There’s a lot of talk about all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) on the web it only takes a few moments to find all sorts of information about every point imaginable. The problem that a lot of small business owners who try to do things themselves run into though is what advice do you follow?
Here’s a couple of simple tips to follow when you maybe don’t have the budget to hire an online branding and marketing agency. First off you need to realize that just because you have a website, it doesn’t mean that anyone will find it online. A website is an amazingly powerful tool that can be used as a 24/7/365 store front to the world, but again only if people can find it. The simplest and most efficient step to being found is to have content relevant to what you want to be known for. Your business sells apple pies? Well your content at the beginning should be about apple pies then and not strudel, while they’re both desserts made with apples they couldn’t be more opposite when talking about online marketing. Following along in the same line of thinking, big beautiful pictures are great marketing tools for users, but search engine bots don’t have eyes so they can’t see that perfectly baked crust you can create. You need to describe it using text on the page, your content again, and you need to make it descriptive as well.
So great, we have the ball rolling with your content creation about your new apple pie selling website, and you’ve made sure to balance your text and images appropriately. A big mistake that we see site owners getting caught in is the problem of stopping their updating process or abandoning it all together, hoping that their current setup will continue to serve them as well next year, as it does today. That would be true if the internet never changed or evolved, but unfortunately it’s always changing. Sometimes as often as two to three times a day there are algorithm adjustments, and that can wreak havoc on an advertising campaign. Keep your content fresh as well as relevant, and you’ll keep the search bots happy and your positions agreeable.
Now you’re updating your site and you’re keeping your content relevant, now comes the hardest part of all – waiting. One of the biggest misconceptions about advertising online and building your business online is that it’s instant. And while there is a shred of truth to that statement, to have a lasting position in the results pages takes time. Adwords are instant visibility, but that can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month if you’re in a competitive market. In the last few months some of the major competitive industries have gone up to millions of dollars per month, just to stay at the top of the paid search results. So be patient, if you really are keeping your content fresh and relevant, you will begin to creep a little here and there and before you know it, you may even be working your way up page 1 of the results.
A lot of challenges immediately show themselves when working with a brand new optimization client. And when it comes right down to the start of things, it’s that first stint of around 3 months that tells us what we need to make you the best in your market.
Almost the best case scenario that we can hope for as online marketers is to start a campaign with a properly built website that had followed the best practices guide, that hasn’t been touched by any other marketers or agencies. Now the odds of that happening are very slim to none, so we work with what we find. Often it is a bit of a jumble of tactics that can be found across the web, the only real problem is that we have to take the time to dig through the convoluted mess to determine each step that was taken. Text is fairly simple to work with, and as long as it is relevant to your market that’s a positive for your marketing angle.
What gets really sketchy and a problem though is when we find that the old designer/developers decided to follow some advice they read on a blog or forum and convince a client to build off site landing pages and don’t properly link them all back to the main website. This can cause duplicate content issues, accidental removal from the index because it looks like you’ve scraped content for your websites. There can be multiple urls that are diluting your authority, and hopefully there hasn’t been anything done that could truly jeopardize your website or your true marketing potential.
Perhaps it’s the intangible nature of organic search engine optimization that new clients have difficulty in grasping, but the methods employed by the team here at Freshtraffic are done with the top of the search results in mind.
There’s a number of tactics which can be used to rank your website using off site methods, all with the goal of garnering those elusive backlinks for your website. There are however, a handful of types of backlinks which you should ensure that your search engine optimization provider makes it a point to avoid. When you’re discussing your strategy with them it would be wise to keep any of the following terms in mind.
Directory links used to be a common method to gain a huge amount of links to point back to your website, the idea being that the cumulative weight of the mostly relevant content delivered more authority to your website. In the last couple of years though there has been an influx of poorly written and low quality spun content, and with the introduction of Panda and Penguin it essentially ended the value of using this type of linking strategy. While it won’t tank your your website rankings or your site marketing in general, it doesn’t add any value and may eventually become a negative marketing technique.
