There are a handful of helpful tips to keep in mind when building your website for your business, and about how you should go about marketing it online. There are a couple of misconceptions in particular that plague small and large businesses alike where their internet marketing is concerned. Namely the fallacy that you don’t need a website or an online branding vision, and that Google is the only search game in town.
First and foremost, search is not just for online retailers like Amazon or Ebay, it’s for everyone with a website. To put it simply – online research influences offline purchases. Forrester Research estimates that more than $1 trillion of sales generated in 2011 were influenced by online research versus $173 billion of online sales. This is almost doubly true for purchases such as autos, financial services, education, and furniture. If you have a product or service, and you have a website, you need to be marketing it and branding it in order to capitalize on that potential revenue. If you’re not at the top of your niche for search, all of those dollars are going to a competitor.
Now that you know that you need to think about your online presence, you need to remember this very important point – search means more than Google. There is no such thing as a one trick pony for all of your search engine optimization needs, and while Google attracts the majority of paid search (PPC), Bing and Yahoo are slowly gaining share. Then you have the social networks trying to get in on the act, Facebook appears intent on getting into the search market. Your online branding campaign will only see real search success when you contract an agency with the ability to manage all of the major platforms successfully. Those would include organic search, paid search, social media branding, and local marketing just to begin with.
So in short, in order to maximize your search engine optimization campaign you need to first realize that your business and website need to have an internet marketing goal in mind. Once you’ve come to that realization, the next most important step is to ensure that you find the right company which can help guide you along the correct path for you to exceed your return on investment goals.
The nature of the SEO industry is different than any other advertising method. Where other forms of marketing are concerned, it’s fairly simple to find a college or university course to enroll in, and there you can learn some of the beginnings to print, radio, and even television marketing methods. But search engine optimization is a different sort altogether than the others, it’s not something that can be readily taught, and it isn’t a field that just anyone can work in.
A big reason that the very idea of teaching someone how to work in the SEO field is folly, is the same reason the market exists in the first place, the search industry on the internet. The methods that you can learn at any time from anyone working online are already past their primary use, and while they may still work on some level they’re out dated. The way that Google and Bing have their algorithms running and autonomous for the most part, means that you just can’t be ahead of the curve in the ethical SEO world. This is the primary reason that the black hat world and SEOs exist, and while the methods will work for a day or two, in the end the spiders will spot you, and the site will disappear from search. It should be common knowledge that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is, but it is always good to remember that point, if an agency approaches you promising the world on a platter, look twice and ask for examples before jumping onto what could be a sinking ship.
Going back to the way that Google, Bing and Yahoo work online, it should also be kept in mind that over the course of a year the search engines are updated 200+ times. So any course that is being taught about search engine optimization, that information is outdated after the first week of class. Think about that point from an old media perspective, television, radio and print advertising hasn’t changed much, if at all, in the last 50 years. Yet advertising and marketing on the web is in a constant state of change, how would it be possible to teach a course about something that is entirely different month to month?
Be wary of an individual or an agency who approaches you with claims of having gone to school to learn all there is about search engine optimization, because what you learn in a book, is already out of date on the web. Ask for examples of their work, see if they can provide a list of websites or perhaps a past client whom they were able to successfully build their online presence and improve their position within the results pages.
While there are a number of services that we offer to our clients here at Freshtraffic, we have always made sure that the delivered service is above par for the cost applied. Online branding, search engine optimization, sometimes it’s a social media campaign and a pay per click blitz that clients are looking for, but we always go above and beyond to deliver for our clients. Our experience and skill set come at a premium, and while it seems to be an insurmountable amount, for the value added to your business it does get paid back in spades.
Over the last 12 months especially there has been a dumbing down of the internet marketing world. I don’t mean dumbing down as in it has gotten easier, if anything it has actually gotten more difficult, but dumbing down as in the market is saturated with people selling themselves and their “services” for greatly reduced rates. Some of the more frequent occurrences we hear about from clients are being approached via email or phone that they guarantee to rank their website number 1 in Google for only $200 and so on. There are two extremely large issues with this scenario, and while most people know that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, there are still business owners out there who fall for this kind of blast marketing.
The first major issue with these types of claims is you can’t guarantee a rank within the results pages. It’s even difficult to pinpoint placement with Adwords let alone in the organic listings, so if you have someone approach you offering to push you to number 1 on Google, the next words from you should be “no thank you” and hanging up. The organic listings that are derived from the Google algorithm aren’t something to be trifled with, and if someone is offering to drive your site up they’re running a scam of varying severity, and should your site and business get caught up in it, you’ll feel the effects for years online.
