Where advertising is concerned for your business, you always like to know that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. There are multiple ways for you to get your name out there, and there are some which are much better than others, it doesn’t really matter which method you use, but in the end it’s always about the numbers. How many visitors, how many conversions, how many sales have been made etc.
Organic search engine optimization is one of the most cost effective means to advertise your business old or new. And unlike more traditional advertising methods, like television or print media, it is fairly simple to use analytics software to track your website. Television and print media can offer you metrics of a fashion, they can offer you market saturation numbers, but actual return on your advertising investment is questionable at best. The metrics that you can gather from an online campaign, are much more comprehensive when you compare them to traditional media. Not only can you track how many people have seen your website, you can see what those visitors have done on your website. And one of the greatest aspects of being able to track your online campaign with analytics software is it gets more accurate over time, so you can really begin to determine where your conversions are and fine tune your marketing goals.
By comparison, the Adwords platform has a great suite of analytics software. It lets you track every aspect from impression, to saturation, to conversion rate. Unlike using organic SEO however, you can begin to make changes to your campaigns and start to see results almost immediately. Paid online advertising is a great avenue for newer businesses to explore, as well as successful online businesses to test other avenues for new products or services for your marketplace.
Both organic search optimization and Adwords have their place in an online marketing scheme, and the strength of the data you have available make them the clear cut choice for your business. That is assuming of course that you would like to have information like visitors, keyword activity and conversion rates so you can make your business even more successful.
Before exploring the latest trends in local mobile engagement specifically, it’s valuable to recognize the rapid growth of mobile and other connected devices and their impact on how consumers are accessing the Internet. Within the U.S. smartphone market, Google and Apple solidified their market dominance, with Android owning 53% of the market, and Apple’s piece being 36%, totaling nearly nine out of 10 smartphones in use at the end of the year.
The most important piece of the puzzle of users who own mobile phones though, is they’re also likely to own other mobile devices, and at the end of 2012 that number was beginning to get up to around 40% share. Between all of the smart phones and other connected devices, it all adds up to multiple ways for people to access the web in varying formats. Rapid growth of mobile connected devices drastically changed how consumers accessed the Internet as PC use appears to have peaked. Growth in the number of PC users accessing the Internet flat-lined for the first time last year.
An important factor of mobile internet users to keep in mind, is their much higher than average engagement rate. If your website is mobile friendly, and locally optimized, you already have two steps forward in the right direction to increased business. Take this last Christmas shopping season, nearly 50% of all mobile owners used their devices to search locally, and that number is expected to grow over the next year again.
Local businesses should be introducing advertising strategies and mobile and tablet-friendly websites to attract consumers increasingly accessing the Web from their handheld devices. Over 60% of smartphone consumers are now accessing local content on their devices; and, while consumers prefer apps to search for local content, use of browsers is also strong. Local businesses should ensure their mobile efforts include both apps and browsers.
Search engine optimization is a buzz term that makes a lot of marketers out there wince when used in their presence. It isn’t a wonder why, as there seems to be an expert around every corner, and at times it can be a dicey proposition to engage someone to represent you. The dangers associated in a virtual world can have some real world implications if you aren’t mindful of the work being performed on, and off of your site.
Whether you have a website with only a couple of pages or a website with thousands of pages, you need to have an aim with your optimization efforts. You need to decide from the get go, are you going after a site wide optimization or are you going to start with a page or two to try and work your way to the top of your niche. You can optimize your site and pages for single or long tail terms, but you need to have the focus to not push forward on more fronts than you can handle. Once you’ve either paid for the keyword research, or taken the time to do the work yourself, you’ll discover that the vast majority of your traffic will result from only a handful of terms. With that in mind, make the decision to focus on your primary target, and not get distracted by your campaign.
