Tag Archives: internet news

Common Sense Optimization

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.

gprOn 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.

Local and Mobile – Fastest Growing Search Demographics

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.

brandingThe 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.

Microsoft and Their Crying Game

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.

Dilbert-fakelinksWhy 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.

Search Engine Optimization Cookies

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.

closelookAnd 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.

Retain Your Message During Redesigns

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.

futureWhen 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.

Save Money On Google Penguin

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.

SadPenguinThere 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.

Search in the 21st Century

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.

right-toolA 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.

The Dark Future of Facebook Search

In the last few months Facebook has come out in the open about their own search offering, and if you are interested in trying it you can sign up for it. It’s an intriguing idea Graph search, but as numerous blogs and articles on the web quickly discovered, the results which are returned can be a little on the flaky side at times. You can even go so far as to somewhat toy with the search interface, and come up with some very unusual search settings as an example.

The service is still in its infancy, it has a lot of learning and lot of growing to do. One of the main complaints that has come up however, that has been consistent across all articles is the web search feature provided by Graph search is lacking. In fact, it’s lacking enough that it may as well be non-existent, so there were writers out there who had hoped that the service would improve over time. It seems that their prayers will go unanswered, for the time being at least, as Grady Burnett, VP of Global Marketing for Facebook said, in no uncertain terms there will be no external search engine. The actual quote from SMX West:

GB: I don’t see that happening. We called it “Graph Search” because we’re focused on letting people search the Facebook graph. So my answer would be no.

internetmapThere is going to be a handful of different responses to this message from the company, some will be cheering, others will be jeering of course, but those in the search industry who truly understand, won’t be surprised at all. When you consider all aspects of the internet, not just search and social, a picture will begin to form. This map obviously isn’t an exact replication of what the internet looks like, or how it’s divided, but it makes it easier to understand, and see why Zuckerberg, who built the largest social network in existence, isn’t worried about external search at the moment. There is so much more out there that isn’t Google or Bing or Yahoo to worry about, they’re only a fraction of what makes the web so massive.

Ever Lasting Search Battles

Search engines catch a lot of flack for various things, some of the items which top the list are privacy concerns, spam issues, and irrelevant search results. The laundry list of complaints and concerns that users come up with about the engines is as varied as the user, and can sometimes border on the silly; like the recent court case Google won.

WebsitegoalsAll things being even though, the complaints do have some merit as there are lingering issues with search and the results pages. There are some unscrupulous users out there that try and ruin it for the rest of us by gaming the search engines. Cloaking pages, hidden links, scraping genuinely great content and sometimes even just running a content generator that spits out nonsense. At a recent event, Matt Cutts came out and discussed some of the top issues that Google actively works on keeping from their search results. Some of the ones that you would expect are in the list, spam content that was auto generated, this usually reads like nonsense and is stuff to the brim with keywords. Not surprisingly, keyword stuffing also made that short list of immediate no-no’s, where SEO is concerned this is even a basic of the basics, you just don’t do it. As it should be expected, pages that are full of nonsense text for no reason at all, it isn’t too difficult to find unfortunately, as you can just run a search for “Lorem ipsum” and you’ll be able to find too many poor businesses out there who have no idea they’re being swindled.

One of the methods that was discussed which is still an issue online, is full on hacking of websites. It started when the web was born, and will likely always exist in some form or another. There are many different levels of hacking, and not all of them are malicious, web developers have been having to deal with Internet Explorer for years with some of these methods. But there are still malicious hackers out there, who will attempt to seize your website and use it to their advantage. You can deter most attempts however just by following safe web practices and ensuring your website software is up to date, and by taking the time to actually look at your own website from time to time. If something looks wrong, investigate and fix it before it becomes an issue.

Search engines and the internet are still very young technologies if you really break down the numbers, they have a lot of evolving to go through in their lifetime. There is clearly some massive potential for growth in all sectors, search, websites, and information sharing, etc, and for as many innovations we make there will be users who try to take advantage. Be aware of your website and it’s content, and try to keep in touch with your website admin and your SEO provider, you’ll be thankful you did.

Changing The Search Game

With the way that search is always changing and evolving, you would have to think that someone, somewhere is going to hit on that perfect search machine. One that combines social signals, with personal preferences, some local results thrown in and to top it all off, be completely unbiased. While the likely hood of that happening in the near future isn’t bound to happen, it’s not impossible.

leaderThe first thing that needs to happen for that to become a reality however, is the entire web needs to be free to be indexed. That means forums, social sites, business pages, and any other site which holds any information or service for web use. So the first step would be everyone playing nice, and getting along, instead of locking away portions of websites from the information gathering devices, whether they be spiders or some new type of bot. After it has finally been able to find it’s way around the web and build up new version of a searchable index, then context can be used to create a search process. The real problem with this step is the creation of a new type of page index. There are a half dozen different types of search services out there, and everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. Currently it isn’t any real secret that Google is the king of the castle, but despite their prominence, the potential of them losing their spot still exists.

Using the premise that a new type of index does exist, and a new search technology exists to take advantage of it, this is the point where personal preferences take over. It is this point in search where everyone is unique, and for as different as we all are we still expect a familiar experience. But as an example, with the way that the web currently works, if you perform the same search at home and then on a computer that isn’t yours, you will get similar, although different results. This disparity is what will likely be the game changer for search, if you can receive consistent results, regardless of device, is when the next search king will be crowned. The solution is likely a cloud base type, where your preferences are stored virtually as opposed to locally, as well as the browser not being a program you install on your computer, rather one you just, access. The closest a company has gotten so far to deliver a product in this way, is Google at present with their Chromebook product. And while not terribly surprising that they’re the first to venture into a wholly cloud based product, it would be exciting to see others making the same steps.