Tagged with " online branding"
Search engine optimization is still a somewhat stigmatic phrase in Winnipeg business circles, but over the last few years the merits of the practice has rapidly started to become clear. Over the course of the last half dozen years Freshtraffic has endured a maturing of the online marketplace locally, as online branding and marketing wasn’t a used tactic locally when Jerry came to town. And although the gradual acceptance of internet marketing has gained momentum, there is still a long way to go before Winnipeg catches up to the rest of the world in truly adopting the practice.
One of the issues that seems to plague the SEO field in general, is both the lack, and abundance of information readily available on the subject. What tends to cause new adopters to balk at signing a contract for services is the need to be educated, at least briefly, on the use, nature, and effect that search engine optimization can have on your website and your business. The basic rules of having an online business haven’t really changed a whole lot, and the basic guidelines of having a successful online business have been carved in stone for the most part for the better part of the last 20 years. When the web was still in it’s infancy of being adopted in the early to mid 90s, there really wasn’t a great way to get around online, as web addresses were still a rather new idea to the scene. The idea that you could be instantly connected to the other side of the world with just a few characters typed on a screen seemed far-fetched and with telephones and faxes, unnecessary. But as we all know, the use of the web exploded and with it, a whole new way to do business. Now you can find a website for anything, so long as you know how to find it, and that is where the search engines found their niche.
With the birth of the newest business model, search engine optimization became a necessity to become successful online. If you were unable to find yourself in the search engine results pages after all, how could you realistically hope to do business on the web. It’s not unusual for a conversation with a client to include the question along the lines of “how is it that you do what you do?” Typically we are asked something in this vein when they have previously unsuccessfully stepped into the SEO arena, and they engage our services to help them right their ship. Two very basic points are the simplest way to answer that question:
The best SEOs are independent operators who don’t free advice and don’t offer different levels of SEO packages.
The SEO industry is one which public knowledge rapidly becomes useless knowledge.
A few months back, there was an article posted calling on business owners to wise up, and stop spending money on search engine optimization as it is a useless endeavour to try and improve their position on the results pages. It has been near 6 months now since that article, and its follow up have been posted, and putting aside that the article was a cleverly written piece of link bait, it made some valid points for business owners to take heed.
To be upfront, I do not agree that SEO is dieing or that it is going to anytime soon, the practice of search engine optimization is all about working within the guidelines to help improve your online visibility, and so long as there is an internet there will be a search engine, and there will be need of our services. But as I read the article, the major point which I took from what was written, is that your SEO company can not write your content for you and your business. For years the web spam team at Google has posted blogs, videos, articles and answered help threads in the webmaster forums and always with the same response: create your website for the users, not the search engines. The focal point of that statement is simple and it’s one that we always push with our clients – quality content will do more for you than most anything else to be noticed on the web. What no one at Google will actually come out and tell you however, is how to mould your content, your website, and your social profile to work together to portray your best brand image and improve your online image. That would be where our services as search engine optimization experts comes into play.
The misunderstood nature of SEO is that you are trying to trick the search engines, or manipulate them to place your website at the top of the results pages. The boring truth however, is we do nothing to manipulate the search engines, we have no direct phone number to the algorithm creators, we have no magic wand that can fix everything. But what we do have is more than 20 years of experience working within the guidelines, and continually, successfully working with clients and their websites to give them the best possible chance to climb the results pages. It’s the level of knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a blog post or a webinar, and it is why you should be very wary when approached by an agency offering you page one for only $200.
The SEO world is definitely changing, and with the most recent shake up with the addition of Penguin v2, for all of the extra work it initially entails, it really serves to “clean up” the industry as a whole. It’s major addition and changes to the algorithm that shines an ugly light on the SEO practitioners who believe it is only a game, and not realizing the amount of constant upkeep it requires. Don’t fall into the belief that it is an easy affair to implement every step to give yourself the best possible chance to rank positively online, the best thing you can do for yourself and your website is to keep it simple. Keep your content clear and relevant to your services or products, and if you truly want to improve your online image, call us before you get too far down the rabbit hole, we are here to serve.
