Tag Archives: online branding

Relative Search, Semantic Search, Presumptive Search?

Search is a finicky thing on it’s own, let alone when you start throwing all sorts of (seemingly) random variables to serve the results pages. Both Bing and Google have their own set of checks and balances which they use to deliver the results page based on your search terms. As varied as the internet is, there will be metrics that both of the algorithms use, and the differing ones are those that make the search results unique in their own way. These algorithms that are in use have developed and grown over time, as has the search market and the way it functions as a whole.

The search market started out in a very basic way, you typed in the terms you wanted to find information on, and the spiders searched through their index that they’d built and tried to return to you the results they felt best matched your request. The query you used was taken by the spiders and they searched for the exact terms and anything that matched it, search began as a relative function. As the definition goes, relative means in relation to, so if you searched the term ‘red rose’ as an example, you’d not only get images and descriptions of flowers, but you’d also likely end up with pages of the baking flour as well. Both items are relative to the search term you’ve entered, so it would make sense to a bot to show you both, as it couldn’t discerne what you were searching for.

Now the web has grown up a lot, it’s started to mature and has developed some, almost scary, tricks. It’s a term which has been thrown around a lot in the last 6 months especially, but it’s regarding the growing nature of semantic search. The simplest way to describe it would be with that same term from relative search – ‘red rose’ – with the way the web and search is evolving the bot would act intelligently. It’s being seen more and more often in Google, Bing and the social networks out there, because you’re an avid baker, the bots would likely serve you results pages more populated with the baking flour, and associated websites with recipes on it. Now it won’t bet the farm on you wanting the baking results, so you’d also receive some of the flower on your page, but it’s a best guess situation.

Semantic search, and likely presumptive search is the way we’re heading. Soon you won’t even really have to search for an item or a website, the bots, or whatever technology it is running things at that time, would know what you’re looking for within your first few terms you type. It might seem scary, it may even seem intrusive at this point in the way the world works and how people think. The simplest truth however is, this is where the web and search is going. It also means that from my point of view, the job of online branding and branding online will become vastly more important than it is today.

Is It Time For SEO To Die?

Does search engine optimization need to go the way of the dinosaur? If you follow any of the reporting outlets out there, it’s usually a couple of times a year that they’re bringing out the funeral procession for the SEO industry, but since it became the defacto method of gaining visitors it hasn’t budged. But is it really, finally time to bury it?

Before I get too far ahead of myself, it needs to be said that the search industry isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. With more mobile devices connected to the web than there are people on the planet, the method of delivering results is going to continue shifting to that marketplace, but it will never disappear. A better way to pose the question might be, is it time to lay the term SEO in it’s death bed? Search engine optimization began it’s time as the goody two shoes brother to black hat results page spamming that plagued the internet in the early days, and still to this day plays it’s own part in the search world. Black hatters, for all their dastardly intentions, actually play a vital role in the search market, because if they didn’t exploit things and try and find ways around the algorithms, then it could never improve at the results it provides.

But that aside, with the prevalence of information on the web about best practices, Bing recently came out with their own version and it reads much like the Google one, blogs, forums and podcasts about some of the methods and means of working with your site and it’s content to rank on the web, it seems like these days everyone is trying to be an SEO expert. And with this happening, the name and it’s methods have become muddied, with conflicting steps and methods, with some who profess to be gurus who outright skip using the basics.

It is a difficult decision, to try and come to a conclusion of burying the term search engine optimization, but then what to use in it’s stead. Online marketer, online branding consultant, perhaps internet consultant. The one simple problem remains though, that no matter what moniker gets attached to the industry, eventually everyone who followed suit into the SEO realm, they’ll follow along with the new buzz term. Maybe with that in mind, it’s just as well to let SEO live for another day, for now.

The Last Resort in SEO

There’s been a number of changes in the search world over the past 15 years since it’s pseudo birth, but the changes that have happened in the last 12 months have been some of the largest ever. There have been the Panda updates, the Penguin changes, and the EMD (exact match domain) changes that have made search engine optimization a much more interesting job. And not that they’re the only search engine in the game, but leave it to Google to make the most news with any change, seeing as they own the vast majority of the market.