It is a good idea to generate press releases for your business every now and then just to generate link bait articles linking back to your business and website. What you don’t want to do however is spam low quality press releases like you’ve just painted your office or bought a new delivery vehicle for example. Practical, positive press releases are what you’re after, client signings, business growth, and the addition of products and services are all good points which if written well can generate traffic in your niche market. At this point in the search game the a good portion of the known spammy press release sites have been disregarded by Google, so if you’re contemplating releasing one, make it a great one.
The time it takes to manage all of the backlinks you currently have pointing to your website, weighing their context and their value is all part and parcel of the SEO package. It is a cost that is always a part of your online branding campaign, and not a minor task. This is a large portion of our time as an SEO agency which we have to devote to your campaign to ensure that you’ve got the best possible chance to be found in the top results of the search engines.
With Black Friday just a couple of weeks away and Cyber Monday kicking holiday shopping into high gear you need to ask yourself – is your business ready? Or how about this question – is my website poised to take a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that is online holiday shopping?
If you haven’t taken the time to engage an SEO professional to help with any sagging SERP listings, then you’re somewhat out of luck for being able to be in place to make a piece of that money pot your own. That would be the short answer to the issue of having less than stellar search positions but not to fret, there are some short term methods you can use to hopefully snag some of that holiday frenzy spending.
A simple way to get your business name out there with some holiday enthusiasm would be to go down the AdWords road. Set yourself a budget, create a handful of eye catching ads and get set to sell. There are only two large downsides to using a pay per click campaign to boost your holiday sales, one is the cost that it will take. You’re not the only player in the game, so the PPC costs will go up this time of year. The other issue is that of your ad copy, your content of your website needs to be relevant to your ad campaign. If you’re trying to sell blue suede shoes, then you would be burning money if you wrote ads selling red velvet capes. Make sure your ad copy is relevant and correctly directed, and monitor your budget. You’ll have some fluctuations with the holiday rush just starting to pick up, but there’s nothing worse than being at a high point with sales only to lose visibility and traction due to lack of funds.
Another way you could use to generate visibility for your product and increase sales is to rely on social media. Use Twitter and Facebook to promote your business and products, announce sales and do give aways to generate a following. Once you have a few thousand followers on your channels, you add in your holiday specials, announcements and maybe even a coupon scheme to help your customers save money. The only real downside to using this method to generate traffic is it takes your time away from your business. The more quality time you can put into your social media accounts, the more qualified your customers will be.
An interesting question that crops up from time to time that still surprises me, is when a client we’ve been working with for a number of months asks if social media is “worth it”.
Where social media is concerned, there’s a short answer to that question, as well as the long version. The short answer would be a unquestioning yes, while the longer version isn’t negative, although it’s not as clearly positive as the short version. There is a real reason behind the difference in the answers however, and I’ll get to those in a minute. But first I’ll give a few pointers as to why social media is a good thing to do in general.
The way that I’ve found is simplest to describe social media marketing to clients with the least amount of confusion is to use the idea of parking lot flyers. You know the ones, when you go to the mall to pick up your holiday shopping and you come outside to find a flyer underneath your wiper blades or a card tucked into your window frame. It’s mildly inconvenient, only in that you have a slip of paper or cardboard to deal with, but chances are in that split second while you deal with you, you’ll be reading the content of that piece of paper. You get your message out to hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in very short order, but there’s no immediate response or interaction between you. That’s the clear short answer of “yes social media marketing is good”.
Social marketing methods like using Twitter or Facebook kind of fall into the same level of advertisement quality. The key difference though where the web is concerned is how actively you want to engage your potential audience. And this is where the grey area comes into play with using that type of audience interaction. With the flyer idea, it’s like a fire and forget method, and you get what you get in the end. The conversion and retention rates are likely to be low, but you’re going for a saturation effect. But where online is concerned, you’ll be able to directly correspond with your customer base, so you can engage them in conversation, whether it’s to answer questions about your advertising campaign or perhaps a special that you’re trying to promote. The long answer of “yes it’s good but..” is you will only get as much out of social media marketing as you’re able to put into it. If you can only setup a campaign but pay no attention to it, you’re just as well off paying a couple of youths to distribute flyers in a mall parking lot.
There are any number of missteps that can affect your website and how it ranks online, but there is one in particular which gets under an SEOs skin quicker than any other. Any guesses as to what that might be?
