Tag Archives: internet marketing

Relative Search, Semantic Search, Presumptive Search?

Search is a finicky thing on it’s own, let alone when you start throwing all sorts of (seemingly) random variables to serve the results pages. Both Bing and Google have their own set of checks and balances which they use to deliver the results page based on your search terms. As varied as the internet is, there will be metrics that both of the algorithms use, and the differing ones are those that make the search results unique in their own way. These algorithms that are in use have developed and grown over time, as has the search market and the way it functions as a whole.

The search market started out in a very basic way, you typed in the terms you wanted to find information on, and the spiders searched through their index that they’d built and tried to return to you the results they felt best matched your request. The query you used was taken by the spiders and they searched for the exact terms and anything that matched it, search began as a relative function. As the definition goes, relative means in relation to, so if you searched the term ‘red rose’ as an example, you’d not only get images and descriptions of flowers, but you’d also likely end up with pages of the baking flour as well. Both items are relative to the search term you’ve entered, so it would make sense to a bot to show you both, as it couldn’t discerne what you were searching for.

Now the web has grown up a lot, it’s started to mature and has developed some, almost scary, tricks. It’s a term which has been thrown around a lot in the last 6 months especially, but it’s regarding the growing nature of semantic search. The simplest way to describe it would be with that same term from relative search – ‘red rose’ – with the way the web and search is evolving the bot would act intelligently. It’s being seen more and more often in Google, Bing and the social networks out there, because you’re an avid baker, the bots would likely serve you results pages more populated with the baking flour, and associated websites with recipes on it. Now it won’t bet the farm on you wanting the baking results, so you’d also receive some of the flower on your page, but it’s a best guess situation.

Semantic search, and likely presumptive search is the way we’re heading. Soon you won’t even really have to search for an item or a website, the bots, or whatever technology it is running things at that time, would know what you’re looking for within your first few terms you type. It might seem scary, it may even seem intrusive at this point in the way the world works and how people think. The simplest truth however is, this is where the web and search is going. It also means that from my point of view, the job of online branding and branding online will become vastly more important than it is today.

Basic Web Practices and Your CMS

When we build a website for a client, whether they’re in Winnipeg or anywhere else in the world, we make sure that any kind of forward thinking marketing is covered. And since we’re in the business of online branding and internet marketing, we try and make sure that each website we develop has the capabilities to become a leader in their niche, so long as they decide they want too. We didn’t just come up with some arbitrary stats which we settled on, there are some very specific points that we look for. We’ll go over a handful of the options this time around, if you’re involved in the industry in any way, you’ll probably recognize some traits in the platform you use.

One of the very first points that is a necessity, is being ablt to customize page titles, and the meta tags of each page. If it’s a properly built website, and you’re following the best practice guide that both Google and Bing have readily available, then you should know already that having an identical title or tags on all of your pages is a big no-no. You should at the very least be able to customize each page title, meta data, and your header tags, if you can’t manage these very basic snippets of information on your site, then you’ve already started off on the wrong foot and we haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet!

I’ve touched on this point several times, but when you’re building your site you need to think about the navigation menu. And I’m not referring creating a singing and dancing menu that thanks a visitor for being a part of the website experience, I’m looking more at a navigation menu that uses CSS to control the display elements. You can have an impressively interactive navigation menu just by using CSS elements, which are easily indexed by all of the search engines and are much more responsive than a java or flash equivalent. Besides being responsive and a solid display method, it also allows you to control the contents of the menu, so if you happen to make a spelling mistake, don’t be surprised to find it indexed if you’re not paying attention.

It is an often overlooked feature, as a normal site owner doesn’t usually think about the website link beyond the main address, but being able to control how your URLs are created is a major point where best website development practices are concerned. If you’ve ever been on a major online shopping site like Ebay for example, if you’ve ever copied and pasted a link of a page to an email you’d notice the link contains a mess of letters a numbers (=item20cdb2380c&_uhb=1#ht_599wt_1139). These letters and numbers aren’t there for users, they’re definitely SEO unfriendly, and need to be avoided at all costs if possible.

These are only a couple of the very basic best practices that you’ll find discussed in any of the website development guides out there. If you’ve got the time, you should work your way through your site and if you have it, your CMS backend and ensure that you have all of the above listed functionality. If you’ve learned that you don’t have these capabilities, get in touch with us here at Freshtraffic as soon as possible and we’ll get that taken care of for you. The longer you wait on necessary changes like the above, the deeper you could be lost in the results pages.

