Tagged with " online marketing"
If you own a website for your business, then the chances are pretty good that either you’ve been contacted by someone who offers to perform SEO for your site, or you’ve realized (hopefully) that the web is the way to go and optimization is another tool in your kit you need to leverage. There is an ongoing problem within the SEO world, however, it is slowly being rooted out and the agencies or people who don’t know really what they are doing are slowly falling to the bottom of the heap.
The chief issue with search engine optimization is that very deep down, at it’s very core, it’s a free service that can be used to help improve your website. The caveat to this though, is that just like every other product and service out there, you get what you pay for. So if someone comes along and offers to sell you full service for only $200, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sinking in the results page. Buying the cheapest SEO on the market is like using a rock you find on the ground to hammer together your new roof on your house, it might work in the beginning, but in the end you’re just going to end up hurting yourself and likely not getting the work done properly in the first place.
Freely available information is the culprit in this regard, it only takes an internet connection to learn “everything” about search engine optimization. The problem with information being available though is that sometimes it’s just not the right kind of advice or information you want to follow. As an example, it wouldn’t take long to Google up the steps to be able to rebuild a basic lawnmower engine, but you wouldn’t be able to even begin to parlay that into rebuilding a jet engine. Both of them power machines in order to provide a service, but are immensely different. The readily available information regarding SEO is most often the type of tactics you don’t want to leverage when trying to have your site listed. A lot of culprits that we see when having someone contact us for help are old tricks which the search engines didn’t much worry about at the time, but the algorithms are much smarter now than they ever used to be, so as a result, you need to be better as well. Over used keywords is one of the biggest culprits where lost ranks are concerned that we see, and even from a user experience stand point, spammy text just looks wrong. If you’ve created your content, or had someone work on your content for you, make sure to give it a very careful read once completed. Read it out loud to yourself, because if it sounds strange when you read it, chances are the search engines will pick up on that and you’re not going to be too thrilled with the results.
Unfortunately, a method which I still see to this day when we have people calling us is the use of hidden text on their site, and they can’t understand why they’re not visible in the results pages. It used to be that unscrupulous SEOs would hide text on the page by matching it with the background color of the page, so the text technically exists on the page, it just isn’t visible unless you select the text with your mouse or view the source code of the page. The search engines decided a number of years ago that this was a method in poor taste used to rank a website, and as such devalues any site using such a method. The list of old tactics to rank a website are incredibly simple to find, and as a general rule of thumb if the person working on your site talks about the tricks that they use, make sure you take the time to look into their methods. They may just be setting you up to sink like a stone.
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.
For all of the bonuses of having an online presence, occasionally there is going to be a hiccup. The best you will find a host promise you is to have 99.99% up time, because there will be the occasional circumstances beyond their control. It’s an unfortunate discussion that we have sometimes with clients when they try explaining to us that Sally from Edmonton is having difficulty navigating the website because it isn’t loading properly. All we can do is ensure that the site is up, that it’s operating properly and that the connectivity is fine. Everything beyond those few points, is unfortunately beyond our control.
There are however, some very real consequences if your website does happen to come down due to a coding error, or a database retrieval problem.
For example, in the event that your website goes down, and it could happen for any one of a thousand reasons, you need to be aware that first and foremost that visitors can not currently reach your website. So that means no sales for your products, no emails for your newsletters and no exposure to the social market as well. No website online means you can’t work with your content, and it means that you can’t operate your business at 100% capability. Most hosts only have downtime issues that average, at most, only 20 minutes or so at a time over the course of a year. And in the big picture, that may not seem like a whole lot, but the web isn’t a market that forgives easily or quickly.
Say for instance that your website crashed this moment, and that it was down for only a few minutes while your host plugged your server back in, you wouldn’t think too much of it. But just to play devils advocate, if during that window that your website was down the search engine bots came by, they would see that your website was not only gone, but the entire address is invalid. The next step? Regardless of your position on the web, you would be dropped from the results pages because, well you need a website to be on the results pages and you didn’t have one at the moment it visited. Don’t worry though, because this is an outlier situation and anytime a search engine bot encounters a dead url where there was previously a website, it’ll continue to try until it receives a definitive response.
