Tag Archives: internet news

Manual Penalties Can Be Recovered From

So a little while back there was a major site, Interflora which effectively been kicked from the search engines for breaking the search engine rules and passing Page Rank via paid advertorials. That was a couple of weeks back, and they were completely removed from the results pages, now it seems that they’re back in position however. When so many are claiming foul and being wronged by the search engines, is it really just that easy to bounce back?

breakthroughGoogle confronted the company on links that were the paid advertisements, as well as linking setups that they had labeled as toxic or suspicious. The number was so high and so evident, some sources saying it was as high as 70% of the links were toxic, that it the manual penalization team couldn’t miss it. Since the company had fallen out of grace with Google, they had a long row to hoe and a relatively short time to do it, as one of the biggest flower giving days the world over is coming up, Mothers day. Due to the circumstances of how they were handled within Google, how they went about dealing with their mistakes, and leveraging the tools available to them within Webmaster tools, their rebound begins to make more and more sense.

Ironically, one of the reasons that they were able to get back into position quickly was due to Google pouring all over their site and their links as they were clearly being naughty previously. They began that painstaking process of of cleaning out their poor backlinks and disavowing using the disavow tools in their Webmaster tools account. It’s a long, and arduous process, but by getting lots of people on the job they cleaned out their entire linking profile and stopped handing out Page Rank to various places on the web. There has been some speculation that properly recrawling every single page and link that was previously tied to the company should have taken months, and with the disavow tool still relatively new and uncertain of it’s inner workings, a couple of theories have cropped up regarding their speedy return. One is that Google manually took care of the process, which is possible seeing as they were well aware of what the company was doing. And the other contender as a possibility is that when the penalty that was leveraged against the site, was lifted even after only a small number of the links were crawled, kind of like a forgiveness nod for cleaning up a mess you created.

Where we are in the end is the company is back in the search pages, it’s linking profile, while not completely fixed, is noticeably better, and there are more questions unanswered rather than answered. It’s likely that due to their size as a business, that Google kept a very close eye on them and are being quite lenient with any remaining links that they may have. The sullen side of the web though is crying foul and chanting that the larger sites on the web get special considerations while the little guy wallows in the depths of the web. Only Google really knows what happened in the end, but regardless of why their return was so quick, it was a great litmus test of the disavow tool, manual reconsideration and search reinclusion requests.

Bing Needs to Shape Up

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!

An Unfortunate Truth of Internet Marketing

Search engine optimization, internet marketing, online branding, being able to rank a website in the organic listings of the search engine results page has a handful of different monikers. The industry itself is as nearly as old as the web and its search engines, although the methods have drastically changed.

At the beginning of the commercial web, it was essentially no holds barred. Flash ads, pop ups, pop unders, hidden text, all of the things you’re not supposed to do to your website now, was fair game 20 years ago. If you tried any of the above methods however, you’ll not only be creating a poor user experience, but you’ll likely run onto the bad side of the search engines and likely end up with a lost position in the index. At Freshtraffic we’re very big proponents of everyone doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, horses for courses. Everyone has a skillset, whether it’s been taught, learned, or they have an inate talent for a job, we all have different ones. As for myself, I’ve been working and learning in the realm of on site optimization for the last 5 years. I’ve been poked, prodded and (although less now!) often told to stop trying to complicate the job and just do it.

Yes there is a point to the rant by the way, just bear with me a tad longer!

Groupon and sites like them were designed with the idea of bringing deals to the masses, and for the most part it works brilliantly. A business comes up with an idea, say a store has bought too many duvets so the offer a cover and a duvet at a great discount, but only for a limited time and in a limited amount. They create the deal, list it on Groupon and let the web do the rest of the work, simple, beneficial for all parties involved. I’ve never purchased anything through the service as nothing has really stood out to me, but there was this one offer that showed up that I had to take a closer look at. It was for what was titled as a web-master training package for what was listed as 90% savings over the actual cost, amazing deal! Working online for the last 5 years has shown me that there are clear lines that need to be drawn for designers, developers, marketers etc, just that there isn’t any confusion with a website. And basically what the program broke down into was a bunch of 30 day trial materials, and an instructional document, likely a pdf, with which you are supposed to teach yourself how to use more than a dozen different programs. The programs that you were learning to use comprised of everything from Flash, to Photoshop, to Dreamweaver and dozens of other web design and development programs. In the end, while reading the list of over 30 programs you were supposed to learn (many of them doubles of each other), the portion that genuinely made me angry was the 6 hour section dedicated to what they called internet marketing, both e-commerce and SEO.