Once you have that target and the primary pages that you’d like to optimize, there’s only one major area to worry about regarding your optimization efforts, and that’s really to not go too far with your optimization. As strange as it might sound, over optimization is a legitimate concern for a website. Being caught over optimizing your website isn’t the end of the world though, and it’s one of the easiest errors to recover from. While we always welcome an open dialogue with our clients, we have had a handful of occasions where we’ve actually had to use the phrase “We’ve taken the steps necessary, but we didn’t want to risk over optimize your pages.”
With the growth of web technology as the internet develops as a marketing tool, there are some incredible effects you can achieve when you design with the new technologies in mind. There are however, a handful of issues that you need to keep in mind when designing your website with them in mind. The main use, and priority of your website should primarily be client interaction, but marketing also needs to weigh heavily with your decisions.
It is an older technology when speaking about the web, but Flash is still widely used to create and display multimedia websites. Flash allows you to create a visually striking website, complete with sounds and animations if you would like, and allows you to have a great client experience. A great idea for websites that have an established visitor base, or is shared directly to users, as it still isn’t easily crawled or indexed by the search engines as of yet.
Some of the newer tricks on the web involve the use of updated slider coding, allowing you to overlay text and images, and the increasing popularity of Ajax code. The slider bits are getting more friendly in terms of search engine optimization, as you can designate an area for an image, and place text over top of it which can then be indexed by the search engines. A less friendly, but most often seen use of sliders is using images that have the text embedded within it, and while this still gets the message across to visitors, it is not going to be indexed. Ajax is a great new technology in the life of the web, and allows you to construct highly interactive websites. You need to ensure that you follow your optimization steps however, because there are variants of Ajax out there which don’t get properly indexed at the moment. A popular use of Ajax coding at the moment is to create dynamic menus and content, which can make your site look and act very compact, and as it is an active element works well to keep visitors engaged with your site.
I’ll write another shortly about some of the other tech out there which is providing client interaction and a great visual display for visitors at a later date. I’ll have a focus on jQuery and HTML5, the latter of which is one of the more impressive bits of technology out there.
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In the spirit of competition, Google has pretty much always said bring it on as competition almost always leads to improvements and innovation. There hasn’t been an innovative search engine developed since Google took their spot at the top of the heap, and while the task is daunting to take on the giant, it isn’t the company itself that is the issue, it’s their index of the web. As simple a problem as it may sound, creating an index of the internet is becoming an exponentially larger task every year, and as a result Google retains their spot as top dog.
Microsoft has similarly deep pockets with which to develop technology, whether it be in search, software, or what ever they may deem worthy at the moment. Disappointingly however, instead of sinking time and money into developing their own product, they spent who knows how much of both, on both their Scroogled campaign, Bing it on campaign, and their battle in the EU, trying to revive their antitrust reviews against Google. Their latest salvo in the fight, trying to convince those in power in the EU that positioning on the search results pages is directly relative to how much search traffic you get to your website. Anyone who works in any style of marketing company will tell you that if you occupy the choice spot, you’ll receive a better response, that’s a no brainer. But again, there was Microsoft time, and money spent to determine something that was already known by everyone who has ever done business. From Microsoft’s blog post:
Moving the best result down just two positions (from first to third) reduced traffic to that site by half.
The diversion effect becomes much more pronounced as a site is moved further down the page. A site that is moved from the first position to the tenth position typically will lose about 85 percent of its traffic.
A site that is moved from the second position to the ninth loses about 75 percent of its traffic.
Well no kidding.
Why they’re making such a big deal about search ranking is a tad confusing, because if you follow the language they use in their post, then Bing search does has exactly the same flaws as Google search, and their manipulated results. With those things being equal, shouldn’t the EU also look into potential anti-competitive practices against them as well? It didn’t go so well for them the last time that happened as I recall. There’s no arguing that Google has a leg up in the search world, they came onto the scene like gang busters with their algorithm and has had the largest web index on the globe, but instead of competing with them and developing their own product Microsoft has decided to go with another temper tantrum. Hopefully one of these days they’ll pull up their socks and improve their own products and stop kicking sand around the sand box.