While we work very closely with our clients, we make it part of our routine to ensure your website has as close to 100% uptime as absolutely possible. We’re always watching your address to make sure that everything is ticking along as it should, because your improved position in search is our primary goal. And you’re not going to get there if we be lazy and allow your website to go offline for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately from time to time, we are all fallible. You make a mistake at times, sometimes you burn your dinner, or stub your toe, there is always the chance for something to go wrong; even in the SEO world. Thankfully we are always monitoring your site to make sure to remedy anything if a shift happens in the search algorithms, but what happens if you’re not with us as a client? If you’ve taken your optimization work to someone else, who may not be as diligent as we are, who do you speak to when things go wrong?
Failure in an SEO campaign can come from only a couple of different places, either there was a mistake on the clients end, or the agents end. Contrary to popular belief, it’s somewhat rare that the mistakes come direct from the search engines themselves, but we’ll talk about that another time. So how can you fail your SEO as a client, especially when you’ve hired someone else to do the job for you? It’s not common, but there have been occasions where we’ve requested access either via FTP or CMS so that we may be able to make the changes required for on page SEO, and to be able to react to changes coming from the search algorithms, and we’ve had the occasional client who either can’t, or won’t give us the access we require. In this case we need to rely on you to make any and all changes we need to make, and if you fail to make the changes correctly, or even sometimes quickly enough, you can lose rankings and authority on your site. Making constant content tweaks or changes as well, without letting us know about it also hampers our SEO efforts, and as a net result can drive you down the list instead of up. Those are really the two major instances where you can cause your own demise.
It isn’t all roses and sunshine for the SEOs though, and just because we’re the best in town doesn’t mean that there aren’t snake oil salesmen out there. There are still emails which are sent out actually, which are promising #1 positions in Google in only a few days, and for as little as $200 to boot. First rule of life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is greatly applies in this case. If someone has contacted you to work on your SEO promising those kinds of returns, then you need to realize that first off, they’re not playing by the rules of the search engines, and if they insist they are they’re probably trying to sell you an Adwords campaign and not an SEO campaign. It is absolutely true that you can rank immediately on page one for your search terms with an Adwords campaign, and you can likely do it for only $200 as well, but pay per click advertising is not organic advertising, and once your money runs out, your ad stops running until you refill the tank. In all honesty there are many more ways that a search engine optimization company or agent can ruin your search positions, but if they have any interest in remaining in business then they’ll do their best they possibly can for you at all times. A little knowledge however is a dangerous thing, and in the case of SEO there are little bits of knowledge scattered about the web, so be sure to ask the questions you need to before you engage a company, lest you have to deal with the consequences later.
Every now and then I try and make it a point to go over the major talking points which seem to come up when we hammer out a contract with a new client. There are some very specific points which usually are the conversation starters, and the biggest issue that often comes up is the monthly cost associated with an SEO contract.
There are some important facts to keep in mind where optimization is concerned, it is a time intensive project which requires constant tweaking, updating and monitoring. Once we’ve performed your on page changes, we need to begin work on your off page campaign where we scour the web looking for highly relevant websites to try and work out backlinks for your site. And for every link that we can build for your site, it adds another factor that we need to keep tabs on. Off site issues include managing Adwords, your social pages and efforts and working on protecting your brand. Your name is everything in business, and if your brand becomes tarnished, you either dig your way out, rename your business and start over, or you can give in. If you’re genuinely great at your job, then none of these points should be a concern to you, as your client interaction and the brand monitoring can help you identify any issues and do some damage control.
That’s only a snapshot of the always on SEO management that we as an agency need to keep in our cross hairs for every single client that we have. As far as on site needs and changes are concerned, we always have to keep watch on your positions and the way that the search game is always changing. The way that the search engines are constantly shifting means that we need to keep tabs on the news and the way that the algorithm shifts, and make sure that we adjust your site to make sure you don’t mysteriously disappear from the results.
And to be perfectly blunt, one of the main reasons we tie a monthly cost to our services, is because of who we are, and who the man behind the company is. You pay to have the ability to pick up the phone and talk, one on one with a team who has a former Google exec at the helm. Our time is valuable, and if you like the idea of being able to pick up the phone and go over your analytics and site traffic with the leading search experts in Winnipeg, we’re gonna charge you. Don’t be bothered about the total cost at the end, concentrate on your sales and conversions and before you know it, you’ll have more business than you know what to do with.
