There are a lot of misconceptions about how the web works, about how search works and that some people think there is a different set of rules if you have a large wallet you can spread around. What seems to escape a lot of users memory or knowledge however, is just how different the web would be if search engines of any kind didn’t exist.
The rules that govern the online world are still very fluid as they’re always being re-evaluated, by the users of the web and government bodies across the globe. Google is often used as the target in any change or suggestion to the activity online, and with good reason. When Google made their place on the web, they changed the way everyone uses the web from that day forward, as up until that point there hadn’t been a full indexing of the web by anyone, the idea was ludicrous. They changed the way the web was used from that day forward, and they were very aware of the ramifications of their new position on the internet. There have been a few in the course of their lifetime that have run afoul of the rules which Google uses to build their results pages, and contrary to some of the noise found on the web, you can’t buy your way out of breaking the rules.
Six or so years ago Google came out and said plainly that selling links will damage your rankings in the results pages, and began by hitting some of the largest businesses on the web, Forbes, Sun Times, BMW at one point and many others through out the years. Just in case you were wondering if they had gotten lazy in recent years, the search engine has recently killed the page rank on more than 150 UK news sites for selling links, and it wasn’t just a small drop either, they lost all of their Page Rank. So in case you were wondering, yes they still pay attention, no it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, and yes they will still penalize you if you break the rules.
There are a number of ways to market your business online, the two more prevalent methods are search engine optimization, and using social media to help you garner attention and traffic. Although it’s a little a lesser known method to use to help bolster your online visibility, AdWords, or search engine marketing is a very powerful tool which when used properly can definitely attract highly qualified customers to your website.
Typically the paid results show to the side, or sometimes above the results page after performing a search. The links are often on a different color background and their formatting is different. And if all of those were not strong enough indicators that they’re different than the organic results you’ve received, in the corner of that different colored box you’ll find a small snippet of text that says ‘Sponsored Links’. Think of it as paid advertisement that is trying to capture those impulse buyers out there, the people who buy a package of gum or a magazine in the check out line at the grocery store. If your ad copy is well written, your bid is high enough and you’re trying to build a brand for yourself, AdWords is a medium you definitely need to explore.
The point of the short explanation of adwords and their use, has to do with a court case that was recently settled in the US. It was between two rival companies, and one took the other to court because of their questionable use of adwords marketing. Referring to them as Company A and Company B, it went something like this: Company A wanted to try and garner traffic from searches completed using Company B’s name, so Company A used the AdWords platform so they would also appear on the results page. The judge in the case cleared Company A of any wrong doing, even though Company B argued that it was a breach of privacy, when in fact it was clever, albeit shady, marketing. If Company B had done their job marketing themselves correctly, and had used AdWords as well to ensure they capitalized on searches using their name, then there wouldn’t have been a case to begin with. From now on I’m sure they’ll be more likely to consult with those who know what they’re doing, in order to protect their online brand.
One of the more mundane tasks of the day in the life of an internet marketer has to revolve around sifting through the stats that we compile for our clients. Keywords, click throughs, exit pages, visitor pathing, all of it a jumbled mess until we can take the time to work our way down to the core answer we’ve been looking for – did our campaign work? Not to toot our own horn too loudly, but we must be doing something right, our clients keep extending their contracts.
The stats that we compile during our time with a client serves two clear measures of success on the surface. The first data point we make sure to keep in view is the day we started working with a client, we can then pinpoint that day and going forward determine if our campaigns have met our expectations. It does neither us, nor our client a lick of good if we can’t work your site and content to the best of it’s ability. The second data point we use to begin measuring any success, is the new visitors/new page loads (different metric depending on the tool), and dissecting the information from this point we can start to see trends and patterns to the visitors to your website. After we’ve worked out where you have trends forming, we can start to capitalize on them and bring you an even higher conversion rate.
Despite all of the stats we can show you, and despite all of the visitors we can bring to your website, if you don’t have a clear call to action then it is almost like your website is working against you in some ways. A clearly defined and consistent call to action that can be seen through out your website is one of the key ingredients needed for online success. Without it, it’s like going to an automobile dealership to buy a car, and there not being any cars, merely brochures with descriptions. If you are building an e-commerce site, then make sure to push your sales or your online deals options, if it is emails you’re after, make sure that sign up box is extremely prominent. As internet marketers we have a proven track record of developing, and delivering qualified traffic to your website, just make sure you listen closely when we start helping you develop your call to action as well, it’s in all our best interests that you wildly succeed.