There are a handful of advertising options when you’ve gotten your business up and rolling, and each one has their own pros and cons. Television, radio and print advertising is generally seen as being an older, dated method of advertising that still sees a fair amount of use, especially among some of the larger companies out there. Because at a certain point, you need to use it, because your competitors are.
And then 20 years or so ago, all of that got flipped onto it’s head with the rapid growth and use of the internet. It took a few years for an indexing service to come along, but Google worked out a way to wrangle the mess of the web, and give it some order, and allowed users to search the web for what they want. Fast forward to today, and it is again starting to become a tangled mess of advertising avenues. Having a website has become, for the most part, a no brainer, if you have a business, you need a website. Because just how old media advertising was perceived 60 years ago, if you’re not doing it and capitalizing on the advertising, your competitor will be. One of the biggest differences between the old advertising methods and their counterparts of today however, is that the online variants can be tracked and deliver you a definitive return on your investment. Search engine marketing, also known as pay per click advertising is great for immediate branding efforts and recognition, and helps you build your brand quicker than by just word of mouth. Think of PPC/SEM advertising as impulse adverts, like the gum and magazines you see in the check out isle at the grocery store.
The true benefits of online marketing really only become clear when you have the time and the budget to incorporate search engine optimization into your advertising portfolio. It is not to be taken lightly or done in a haphazard way. SEO is the chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie, you need to do it right, and it needs to be done in a proper balance otherwise you’ll end up with a poor product, and be met with the wrong side of the ranking algorithm on the search engines. There isn’t much to expand upon regarding search engine optimization, and in the spirit of following our own rule set of keeping it simple, if you don’t know how to properly perform SEO, don’t.
One of the fastest growing terms or trends in building a website the last few months has got to be the rise of the responsive web design. If you’ve shopped for a new site in the last bit you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, and it really does make sense. A responsive site isn’t a new idea, it’s just picked up a name for itself that designers can identify with, and it makes sense to boot.
When a web designer or developer is discussing a responsive site with you, it basically means the website can adapt to what ever technology the user is on at the moment. Whether it’s a desktop, tablet, or a mobile phone, your website will change to suit the visitor. There are some unique challenges that you need to be aware of though when looking at this type of design, as you may lose out on customer interaction or conversions if you’re not diligent about how the site performs. A top issue that you need to consider is the content that is displayed above the fold, or to put it another way, what content is immediately visible to a visitor without them having to scroll. Having visitors land on your website as the result of a search or a referral from a friend should be a near guaranteed conversion. But too many site owners and designers think of “flash before cash” and instead of working their magic and trying to make a conversion they show off and the main message gets lost. Don’t take that to mean you can’t show off the capabilities of your site or it’s design, just make sure your message isn’t being lost by doing so, both are possible you just need to be aware as you build it to make it happen properly.
Another key aspect of a responsive design is it is usually on the lower side of the content spectrum, so the content that is there needs to cover two major bases off the hop. It needs to be relevant, and it needs to be engaging for the user. Contrary to the belief of some who call themselves SEO experts, your content can be highly relevant without being spam filled, it doesn’t have to look liek a robot spit out a paragraph of keywords.And on that same note, your content can engage the user as well as be relevant, it just takes some wordsmithing to do it right to make sure the message is delivered while keeping the point in focus.
A responsive site design is a great move forward online, it’s a great means to use to provide your message to online searchers across multiple formats. Just remember to not get lost in the bells and whistles, and keep it simple. There’s nothing worse than driving a company to the top of search, just to have them completely revamp a website and lose their conversion rate.
In the last year the Google has released some pretty heavy duty algorithms to try and clean up their search results pages, affectionately referred to as Penguin and Panda updates. It is usually fairly easy to pick up on when an update is going on, as the results pages shift fairly consistently over a few days, and during that time you can go from a top 3 position, to not found, to page 2, and so on.
