Tagged with " search engine optimization"
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.
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.
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.
When we engage a new client in SEO, we always expect to be asked a number of questions, all of them of varying importance. We’ve been asked the practical things like “can you guarantee results” and we’ve been asked some that come off the wrong way like “can you make my site take over -competitors- results”. Search engine optimization is a process, it is also a skill set that takes years to properly develop, and there are some very important questions that you should be asking yourself when you approach an SEO company, or are approached by one.
One of the basic questions to ask should be of their awareness to the Penguin and Panda updates and how their penalties can affect a website. Within those two major updates, there are all of the smaller ones which have happened, most in the last year or so and you should have warning bells going off in your head if the agency you’re speaking with has no knowledge of them. Things like the exact match domain update, or the changing sizes of the results pages from 10 down to as little as 6 or 7 on a page, any SEO worth their chops will be able to answer those questions, and others you may have without any issue. Search optimization is a bit of a jack of all trades type job, where you need to have at least a grasp of web coding practices. Knowing how to properly fix code errors within a web page can actually help rank a website, just because you’ve taken the time to correct a potential spidering error, allowing the bots to access your entire site. Your SEO company should also be able to handle properly redirecting pages or an entire site if necessary, and where and when to use 301, 302, and even 404 codes to shape the user experience, and the bot interaction on your site.
Social media optimization is one of the newest buzz words in marketing, and while it is an increasingly more important factor to your optimization efforts. It actually has less to do with the actual act of search engine optimization, and more to do with the interaction with your clients and visitors. By having an active conversation with your customers and visitors, it indirectly shows the search engines that your site has activity on it, and it lends to the authority of your website. It’s the relationship with your visitor base that can allow you to garner legitimate, high quality backlinks which all give benefits to your positioning in the results pages.
And one of the most important questions you need to ask any agency, whether you’ve contacted them or they have contacted you, is how involved you will be in the optimization process. The answer should always be something along the lines “entirely” or “every step of the way” because it’s your brand, your website, and your online image. When we pick up a new client, we make it abundantly clear that while we will not creat your content, we will help you mold and shape your content to deliver your brand and message properly – with the end goal of ranking your site higher in the search engines.
There are a good deal of different steps involved in properly optimizing a website. On site factors and changes, the time it takes to build a proper backlink profile, and making sure your website is properly built is a weighty deciding factor with the search engines.
On page, on site optimization is a time intensive project. Your content needs to be broken down, weighed and evaluated against your competitors as well as against the search engine guidelines. Your entire website needs to be taken down to its base components, the text, images and navigation all need to be optimized to ensure you have the best chance to rank your site. Some of the larger concerns you have with your on site work are avoiding being spammy with your content, avoiding using any tricky pieces of code to hide text or images – even if these are done by accident they have very real consequences for your website. Avoiding on site optimization issues are basic affairs however, and you can use your gut for the most part to avoid them.
All of the on page work that is done, and for all of the time that it takes to do properly, the off site optimization is just as intensive. There is no real handbook on how to properly perform off site optimization, but there are a couple of key points you can keep an eye on. While you have no real control over who, or what links to your website initially, you do have the ability to manage those back links pointing to your website via Google Webmaster tools. There is thankfully some reprieve where your back link profile is concerned, as the search engines are pretty good at picking out which websites aren’t on the up and up. One of the largest concerns that website owners seem to get worked up about are having links from websites that are obviously selling links to anyone that will pay. Well thankfully, the short story is that it’s highly likely that Google knows they’re not playing by the rules and any links that may be pointing at your site won’t be a problem for you. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam gave a brief answer to this concern, the main points to keep in mind:
Websites that sell links will see their toolbar PageRank downgraded by 30, 40 or 50%.
The site will no longer continue to be able to pass PageRank.
Sites they link to will no longer benefit from those links.
Search engine optimization is a buzz term that makes a lot of marketers out there wince when used in their presence. It isn’t a wonder why, as there seems to be an expert around every corner, and at times it can be a dicey proposition to engage someone to represent you. The dangers associated in a virtual world can have some real world implications if you aren’t mindful of the work being performed on, and off of your site.
