Tag Archives: search engine optimization

Google vs FTC Part 3 and Webmaster Tools Glitches

There’s been a number of news worthy topics which occured today, one of the biggest in the search sphere would have had to be the glitch with the Google Webmaster tools. It created a bit of drama, thankfully it has been addressed so it’s not an issue anymore. There’s Larry Page who is sitting down with the FTC, extending the cycle of litigation against the search engine that it is biased in it how it displays search results, favoring it’s own products over others. The other tid bit of news which caught my eye was around DuckDuckGo, the crawl frequency it has and how it seems like it runs on it’s own set of rules.

The only real issue between Google and the FTC is that they really don’t want to be negotiating at this point. With Page sitting down with the FTC over the antitrust talks, there doesn’t seem to be any common ground where the two are even attempting to meet. The FTC won’t give in unless Google allows them enforcement authority over the results it serves, and they’re not very likely to be giving that control up anytime soon. The disappointing part is that it is likely that neither party wants the case to go to litigation, as it’s just going to increase the time it takes to make any kind of progression on the claims by fairsearch.org who believes that Google is guilty of search results bias and serves it’s own web properties over others. Soon enough, someone will have to buckle somewhere, it is just a waiting game at this point to see who it is.

As for all of the drama surrounding the Webmaster Tools accounts with Google? Well someone must have plugged in an old verification server because there was a glitch where by it was noticed that people who no longer had access to some accounts, once again did. Thankfully the error has been repaired, it does however leave a bad feeling about the verification process and about how it was skipped with just a glitch in the system. Hopefully it’s not an easily repeatable error, as having access to site information you’re not supposed to have can likely be a chargable offense.

The small story about DuckDuckGo has some interesting implications for the still somewhat small search engine. DDG has prided and formed itself around the idea that it does not collect user data and as such, you get “clean” results each time you search. The idea being that the most relevant should be able to always nab the top spots, regardless of your online activities. It was noticed however, that DDG was crawling under it’s UP, but it wasn’t coming up as displaying it’s own useragent – a way for site owners to determine who visited their site. The answer from the horses mouth was fairly basic, but depending on how it’s information that it returns is interpreted into it’s index could have some interesting SEO implications.

What you’re seeing is not a crawler, but a parked domain checker. We don’t believe it needs to be identified as it only makes one request very infrequently and doesn’t index any information”

Relative Search, Semantic Search, Presumptive Search?

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

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

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

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

Is It Time For SEO To Die?

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

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

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

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

Own Your Adwords Terms

Online marketing and branding is can be an intensely competitive market, made even more difficult with there being billions and billions of web pages out there about everything you can imagine. And while they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it can tend to be a death note where the search engines are concerned.

With the web being so massive, it’s can be often difficult to say where content originated. Images get copied, text gets scraped and snippets of code gets replicated across the web on untold amounts of websites. Where organic optimization is concerned, it’s a time intensive process to prove original authorship in some cases, and even then it may not make a ton of difference. There is a difference however, where paid advertisements are concerned, such as with Adwords campaigns.

Adwords is a much different platform from organic search, the biggest being you’re paying for your positioning in the results pages. You bid for your chosen keywords, and if your ad copy and your bid are better than your competitors then your ad will appear, frequently before theirs. It’s a lucrative search market namely because it’s where people make their snap buying decisions. Sometimes, there are companies out there which play a little dirtier than others, sometimes copying ads copy directly, or even copying ad titles and format. It is a dirty business practice, and you can compare it to Pepsi mimiking a Coca Cola commercial or tune.

As dirty as it is to copy your competitors titles, copy or entire text, due to the nature of the business they may be allowed to run the ad, that is of course unless you dispute their usage. A prevalent argument that is often found in these cases falls under the Adwords informational site policy, a long winded document that exists to cover the usage of trademarked terms use in Adwords. It basically limits the use of a trademarked term to the original mark holder, or a reseller of the product. The loop hole exists however, when you get to the portion of informational sites, which can carry the trademarked text if the landing page of the ad is informative in nature to the written ad text. Now just because the loop hole exists, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your competitor runs an identical ad using your text, your primary step should be to file a dispute in your Adwords account against the ad. You’re also covered in the same trademark policy text where it basically says you can’t use a trademarked term if the goal is to take sales away from the trademark holder.