So you’ve started your business, you’ve built your website, and you think your designer followed all of the basics where the web is concerned. You have a little left in the marketing budget and you’ve decided to make your play on the web, the largest marketplace in existence, so where do you start. Search engine optimization is a jungle of misinformation, bad ideas, poor advice, and is full of fly by night operations across the globe. In order to protect yourself and your business, we’ll provide you with some basic information that everyone should have where web marketing is concerned.
A quick read of any SEO related material will tell you that the process relies on your content and the keywords contained within. Those keywords, or keyterms, are the first stop for the search engine spiders when they get to your site, they try to discern what your website about. Once you have identified your target audience, whether it’s specific to an industry or a customer type, you can work with your content, and your keywords serve you best when they reflect your target. If you are a manufacturer of a product for example that can be used by a wider audience, then you need to be aiming for an industry sector, if you make a unique plumbing tool then you want to target plumbers as an example, not home owners doing their own repair work. Knowing which terms to use for which audience can make or break your business, because while any traffic is good, qualified traffic is obviously preferable.
And while it may seem obvious when you say it, sometimes a website doesn’t completely leave development with all of the right settings. You should ensure when your website is live, that it can be completely crawled and indexed by the search engines. There are a number of free services out there that allow you to crawl your site as if you were a bot yourself, and if you find that you can’t access your site you need to correct the issue as soon as possible. Lost traction today, is a lost sale tomorrow, and when you’re dealing with a store front that never closes every second counts. Make sure that your developer knows the steps to keep your site available to the spiders, and has built your site in such a fashion that allows for quick spidering.
Here at Freshtraffic, when we take on a new client we have not only taken on a new goal in search, we have also taken on the challenge of their website. We do get asked from time to time just what it is that we do as a company, and while I won’t get into the specifics of it, I’ll go over just a little of what has to happen in order for us to begin the process of improving your position on the results pages.
We have 3 basic needs when it comes to taking on a new client, and based on the answers we receive when we pose the request for them, can greatly impact our effectiveness. The primary need we have is to be in contact with the person or persons who are making the decisions for the company. Not just the lackey who sold the company on the idea of using search engine optimization to boost their web position, but the person who actually makes the final yes or no call. The reason we need this contact is often times we need to make recommendations for changes to a website, and it saves everyone precious time, and resources, to be able to directly contact the right person. There are times of course, when a company is large enough it is easiest for us to deal directly with a marketing manager for example, but that again is the person who makes the call for us to completely do our work.
We sometimes run into an issue with our second request, simply because our new clients run into the problem of trying to be smarter than their customers. We ask everyone for their wish list of key terms that they would like to rank for. It is at that point that we begin to break down the website, it’s content, and it’s structure to decide if it is even a possibility to use the terms that have been chosen. It is not unusual for us to have to go back to a client and tell them that they either need to supply us with better content, updated content, or a revision in order to fit their desired terms, or to change their terms. The biggest fault with clients trying to be smarter than their customers, is you can end up alienating your target demographic. Keep it simple absolutely applies when trying to work out your key terms, keep in mind your target, and adjust accordingly.
The final major request we make of all of our clients, is really just one of access. Either access to their website, ftp access so we can make sure we can make adjustments on the fly, or management software access, as the majority of new websites coming online are often built with WordPress, Joomla, or a variation there of. The reason we ask for this level of access is simple, often we’ll be discussing a project and make a decision about a new, or refined target. Having the login credentials necessary allows us to make the adjustments needed, whether it is to address a new goal, or to anticipate a market change. Of the team here at Fresh we tend to spend the majority of our time online just reading trends and gathering information about everything that interests us. It isn’t unusual to find us working over a weekend or through the evenings to ensure that you have the greatest possible chance of attaining that number 1, 2, or 3 position in search. It is in both our best interest, and yours, for you to rank as high as possible as relevant as possible, and we don’t call ourselves the best in town because it sounds good, we have the numbers, and the history to back it up.
Quickly, what’s the difference between internet marketing, and online branding? Depending on who you talk to, and from what marketing background they come from, they are completely different. What is actually much closer to the truth though, is they should be regarded as one and the same.