Whether you have a website with only a couple of pages or a website with thousands of pages, you need to have an aim with your optimization efforts. You need to decide from the get go, are you going after a site wide optimization or are you going to start with a page or two to try and work your way to the top of your niche. You can optimize your site and pages for single or long tail terms, but you need to have the focus to not push forward on more fronts than you can handle. Once you’ve either paid for the keyword research, or taken the time to do the work yourself, you’ll discover that the vast majority of your traffic will result from only a handful of terms. With that in mind, make the decision to focus on your primary target, and not get distracted by your campaign.
Once you have that target and the primary pages that you’d like to optimize, there’s only one major area to worry about regarding your optimization efforts, and that’s really to not go too far with your optimization. As strange as it might sound, over optimization is a legitimate concern for a website. Being caught over optimizing your website isn’t the end of the world though, and it’s one of the easiest errors to recover from. While we always welcome an open dialogue with our clients, we have had a handful of occasions where we’ve actually had to use the phrase “We’ve taken the steps necessary, but we didn’t want to risk over optimize your pages.”
With the growth of web technology as the internet develops as a marketing tool, there are some incredible effects you can achieve when you design with the new technologies in mind. There are however, a handful of issues that you need to keep in mind when designing your website with them in mind. The main use, and priority of your website should primarily be client interaction, but marketing also needs to weigh heavily with your decisions.
It is an older technology when speaking about the web, but Flash is still widely used to create and display multimedia websites. Flash allows you to create a visually striking website, complete with sounds and animations if you would like, and allows you to have a great client experience. A great idea for websites that have an established visitor base, or is shared directly to users, as it still isn’t easily crawled or indexed by the search engines as of yet.
Some of the newer tricks on the web involve the use of updated slider coding, allowing you to overlay text and images, and the increasing popularity of Ajax code. The slider bits are getting more friendly in terms of search engine optimization, as you can designate an area for an image, and place text over top of it which can then be indexed by the search engines. A less friendly, but most often seen use of sliders is using images that have the text embedded within it, and while this still gets the message across to visitors, it is not going to be indexed. Ajax is a great new technology in the life of the web, and allows you to construct highly interactive websites. You need to ensure that you follow your optimization steps however, because there are variants of Ajax out there which don’t get properly indexed at the moment. A popular use of Ajax coding at the moment is to create dynamic menus and content, which can make your site look and act very compact, and as it is an active element works well to keep visitors engaged with your site.
I’ll write another shortly about some of the other tech out there which is providing client interaction and a great visual display for visitors at a later date. I’ll have a focus on jQuery and HTML5, the latter of which is one of the more impressive bits of technology out there.
One of the fastest growing terms or trends in building a website the last few months has got to be the rise of the responsive web design. If you’ve shopped for a new site in the last bit you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, and it really does make sense. A responsive site isn’t a new idea, it’s just picked up a name for itself that designers can identify with, and it makes sense to boot.
When a web designer or developer is discussing a responsive site with you, it basically means the website can adapt to what ever technology the user is on at the moment. Whether it’s a desktop, tablet, or a mobile phone, your website will change to suit the visitor. There are some unique challenges that you need to be aware of though when looking at this type of design, as you may lose out on customer interaction or conversions if you’re not diligent about how the site performs. A top issue that you need to consider is the content that is displayed above the fold, or to put it another way, what content is immediately visible to a visitor without them having to scroll. Having visitors land on your website as the result of a search or a referral from a friend should be a near guaranteed conversion. But too many site owners and designers think of “flash before cash” and instead of working their magic and trying to make a conversion they show off and the main message gets lost. Don’t take that to mean you can’t show off the capabilities of your site or it’s design, just make sure your message isn’t being lost by doing so, both are possible you just need to be aware as you build it to make it happen properly.
Another key aspect of a responsive design is it is usually on the lower side of the content spectrum, so the content that is there needs to cover two major bases off the hop. It needs to be relevant, and it needs to be engaging for the user. Contrary to the belief of some who call themselves SEO experts, your content can be highly relevant without being spam filled, it doesn’t have to look liek a robot spit out a paragraph of keywords.And on that same note, your content can engage the user as well as be relevant, it just takes some wordsmithing to do it right to make sure the message is delivered while keeping the point in focus.
A responsive site design is a great move forward online, it’s a great means to use to provide your message to online searchers across multiple formats. Just remember to not get lost in the bells and whistles, and keep it simple. There’s nothing worse than driving a company to the top of search, just to have them completely revamp a website and lose their conversion rate.