Is It Time For SEO To Die?

Does search engine optimization need to go the way of the dinosaur? If you follow any of the reporting outlets out there, it’s usually a couple of times a year that they’re bringing out the funeral procession for the SEO industry, but since it became the defacto method of gaining visitors it hasn’t budged. But is it really, finally time to bury it?

Before I get too far ahead of myself, it needs to be said that the search industry isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. With more mobile devices connected to the web than there are people on the planet, the method of delivering results is going to continue shifting to that marketplace, but it will never disappear. A better way to pose the question might be, is it time to lay the term SEO in it’s death bed? Search engine optimization began it’s time as the goody two shoes brother to black hat results page spamming that plagued the internet in the early days, and still to this day plays it’s own part in the search world. Black hatters, for all their dastardly intentions, actually play a vital role in the search market, because if they didn’t exploit things and try and find ways around the algorithms, then it could never improve at the results it provides.

But that aside, with the prevalence of information on the web about best practices, Bing recently came out with their own version and it reads much like the Google one, blogs, forums and podcasts about some of the methods and means of working with your site and it’s content to rank on the web, it seems like these days everyone is trying to be an SEO expert. And with this happening, the name and it’s methods have become muddied, with conflicting steps and methods, with some who profess to be gurus who outright skip using the basics.

It is a difficult decision, to try and come to a conclusion of burying the term search engine optimization, but then what to use in it’s stead. Online marketer, online branding consultant, perhaps internet consultant. The one simple problem remains though, that no matter what moniker gets attached to the industry, eventually everyone who followed suit into the SEO realm, they’ll follow along with the new buzz term. Maybe with that in mind, it’s just as well to let SEO live for another day, for now.

Know Your Target – Christmas is Coming

An odd job that every site owner should make sure to take the time to do for themselves, is to always be on the lookout for new, or soon to be opportunities. The way these opportunities can manifest themselves for your business vary, you could see increased foot traffic at physical stores, or if you have a strictly online position that your conversion rate on your site has improved.

Be aware of any of the changes in your city and target demographics. Whether your aim is to make sales, or to have people sign up for a news letter, your first hurdle to get over is the one of visibility. If you can’t be found for the newest gizmo in your niche, then you may as well not even sell them. Google and Bing both have a handy tool which you can use to get a feel for how your niche tracks. Bings Keyword Tool allows you to discover search trends over the last few months, and allows you to see how trends which initially move slowly, can suddenly fly up the rankings.

The tool that Google has available is their Trends Tool and it’s a different version of the Bing one. Trends has recently been merged with one of their other tools, Insights for Search, and has become a research gem. You can conduct research on as small an area as a few weeks, or as far back as 2004, you can get readings from a much larger base and it paints a larger picture for you to make decisions on.

Historical tools and data are amazing in helping you make clearer decisions where your market is possibly heading, especially now that we’re heading into the Christmas shopping season. As an example, in 2010 in the US alone there was $30 billion spent in online shopping, and in 2011 that number rose to $35 billion. You don’t need a large sample picture to guess, that number is only going to increase again. This is where Freshtraffic comes in, research your niche, decide on your target and come to us as soon as possible. We’ll help you reach the commanding position you need to take a bite of the (possibly) $40 billion+ online shopping pie.

Relative SEO Cost Structure

Organic search engine optimization is the bigger puzzle to Adwords. It’s a tougher to work with, there’s no way to buy your way to the top, and when you’re competing against (possibly) millions of local web pages it can be a tough nut to crack. It’s these more difficult steps which are some of the larger deciding factors as to the cost of any given SEO campaign, and yet it seems to be the largest point of contention when contract discussions come up.

Late last year there was a brief survey conducted about the costs of SEO, and contrary to what some may believe, here at Fresh we’re right on target. For example, we’re working on going on year 6 here in Winnipeg, and while (according to the information gathered) that puts us on the downward slope of those surveyed, it really does show that there was a boom in the industry on a whole. We’re not shy in saying that ever since Jerry arrived and began working his online magic that all of a sudden there were 40-50 SEO “experts” within a year, where as previous there were no players.

