Tag Archives: online branding

Sad State of Canadian Ecommerce

Two of the biggest online shopping shopping days have come and passed with Cyber Monday and Black Friday, did you make sure to capitalize? Based on a recent industry polling, it seems that it’s likely that you didn’t.

growthThe growth that Canadian retailers have been experiencing online for the last year or so has slowed to such a crawl that it’s nearly at a standstill. It is doubly important to get your collective heads in the game, especially since consumers savvy hasn’t slowed in the slightest where shopping is concerned. Online spending has been on a swift rise for more than 4 years in Canada, but has all but shifted to south of the border due to retailers not homing in on this trend and capitalizing. Of course there is a cost to developing a proper ecommerce site but the benefit drastically outweighs that cost. There are some major brands out there of course which have their ecommerce solutions built and took advantage of the billions of dollars that were spent in the last week online, but most missed out than benefited, and even some who should know better lost out where ecommerce in Canada is concerned.

When Target made its big launch into Canada in March it didn’t include an online store, Canadian Tire only sells tires online and although it plans to enact a wider e-commerce strategy next year, it will focus on letting consumers ship purchases to their nearest store, not to their home, a key difference between Canadian and US ecommerce stores. Consumers aren’t blind to the fact that there are often better deals and more selection available if they do some cross-border online shopping, even after factoring in all of the extra charges that are a part of online shopping. And where do we rank according to a poll just a couple of months old? Compared to other countries of our technological savvy, we come in pretty much last where ecommerce sales are concerned. Our closest comparison is Australia at this point, and even they are a few years ahead of us in sophistication. In that same poll more than 75% of the consumers in the survey said they would use the web to help them decide which stores to shop at this holiday season and which brands to purchase. And of those, about half said they’d use their mobile phone as a shopping tool. You may have lost out on the shopping from this passed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don’t let the rest of the holiday season get away from you.

Keep The Bad Out Of Your SEO

seoOccasionally it can be a bit of a frustrating go of things with a client when they’re not willing to be educated on the finer points of SEO. It isn’t a common occurrence, but it does happen from time to time.

To hopefully help nip things in the bud before the bad information digs into you too much, here are just a couple of the more useful points to bear in mind. One of the bigger points that seems to escape the marketing folks out there is that proper optimization is not a one time thing. There’s no such thing as a fire and forget method that will work for everyone out there. Every site, every client, every niche market needs to have it’s own individual and unique attention. Adaptation and constant evaluation are necessities in order to keep your positions in the results pages.

Every client we take on we always ask to provide us with their ideal keywords. Sometimes they’re realistic – say they sell camper trailers and they want to rank locally for their term, it’s an intense process but it can be done. Where it starts to get a little silly though and we need to advise some restraint is if that same client wanted to rank all across Canada for the term “RV” for example. Could it be done? Sure with enough time, money and work we could likely make the site show up but would that really be the best use of time and resources?

The last point I’ll touch on for today is one that’s a little more obscure to a site owner, but it doesn’t make it any less important than the others. It actually enters the realm of not only SEO and how search engines find and rank your website, but your customers and visitors. While we’re working together to build and rank your website you need to bear in mind that you’re not only trying to rank your website better in the search engines, you’re also trying to convert those visitors to paying customers, email/newsletter sign ups, or even just contact information for an offline business. You can’t build a site for your purposes only, nor can you build it for just the search engines – your visitors are always your end goal.

Bare Bones SEO For Those Who Are Budget Challenged

There’s a lot of talk about all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) on the web it only takes a few moments to find all sorts of information about every point imaginable. The problem that a lot of small business owners who try to do things themselves run into though is what advice do you follow?

taoofseoHere’s a couple of simple tips to follow when you maybe don’t have the budget to hire an online branding and marketing agency. First off you need to realize that just because you have a website, it doesn’t mean that anyone will find it online. A website is an amazingly powerful tool that can be used as a 24/7/365 store front to the world, but again only if people can find it. The simplest and most efficient step to being found is to have content relevant to what you want to be known for. Your business sells apple pies? Well your content at the beginning should be about apple pies then and not strudel, while they’re both desserts made with apples they couldn’t be more opposite when talking about online marketing. Following along in the same line of thinking, big beautiful pictures are great marketing tools for users, but search engine bots don’t have eyes so they can’t see that perfectly baked crust you can create. You need to describe it using text on the page, your content again, and you need to make it descriptive as well.