I’ve outlined what can happen when you make a mistake and breach one of the rules set forth by the engines. You can take a rankings hit, you could suffer a penalty in the form of maybe losing some (Google) Page Rank, or you could even be completely removed from the index if you’ve accumulated enough ‘strikes’ against your website or url. As search engine optimization experts it is our job to ensure that ourselves, nor our clients fall into any of the multitude of pitfalls which you can find yourself in. None of these scenarios are unrecoverable, although making sure to get back into the good graces of the search engines will take some time and an extensive SEO skillset.

However if you don’t have time, or any search engine optimization skills under your belt, or maybe you don’t have the budget to bring in the real search experts, there is a solution for your business. It is one which will still take time, but you don’t have to worry so much about the SEO skills initially, because you’re going to start down the road of rebranding. Completely rebuilding your brand image is really a last resort option to take for your business, as it can take almost a year to return to the search results pages. If you’ve found yourself far enough up the creek that rebranding is a more viable option than repairing the mistakes you’ve made, perhaps it’s time for an evaluation of your job description.

Know Your Target – Christmas is Coming

An odd job that every site owner should make sure to take the time to do for themselves, is to always be on the lookout for new, or soon to be opportunities. The way these opportunities can manifest themselves for your business vary, you could see increased foot traffic at physical stores, or if you have a strictly online position that your conversion rate on your site has improved.

Be aware of any of the changes in your city and target demographics. Whether your aim is to make sales, or to have people sign up for a news letter, your first hurdle to get over is the one of visibility. If you can’t be found for the newest gizmo in your niche, then you may as well not even sell them. Google and Bing both have a handy tool which you can use to get a feel for how your niche tracks. Bings Keyword Tool allows you to discover search trends over the last few months, and allows you to see how trends which initially move slowly, can suddenly fly up the rankings.

The tool that Google has available is their Trends Tool and it’s a different version of the Bing one. Trends has recently been merged with one of their other tools, Insights for Search, and has become a research gem. You can conduct research on as small an area as a few weeks, or as far back as 2004, you can get readings from a much larger base and it paints a larger picture for you to make decisions on.

Historical tools and data are amazing in helping you make clearer decisions where your market is possibly heading, especially now that we’re heading into the Christmas shopping season. As an example, in 2010 in the US alone there was $30 billion spent in online shopping, and in 2011 that number rose to $35 billion. You don’t need a large sample picture to guess, that number is only going to increase again. This is where Freshtraffic comes in, research your niche, decide on your target and come to us as soon as possible. We’ll help you reach the commanding position you need to take a bite of the (possibly) $40 billion+ online shopping pie.

Relative SEO Cost Structure

Organic search engine optimization is the bigger puzzle to Adwords. It’s a tougher to work with, there’s no way to buy your way to the top, and when you’re competing against (possibly) millions of local web pages it can be a tough nut to crack. It’s these more difficult steps which are some of the larger deciding factors as to the cost of any given SEO campaign, and yet it seems to be the largest point of contention when contract discussions come up.

Late last year there was a brief survey conducted about the costs of SEO, and contrary to what some may believe, here at Fresh we’re right on target. For example, we’re working on going on year 6 here in Winnipeg, and while (according to the information gathered) that puts us on the downward slope of those surveyed, it really does show that there was a boom in the industry on a whole. We’re not shy in saying that ever since Jerry arrived and began working his online magic that all of a sudden there were 40-50 SEO “experts” within a year, where as previous there were no players.

We also like to work closely with our clients, as do most of those who were surveyed, and we all enjoy working hands on with the SEO changes after conducting some proper keyword research. Link building is also in our repetoire, as is content suggestions, however we like to shy away from directly creating your content for you, as no one knows your business like you do. As for what just that fraction of our expertise costs you as a client? If you head down to section 9 of the survey results, you’ll find the monthly retainer fees of those surveyed. If you’re an existing client of ours, you’ll know exactly where you stand, and if you’re not, then what are you waiting for? Here you have before you a representation of the projected costs of retaining a true expert in the field of SEO and online branding, you should think of your existing marketing expenses, compare them to the average of the surveyed results. Factor in that organic SEO is the highest return on investment in marketing available and make the (right) decision, we’ll wait.