We also like to work closely with our clients, as do most of those who were surveyed, and we all enjoy working hands on with the SEO changes after conducting some proper keyword research. Link building is also in our repetoire, as is content suggestions, however we like to shy away from directly creating your content for you, as no one knows your business like you do. As for what just that fraction of our expertise costs you as a client? If you head down to section 9 of the survey results, you’ll find the monthly retainer fees of those surveyed. If you’re an existing client of ours, you’ll know exactly where you stand, and if you’re not, then what are you waiting for? Here you have before you a representation of the projected costs of retaining a true expert in the field of SEO and online branding, you should think of your existing marketing expenses, compare them to the average of the surveyed results. Factor in that organic SEO is the highest return on investment in marketing available and make the (right) decision, we’ll wait.

More Google Back to The Future

It seems as though the walk into the past isn’t quite over yet, as it seems that just like the keywords tag making a comeback, so is another old search term, the Google dance. The folks over at Search Engine Land have been commenting, and there’s already been a handful of stories about the old two step.

If you’re new to the search world, or perhaps you are a site owner who monitors your overall performance in the results, there are some points we’ll go over about how the dance used to function. Summarized over on Marketing Land:

The Google Dance took its name from how the results at Google seemed to “dance” around when it unleashed a new search algorithm — Google’s recipe for ranking web pages — on the world. A search for a particular topic suddenly brought up a set of first page listings different than from the previous day. The listings might continue to change for a series of days until stabilizing around a new set.

So that crazy shifting of positions that had site owners shaking in their boots a few years back wasn’t just imagination kicking it, it was really happening. But this was also back when Google pushed site rankings every month manually as opposed to the auto updating that happens now.

It makes it seem like the efforts that we as search marketers put into building your site and it’s positioning aren’t worth it, but the truth is the dance actually proves the methods of search engine optimization. Just like sifting flour when baking to get the best possible cake mix, the dance leaves you better results all around. The only real question we have at the moment where online branding is concerned, is which dance are we going to be subjected to, the Panda version, or the Penguin version.

Looming Holidays and Online Budgeting

It’s crunch time for budgets, we’re coming to a point where you need to decide: do we spend more and hope for big returns over the holidays? Or do we cut back and hope we can carry through to a new year? It’s not a question anyone can really answer for you, as everyones situation is unique, I would however, like to make a case for our niche – online branding, or internet marketing if you prefer.

Where online is concerned, consistency matters most, in your content, your presentation of yourself, of how you manage your online image and branding. And while it’s true for almost all facets of life, it’s even more apparent where your online spending is concerned; you get what you pay for. If you pay for shoddy service and workmanship, that’s exactly what you’ll receive. Where online and the search engines are concerned though, you will likely end up being penalized, and at worst, banned from the results pages until you clean up your site and links. Now some people try and sell that organic optimization only takes a one time shot and is a very low cost to work ratio, when in fact it’s pretty much the exact opposite that’s true.

As an example, if you try and save some money where your online marketing is concerned and decide to out source to one of the cheap advertisers out there, odds are very high that you’re going to end up with poor, if not irrelevant back links, and this will get your site snagged up in the newest algorithm addition – Penguin. The addition of Penguin into the algorithm means that the link spammers of the past, are very quickly finding themselves with burned urls – aka websites which have become useless to link to, or with. It takes a great deal of time to work out a relevant, and acceptable linking strategy for any companies website, and to skimp on this portion of your marketing will be one of the nails in your websites coffin.

Often times when you’re having your website built for you, or if you’re having it redesigned, you’ll find that web developers can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars. If you have a complex site, with a shopping cart, perhaps streaming videos and audio with a user login system, you’ll be possibly even looking into the tens of thousands in cost. Thinking about saving money on your website and it’s construction? Rethink that cost saving measure, as cutting costs from the way your site functions, looks and performs can not only get you flagged by the search engines as having errors, but it can leave your site poorly secured and the possibility of being hijacked increases greatly. And if your website becomes hijacked by a malicious user who uses it to spam (best case scenario), or completely trash your website and use it to spread malware (black listed from the SERPs) not only will the search engines not trust you, your end users and customers will begin to distrust as well.

This was only two, of the plethora of issues which can sink your website should you choose to skimp on your online budget, and while being removed from the SERPs is a terrible possibility, the interaction lost with your current and possible customers should be seen as the real loss. Lost traffic due to reduced resources leads to lost conversion rates over all, which is just a never ending cycle of less and less.

