Contrary to what some corners of the internet like to share, that Google, Bing and all the other search engines are trying to steal you away, they really have no interest in keeping you on their search pages long term. They want you searching for answers and clicking on your chosen result, not hanging out on a blank page with a search box in it. But what does that do for a local business, maybe a little mom and pop store that only has one or two employees? Regardless of your size, you can still leverage the search engines to help grow your business, and believe it or not on the internet everyone has a shot at being number one.
One of the big changes in the last couple of months has been the drive towards semantic natural searching by the search engines. It is an approach and change designed to make searching a simpler affair for the user, the goal for example being “what is the best restaurant 6 blocks from here”. Smart phones and tablets are very good at what they do and with how convenient they are to carry and use this sort of search isn’t that far off in the future. You can already use a search like “best restaurant in winnipeg” and get a fairly decent set of results based on both consumer and editorialized reviews. So what can you do as a mom and pop to take advatage?
For starters if you have a website with a brick and mortar location then you should have your Google+ local listing filled out and attributed to you. Formerly known as Google Places, the local listings are the results you see that show up on the map with the lettered marker points directing you exactly where to go. It allows Google to verify your listing and location with you and tells the search engine that you’re a real business with doors and walls and everything! It’s a very simple step to take which only helps your visibility and actually leads into the next point – customer reviews.
Having an A+ rating is great where the local better business bureau is concerned, but even better for yourself is when you can encourage your customers to post a review to your local listings. Whether it’s Yelp, Urban Spoon, or even on your Google+ local profile it serves two fold for your business needs. First it lets visitors who find your site have a little bit of insight into how you conduct your business and how you might treat your customers. Even the negative reviews can be extremely helpful in this case, provided of course you can properly remedy the situation. And secondly it is like adding a notch on your belt for the search engines, just another way you’ve proven to them that you have an active visitor/customer base.
A final, and one of the more obvious steps that you’d be surprised to learn gets missed is to ensure you have your physical address on both your website, and your local profile. It’s a surprisingly often missed step where site owners are concerned which is sometimes lost with the addition of a contact form added to a website. It is assumed that a site visitor will automatically use a form or page to get a message or question into a site owner, but what if they would rather walk in your door and talk to a person? Or call and talk to someone to have their questions answered? You need to make sure your location and contact information is included in your website, your local profile listings and in doing so you’re likely to see increased foot traffic, as well as web traffic. The easier you are to find, the more likely you are to make a sale.
Have you ever stopped to consider why your website may not be performing quite as well as it used too? It is always worth it to stop and have a close look at what your offering as an online presence to the public, because sometimes a face lift is in order.
Online marketing and branding is still a rather new avenue of growth for every business out there, and it’s one that needs to be monitored and measured appropriately to make sure you’re getting the most you possibly can out of it. Every now and then we have a client come to us with their woes of poor online performance and when we look at their website it’s like looking through a time warp. An outdated appearance on a website can be detrimental to an otherwise successful business offline. Tech is always improving and we’re a long way from using tables and basic HTML scripting to design and build websites, having a recognizable and intuitive website design is a significant part of a successful online presence.
Businesses are always growing and changing and sometimes your old mission statement and goal doesn’t match your current model. It doesn’t mean that you need to completely redesign and develop your website, but it can always help to revisit your content and your vision to make sure that your websites message matches that of your vision. Also to keep in mind is just how does your website react when you visit it with a smart phone or a tablet? If your site isn’t at least somewhat responsive you’re only losing out on providing your visitors with both their desired and required experience. If your site is difficult to use and navigate then your visitors are likely to leave in favor of finding someone else to provide them with their needs.
As strange as it might seem, we’ve been approached by some people looking for help online and found that while they have an incredible site, and a great message and content they’re just not meeting their conversion goals. There are usually only a couple of reasons that we can boil this down too, one of them being that the conversion message, or call to action is lost in the complexity of the site. Keep your message and conversion message simple and you’re more likely to end up with that coveted sale. Additionally we have even had some site owners come to us and have found that their designer of their site neglected to allow indexing of their site via an htaccess or robots.txt file. There is always time for you to reevaluate your website it’s content and it’s call to action, and always make sure that if you need assistance with any of your online issues to make sure to call the experts here at Freshtraffic.