Grump

That entire offer is in a nutshell, what is going wrong with the internet marketing world today. That individuals who finish this course, then turn around and try to bill themselves out as a search expert in a field after 6 hours of training. I’ve been at this for more than 5 years now, and I still have years of work and training to do, to think I could have learned everything for $150 and a handful of hours of reading! I fear for my profession at times, more and more when I see information spread around the web in this fashion. As an example, if you needed to completely renovate your house, would you hire a proper plumber, electrician and carpenter who has taken years of training and expertise to build their skillset? Or someone who took an online course for a few hours to do all of your work?

Protect Your Online Brand Or Else

There are a number of ways to market your business online, the two more prevalent methods are search engine optimization, and using social media to help you garner attention and traffic. Although it’s a little a lesser known method to use to help bolster your online visibility, AdWords, or search engine marketing is a very powerful tool which when used properly can definitely attract highly qualified customers to your website.

adwordsTypically the paid results show to the side, or sometimes above the results page after performing a search. The links are often on a different color background and their formatting is different. And if all of those were not strong enough indicators that they’re different than the organic results you’ve received, in the corner of that different colored box you’ll find a small snippet of text that says ‘Sponsored Links’. Think of it as paid advertisement that is trying to capture those impulse buyers out there, the people who buy a package of gum or a magazine in the check out line at the grocery store. If your ad copy is well written, your bid is high enough and you’re trying to build a brand for yourself, AdWords is a medium you definitely need to explore.

The point of the short explanation of adwords and their use, has to do with a court case that was recently settled in the US. It was between two rival companies, and one took the other to court because of their questionable use of adwords marketing. Referring to them as Company A and Company B, it went something like this: Company A wanted to try and garner traffic from searches completed using Company B’s name, so Company A used the AdWords platform so they would also appear on the results page. The judge in the case cleared Company A of any wrong doing, even though Company B argued that it was a breach of privacy, when in fact it was clever, albeit shady, marketing. If Company B had done their job marketing themselves correctly, and had used AdWords as well to ensure they capitalized on searches using their name, then there wouldn’t have been a case to begin with. From now on I’m sure they’ll be more likely to consult with those who know what they’re doing, in order to protect their online brand.

Beginner SEO Steps

brandingSo you’ve started your business, you’ve built your website, and you think your designer followed all of the basics where the web is concerned. You have a little left in the marketing budget and you’ve decided to make your play on the web, the largest marketplace in existence, so where do you start. Search engine optimization is a jungle of misinformation, bad ideas, poor advice, and is full of fly by night operations across the globe. In order to protect yourself and your business, we’ll provide you with some basic information that everyone should have where web marketing is concerned.

A quick read of any SEO related material will tell you that the process relies on your content and the keywords contained within. Those keywords, or keyterms, are the first stop for the search engine spiders when they get to your site, they try to discern what your website about. Once you have identified your target audience, whether it’s specific to an industry or a customer type, you can work with your content, and your keywords serve you best when they reflect your target. If you are a manufacturer of a product for example that can be used by a wider audience, then you need to be aiming for an industry sector, if you make a unique plumbing tool then you want to target plumbers as an example, not home owners doing their own repair work. Knowing which terms to use for which audience can make or break your business, because while any traffic is good, qualified traffic is obviously preferable.

And while it may seem obvious when you say it, sometimes a website doesn’t completely leave development with all of the right settings. You should ensure when your website is live, that it can be completely crawled and indexed by the search engines. There are a number of free services out there that allow you to crawl your site as if you were a bot yourself, and if you find that you can’t access your site you need to correct the issue as soon as possible. Lost traction today, is a lost sale tomorrow, and when you’re dealing with a store front that never closes every second counts. Make sure that your developer knows the steps to keep your site available to the spiders, and has built your site in such a fashion that allows for quick spidering.

Relationships Within SEO

Here at Freshtraffic, when we take on a new client we have not only taken on a new goal in search, we have also taken on the challenge of their website. We do get asked from time to time just what it is that we do as a company, and while I won’t get into the specifics of it, I’ll go over just a little of what has to happen in order for us to begin the process of improving your position on the results pages.

taoofseoWe have 3 basic needs when it comes to taking on a new client, and based on the answers we receive when we pose the request for them, can greatly impact our effectiveness. The primary need we have is to be in contact with the person or persons who are making the decisions for the company. Not just the lackey who sold the company on the idea of using search engine optimization to boost their web position, but the person who actually makes the final yes or no call. The reason we need this contact is often times we need to make recommendations for changes to a website, and it saves everyone precious time, and resources, to be able to directly contact the right person. There are times of course, when a company is large enough it is easiest for us to deal directly with a marketing manager for example, but that again is the person who makes the call for us to completely do our work.

