With the explosive growth of the web and the rapid pace of business development online it managed to catch a lot of the older, more established industries with their proverbial pants down. And every now and then, one of them tries to make a change to catch up to the pace of the web.
The Wall Street Journal introduced one of the first methods of pay for news services by an online newspaper, they saw the coming of the storm and instituted the first known version in ’97. They started off slowly, but in less than ten years they had garnered more than a million readers and have been going strong ever since. Had more ‘old media’ agencies like radio and newspaper followed their example then it’s likely they wouldn’t complain about the loss of consumers as they head to the web to get more of the news that they want.
The WSJ did the right thing for them when it was needed in order to not only survive the online marketplace, but to thrive as well.
But every now and then, there is a surprise and a business does something completely unexpected, and launches a business idea that is completely out of their scope of services that it’s startling to see; like a newspaper suddenly offering website design and development services. Now to be fair, that’s not entirely out of their range of business as they do have an advertising department and offering designers up for websites isn’t out of their realm of possibility. They already create ads to run in their papers and flyers, so it’s not entirely foreign that they would be able to help out for businesses that might need a website. When they start offering up search engine optimization services though, now we’re talking about leaving their realm of expertise completely. There is a very specific set of skills that is required in order to be able to properly work an SEO campaign, and the odds that a newspaper can meet those needs is slim at best. Horses for courses as they say, and the last time I looked a print newspaper is almost the exact opposite of the online market.
A major decision when you’re working with your website is to decide what is your overall aim – are you going after customers and sign ups, or is it all part of a larger plan.
A misconception which still seems to plague the online marketplace is just how valuable the web can be for you and your business. It seems that a portion of every client introduction has to be devoted to working out what the goal is for your company. If you’re looking to have people buy into your product or your service we have to work your site and its content in a different fashion than say, trying to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter.
Let’s presume for a moment you’re going for the sales approach this time around. One of the first questions that we’ll ask ourselves is ‘would I buy anything right now on this website’. Sometimes the conversion points are good on the site and we only have a few areas to tighten up, but more often than not the process to even begin to buy anything from the website is lost, or unintuitive to the visitor. One of the major hurdles when building and refining a website with a sales orientation is ensuring that the process is so simple the process can be completed with a few mouse clicks and with typing in billing and shipping information. The more difficult you make your process the less likely you are to succeed. Email signups or newsletter mail listings are another matter entirely where the web is concerned. It only takes a search in the news to find out that there are privacy concerns running rampant across the web. So when you come forward and are asking people for their email address, you need to do it in a more delicate way. And just like the sales approach of the web you need to make sure that the process is very simple, and very clear to understand.
The value behind the web that seems to slip by more people than not, is the power of the web in building, promoting and spreading your business as a brand name. Brand names are those ubiquitous terms or phrases that just instantly pop into your mind when someone says something like ‘soft drink’. You think of Coca Cola, or Pepsi, or one of your other favorites – the goal of branding your business online should always have this end in mind. Because regardless of whether you’re trying to make a sale, create a newsletter list or trying to be number one on page one, what should be your end all be all is your business being known as a brand.
A new year has dawned and the search game is as active as ever. You have a full clean slate ahead of your business and your website, but do you know what your goals are?
Last year was actually rather monumental in the world of search, we had farmers, pandas and penguins appearing seemingly from no where. There were the affiliate changes, the encrypted terms and semantic search that were all brought to the top headlines of blogs and posters across the web. All of them were large shifts in how the search results are created and displayed for sure, but the key aspect of their purpose remained the same – the better your visibility the more likely you are to get what you want out of the web.
There is a lot of potential for the coming year for search to be sure, but first we need to stop for a brief moment and take stock of the previous 12 months. A thorough understanding of what has been done and what the results have been will help dictate what needs to improve for the coming year. Whether it was a lackluster social profile, possibly a declining search presence or perhaps you put your nose to your grindstone and saw all of your positions jump over the last year.