The internet is a pretty big place and with Facebook throwing its hat in the search ring with their trillion of connections made, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a search engine doesn’t immediately deliver exactly what you’re looking for with your first search.
Google is often placed under the microscope when complaints about the web or search quality come up, but it seems exceedingly rare that anyone actually talks about how big a job it is to be a search engine. Using Facebooks example of having an index of a trillion connections made using their social software alone, it should be clear that the web is a huge place. An estimate of the size of the internet is somewhere over 100 trillion web pages and users and complainers are often quick to pass judgement on the search engines when they couldn’t find what they want. Google is the largest and most widely used search engine on the web, still holding onto more than 2/3 of the audience out there and even they don’t even try to get close to curating that massive amount of pages.
When you factor in that many pages on the web and an algorithm that sorts, ranks and tries to properly place every one that it crawls <em>and</em> that it can deliver your results pages in less than a half second it should really be amazing that it can be done at all. Constant updates and improvements to the algorithm that does the bulk of the work can alter the pages you see when you search, and even sometimes appears to completely break the results pages as was the impression when Panda and Penguin were integrated into the algorithm. As an exercise in just how massive an undertaking this can be, and how Google and the other search engines aren’t out to get you and your site specifically give this a go. Imagine you have 100 pennies in your possession all with a different year on them, after shaking them all up in a can pick out the one with the year of your birth on it, if you don’t pick out your year it goes back into the can. You might get it in the first few or it may take you 30 – 40 tries, now repeat that experiment 100,000,000 more times and you’ll have a sample of how much work the search algorithms do every time they perform your search.
Shots have been fired across the bow of the Google command ship and they came from a source that is not only extremely early, but somewhat unlikely – Facebook.
Just a short time ago Mark Zuckerberg came forward during the most recent Facebook earnings call to state in no uncertain terms that they will compete directly with Google to be the kings of search. Over the last year Facebook implemented their graph search which allows you to perform contextual searches based on your friends and what ever information they have shared with you, to hopefully find answers to what your question may be. They’re working on being more of a source of answers instead of a source of results all while targeting the mobile platform in order to facilitate mobile searches.
The Facebook graph search has by their records the largest index on hand, larger than any other web search engine. They estimate they have somewhere more than a trillion <em>connections</em> between their users, interests, groups etc. While the number sounds impressive to be sure, and while Zuckerberg believes that they happen to have the largest database on hand the proof will be found in the pudding as they say. The actual size of the index that Google has is difficult at best to try even try and envision as a number let alone an actual one, but the last count that seems to be passed around is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 billion pages, growing at a rate of 5+ billion pages per year based on people creating, modifying and changing their web presence.
Where the house of cards that Facebook has built for themselves as an opponent in a giant versus giant battle is also tied to their earnings call unfortunately. The likely timeline that Facebook could pose a realistic threat as a web search engine is in 10 years. 10 years on the web is an eternity where technology is concerned, and at the rate that Google and other search engines are growing and adapting, Facebook is likely to be left out in the cold when the time comes to fight.
There is always a someone talking about how SEO is a dead industry, and more often than not the doomsayers used a very specific type of optimization methods.
When the online marketing game started it was a fairly simple matter to get almost any website listed. You didn’t even really need to have any content of merit or even any kind of following to your website. You didn’t even need to have an okay website never mind a high quality one and as for any kind of best practice guide it didn’t really exist in the beginning. There were no pure white hat methods, although there were many black hat methods and it took a while before the search engines even began to lay penalties to some of the worst offenders. This all started with real gusto across the web in the mid to late 90s.
As the web grew and expanded and as the search engine bots, crawlers and tech got better, the types of things that you should do and shouldn’t do began to become clearer. After a few years of clean up, the search engines and their algorithms fell almost into a routine. You could build a site, create or scrape some content, point any kind of a backlink at it and make a site start to show up in the results pages. It was at this point that the terms ‘search engine optimization’ really started to become widespread and the notion that you could make money from SEO started to become an avenue for people who frequented blogs and discussion forums about the quickest and easiest way to make a dollar online. This was in around 2005-2010 era of SEO, when the industry became suddenly inundated with experts in the field. It really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, that these are the same folk who are calling SEO a dead industry these days.
