Tag Archives: online marketing

Online Shopping Rush Is Coming

Are you ready for the Christmas holidays yet?

I know it may seem early to start talking about bringing traffic and visitors to your site when we’re more than 3 months out from Christmas yet, but if you want to get really technical, you’re almost late to the party. There is a timeline which use with any client, and depending on your current online situation that time frame can be adjustable. We normally tell a new client to stick with a primary campaign for at least 3 months just to start appearing consistently for the majority of their keyterms. The reality that we share and make readily known is in order to start making consistent conversions on your site it’s actually closer to 6 months. Does Christmas seem so far away with those time frames in mind?

growthWhile the internet has gotten much quicker and more efficient at sharing information, it still takes time for your name and branding to work its way through the web. There isn’t a straight pipe directly to the customers you’re after and only them through the organic listings, you’ll have to leverage a pay per click campaign to potentially accomplish those goals. The positive side of a PPC campaign is instant visibility with your ads and keyterms, with the downsides being that most people know they are ads, there is a monetary cost to each click, and you’re limited by your budget for those terms. If you have a very limited budget, and we’re only 3 months out from Christmas you don’t need to throw in the towel just yet.

You’re likely in business to get ahead for yourself, and sometimes with being a fledgling business you don’t have the thousands of dollars that it can potentially cost to go up against the big players in your marketplace. If you find yourself in that position, you need to adjust your sights and realize that a page one top 5 placement before the online shopping season hits is mostly impossible, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose out on everything. You should still start that organic marketing process, and I hate to say it, because Valentine’s Day is only 5 months away. So what to do? Leverage social media and get your name out there, all it takes is your time – there is no outright financial cost to social media.. Post your sales on your Facebook page and cross post them to your Twitter account. Engage your current customers with minor discounts to bring in a friend to purchase items and get your name and business to spread through the social web. The social web is a more convoluted path to getting your message out there, but word passes much quicker than with the organic web. You may not be able to harness the conversion power of thousands of visitors a day, but that does not mean you should give up on the handful that are already part of your existing client base.

FTC’s New Paid Search Guidance Will Rearrange Search Marketing

FTC

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning to the major search engines requesting that they more clearly distinguish between the organic results and paid ads. This applies not only to traditional search engines, but also social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as mobile apps.

The FTC’s warning to search engines should be a wake-up call to the search marketing industry. The days of playing fast and loose with mixed paid and organic search results on search engine results pages (SERPs) appears to be coming to an end. In its place will be more stringent oversight of how search engines display paid search results and, as a result, more cumbersome and potentially onerous restrictions on what search marketing can and cannot do with their campaigns.

What are the potential implications for marketers of this new guidance? What do search marketers need to do now to begin adjusting for these changes?

It is unclear at this point the extent that each search engine will address this request, but it is expected that minor changes to the way paid ads are identified will ensue to avoid possible FTC action.

These changes, however, can impact the efforts of search engine marketers, as they will potentially need to make more drastic modifications to their search engine marketing efforts.

Here are some potential effects that the FTC’s warning will have on marketers:

Further Real-Estate Limitations

Clarifying the difference between paid and organic search listings can potentially limit the space available to both organic and paid listings. This means that either fewer results will be able to display “above the fold” without scrolling, or the character limits within each result will be reduced.

If the number of results above the fold is decreased, achieving an above-the-fold listing will be even more competitive. Businesses will be competing heavily for top placement and more of an investment will be needed to generate current levels of volume.

In the case of character limits being reduced within each result, businesses will need to update their online messaging to get their point across in less space. Paid ad titles and ad copy will likely have to be updated to fit within new limits and titles, and meta descriptions of organic mobile pages will need to be shortened to avoid being truncated when listed.

More Strategic Mobile Targeting

Paid search targeted to mobile devices is one of the fastest-growing digital marketing channels and is playing a bigger role in how consumers find products and services. The implications of the FTC warning on mobile paid search could have a big impact on how these ads are displayed. Mobile search real estate, because of the size of mobile browsers, is already very limited.

What marketers will need to pay close attention to is how they segment their mobile targeting by device type. For example, the difference in the amount of SERP real estate between tablets and smartphones is likely to increase. Targeting and bidding strategies will need to vary per device to be most efficient.

Changes to Voice-Activated Search Services

Another implication specific to mobile search is brought on by the request relating to voice-activated search results. The FTC’s warning extends to services such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S-Voice. The FTC has requested that when a voice search is executed, an audio disclosure should be made to identify paid advertising. This could potentially deter users from those paid ads, making the organic listings more valuable.

Marketers must keep a close eye on search engine results and take note of any changes that occur. When used correctly and responsibly, paid search marketing can provide a tremendous benefit to brands’ online marketing and customer acquisition strategies. But in light of the FTC’s letter, the days of deceptive paid search tactics are coming to an end. That will benefit both consumers and marketers in the long run.

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Branding Your Business Online

brandingstampAs a business owner, any methods that you can use to interact with your customers and clients is a bonus for your brand as a whole, yes, even the negative interactions are positive online. We have always tried to mentor our clients on the benefits of having a blog tied to their website, and while it can be a great branding and marketing tool what some forget at times is that it takes their time and effort away from their direct business.

A good example of how a blog can be left to the wayside and neglected usually comes from a smaller business owner, someone with a handful of employees who has built it themselves from the beginning. Between paying bills, wages, staffing requirements, meetings and everything else, having to sit down for an hour a day or every couple of days to mash out a few hundred words is the furthest thing from their mind. With a little bit of foresight, the use of a plugin or two and some time management you can manage your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ accounts all with a single high quality blog post. But first, let’s go back to the beginning or properly managing yourself and your blog.

