Tagged with " internet optimization"
Almost every time we get a phone inquiry from someone wanting to have their website optimized, there is a singular question which seems to trip everyone up. And it is an important question to get a clear answer too, because it dictates to us what kind of campaign we need to get your site geared up for. To try and help you answer that question for yourself when you’re ready to make that phone call, I’ll lay out some of the differences you need to consider – are you going after local visibility, or are you going after the big prize of national visibility.
The difference between a local results page, and national results page can be a staggering amount, the term that I’ve used in both searches is “best hotel”, and added the local of “in Winnipeg” to illustrate how different the results can be.
Taking a look at the local results, you start off with reviews, prices, a map picture with locations, and after a scroll to the bottom of the page, you start to find the organic results for the search. While it looks like there are no adwords on the results page, the listings at the top noted as sponsored and the dialogue box notes that they may have paid to have the average room price, and ranking displayed within that box. Something else to note, besides the way the page is laid out, is the amount of results delivered – 19.1 million. In almost every case Google doesn’t really expect anyone to go all the way back to, page 1.9 million in this case, so they usually stop displaying results after page 100. For the purposes of the discussion however, we’ll note the results delivered at 19.1 million.
To acquire a search result that excludes localized data, you need to use the url switch /ncr, meaning “no country redirect”, and use “best hotel” as my search parameter.
Right off the bat it’s clear that the results are completely different. There are no sponsored ads on the page, it consists entirely of organic results. Of those results, the top two are from review sites, followed by a couple of referral sites, then an actual hotel. Once you scroll to the bottom half of the page it’s a similar image, you have a couple reviews, Wikipedia articles and pictures, with a hotel chain bringing up the bottom of the top 10 results. No ads, no maps, no local locations, just a handful of review sites, two hotels and the definition of the word “hotel” on the page, and the total results delivered? Dwarfing the local page at 497 million it should be clear how different the local market competition can be versus the rest of the world, not that it should have been in question.
Now to go back to the initial question, are you looking for local search optimization, or national search optimization? Hopefully the brief descriptions and the images can help you determine your course of action.
By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that there has been a stir on the web, a shift in the rankings and maybe you’ve received an email or two from Google describing in vague terms that your site may, or may not, have bad backlinks. It’s the latest iteration of an algorithm update to help cleanse the results pages, and you can further more refer to it as Penguin 2.0 – or webspam filter number 2.
First things first, if you’ve received notice either directly into your webmaster tools account or via your web site manager that you suddenly have been put on notice, right off the bat, don’t panic. The thing is, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of websites received the same notificatiosn you did, as Google added a handful of new information to the guidelines as to what constitutes following the guidelines. So first piece of advice, don’t panic, allow your web team to step back and go through your website and it’s backlink profile to see what may be coming up as having run afoul of the algorithm update.
Once that time has been taken to go over the message you’ve received then you can put into place a plan to take care of any issues that are being outlined. In the mean time, what you can do as a site owner to help your own cause, is to go over your pages and its content. Give your main landing pages a thorough run through, make sure you take the time to read your content with an open view and try to imagine what your target user would see. A quick and simple test, read your content out loud to yourself, if it doesn’t sound right, chances are you need to clarify your message. The content you have on your site has to be clear and consistent across all of your pages in order to be viewed as an authority in your market. The higher the quality of your content, the easier it will be for the search engines to determine what your market is. It sounds like we’re a broken record sometimes, especially to our long term clients when we ask them over and over again to refine their content, but high quality unique content is your number one key element that is required for online success.
Once you’ve taken care of your on site performance, you need to make sure that the time is taken to examine your off site strategy. There are a handful of steps that you’re in control of as a site owner, and once you follow the below steps the rest is in the hands of the algorithm and the Google machine. If you’ve been notified that you have bad backlinks coming to your site, then first things first, you need to get your hands on that list. You can generate your inbound links list, all of the backlinks that Google has picked up at any rate, via your webmaster tools account. You might have a handful of backlinks, or you could have thousands. Once you’ve generated that list, you either need to take the time to go through it to determine what looks like spam and what fits your market. If you don’t have the time to go through your list, or your list is in the thousands, there are link audit services which can help speed your process along; if you have a dedicated web team this should be a non-issue. One of the last steps you have available to you as a site owner is to request that a link to your site be removed, the unfortunate side of this request is you have no way to force a link removal. But once you’ve requested it, if it hasn’t been removed you can use the link disavow tool through your webmaster tools account to tell Google to ignore the backlink pointing to your site. Once you’ve followed these basic steps you can submit your site for a reconsideration with the search engines, and then you have the hardest task of all. You need to be patient and wait.
One of the more difficult aspects of being a consistent force online, is being able to show to not only the search engines, but your target audience, that you are approachable as a business. One of the cheapest, and simplest ways to prove to the powers that be is by utilizing the power of social media. The most difficult phase of using social media, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, is just the time involved in keeping your target audience engaged.
