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.
There is a quickly growing trend on the web that has gained a ton of coverage about why it is the “go to” tool where your business is concerned. And while it can be a very powerful tool to use to gain exposure for your business and it’s services, it needs to be done correctly and consistently. It’s not search engine optimization or search engine marketing that is causing recent growth, it’s using the social media side of the web.
Using social media to gain visibility on the web is a perfect avenue for any small business owner as the cost of entry is zero where dollars are concerned, it really requires only your time. You need to make sure though, that if you decide to go down the social media avenue that you are ready to do what is necessary to maintain your business’s image. Using Facebook and Twitter for example is a great way to get out the message that you’re having a limited time sale, and you can broadcast that out instantly to anyone following your posts or tweets. Therein lies one of the automatic problems though where social media is concerned, your follower base and how do/did you acquire them. If you’ve done your homework, and you’re genuinely active on the social web then you will easily attract a qualified audience, those who are interested in your products and services. Your ideal best case scenario for social media is to use it as just another means of conversation with your customer base, as it can allow for rapid problem solving if an issue should arise, and it can bring changed products and services to the fore front when needed.
There is however, a dark side to the social side of the web in the form of detractors, competitors, and sometimes there are just some users out to cause a fuss. When you’re confronted with these types of issues, it can very quickly paint a picture of what type of business owner you are to the rest of your audience, subscribed to your feeds or not. The quip that bad news travels fast is never more true than when you’re in the social space, and if you mishandle a customer or client interaction you can find your business on a slippery downward slope.
Here are just a few questions you need to ask yourself before you get your business involved in the circus that is known as the social web. If you find it difficult to answer the following questions, or you don’t have clear answers, then you and your business are not ready for the social side of the internet. And just because “everyone” is using social media to gain exposure, doesn’t mean it is required in your online profile, if the job isn’t handled correctly it can sink your business just as well as improve it.
Can we benefit from a social media presence?
How do we build our audience?
Who is going to work our social accounts?
How do we announce sales/service changes/updates on our social accounts?
How do we handle negative feedback on our social accounts?
When we work with a site owner one of the first questions we always make sure to ask them is if they’ve worked with any other SEO agency first. Ideally the answer is no, but as the industry becomes more and more populated with people trying to make a quick buck, the ratio of yes to no has slowly started to sway to the yes side of the scale. One of the biggest reasons we tend to worry is simple, we don’t know what we’re walking into when we take on someone elses problems which they either have created, or may have even inherited themselves. One of the most common issues that we happen to find when we dig into their online profile however, is one of duplicate content.
There are unfortunately private SEOs and even some agencies who tell you that as long as you change enough of the text, your content can be rehashed again and again without incurring any sort of penalty. But in truth, here’s the thing that they either don’t tell you, or don’t know for themselves: search engines don’t want to list several pages that all say the same thing, so they look for content that is unique from everyone else. If you’re just spinning the same 600 words over and over again into different pages and blog posts, they’ll recognize it and it isn’t the SEO that catches the force of the penalty stick, it’s you and your website. Almost every time we find this to be the issue, our response may come across as a daunting task, but it’s for the best, we highly advise a complete rewrite and revamp of your site wide content. Cleaning up your own content and navigation is a major milestone to helping you improve your online branding image.
There is another side of this coin, and there really isn’t any one on the web that is immune to the problem, automated content scrapers and straight up content thieves. There are a few protections which can be used to safeguard your content on your website, but even then it wouldn’t be too surprising to find that someone somewhere has nabbed your content for themselves. Using as simple a tag as the ‘rel=author’ and linking it to your Google+ social profile is a quick and simple way to let Google know that you are the original creator of this content, and all others from that point forward will, hopefully, be ranked below you for your own content. For the most part thankfully, you don’t need to worry about scraper sites as the search engines are aware of them and they aren’t going to carry much weight in the search results in the end anyhow. The websites which blatantly steal your content however is a different sort of animal, and since you already use the proper markup to show that you are the original creator of the content in question, you can go so far as to file a DMCA removal request to have your content removed from the offending website(s).
Unfortunately duplicate content issues are not an issue which will be going away any time soon, thankfully the search engines have gotten faster, smarter, and there are more and more tools being developed which can show who created what content first, and when.
Being in the business of online marketing, website design and development and search engine optimization we get all sorts of needs and wants from people who contact us for any, or all of the previous mentioned services. It isn’t difficult at all to find some of the horror stories online about these services, and regardless of how many contacts we field in a year, there are always common themes that we find that we need to sway people away from.
