Knowing Your Search Services Definitions

viralEvery now and then when taking an inquiry on the phone, we get asked what it is that we do. Turns out that when you tell people that we deal with online branding and internet marketing, they manage to disconnect those terms with SEO, and instead assume that our focus is on pay per click rankings and such. The truth of those terms however, is that they’re all related, and all different from each other.

Search engine optimization – This is most likely the term you searched for when landing on our website. SEO has been a big buzz word in marketing circles the last few years especially, with the explosion of consultants appearing on the scene. There’s millions and millions of pages online to find information about SEO, and it’s extremely easy to read a forum or two and suddenly decide you know what you’re doing with search. The quick and easy test to discover if the person who is helping you is good at their job? Search for them, if they can’t appear in search for their industry terms, how can they realistically help you?

Online Branding – Online branding is a different goal for your website, and it’s as simple as defining the term. Anyone with a website and a business will only benefit from branding themselves and then growing that brand on the web to suit their offline image. It’s done with the idea that just by the mention of your business name, it conjours up your logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with your products or services. The way this plays out online for you is two fold, as you’ll be recognized as an authority in your market by the search engines, and your website (if your developer has done to the SEOs specifications) will be highly relevant as well.

Pay Per Click – This goes by a couple of industry wide terms, AdWords is more revolving around Google with their sponsored ads campaign and search engine marketing as a more all encompassing term when you’re talking about paid advertisements around the web. The paid advertisements often catch a lot of unreasonable criticism from some search users as they can tend to show up in some inconvenient places. While there is some truth to an ads location sometimes impeding on the organic results listings, it’s simple to discern which results are which as the paid ads will say they’re paid ads. The paid results are often on a different colored background, and will say something to the effect of “Ads related to – ” or “Sponsored Listings”. A key point to think about, and consider when you’re first building your own search campaign, is to weigh the return on investment if you were to use PPC as part of your strategy. A simple way to explain how ads are chosen to be displayed are by relevance to the search term, is the bid for the term meet the cost (the ads are based around an auction – high bidder wins in most cases), and is the text of the ad appropriate to the search query. This is a quick way to gain some visibility if you’re trying to rebrand your business, or if you have a brand new website and want to try and gain some quick traction. In then end for things like big money terms, like “hotel rental” it will likely be the company with the deepest pockets who commands the top of the paid results, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a shot at the most important organic results that make up the meat of the page.

Internet Marketing – It’s just an all encompassing term to wrap up all aspects of online marketing. Whether it’s SEO, PPC, branding for your business, when you hear the term internet marketing you just need to keep in mind that it’s a general term, not a specific one.

Are You Panda Proof?

There’s a lot of scary terms in the the SEO world, and if you’ve been reading about the benefits that you can gain from a properly executed search campaign, you’ve undoubtedly run across some of them. Usually they include things like Google bans, black hat tactics, spam penalty, any or all of which can effectively lead to your website being dropped from the search engine results pages. So here are a couple of tips that you can focus on improving your website, instead of thinking about the unlikely doom and gloom that awaits those who try and trick the search gods.

brandingstampNow these won’t make you immune to any radical changes that Google or Bing introduce, but those types of updates are infrequent, and while can be devastating if you’ve been doing the wrong things for some time, don’t automatically end your online marketing campaign.

One of the first things you need to realize about search, is that you need to make your business a brand, regardless of which results page you’re trying to crack. When you conduct a search the most frequent returned results in the top spots are always major brand names. Especially if you’re searching for things like electronics, sporting goods, hotel bookings, most likely all will be major brand names. First instinct may be to think that they pay Google and Bing directly to perch their business and website at the top of the results page, but the realistic truth is they’ve built their brand. When you think of a company like Coke or Pepsi, you get the image of a soft drink in mind, Mercedes and Porsche brings up vehicles, and so on. You need to think of your company as a brand and what type of image you want to build for yourself online, then when you come to us with your goal in mind we can help you mold and craft your website to suit that image. Build your brand offline, and that traction and attention will follow to your online presence as well.

