We find here that we field a lot of inquiring phone calls from business owners looking for help with their online marketing. That’s find and great, but one of the questions that I often receive the longest pause when gathering information is when I ask what their goal is – are you going after a local market or a national market?
Recently a survey found that four out of five smartphone users conduct mobile searches to find nearby businesses offering the products and services they want. I’m sure that you’ve found that you do it yourself in this particular scenario – you’re out shopping and you find the item you’re after and you whip out your phone and start searching and comparing reviews and prices. An old school sales average tells the story that for every 10 pitches you’ll likely garner a sale, it’s one of those rules that are just known. If your site is built correctly though and you’re active with your mobile and local presence that average can jump to one in five instead of one in 10. Just let that sink in for a moment, and then contact your providers and make sure that you’ve been setup with local and mobile optimization in mind. Have your product lists, prices, phone numbers and physical addresses are some of the most important elements to include on your website, and absolutely required when targeting local customer groups.
An inconvenient truth is that most businesses are missing local opportunities because it is seen as more work than it is worth. Setting aside the improved positions in the results pages, making sure to give your site and products the extra TLC to be viewed and found on mobile will begin improving your conversions and fatten your bottom line.
When you’ve finally gotten your website online there are a million steps that you need to take in order to be ranked at the top of your niche market on the results pages. Instead of trying to explain each point, we’ll take a different tack this time around, how about a list of things of what not to do on your website.
If you’re not managing your site yourself, hopefully the person or agency you have contracted is on the ball and has a clue about how not to run afoul of the rules. If your site gets hit by a spam penalty, whether by the algorithm automatically or if you’ve been flagged manually, it isn’t the end of the world it can be fixed. But let’s get started so you can have a cheat sheet for yourself to check on your agencies efforts where your website is concerned. A note just before we get into things, these are not hard and fast rules, the internet isn’t even remotely a black and white entity, so take everything you read below with a grain of salt.
Misspelling words is an every day thing, everyone does it billions of times per day. But one way that you can run on the wrong side of the web spam team is if you happen to register a domain name with a misspelled version of a highly notable brand name in your niche with the idea to try and generate traffic off of the misspelled term. This is a good example of the web not being black and white, anyone can register any domain name so long as it’s available – but that doesn’t mean that the search engines don’t have a say in where it’ll place it in the results pages.
Having a meta refresh in your homepage, effectively locking visitors into your website by messing with their browser control. It’s not uncommon that when you arrive at the wrong website you hit the back button or the backspace key to return to the page you were at. But using a method like a meta refresh in the header of your websites home page removes that option to a visitor to your site. The basic sequence of events with this type of refresh is when a visitor lands on your page, it refreshes itself a time or two so that when they press the back button, they don’t actually leave the site. Instead they’ve just refreshed the page again and they’re back where they don’t want to be. It’s a frustrating experience in general for users, and a no-no with the search engines.
Having your website encoded entirely in Flash, Java and even some versions of Ajax or Silverlight which require specific browser plugins to function correctly. While this isn’t a negative with the search engines specifically, using entirely visual only coding effectively hides your website from the search engines. Being that Google, Bing and other engines look for text on a website, the text on a Flash and even sometimes Java scripts isn’t readable by them so they assume it’s a blank page. They are getting better at digging the text out, but they’re not all the way there yet so keep that in mind when a designer approaches you with a flashy visual display that has no real text elements. Along the same line of thinking but this time where users are concerned, more and more people are accessing the web with tablets and phones. iPads and iPhones take up a sizable share of the mobile marketplace and they can not display any Flash and some Java, your site would literally be invisible and unusable to an iPad user if you had an entirely Flash built website.
When you think of search results you often think of the biggest names in the game, Google being the biggest of them all. Bing sometimes shows up of course and they’re upping their game lately which is a very good thing for the internet as a whole.
The latest improvement that Bing is working on is actively leveraging the power of other search providers as well. The preliminary shots of how this is playing out is turning out to be handy to find local results and help you make a decision quicker than having only a single list of results in front of you. As an example, you may be looking for an dinner option for the evening, and if you use Bing for your search now you have the option of seeing additional results from sites like Yelp. Having more options in your search results page may seem counter intuitive but for everyone involved it’s an improvement. This follows somewhat in suit with how Google has had to open up their results page in the EU anti-trust settlement.
As a user, more options to make a decision is always a good thing. Not only does it allow you to possibly read some reviews and see personal experiences from other patrons, but you may get a handful of different results as well with which to base your decision.
