Tag Archives: online optimization

Microsoft and Their Crying Game

In the spirit of competition, Google has pretty much always said bring it on as competition almost always leads to improvements and innovation. There hasn’t been an innovative search engine developed since Google took their spot at the top of the heap, and while the task is daunting to take on the giant, it isn’t the company itself that is the issue, it’s their index of the web. As simple a problem as it may sound, creating an index of the internet is becoming an exponentially larger task every year, and as a result Google retains their spot as top dog.

Microsoft has similarly deep pockets with which to develop technology, whether it be in search, software, or what ever they may deem worthy at the moment. Disappointingly however, instead of sinking time and money into developing their own product, they spent who knows how much of both, on both their Scroogled campaign, Bing it on campaign, and their battle in the EU, trying to revive their antitrust reviews against Google. Their latest salvo in the fight, trying to convince those in power in the EU that positioning on the search results pages is directly relative to how much search traffic you get to your website. Anyone who works in any style of marketing company will tell you that if you occupy the choice spot, you’ll receive a better response, that’s a no brainer. But again, there was Microsoft time, and money spent to determine something that was already known by everyone who has ever done business. From Microsoft’s blog post:

Moving the best result down just two positions (from first to third) reduced traffic to that site by half.
The diversion effect becomes much more pronounced as a site is moved further down the page. A site that is moved from the first position to the tenth position typically will lose about 85 percent of its traffic.

A site that is moved from the second position to the ninth loses about 75 percent of its traffic.

Well no kidding.

Dilbert-fakelinksWhy they’re making such a big deal about search ranking is a tad confusing, because if you follow the language they use in their post, then Bing search does has exactly the same flaws as Google search, and their manipulated results. With those things being equal, shouldn’t the EU also look into potential anti-competitive practices against them as well? It didn’t go so well for them the last time that happened as I recall. There’s no arguing that Google has a leg up in the search world, they came onto the scene like gang busters with their algorithm and has had the largest web index on the globe, but instead of competing with them and developing their own product Microsoft has decided to go with another temper tantrum. Hopefully one of these days they’ll pull up their socks and improve their own products and stop kicking sand around the sand box.

Search Context Matters

A quick pop quiz for you, what do these terms all have in common: cheap, cost effective, reduced cost, low price, reduced price? If your first response is that they all are basically the same thing, then I could say that you’re correct. Wouldn’t you know it however, that the search engines, and the internet, don’t see things quite the same way?
synSearch engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo are great at the basics of figuring out what it is that you’re trying to find online. Using the above terms as an example, if you searched for a “cheap washing machine” you would expect to get ads for refurbished machines, maybe some Kajiji ads or even Craigslist offers. The problem with the way that search engines determine what you’re looking for though, really becomes apparent when you search for “low price washing machines”. They are the same terms, and mean the same to a person, but to a search engine bot they’re completely separate values, you could just as well be searching for washing machines in one instance and a space shuttle the next.

The bearing this has on you, as a website owner and online storefront, is you need to be clear in your message you present, and your website needs to support your message. If you are in the business of repairing and reselling washing machines, then you need to be clear that yours are both cheap, and low price. Search engines, for as amazing as they are for what they do, has no idea of context, and as a result you need to relay that information to them. You do this both with your content, and with your optimization efforts. When you’re ready to finally be known for all of your business services, the online branding experts are here to help.

Keeping Your SEO Accountable

Over the last few years we’ve written extensively about the value of search engine optimization, and that if you have the right pieces in place that the increased traffic and visibility can catapult your business into a realm you thought was maybe only a dream. But all of that valuable information aside, there is one vastly important piece of advice that rarely gets discussed – keeping your SEO provider accountable for their services.

closelookIt may seem a tall order, after all you’ve already hired them to do the job for you, because you’re not entirely sure what you need to do. But there are a few simple tips and guidelines you can use to try and keep track of the work that is being done to, and for your website. After you’ve chosen the people or agency to help you with your site, one of the first things you should try and gain a grasp of is your website stats report. As a service we offer a login to view your stats counter so you’re able to quickly view your over time growth, another method which is offered is a report delivered monthly. This allows you, as a business owner to quickly see how your traffic has improved, or is beginning to improve following the on page optimization which begins the moment you have signed on.

If you’re like some of our clients, and you like to be able to see visible changes in your site, some of the simpler things you can look for are evident. We often help you with your content, and work with you to ensure you are delivering the message you want, and help with your call to action. Whether it is a sale you’re after, their email address or just a survey completion, we’ll help you identify your conversion problems, and help you correct them. Because visibility doesn’t do you any good, if your conversion point is buried a half dozen pages deep into your site with no way to see or find it. Your call to action is the end goal for you as a client, getting that sale or that sign up is what you are after from your visitors, and it is the visitors that we can help deliver to you. Other simpler changes you can keep an eye out for are simple heading changes, title changes or content adjustments.

Just a handful of simple steps you can use as a client to keep track of your SEO professional you’ve hired to make sure they’re actually working on your website. There are other ways you can use to try and work out just everything that is going on behind the scenes, but the absolute simplest way to learn what has been happening is to pick up the phone and call. We are always happy to catch you up to date with what we’ve been doing to help your online presence.

Finish Before You Start

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.

growthUnlike 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.

Losing Your Search Data

With the always growing concern over privacy online, it wasn’t a great shock that Google announced that their browser, Chrome, is moving to an entirely encrypted service. Currently the beta version of the browser provides private search features for logged in users, and they’re quickly working towards that being a default for all users, signed into your Google account or not.

It’s a mildly distressing point when you drill down into your analytics, because at present the average is somewhere between 20-30% of analytics traffic is coming up as “Not Provided”. Up until the last year or so, when a user conducted a search, made a choice, our analytics tools would show the URL that “refers” the visitor to that page, and would typically include what the visitor searched for. Now when someone performs that same search, the referring URL just looked like www.google.com. The analytics didn’t know how to provide a proper break down of traffic with that referrer, so instead it started giving results of “not provided”. And when you’re dealing with online optimization, not being aware of what your target audience is searching for can be a distressing blow, in the short term.

chrome-secureIt’s highly likely that the amount of users taking advantage of secure search methods will continue to grow, especially after Chrome makes it a default setting for all users of it’s browser. But just because the referrer is no longer being provided, it doesn’t mean all is lost. As a website owner, you’re losing the ability to easily see how trends are shifting in search for your particular niche, but you can counter that simply by being up to date with your clients and customers. You should be on the cusp of shifting trends in your industry if you expect to be a leader. Additionally, those search terms are not entirely lost, you just need to look in a different place. You should have Google Webmaster tools setup to monitor your website, and within that toolkit you can see the last 90 days of search terms for your site, with up to 2000 key terms. The data isn’t gone, it’s just in a different spot, and with the utilization of your entire toolkit you can still find any answers you seek.