So great, we have the ball rolling with your content creation about your new apple pie selling website, and you’ve made sure to balance your text and images appropriately. A big mistake that we see site owners getting caught in is the problem of stopping their updating process or abandoning it all together, hoping that their current setup will continue to serve them as well next year, as it does today. That would be true if the internet never changed or evolved, but unfortunately it’s always changing. Sometimes as often as two to three times a day there are algorithm adjustments, and that can wreak havoc on an advertising campaign. Keep your content fresh as well as relevant, and you’ll keep the search bots happy and your positions agreeable.

Now you’re updating your site and you’re keeping your content relevant, now comes the hardest part of all – waiting. One of the biggest misconceptions about advertising online and building your business online is that it’s instant. And while there is a shred of truth to that statement, to have a lasting position in the results pages takes time. Adwords are instant visibility, but that can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month if you’re in a competitive market. In the last few months some of the major competitive industries have gone up to millions of dollars per month, just to stay at the top of the paid search results. So be patient, if you really are keeping your content fresh and relevant, you will begin to creep a little here and there and before you know it, you may even be working your way up page 1 of the results.

Are Backlinks Poisonous For Your Site

There’s a number of tactics which can be used to rank your website using off site methods, all with the goal of garnering those elusive backlinks for your website. There are however, a handful of types of backlinks which you should ensure that your search engine optimization provider makes it a point to avoid. When you’re discussing your strategy with them it would be wise to keep any of the following terms in mind.

link-buildingDirectory links used to be a common method to gain a huge amount of links to point back to your website, the idea being that the cumulative weight of the mostly relevant content delivered more authority to your website. In the last couple of years though there has been an influx of poorly written and low quality spun content, and with the introduction of Panda and Penguin it essentially ended the value of using this type of linking strategy. While it won’t tank your your website rankings or your site marketing in general, it doesn’t add any value and may eventually become a negative marketing technique.

It is a good idea to generate press releases for your business every now and then just to generate link bait articles linking back to your business and website. What you don’t want to do however is spam low quality press releases like you’ve just painted your office or bought a new delivery vehicle for example. Practical, positive press releases are what you’re after, client signings, business growth, and the addition of products and services are all good points which if written well can generate traffic in your niche market. At this point in the search game the a good portion of the known spammy press release sites have been disregarded by Google, so if you’re contemplating releasing one, make it a great one.

The time it takes to manage all of the backlinks you currently have pointing to your website, weighing their context and their value is all part and parcel of the SEO package. It is a cost that is always a part of your online branding campaign, and not a minor task. This is a large portion of our time as an SEO agency which we have to devote to your campaign to ensure that you’ve got the best possible chance to be found in the top results of the search engines.

Online Shopping Frenzy About To Start

growthWith Black Friday just a couple of weeks away and Cyber Monday kicking holiday shopping into high gear you need to ask yourself – is your business ready? Or how about this question – is my website poised to take a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that is online holiday shopping?

If you haven’t taken the time to engage an SEO professional to help with any sagging SERP listings, then you’re somewhat out of luck for being able to be in place to make a piece of that money pot your own. That would be the short answer to the issue of having less than stellar search positions but not to fret, there are some short term methods you can use to hopefully snag some of that holiday frenzy spending.

A simple way to get your business name out there with some holiday enthusiasm would be to go down the AdWords road. Set yourself a budget, create a handful of eye catching ads and get set to sell. There are only two large downsides to using a pay per click campaign to boost your holiday sales, one is the cost that it will take. You’re not the only player in the game, so the PPC costs will go up this time of year. The other issue is that of your ad copy, your content of your website needs to be relevant to your ad campaign. If you’re trying to sell blue suede shoes, then you would be burning money if you wrote ads selling red velvet capes. Make sure your ad copy is relevant and correctly directed, and monitor your budget. You’ll have some fluctuations with the holiday rush just starting to pick up, but there’s nothing worse than being at a high point with sales only to lose visibility and traction due to lack of funds.

Another way you could use to generate visibility for your product and increase sales is to rely on social media. Use Twitter and Facebook to promote your business and products, announce sales and do give aways to generate a following. Once you have a few thousand followers on your channels, you add in your holiday specials, announcements and maybe even a coupon scheme to help your customers save money. The only real downside to using this method to generate traffic is it takes your time away from your business. The more quality time you can put into your social media accounts, the more qualified your customers will be.

The New SEO Landscape

penguin2There have been a number of major updates recently and while the search game keeps changing, our message will always remain the same. Being found online is important, becoming a brand is the real goal.

