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.
Since everyone is still slightly reeling and recovering from the upgraded Penguin addition to the algorithm, it was at a recent conference where Matt Cutts spoke about the Panda portion, and elaborated a little on why we are no longer being directly advised that it has been running.
In case you happened to forget, the Panda portion of the algorithm is there to help determine just how high quality your website content is. It checks on things like originality, relevance, and whether or not it’s over optimized as well. The spokesmen for search engines have always maintained that the content that you create on your website should be for the users, not the robots, and Panda was their automatic process in that regard. When you cruise around the news and blogs of the SEO world over the last few years, you can always find the posts every few weeks where someone verified through Google that an update either was happening, or had recently happened. And just a short couple of months ago, Cutts came forward and said they were no longer advising whether or not Panda was being refreshed, or run across the web and their index. The reason is actually quite simple, at present, Panda will be running every month over the course of 10 days or so.
The web is nearly an immeasurable amalgamation of pages, gifs, movies, sounds, information, basically if you can imagine it, it’s on the web somewhere. And while some website owners were hit in a big way by Panda and Penguin, the increase in frequency of it running is a very good thing. In the past, every month or so Google would have a big shakedown of the index, hitting the pages hard with an updated version of the algorithm to try and clean out some of the spammy sites and those that weren’t abiding by the rules. Ever since they came up with the additions of Panda and Penguin, there have been some fairly small changes to the size of the index, impacting only a few percent of the total sites out there, but when you’re talking about trillions of pages, even a small amount can become huge. Panda running for 10 days of the month every month is a good thing, just think of it that way. It helps keep the index fresher and more spam free than it ever has before.
A few months back, there was an article posted calling on business owners to wise up, and stop spending money on search engine optimization as it is a useless endeavour to try and improve their position on the results pages. It has been near 6 months now since that article, and its follow up have been posted, and putting aside that the article was a cleverly written piece of link bait, it made some valid points for business owners to take heed.
To be upfront, I do not agree that SEO is dieing or that it is going to anytime soon, the practice of search engine optimization is all about working within the guidelines to help improve your online visibility, and so long as there is an internet there will be a search engine, and there will be need of our services. But as I read the article, the major point which I took from what was written, is that your SEO company can not write your content for you and your business. For years the web spam team at Google has posted blogs, videos, articles and answered help threads in the webmaster forums and always with the same response: create your website for the users, not the search engines. The focal point of that statement is simple and it’s one that we always push with our clients – quality content will do more for you than most anything else to be noticed on the web. What no one at Google will actually come out and tell you however, is how to mould your content, your website, and your social profile to work together to portray your best brand image and improve your online image. That would be where our services as search engine optimization experts comes into play.
The misunderstood nature of SEO is that you are trying to trick the search engines, or manipulate them to place your website at the top of the results pages. The boring truth however, is we do nothing to manipulate the search engines, we have no direct phone number to the algorithm creators, we have no magic wand that can fix everything. But what we do have is more than 20 years of experience working within the guidelines, and continually, successfully working with clients and their websites to give them the best possible chance to climb the results pages. It’s the level of knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a blog post or a webinar, and it is why you should be very wary when approached by an agency offering you page one for only $200.
The SEO world is definitely changing, and with the most recent shake up with the addition of Penguin v2, for all of the extra work it initially entails, it really serves to “clean up” the industry as a whole. It’s major addition and changes to the algorithm that shines an ugly light on the SEO practitioners who believe it is only a game, and not realizing the amount of constant upkeep it requires. Don’t fall into the belief that it is an easy affair to implement every step to give yourself the best possible chance to rank positively online, the best thing you can do for yourself and your website is to keep it simple. Keep your content clear and relevant to your services or products, and if you truly want to improve your online image, call us before you get too far down the rabbit hole, we are here to serve.
In almost every call coming in from someone interested in our optimization services, there is a short list of questions that are asked on almost every occasion. They usually start with the basics, our cost, right to the point and it’s appreciated as it helps them determine right off the bat if they can even make that kind of investment into their website. Usually there are a handful of questions about back linking and on page optimization, and following that, content generation. So let’s have a closer look at how we answer these inquiries.
About our cost, the number is inherently flexible although our starting point serves to separate the businesses who are devoted to their online branding efforts and those who either aren’t there yet, or aren’t devoted enough. We’re not the most expensive in the market, not if you consider all of the players out there, but locally we’re the big fish in the water. And a mantra that we always repeat for the prospective clients contacting us – you get what you pay for. There are web designers out there who are happy to sell you SEO for a one time cost of $200, but in the interest of being blunt – you have no right to be surprised when it ends up being money wasted. Anyone worth their salt, in any industry, will always be worth the premium cost to engage their services. You always get what you pay for, and as you’re searching for an online optimization agency a second rule of thumb to consider – how did you find their phone number? Was it in the yellow pages, or on the top of the search results?
When we’re asked about how we do our back linking, we try not to bore anyone with the details as it’s actually the longest and most laborious process regarding SEO. The boss prides himself on his skills in this regard, and as I said previously, paying for a premium skill should be no surprise. On page optimization has always been highly important, as it’s your major identifier to the search engines. And a major component of your on page optimization is your content. This is one of the points I think that people find rather surprising – we will not create your content for you. We will absolutely work with your content, your call to action and help you deliver your message in the most effective way possible. Once you’re ready to hop into the pool of online optimization, feel free to get in touch with us, just don’t be surprised when we relay our cost. And just as a reminder that you get what you pay for, the following snippet is an example of what you get when you pay for an SEO package and try to save some money.