Of all of the elements that are required to be in place for a website to serve its purpose, there is one above all, that has to have a clear and present place. It needs to be prominent, attracting to the eye, and clear in its message, because you only get a fraction of the time you have in other advertising markets to make your mark.
Unlike radio, where you have a captive audience, and unlike newspapers where you have a subscribed, reliable audience in the manner of subscription service, your online marketing efforts have the be razor sharp. Today we had a discussion with the encompassing message being to hone your call to action. If you are in the business of sales online, make sure to have a badge showing as much, if you need newsletter sign ups, make sure it is clear and evident on the page what you’re looking for. Because unlike radio, newspapers and television, you have somewhere between 3 and 8 seconds to capture your audience before they click that back button and they never see your site again.
As much as I’ve used and seen the web these last 5 years working with Fresh, I still don’t see it quite the same way as the boss. Often times I need to repeat to myself that same mantra of keep it simple, keep it simple, and while I have few issues with it now, early days I would complicate things too much. Even after staring at a clients site and trying to help them work out a stronger call to action/higher rate of conversion it was (unsurprisingly) the mentor who finally just told him if you want to make more sales, show you’re having a sale. Successful ecommerce sites plaster the front page and landing pages with keywords yes, but also the most important stop words. Stop words are terms which don’t make search engines take notice, but your visitors. He doesn’t like to admit that he’s a salesman, but he can definitely sell, and made the point that people buy benefits more than they buy an item. Extended warranties, free shipping, no taxes, reduced price, all direct benefits to the consumer. And all strong stop words to keep visitors on your site and punching that purchase button over and over again.
It hasn’t been new news for a while now, but the Facebook Graph search feature that is being tried and tested is slowly making it’s way to a live feature available to all. The massive social sharing site which has more than 900 million members has an unimaginably large data set to pull answers from, and allows you to search the interests, location, and preferences of your friends list. At it’s current state, it is the tail end of that statement which holds the most important piece of information – preferences and interests of your friends.
The implementation of Graph search is not a bad idea on paper, or in practice, it does have a long way to go however where you’re really searching for an answer. The best way to describe the service and what it offers was summed up here
For anyone who uses the Internet to search restaurant recommendations, travel advice, books to read on vacation, or which political candidates to vote for, Facebook may have replaced Google as the best search engine.
The veracity of the end of that statement is questionable at best, as Facebook Graph isn’t so much a search engine, as it delivers you a report of your friends opinions. The bonus is you can compile the information quickly, and in an easy to digest fashion that you can use to reach a decision on what you searched for.
The downsides however, have been slowly been coming more and more to light as more people are being allowed to use the service. For example, really searching for a person or topic, doesn’t happen with Facebook Graph at the moment, on the surface it seems that Facebook is using it’s algorithm to scrape statuses, updates and likes. The downside to that being, if you haven’t liked a page, commented on it or had a status update with the term in it, it is highly likely that you won’t show up for some of your interests within their search provider. I’ve not had the chance myself to try the service as it is in beta testing in the US only at the moment, but taking a snippet of information from other sources, it seems they have other issues as well. The image search doesn’t work as well as it potentially could due to most images not having a geo tag associated with them. The Facebook version of instant search goes a bit over the top by putting in elements of auto complete as well, by trying to anticipate what you’re looking for.
Facebook has an immense amount of data and power at it’s fingertips with their user base, but it isn’t a surprise to see them stumbling along in an area they are not suited for, search. It may be a strange thing to say, but I hope they improve and I hope they find a way to truly integrate the web into their service, Google is an incredibly powerful tool and everyone does just that much better when there is some real competition. Here’s hoping Facebook doesn’t drop the ball with Graph search, and the overall improvement of the web.
Now that Facebook is entering the search arena with it’s own version of search, which still has a fair amount of work to do on a large scale, it’s a good time for you to go back through your website and make sure you’ve crossed all of your t’s and dotted your i’s. There are a handful of basic practices that you can implement as a website owner, without the assistance of an expert, but only one piece of advice: If you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t do it.
First things first, when you’re ready to try putting together some basic SEO, you need to understand it is not a one shot deal. A change you make today, will need tweaking in a week, and every week there after. Website optimization is not impossible to take on yourself, just understand the time investment, and attention to detail required.
