When you’re building that fancy new website for your business, there are always a handful of problems that you can run into. Sometimes it’s because of being unfamiliar with the way the web works, and sometimes it has to do with trying too hard. No matter what the issue is boiled down to, it can always be remedied, but here are some of the most common mistakes new site owners tend to make.
You’ve built yourself a singing, dancing website that can identify exactly what what your visitors are after with just a couple of mouse clicks. But that kind of technology comes at a cost, and if your site takes a long time to load (longer than 10 seconds) it’s most likely that you’re actually losing out on more visitors than you engage. Some of the easiest ways to avoid long loading times are to avoid the use of fancy ui elements based on Flash and don’t use images or animations where text will suffice. This is even more important with the recent growth in the mobile market, where internet connections are slower than what you experience with a pc. If you’ve already built your site and it’s incorporated some of these elements already, before you run off and completely tear your site apart, check it’s loading time first. If your load times are good, then your real need to redesign is based more so on the search engines side of the equation, flash and animations aren’t indexable by the spiders so the sooner you can step away from graphical designs that may be hiding your content, the better.
With the billion or so members on Facebook alone, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that business owners would forget that it’s a major part of the internet. And yet, it’s still a common enough occurrence to find out that a new client has nothing in the way of a social media offering, let alone reaching out to their customers or clients using those channels. There is a growing trend as of late with the search engines which is starting to take into account your social engagement level. While they still aren’t as important as a strong back link profile, social signals are increasingly becoming a sign of trust that lends legitimacy to your website. Flexing your social media muscle requires more than testing the placement of your social share buttons on your site, you need to generate content that demands to be shared, and engage in regular interaction with your target audience. It’s a simple enough issue to work around however, and it really just takes the time to understand your audience to make it work for you.
One of the most common mistakes that we’ve seen the last while with new clients especially, is the heightened focus and awareness of search engine optimization. Carefully crafting your content and your pages with or without outside help is not always a bad thing, as it shows that you understand that it’s important, but it becomes a problem when you only focus on the search engines. I found a great two point synopsis of what you should be considering when you’re creating pages and content for your site: if your keyword is in the title of your article, and it’s what the article is about, you’re well on your way. To make it even plainer, stop worrying about what the search engines see and think about your customers. It doesn’t matter if you can rank in the top spot if your content and delivery is crap, it’s your visitors that make you profitable. Craft your site and pages for your visitors, and the algorithms will do the rest.
One of the more difficult aspects of being a consistent force online, is being able to show to not only the search engines, but your target audience, that you are approachable as a business. One of the cheapest, and simplest ways to prove to the powers that be is by utilizing the power of social media. The most difficult phase of using social media, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, is just the time involved in keeping your target audience engaged.
Rolling with the assumption that you have the time to sit down and engage your audience, instead of tweeting and posting everything to your social pages, there are some points which are more beneficial than others to cover. Right off the top, one of the biggest bonuses for you to try and keep on top of would have to be the news that is relevant to your market. If you sell toilets for example, and there has been a revolutionary break through in the industry, you’ll want to let your followers know that you have the newest and best crapper in town. Add in to the mix all of the facts and figures regarding the news is the simplest way to offer up quality information, that is quickly and easily consumed by the search engines and by your followers. People on the whole, love having statistics at their fingertips that allows them to compare products or services at a glance, and if you’re at the top of the offerings and quick to act, you’re greatly increasing your chances at making that next big sale.
Twitter especially is great for pushing out snippets of information quickly, and using a website that greatly shortens a web address (like bit.ly for example) allows you to host information on your site, without eating up your 140 character post limit. Taking the SEO side of the equation into consideration, this allows you to break down your visitor flow through your website, as we can tell at a very quick glance if you’ve been found in the results pages for your organic terms, or if people are flowing into your site via your Twitter or Facebook postings. A growing method in the last year or so especially for offering up quickly digestible information has been the use of infographics. Typically brightly colored and visually appealing, infographics allow you to sell your business and it’s services in a simple format. Prevalent more so on Pinterest and it’s growing userbase, the graphics can help to outline why you’re the best toilet salesman around, with the facts and figures to back it up. Producing any kind of content that can be taken in quickly and visually is one of the roadblocks to leveraging social media to engage your audience, as consistency is greatly important. Your content must resonate with your audience emotionally is the best case scenario. Start by creating a compelling title, one that is clear, concise, and relevant — and maybe even mysterious. Invigorate your social media marketing with bold new content ideas, and you will see your website being boosted with shares across the web.