Instead of playing 20 questions to try and take up a bunch of time let’s just come right out and talk about it. The most trouble some aspect of any search campaign isn’t the search engines themselves. It can often turn out to be a business owner, or an internal IT guy at a business who feels they “know enough” to do the same work that we do as search professionals. I’ve been over it a number of times, but you will always get what you pay for in the professional business world, and when you try and double dip in expertise it can most often end up costing your business time and money. And where even a day of traffic could potentially cost your business substantial sums, thousands of dollars – millions maybe, are the temporary savings worth it?
A little bit of knowledge can be a very dangerous thing in these cases.
The over abundance of information available online is a blessing, and a curse. It allows us as a professional agency an avenue to share with our clients to explain trends, topics, and some of the methods which we use to help their search positioning. Those are the explainable, tangible metrics that are easy for the layman to understand about the search game. Where the trouble starts is with all of the nuances associated with the game, and for every visible aspect there are ten hidden facets. Just a very simple example of how much difference even a letter can make, try a singular and a plural search – something like ‘house for sale’ and ‘houses for sale’. To a person there is virtually no difference, a single letter ‘s’ is all that separates the two terms. But to a search engine they are almost entirely different searches, and your results will be different from my own.
It’s a point that I learned very early on while being coached in the industry, but even something as innocuous as a letter, can make all the difference between being number 1, and being invisible.
More often than not you’re looking to have your website visibility increased when contracting an online branding agecny, but as a different train of thought, did you realize you can use them to hide your website as well from the search engines?
To clarify a tad, you don’t typically engage a marketing agency to hide your business, but there are cases where you would want to keep the search engines at bay. Depending on the way your site is constructed for example, you’ll want to keep them out of your image files, or perhaps you have an extensive pdf collection hosted on your site, and you’d rather keep them from being indexed as part of your website. Maybe it’s even a new website build being done to update your look and content, and that needs to be completely hidden from the search engines until you’re ready to go live, just in case the bots get confused – they’re not intelligent at all in this respect. For those reasons, I submit a short list, on how not to be found on the search engines.
One of the simplest and quickest ways to be hidden from the search engines is by editing your web hosts robots.txt file. Not all website owners have access to change this file, but when you can it can be used to restrict search engine behaviour like nothing else. With just a simple phrase, ‘disallow’, you can completely obscure your site or pages from being found by search engine spiders. But just as uncle Ben said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ you need to be extremely careful with what you choose to disallow to the search engines, you may inadvertently block key components or pages of your site, rendering any search engine marketing efforts useless.
If the robots.txt change is too broad a stroke for your case, but you still have certain areas you would like to restrict the search engines from finding certain pages, you can use a meta string of code in the head of each webpage you’d like to keep from being indexed. It’s even as easy as it sounds, all you need to do is add the switch meta=noindex to hide a certain page, and there are a handful of additional switches which could be added to sculpt search engines flow through your site.
The two last methods for restricting bot activity on your website are the biggest guns in the game, and that’s using 404 pages for dead ends, and if you really get serious, 301 redirects to send bots and visitors alike to a different destination all together. These are the big redirects however, affecting your visitors and bots alike, and are not to be taken lightly. Sculpting your traffic flow entirely to a different destination is one that needs to be taken with care and foresight. One improperly executed 301 or 404 in your website, could bring your entire marketing campaign crumbling to the ground.
There have been a number of major updates recently and while the search game keeps changing, our message will always remain the same. Being found online is important, becoming a brand is the real goal.
A couple of the major updates recently seems to have shaken up a good deal of some of the marketers in the SEO field, especially with the change to the way that keywords (aren’t) relayed anymore via stats. The ‘not provided’ change happened just around a month ago now, and some of the light weights in the search world are feeling a pinch without that keyword data it seems. It doesn’t take much searching on any search engine to find a blog about the end of SEO now that you can’t work with the keyword data that the engines previously provided. Short answer to them from us here at Freshtraffic would be something along the lines of see you later then.
The PageRank is another point that seems to still make waves with online marketing providers too, as it hasn’t been updated in months. PageRank was a handy tool to quickly determine how valuable Google viewed a website, and a lot of people seem to have taken that to heart. It isn’t a stretch to think that with the keyword data shut off, and the PageRank no longer being updated, that the use a PageRank as a ranking factor will be going the way of the dinosaurs. Not entirely a bad thing however, as it can allow for a more objective search experience, and hopefully increased competition between brands.