In almost every call coming in from someone interested in our optimization services, there is a short list of questions that are asked on almost every occasion. They usually start with the basics, our cost, right to the point and it’s appreciated as it helps them determine right off the bat if they can even make that kind of investment into their website. Usually there are a handful of questions about back linking and on page optimization, and following that, content generation. So let’s have a closer look at how we answer these inquiries.
About our cost, the number is inherently flexible although our starting point serves to separate the businesses who are devoted to their online branding efforts and those who either aren’t there yet, or aren’t devoted enough. We’re not the most expensive in the market, not if you consider all of the players out there, but locally we’re the big fish in the water. And a mantra that we always repeat for the prospective clients contacting us – you get what you pay for. There are web designers out there who are happy to sell you SEO for a one time cost of $200, but in the interest of being blunt – you have no right to be surprised when it ends up being money wasted. Anyone worth their salt, in any industry, will always be worth the premium cost to engage their services. You always get what you pay for, and as you’re searching for an online optimization agency a second rule of thumb to consider – how did you find their phone number? Was it in the yellow pages, or on the top of the search results?
When we’re asked about how we do our back linking, we try not to bore anyone with the details as it’s actually the longest and most laborious process regarding SEO. The boss prides himself on his skills in this regard, and as I said previously, paying for a premium skill should be no surprise. On page optimization has always been highly important, as it’s your major identifier to the search engines. And a major component of your on page optimization is your content. This is one of the points I think that people find rather surprising – we will not create your content for you. We will absolutely work with your content, your call to action and help you deliver your message in the most effective way possible. Once you’re ready to hop into the pool of online optimization, feel free to get in touch with us, just don’t be surprised when we relay our cost. And just as a reminder that you get what you pay for, the following snippet is an example of what you get when you pay for an SEO package and try to save some money.
You really each and every portion of your site not the same as an additional. Take special care when picking a headline to use. Titles are vital to proper search engine optimisation outcome.
When you’re building that fancy new website for your business, there are always a handful of problems that you can run into. Sometimes it’s because of being unfamiliar with the way the web works, and sometimes it has to do with trying too hard. No matter what the issue is boiled down to, it can always be remedied, but here are some of the most common mistakes new site owners tend to make.
You’ve built yourself a singing, dancing website that can identify exactly what what your visitors are after with just a couple of mouse clicks. But that kind of technology comes at a cost, and if your site takes a long time to load (longer than 10 seconds) it’s most likely that you’re actually losing out on more visitors than you engage. Some of the easiest ways to avoid long loading times are to avoid the use of fancy ui elements based on Flash and don’t use images or animations where text will suffice. This is even more important with the recent growth in the mobile market, where internet connections are slower than what you experience with a pc. If you’ve already built your site and it’s incorporated some of these elements already, before you run off and completely tear your site apart, check it’s loading time first. If your load times are good, then your real need to redesign is based more so on the search engines side of the equation, flash and animations aren’t indexable by the spiders so the sooner you can step away from graphical designs that may be hiding your content, the better.
With the billion or so members on Facebook alone, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that business owners would forget that it’s a major part of the internet. And yet, it’s still a common enough occurrence to find out that a new client has nothing in the way of a social media offering, let alone reaching out to their customers or clients using those channels. There is a growing trend as of late with the search engines which is starting to take into account your social engagement level. While they still aren’t as important as a strong back link profile, social signals are increasingly becoming a sign of trust that lends legitimacy to your website. Flexing your social media muscle requires more than testing the placement of your social share buttons on your site, you need to generate content that demands to be shared, and engage in regular interaction with your target audience. It’s a simple enough issue to work around however, and it really just takes the time to understand your audience to make it work for you.