A couple of the major updates recently seems to have shaken up a good deal of some of the marketers in the SEO field, especially with the change to the way that keywords (aren’t) relayed anymore via stats. The ‘not provided’ change happened just around a month ago now, and some of the light weights in the search world are feeling a pinch without that keyword data it seems. It doesn’t take much searching on any search engine to find a blog about the end of SEO now that you can’t work with the keyword data that the engines previously provided. Short answer to them from us here at Freshtraffic would be something along the lines of see you later then.

The PageRank is another point that seems to still make waves with online marketing providers too, as it hasn’t been updated in months. PageRank was a handy tool to quickly determine how valuable Google viewed a website, and a lot of people seem to have taken that to heart. It isn’t a stretch to think that with the keyword data shut off, and the PageRank no longer being updated, that the use a PageRank as a ranking factor will be going the way of the dinosaurs. Not entirely a bad thing however, as it can allow for a more objective search experience, and hopefully increased competition between brands.

The other major change that has happened in the last month has been the Hummingbird update. It has introduced the idea of contextual search to the web, so now you can actually use a phrase like “Who won the 1954 Stanley Cup” (the Detroit Red Wings by the way). It has introduced a method of search that conforms more to the way that a person might use in actual conversation with another, that you can use questions to find what you’re interested in instead of trying to be clever in your searches.

All of the major changes over the last year have been towards a more fluid use of the search engine that Google has brought to the web. It’s much more streamlined, and allows for real online branding opportunities to be drawn upon. Why you would want to push for building a brand as opposed to strictly internet marketing? We’ll delve into that canyon next time.

Misunderstood Social Marketing Strategies

There is a buzz that has been steadily getting louder with online marketing and while social media isn’t going away anytime soon, contrary to what some blogs and outlets decry it is not the one stop marketing shop that fills every niche for you.

leverageFacebookThe big brouhaha really took on a life of it’s own with some of the recent Google updates which led marketers to believe that in order to have any presence on the web, it was mandatory that you have, use, and promote your Google+ profile page. There have been a number of independent studies conducted and I’m not going to copy and paste hundreds of lines of text into the blog, the basic run down is that having a G+ profile is not the holy grail that it was purported to be; correlation does not imply causation. That is not to say however that there isn’t any merit in using Google’s social network, there is about as much success to be gleaned from using it as there is from Facebook, you just have to be clued in on how you use their social services.

Social media optimization and marketing has had a place in the marketing world ever since the days of Myspace and phpbb forums, and all the way back to professional sports. It’s the somewhat the same as running the advertising campaigns inside a baseball stadium that has the outfield lined with ads and sponsors, or like a hockey game with the boards around the ice dotted with advertisements. The best way to get your use out of social media marketing is to be very quick, and very clear with your message. As it is, there are users and companies out there who develop browser plugins and apps to block Facebook advertisements, both in the news feed and on the side panels due to their message being invasive to a users timeline. So you need to be able to deliver your message quickly, clearly and you need to realize that just because you post and advertise via social media that you can’t stop working on your website and it’s optimization. Social media optimization has no direct effect on your websites position in the results pages. If you were sitting on page 8 before making up a Facebook of Google+ post and do nothing to support your advertising, you’re not going to be making any rankings changes any time soon.

Hummingbird – Not Another SEO Death Knell

babypandaEver since Google has passed it’s most recent milestone of 15 years of age, they have begun a new wave of algorithm changes. And true to the nature of the marketing world in general, SEO is once again dead as an industry.

I would like to get one point out of the way before we get too far into this, and that point is that search engine optimization is not going to die because of the recent changes. That’s a load off of my mind, now to address the most recent changes in the search world, and why the internet marketing world has changed, but only for the better.

Addressing the most recent update that Google acknowledged, one which they’ve nicknamed Hummingbird, has made a big splash on the scene over the weekend. The purpose of the change to the algorithm was to introduce more semantics into the search world, and is designed primarily to bring the user more relevant results, faster than before. It’s a great idea in the long run for search and for users, as the whole idea is to deliver highly relevant results to get you to your destination faster. But this change, regardless of how much it has changed the search algorithm is still not the end of SEO. The semantic addition to the algorithm for the first part, only makes highly relevant and optimized content be more friendly to the search engines. And the chief reason I know it isn’t the end of search is the algorithm was updated over a month ago. If search engine optimization was going to die due to the Hummingbird inclusion, it would already be dead and buried.

Moving on..

The other major addition to the search world has been the shift by Google in particular, to encrypt all of the search terms used when performing any search. I have already dissected why the encrypted searches aren’t a factor to any real online branding agency, so I don’t need to go into great depth. But just like the Hummingbird update isn’t going to end the search game, neither will the encrpyted search terms.