The second issue that I have with this type of approach is if you could legitimately rank a website at number 1 on Google consistently and within the guidelines, why would you charge next to nothing for that one of a kind skill? There is a reason that the average monthly charge for an SEO contract is in the $2,000 range, and it’s not because carve a monthly report into marble and hand deliver it to you. Making your site rank in the organic listings takes time, a good deal of effort into learning your brand and niche, and into working with your website to optimize it to it’s greatest potential.
It’s frustrating sometimes to hear from clients that they are the targets of these types of marketers, but we know that with the value and skill set we bring to them they’re more than satisfied with their results. What is even more frustrating however, is when businesses look to hire someone on a contract basis to provide services like social media optimization, SEO, manage a PPC campaign, develop and deliver an email campaign as well as rebuild their website, all for the grand price of $9 per hour. There is an understanding that is missing here on the business owners end, and it’s that no one with the skill set to deliver what they’re asking for will get out of bed to help them for $20 per hour, let alone what they are offering.
As a business owner, any methods that you can use to interact with your customers and clients is a bonus for your brand as a whole, yes, even the negative interactions are positive online. We have always tried to mentor our clients on the benefits of having a blog tied to their website, and while it can be a great branding and marketing tool what some forget at times is that it takes their time and effort away from their direct business.
A good example of how a blog can be left to the wayside and neglected usually comes from a smaller business owner, someone with a handful of employees who has built it themselves from the beginning. Between paying bills, wages, staffing requirements, meetings and everything else, having to sit down for an hour a day or every couple of days to mash out a few hundred words is the furthest thing from their mind. With a little bit of foresight, the use of a plugin or two and some time management you can manage your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ accounts all with a single high quality blog post. But first, let’s go back to the beginning or properly managing yourself and your blog.
First things first, your business is what puts your bread and butter on the table so you need to focus your time. Don’t tell yourself that you absolutely need to write a 1000 word blog everyday, because you’ll always find a reason not to write it. Set realistic goals for your blogs, if you only have time once a week to post, then only post once a week. Pick your day, pick your time, and stick to it. Frequent, reliable post times will help garner an audience, I can’t tell you how many websites we have taken on that say they have a blog, and when we look they have 5 posts, 8 months apart with the last one being 18 months ago. Pick a day, pick a time, and sell your brand. Another strong point to consider, is to realize that just because you’ve been doing everything yourself, doesn’t mean that you always need to. If you have a long term employee whom you trust knows your brand and business direction, entice them to blog as well. Something even as simple as a tag at the end of a great branding post like “mention this post and get 10% off your next purchase” not only brings customers in the door, but also allows you to track how well the post was received by your target audience. Then you could do things like provide bonuses, gift cards, paid days off, or other rewards for your employees.
The only two other major points to remember when writing a blog post for your business, is always keep in mind why you’re writing your blogs. Are you reviewing a new in store product? Are you outlining a new service or feature that you’d like your clients and customers to know about? Keep the focus of your blog in mind, what kind of branding image you want to portray to the world. And the last point is simple really, try not to take it too seriously. Yes a blog is part of the parcel of branding your website and your business, but that doesn’t mean the end of the world if you misspell a word or your grammar isn’t perfect. It makes you more human if anything to your audience, and in the end will help with your image.
When we have a new client which comes to us looking for help with their internet marketing campaign, there are two major steps which we take from the beginning. We need to weigh the quality of your content, and we need to determine the strength of the call to action, and how it relates to your marketing goal.
Going over just how important quality content is to your search engine optimization goals is like a broken record at times, but it’s importance can’t be stressed enough. What has been happening recently in the quality content department is a departure from the past methods of a client creating the articles and snippets of text required to differentiate themselves from everyone else in their niche, and they’ve gone the easy route of using the franchised copy in order to save time. To put it simply, it doesn’t matter if there are 100 people selling blue widgets on the internet, if your copy is different than theirs, and relevant to your site and your goals, you’ll wind up above them in the search results. Why? Because your content is quality, it’s relevant, and it’s unique. Make sure to include relevant terms about your products or services, or something about the supporting services around them. Another useful tactic is to prove yourself an authority in your market, and truly set yourself apart from the competition all in ways that any users can effortlessly see, and identify with.
Now the other side of quality content has to do with how you capitalize on it, with the call to action on your site. A call to action is different for every website and could be as simple as having someone submit their email for a monthly newsletter from your website. But if your call to action is lost within a busy website, if it isn’t clear to a user within a minute, then you’re going to lose out on market share. First impressions are the most important impressions, and on the internet you only have a few seconds to get your impression, and your message across to a user. If you’ve done all of the proper work and are sitting at the top of the search results and continue to have less than stellar conversions, contact us here at Freshtraffic so we can help you find what you’re missing. We’ll work closely with you to build your positions to where you need them to maximize your potential and help you identify your niche market. Take for example the previous example of selling blue widgets, it doesn’t do you any good to rank number one in the results pages for purple widgets if you don’t sell them. It may mean as simple a step as reworking the message of your content, or it may require a completely new online branding approach. When you’re ready to make your business grow in leaps and bounds, we’ll be ready.