In the last year the Google has released some pretty heavy duty algorithms to try and clean up their search results pages, affectionately referred to as Penguin and Panda updates. It is usually fairly easy to pick up on when an update is going on, as the results pages shift fairly consistently over a few days, and during that time you can go from a top 3 position, to not found, to page 2, and so on.
There are people in the blogging world who have some pretty close ties to the team at Google, and they were able to send off a quick email to find out if the gut feeling about an update was correct or not. Just last week however, it was announced that there would be no more direct confirmations from the search engine, about updates or shifts that are occurring. But don’t worry, it’s not that the communication is completely breaking down, it actually has more to do with the fact that the shifts shouldn’t be as abrupt or drastic anymore, perhaps it’s a sign that the results pages are getting closer to what the team at Google deems acceptable?
Of all of the things that we hate the most with the SEO business, there is always a short list of the few things that we try our hardest to stay away from. Some are unavoidable with client assistance, and some are completely unavoidable and regardless of how frustrating an experience it can be, we have to deal with it. As it goes with any endeavor, one of the biggest issues that can pull you apart is having too many cooks in the kitchen. There are all sorts of cliches you can use to this effect, but they all mean the same thing – too many people on the same project, and loss of information and procedure will occur. We try to minimize the impact of this by being able to directly work on a clients website, but there are sometimes cases where that isn’t a possibility, and so we deal with it. To a web developer two days to make a change may seem like an acceptable time frame, but to the internet and the search engines, it means all the difference in the world.
Another issue that sometimes crops up, and we sometimes receive phone calls for is for a quick solution, to a long running problem. Search engine optimization is not an apply duct tape here type of process, the minimum time frame we try to advise our clients of, both existing and prospective, is a 4 – 6 months window within which you might start to see consistent improvement. So the next time you’re considering using SEO to help bolster your site positions, just remember that if anyone tells you I can do it in two weeks for $300, you are potentially digging yourself a very deep hole at worst, at best you have spent money for no real lasting results.
A lot of poor information often gets circulated around the internet about everything really, but the real bone of contention that we have here at Fresh is with the people and businesses that spread bad advice or information about the web. The internet doesn’t seem like a terribly difficult tool to use, but it is one of those tools that if you don’t use it correctly, it can come back to bite you.
A big buzz word for the last few years was search engine optimization, and while it is still as powerful a tool as ever, it seems that some of the uninitiated “experts” have been culled from selling their services online with the Panda and Penguin updates. The very recent buzz phrase this time around is surrounding social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, so on and so forth, if you don’t have a social page you’re going to disappear on search etcetera. Facebook is the largest social media player on the web, no one can contest that fact, and within the last couple of weeks they came right out and said they have no intentions of offering a full search service, they are only concerned with Facebook Graph search. So very simple, and very plainly, search and social are two different things. The user base of the internet leverages both technologies to make a decision these days, so to ignore the social side of the web is a bad decision, but if for some reason you do, it won’t affect any SEO campaigns you may have implemented.
Three or so years ago when it became the big thing to sell search engine optimization services, a lot of the same old mantra began to be repeated that you could find on old blogs and forums. Methods like article submissions, link exchanges and ranking reports and their definitions were used to sell a number of businesses poor to terrible SEO campaigns. The bigger issue surrounding these terms isn’t really that they’re old tactics, it is if they are used incorrectly they can get you and your website into trouble with the search engine powers that be. Using article submission as a tactic now a days is a good way to get scooped up by Panda, especially if a post or a blog gets scraped and passed around the web on thousands of sites. Links exchange ala the early 2000’s where you pull the “I’ll give you one for one” is a sketchy tactic at best, and at its worst, there’s no way to follow if that link gets pointed all over the web at any given time. And as for ranking reports, that’s just a phrase that old marketing companies use to try and wrangle your business in as they can show you a report where they help you rank for a long tail (9+ terms) search that no one really performs.
Some of the business owners here in Winnipeg really need to give their websites a good long look, and step forward into the 21st century. Using only newspapers, radio and television is high cost, low ROI, and virtually untrackable where visitors are concerned. A real search engine optimization campaign can correct all of those issues, and we can even right side up a sinking website, all it takes is a little time, and a whole lot of experience.