish in the pond for your industry, that means little or nothing on the search engines. Even if you’ve been the key player for the last 10 years, don’t automatically assume that you know how your current and prospective clients might try and search to find you. Proper keyword research is absolutely imperative in being able to be properly indexed and found online. Just like in the previous example, you’d be selling your site short if you don’t do it right.
Don’t be lazy and take shortcuts, whether it means in your website or in your optimization efforts. If you’ve hired someone to take care of your SEO for you (as you should) then make sure to get periodic updates from them so you can have an idea as to how you’re progressing online. It’s in our best interest to do our absolute best for you, because great ROI for you means great ROI for us, it goes both ways. If you’ve chosen to go your own way and try and perform SEO on your own, be extremely mindful that there are hundreds of ways to get caught up, even accidentally, in the search web. If you don’t know how to navigate through the myriad of mazes that is the search engine optimization process, then you should know enough to call in the big guns.
My last point has to do with the idea of being lazy, and not really knowing what you’re doing, but I won’t elaborate on it a whole bunch as the answer is very simple. Links – if you don’t have the time or the skill to properly build them, do not assume you can buy them. You never buy links.. ever.
So finally the election is finished, and the winner has been decided. If for some reason you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of days, Obama took the crown and is set to begin his second term as the President of the United States. And regardless of who you were rooting for, there were some interesting search discoveries over the last couple of months of the battle, which have their roots in search.
A few days back, there was a story run in the Wall Street Journal about how Google was serving up results pages in what some were thinking was a strange coincidence. It seemed that even with being signed out of a Google account, and being on a cookie free browser, the results when searching for Obama almost bcame personalized. The article that was published even went on to say that the search engine was biased when searching for obama and related news, with one story coming right out and saying that the candidates were being treated unfairly. While it would make for a great conspiracy story, the unexciting truth is that it’s just how the Google algo works. Google simply displayed results based on how people searched for terms, the example being
more people searched for “Obama” followed by searches for “Iran” than the number of people who searched for “Romney” followed by “Iran.”
That was the first interesting point, the second follows in a similar vein.
It’s not really news anymore that between the candidates there were hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigning, but it was interesting to find that Obama out bid Romney on search ads online at nearly three to one. Both were bidding on the big hitters like ”2012 election” and “2012 presidential polls” to lead people to their campaign websites, but it was the former President who owned the paid advertisements of the results pages. Sticking in the trend of online visibility, Obama had Romney beat across the board with more Facebook fans, website visitors and Youtube video views.
The largest demographic in the voting populace is shifting to a much younger, information hungry crowd, so being able to be found online should be an integral cog in any parties agenda. When you shake all the numbers out from organic results to paid search, it looks like in the end Obama simply out optimized his opponent, and as helped secure himself with a second term.
Recently Google confirmed that another Panda Update has happened. Worldwide, the update will impact only about 0.4% of queries that a regular user might notice, in the US that number reaches around 1.1%. This latest update makes the 21st confirmed Panda Update by Google and while it can leave site owners a bit leery, there are a few things that you can do to help your site.
One of the simplest things that you can do for your online position is to create a dialogue between you and your customers. Keeping them apprised of developments in your business or your product, and encouraging discussion. It can lend your site ongoing, timely stuff to encourage the Google algorithms that feature content based on freshness.
What this can do is attract your audience to interact with you. User interaction signals like a comment discussion, can help your site gain higher prominence in Google local results. Having an active blog can also develop into more subscribers and frequent visits, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open. Blogging enables you to rank in Blog Search results as well as assisting with regular keyword results. Ultimately your goal, is gaining more prominent positions in your local search result.
An added benefit of blogging is it provides you with your own voice, in case anyone ever tries to attack your company online. You can think of writing your own blog as a linchpin of proactive online reputation management. Because where the internet is concerned, it’s forever and once it’s out there anyone can find it. This is also your simplest route into the social media market, as you can develop your own Facebook fan page, Google+ page and a Twitter feed, and link your blog directly to it. This provides your business with a solid bedrock for developing your own, unique social media presence. Using your blog as a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want.
In the online digital world that we’re moving towards, there are a lot of intangible elements that can leave you wanting for more. Are my documents really safe to be stored only in a cloud service? How can I discerne how my visitors interact with my website? Is it possible for me to work out a precise return on investment for my SEO and PPC (pay per click) campaigns?
With there being so many extra variables, it’s difficult to acurately answer those types of questions, as each case is unique. Some cloud services are much more reliable than others for example, while even the biggest and best companies don’t sell themselves as having 100% uptime. Because where the web is concerned, it’s still has more than enough unknown variables affecting performance. There has been software, which reports assumptions of how visitors interact with your website for example, basing it’s calculations on mouse point duration and location. It takes the clicks that users perform on your website and use the aforementioned mouse position to determine your highest activity zones on your website. It’s still a best guess scenario at any rate, as it can only assume that each visitor to your site is actively engaged, and not tabbed out of the screen leaving you with a false positive.
Return on investment, is also one of those intangible variables that can be difficult to distinguish where search engine optimization is concerned. Pay per click is different in that you are actively bidding on your traffic and visitors, banking on their impulses to make conversions. Google Adwords for example can give you a calculated percentage of what each click through visitor was worth for you, so you can determine if your Adwords cost is justified, so you can make a solid decision on that investment. SEO is a tougher variable to work with, as your site content has to be that much better. Once you’ve worked on your campaign well enough to rank organically, you need to then work on your content to determine if it will elicit the response you want, whether it’s a newsletter sign up, email address or a direct purchase. There are a handful of sites which are built to help you work out the return on your SEO investment, some of which run with a hefty price tag. Organic optimization is the business of bringing your website relevant traffic, if your content is well done, you’ll convert to the type of result you’re looking for. Sometimes the information you’re seeking, is only a few clicks away, and you will learn how you’re being found.