There is a re-occurring trend within the bloggosphere that search engine optimization is either dead, dieing, doesn’t work, or is a good way to get your website banned online. The only real issue with any of those assumptions is they’re all mostly false, if not entirely fiction.
When you hear the line that SEO is dead or dieing, it’s actually in a humorous context, because the article in question is written to be link bait, a very tried and true method for generating discussion about your website. There are some facets of the online marketing game which are outdated, whether they were deemed “illegal” by the search engines like using invisible text, mass stuffing keywords and the like. Or if they were just poor coding techniques to be used as a website, take the slow death of Flash as an example. The internet is the fastest growing business technology available to a business owner today, where people get caught up in particulars is that it is also changing as quickly as it is growing. The methods you can use to help build your online visibility these days are almost entirely different than what was used 18 years ago, but there are still some components which remain. The core concept driving SEO is the generation of highly relevant, quality content, used to prove to the search engines that your business is the authority in your niche.
One of the more fictitious arguments that SEO is dead and dieing, is that search engine companies like Bing and Google, hate the practice and want to ban all the practitioners of the art. Again, that’s another false statement, and in fact the search engines out there have freely available guides on how to use SEO to help your website perform at it’s best! The best practice guides are easily found with a quick search on any search engine, and even just by following those guides you can help a new site, a floundering website or even one which has fallen into the depths of the search results.
If you still find yourself believing for what ever reason that SEO is an unnecessary measure to be found online, then just remember that almost all searchers out there don’t even scroll to the bottom of the to 10 results on the first page, let alone visit page 2 or 3. If you’re not sitting in the top 5 for your niche market, I can promise you that you’re losing out on a significant amount of potential. But on the other hand, if you’re ready to experience what it’s like to be the biggest boy on the block, contact us here at Freshtraffic and we’ll begin the process of turning your business into the boss.
We often field phone calls and emails from people looking for help with their website, whether it is a design issue or a results page placement, we can help you out with the team we’ve built here. What we find more often than not, is that they were the unknowing recipient of someone who sold themselves as an individual who could do it all for them, and in the process got overall wishy washy results. It’s a topic I’ve had to go over every now and then to get that information back out there, but here it is again – use the right person for the job.
The danger of someone selling themselves as something that they are not online is easy to spot, if you know what to look for. It is when you have not been educated about, or have taken your own time to learn about the differences between website design, website development, and search engine optimization that you can fall into a less than ideal situation. In order to keep this explanation short, I’ll refer to WordPress and the way it is constructed when discussing the differences of development, design, and optimization.
Then there is the optimization side of your online presence, because having an amazingly designed website that has no visibility is like building the fastest boat in the world and never putting it in the water. It will never reach it’s potential if you don’t take full advantage of it’s capabilities, and knowing the right people for the job is priority number one.
Almost every time we get a phone inquiry from someone wanting to have their website optimized, there is a singular question which seems to trip everyone up. And it is an important question to get a clear answer too, because it dictates to us what kind of campaign we need to get your site geared up for. To try and help you answer that question for yourself when you’re ready to make that phone call, I’ll lay out some of the differences you need to consider – are you going after local visibility, or are you going after the big prize of national visibility.
The difference between a local results page, and national results page can be a staggering amount, the term that I’ve used in both searches is “best hotel”, and added the local of “in Winnipeg” to illustrate how different the results can be.
Taking a look at the local results, you start off with reviews, prices, a map picture with locations, and after a scroll to the bottom of the page, you start to find the organic results for the search. While it looks like there are no adwords on the results page, the listings at the top noted as sponsored and the dialogue box notes that they may have paid to have the average room price, and ranking displayed within that box. Something else to note, besides the way the page is laid out, is the amount of results delivered – 19.1 million. In almost every case Google doesn’t really expect anyone to go all the way back to, page 1.9 million in this case, so they usually stop displaying results after page 100. For the purposes of the discussion however, we’ll note the results delivered at 19.1 million.
To acquire a search result that excludes localized data, you need to use the url switch /ncr, meaning “no country redirect”, and use “best hotel” as my search parameter.