Rolling with the assumption that you have the time to sit down and engage your audience, instead of tweeting and posting everything to your social pages, there are some points which are more beneficial than others to cover. Right off the top, one of the biggest bonuses for you to try and keep on top of would have to be the news that is relevant to your market. If you sell toilets for example, and there has been a revolutionary break through in the industry, you’ll want to let your followers know that you have the newest and best crapper in town. Add in to the mix all of the facts and figures regarding the news is the simplest way to offer up quality information, that is quickly and easily consumed by the search engines and by your followers. People on the whole, love having statistics at their fingertips that allows them to compare products or services at a glance, and if you’re at the top of the offerings and quick to act, you’re greatly increasing your chances at making that next big sale.
Twitter especially is great for pushing out snippets of information quickly, and using a website that greatly shortens a web address (like bit.ly for example) allows you to host information on your site, without eating up your 140 character post limit. Taking the SEO side of the equation into consideration, this allows you to break down your visitor flow through your website, as we can tell at a very quick glance if you’ve been found in the results pages for your organic terms, or if people are flowing into your site via your Twitter or Facebook postings. A growing method in the last year or so especially for offering up quickly digestible information has been the use of infographics. Typically brightly colored and visually appealing, infographics allow you to sell your business and it’s services in a simple format. Prevalent more so on Pinterest and it’s growing userbase, the graphics can help to outline why you’re the best toilet salesman around, with the facts and figures to back it up. Producing any kind of content that can be taken in quickly and visually is one of the roadblocks to leveraging social media to engage your audience, as consistency is greatly important. Your content must resonate with your audience emotionally is the best case scenario. Start by creating a compelling title, one that is clear, concise, and relevant — and maybe even mysterious. Invigorate your social media marketing with bold new content ideas, and you will see your website being boosted with shares across the web.
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.
Unfortunately from time to time, we are all fallible. You make a mistake at times, sometimes you burn your dinner, or stub your toe, there is always the chance for something to go wrong; even in the SEO world. Thankfully we are always monitoring your site to make sure to remedy anything if a shift happens in the search algorithms, but what happens if you’re not with us as a client? If you’ve taken your optimization work to someone else, who may not be as diligent as we are, who do you speak to when things go wrong?
Failure in an SEO campaign can come from only a couple of different places, either there was a mistake on the clients end, or the agents end. Contrary to popular belief, it’s somewhat rare that the mistakes come direct from the search engines themselves, but we’ll talk about that another time. So how can you fail your SEO as a client, especially when you’ve hired someone else to do the job for you? It’s not common, but there have been occasions where we’ve requested access either via FTP or CMS so that we may be able to make the changes required for on page SEO, and to be able to react to changes coming from the search algorithms, and we’ve had the occasional client who either can’t, or won’t give us the access we require. In this case we need to rely on you to make any and all changes we need to make, and if you fail to make the changes correctly, or even sometimes quickly enough, you can lose rankings and authority on your site. Making constant content tweaks or changes as well, without letting us know about it also hampers our SEO efforts, and as a net result can drive you down the list instead of up. Those are really the two major instances where you can cause your own demise.
It isn’t all roses and sunshine for the SEOs though, and just because we’re the best in town doesn’t mean that there aren’t snake oil salesmen out there. There are still emails which are sent out actually, which are promising #1 positions in Google in only a few days, and for as little as $200 to boot. First rule of life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is greatly applies in this case. If someone has contacted you to work on your SEO promising those kinds of returns, then you need to realize that first off, they’re not playing by the rules of the search engines, and if they insist they are they’re probably trying to sell you an Adwords campaign and not an SEO campaign. It is absolutely true that you can rank immediately on page one for your search terms with an Adwords campaign, and you can likely do it for only $200 as well, but pay per click advertising is not organic advertising, and once your money runs out, your ad stops running until you refill the tank. In all honesty there are many more ways that a search engine optimization company or agent can ruin your search positions, but if they have any interest in remaining in business then they’ll do their best they possibly can for you at all times. A little knowledge however is a dangerous thing, and in the case of SEO there are little bits of knowledge scattered about the web, so be sure to ask the questions you need to before you engage a company, lest you have to deal with the consequences later.
Every now and then I try and make it a point to go over the major talking points which seem to come up when we hammer out a contract with a new client. There are some very specific points which usually are the conversation starters, and the biggest issue that often comes up is the monthly cost associated with an SEO contract.
