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Every 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.
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.
Now 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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
Google is the biggest fish in the pond, of that there is no doubt as they retain somewhere north of 65% of all online search activity. There are others in the search game, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Blekko, all of which have their own little piece of the pie and serve their own version of the internet they have indexed. It has never been a surprise to see Google the target of anti-trust suits, targeted negative ads, and lawsuits over some really silly topics, and yet despite all of those things it is still the most widely used search engine on the web.
One of the major issues that competitors and detractors of the search engine enjoy bringing up, is the level of spam and even malware that searchers can sometimes find in the search results delivered by Google. A recent survey however, has turned up with some interesting results regarding the malware side of the equation at least. The most often touted second most used search engine out there, Bing, has come up on the wrong side of the malware results side. While it’s entirely true that Google delivers a great deal more search results in total, it is the Bing results which have the higher rate of dangerous links attributed to them. How bad can it really be though? Bing was recorded at having nearly five times as many malware links as compared to the results pages that Google delivers, and Yandex, which is the Russian equivalent of Google, gives up 10 times the bad links.
All of the search engines that were tested were found to consistently removing malware from their results pages, it just turns out that Google is doing something just that much better than everyone else. It came up that every search engine was doing all that it could to handle the malware pointed at it, but because each search engine is targeted in different ways, then the levels of malware will differ. The process of detecting websites serving malware hasn’t changed so much as the process for delivering them has. Malware programmers aren’t typically the most rules abiding bunch to begin with, so they are always looking for ways to circumvent the safe guards put in place by the search engines. As always, practice safe search and if a link seems too good to be true in the search results, it very likely is.
There are a good deal of different steps involved in properly optimizing a website. On site factors and changes, the time it takes to build a proper backlink profile, and making sure your website is properly built is a weighty deciding factor with the search engines.
On page, on site optimization is a time intensive project. Your content needs to be broken down, weighed and evaluated against your competitors as well as against the search engine guidelines. Your entire website needs to be taken down to its base components, the text, images and navigation all need to be optimized to ensure you have the best chance to rank your site. Some of the larger concerns you have with your on site work are avoiding being spammy with your content, avoiding using any tricky pieces of code to hide text or images – even if these are done by accident they have very real consequences for your website. Avoiding on site optimization issues are basic affairs however, and you can use your gut for the most part to avoid them.
All of the on page work that is done, and for all of the time that it takes to do properly, the off site optimization is just as intensive. There is no real handbook on how to properly perform off site optimization, but there are a couple of key points you can keep an eye on. While you have no real control over who, or what links to your website initially, you do have the ability to manage those back links pointing to your website via Google Webmaster tools. There is thankfully some reprieve where your back link profile is concerned, as the search engines are pretty good at picking out which websites aren’t on the up and up. One of the largest concerns that website owners seem to get worked up about are having links from websites that are obviously selling links to anyone that will pay. Well thankfully, the short story is that it’s highly likely that Google knows they’re not playing by the rules and any links that may be pointing at your site won’t be a problem for you. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam gave a brief answer to this concern, the main points to keep in mind:
Websites that sell links will see their toolbar PageRank downgraded by 30, 40 or 50%.
The site will no longer continue to be able to pass PageRank.
Sites they link to will no longer benefit from those links.