As a business owner, having your name out there for even more potential terms than you’ve originally targeted can help grow your customer base. Making sure you have positive reviews and experiences will help your reputation with the other sites like Yelp or OpenTable, and also helps to reinforce your position in the organic results as well while growing your local customer loyalty.
Change is a great thing to be happening with the search engines and hopefully the inclusion of the other forms of providers only increases the quality of results as a whole.
It’s been a busy week working on the web with all of the heart attacks going on across the web. In case you were living under a rock for the last 5 days I’ll go through a quick recap for you.
The issue that popped up this weekend affected a absolutely massive portion of the web, some reports saying as much as 65% of all websites had the potential to be affected. When you’re talking about billions of websites and trillions of pages, it’s a huge amount of the web. Just to be clear about the issue, the Heartbeat bug affected sites that were using a specific security certificate from OpenSSL – the community driven option to paying for a security certificate for your website.
Without going into too much technical jargon and being confusing, the best description I found regarding the bug was this description of events.
The top portion of the exchange is how a secure connection works, it’s a very simplified version of events between your computer and the webserver you’ve connected to. The Heartbleed version of events that comprises the bottom portion of the image is where the exploit got it’s name. The process is the same, but via what’s called an overflow error a malicious user can request a longer string of information back related to your security code, called an overflow error.
The issue was found, corrected and there are multiple steps you can take if you feel that your personal web security was in question. CNet has a running list of sites which have been patched against the Heartbleed bug and if you should potentially change your passwords on those services. Have a look through their list and follow the proposed directions to minimize any potential security issues you may have in the future.
image credit : vox.com
Just read a really nice post about how no three month course can teach you how to code, I think this also applies to my industry, Internet marketing. I see colleges mainly online, pumping this crap out weekly, Get an Internet marketing Diploma in 3 months and earn millions, get qualified today and reach your potential.
I agree that some education is better than none, but nothing gets you more qualified than hours, may be the first 10,000 trying different things gets you at the starting blocks, any ways read the story, it probably relates to quite a few industries and remember, there’s no real short cuts in life or work, you reap what you sew and experience counts, a lot.
Time for a little bit of free advice for you and your website, especially if you happen to be an affiliate or a licensed dealer for a larger company.
There are definitely some positive aspects when you work as a dealer or an affiliate for a larger business or brand. You gain the instant recognition and the branding power built by the advertising dollars that have already been spent. You also usually have access to their marketing teams and some of their infrastructure in order to help develop and grow a web presence for yourself. Oodles of content, images, videos and more marketing materials than you would likely know what to realistically do with. Usually the conversation with the branding team consists of them telling you that as you build your site and use their assets, consists of being advised to just go ahead and copy what they’ve written and if you have any issues just link people back to their website.
Please, if you’re an affiliate or a dealer for a brand don’t do this.
Having all of their promotional materials, text content and images is an amazing start to your website and being able to promote their product but the last thing you want to do is follow that type of marketing advice. Instead what you want to do is use their text content as a guide and recreate it in a way that benefits your business and it’s location instead of copying it word for word. The images are less of a concern, as you can’t really edit them without losing the quality that some branding companies put into their photos. When you copy and paste your dealers content you’re basically telling the search engines that you’re selling their product – see my content is the same and I have the affiliate links and everything! And the search engines will promptly drop you down the page for that branding term as well, for precisely those points. Regardless of who you are, how large your brand is or how much money you make, if you try and skimp on the rules of the search game then you’re going to lose. Just ask BMW, Teleflora or JC Penny, they all had their own problems of course, but they’re multi-billion dollar brands and the search engines had no qualms about doling out penalties when they were necessary. Remember that with your small business when you’re ready to bring your site online, take the time to rewrite the content to make it relevant for you and your business. Cheat at your own peril.
We’ve always extolled the virtue of quality content with your website and about how it can help completely turn around an otherwise floundering web presence. There are two points when writing your content that seem to get missed frequently, the title of your content and the opening characters.
The first sentence of your content is just a little more important that the body of your work, only because it’s often that your search description will be pulled from that phrase. In order to ideally make the best use of that opening phrase a couple of points to consider when beginning to write your newest web page or blog post.
There are actually two sides of the coin with this first one – you can either get directly to the point of your content or if you don’t make sure it is a leading statement which compels the audience to continue reading. This is the hook you need to consider when attracting visitors to your site, do you want to grab them and drag them in with a pointed statement, or do you want to lure them in and have them browse your website and take in more of your pages online. Neither approaches are wrong, one is just a more gentle approach to your online audience.
The other issue that we see when working online is website owners having an amazing website and not showing up in the search results because they’re trying to be too clever with their content. Here at Freshtraffic we offer digital marketing and online branding services and that’s reflected directly in our first sentence when you arrive at our site.