First things first, your business is what puts your bread and butter on the table so you need to focus your time. Don’t tell yourself that you absolutely need to write a 1000 word blog everyday, because you’ll always find a reason not to write it. Set realistic goals for your blogs, if you only have time once a week to post, then only post once a week. Pick your day, pick your time, and stick to it. Frequent, reliable post times will help garner an audience, I can’t tell you how many websites we have taken on that say they have a blog, and when we look they have 5 posts, 8 months apart with the last one being 18 months ago. Pick a day, pick a time, and sell your brand. Another strong point to consider, is to realize that just because you’ve been doing everything yourself, doesn’t mean that you always need to. If you have a long term employee whom you trust knows your brand and business direction, entice them to blog as well. Something even as simple as a tag at the end of a great branding post like “mention this post and get 10% off your next purchase” not only brings customers in the door, but also allows you to track how well the post was received by your target audience. Then you could do things like provide bonuses, gift cards, paid days off, or other rewards for your employees.

The only two other major points to remember when writing a blog post for your business, is always keep in mind why you’re writing your blogs. Are you reviewing a new in store product? Are you outlining a new service or feature that you’d like your clients and customers to know about? Keep the focus of your blog in mind, what kind of branding image you want to portray to the world. And the last point is simple really, try not to take it too seriously. Yes a blog is part of the parcel of branding your website and your business, but that doesn’t mean the end of the world if you misspell a word or your grammar isn’t perfect. It makes you more human if anything to your audience, and in the end will help with your image.

Local or National Results

Almost every time we get a phone inquiry from someone wanting to have their website optimized, there is a singular question which seems to trip everyone up. And it is an important question to get a clear answer too, because it dictates to us what kind of campaign we need to get your site geared up for. To try and help you answer that question for yourself when you’re ready to make that phone call, I’ll lay out some of the differences you need to consider – are you going after local visibility, or are you going after the big prize of national visibility.

The difference between a local results page, and national results page can be a staggering amount, the term that I’ve used in both searches is “best hotel”, and added the local of “in Winnipeg” to illustrate how different the results can be.

localTaking a look at the local results, you start off with reviews, prices, a map picture with locations, and after a scroll to the bottom of the page, you start to find the organic results for the search. While it looks like there are no adwords on the results page, the listings at the top noted as sponsored and the dialogue box notes that they may have paid to have the average room price, and ranking displayed within that box. Something else to note, besides the way the page is laid out, is the amount of results delivered – 19.1 million. In almost every case Google doesn’t really expect anyone to go all the way back to, page 1.9 million in this case, so they usually stop displaying results after page 100. For the purposes of the discussion however, we’ll note the results delivered at 19.1 million.

To acquire a search result that excludes localized data, you need to use the url switch /ncr, meaning “no country redirect”, and use “best hotel” as my search parameter.

nationalRight off the bat it’s clear that the results are completely different. There are no sponsored ads on the page, it consists entirely of organic results. Of those results, the top two are from review sites, followed by a couple of referral sites, then an actual hotel. Once you scroll to the bottom half of the page it’s a similar image, you have a couple reviews, Wikipedia articles and pictures, with a hotel chain bringing up the bottom of the top 10 results. No ads, no maps, no local locations, just a handful of review sites, two hotels and the definition of the word “hotel” on the page, and the total results delivered? Dwarfing the local page at 497 million it should be clear how different the local market competition can be versus the rest of the world, not that it should have been in question.

Now to go back to the initial question, are you looking for local search optimization, or national search optimization? Hopefully the brief descriptions and the images can help you determine your course of action.

Avoiding Common Website Mistakes

Being in the business of online marketing, website design and development and search engine optimization we get all sorts of needs and wants from people who contact us for any, or all of the previous mentioned services. It isn’t difficult at all to find some of the horror stories online about these services, and regardless of how many contacts we field in a year, there are always common themes that we find that we need to sway people away from.

leaderOne of the biggest issues that we run into is actually one of purpose, we’re contacted to help someone build their website or assist their current sites positions, and we find that there is no clear purpose or reason behind it. You need to have a goal in business and in a website, and if you need to take the time to discern what you would like it to be prior to getting in over your head. The clarity of purpose behind your business needs to be conferred on your website as well, whether it’s informational, services, or a product that you’re trying to sell, using a shotgun approach to online marketing isn’t going to help you.

Within the scope of deciding what your goal of having a website is, is also the content that makes up your pages. The written text, the images and even the navigation topics all play the role of guiding your visitors to your end goal – a sale, sign up or a contact lead. Lack of content, or of updating content is a thorn in any marketers side, because we’re not in your business, we can not create your content for you. The biggest take away from requesting new or updated content should be one of importance, the sooner we can go over and work with your content the sooner we can get it implemented into your online strategy, and time is everything online. Where organic is concerned, time is your enemy more than anything, so taking your time delivering as a client is a poor choice.

The next step of a marketing strategy we find hiccups with is tied to the content as well, and that’s when we find that between all of the variables, there is no call to action. If you’re in the business for example of selling online books, you want to make sure that you’re crystal clear in that endeavour, and make sure your content supports your business goals. Using the online book retailer as an example, you can talk about how large your library is and about your author profit margins and about how you help sponsor amateur novelists and the like all you want. But none of those points help you sell your product, which in this case is an e-book. Always be closing, because if you don’t tell your visitor what you want from them, they can’t give it to you.

Be Wary Of SEO Tricks

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.

websiteupgradeThe 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.

Online Marketing – You Can’t Do It Alone

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.

babystepIn 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.

Holding Yourself Up Online

poisonedFor 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.

Who Killed your SEO

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?

WebsitegoalsFailure 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.

Monthly SEO Costs and Their Value

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.
Winnipeg SEO CompanyThere 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.