As an online business, you need to work hard at getting your position cemented within the SERPs, hopefully with the end goal hopefully that you’re a recognizable brand both online and offline. It is a long road to work at gaining a high position within your relevant ranks, but it’s also not impossible to completely own the results pages for your brand, and with a lot of hard work and a little luck, you can easily dominate branded search.
Your first stop, as it should always be with branding, is with a strong AdWords campaign. There are a number of reasons you need to take the step to owning your own brand with AdWords, one of the main points being, it’s your brand. Any ads that are on that page should all be sent back to your website and no one elses. You’ll want to focus your campaign with exact match keywords and phrases so you can keep the costs down, and while their may be some competition initially you’ll push out the interlopers purely by being more relevant to the exact match settings of your branding campaign. Over time your costs to maintain a branded AdWords campaign will drop, and it will cost you a fraction of what it took to initially build up your position. What you’ll earn by owning your brand in AdWords is a higher than expected conversion rate from your PPC campaign, especially if you make sure to have your landing pages ready to make that conversion possible once the visitor arrives.
The bigger trick, and a more difficult one to earn, is owning the organic listings for your brand. Again though, just like with AdWords just because it’s difficult does not mean that it’s impossible. But just like with building your relevancy and authority with any organic search, focusing on a branded term will eventually pay off. Having the AdWords positioned and fully owned by your brand will help with your organic positions, as you’ve already had to develop the content and relevance to list in paid search. Expanding on your overall site will help your case with organic, and if you keep your quality of content as high as you needed initially over time you’ll soon have an entire branded results page, dedicated wholly to you and your business.
Whether you’re going for a pay per click campaign to get your branding started, or you want to invest the time into building a strong organic position you need to identify what your goal is from the beginning. One of the most common mistakes you can make when you have your business online is to not have a clear, defined goal or purpose. This leads the search engines to try and figure out what it is you do and who you are, and all the while you should be doing it yourself.
When we engage a new client in SEO, we always expect to be asked a number of questions, all of them of varying importance. We’ve been asked the practical things like “can you guarantee results” and we’ve been asked some that come off the wrong way like “can you make my site take over -competitors- results”. Search engine optimization is a process, it is also a skill set that takes years to properly develop, and there are some very important questions that you should be asking yourself when you approach an SEO company, or are approached by one.
One of the basic questions to ask should be of their awareness to the Penguin and Panda updates and how their penalties can affect a website. Within those two major updates, there are all of the smaller ones which have happened, most in the last year or so and you should have warning bells going off in your head if the agency you’re speaking with has no knowledge of them. Things like the exact match domain update, or the changing sizes of the results pages from 10 down to as little as 6 or 7 on a page, any SEO worth their chops will be able to answer those questions, and others you may have without any issue. Search optimization is a bit of a jack of all trades type job, where you need to have at least a grasp of web coding practices. Knowing how to properly fix code errors within a web page can actually help rank a website, just because you’ve taken the time to correct a potential spidering error, allowing the bots to access your entire site. Your SEO company should also be able to handle properly redirecting pages or an entire site if necessary, and where and when to use 301, 302, and even 404 codes to shape the user experience, and the bot interaction on your site.
Social media optimization is one of the newest buzz words in marketing, and while it is an increasingly more important factor to your optimization efforts. It actually has less to do with the actual act of search engine optimization, and more to do with the interaction with your clients and visitors. By having an active conversation with your customers and visitors, it indirectly shows the search engines that your site has activity on it, and it lends to the authority of your website. It’s the relationship with your visitor base that can allow you to garner legitimate, high quality backlinks which all give benefits to your positioning in the results pages.
And one of the most important questions you need to ask any agency, whether you’ve contacted them or they have contacted you, is how involved you will be in the optimization process. The answer should always be something along the lines “entirely” or “every step of the way” because it’s your brand, your website, and your online image. When we pick up a new client, we make it abundantly clear that while we will not creat your content, we will help you mold and shape your content to deliver your brand and message properly – with the end goal of ranking your site higher in the search engines.
There are a lot of steps to consider when you have a website built for your business, there is no doubt about that, but there are a lot of pitfalls that you can run into if you’re not careful with your planning stage, hopefully with the help of this short blog post you can avoid some of the big ones. Your website is much more than just an online version of your business, it is your introduction to the world, and if done right your highest return on investment you can make in marketing.
Your first major priority when coming up with a website is its design and its function. You should follow a clear, consistent theme ideally showcasing your services and view it as the beginning of building your online brand. Where the web is concerned, everyone has to start at the bottom, so if you truly want to make a mark for yourself, you need to be clear with who you are and what you offer. The function of your website is an important factor to remember, it boils down into two major usability points of your website. The first is the navigation of your website, it should be simple and easy to understand in how to use it. If your visitors can not discern how to find their way through your site, then you can expect your conversions to be low as well.
The second aspect you need to remember regarding the function of your website is the point of your site. Regardless of what you want your site to do now, you need to have some foresight into what your goals are as your user base increases. A major sticking point which can quickly increase your costs of having a site, is to turn a blind eye to the potential future of your business. If you offer a product for sale as an example, it would be in your best interest to offer online payments for your products. At this stage of the internet there is really no reason to not offer a payment or a shopping option for your products and services.