Fresh Traffic is a boutique digital marketing firm HQ in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
We have who we are, what we do, and where we are all in just 76 characters in our opening phrase. Keep that in mind when working on your own web pages and content.
Not to forget though that the other major hook for your content is the title of your page and your content. Your title is the first thing that everyone sees to your content and website online so you need to ensure that it meets a couple of criteria or else you’re just wasting character space on the page. First thing to consider is actually a major point with your opening phrase, the length of your title. Ideally you’ll make your title less than 100 characters, because honestly anything even approaching that length is too long of a title. Use Twitter as a role model, a best case scenario is being able to fit your entire title as a Tweet with room to spare with an added “New Post” or “Flash Sales!” as an idea. The second title point coincides with the first, you should concentrate on making your title extremely clickable, link bait all on it’s own. Making your website and content highly relevant and becoming the leading authority in your niche market goes a long way to making your website linkable (visitors write their own content and link back to your pages) but the title of your pages and posts is the icing on the cake.
There is to this day a general misunderstanding about search engine optimization and just what it can do for your website and business; SEO will not sell your product for you.
What optimizing for search does do however is give you visibility online, a very important component of online sales to be sure but it’s only one side of the coin. For the sake of explaining assumptions will be made – seeing as how you likely have your own website for your business it would be somewhat safe to say that there is some experience selling yourself or your wares to your intended audience. When you’re working on a sale for yourself a solid general rule to follow would be around 1 in 10 or so, for every 10 contacts that you make you’ll earn a sale – it may seem low but this is from a strictly hard sell stand point. From that stand point the most difficult part of making that sale isn’t actually the conversation with the customer, it’s generating that initial point of contact. The days of people wandering down the sidewalk and walking into a store front that intrigues them are dwindling, increasingly often consumers are turning to the internet to procure their desired goods.
If you already have a website then a good 30% of the work is done already, you have the potential to turn that previous hard sell approach into a soft sell, qualified visitors to your site are there because they want what you have. That’s where SEO, aka internet marketing can help turn a paltry 10-20 visitors a month into hundreds, if not thousands if your market is big enough. What we can bring your business and website as SEO professionals is visibility, you are looking for the aforementioned qualified consumers – whether you want a sale, a sign up, or an contact me later email, search engine optimization can help make that happen.
What we can not do however, is actually force that sale for you and your website. Every now and then during a campaign there is a tipping point where we sit down with our clients and essentially have the following conversation. Now that we’ve addressed your technical and optimization issues, it’s time to talk about your conversion points and methods. What makes that conversation frustrating is when the advice is ignored or discounted because now that you have all that visibility and traffic your sales will go up the same amount, right?
If your brand has a website, more people are likely to come to it from search engines than anyplace else according to Forrester. That means Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to secure a high-ranking placement in the search results pages, is as essential means of marketing for anybody doing business on the internet.
Is SEO a science or an art? Science is facts or truths systematically arranged showing the operation of general laws. Art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination.
Here are 11 reasons SEO is a science; 14 reasons it’s an art.
SEO is a science because it operates according to mathematical laws that are statistical reliable and predictive of human behavior.
- #1 reason people come to your website (source: Forrester)
- 80% of people click on a website that is on the natural or organic side of the search engine page (source: Search Engine Watch)
- 35% click through to the website that is in the #1 position (source: SEO Book)
- 90% click through on a website that is on the 1st page (source: Search Engine Watch)
- Algorithms that comprise hundreds of criteria determine how websites rise or fall in rank for specific keywords
- Volume of search for any keyword and key phrase can be easily known with tools the the Google Keyword Planner and Wordtracker.
- Demand for those keywords, if it is increasing or decreasing over time, is measurable through Google Trends. So you can even predict what their value is both now and in the future.
- Search rank of your domain or your competitors’ can be tracked for any keyword or key phrase to help understand the rise or fall in rank by Ispionage or Rank Checker.
- Number of links that increase or decrease your authority in a particular area and also influences search rank can be found through Majestic SEO or Alexa.
- Value the links, whether they are high or low value authority, can be determined by SEO Majestic and Marketing Grader.
- Machines, or search bots, that do the searches on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines are programmed to even identify the underlying meanings behind by keywords to returns the most meaningful results. The is called Semantic Search, predicted to play a more important role with the Google ”Hummingbird” algorithm.
SEO is an art because mathematical models don’t establish business goals, tell convincing stories or know why your audience buys your product. You do.
- Search bot don’t buy your product, people do.