Canada’s Growing Online

Canada is still really coming into it’s own online, and perhaps Google has come up with the right idea to encourage some growth. The Google eTown award is designed to recognize those towns where small businesses are investing in online tools and resources to find new customers, grow their business, and improve their operations.

Chris O’Neill, Managing Director of Google Canada

“We’re delighted to recognize the accomplishments of the small businesses embracing the web in each of these cities,” said, we know that the Internet is going to contribute massively to Canada’s economic growth..”

We’ve been saying for a few years here at Fresh, that online business is still coming into it’s own for all us Canucks, hopefully this new incentive will help spur things along. They’re not playing any favorites, and have divided the country up into 5 zones, Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, and BC & North. This year the 5 winners are: Moncton New Brunswick, Dorval Québec, Parry Sound Ontario, Canmore Alberta, and Duncan British Columbia.

Across each of the winning towns, business has discovered that the Internet became a vital tool for reaching new customers and engaging with existing ones. In recognition of their eTown status, Google Canada will be presenting the awards to each city during events throughout October. Local businesses will be invited to attend and meet Google experts who will be on hand to provide advice on growing your business online. Actively working on your brand image is one of the key initiatives that you need to pursue while growing online. Being able to translate your offline business into your online image is one of the goals you should be aiming for, and when you’re ready for that step, Freshtraffic is here to help.

More Google Back to The Future

It seems as though the walk into the past isn’t quite over yet, as it seems that just like the keywords tag making a comeback, so is another old search term, the Google dance. The folks over at Search Engine Land have been commenting, and there’s already been a handful of stories about the old two step.

If you’re new to the search world, or perhaps you are a site owner who monitors your overall performance in the results, there are some points we’ll go over about how the dance used to function. Summarized over on Marketing Land:

The Google Dance took its name from how the results at Google seemed to “dance” around when it unleashed a new search algorithm — Google’s recipe for ranking web pages — on the world. A search for a particular topic suddenly brought up a set of first page listings different than from the previous day. The listings might continue to change for a series of days until stabilizing around a new set.

So that crazy shifting of positions that had site owners shaking in their boots a few years back wasn’t just imagination kicking it, it was really happening. But this was also back when Google pushed site rankings every month manually as opposed to the auto updating that happens now.

It makes it seem like the efforts that we as search marketers put into building your site and it’s positioning aren’t worth it, but the truth is the dance actually proves the methods of search engine optimization. Just like sifting flour when baking to get the best possible cake mix, the dance leaves you better results all around. The only real question we have at the moment where online branding is concerned, is which dance are we going to be subjected to, the Panda version, or the Penguin version.

Looming Holidays and Online Budgeting

It’s crunch time for budgets, we’re coming to a point where you need to decide: do we spend more and hope for big returns over the holidays? Or do we cut back and hope we can carry through to a new year? It’s not a question anyone can really answer for you, as everyones situation is unique, I would however, like to make a case for our niche – online branding, or internet marketing if you prefer.

Where online is concerned, consistency matters most, in your content, your presentation of yourself, of how you manage your online image and branding. And while it’s true for almost all facets of life, it’s even more apparent where your online spending is concerned; you get what you pay for. If you pay for shoddy service and workmanship, that’s exactly what you’ll receive. Where online and the search engines are concerned though, you will likely end up being penalized, and at worst, banned from the results pages until you clean up your site and links. Now some people try and sell that organic optimization only takes a one time shot and is a very low cost to work ratio, when in fact it’s pretty much the exact opposite that’s true.

As an example, if you try and save some money where your online marketing is concerned and decide to out source to one of the cheap advertisers out there, odds are very high that you’re going to end up with poor, if not irrelevant back links, and this will get your site snagged up in the newest algorithm addition – Penguin. The addition of Penguin into the algorithm means that the link spammers of the past, are very quickly finding themselves with burned urls – aka websites which have become useless to link to, or with. It takes a great deal of time to work out a relevant, and acceptable linking strategy for any companies website, and to skimp on this portion of your marketing will be one of the nails in your websites coffin.

