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.
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.
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.
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.
There have been many changes with the Google search engine, and all of them have their fans and their enemies. One of the most polarizing updates that happened to the search provider however hasn’t been Panda or Penguin, it’s likely the autocomplete feature. Autocomplete if you’re unaware, is a feature somewhat like instant where the engine tries to guess what you’re searching for, by offering you some potential searches you can perform.
The feature has picked up a few enemies on how it guesses what you’re searching for. Autocomplete uses the trending terms to build it’s list of terms which it then plugs into the search bar for you as you continue to type. Not only are the trending terms used to build the potential terms, but the search engine also takes your local area into consideration as well. For example, using Google.ca and being in Winnipeg, if I type the letters ‘bl’ into the search box, my personal autocomplete options are blackberry, blue cross, and blue bombers not necessarily in that order. The issues which surround autocomplete typically involve individuals or businesses who have had unfavorable news generated about them. Articles get written, opinions are formed and shared, and before long a local trend suddenly shows up in the autocomplete field. There have been lawsuits, threatening letters and court action filed against the search engine because of these occurrences, and so far in every case the search engine has won. The reason was always the same – they have no control over what people write and share on the internet, they only index it.
Autocomplete is just as important a search feature as any other out there, and it is invaluable where branding is concerned. As a business, your brand is everything, whether you are new or 50+ years old. Your name alone can help guarantee sales, new clients and a high quality referral trend if you play your cards right. You can use the social networking tools at your disposal to generate news and cull testimonials from your clients and customer base. Taking the time to manage your brand by creating your own news, your own trends can help the autocomplete feature to generate a positive spin on your name, and business. First impressions are everything, and where the internet is concerned a first impression lasts only a few seconds at best, so you need to make the best of it.
There are many steps to the optimization game, there is the content management side of things, social optimization which takes a lot of hands on time to properly handle, and there is the link building side of the equation. Just like when you work your content to be readable and highly relevant to your niche, you also have to make sure to properly build your back link profile. The level of detail needed to properly sculpt your profile is thankfully left to us SEO experts to make sure it’s done properly. If you would like to try it on your own for some unknown reason though, there are a few rules you need to keep in mind when searching around the web for a back link.
First and foremost one of the largest mistakes you could make when working on link building is to assume a back link from someone in your market or niche. Just because someone may share a complimentary aspect of your market, does not necessarily mean they would automatically like to link with you. By this point in the age of the web, it is thankfully a mostly lost tactic in the back link game. Occasionally you will receive an email saying that a website has created a link to your website, the very first thing you need to do is check the integrity of their website. If necessary webmaster tools can be used to disavow a link to your site if for some reason a request for removal has been ignored.
One of the fastest growing methods of contact between webmasters in the last couple of years has started to come down to social networks. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ there are more than a billion social signals out there with Facebook alone with which to get your name and address out there. You can create your content and flog it under your own banner and work to garner back links based on your own quality. One of the biggest reasons to build your back link profile this way is you are able to say with certainty that the credit for the links is due to your hard work, and not the result of spam emails. Social networking and building your business through the social channels of the web is one of the newer ways to generate buzz, mostly in the local scene but it is a highly effective form of marketing limited only by the time you are willing to put into it.
And one last important tactic to keep in mind when working on your back link profile, is do not fall for some of the contat emails which offer to sell you packages of links. In a best case scenario the links will be useless to your campaign, and at worst, it may serve to sink your website in the rankings. The negative side of this equation is much greater than the positive, as anything worth doing online is worth doing correctly, it can be difficult to recover from a bad link profile so it is best to stay away from easy solutions like an emailed offer.
Every now and then there is a whipped up frenzy on the web and blogs about the dangers of SEO agencies and experts, and that the game is rigged so that unless you pay for advertising you may as well be lost on the web. While there is always someone out there trying to make a quick buck, even just a little bit of research can help clear your conscience.
When you are approached by an agency to help your company with SEO, there are a handful of basic checks and balances you can use to decide whether or not it is worth your time, and your money, to accept their services. One of the first things you can, and should do when contacted by someone professing to be SEO experts, is to find out what their website address is. Seek them out and have a look at their website for yourself, does it look like the type of website that search professionals would use? Their message should be clear on their site, and their skills in online marketing should be obvious. Ideally you should be able to perform a search for the terms you find on their site, and find them listed in the top of page one, for most if not all of them. After all, if they are experts at SEO, it should be a simple affair to find them in search.
If they are not apparent on their website, you should be able to also ask for a list of referrals from existing clients of theirs. If they have done their job well enough, there should be no problems with providing a list of clients or testimonials, that are able to confirm their skills as an online marketing firm. Search engine optimization is much more than just being able to get your site listed in organic or paid search listings, they should also have been able to demonstrate they can also assist with improving conversions on their clients websites.
A very telling point as to the type of SEO you’re dealing with as well, is unfortunately one of cost. Real website optimization is a time intensive project, and not one that is a short term solution. It takes its time to work, and if done properly can help position your site with a positive gain in ranking. To have an SEO agency properly help your rankings, it will not come at a small cost. If the price seems to be too good to be true for improved search positions, then it likely is. So if someone has approached you and offered a one shot at being able to improve your ranks for only a minimal cost be very wary of their services.
Your website is your storefront on the internet, and if you engage the wrong agency or expert to try and improve your listings, you may end up where you least want it – removed from the index.
When you’re doing any kind of advertising and marketing, you need to eventually work out the numbers and decide whether or not it has been a worthwhile investment. Thankfully, that time frame for Microsoft has been a scant 4 months, during which they spent who knows how much money on their largely failed “Scroogled” advertising campaign.
It wasn’t pushed terribly hard over all advertising channels, but occasionally you would catch one of their ads, whether it was print, television or online. And the general premise was “Google isn’t playing by the rules, so come and use Bing!”. In a completely unsurprising event, the internet didn’t really notice that MS was stomping their feet and throwing a tantrum, except to maybe pat them on the head occasionally and have a chuckle at some of the videos they made. A link to my absolute favorite one of the handful I saw:
I’m guessing by the way they scripted the ad, Bing would have told you that if you use a pan on too high a heat you would start a fire?? Also, it’s somewhat cringe worthy that the way Bing has decided to upload their videos was to use Youtube, a wholly owned Google web property.
With their Scroogled campaign Microsoft was aiming to make it appear as if Google was infringing on every possible piece of private information, and while Google did start serving ads in Gmail over the past year, most Gmail users have reported that the ads aren’t an issue for them. And Microsofts new webmail service that has been relaunched from Live mail to Outlook.com now, even had the same type of ad service running once you’ve signed in. At least someone in the Bing world decided to actually watch one of the ads or read some of the print they put out, because their content is silly at best, an insult to general intelligence at the worst, and cancelled the entire campaign. Who knows what’s next on the Bing advertising plate for taking a crack at Googles share of the web, they’ve tried positive advertising, and negative attack ads, maybe some day someone will actually decide to take a look at their search tech and make some upgrades there, here’s hoping!