And when it comes to your website, forget about the search engine bots that crawl your pages and your content. You need to build your site for your users, not for the algorithms. While your end goal may be a sale to a visitor, you still want their interaction with your website to be so good, that they bookmark your site and even refer others too it. Create a high quality website with a positive user experience and you’ll find your internet marketing campaigns become doubly as effective.

A strong, positive user experience coupled with a clear and consistent branding campaign will boost any company in the search results, regardless of the size of their bank accounts. And as an added bonus to all of the effort in providing such a clear message online, as I stated in the beginning, you’re positioning your website to be almost entirely update proof.

FTC’s New Paid Search Guidance Will Rearrange Search Marketing

FTC

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning to the major search engines requesting that they more clearly distinguish between the organic results and paid ads. This applies not only to traditional search engines, but also social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as mobile apps.

The FTC’s warning to search engines should be a wake-up call to the search marketing industry. The days of playing fast and loose with mixed paid and organic search results on search engine results pages (SERPs) appears to be coming to an end. In its place will be more stringent oversight of how search engines display paid search results and, as a result, more cumbersome and potentially onerous restrictions on what search marketing can and cannot do with their campaigns.

What are the potential implications for marketers of this new guidance? What do search marketers need to do now to begin adjusting for these changes?

It is unclear at this point the extent that each search engine will address this request, but it is expected that minor changes to the way paid ads are identified will ensue to avoid possible FTC action.

These changes, however, can impact the efforts of search engine marketers, as they will potentially need to make more drastic modifications to their search engine marketing efforts.

Here are some potential effects that the FTC’s warning will have on marketers:

Further Real-Estate Limitations

Clarifying the difference between paid and organic search listings can potentially limit the space available to both organic and paid listings. This means that either fewer results will be able to display “above the fold” without scrolling, or the character limits within each result will be reduced.

If the number of results above the fold is decreased, achieving an above-the-fold listing will be even more competitive. Businesses will be competing heavily for top placement and more of an investment will be needed to generate current levels of volume.

In the case of character limits being reduced within each result, businesses will need to update their online messaging to get their point across in less space. Paid ad titles and ad copy will likely have to be updated to fit within new limits and titles, and meta descriptions of organic mobile pages will need to be shortened to avoid being truncated when listed.

More Strategic Mobile Targeting

Paid search targeted to mobile devices is one of the fastest-growing digital marketing channels and is playing a bigger role in how consumers find products and services. The implications of the FTC warning on mobile paid search could have a big impact on how these ads are displayed. Mobile search real estate, because of the size of mobile browsers, is already very limited.

What marketers will need to pay close attention to is how they segment their mobile targeting by device type. For example, the difference in the amount of SERP real estate between tablets and smartphones is likely to increase. Targeting and bidding strategies will need to vary per device to be most efficient.

Changes to Voice-Activated Search Services

Another implication specific to mobile search is brought on by the request relating to voice-activated search results. The FTC’s warning extends to services such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S-Voice. The FTC has requested that when a voice search is executed, an audio disclosure should be made to identify paid advertising. This could potentially deter users from those paid ads, making the organic listings more valuable.

Marketers must keep a close eye on search engine results and take note of any changes that occur. When used correctly and responsibly, paid search marketing can provide a tremendous benefit to brands’ online marketing and customer acquisition strategies. But in light of the FTC’s letter, the days of deceptive paid search tactics are coming to an end. That will benefit both consumers and marketers in the long run.

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Recapture Your Lost Revenue With Online Growth

growthThere 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.

There Is No SEO School

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.

seoA 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.

The Value of an SEO

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.

growthOver 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.

Branding Your Business Online

brandingstampAs 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.

Clarifying Your Online Message

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.

closelookGoing 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.

The Myth of Dieing SEO

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.

viralWhen 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.

Right People Right Time

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.

Web DesignThe 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.

Typically a WordPress website will require a number of different programming languages. The most commonly used are PHP, CSS, javascript, with mySQL as a database. The CSS and javascript of a website is used to style the page, it’s colors, and handle all of the interactive portions of a website – these are all design elements which are part of the user experience end of the site. PHP is the server side language used to handle everything behind the scenes, this is the portion of the development stage of the website work. The development portion of a website also handles aspects like checking credentials of a user when they log in, accessing the database for information etc, or dynamically changing the website based on certain conditions.

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.