Regardless of what your past 12 months were like with the search engines, you now have a fresh, clean canvas ahead of you. Give us a call and we’ll make sure that you paint your vision of the coming year.
2013 was one of the most impactful years on the SEO industry in recent history. From the Panda updates early in the year to the crushing Penguin 2.0 in May to the launch of the Hummingbird Google algorithm in August, the full encryption of Google organic search data beginning in September, and Penguin 2.1 in October, the search engines had digital marketing professionals working overtime to keep up with the changing landscape and in many cases business owners losing more than half their market overnight.
3 Most Impactful Updates in 2013:
- Penguin 2.0-2.1: As if Pengiun 2.0 didn’t cause enough mayhem in the SEO community, along came the next chapter of the Penguin saga. Some sites that survived Penguin 2.0 were hit while many that were already affected by 2.0 suffered further damage by 2.1. The result of these Google algorithm updates is the need for sites affected to actively clean up their link profiles. An effort must be made to identify links hindering performance and/or leading to penalties and manually reach out to the hosts to request removal. This is the only way to recover any performance lost in the updates.
- Google Keyword Data Encryption: With 80+ percent of organic search data not providing the actual referring keyword data, the sample size is now too small to really make informed strategic decisions based on keyword-level data alone. Rather, in order to make the right decisions, a shift needs to occur from analyzing keyword-level data to leveraging alternate data points and sources such as page-level data.
- Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Launch: As a result of Google’s new algorithm launch, a great deal of focus must also be placed on effective content development. Specifically, content strategies must be adjusted in such a way that produces answers common questions a particular business’s consumer base is looking to have answered. More of a focus on locally targeted content must also be established as results are now more localized.
It’s one thing to read news and conjecture about the death of search engine optimization, but it’s another point all together when the provider comes forward and admits that their organic search is failing.
No the news hasn’t come from any major search engine, but it has come from the worlds largest social network – Facebook. It has really only been a year or so since Facebook has come out with their graph search – their newest search iteration that tries to show you what is included in your social circles in only a few keystrokes. There were two main points that they’ve shared that has raised the ire search marketers across the web.
We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site (Facebook). We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.
So in short, now that Facebook has the attention of somewhere north of a billion users, they’re telling business page owners that if you want to be seen, you’re better off paying them if you want to be seen.
So if you have a business page on Facebook, you aren’t completely lost with the surprising information – you do have options that you can exercise instead of just abandoning the Facebook ship. One of the primary things you can do if you don’t want to deal with the changes is to completely jump ship for the other social media services out there – LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ namely. They all have their pros and cons, LinkedIn is a more professional social network and allows you to build a professional relationship around their network of users. Twitter allows you to speak instantly, and clearly to anyone who wants to listen, and Google+ while still relatively unused as a social service, has developed an almost rabid fan following of users.
Your other choice is to roll with the punches that Facebook is throwing your way and adapt to their upcoming changes and see where you come out on the other side. While paid advertising works on any network whether it’s social or search, you need to understand that a high portion of your budget is going to become general advertising overhead. It also needs to be understood that if you decide to use Facebook as a traffic generator, that your budget will have to also increase as you’ll essentially be paying people to see your page and website.
It is yet to be determined what the outcome for Facebook will be with this change to their organic algorithm, but with the change just being announced it has already caused some major friction in the search game, the social impact is yet to be seen.
In the quest for online dominance, where do you believe is the best place to lay your allegiance – Do you go after organic dominance, social dominance, or diversify?
Not that it should really be a difficult question, but putting all of your eggs in one basket, whether it be organic or social, has never been a good idea. There are pros an cons to each area of online visibility the question that really needs to be asked and answered is what type of balance should you go after as a website owner?