We sometimes run into an issue with our second request, simply because our new clients run into the problem of trying to be smarter than their customers. We ask everyone for their wish list of key terms that they would like to rank for. It is at that point that we begin to break down the website, it’s content, and it’s structure to decide if it is even a possibility to use the terms that have been chosen. It is not unusual for us to have to go back to a client and tell them that they either need to supply us with better content, updated content, or a revision in order to fit their desired terms, or to change their terms. The biggest fault with clients trying to be smarter than their customers, is you can end up alienating your target demographic. Keep it simple absolutely applies when trying to work out your key terms, keep in mind your target, and adjust accordingly.

The final major request we make of all of our clients, is really just one of access. Either access to their website, ftp access so we can make sure we can make adjustments on the fly, or management software access, as the majority of new websites coming online are often built with WordPress, Joomla, or a variation there of. The reason we ask for this level of access is simple, often we’ll be discussing a project and make a decision about a new, or refined target. Having the login credentials necessary allows us to make the adjustments needed, whether it is to address a new goal, or to anticipate a market change. Of the team here at Fresh we tend to spend the majority of our time online just reading trends and gathering information about everything that interests us. It isn’t unusual to find us working over a weekend or through the evenings to ensure that you have the greatest possible chance of attaining that number 1, 2, or 3 position in search. It is in both our best interest, and yours, for you to rank as high as possible as relevant as possible, and we don’t call ourselves the best in town because it sounds good, we have the numbers, and the history to back it up.

Internet Marketing or Online Branding

brandingstampQuickly, what’s the difference between internet marketing, and online branding? Depending on who you talk to, and from what marketing background they come from, they are completely different. What is actually much closer to the truth though, is they should be regarded as one and the same.

Internet marketing, the process by which you work on your website to try and make your site relevant and prevalent in the search engine ranking pages is often a misunderstood process. There are tons of terms which are often thrown around when you start talking about internet marketing, white hat, black hat, backlinks, content, keywords, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. What is almost always missed however, is the discussion about how increasing your web presence affects your brand as a whole. One of the biggest benefits of the internet and using the power of the web to brand or rebrand your business is the captive audience that is already qualified as a customer. And since you’ve taken that time to ensure your internet marketing is being successful and driving visitors to your website, you should have already taken the steps to make your brand clear and visible. Whether it’s a logo, a statement, or a combination of the two, you need to realize that marketing is branding is marketing.

On another side of the discussion, it is absolutely possible to have your offline brand, drive traffic to your site, especially if you’re widely known either locally or nationally. While you need to use internet marketing to build a brand online if you’re a new comer, if your business is already well known you can use your branding offline to influence your internet marketing campaigns. I do realize that may sound like common sense, but it often eludes people that search users don’t always browse the web the way you think. Just because you’re the most well known plumber in town, and everyone can spot your vans from a mile away doesn’t mean they know how to find you online properly. And if you skimp on your marketing, you’ll soon feel that pain as people will occasionally slip through your fingers.

Once you’ve realized just how much potential sales, traffic, or attention you’re missing out on by focusing on only one type of marketing, feel free to contact us here at Freshtraffic. We have always worked with the goal to improve your online branding image while working on your internet marketing campaign simultaneously. With more than 30 years of varied marketing experience in our team, we will absolutely find the right course of action for you and your business.

Facebooks Fail Graph Search

fbIt hasn’t been new news for a while now, but the Facebook Graph search feature that is being tried and tested is slowly making it’s way to a live feature available to all. The massive social sharing site which has more than 900 million members has an unimaginably large data set to pull answers from, and allows you to search the interests, location, and preferences of your friends list. At it’s current state, it is the tail end of that statement which holds the most important piece of information – preferences and interests of your friends.

The implementation of Graph search is not a bad idea on paper, or in practice, it does have a long way to go however where you’re really searching for an answer. The best way to describe the service and what it offers was summed up here

For anyone who uses the Internet to search restaurant recommendations, travel advice, books to read on vacation, or which political candidates to vote for, Facebook may have replaced Google as the best search engine.

The veracity of the end of that statement is questionable at best, as Facebook Graph isn’t so much a search engine, as it delivers you a report of your friends opinions. The bonus is you can compile the information quickly, and in an easy to digest fashion that you can use to reach a decision on what you searched for.