Internet marketing, the process by which you work on your website to try and make your site relevant and prevalent in the search engine ranking pages is often a misunderstood process. There are tons of terms which are often thrown around when you start talking about internet marketing, white hat, black hat, backlinks, content, keywords, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. What is almost always missed however, is the discussion about how increasing your web presence affects your brand as a whole. One of the biggest benefits of the internet and using the power of the web to brand or rebrand your business is the captive audience that is already qualified as a customer. And since you’ve taken that time to ensure your internet marketing is being successful and driving visitors to your website, you should have already taken the steps to make your brand clear and visible. Whether it’s a logo, a statement, or a combination of the two, you need to realize that marketing is branding is marketing.
On another side of the discussion, it is absolutely possible to have your offline brand, drive traffic to your site, especially if you’re widely known either locally or nationally. While you need to use internet marketing to build a brand online if you’re a new comer, if your business is already well known you can use your branding offline to influence your internet marketing campaigns. I do realize that may sound like common sense, but it often eludes people that search users don’t always browse the web the way you think. Just because you’re the most well known plumber in town, and everyone can spot your vans from a mile away doesn’t mean they know how to find you online properly. And if you skimp on your marketing, you’ll soon feel that pain as people will occasionally slip through your fingers.
Once you’ve realized just how much potential sales, traffic, or attention you’re missing out on by focusing on only one type of marketing, feel free to contact us here at Freshtraffic. We have always worked with the goal to improve your online branding image while working on your internet marketing campaign simultaneously. With more than 30 years of varied marketing experience in our team, we will absolutely find the right course of action for you and your business.
Every now and then you need to stop and take a look at your website, how it’s performing and make a decision based on your findings. Is your traffic up? Have you made any major revisions in the last year? Conversions, are the up or down? Whether you’ve engaged an SEO company or are managing your stats yourself, with a little invested time you can discover the answers to these questions, and any others you might have, without too much trouble. But once you have your answers, what is your next step? Just remember your grade school English class, and the rule of the 5 W’s, who, what, where, when, and why.
Your number one questions, whether you have a new site, an old site or even if you’re thinking about making some updates, is who am I targeting, and what am I after from them. Are you after industry specific targets who are going to use specific terms, or are you after more general users and have to be more in sync with your industries trends and changes. This is paramount, because if you don’t know who you’re aiming for, you’re definitely going to miss; step 1 complete! Take a good look at what you have to offer your audience, whether it’s content, connections, a product or even a service that you provide. Sell yourself quickly and simply and you’ll find that your returns will compound on themselves. Continually delivering on your products or services and being a professional in your space is the quickest way to boost your bottom line. Examine the potential costs you may incur when you’re trying to boost your position and website, do you have the time, money, and manpower to properly execute your plan? There’s nothing worse than setting a lofty goal and falling short due to underestimating any of those costs.
You’ve taken care of who your audience is and what it’s going to take to get them onto your website and after your product, and it may sound like a strange question but when do you want your traffic and visitors. Take Valentines Day as an example, if you’re in the business of replacing roofing, you’re likely not going to be sinking a lot of time and money into attracting people to your website at the moment. At least here in Winnipeg, we have a few more weeks of winter to look forward to. Timing is a very important factor to bringing traffic to your site, you need to focus your time and resources to acquiring the right traffic at the right time. A little more obscure question to answer, is the why side of the equation. Why are you promoting your site at the moment, why are you making content changes, why are you adding new images etc. If at any point you find yourself saying “..because these guys did it” then it’s likely the wrong move for you. Your end goal should always be your customers, gaining them, engaging them and delivering on what they’re expecting. Because if you fail on properly executing your customers/clients needs and wants, you’re in the wrong business to begin with.
One of the worst things about the internet is actually it’s greatest strength, how quickly and easily it can be to find information. It really only becomes a negative when you have your industry is full of people who know everything about it, usually because they read a few blogs, took an online test or quiz and received a virtual diploma or certificate. The reality though, especially where search engine optimization is concerned, is you can’t just pick it up and list a site with no skill set. Being able to properly build a site, tweak the on page so it works in conjunction with your off page optimization and then to keep on top the news, isn’t a three day course in a convention room.
The problems have arisen even more frequently lately, as more and more myths and misconception about the industry is being passed around the web. And while some are much more worse than others, even the smallest one does harm to the industry. One of the points which still makes me curious as to what it actually means, is when you come across an SEO detailing how they’re going to help a website list by submitting it’s url to search engines and domain directories. Now right off the hop our first reply when someone has asked that question of us, is you don’t need to submit your site to anything, the search engines are big enough, and smart enough to find your website. The only other thing I can think of when someone tells us that their previous SEO submitted their site to directories, is they did some shady link building and possibly got your site red flagged at best, kicked from the results at worst.