Going after the top of the charts for organic listings is an almost immeasurably powerful position. When you’re in the top 3 results for your key term targets you can easily enjoy 95% or more traffic than being at number 5 or 6 on the results pages. The direct benefit of being in those top spots can be the difference between sending your staff on a paid holiday as a Christmas bonus, or taking them all out to McDonalds for lunch. In a survey conducted earlier this year it was determined that being number 1 for your search term safely netted you more than a third of all traffic for that term, while being number 5 and less, dropped you to the 5% of all traffic. And the reason is actually fairly simple – users like quick and easy to get to their end destination. When a user searches for a service, say they need a banner printer locally, it’s unlikely that they will scroll down the first page passed the first couple of results as they’ll get a listing of all of the local businesses that can provide them with a banner. And when you incorporate into the organic results the inclusion of maps results when someone is looking for a business, it’s even more likely that the user won’t scroll down the page.
The only real downside to organic search engine marketing is the time factor, it takes time for your site to be listed appropriately. And with the constant changes to the search engine algorithms, what is best practices today, may be a red flag the next, it’s a continually evolving landscape that needs to monitored and tended to. As a result of the due diligence required to appropriately monitor the fluctuating search changes, there is often the cost required to keep your SEO on call in order to meet the changes head on.
Social dominance is a whole other ball of wax that requires a different spin in order to capitalize on the marketplace. When you become a force to be reckoned with in the social arena your business enjoys the fandom of (hopefully) thousands of immediate customers and subscribers that are already part of your qualified consumer base. The potential of viral marketing is currently unmatched in how quickly it can bring your company to the attention of your local audience, and potentially even the world. So in short, the social area provides you with a prequalified audience of consumers, the quick sharing of information across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc), and the potential to go viral and become world known in a relatively short time frame.
A negative to the added visibility and power of the social arena though is first off, it takes a fair bit of time to acquire your consumer base and make them believers in your products and service. It’s much like you’re contracting them to be your sales force by sharing your message as you share with them, and this required a fair bit of personal dedication. And with the potential to go viral with an incredible message (like the recent Westjet video) the potential to run afoul of the internet exists as well. Being active in the social arena needs to be carefully tempered, and your marketing team needs to be diligent in their handling of customers, both positive and negative so as not to find themselves on the wrong side of the news.
There has been a huge surge in mobile search usage over the last few years with the growth of mobile devices in the world. But as in any industry experiencing growth, there are always a few growing pains.
In a survey conducted last month it there were a few surprising discoveries made, which should make both search providers and website owners sit up and take notice. Of all of the respondents nearly 75% of them said that while they all use search on their mobile device, it was more difficult to use. Another interesting take away from the survey was that while the realization that even with the entirety of the internet at their fingertips, just over 21% of mobile users don’t use their devices to conduct a search of any kind. While it was surprising to find that so many don’t take advantage of using search on their mobile devices, it was interesting to note that most users search the same on mobile as they do on their desktop computers.
Where the search providers really need to sit up and start to take notice is when mobile users were quizzed on their experiences while searching the web from their phones and tablets. Of everyone surveyed, more than 60% of the people who responded said that it was more difficult to search using mobile than it is to use a desktop computer. Google and iPhones have been pushing mobile voice command search and the like, but less than 20% of users took advantage of the feature.
The survey was conducted just last month and from a relatively small sample size of just a few hundred, but the results should be noted. If you own a website you need to make sure that it is mobile friendly, the current buzz term for it would be “responsive design”. Ensure you make your content easily viewable on mobile and relevant to their search, and you’ll find yourself reaping the advantages of taking the time and doing the job correct the first time.
If you have children or grandchildren you NEED to read this. Lots of people have no idea this could happen from taking pictures on the blackberry or cell phone. It’s scary.
The storage of location based data, in the form of Latitude and Longitude inside of images is called Geotagging; essentially tagging your photograph with the geographic location. This data is stored inside if the metadata if JPEG images and is useful for tying the photograph to a location. Want to remember exactly where you took those photographs while on vacation? This information is for you.
However, most modern digital cameras do not automatically add geolocation (Latitude and Longitude) metadata to pictures. The process for adding the geolocation data either requires specialized add on hardware, or post processing with software on the desktop after the pictures are taken.