One of the biggest issues that we run into is actually one of purpose, we’re contacted to help someone build their website or assist their current sites positions, and we find that there is no clear purpose or reason behind it. You need to have a goal in business and in a website, and if you need to take the time to discern what you would like it to be prior to getting in over your head. The clarity of purpose behind your business needs to be conferred on your website as well, whether it’s informational, services, or a product that you’re trying to sell, using a shotgun approach to online marketing isn’t going to help you.
Within the scope of deciding what your goal of having a website is, is also the content that makes up your pages. The written text, the images and even the navigation topics all play the role of guiding your visitors to your end goal – a sale, sign up or a contact lead. Lack of content, or of updating content is a thorn in any marketers side, because we’re not in your business, we can not create your content for you. The biggest take away from requesting new or updated content should be one of importance, the sooner we can go over and work with your content the sooner we can get it implemented into your online strategy, and time is everything online. Where organic is concerned, time is your enemy more than anything, so taking your time delivering as a client is a poor choice.
The next step of a marketing strategy we find hiccups with is tied to the content as well, and that’s when we find that between all of the variables, there is no call to action. If you’re in the business for example of selling online books, you want to make sure that you’re crystal clear in that endeavour, and make sure your content supports your business goals. Using the online book retailer as an example, you can talk about how large your library is and about your author profit margins and about how you help sponsor amateur novelists and the like all you want. But none of those points help you sell your product, which in this case is an e-book. Always be closing, because if you don’t tell your visitor what you want from them, they can’t give it to you.
When you’ve decided that you need a website for yourself, you need to have an idea as to what kind of a world you’re stepping into. It’s not like setting up an ad in your local newspaper that takes a phone number and a catch phrase, even the most basic of websites needs your attention while being developed in order to meet your needs. One of the most basic questions you need to first answer for yourself is do you need a website designer, or a website developer? While their titles and roles may seem similar on the surface, they’re as different as a plumber is to a mechanic.
Back in the beginning where a ‘brochure’ site (static content, basically putting your company’s brochure online), was the norm, you basically had one guy make up your entire site. It was very easy, the design was mostly copied from print materials, and there was little to no focus on user experience. Businesses simply wanted to know, or feel they had some degree of an online presence.
Fast forward to today and that task has been divided up by specialized individuals. While you are busy managing the product or services, you’ll have UI designers handling the design side of your website, engineers or developers handling the server side, and front end website developers handling the resources that interact with the browser.
The role of the front end website developer is specific, and it needs to be specific because the job is far more involved than it was back when static websites were the norm. There are a multitude of browsers to worry about (IE8, IE9, IE10, Firefox, Chrome, Safari), on a multitude of devices (mobile, tablet, desktop), and with clients requesting a specific look or experience, you actually have a lot of logic moving to the client-side and the server side scripting becomes merely a means to deliver your data.
With Freshtraffic having a dedicated in house website designer, we can focus on your design, usability, and ensure everything meets your branding requirements. As more and more of the general population has moved online, the expectation for a good user experience on your site has dramatically increased, so having a dedicated designer for this was imperative.
On the other side of the spectrum, the server side landscape changed quite a bit. With the wide growth and use of web specific languages of PHP and ASP, and the explosion of languages such as Ruby, Python, Java and even ASP having a website developer is also greatly important. Being able to mold your data and shape the back end usability so you can directly administer your own website is just as important as the user experience on the front end. Together we have an amazing team built within Freshtraffic to deliver the best results for online branding in Winnipeg. When it’s time to put your best foot forward online, we already have our team in place and ready to help you grow. With how rapidly the web has changed, just be aware that the role ‘web designer’ was long broken up into dedicated services, and those roles have their own dedicated professionals. It had become far too much for one person to deliver on their own.
The golden chalice in search results has always been the same, that finish line that you always strive for, number one in the results. I’ve written previously about the ‘why’ to avoid the so called SEO companies which guarantee you a position at number one, simply because it’s not up to them. No bs, no fuss, no SEO company can tell you exactly where they can plant you in the results. We absolutely shoot to be number one however, and while there is the prestige associated with the top spot, there are also much more important reasons to place you at the top.
Simply put, when it comes to search traffic if you’re not number one, you’re missing out on a tremendous amount of potential conversions. Where position is concerned, if you find yourself in the top spot on average you’ll pick up nearly a third of all search traffic for that term. And if you’re in a highly competitive niche that receives thousands of searches a day, that translates to a very large amount of potential dollars you could be losing out on. The drop of search share from position one to position two is nearly half as much, with just 17% of the market share. Second to third it drops another 6% and the numbers become abysmal after that point.