Seems like the ever growing web is going to experience some growing pains again over the next little while, with the inclusion of Penguin version 2.0. Googles head of the webspam team over at Google came out with a few points about what the successor to one of the largest updates for search has in store for site owners across the web.
From his video blog that was posted, Cutts had this to say as a short description of the coming upgrade: “This one is more comprehensive, we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have more of an impact than the original Penguin.” So in short, if you were affected by the first update and still haven’t been able to self determine what you may have done to wrong the algorithm, chances are this may further sink you in the search results. But, putting all of the doom and gloom aside, upgrades to the search algorithm are widely accepted as a good thing, but there will always be winners and losers when there are any changes, regardless of how big or small. We’ve always extolled the virtues of having quality content in order to sell yourself on the search engines, and if the video blog post was any indication, strong content will be even more important as the update approaches.
Contrary to what some in the search engine optimization space may think, Google doesn’t hate those of us in the space that optimize websites to help a quality site improve it’s positions. What they do hate, are the black hat users and the spam sites which seek to circumvent the algorithm and cheat their way to the top, very different methods than any quality SEO will leverage to help improve your site. It seems that there are new methods to maintaining control over your site and opening improved channels of communication so you can help discover what your issues may be so you can correct them. Cutts also spoke to reassure site owners who are following the guidelines: “If you’re already producing high quality content when you do SEO, you won’t have to worry. If you’ve been hanging out at black hat SEO forums, you may have a more eventful summer in store”.
If you own a website for your business, then the chances are pretty good that either you’ve been contacted by someone who offers to perform SEO for your site, or you’ve realized (hopefully) that the web is the way to go and optimization is another tool in your kit you need to leverage. There is an ongoing problem within the SEO world, however, it is slowly being rooted out and the agencies or people who don’t know really what they are doing are slowly falling to the bottom of the heap.
The chief issue with search engine optimization is that very deep down, at it’s very core, it’s a free service that can be used to help improve your website. The caveat to this though, is that just like every other product and service out there, you get what you pay for. So if someone comes along and offers to sell you full service for only $200, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sinking in the results page. Buying the cheapest SEO on the market is like using a rock you find on the ground to hammer together your new roof on your house, it might work in the beginning, but in the end you’re just going to end up hurting yourself and likely not getting the work done properly in the first place.
Freely available information is the culprit in this regard, it only takes an internet connection to learn “everything” about search engine optimization. The problem with information being available though is that sometimes it’s just not the right kind of advice or information you want to follow. As an example, it wouldn’t take long to Google up the steps to be able to rebuild a basic lawnmower engine, but you wouldn’t be able to even begin to parlay that into rebuilding a jet engine. Both of them power machines in order to provide a service, but are immensely different. The readily available information regarding SEO is most often the type of tactics you don’t want to leverage when trying to have your site listed. A lot of culprits that we see when having someone contact us for help are old tricks which the search engines didn’t much worry about at the time, but the algorithms are much smarter now than they ever used to be, so as a result, you need to be better as well. Over used keywords is one of the biggest culprits where lost ranks are concerned that we see, and even from a user experience stand point, spammy text just looks wrong. If you’ve created your content, or had someone work on your content for you, make sure to give it a very careful read once completed. Read it out loud to yourself, because if it sounds strange when you read it, chances are the search engines will pick up on that and you’re not going to be too thrilled with the results.
Unfortunately, a method which I still see to this day when we have people calling us is the use of hidden text on their site, and they can’t understand why they’re not visible in the results pages. It used to be that unscrupulous SEOs would hide text on the page by matching it with the background color of the page, so the text technically exists on the page, it just isn’t visible unless you select the text with your mouse or view the source code of the page. The search engines decided a number of years ago that this was a method in poor taste used to rank a website, and as such devalues any site using such a method. The list of old tactics to rank a website are incredibly simple to find, and as a general rule of thumb if the person working on your site talks about the tricks that they use, make sure you take the time to look into their methods. They may just be setting you up to sink like a stone.