There are people in the blogging world who have some pretty close ties to the team at Google, and they were able to send off a quick email to find out if the gut feeling about an update was correct or not. Just last week however, it was announced that there would be no more direct confirmations from the search engine, about updates or shifts that are occurring. But don’t worry, it’s not that the communication is completely breaking down, it actually has more to do with the fact that the shifts shouldn’t be as abrupt or drastic anymore, perhaps it’s a sign that the results pages are getting closer to what the team at Google deems acceptable?
Of all of the things that we hate the most with the SEO business, there is always a short list of the few things that we try our hardest to stay away from. Some are unavoidable with client assistance, and some are completely unavoidable and regardless of how frustrating an experience it can be, we have to deal with it. As it goes with any endeavor, one of the biggest issues that can pull you apart is having too many cooks in the kitchen. There are all sorts of cliches you can use to this effect, but they all mean the same thing – too many people on the same project, and loss of information and procedure will occur. We try to minimize the impact of this by being able to directly work on a clients website, but there are sometimes cases where that isn’t a possibility, and so we deal with it. To a web developer two days to make a change may seem like an acceptable time frame, but to the internet and the search engines, it means all the difference in the world.
Another issue that sometimes crops up, and we sometimes receive phone calls for is for a quick solution, to a long running problem. Search engine optimization is not an apply duct tape here type of process, the minimum time frame we try to advise our clients of, both existing and prospective, is a 4 – 6 months window within which you might start to see consistent improvement. So the next time you’re considering using SEO to help bolster your site positions, just remember that if anyone tells you I can do it in two weeks for $300, you are potentially digging yourself a very deep hole at worst, at best you have spent money for no real lasting results.
A lot of poor information often gets circulated around the internet about everything really, but the real bone of contention that we have here at Fresh is with the people and businesses that spread bad advice or information about the web. The internet doesn’t seem like a terribly difficult tool to use, but it is one of those tools that if you don’t use it correctly, it can come back to bite you.
A big buzz word for the last few years was search engine optimization, and while it is still as powerful a tool as ever, it seems that some of the uninitiated “experts” have been culled from selling their services online with the Panda and Penguin updates. The very recent buzz phrase this time around is surrounding social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, so on and so forth, if you don’t have a social page you’re going to disappear on search etcetera. Facebook is the largest social media player on the web, no one can contest that fact, and within the last couple of weeks they came right out and said they have no intentions of offering a full search service, they are only concerned with Facebook Graph search. So very simple, and very plainly, search and social are two different things. The user base of the internet leverages both technologies to make a decision these days, so to ignore the social side of the web is a bad decision, but if for some reason you do, it won’t affect any SEO campaigns you may have implemented.
Three or so years ago when it became the big thing to sell search engine optimization services, a lot of the same old mantra began to be repeated that you could find on old blogs and forums. Methods like article submissions, link exchanges and ranking reports and their definitions were used to sell a number of businesses poor to terrible SEO campaigns. The bigger issue surrounding these terms isn’t really that they’re old tactics, it is if they are used incorrectly they can get you and your website into trouble with the search engine powers that be. Using article submission as a tactic now a days is a good way to get scooped up by Panda, especially if a post or a blog gets scraped and passed around the web on thousands of sites. Links exchange ala the early 2000′s where you pull the “I’ll give you one for one” is a sketchy tactic at best, and at its worst, there’s no way to follow if that link gets pointed all over the web at any given time. And as for ranking reports, that’s just a phrase that old marketing companies use to try and wrangle your business in as they can show you a report where they help you rank for a long tail (9+ terms) search that no one really performs.
Some of the business owners here in Winnipeg really need to give their websites a good long look, and step forward into the 21st century. Using only newspapers, radio and television is high cost, low ROI, and virtually untrackable where visitors are concerned. A real search engine optimization campaign can correct all of those issues, and we can even right side up a sinking website, all it takes is a little time, and a whole lot of experience.