You really each and every portion of your site not the same as an additional. Take special care when picking a headline to use. Titles are vital to proper search engine optimisation outcome.
By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that there has been a stir on the web, a shift in the rankings and maybe you’ve received an email or two from Google describing in vague terms that your site may, or may not, have bad backlinks. It’s the latest iteration of an algorithm update to help cleanse the results pages, and you can further more refer to it as Penguin 2.0 – or webspam filter number 2.
First things first, if you’ve received notice either directly into your webmaster tools account or via your web site manager that you suddenly have been put on notice, right off the bat, don’t panic. The thing is, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of websites received the same notificatiosn you did, as Google added a handful of new information to the guidelines as to what constitutes following the guidelines. So first piece of advice, don’t panic, allow your web team to step back and go through your website and it’s backlink profile to see what may be coming up as having run afoul of the algorithm update.
Once that time has been taken to go over the message you’ve received then you can put into place a plan to take care of any issues that are being outlined. In the mean time, what you can do as a site owner to help your own cause, is to go over your pages and its content. Give your main landing pages a thorough run through, make sure you take the time to read your content with an open view and try to imagine what your target user would see. A quick and simple test, read your content out loud to yourself, if it doesn’t sound right, chances are you need to clarify your message. The content you have on your site has to be clear and consistent across all of your pages in order to be viewed as an authority in your market. The higher the quality of your content, the easier it will be for the search engines to determine what your market is. It sounds like we’re a broken record sometimes, especially to our long term clients when we ask them over and over again to refine their content, but high quality unique content is your number one key element that is required for online success.
Once you’ve taken care of your on site performance, you need to make sure that the time is taken to examine your off site strategy. There are a handful of steps that you’re in control of as a site owner, and once you follow the below steps the rest is in the hands of the algorithm and the Google machine. If you’ve been notified that you have bad backlinks coming to your site, then first things first, you need to get your hands on that list. You can generate your inbound links list, all of the backlinks that Google has picked up at any rate, via your webmaster tools account. You might have a handful of backlinks, or you could have thousands. Once you’ve generated that list, you either need to take the time to go through it to determine what looks like spam and what fits your market. If you don’t have the time to go through your list, or your list is in the thousands, there are link audit services which can help speed your process along; if you have a dedicated web team this should be a non-issue. One of the last steps you have available to you as a site owner is to request that a link to your site be removed, the unfortunate side of this request is you have no way to force a link removal. But once you’ve requested it, if it hasn’t been removed you can use the link disavow tool through your webmaster tools account to tell Google to ignore the backlink pointing to your site. Once you’ve followed these basic steps you can submit your site for a reconsideration with the search engines, and then you have the hardest task of all. You need to be patient and wait.
Let’s face it, sometimes regardless of how much you may want to hire an SEO agency to help you with your site you just cannot come up with the necessary budgetary needs. It happens, it’s happened to people who’ve called us for help and it will continue to happen so long as the internet exists. I’ve written extensively about the power of high quality content that you create with the intent of engaging your audience and make the desired conversions. As time intensive as it is to properly create content on your site, working to build a proper back link profile is even more time intensive, and has to be done more carefully than crafting your content.
Building up a relevant back link profile is one of the best things that you can do help increase your visibility in the ranking pages. The downside for you if you need to do it yourself though, is the time required to properly build that profile. One of the first points you need to realize about building links to your site or content, is that regardless of what you may read, the search engines know when you’re building links and so long as you keep two major points in mind, they’ll work for you and not against you. The first thing you need to keep in mind is the relevance of the link you’re working to gain – is the site you’re pitching relevant to you and your niche? It doesn’t matter if they can hook you up with thousands of back links if they’re not relevant to your site, it’ll look to the search engines like you’re trying to cheat your way to the top with spammer tactics – a big negative mark in their books. The other major consideration you need to keep in mind once you’ve determined the relevance of the site, is you need to be mindful of the site owner and if they provide backlinks to other site owners who approach them – and what those links may be. It’s a case of guilty by association in this case, and even if you’ve done everything perfect, all of your work on sticking to the rules can be thrown in the trash if you’re not careful with who you ask to provide you with a link profile.
The second most important issue regarding building your own back link profile that you need to keep in mind is the cost associated. You need to understand that even if you’re doing the work yourself to build your links, your time is valuable and if you’re working on your online profile, you’re not selling your product or services. In other words, don’t mess around with your site or your business, it’s what pays your bills and keeps food on your table. To understand that your time is valuable is important, because it keeps the emails and phone calls offering to sell you links in perspective – if you value your time at $200 per hour for example, and it takes you a few days to curate back links properly, how can someone who doesn’t know you, or your business, come along with 10,000 back links for only $50? Staying away from link sellers is one of the most important steps you can keep in your mind, as all it takes is one link in the wrong place to sink your site. If you can’t afford to hire an agency to do it right, make sure you take the time to do it right and stay away from the seemingly easy solutions, because if it seems too good to be true, then it most likely is.
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.