I think that the largest stain on the search industry, is the trend of writers and bloggers out there, typically in the main stream media like newspapers, television and radio, who bring up SEO as spam and manipulating the search engines. Just like there are more than 2 colors in the rainbow, there are a seemingly unending list of methods you can use to help your websites visibility, so it is understandable that some of them can be seen as spam or tricks. Proper white hat search engine optimization is a process which you can use to tell the search engines what your website is about, no more, no less. There’s no magic, no underhanded methods, and no sending checks to Google or Bing to magically push your website to the top of the results page. If your website is better than the other guys, you’ll rank above them, it’s survival of the fittest on the results pages.
The steps to be able to rank your website effectively online are relatively simple, and can be broken down into a few very broad basics to follow. If you have a simple website, say a few pages detailing a local business for example, as long as you have a good title, strong content, and some kind of a social presence then you have most of the puzzle sorted out. The big time sink though, and usually the most difficult step to work out, is building up that backlink profile.
Building a proper backlink profile seems to have a lot of mystique surrounding it when you start reading online. Wading your way through the myths, theories, and hyperbole may seem like a daunting task, but the rules are simple to follow. It’s only time intensive because you actually need to work at building your profile properly, because just like when you build anything, if you make a mess of the foundation the structure will come tumbling down. When you’re taking the time to build up backlinks there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself, and once you’re satisfied with your answers you can decide if you’re going to approach a site owner to work out a link exchange. First item on the checklist, is their site (the one you’re going to approach for a backlink) relevant to my website/business. A bad idea is running around online just building as many backlinks as possible with other site owners just to have them, if they’re not relevant to what you do then at best you don’t get any help from them, at worst you could be penalized. Once you’ve decided if they’re relevant or not, start browsing their website, keep in mind good website practices as you do so. Do they have a lot of popups or funny activity on some pages? Just like you want your customers to have a great online experience, you want your link coming from a reliable source, because the web works in strange ways at times.
And that is really the bare minimums when you’re looking for a link exchange or a backlink to your site that you need to follow, are the relevant, and are they staying within the rules of the game. If you’re satisfied with your answers then you move ahead to try and work out a link with the site owner, and that would be one link down. This process could take as little as a day, to as long as a week or so, depending on the time you have to put into it and the size of the prospect you’re looking at.
The basics of building backlinks and what to look for are just as important as what you should be staying away from. For every positive and authoritative backlink you could build for yourself, you need to stay away from the places and pages which could sink you. Directory listings as an example, aren’t innately bad for your link profile, but since Penguin last year and how so many were removed from the index they’re not nearly as useful as they once were. A good link should not be the subject of an internal debate with yourself. When you see a good link you know it right away and once you start debating whether it could be considered a good link or not, it just isn’t. And last but certainly not least, does the link enhance your brand to your customers, because ultimately that’s who you’re trying to reach.
Of all of the elements that are required to be in place for a website to serve its purpose, there is one above all, that has to have a clear and present place. It needs to be prominent, attracting to the eye, and clear in its message, because you only get a fraction of the time you have in other advertising markets to make your mark.
Unlike radio, where you have a captive audience, and unlike newspapers where you have a subscribed, reliable audience in the manner of subscription service, your online marketing efforts have the be razor sharp. Today we had a discussion with the encompassing message being to hone your call to action. If you are in the business of sales online, make sure to have a badge showing as much, if you need newsletter sign ups, make sure it is clear and evident on the page what you’re looking for. Because unlike radio, newspapers and television, you have somewhere between 3 and 8 seconds to capture your audience before they click that back button and they never see your site again.
As much as I’ve used and seen the web these last 5 years working with Fresh, I still don’t see it quite the same way as the boss. Often times I need to repeat to myself that same mantra of keep it simple, keep it simple, and while I have few issues with it now, early days I would complicate things too much. Even after staring at a clients site and trying to help them work out a stronger call to action/higher rate of conversion it was (unsurprisingly) the mentor who finally just told him if you want to make more sales, show you’re having a sale. Successful ecommerce sites plaster the front page and landing pages with keywords yes, but also the most important stop words. Stop words are terms which don’t make search engines take notice, but your visitors. He doesn’t like to admit that he’s a salesman, but he can definitely sell, and made the point that people buy benefits more than they buy an item. Extended warranties, free shipping, no taxes, reduced price, all direct benefits to the consumer. And all strong stop words to keep visitors on your site and punching that purchase button over and over again.