Just because you may have no present ideas to make sales online doesn’t mean that you should leave the functionality from building or improving your website. If you prefer, you can think of it as a cost incurred today, is saved in the future.
As an unrelated point, I should remember to push publish when I’m finished my blogs.
Over the last few years we’ve written extensively about the value of search engine optimization, and that if you have the right pieces in place that the increased traffic and visibility can catapult your business into a realm you thought was maybe only a dream. But all of that valuable information aside, there is one vastly important piece of advice that rarely gets discussed – keeping your SEO provider accountable for their services.
It may seem a tall order, after all you’ve already hired them to do the job for you, because you’re not entirely sure what you need to do. But there are a few simple tips and guidelines you can use to try and keep track of the work that is being done to, and for your website. After you’ve chosen the people or agency to help you with your site, one of the first things you should try and gain a grasp of is your website stats report. As a service we offer a login to view your stats counter so you’re able to quickly view your over time growth, another method which is offered is a report delivered monthly. This allows you, as a business owner to quickly see how your traffic has improved, or is beginning to improve following the on page optimization which begins the moment you have signed on.
If you’re like some of our clients, and you like to be able to see visible changes in your site, some of the simpler things you can look for are evident. We often help you with your content, and work with you to ensure you are delivering the message you want, and help with your call to action. Whether it is a sale you’re after, their email address or just a survey completion, we’ll help you identify your conversion problems, and help you correct them. Because visibility doesn’t do you any good, if your conversion point is buried a half dozen pages deep into your site with no way to see or find it. Your call to action is the end goal for you as a client, getting that sale or that sign up is what you are after from your visitors, and it is the visitors that we can help deliver to you. Other simpler changes you can keep an eye out for are simple heading changes, title changes or content adjustments.
Just a handful of simple steps you can use as a client to keep track of your SEO professional you’ve hired to make sure they’re actually working on your website. There are other ways you can use to try and work out just everything that is going on behind the scenes, but the absolute simplest way to learn what has been happening is to pick up the phone and call. We are always happy to catch you up to date with what we’ve been doing to help your online presence.
Perspective is a funny thing, it can change the way you think, act, or can affect decisions you make. One of the main goals of online branding is to create an image of yourself that users can quickly and easily identify. If you’ve done your job supremely well, that branding will apply offline as well as online.
Let’s take a quick step back and clarify what a properly branded image can do for your business, and for an individual. Marketers and public relations departments have been successfully building brands and brand images for as long as there has been a radio. If during a conversion someone mentions the name Katy Perry, or Pepsi, you instantly can recall an image to your mind. You can remember a taste, or sound, and paired with that image invoked with a single word, you can form a decision. That level of brand recognition is priceless, and can make an unknown world famous if done correctly. Becoming a brand is easily the most powerful method of generating knowledge about your product or service, but it is also a process which requires time.
When you believe you are ready to make a move online to become a brand, you need to ensure you have the proper steps in place before you make that leap. Making the assumption that you already have a website live and are getting ready to make the push to becoming a brand, this is where you need to fully employ the skills of an online optimization expert. Your website and its content needs to be weighed and measured against the rules and regulations of the search engines, and your competitors. Your strengths need to be determined and we can then use them to increase your online visibility, and as a result build your brand online. The local web is only the beginning, once you’ve dominated the local web listings and branding, then we take you provincial, and then national. Just one small step at a time, and eventually we will help you build your brand, and your image bigger than you ever thought possible.
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!
One of the major sticking points we have when engaging a new client, is when we begin to get into the optimization process and we begin discussing our process more in depth. Usually by this point the new client has had some time to browse the web a bit and unfortunately, read some of the information out there regarding SEO and AdWords.
This isn’t inherently a bad thing, as it leads to further understanding of why we perform some of the changes we do, but what inevitably happens is being pressed on topics which don’t have any bearing on their contract or campaign. I’ve mentioned this topic more than once, but it continually crops up from time to time, so I guess it’s time to discuss it briefly again. Starting with the short explanation regarding any information you read on a blog, message board, or forum regarding search marketing and the like: forget what you’ve read.
Now that the blunt answer is out of the way, a little more in depth reasoning as to why. The primary reasoning to stay away from the majority of the information available out there is that best case scenario – it will illicit more questions than answers. Worst case, it is just bad information, that has a nasty habit of cavorting about the web as real information. While a basic understanding of your campaign is important, we also always make sure to share with you what we are doing, and why we are doing it. A little bit of information can be a scary thing, but what is even more terrifying for SEO experts, is when that little bit of information, is bad information. While we are happy to answer your questions and concerns about your website and our process, sometimes the best thing you can do as a client is to let us do is to do our work. When you have a question, when you have a concern, absolutely call and ask our thoughts, but trust in the fact that we are extremely great at our job. We enjoy a contract renewal rate somewhere in the 90% range and many of our long term clients have been with us from the beginning in Winnipeg. Let us worry about the web, while you worry about your storefront.
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.
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?
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.
Typically 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.
Quickly, 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.