Now that Halloween is officially over, the shopping rush of Christmas is going to begin. Each and every year there is billions of dollars to be made online as more and more often shoppers are using the web to avoid the holiday masses in store. Here in Canada we have about 1 in 5 gifts purchased online, and while that might seem like a sizable amount, the reality is we’re well behind the pack.
A great quote about our current state of online shopping:
E-commerce could be a much, much larger trend in Canada if consumers had more places to shop online.
Rafe Petkovic, Google Canada
In terms of saturation, Canada is 5 to 6 years behind the rest of the world for online shopping, much where the UK was in 2006/07. There is an upside to our situation however, and it exists mainly because everyone else already did the work, all we would have to do is copy it, for lack of a better description. Can we improve our online offerings and move more towards the digital world with the rest of the world? Absolutely, all of the trials and tribulations with building the online shopping centers have already been ironed out.
There is a downside however, and it’s one that we frequently meet here at Fresh. The business owners who are resistent to change, growth, and adapting the online world and business model. When Jerry opened the offices here in Winnipeg, he was often met with resistence when outlining a new plan for an online presence even though the methods are proven successful in much tougher markets. In 2011 in the US, 70% of Internet users were online shoppers and for the UK that number was 82.5%. Canada was sitting at just under 57% of users were online shoppers, and the only one stopping that number from going up are the business owners.
The steps that are needed to be made to have a successful online shopping destination are not small ones, and make no mistake about the cost, because you get what you pay for. If you try and go cheap on a website or a shopping portal, just to get your name in the game, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you shipping issues, security issues or problems with payment processing. It’s a job that needs to be monitored, that needs to be guided and needs a proven professional company to do it right. Christmas is fast approaching, it’s only 7 weeks away, are you ready or able to properly serve your customers?
Search engine optimization as new as it is as an industry, still seems to raise the ire of in house company marketers. When a company has an advertising budget to use to be able to drive people to their business, whether it’s on or offline, it’s where online marketing becomes a problem.
The reason it becomes a problem, is because crafty marketers will try their hardest to think outside the box and find that niche strategy that lands the large influx of new customers or clients. One of the newer trends to online marketing is the idea that social marketing is thee benchmark requirement now, if you’re not using social then you’re losing out. The truth of the matter though? If you really, really wanted to you could entirely skip social media marketing and do just fine. Social media marketing and trying to take advantage of the potential there in isn’t the next big thing in the sense that if you’re not doing it you automatically lose, all it really does is give you another means to communicate with your customers/clients/consumer base.
It works like this, you set your business up with a Facebook page, a Google+ page and maybe a Twitter account, add the maintenance of these pages into your already packed full scheduled needs. Now you need a dedicated person to manage these pages, whether it’s posting a flash sale for example, or maybe it’s to respond to some criticism that’s trying to be pushed onto your brand or business image. This is a full time job, in and of itself, and if mismanaged can lead to negative repurcussions with your image directly offline. Now, is having a social media presence a positive aspect for your brand/business? Yes, but it needs to be managed, and no it is not required to be found in the results pages.
If you’re thinking about making the plunge into the social sector, ask yourself these few questions before you do, you may end up saving yourself a large amount of time and headaches down the road.
1)Do our customers ask for our Facebook/Twitter/Google+ name?
2)Is our customer base shrinking because of the lack of a social space?
3)Do we have too many testimonials and positive reviews to post on our website?
4)Are we missing out on conversions due to lack of a social presence?
A phrase often uttered where online marketing is discussed is ‘Content is king’. Even the search engines are in on the act, with many of their guides directly mentioning to keep tabs on content, it’s creation and how you have it on your site. What no one has really every asked or wondered in these discussions, seems to be the why part of the equation, why is content so important.
Firstly, content is a rather broad term, it can be text on your site, images, videos, interactive forms, almost anything you can place on your site to engage visitors is deemed as content. Once you have your content on your site, it’s up to either yourself, or your visitors to spread it around the web. Some of the faster ways you can do that for yourself would be via a Twitter or Facebook feed, obviously one with your clients as followers. The idea is that your followers link to your content, and help spread the word that you’re the leading authority in widget and doohicky sales in town.
This is where your content has started to generate back links to your website, and where your authority can be proven in your niche market. This you could call the third step of being relevant in the search engines, as the path to this point has been Content -> Followers -> Back links. If you follow the hype that the greener SEOs out there try to sell, it’s that you have no control over who links to your content, and to a degree they are correct. Almost every small business owner out there doesn’t have the hours in the day to devote to creating content, monitoring followers and the policing where there links are coming from. There aren’t really even that many who know how to view their backlinks profile in a search engine.
This is where a small portion of the real search engine optimization work comes into play, online body guards. It is in our best interest to ensure that any single backlink you have coming to your site, is from a reliable and relevant source. Once you create your content and make it available online, it’s in the wild and you really do have no control over who links to it, but we have the time, the expertise, and the steps in place to take care of who links to your site and content. So in the end, a simple four steps as to why content is king could be viewed as follows:
Content -> Followers
Relevance < – Backlinks