There is a large exception to this rule: Smartphones. With the proliferation of smart phones that contain GPS locator technology inside, the cameras in these devices are already equipped with the specialized hardware to automatically add geolocation information to the pictures at the time they are taken.
Most people don’t realize that the action of automatic geotagging takes place on their smart phones, either because it is enabled by default, not exposed the user as an option, or was asked and then forgotten. As a result, individuals often share too much information about their location, right down to the exact Latitude and Longitude when snapping photos with their smartpphone and posting them online.
The easiest way to stop posting this information for all to see it to disable geotagging on your smartphone. Read This About Geotagging
Two of the biggest online shopping shopping days have come and passed with Cyber Monday and Black Friday, did you make sure to capitalize? Based on a recent industry polling, it seems that it’s likely that you didn’t.
The growth that Canadian retailers have been experiencing online for the last year or so has slowed to such a crawl that it’s nearly at a standstill. It is doubly important to get your collective heads in the game, especially since consumers savvy hasn’t slowed in the slightest where shopping is concerned. Online spending has been on a swift rise for more than 4 years in Canada, but has all but shifted to south of the border due to retailers not homing in on this trend and capitalizing. Of course there is a cost to developing a proper ecommerce site but the benefit drastically outweighs that cost. There are some major brands out there of course which have their ecommerce solutions built and took advantage of the billions of dollars that were spent in the last week online, but most missed out than benefited, and even some who should know better lost out where ecommerce in Canada is concerned.
When Target made its big launch into Canada in March it didn’t include an online store, Canadian Tire only sells tires online and although it plans to enact a wider e-commerce strategy next year, it will focus on letting consumers ship purchases to their nearest store, not to their home, a key difference between Canadian and US ecommerce stores. Consumers aren’t blind to the fact that there are often better deals and more selection available if they do some cross-border online shopping, even after factoring in all of the extra charges that are a part of online shopping. And where do we rank according to a poll just a couple of months old? Compared to other countries of our technological savvy, we come in pretty much last where ecommerce sales are concerned. Our closest comparison is Australia at this point, and even they are a few years ahead of us in sophistication. In that same poll more than 75% of the consumers in the survey said they would use the web to help them decide which stores to shop at this holiday season and which brands to purchase. And of those, about half said they’d use their mobile phone as a shopping tool. You may have lost out on the shopping from this passed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don’t let the rest of the holiday season get away from you.
Occasionally it can be a bit of a frustrating go of things with a client when they’re not willing to be educated on the finer points of SEO. It isn’t a common occurrence, but it does happen from time to time.
To hopefully help nip things in the bud before the bad information digs into you too much, here are just a couple of the more useful points to bear in mind. One of the bigger points that seems to escape the marketing folks out there is that proper optimization is not a one time thing. There’s no such thing as a fire and forget method that will work for everyone out there. Every site, every client, every niche market needs to have it’s own individual and unique attention. Adaptation and constant evaluation are necessities in order to keep your positions in the results pages.
Every client we take on we always ask to provide us with their ideal keywords. Sometimes they’re realistic – say they sell camper trailers and they want to rank locally for their term, it’s an intense process but it can be done. Where it starts to get a little silly though and we need to advise some restraint is if that same client wanted to rank all across Canada for the term “RV” for example. Could it be done? Sure with enough time, money and work we could likely make the site show up but would that really be the best use of time and resources?
The last point I’ll touch on for today is one that’s a little more obscure to a site owner, but it doesn’t make it any less important than the others. It actually enters the realm of not only SEO and how search engines find and rank your website, but your customers and visitors. While we’re working together to build and rank your website you need to bear in mind that you’re not only trying to rank your website better in the search engines, you’re also trying to convert those visitors to paying customers, email/newsletter sign ups, or even just contact information for an offline business. You can’t build a site for your purposes only, nor can you build it for just the search engines – your visitors are always your end goal.