- It is impossible to model an algorithm on the needs of human being.
- Models can’t study your niche, let alone know your audience’s internet surfing habits or their shopping behavior.
- Keyword research takes creativity to know what is best for your audience and where there is an opportunity.
- People read good content before the read good keywords.
- A top rank doesn’t mean people take the action you want unless you’re clear with them on your website.
- Good, relevant, quality content is what readers (and algorithms) want. If you focus on this, search visibility follows.
- SEO is thinking about how marketing can encompass social, graphic design, link building, content generation, and PR to drive toward a common goal.
- SEO and marketing is creating social buzz (especially with Google+).
- High value links have to be placed where they are going to be most relevant and cause the most desirable actions
- Marketers, not machines and models, tell good stories, use keywords consistently and naturally, and flow them seamlessly into your copy.
- Titles that convince people have clarity, creativity, and imagination. The right keywords and key phrases just happen to be in them.
- If you view SEO as a byproduct of good content, high search rank generally focus.
- SEO won’t make your business a success, but you will.
This post comes out of a dialogue from Hollis Thomases, Augustine Fou, Mike Moran and Mark Schaefer, which was inspiring and worth building upon.
Search has changed dramatically over the past year and semantic technology has been at the center of it all. Consumers increasingly expect search engines to understand natural language and perceive the intent behind the words they type in, and search engine algorithms are rising to this challenge. This evolution in search has dramatic implications for marketers, consumers, technology developers and content creators — and it’s still the early days for this rapidly changing environment. Here is an overview of how search technology is changing, how these changes may affect you and what you can do to market your business more effectively in the new era of search.
What Is Semantic Technology?
The word “semantic” refers to meaning. According to Search Engine Journal, semantic search (also known as “entity search”) “uses machine intelligence to determine the intended meaning of words so searches become more relevant.” Semantic technology has been gradually introduced in recent years, offering users easier access to the information and connections they’re seeking. Without even knowing it, consumers are using more natural speech in their search queries and they EXPECT to be understood. As Search Insider puts it, the goal is to “focus less on keywords and more on intent-based collective intelligence.”
No longer focused on just keywords or even phrases, Internet search has evolved to employ a new level of sophistication, the so-called semantic search engine. From now on, Internet surfers will be able to search based on “entities”; in simple terms, persons, places and things. These entity searches will reveal far more about the topic being researched than was possible before. For example, instead of just directing you to a prominent contemporary person you may be researching, Bing’s “Satori” will link you to any and all ”Talks” that person has delivered.
Google’s new “Hummingbird” algorithm allows the user to conduct what Google calls “conversational searches”. By this they mean that the search engine will take an entire sentence into account, not just the words in the sentence. So, instead of directing you to the nearest pizza restaurant, you’ll be directed to the nearest pizza restaurant that’s currently open, has the special ingredients you want and offers a promotion to new and returning customers, or whatever else you type into the search bar. The search engine strives to understand not just the words, but their context, hence the term semantic search.
The New World of Search Engines
Schema.org: Bing, Yahoo and Google recognize that in order to adapt to the new search landscape, they would have to put competition aside and engage in some collaboration. In 2011, they jointly launched the Schema.org initiative. Schema defines a new set of HTML terms which can be added to a web page’s markup. They will be used as clues to the meaning of that page, and will assist search engines to recognize specific people, events, attributes, and so on. For example, if a webpage contains the word “pentagon,” a Schema definition will clarify whether it’s about the geometric five-sided figure or the Department of Defense headquarters building.
Knowledge Graph and Snapshot: Google has been increasing the scope of its Knowledge Graph results, which offers users a box on the right hand side of the search results page that provides images and facts that are applicable to the searcher’s intent. Bing’s Snapshot, which functions similarly, was enhanced in 2013 by the advent of “Satori,” which will assist with understanding the relationship between people, places, events and objects.
Hummingbird: In September 2013, Google announced the arrival of Hummingbird, its new search algorithm. According to Google search chief Amit Singhal, Hummingbird represents the most drastic change in search algorithms that Google has made since 2001. He explains in Search Engine Land that Panda and Penguin were updates to the old algorithm, and some aspects of them will continue to apply, but Hummingbird is actually an entirely new search engine, designed for the search needs of today. Hummingbird offers a greatly increased comprehension of the meaning behind the search terms. Instead of just taking a few words from the query and trying to find pages with those words on them, Hummingbird is actually trying to decipher the meaning behind the query and offer results that match users’ intent. The Search Insider blog points out that Bing and Yahoo have made similar changes, though perhaps less drastic. They have geared their searches to respond more to full phrases and to understand the meaning contained in a string of words.