One of the most common mistakes that we’ve seen the last while with new clients especially, is the heightened focus and awareness of search engine optimization. Carefully crafting your content and your pages with or without outside help is not always a bad thing, as it shows that you understand that it’s important, but it becomes a problem when you only focus on the search engines. I found a great two point synopsis of what you should be considering when you’re creating pages and content for your site: if your keyword is in the title of your article, and it’s what the article is about, you’re well on your way. To make it even plainer, stop worrying about what the search engines see and think about your customers. It doesn’t matter if you can rank in the top spot if your content and delivery is crap, it’s your visitors that make you profitable. Craft your site and pages for your visitors, and the algorithms will do the rest.
There is occasionally a great discussion to be had on the topic of search engine optimization, and this passed week was no different. There was a discussion started about how SEO isn’t the same game as when it all started some 15+ years ago, and all I could really chime in on that note with would be – of course it has.
In the beginning, search engine optimization wasn’t comprised of more than a handful of tactics really, as the web hadn’t really started it’s cycle of rapid evolution that we see today. The tactics to rank in the beginning weren’t even that difficult to pick up on, a few links from sites, some keyword spammy content and a decently built site and you could push it up the search results in fairly short order. To be fair, those base elements of the SEO world really haven’t change all that much, it’s just the importance of each factor has changed over time, and continues to change. Your content is your most important factor on your site, it always has been and likely always will be, as it determines your message to the search engines. You need to tell the spiders who you are and what you do, in such a way that your message is heard loud and clear. Your site architecture and design is important as well, but it’s as much from a user interaction stand point as it is a search metric these days, as the spiders are pretty good at discovering your site and it’s pages with even a rudimentary navigation setup.
Being an SEO company we’re often met some criticisms when we’re engaging a new client, as it is unfortunately likely that they have been burned by someone calling themselves an SEO, especially in the last couple of years. And the optimization world has changed so much in the last 5 years or so, especially when you start throwing in the rapidly expanding social web and the signals that tie them all together. Having a responsive web design which can detect whether your visitor is on a PC, tablet or even a cell phone these days is also a contributing factor to the marketing decision as you can immediately turn down a highly qualified visitor just by making your site unfriendly to a mobile audience. Search engines measure your value to the results pages on so many additional metrics now, that it’s important to keep them all in balance with your brand image in mind. It is understandably difficult as a business owner to let loose the reins a little and allow a company like Freshtraffic to do what we do best, but your increased online presence is our job. All of the points I’ve mentioned that affect your marketing online are all the important factors we weigh and measure to ensure you’ve exceeded the recommendations for the search engines. Because increased traffic, means increased conversions, which means more business for you and your employees, and we’re in business to bring you business.
We get some fairly interesting calls at times here regarding optimization, and every now and then it can make us shake our heads here in the office. We’ve had some site owners contact us for help, detailing to us how they responded to an online ad to help improve their position for as little as $25 – and when we take a look at their history we find thousands of links pointed at their site that have nothing to do with their market. One of the interesting calls we’ve received involved a business who had questions about their on page optimization strategy. They wanted to make sure that they had done everything correctly, and wanted us to check the site over before it went live – note that there is no site yet, the url lands on a generic coming soon page. Once I went about describing how we handle all aspects of the online marketing strategy, I was told one of the strangest things, the site wasn’t online as of yet, but they already had their off site marketing setup with thousands of links pointed at the address. I just succinctly advised them to check into the Google and Bing best practices guides and follow them to the letter – what I didn’t include was that they needed all the help they could get if they were already pushing links at a non-existent site.
We won’t even get started about the calls from agencies offering to help us with our SEO strategy – we usually follow their first sentence with “Do you know what we do?” and from there they excuse themselves from the call.
It’s a wonder sometimes that anyone out there could possibly trust someone who sells themselves as an SEO, and it gets even harder at times when we come along with our skills and services and people balk at the idea of our contractual cost. There are thousands of pages and sites out there who are ready and willing to sell you an optimization package for the low price of only $150, but what will that really get you? In our experience it will get you a basic Adwords account with a single running ad (see you’re on page one for your terms!), a report which was generated by a free online tool that checks for basic website design, and a few hundred, or thousand links pointing to your site that have little or nothing to do with your marketplace. In return you’ll end up with a very temporary rise in placement, followed with a crash back down, hopefully not further than you were previously.