There are some important facts to keep in mind where optimization is concerned, it is a time intensive project which requires constant tweaking, updating and monitoring. Once we’ve performed your on page changes, we need to begin work on your off page campaign where we scour the web looking for highly relevant websites to try and work out backlinks for your site. And for every link that we can build for your site, it adds another factor that we need to keep tabs on. Off site issues include managing Adwords, your social pages and efforts and working on protecting your brand. Your name is everything in business, and if your brand becomes tarnished, you either dig your way out, rename your business and start over, or you can give in. If you’re genuinely great at your job, then none of these points should be a concern to you, as your client interaction and the brand monitoring can help you identify any issues and do some damage control.
That’s only a snapshot of the always on SEO management that we as an agency need to keep in our cross hairs for every single client that we have. As far as on site needs and changes are concerned, we always have to keep watch on your positions and the way that the search game is always changing. The way that the search engines are constantly shifting means that we need to keep tabs on the news and the way that the algorithm shifts, and make sure that we adjust your site to make sure you don’t mysteriously disappear from the results.
And to be perfectly blunt, one of the main reasons we tie a monthly cost to our services, is because of who we are, and who the man behind the company is. You pay to have the ability to pick up the phone and talk, one on one with a team who has a former Google exec at the helm. Our time is valuable, and if you like the idea of being able to pick up the phone and go over your analytics and site traffic with the leading search experts in Winnipeg, we’re gonna charge you. Don’t be bothered about the total cost at the end, concentrate on your sales and conversions and before you know it, you’ll have more business than you know what to do with.
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.
Search engine optimization is a buzz term that makes a lot of marketers out there wince when used in their presence. It isn’t a wonder why, as there seems to be an expert around every corner, and at times it can be a dicey proposition to engage someone to represent you. The dangers associated in a virtual world can have some real world implications if you aren’t mindful of the work being performed on, and off of your site.
Whether you have a website with only a couple of pages or a website with thousands of pages, you need to have an aim with your optimization efforts. You need to decide from the get go, are you going after a site wide optimization or are you going to start with a page or two to try and work your way to the top of your niche. You can optimize your site and pages for single or long tail terms, but you need to have the focus to not push forward on more fronts than you can handle. Once you’ve either paid for the keyword research, or taken the time to do the work yourself, you’ll discover that the vast majority of your traffic will result from only a handful of terms. With that in mind, make the decision to focus on your primary target, and not get distracted by your campaign.
Once you have that target and the primary pages that you’d like to optimize, there’s only one major area to worry about regarding your optimization efforts, and that’s really to not go too far with your optimization. As strange as it might sound, over optimization is a legitimate concern for a website. Being caught over optimizing your website isn’t the end of the world though, and it’s one of the easiest errors to recover from. While we always welcome an open dialogue with our clients, we have had a handful of occasions where we’ve actually had to use the phrase “We’ve taken the steps necessary, but we didn’t want to risk over optimize your pages.”
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.
And 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.
Every now and then you need to stop and take a look at your website, how it’s performing and make a decision based on your findings. Is your traffic up? Have you made any major revisions in the last year? Conversions, are the up or down? Whether you’ve engaged an SEO company or are managing your stats yourself, with a little invested time you can discover the answers to these questions, and any others you might have, without too much trouble. But once you have your answers, what is your next step? Just remember your grade school English class, and the rule of the 5 W’s, who, what, where, when, and why.
Your number one questions, whether you have a new site, an old site or even if you’re thinking about making some updates, is who am I targeting, and what am I after from them. Are you after industry specific targets who are going to use specific terms, or are you after more general users and have to be more in sync with your industries trends and changes. This is paramount, because if you don’t know who you’re aiming for, you’re definitely going to miss; step 1 complete! Take a good look at what you have to offer your audience, whether it’s content, connections, a product or even a service that you provide. Sell yourself quickly and simply and you’ll find that your returns will compound on themselves. Continually delivering on your products or services and being a professional in your space is the quickest way to boost your bottom line. Examine the potential costs you may incur when you’re trying to boost your position and website, do you have the time, money, and manpower to properly execute your plan? There’s nothing worse than setting a lofty goal and falling short due to underestimating any of those costs.
You’ve taken care of who your audience is and what it’s going to take to get them onto your website and after your product, and it may sound like a strange question but when do you want your traffic and visitors. Take Valentines Day as an example, if you’re in the business of replacing roofing, you’re likely not going to be sinking a lot of time and money into attracting people to your website at the moment. At least here in Winnipeg, we have a few more weeks of winter to look forward to. Timing is a very important factor to bringing traffic to your site, you need to focus your time and resources to acquiring the right traffic at the right time. A little more obscure question to answer, is the why side of the equation. Why are you promoting your site at the moment, why are you making content changes, why are you adding new images etc. If at any point you find yourself saying “..because these guys did it” then it’s likely the wrong move for you. Your end goal should always be your customers, gaining them, engaging them and delivering on what they’re expecting. Because if you fail on properly executing your customers/clients needs and wants, you’re in the wrong business to begin with.