The downsides however, have been slowly been coming more and more to light as more people are being allowed to use the service. For example, really searching for a person or topic, doesn’t happen with Facebook Graph at the moment, on the surface it seems that Facebook is using it’s algorithm to scrape statuses, updates and likes. The downside to that being, if you haven’t liked a page, commented on it or had a status update with the term in it, it is highly likely that you won’t show up for some of your interests within their search provider. I’ve not had the chance myself to try the service as it is in beta testing in the US only at the moment, but taking a snippet of information from other sources, it seems they have other issues as well. The image search doesn’t work as well as it potentially could due to most images not having a geo tag associated with them. The Facebook version of instant search goes a bit over the top by putting in elements of auto complete as well, by trying to anticipate what you’re looking for.

Facebook has an immense amount of data and power at it’s fingertips with their user base, but it isn’t a surprise to see them stumbling along in an area they are not suited for, search. It may be a strange thing to say, but I hope they improve and I hope they find a way to truly integrate the web into their service, Google is an incredibly powerful tool and everyone does just that much better when there is some real competition. Here’s hoping Facebook doesn’t drop the ball with Graph search, and the overall improvement of the web.

Forget The Hype Around Search Poisoning

For the last few years especially, the web has taken off as the delivery method for world news. You can get your local, or world news quicker and you can form a more complete picture quicker now than ever before. Occasionally old media methods, radio, newspaper, or television, come out with a story or report that makes me do two main things. The first I do is shake my head at how common sense the reports often are, and the second is a realization that in order for there to be a story, it meant someone had made a fuss over it.

poisonedThe news story which stuck in my mind the last couple of days came from a report that security experts were warning users of search engine poisoning, and how if you’re not careful you could hit a bad link. The security company (and I use that term loosely) even said that search engine poisoning is 3 times more likely to infect a computer with malware than opening an email with a tainted attachment. It wasn’t the report so much that makes me wonder about computer users out there, but it does shine some light on how far behind some companies are where the web is concerned.

The real problem I have with these types of reports are the hype they generate, and the disinformation they can spread. Search engine poisoning isn’t a new trend in cyber warfare, it’s been happening for years now. It’s not a new method that suddenly popped up because people stopped clicking on email attachments. The black hat manipulators out there have been gaming the search listings for highly popular terms almost as long as the web has been available. Trending topics are most often the usual suspects that are targeted, whether it’s a celebrity story, or holiday gift ideas. The search engines are getting better at catching the offenders out there, but just like the police can’t catch every bad guy out there, neither can Google or Bing stop all of the bad results from getting through.

Instead of relying on antivirus software and firewalls to protect your computer, you should take some time to practice safe search methods. And always remember, if the text of that little blue link sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is.

Using Negative Advertising to Win

viralUnless you were under a rock for the last week, the Super Bowl finally went off last night, and after a slight hiccup with the power system the show went on. I won’t be discussing scores, or players or any of the hits or events of the actual game, instead the focus will be on the commercials that played during the game.

Easily for the last decade, the Super Bowl commercials have been watched by an ever increasing audience sitting comfortably in the 100 million+ viewer range. That is a captive audience, and the owners of the NFL know it, as a result any company who wishes to have their commercial on during the game has to pay a premium. That cost this year rang up with some big numbers, with a 30 second spot during the 2013 Super Bowl ticking in at around $4 million; that comes out to $133,333.33 per second if you were curious. The NFL has two massive hooks however, which makes it easy for companies to write off the cost of the ad time, one is the incredible amount of hype generated up until the game itself, and then there is the aforementioned captive audience which they can practically guarantee will see your ad. So another way to look at the cost would be your company is spending $4 million, to serve an ad to 100 million people – or 25 cents per viewer, so it makes it easy to justify.

A rather more interesting metric that doesn’t get exploited nearly enough however, is the negative marketing you can do around the Super Bowl. Every year there are 30 or so commercials which are accepted by the NFL as being the chosen ones, those who will be gracing the airwaves for that steep cost. Everyone else, so sorry, better luck next year. But instead of looking at the marketing attempt as a fail, it’s very simple to turn that negative, into a huge, free advertising campaign. Your searches will vary by region of course, but here in Winnipeg when I search for ‘banned super bowl commercial 2013′ I return just over 1,200 results. All of those companies who didn’t have to spend millions to have their clip watched by Super Bowl viewers, will likely get massive exposure anyways, as searching the web for those commercials is a business all their own.

The power of negative advertising can be used as leverage to definitely get your brand and business out there, and for a significant cost savings, depending on how you look at it. Make it catchy, make it viral content bait, and instead of spending millions to advertise during the game, post it up on Youtube and let the web work it’s magic.