One of the points you need to focus upon first, is you need to examine the goal of your website. Are you trying to sell a product or service? Or are you looking to entice users to sign up for a newsletter or email? Examine your end goal, and keep that goal in mind while going through your website. There are a number of free services you can leverage to engage your customers and clients, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are free to use services that are a direct interaction with your current, and prospective customers. Where the cost is incurred, is your time. The more you are able to engage your audience, the more likely you are to grow your following.
You’ve determined your end goal, and settled on the time and attention required to attend to your SEO and social efforts, this is where you need to temper yourself. Every day there is an amazing new piece of software, or website out there that can tell you exactly what to do to become number 1 in search. They claim to have all of the answers for social and search, when in fact all they have is an untested idea. Don’t forget the basics, just to chase what might be, the fundamentals of website optimization remain the same. Clarify your message, stay away from sites and services that claim to promise number 1, and engage your audience on the social front. Adhering even to just those very basic points will help you to improve your positioning online.
We’ve written countless times about the basics of online marketing and that the trying to work with the search engines, not against them, is a constantly shifting landscape. Once you’ve followed the basics, gotten your site steadily climbing the results pages and are working on your back link profile there is one more key component you can add that will help your position and your site. Take a look at your site, your content, and your activity on your pages and think to yourself: Would I link to my own content?
You need to add some link bait to your site occasionally, so instead of continually hunting for back links, others in your industry (hopefully) will be following you and decide to naturally link to you because of your content. This is usually referred to as creating link bait, and it’s one of the quickest ways that you can build up a quality link profile for your website. You can start creating your link bait content by knowing what you’re talking about, everyone has an opinion and if you’re knowledgeable about yours, there is no reason not to share it. Sharing opinions is a great way to start a dialogue with people, whether it’s your customers or others in your business space, it gets people talking, and talking about you.
Everyone has a hiccup every now and then when it comes to creating your content, especially if you’re the lone person responsible for it, so don’t be scared to talk to your co-workers. Sometimes a brief conversation can help you decide on a blog topic, a new page to create or a way that you can help drum up news or a flash sale for a product or service that you may offer. We all need inspiration sometimes, and everything becomes easier when you ask for a helping hand. Being able to write a high quality page or article is fine, but if you’re unable to grab any attention with it, or drum up some discussion with it then you won’t garner a great deal of backlinks from it, if any at all.
You work long enough in the world of online marketing and you begin to recognize a handful of different client types. You can eventually group them into about 5 or so different client types, some more difficult to work with than others.
1) Believes they know your job because of a post client
This type of client is usually the type of client who may recognize that they need help online, but will continually question every step or change that you’ve made. While not entirely a negative client to have in your portfolio, it can lead to some difficulty if they enjoy tinkering with their website because they read something on a forum one time.
2)Needs to control every aspect client
This client, while more than happy to help increase their search positioning, is very tight fisted with the keys to the kingdom. They often are very slow with providing proper access needed to perform all of the tasks which can make your life as an SEO much easier on a day to day basis. When you need to make a change to their sites code, or heaven forbid, their content, you might suddenly find that you no longer have the required access with whish to work. Once you’ve touched base with the steps you need to take, and why, you normally receive the required access, but still extremely bothersome none the less.
3)Very helpful client
The dream client, fully recognizes that they need help online, has provided any and all access needed for you to complete your work and is more than happy to put you in touch with the people you need to reach. This is thankfully becoming more and more the norm in the industry, and while still a rare occurence in the wild of the internet, they do exist, do not give up hope!
4)Helpful, but uninformed client
These clients, while helpful in providing all of the access you require, are almost as troublesome as the client who needs to control every facet of your work, the troublesome part is they truly don’t understand they’re inhibiting your job by working on their website during or after you’ve made changes to their site. Or they have mistakenly uploaded an old backup of their website. Most of the time you just need to contact this client and let them know what they’ve done wrong, and why it’s a bad idea for them to make that type of mistake.
5)Disinterested, disillusioned client
This type of client has often been burned in the search arena, and while understanding of the fact that the world is going digital, really doesn’t believe that the work you do can impact their business. Often slow to pay for their services, or slow to provide you the contacts or access needed for you to truly excel at your work.