In the last few years SEO has had some major shifts with the algorithm much the same as the industry saw in 2003 with the Florida update which cleaned up a great deal of the spam across the web. Penguin and Panda were the most recent additions to the Google algorithm which changed the world of SEO enough that the prior blogged about methods of spammy content and tons of anchor text and backlinks disappeared as a viable strategy. They were very simple methods, easy to implement and even easier to spam multiple sites to help drive a target to the top of the results pages. But since the means and the methods became unusable as a reliable way to rank a site, it is suddenly the end of SEO as a viable means of marketing. So the next time you’re approached by an agency who tells you that ‘SEO is dead’ take a moment and remember that the industry is far from dead – if anything it’s growing. It’s only the that the wheat has finally been separated from the chaff.
So Expedia has been hit hard with a Penalty and lost 25% of its visibility. There’s even been talk about a Negative-SEO attack, really? Let’s cut the bullshit here, we all know that most large firms on the net use all sorts of tactics to rank higher, after all BIG BUCKS are at stake and that’s all that matters to these guys.
We had BMW a few years back, JC Penny last year with a host of others around the globe all screaming they didn’t know, I Call Bullshit to all these. You hear the same excuses, we didn’t know, it was the SEO Company who did it, yes the good old SEO Firm gets it in the ass again.
Okay let’s look at some facts for Expedia.com, the reasons why may be Google slapped them.
This started back in December 2014 when a single post of an angry SEO who had received a penalty wrote and pointed out that “big players” could buy low quality links and get away with it. The post gained a huge following in the SEO community which obviously brought it to the attention of Google. Exactly a month later Expedia’s visibility was declining and so was its stock price.
So with a little research it’s easy enough to find loads of link networks, sponsored low-quality articles, and WordPress Themes with a hidden link to Expedia.com, even black on black links for cheapest flights, very circa 2008. You can see travel blog themes created in 2011 with php code to expedia, so it begs the question about negative SEO, why would anyone do that for such a long time, 3-4 years.
With a little checking it was found that the owners of these sites was a company called Myers Media Group who own a company called Enterprise SEO who just happen to have a client called expedia who they have worked with since 2007, the plot thickens.
So unless this company is a huge scam, there was not any “negative SEO” attack. Creating WordPress Themes with a keyword rich footer is not new, like I said earlier very 2008, Definitely black hat and definitely outside of any Google Webmaster Guidelines – back than and even more than ever today.
A day after Expedia rankings started to drop, by coincidence or not, all the old themes started to get updated with the footer links missing, magic. The sponsored links word was also removed. May be the giveaway on these was the created by the Expedia cheapest flights team. So they did know?
Keyword rich links were dropping by the thousands from all these themes. Actually now, the word “expedia” is not present in this updated theme at all. So basically, on January 20, 2014, the theme was “wiped” clean from everything that could have brought Expedia into trouble.
So did they get punished for just these themes or was there more? Well we noticed that links from shady auto generated networks were also disappearing, in honesty they looked more like link farms they had setup for cheap hotels in Vegas etc., but it doesn’t stop there, in looking deeper expedia.com had other link networks that were shady. Looking at the backlinks it’s pretty easy to see which were clearly part of a network.
They clearly knew what they were doing, link networks, paid links or advertorials, paid guest blogging with low quality posts, real spammy, submissions in free or paid online directories, Sponsored articles or Press Releases with do-follow, keyword rich links, Yes They Knew.
So what now? Well as I write they are trying to clean house, on-page changes, and link removal even the agency working for the Expedia.ca site left many minor “bugs” that they are now fixing.
It takes two to tango and as you know I speak my mind, the companies make huge dollars listing at the top of Google for Big Hitting keywords, always have always will, but to get there is another matter, it takes dollars, lots of them and time, lots of that too along with know-how. There’s clearly some things that still work today that worked 10 years ago and are within the guidelines which make a huge difference, but if you ask me today can I list tops for the big hitters without going a little grey, in honesty no you can’t, Big Bucks will always rule, even if you get it for only a short time 2-3 years before your caught, because you can always throw the card, I didn’t know, it was the SEO.
Will Expedia be back?, Sure they will, they’ll clean house, spend another 10 million on Adwords this year, “Google likes that”, and start again, only this time they will be a darker shade of white.
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.