Make sure to be diligent with your Adwords copy, and if you see someone using your very own text to try and snag away sales then you should be reporting them as soon as possible. If you let it slide, there’s nothing stopping you from losing your next big sale.

Is Your Site Visually Attractive

We’re firm believers that you choose the right tool for the job, and that’s why here at Fresh I am not a web designer. I can optimize a site, I can make it run like it’s on lightning and clean and organize code to an point of near OCD. Design a site however, and I fail horribly in the aesthetic aspect. It’s at that point that we bring in a proper designer to create the product image, and I take it from there.

It is very important that we do this too, as just as it’s a time consuming process to work the optimization to a proper level, so is the design of a site, all the way down to the color scheme. Color isn’t so much as a deciding factor in the case of organic search optimization, but you need to consider what visitor you’re building your site for. People, not crawlers are what is going to bring you the return on your website investment, and if a visitor is immediately turned off by the aesthetic of your site and clicks that back button, you can just as well chalk it up to a negative mark to the search engine results pages. If visitors don’t like spending time on your site, it won’t matter if you have the best content in the world, they won’t link back to it and you won’t build relevance which won’t help drive you up the results. It’s a circular issue, and it can all come down to a simple website trait, even just your color scheme.

It’s been offline for a great while, but anyone who used the web 10 years ago remembers the visual atrocity that was the Geocity personal pages. Gif laden with pixel graphics and flashing banners, it was a difficult task to navigate through them to find what content you might happen to be looking for at the time. I’m sure there are enough people out there who remember trying to read yellow text on a green background a time or two. The web has thankfully matured to a much better point, with high resolution graphics and some vastly talented designers coming up with some incredibly detailed and interactive websites.

So when you’re working on your image of your website, remember to keep things easy on the eyes. You can be stylish and still be functional, make your site easy to navigate and read. Make sure your images and graphics blend in naturally with your site and try and stick to color schemes that don’t assault your senses. It seems like such a trivial point when you think of the bigger picture, but even just the colors of your website can drive your site around on the results pages.

Earning Your Investment

In the online digital world that we’re moving towards, there are a lot of intangible elements that can leave you wanting for more. Are my documents really safe to be stored only in a cloud service? How can I discerne how my visitors interact with my website? Is it possible for me to work out a precise return on investment for my SEO and PPC (pay per click) campaigns?

With there being so many extra variables, it’s difficult to acurately answer those types of questions, as each case is unique. Some cloud services are much more reliable than others for example, while even the biggest and best companies don’t sell themselves as having 100% uptime. Because where the web is concerned, it’s still has more than enough unknown variables affecting performance. There has been software, which reports assumptions of how visitors interact with your website for example, basing it’s calculations on mouse point duration and location. It takes the clicks that users perform on your website and use the aforementioned mouse position to determine your highest activity zones on your website. It’s still a best guess scenario at any rate, as it can only assume that each visitor to your site is actively engaged, and not tabbed out of the screen leaving you with a false positive.

Return on investment, is also one of those intangible variables that can be difficult to distinguish where search engine optimization is concerned. Pay per click is different in that you are actively bidding on your traffic and visitors, banking on their impulses to make conversions. Google Adwords for example can give you a calculated percentage of what each click through visitor was worth for you, so you can determine if your Adwords cost is justified, so you can make a solid decision on that investment. SEO is a tougher variable to work with, as your site content has to be that much better. Once you’ve worked on your campaign well enough to rank organically, you need to then work on your content to determine if it will elicit the response you want, whether it’s a newsletter sign up, email address or a direct purchase. There are a handful of sites which are built to help you work out the return on your SEO investment, some of which run with a hefty price tag. Organic optimization is the business of bringing your website relevant traffic, if your content is well done, you’ll convert to the type of result you’re looking for. Sometimes the information you’re seeking, is only a few clicks away, and you will learn how you’re being found.

Do You Need Social

Search engine optimization as new as it is as an industry, still seems to raise the ire of in house company marketers. When a company has an advertising budget to use to be able to drive people to their business, whether it’s on or offline, it’s where online marketing becomes a problem.