Search engine optimization isn’t the type of game you get into with the search engines where you can just saunter your way to the top and cement yourself there. It’s a constant battle uphill to get you to your desired position, and an even longer one to keep you there. Because you see, when you finally reach the top of your market, and you have no where left to go, remember where you came from and realize, everyone is going to try and catch you. Just a funny side note I just saw, Bing comes up as a misspelled word, while Google does not. Guess there is still some work for them to do there.
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.
There have been many changes with the Google search engine, and all of them have their fans and their enemies. One of the most polarizing updates that happened to the search provider however hasn’t been Panda or Penguin, it’s likely the autocomplete feature. Autocomplete if you’re unaware, is a feature somewhat like instant where the engine tries to guess what you’re searching for, by offering you some potential searches you can perform.
The feature has picked up a few enemies on how it guesses what you’re searching for. Autocomplete uses the trending terms to build it’s list of terms which it then plugs into the search bar for you as you continue to type. Not only are the trending terms used to build the potential terms, but the search engine also takes your local area into consideration as well. For example, using Google.ca and being in Winnipeg, if I type the letters ‘bl’ into the search box, my personal autocomplete options are blackberry, blue cross, and blue bombers not necessarily in that order. The issues which surround autocomplete typically involve individuals or businesses who have had unfavorable news generated about them. Articles get written, opinions are formed and shared, and before long a local trend suddenly shows up in the autocomplete field. There have been lawsuits, threatening letters and court action filed against the search engine because of these occurrences, and so far in every case the search engine has won. The reason was always the same – they have no control over what people write and share on the internet, they only index it.
Autocomplete is just as important a search feature as any other out there, and it is invaluable where branding is concerned. As a business, your brand is everything, whether you are new or 50+ years old. Your name alone can help guarantee sales, new clients and a high quality referral trend if you play your cards right. You can use the social networking tools at your disposal to generate news and cull testimonials from your clients and customer base. Taking the time to manage your brand by creating your own news, your own trends can help the autocomplete feature to generate a positive spin on your name, and business. First impressions are everything, and where the internet is concerned a first impression lasts only a few seconds at best, so you need to make the best of it.
Every now and then there is a whipped up frenzy on the web and blogs about the dangers of SEO agencies and experts, and that the game is rigged so that unless you pay for advertising you may as well be lost on the web. While there is always someone out there trying to make a quick buck, even just a little bit of research can help clear your conscience.
When you are approached by an agency to help your company with SEO, there are a handful of basic checks and balances you can use to decide whether or not it is worth your time, and your money, to accept their services. One of the first things you can, and should do when contacted by someone professing to be SEO experts, is to find out what their website address is. Seek them out and have a look at their website for yourself, does it look like the type of website that search professionals would use? Their message should be clear on their site, and their skills in online marketing should be obvious. Ideally you should be able to perform a search for the terms you find on their site, and find them listed in the top of page one, for most if not all of them. After all, if they are experts at SEO, it should be a simple affair to find them in search.
If they are not apparent on their website, you should be able to also ask for a list of referrals from existing clients of theirs. If they have done their job well enough, there should be no problems with providing a list of clients or testimonials, that are able to confirm their skills as an online marketing firm. Search engine optimization is much more than just being able to get your site listed in organic or paid search listings, they should also have been able to demonstrate they can also assist with improving conversions on their clients websites.
A very telling point as to the type of SEO you’re dealing with as well, is unfortunately one of cost. Real website optimization is a time intensive project, and not one that is a short term solution. It takes its time to work, and if done properly can help position your site with a positive gain in ranking. To have an SEO agency properly help your rankings, it will not come at a small cost. If the price seems to be too good to be true for improved search positions, then it likely is. So if someone has approached you and offered a one shot at being able to improve your ranks for only a minimal cost be very wary of their services.
Your website is your storefront on the internet, and if you engage the wrong agency or expert to try and improve your listings, you may end up where you least want it – removed from the index.
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.