Right off the bat it’s clear that the results are completely different. There are no sponsored ads on the page, it consists entirely of organic results. Of those results, the top two are from review sites, followed by a couple of referral sites, then an actual hotel. Once you scroll to the bottom half of the page it’s a similar image, you have a couple reviews, Wikipedia articles and pictures, with a hotel chain bringing up the bottom of the top 10 results. No ads, no maps, no local locations, just a handful of review sites, two hotels and the definition of the word “hotel” on the page, and the total results delivered? Dwarfing the local page at 497 million it should be clear how different the local market competition can be versus the rest of the world, not that it should have been in question.
Now to go back to the initial question, are you looking for local search optimization, or national search optimization? Hopefully the brief descriptions and the images can help you determine your course of action.
With the rise of digital marketing, it has made cultivating an effective online brand image more important to businesses than ever before. Whether you are trying to reach your audience across social media outlets or participating in PPC advertising, online marketing puts you face to face with your potential clients, making it essential to deliver a consistently positive impression. In order to reach the full potential of your online branding campaign, ensure your brand image is supported by your marketing, while your marketing supports your brand.
First thins first, you need to ensure you have a core understanding of your company’s identity. Sit down with your trusted business associates to help you determine the essence of what your business is about, keeping in mind these are the starting points of your branding mission. Be sure to include your marketing and sales department in the process, so you are working as a team to create a message that hits the sweet spot with your existing demographic, with a goal of growth. This is where you create consistency that outlines all communications, including online content and advertising.
At this point you need to begin to determine what are the goals of your marketing campaign? Who do you want to reach? Figure out what you want to say and how can you say it in a way that emanates from your branding? These are some of the questions which must be addressed when drawing up a game plan on how to proceed with your online efforts. Remember that in the end, it’s all about serving the customer. So review your plan from the user’s perspective to better understand how your actions stand to impact your image.
The truly iconic companies, such as Apple for example, have achieved a brand image that resonates deeper than just a logo or slogan by painstakingly cultivating a supportive visual landscape and message. Take that feather for your own marketing cap, whether you are putting up a Facebook page or running paid advertisements, make the effort to design and brand content that’s unique to your organization and message. And then one of the best parts of utilizing online branding to your advantage, you can engage your customers directly, and collect useful data that can be analysed to further improve your business. Perfecting your online marketing efforts is a never ending process which requires continuous evaluation, reaction, and being proactive. By taking the time and learning from how your your message is being received, you can more precisely adjust your tone to optimize effectiveness.
A good deal of the time when we’re working with a new client, we have to bite our own tongue when we’re getting the full story on previous optimization efforts. Sometimes we hit the jackpot in the game and find out that the site is new, built by an actually web developer who knows a thing or two about the best practices that you should be using and they are actively working on their content and images. When we run into this type of diamond in the rough client, we can shape their online presence to not only proudly display them, but drive them quickly up the results pages to where they want to be. This is a win/win situation for both us, and the business owner as they see a strong growth in business and online conversions, allowing them to grow into the market force they want to be.
On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve also had contact with those clients who have used every trick in the online marketing book to be noticed online. We have seen all sorts of bad habits, everything from multiple sites with identical content, and wondering why they can’t find any of their sites in the results, all the way up to some site owners using hidden text, divs. The least troublesome problems to deal with are the multiple identical sites, once we’re able to pin point which goal is the prize, we make it very clear that the clean up operation will take some time to take effect, but it can be fixed. Now the other shady tricks, we’ve gone so far as to recommend one person looking for our help to completely dump their site and start over with a new branding campaign. It was at that point we had learned they had put all of their eggs into the proverbial basket, and were stuck with what they had, and in the end we had our hands mostly tied with how much we could do for them. While no cause is completely lost, there are those which are somewhat unable to be fixed.
And the trend which has been cropping up more and more as of late, there are the DIY clients who felt they could build, optimize and manage their website all while running their business. The major issue that we have had working with these types of clients usually comes in the form of meddling, or the alteration of any on page and off page work we are using. The internet is a great and powerful informational tool, but here’s the thing aboud search engine optimization that the DIY crowd doesn’t fully understand yet: just because you followed the steps to an online guide about optimizing your website, doesn’t mean you have optimized your site. It is in the same difference of quality and time usage that you would find when you hire someone to professionally paint your interior of your home. Yes you can both do the job, but the pro will get the job done better, quicker, and correctly, we’ve all been to that friends house that has strange paint coverage.
It takes more than just going through the motions to be able to properly optimize a website, on or off site. Knowing what to do is only a sliver of the toolkit we employ as SEO experts here at Freshtraffic, don’t be so hasty to lump search engine optimization into the “I can do it myself” bag. It’s much more than just how to do your SEO, once you realize that point about online marketing, we’ll be ready to help you. Just because you think you can do what we do, doesn’t mean you can.