The reason it becomes a problem, is because crafty marketers will try their hardest to think outside the box and find that niche strategy that lands the large influx of new customers or clients. One of the newer trends to online marketing is the idea that social marketing is thee benchmark requirement now, if you’re not using social then you’re losing out. The truth of the matter though? If you really, really wanted to you could entirely skip social media marketing and do just fine. Social media marketing and trying to take advantage of the potential there in isn’t the next big thing in the sense that if you’re not doing it you automatically lose, all it really does is give you another means to communicate with your customers/clients/consumer base.

It works like this, you set your business up with a Facebook page, a Google+ page and maybe a Twitter account, add the maintenance of these pages into your already packed full scheduled needs. Now you need a dedicated person to manage these pages, whether it’s posting a flash sale for example, or maybe it’s to respond to some criticism that’s trying to be pushed onto your brand or business image. This is a full time job, in and of itself, and if mismanaged can lead to negative repurcussions with your image directly offline. Now, is having a social media presence a positive aspect for your brand/business? Yes, but it needs to be managed, and no it is not required to be found in the results pages.

If you’re thinking about making the plunge into the social sector, ask yourself these few questions before you do, you may end up saving yourself a large amount of time and headaches down the road.

1)Do our customers ask for our Facebook/Twitter/Google+ name?
2)Is our customer base shrinking because of the lack of a social space?
3)Do we have too many testimonials and positive reviews to post on our website?
4)Are we missing out on conversions due to lack of a social presence?

The ‘Why’ of Content

A phrase often uttered where online marketing is discussed is ‘Content is king’. Even the search engines are in on the act, with many of their guides directly mentioning to keep tabs on content, it’s creation and how you have it on your site. What no one has really every asked or wondered in these discussions, seems to be the why part of the equation, why is content so important.

Firstly, content is a rather broad term, it can be text on your site, images, videos, interactive forms, almost anything you can place on your site to engage visitors is deemed as content. Once you have your content on your site, it’s up to either yourself, or your visitors to spread it around the web. Some of the faster ways you can do that for yourself would be via a Twitter or Facebook feed, obviously one with your clients as followers. The idea is that your followers link to your content, and help spread the word that you’re the leading authority in widget and doohicky sales in town.

This is where your content has started to generate back links to your website, and where your authority can be proven in your niche market. This you could call the third step of being relevant in the search engines, as the path to this point has been Content -> Followers -> Back links. If you follow the hype that the greener SEOs out there try to sell, it’s that you have no control over who links to your content, and to a degree they are correct. Almost every small business owner out there doesn’t have the hours in the day to devote to creating content, monitoring followers and the policing where there links are coming from. There aren’t really even that many who know how to view their backlinks profile in a search engine.

This is where a small portion of the real search engine optimization work comes into play, online body guards. It is in our best interest to ensure that any single backlink you have coming to your site, is from a reliable and relevant source. Once you create your content and make it available online, it’s in the wild and you really do have no control over who links to it, but we have the time, the expertise, and the steps in place to take care of who links to your site and content. So in the end, a simple four steps as to why content is king could be viewed as follows:

Content -> Followers
^                            |
|                            v
Relevance < – Backlinks

The Last Resort in SEO

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

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

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

SEO Myths and Where They Start

The myths surrounding SEO are many, everything ranging from what the algorithm contains, how to trick the engines to rank highly with no effort and everything in between. Just like all rumors, they have a beginning, and it seems someone is trying to start a new on on the Webmaster World forums.

A site owner who has ended up being ‘Penguinized’ on his site as he put it, has become overly paranoid about any and all content on his site. He has basically decided, that all user generated content is a potential red flag for spam on his site, and as a result had currently removed/disabled all of the content. The (potential) birth of the SEO myth that user generated content, comments, forums, or other ways to directly interact with your customers, can lead to a Google applying a penalty to your site.

Without any confusion, user generated content will notlead to any penalty to be levied against your site.

It’s topics like this one started on active forums and blogs that lead to a great deal of confusion in the search world. It might seem like an inoccuous discussion taking place in a proper forum by someone looking for information, but with the way the discussion was handled it has the potential to lead to long lasting repurcussions. Because what often ends up happening is someone new to the search world finds these posts, and begins to believe them and the myth continues, changes, and unfortunately grows.