Often times when you’re having your website built for you, or if you’re having it redesigned, you’ll find that web developers can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars. If you have a complex site, with a shopping cart, perhaps streaming videos and audio with a user login system, you’ll be possibly even looking into the tens of thousands in cost. Thinking about saving money on your website and it’s construction? Rethink that cost saving measure, as cutting costs from the way your site functions, looks and performs can not only get you flagged by the search engines as having errors, but it can leave your site poorly secured and the possibility of being hijacked increases greatly. And if your website becomes hijacked by a malicious user who uses it to spam (best case scenario), or completely trash your website and use it to spread malware (black listed from the SERPs) not only will the search engines not trust you, your end users and customers will begin to distrust as well.

This was only two, of the plethora of issues which can sink your website should you choose to skimp on your online budget, and while being removed from the SERPs is a terrible possibility, the interaction lost with your current and possible customers should be seen as the real loss. Lost traffic due to reduced resources leads to lost conversion rates over all, which is just a never ending cycle of less and less.

Search Done Right

So after talking about the new patent papers filed about tricking spammers into showing themselves, with Penguin and Panda breathing down your websites neck, what is there left for you to do as a webmaster? You follow the basics and stick to the best practices guide, it sounds boring and cliche, but it works.

Focus on content creation, when you put forth effort when creating great pieces of content, the result is increased traffic to your website via shares and referrals. Another strong candidate to let your company and site become well known is to distribute press releases for major changes. Make sure you don’t abuse press releases, as it can give your company a bad image as a spammy site when you talk about every little bit of activity. Focus on taking advantage of press releases and the traffic they generate when you have something impressive to share.

Make sure to take care of the increasing social boom, and add social sharing buttons to your website. Don’t make the assumption that users will take the initiative to share your content on their own. Making it simple for your visitors to share you content with social share buttons is a quick way to garner additional views. Going hand in hand with using social sharing and social media, is to create your own YouTube channel. YouTube is the web’s largest search engine, so when you can create videos showing off your product or services it is a great way to expose new audiences to your brand. And with the search engines starting to include media results mixed in with the organic results, you may even begin to find new visitors coming to your site via your Youtube channel.

And one of the most important tips that can be offered on how to improve your visibility, when you find yourself with a new client you should always do your best to over-deliver on your company’s products or services. Word-of-mouth is still one of the strongest advertising methods online, offline, new media or old. Once you’ve thoroughly impressed a new client, the odds of them bringing their friends and family to your site are very high. Be sure not to step on their toes however, or to ruin a relationship when dealing with a client, as the only thing that travels faster than great news, is bad news.

Algorithm Updated and it’s getting smarter

There have been adjustments, changes, and what seems like complete rewrites of the algorithm that Google started with in the beginning. At first when you searched, the results you were given were based directly upon the query as you’d entered it, and sorted by how many back links it had. Now however, when you search for ‘Winnipeg Jets’, images and video for the team appear even though the words “images” or “videos” weren’t in the query.

The algorithm that Google, Bing and a handful of others use, has grown and evolved to a point where it’s trying to anticipate what you’re searching for, as well as the direct query you may have typed. The search engines are getting better at bringing what you want to see on your given topic, and seem to be weighing the number of clicks through to a result as well as all of the previous criteria as well. As you’ve probably mistakenly typed a word or two while searching as well, you’ve probably noticed that search engines are also able to correct spelling mistakes which are commonly made. What the engines are getting much better at doing however, is not correcting your spelling, but interpreting what you may actually be searching for. Google can load dictionaries of how words should be spelled and common misspelled variations of those words and can look at how searchers correct searches and when they click on different variations. And it can use this data to not only suggest a query with a different spelling but to treat the misspelling as a synonym behind the scenes and rank the correctly spelled matches.

And as with what goes in the same basket as interpreting what you might be looking for, Google is noticeably moving forward on trying to discern your intent while searching as well. A basic description of how it works:

Keyphrases don’t have to be in their original form. We do a lot of synonyms work so that we can find good pages that don’t happen to use the same words as the user typed. – Matt Cutts

Even Bing is getting in on the act as if you mispell a common word or phrase, you’ll still often be brough to the correct results. Perhaps soon enough, you won’t need to search by typing, but by simply visiting your preferred search engine. And because you researched a new car and purchased one via online dealership shopping, the engine knows that in a few months it should perhaps deliver you information on local garages which offer oil changes and tire rotation services.