Penguin Incoming?

If you’ve felt a little over run in the last little while by the Google zoo which has been running over the index, it’s a tad sorry to report but we’re not quite out of the wild yet.

Google has mentioned that while the Penguin algorithm shift is targeted at removing/reducing the spam sites in the results, they have also let it be known that it’s still actively being adjusted and worked on. The Penguin update is acting as an adjustment (their word) to the results in removing the backlink value that spammy sites could pass on to those looking at making a quick buck or shift in their positioning. As for Panda, that was the content upgrade in case you’ve forgotten, it is still tuned for digging out poor content on sites and pages. And although the updates are coming more consistently with them being automated, the shock, and surprise that website owners were initially experiencing from positioning drops, have lessened.

Panda is a regular monthly addition now to the search index, and Penguin is being incorporated in much the same way, however it still has a ways to go. With the addition soon to your webmaster tools to handle unnatural links pointing to your website, there will undoubtedly still be some site owners experiencing a shift in rankings if being inattentive with their site. Over time however, it will be a part of the regular indexing, and the results will be cleaner for it.
Matt Cutts on the growth needed of Penguin:

If you remember, in the early days of Panda, it took several months for us to iterate on the algorithm, and the Panda impact tended to be somewhat larger (e.g. the April 2011 update incorporated new signals like sites that users block). Later on, the Panda updates had less impact over time as we stabilized the signals/algorithm and Panda moved closer to near-monthly updates. Likewise, we’re still in the early stages of Penguin where the engineers are incorporating new signals and iterating to improve the algorithm. Because of that, expect that the next few Penguin updates will take longer, incorporate additional signals, and as a result will have more noticeable impact.

Your Online Branding Image

The real trick about being noticed online, isn’t about having a Facebook account, or even about having a top of the line website built for you. Just like you can think of Coke and you instantly conjure up and image of a soda, branding is where you will make your business fly.

Online branding isn’t just for multi-billion dollar companies with worldwide distribution, when it’s done right, you can leverage it locally to your advantage. All you need is the time and the willingness to forge an image for yourself, and your business both online and offline. When you’re working to create an image for your business, you need to be clear as to what you want that message to be. Just like thinking of Coke or Pepsi makes you think of a soda, you need to be mindful of what imagery your campaign will inspire. Once you have that image in mind, it’s time to push ahead with becoming your vision. Search engine optimization is merely a tool you can leverage when you’re working on your brand. It is a very powerful tool, and when you manage it correctly it can make your presence known quickly and clearly online.

So once you’re ready to make your move and become more than just another store front, the online branding experts are here and ready to help. With our help, your desire to rise to the top, and some concerted effort we can make you the cream of the crop.

Online Branding, Adwords, and Your Website

When you’re working on your online branding campaign, a portion of your time is well spent on working on your pay per click offering. It’s like writing ad copy for a commercial, as adwords are the results which you see often on the top of the organic results, or to the left of the page. Typically marked as ‘Sponsored Links’ so as not to confuse those who are looking for the organic, or natural listings in the center of the page.

The pay per click model of search listing and advertising has been gaining a growing number of clicks, especially with searchers actively seeking to purchase an item. While working hard to improve on page and off page otpimization to rank organically is great for the long term gains, you can experience short term growth with adwords (PPC) advertising.

Once you’re setup with your adwords account, you’ll begin to get emails from Google offering to assist you with your account. Sometimes they offer simple suggestions as to keyword optimization or increasing your daily budget, and sometimes straight up offer a helping hand at improving traffic. On the surface at the moment, it seems that the helping hand that can be offered is worth it, with increased traffic and lower over all cost. And if that were all that were important with the PPC model that would be great, but the number one metric of measurement still hasn’t been determined – conversion rate.

It’s a great point of pride to say that your website receives 1000 visitors per hour (example only), and that your adwords cost to drive those visitors is only a few cents. But if you’re only able to effectively complete your goal – sign up for a newsletter or email, purchase a product etc, a few times out of those thousand then you’re really not doing as well as it looks initially. Your conversion rate is the key metric that matters the most in a pay per click campaign, and while it seems that letting the Adwords associates do the heavy lifting for you is great on the surface, they really only serve the same purpose as a search engine optimization expert. Driving traffic is key to visibility online, but it’s up to you and your website to convert the visitor.