Rising Stars: With the advent of semantic search, an array of new search engines are being freshly constructed. Although their user numbers are microscopic when compared to the major search engines, these new players have the advantage of being able to make a fresh start without worrying about modifying earlier structures. Examples of natural language search engines include: Powerset (now owned by Microsoft), Hakia and a handful of others.
Applications for Semantic Search Augmented Reality (AR): With Google Glass, an overlay (of a map, for instance) is layered on top of the landscape that is being physically seen by the viewer. This will lead to more image tagging and visually based searches. This has a natural tie-in to marketing, since shoppers will be able to look at something and then learn about it (and where to buy it) based on its appearance. However, Google Glass still faces some challenges: It uses a combination of image, facial and voice recognition technology, and that means that a continuous network connection is required because you can’t pack enough processing power into just a few ounces. However, this obstacle is likely to be overcome before too long, and wearable technology of all kinds is just over the horizon.
Search and Mobile: According to Search Insider, mobile search and the birth of Siri have been the biggest catalysts for consumers changing approach to search. Since Siri encourages natural language questions, and people have gotten accustomed to having immediate access to the information that they want, voice recognition technology is increasingly driving Search. The mobile search utility Google Now is powered by natural language, and fits into the user’s life by supplying them with the information they want before they even realize they want it. The expectation of this kind of responsiveness has circled back to text-based online searches, and all the major search engines have made adjustments to meet this demand.
Social Media and Semantic Technology: Facebook has announced that its new Graph Search is equipped with semantic search technology so that users can find the connections they want more easily, and advertisers can achieve more intuitive understanding of users’ preferences. Graph Search also enables far more accurate targeting of marketing, since it can make new connections. For example, a user (or advertiser) can find friends who like X who live in Y. Basically, the new technology provides a treasure trove for data mining, although it too has a few challenges to overcome.
The new deeper data levels are based on people spending more time on Facebook, with broad networks of friends and connections. Also, the public concern with Facebook privacy continues and these concerns may prevent people from “Liking” certain things. Overall, however, the prospects are bright; Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, predicts in Bloomberg Businessweek, “Graph Search will grow to about a quarter of Facebook’s revenue, or $3 billion to $4 billion in 2015.”
What are the Implications for Marketers and Content Creators?
In their introduction to Hummingbird, Google states that the new algorithm doesn’t really usher in any SEO changes. SEO success will still depend on simply presenting original, high-quality content. However, the science of marketing is undergoing change in response to semantic search, because improved perception of user intent opens new doors. Users will have far greater success in finding what they’re looking for, and marketing campaigns can drill down to finer and finer demographic sectors based on intent as well as device type, location, history, and so forth.
Graph Search, and its inevitable flock of cousins on other social media platforms, will intensify the networking aspects of consumption, as friendship and commerce become less and less distinguishable from one another. On the semantic web, each user’s identity and intent will become clearer, with the dual outcomes of being more successful at finding what they want and being more findable by the commercial entities who can provide what is wanted.
Penny Herscher, CEO of First Rain, a B2B customer intelligence firm, describes her vision of B2B marketing in the semantic search world. She presents a scenario in which you could see someone at a conference and, with the use of facial recognition software, instantly call up their identity and learn what business they’re in and who their clients and competitors are. Not only that, but you could have instantly available suggestions about whether it will be productive to go over and introduce yourself. Basically, augmented reality is a new relationship between the physical world, including physical face to face interactions, and a world of information that lies behind what you’re seeing. This information influences the way that you will interact with all the worlds you inhabit.
The Direction of Searches and Search Engines
Despite the billions and billions of searches, Google reports that 20 percent of all searches in 2012 were new. It seems quite staggering, but it’s a product of the semantic search rather than the simple keyword search. And the trend will continue. Searches will become faster and more relevant information will be delivered to the consumer. Today, 96 percent of consumers’ time on the Web is spent on content sites. Will that percentage someday reach 100 percent, with time searching reduced to a statistically insignificant number? And, with 35 percent of searches occurring outside of search engines, will your site and/or ads be properly structured to attract traffic from off the search world’s “beaten path”?
There is no definitive answer to all of these questions, just as there is no definitive forecast as to what the future of Internet searching and digital marketing will hold. Will your mobile device detect that you need a haircut and generate a text when you drive past a barber shop? Will your Internet habits allow new algorithms to be developed that will predict your future activities? Certainly, the future possibilities are endless for those who are studious enough to keep pace and agile enough to adjust.
Kerstin Recker is the head of marketing at Vertical Search Works.