The other major change that has happened in the last month has been the Hummingbird update. It has introduced the idea of contextual search to the web, so now you can actually use a phrase like “Who won the 1954 Stanley Cup” (the Detroit Red Wings by the way). It has introduced a method of search that conforms more to the way that a person might use in actual conversation with another, that you can use questions to find what you’re interested in instead of trying to be clever in your searches.
All of the major changes over the last year have been towards a more fluid use of the search engine that Google has brought to the web. It’s much more streamlined, and allows for real online branding opportunities to be drawn upon. Why you would want to push for building a brand as opposed to strictly internet marketing? We’ll delve into that canyon next time.
There is a buzz that has been steadily getting louder with online marketing and while social media isn’t going away anytime soon, contrary to what some blogs and outlets decry it is not the one stop marketing shop that fills every niche for you.
The big brouhaha really took on a life of it’s own with some of the recent Google updates which led marketers to believe that in order to have any presence on the web, it was mandatory that you have, use, and promote your Google+ profile page. There have been a number of independent studies conducted and I’m not going to copy and paste hundreds of lines of text into the blog, the basic run down is that having a G+ profile is not the holy grail that it was purported to be; correlation does not imply causation. That is not to say however that there isn’t any merit in using Google’s social network, there is about as much success to be gleaned from using it as there is from Facebook, you just have to be clued in on how you use their social services.
Social media optimization and marketing has had a place in the marketing world ever since the days of Myspace and phpbb forums, and all the way back to professional sports. It’s the somewhat the same as running the advertising campaigns inside a baseball stadium that has the outfield lined with ads and sponsors, or like a hockey game with the boards around the ice dotted with advertisements. The best way to get your use out of social media marketing is to be very quick, and very clear with your message. As it is, there are users and companies out there who develop browser plugins and apps to block Facebook advertisements, both in the news feed and on the side panels due to their message being invasive to a users timeline. So you need to be able to deliver your message quickly, clearly and you need to realize that just because you post and advertise via social media that you can’t stop working on your website and it’s optimization. Social media optimization has no direct effect on your websites position in the results pages. If you were sitting on page 8 before making up a Facebook of Google+ post and do nothing to support your advertising, you’re not going to be making any rankings changes any time soon.
Misinformation and outright lies abound on the web regarding almost every topic out there, but it seems that one of the most proliferant out there are the myths and untruths about search engine optimization.
The most obvious one to bring up and discount right off the bat is that SEO itself is a dead industry. There have been a dozen or so very major updates to the search engine algorithm with Google, and everytime they make drastic changes the sky begins to fall. But to outright say that the search game itself is dead and over just because one of the players makes a change is heavy handed and sensationalist in order to generate an article full of link bait. Methods which properly used can actually generate a decent amount of link bait, one of the basic methods of generating traffic flow to a website, a.k.a – search engine optimization.
And to somewhat follow in the same train of thought, if it isn’t dieing then it’s surely cheating if you can make a site rank for any of its key terms. Search engine optimization really isn’t a difficult advertising theme to understand if it is all you do every day. But when you have the joiners hopping on board comprised of web designers, and even old media industry giants like newspapers and yellow pages, when they’re unable to actually perform in the extremely competitive SEO arena it is easy to say that everyone else must cheat or spam to win. That’s just like the kid at school that hates losing who wants to take his ball home when he can’t keep up during the soccer game, either do the work to get better, or pay the people who can.
To continue a moment on the thought that search engine optimization isn’t a difficult industry if it’s what you do consistently, here is some free advice for all of the new comers out there. If you feel unsure about what you’re doing with SEO, or you’re unsure of a certain method or implementation of a tactic, stop. Stop trying to push your site up the search engines by following the posts you find in forums, and stop trying to get your IT guys to do the work that they’re not qualified to do. Properly working within the search world can sometimes be like a constantly moving game of hop scotch, if you miss a jump or step where you’re not supposed to, you’ll find yourself completely out of the game. Not a position you ever want to find yourself in.
If you really want to know, the real secret to high quality search engine optimization is you’re already here.