What these updates will do however is change the game enough that the posers won’t be able to swim in the deep end of the search pool anymore. Time is up kiddies, shuffle off to the shallow end or leave all together, it’s time for the big people to have a swim.

Keep Your Eye On The Prize

One of the most important steps in any endeavour regarding your businesses website is having a consistent point of contact between the client and the agency. With how easy it is to dig up information on anything you like on the internet however, this point of contact can quickly turn into a road block to moving ahead with a project.

badwebsitesThere is absolutely no shortage of information online regarding search engine optimization and about it takes only a simple search to find millions of pages on the topic. A growing problem as of late that seems to be plaguing the industry is the increasingly rapid growth of poor information surrounding the subject. The inclusion of all of the searches being returned via Google turning into a value in your analytics hasn’t been helping the cause either, there has already been a handful of knee jerk reactions across the web and cries of “The end is near!” Here is the thing though, nothing has changed in the SEO world, only in the world of analytics. So before you subscribe to the theory of doom and gloom that the online marketing world is dead, call Freshtraffic, a real online branding agency and speak with someone that has a clue before you tank your website and it’s rankings.

Not to be left out, even the world of web development and design can be brought to it’s knees by an.. overly attentive client. When you’re having a website designed and developed to fit all of your wants and needs for your online presence, there is really only one major point to keep in mind – when your designer/developer strongly advises you use a certain method, you should probably pay attention as they have spent more time with your website than anyone else at that point. Depending on the software being used to develop with, and what your website needs are there are certain steps which need to be adhered to in order to maintain good web design practices all around. Where we run into some of the more egregarious problems again, comes from the prevalence of information on the web. It can be a daunting task in itself just to keep a design on track, and not end up with an example like below. Just remember we’re all in this together and are all working to achieve the same goal.

CLIENT: This red is terrible! Why did you pick this red!?

ME: It’s the red from your logo. I can change it to the blue if you would prefer.

CLIENT: No, no, no… I’m sending you a word doc right now. It’s perfect. Use that!

Only then opening the file to find text with a rainbow gradient and neon pink shadow.

Rising Costs Of SEO In 2014

With the big changes over the last couple of months with the search engines it really shouldn’t be any surprise to hear, but for the tail end of 2013 heading into 2014, you will have to boost your online marketing budgets.

WebsitegoalsTo start with the most recent change to always on secure search, Google has decided that it’s more important to encrypt all keyword data when someone is using their search service. Not a bad step to tell the truth, and they like to wave around the flag of ‘this is us protecting your privacy’. But it isn’t the encrypted key terms that brings cause to take a close look at the change, it’s more the fact that the AdWords players aren’t receiving the same list of hidden keywords. It has been known that using the AdWords platform is a great way to gain immediate traction in a new market you may be trying to break into, or a way to test marketing ideas, but in the end the keyword data analysis for paid vs organic were able to draw parallels. Now, it seems that the (much) deeper your pocket book is for paid search, the better sheaf of keyword analysis you’ll be able to receive for your efforts. Not the nicest of changes if you want to test a marketing idea to it’s fullest extent, but it’s all in the name of your privacy, right?

A little while back there was a rather large shake up with how the search engines also indexed your site and it’s backlink profile, and it caught some webmasters with the addition of some rules into the guidelines. Even little issues like ensuring that your own properties were correctly using the ‘no-follow’ attribute to link around the web became very time intensive projects, and who knows what’s to come as the online holiday shopping is about to commence. It seems that every year some company out there is made an example of due to nefarious backlink practices, the only real problem for them this time around is that the algorithms are much quicker at detecting, and doling out punishment for shady practices. If you are unsure if your agency is following the rules for backlinking, you need to check your webmaster tools and check the ‘Linked Pages’ section and you can peruse what you’re known for yourself.

The biggest change of the online marketing game however it seems has begun to show itself, and that’s the online branding image that your business and website need to project to the search engines. Having a strong, relevant brand online can highly influence your rankings dependant on your competitors. The shift towards brand bias has always been viewable in the search results, but it was always for the larger, more competitive terms out there. Brand bias has caught on however in most niches, large and small and who ever can step up to the plate first will have a decided advantage going forward into the holidays and into 2014.

With our highly successful online branding campaigns we have been able to ensure our clients positions for their niche targets, and have been able to grow their presence into unknown territory for the past few years. It’s time for the rest of the Winnipeg business class to realize that the way forward is online and when you call, Freshtraffic will be ready.