There is occasionally a great discussion to be had on the topic of search engine optimization, and this passed week was no different. There was a discussion started about how SEO isn’t the same game as when it all started some 15+ years ago, and all I could really chime in on that note with would be – of course it has.
In the beginning, search engine optimization wasn’t comprised of more than a handful of tactics really, as the web hadn’t really started it’s cycle of rapid evolution that we see today. The tactics to rank in the beginning weren’t even that difficult to pick up on, a few links from sites, some keyword spammy content and a decently built site and you could push it up the search results in fairly short order. To be fair, those base elements of the SEO world really haven’t change all that much, it’s just the importance of each factor has changed over time, and continues to change. Your content is your most important factor on your site, it always has been and likely always will be, as it determines your message to the search engines. You need to tell the spiders who you are and what you do, in such a way that your message is heard loud and clear. Your site architecture and design is important as well, but it’s as much from a user interaction stand point as it is a search metric these days, as the spiders are pretty good at discovering your site and it’s pages with even a rudimentary navigation setup.
Being an SEO company we’re often met some criticisms when we’re engaging a new client, as it is unfortunately likely that they have been burned by someone calling themselves an SEO, especially in the last couple of years. And the optimization world has changed so much in the last 5 years or so, especially when you start throwing in the rapidly expanding social web and the signals that tie them all together. Having a responsive web design which can detect whether your visitor is on a PC, tablet or even a cell phone these days is also a contributing factor to the marketing decision as you can immediately turn down a highly qualified visitor just by making your site unfriendly to a mobile audience. Search engines measure your value to the results pages on so many additional metrics now, that it’s important to keep them all in balance with your brand image in mind. It is understandably difficult as a business owner to let loose the reins a little and allow a company like Freshtraffic to do what we do best, but your increased online presence is our job. All of the points I’ve mentioned that affect your marketing online are all the important factors we weigh and measure to ensure you’ve exceeded the recommendations for the search engines. Because increased traffic, means increased conversions, which means more business for you and your employees, and we’re in business to bring you business.
For all of the bonuses of having an online presence, occasionally there is going to be a hiccup. The best you will find a host promise you is to have 99.99% up time, because there will be the occasional circumstances beyond their control. It’s an unfortunate discussion that we have sometimes with clients when they try explaining to us that Sally from Edmonton is having difficulty navigating the website because it isn’t loading properly. All we can do is ensure that the site is up, that it’s operating properly and that the connectivity is fine. Everything beyond those few points, is unfortunately beyond our control.
There are however, some very real consequences if your website does happen to come down due to a coding error, or a database retrieval problem.
For example, in the event that your website goes down, and it could happen for any one of a thousand reasons, you need to be aware that first and foremost that visitors can not currently reach your website. So that means no sales for your products, no emails for your newsletters and no exposure to the social market as well. No website online means you can’t work with your content, and it means that you can’t operate your business at 100% capability. Most hosts only have downtime issues that average, at most, only 20 minutes or so at a time over the course of a year. And in the big picture, that may not seem like a whole lot, but the web isn’t a market that forgives easily or quickly.
Say for instance that your website crashed this moment, and that it was down for only a few minutes while your host plugged your server back in, you wouldn’t think too much of it. But just to play devils advocate, if during that window that your website was down the search engine bots came by, they would see that your website was not only gone, but the entire address is invalid. The next step? Regardless of your position on the web, you would be dropped from the results pages because, well you need a website to be on the results pages and you didn’t have one at the moment it visited. Don’t worry though, because this is an outlier situation and anytime a search engine bot encounters a dead url where there was previously a website, it’ll continue to try until it receives a definitive response.
While we work very closely with our clients, we make it part of our routine to ensure your website has as close to 100% uptime as absolutely possible. We’re always watching your address to make sure that everything is ticking along as it should, because your improved position in search is our primary goal. And you’re not going to get there if we be lazy and allow your website to go offline for an extended period of time.
There are a great deal of rules that determine how to conduct yourself and your business online, and make no mistake, the rules for SEO are some of the least flexible of the bunch. Due to the nature of the web being so flexible as a whole, it’s common to see new Search Experts crop up and whither away in a very short time. There are a lot of myths, misconceptions, and just plain bad advice out there online about search engine optimization, and with that in mind allow me to offer just a little bit of insight.