And that’s only when you count in where you rank on the first page of search results, and let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw only one page of results for a search term? Knowing how much of a drastic change can occur in search share from position one to position two, if you’ve found yourself on page 2 of the search results instead of the first page.. I’ll let the following image speak for itself.
You can read more about the report containing this information here. After you’ve done a quick search for your website on your key terms, and you’re ready to improve your online presence, feel free to call.
Online marketing efforts have had a lot of changes come at them over the last 18 months or so, there have been large shifts in the ways and means necessary to properly compete for positioning on the results pages. At the top of the fastest changing metric for your online presence, is the rapid adoption of mobile devices to use the web.
Before you tear your website apart in a frenzy to ‘fit in’ to the mobile crowd, you need to consider the most basic tenet of online marketing and branding – your content. You need to be able to engage your visitors, and make sure that your call to action is clear in both access, and its message. Besides being relevant, engaging and unique, your content should also generate social signals for the marketing strategy to be considered truly successful. Access to their social media accounts is one the most oft given answer when usage details are probed with mobile devices. If you take the time to ensure that your content is socially shareable, you’ll have the larger hurdle over stepped.
With the rapid growth in the use of the mobile devices, once you have your content it is time to ensure that you have your pieces in position to found on those devices. Tablets, smartphones and even netbooks can be lumped into this space, as their small screen print and processing power can sometimes put your website into a poor position to be accessed by them. Some of the simpler steps to take is to avoid using flash, or building your pages to incorporate large images. If your website developer has done their job correctly then neither of these issues should cause any alarm. There are many ways in which to deliver a quick, easy to navigate website to a mobile device, and the majority of the development platforms out there already incorporate a ‘responsive’ side to the site. Essentially your website is able to determine if your visitor is on a mobile device, or on a computer, and will deliver the correct version of the site to them.
Search engine optimization is almost the fairest marketing game that can be played by any business, in any space. Unlike television, radio and newsprint you can’t just throw wads of money at your internet provider to place your brand image everywhere. But when the job is done right, and you make sure to start your campaigns ahead of time, you can very well be at the top of the search results when it is most important. As an example, we often advise new clients that depending on key terms, competition, market goals and the quality of their website and content, it can take four to six months to find themselves in the results pages at their desired position. From today, that window puts your website at the top of the results right in the heat of the largest selling days for the online marketplace, the last 6 weeks before Christmas. Ho, ho, ho everyone, don’t be left out in the cold.
Search engine optimization is still a somewhat stigmatic phrase in Winnipeg business circles, but over the last few years the merits of the practice has rapidly started to become clear. Over the course of the last half dozen years Freshtraffic has endured a maturing of the online marketplace locally, as online branding and marketing wasn’t a used tactic locally when Jerry came to town. And although the gradual acceptance of internet marketing has gained momentum, there is still a long way to go before Winnipeg catches up to the rest of the world in truly adopting the practice.
One of the issues that seems to plague the SEO field in general, is both the lack, and abundance of information readily available on the subject. What tends to cause new adopters to balk at signing a contract for services is the need to be educated, at least briefly, on the use, nature, and effect that search engine optimization can have on your website and your business. The basic rules of having an online business haven’t really changed a whole lot, and the basic guidelines of having a successful online business have been carved in stone for the most part for the better part of the last 20 years. When the web was still in it’s infancy of being adopted in the early to mid 90s, there really wasn’t a great way to get around online, as web addresses were still a rather new idea to the scene. The idea that you could be instantly connected to the other side of the world with just a few characters typed on a screen seemed far-fetched and with telephones and faxes, unnecessary. But as we all know, the use of the web exploded and with it, a whole new way to do business. Now you can find a website for anything, so long as you know how to find it, and that is where the search engines found their niche.
With the birth of the newest business model, search engine optimization became a necessity to become successful online. If you were unable to find yourself in the search engine results pages after all, how could you realistically hope to do business on the web. It’s not unusual for a conversation with a client to include the question along the lines of “how is it that you do what you do?” Typically we are asked something in this vein when they have previously unsuccessfully stepped into the SEO arena, and they engage our services to help them right their ship. Two very basic points are the simplest way to answer that question:
The best SEOs are independent operators who don’t free advice and don’t offer different levels of SEO packages.
The SEO industry is one which public knowledge rapidly becomes useless knowledge.