For all you internet beginners out there, you need to realize that just because you can find a template and put it online, it doesn’t mean you’ve optimized a site for search, let alone basic web use. You need to start with the basics of building and designing a website, clean coding with a navigation menu that is simple to use and crawl-able by bots. One of the more simple methods we use to get across to a new client when we tell them they need a new website, is when we show them the output of a basic spider and it returns a blank page regarding their website. If you don’t make it visible, don’t expect it to rank, regardless of how much time and effort you spend on optimizing it.
One of the necessary components to being able to rank online is by having quality content on your pages. Well written and keyword rich for both the search engines and for your visitors which come to your site, you need to be able to quickly and clearly deliver your message and call to action. This is where some of the time intensive processes come into play, because our goal as SEO’s is to deliver visitors to your site primarily, if you’re unable to convert those visitors however it’s irrelevant how much traffic you get. Your call to action needs to be obvious on your landing pages so that when someone arrives at your site, they know precisely what you want them to do. If you’re into selling merchandise, make your sales or features prominent for example, with contrasting text or images so it stands out to your viewer. You only have around 3-5 seconds to get your message across to the user, so you need to do it quick and clean.
The one last thing you need to remember as a new denizen of the web, is that just because there is the world at your fingertips and the code can do wild and incredible things, doesn’t mean you should use it. The more complicated you make your site, the more you invite something to go wrong, whether it’s with search or with conversions, and when things go wrong online it can be a game stopper for a business. Keep your site simple, and keep your message simple, and you will begin converting your new visitors almost as fast as they’re coming in.
Winnipeg I need your help, I wanting to know if the above title has any merit? I suppose I’m looking for some clarification or answers to the following questions, and before someone mentions the need to employ a consultant to help, forget it, I seem to be living in the land where it seems every other person is in that profession.
I’d like to paint the picture from an outsider looking in, since moving to the city six years ago and setting up office from the US & UK I have had a few problems trying to comprehend local business thinking and decision making.
Let me try and explain, 99% of consultants I have met in my six years in Winnipeg have either had their own business and failed, worked for a company that failed, got fired, came out of a local college, were unemployed so it seemed like a good idea, did a 2 day course or there a part-time stay at home mum. Most work out of a home office or basement and like to charge what we call New York prices for their work. I’ve seen life & business coaches charging $500-$1000 for a few hour course or speech who drive around in a 10 year old rusty Chevvy but get employed by local business & marketing associations to advise members. Does this not set alarm bells ringing to these people?
These people who consult don’t have any more experience than you do. They are typically young, but not necessarily. They can certainly “talk the talk” but have never “walked the walk”. In other words they are big on theory, some have lots of qualifications but very little real-life experience to match. In many instances, as a hands-on business manager, you may well have already exceeded their ability to help you advance your enterprise any further.
Then there is the dangerous kind – the dodgy consultant. You often can’t really determine whether these people are good, bad or indifferent until it is too late. They often originate from outside of the city or are returning Winnipeggers with seemingly immense international experience. Their objective is clearly to impress.
They will blind you with tales of their achievements and impressive examples of their triumphs in the markets you are trying to enter. Unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, and often it is.
In reality if the same consultant fronted for a corporate job his ability and track record would be quickly found out. How? Well corporates approach employing senior executives quite differently to the way most of us employ a consultant. Not only do the businesses undertake verbal reference tests but they have extensive international networks of contacts to tap into and a range of psychological and other testing at their fingertips. Too many of us approach employing a consultant as you would select any other service provider — as opposed to a critical member of your team.
This is not a new story but I feel it is worth repeating because I have recently been running into cases where a fledgling company (and sometimes not so fledgling) has engaged with someone, or some firm, and suffered badly from false expectations. A person (or firm) can appear to have an impressive track record, look very smooth and professional and have money to invest, but this doesn’t mean they are not the consulting equivalent of Typhoid Mary.
When considering using a consultant I make three key recommendations:
1. Look closely at their track record. You are looking for tangible results and an understatement of their ability as opposed to “talking the talk”. Contact the companies they say they have worked for and/or helped.
2. Try to check out their ex-partners/employers. You are looking for someone with whom you can form a close relationship. Look for past examples of the same thing. You want to establish that the consultant has personal attributes that you can work with. It doesn’t matter how long they have been consulting — check.
3. Use your own networks. Guys like me who have been in the game a long time hear the same names circulating time and time again with question marks over their performance. Often it is more critical to listen to what is not said about a person, than what is said. You don’t need the most professional consultant – you need the most effective. I’m just saying.
We get some fairly interesting calls at times here regarding optimization, and every now and then it can make us shake our heads here in the office. We’ve had some site owners contact us for help, detailing to us how they responded to an online ad to help improve their position for as little as $25 – and when we take a look at their history we find thousands of links pointed at their site that have nothing to do with their market. One of the interesting calls we’ve received involved a business who had questions about their on page optimization strategy. They wanted to make sure that they had done everything correctly, and wanted us to check the site over before it went live – note that there is no site yet, the url lands on a generic coming soon page. Once I went about describing how we handle all aspects of the online marketing strategy, I was told one of the strangest things, the site wasn’t online as of yet, but they already had their off site marketing setup with thousands of links pointed at the address. I just succinctly advised them to check into the Google and Bing best practices guides and follow them to the letter – what I didn’t include was that they needed all the help they could get if they were already pushing links at a non-existent site.
We won’t even get started about the calls from agencies offering to help us with our SEO strategy – we usually follow their first sentence with “Do you know what we do?” and from there they excuse themselves from the call.
It’s a wonder sometimes that anyone out there could possibly trust someone who sells themselves as an SEO, and it gets even harder at times when we come along with our skills and services and people balk at the idea of our contractual cost. There are thousands of pages and sites out there who are ready and willing to sell you an optimization package for the low price of only $150, but what will that really get you? In our experience it will get you a basic Adwords account with a single running ad (see you’re on page one for your terms!), a report which was generated by a free online tool that checks for basic website design, and a few hundred, or thousand links pointing to your site that have little or nothing to do with your marketplace. In return you’ll end up with a very temporary rise in placement, followed with a crash back down, hopefully not further than you were previously.
Search engine optimization isn’t the type of game you get into with the search engines where you can just saunter your way to the top and cement yourself there. It’s a constant battle uphill to get you to your desired position, and an even longer one to keep you there. Because you see, when you finally reach the top of your market, and you have no where left to go, remember where you came from and realize, everyone is going to try and catch you. Just a funny side note I just saw, Bing comes up as a misspelled word, while Google does not. Guess there is still some work for them to do there.
There is a huge list of the things to do, and the things you don’t do when you’re working on online marketing. As an example, you don’t send out thousands of spam emails everyday just to try and get your web address out there, it’s a good way to quickly make a terrible name for your business. I’ve written a number of blogs about the steps to follow in order to meet the quality guidelines that the search engines advise you on. I have also written about what not to do to your website, as there are many mistakes that you can make to run on the wrong side of search, some of which can be entirely accidental.
Every time we get a phone call from someone asking about our SEO services it is a unique conversation and experience. Every person and website needs a different approach when it comes to improving their presence and conversions. We’ve had the occasional conversation with someone on the phone for example who has no need of our long term organic services once we’ve learned their goal. Sometimes it has been a problem of cost with a small or very new business, and there have even been times where we can’t accept someone as a client due to already having one in their niche market. That is one of the points which we don’t waver on here at Freshtraffic, we will only take on a single client per niche, because otherwise we would end up working against ourselves. We have a long list of clients who have been with us for a few years, all of whom retain our services because we’re the best in town.
Due to the way that we operate ourselves here, we have a handful of requirements which if they are unable to be met, can make our job difficult, or depending on the severity, impossible. As an example, we require either the FTP access of the CMS access to be able to process on site changes in order to make sure you’ve got the basics covered on your site. Very brief example would be if you sell widgets, and all of your content talks about cogs and widgets working together, we would need to help you recreate your content so you become more relevant to your market and target audience. All of the changes that we come up with are brought to you, and together we decide on the best course of implementation. Once we have the basics covered and your content tweaked, then we start to watch your traffic flow and your conversions. Based on how visitors conduct themselves on your site, we can begin to determine where your problem areas may lie, and then take the steps to correct those issues as well as continually working on your sites message and delivery.
Building up your website to make sure you’re capturing and retaining your visitors attention is only the beginning of your online branding journey. After all of the on site work is completed, we begin the long process of off site work, and from there your rise to the top.