Tagged with " search engine optimization"
Search engine optimization, it’s the big marketing buzz word of the last 5 years or so. And what was once known as a highly technical, and relatively unknown business tactic has become a medium embraced by the masses. So well embraced in fact, that it’s become more and more populated by people who barely understand what the term means, let alone how to properly implement it on a clients site.
It’s becoming ever more obvious when we speak with prospective clients, that their first introduction to the world of SEO wasn’t all it is cracked up to be. The most common way to be taken in is usually with your webhost, offering what seems to be an amazing suite with submissions to directories and search engines. What these small, and sometimes large companies don’t seem to realize, is that directories don’t carry much influence with the search engines, and as for being submitted to them, well it’s not a process that exists in so many words. This scenario, as bleak as it may seem, is the best case scenario unfortunately.
The worst case scenario, and we’ve run into it a few times, is a client who’s been attracted to the false promises, and ‘darker’ side of SEO. The black hat entrpreneurs, if you can call them that, lure in their clients with promises of page 1, top 10 positions and quick return on their investment. The problem here, is the tactics that employed often destroy the online reputation of the company, and lead to the website often being removed from the index. When we’re engaged with a client in such a predicament, we’ve actually had them start over entirely, new url, new website, the works.
Key points to remember about legitimate search engine optimization are: It is not a one shot deal that will place you in the top rankings
It is a long term, high ROI solution
It is the highest ROI marketing solution when the costs and gains are weighed
And a real SEO expert will engage you as a client, to help you create content, and create an online experience to help bring qualified visitors consistently to your site.
Don’t be fooled by get rich quick schemes where SEO is concerned, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t exist and anyone who is trying to sell it to you should be black listed in your contact book.
The web is a huge place, full of anything you can think of at any given time, because chances are if you can think of it, someone has made a website or web page for it somewhere. It could be as common as people writing about the latest movie or song, or it could be as low key as a new local band for instance, but if you were to hit up a search engine you will almost always find at least a webpage about it.
And with all of the billions and billions of web page and websites out there, it creates a market, and with any market comes the marketers. Search engine optimization, adwords, white hat, black hat, when you start reading about the industry you will find yourself running into terms which become more and more unfamiliar as you go. It’s no wonder that when you start having the conversation with a prospective, or sometimes even existing client, that the question comes up “Do you know how Google/Bing/Yahoo works? Can you promise me number 1?” Now the polite, short answer to that question is “No” and the long version is “No, we can’t promise number 1″. And then the inevitable happens, they utter the beginning of the worst phrase you can hear as an SEO “But I read/heard/was told that..”
Here’s the short reason why we can’t guarantee you number 1 in search for your business: the web and the search algorithms are always changing. When Sergei and Larry initially created the Google algorithm to run around and start indexing the web, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear they never imagined it would get so massive. It’s rumored that the algorithm that runs now has somewhere between 250 and 300 ranking factors in it as it parses your website. And some of the confusion for those on the outside of the market, is when they read an article about how someone has cracked the algorithm to always rank on the top. I apologize for being up front, but anyone who tries to tell their clients that is a conman. At this stage of the search game, with as long as the algorithms have been changing and adapting, I doubt there is any one person employed by Google or Bing, who can sit down and tell you just how it works. Because at this point, they are just too big, too complex, and take into account so many different points that it’s mind boggling.
So your best course of action, is to adhere to the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t get crazy with your site, don’t get too smart with your content and follow the best practice guidelines; and you’ll be okay.
Continuing in the thread of website basics, it’s time to delve into a couple of additional facets of the online game. We’ll have a look at two website components, your navigation, and the images which you use to compliment your content.
The navigation of your website, while a basic component, fulfills a number of other functions as well. Depending on the visual aspect you desire for your site, your navigation can fill in an accent role in a color scheme, to being an active engaging portion of your site. But while you’re using your navigation to help make your site more appealing, you need to bear in mind that people aren’t the only visitors to your website, you have to think of the search engines as well. It’s not unusual to find new clients whose navigation menus have been built with fly away java scripts, animated roll overs, or even a menu built entirely in flash. While these elements sometimes provide a great visual experience, when the search engines are concerned your navigation menu is invisible. Many of the fly aways and flash aspects for your navigation can actually be written by CSS scripting, which is all text to the search engines, and they’re sole goal is to index text. When you’re building your site, or having it revamped, be sure to take the time and spend the extra dollar, and have your navigation built as much as possible via CSS. You’ll thank me later.
Secondly, the images which you use on your website is an important feature to bear in mind. While you’re building, or updating your website it’s good practice to pepper your content with images which can be used to accentuate your content for quick consumption. The number one point you need to bear in mind, is the size of the image you wish to include. The internet is often referred to as being a system of tubes, and if your images are too large, you can slow down your websites performance. A good way to keep your images under control, is to have your graphic designer provide you with a jpeg or a gif version of your completed image. Graphic designers often work with very large file types, and website owners try to upload these images directly to their site and then become worried why their pages begin taking much longer to load. To give an idea of how large some of the graphics become, it’s not uncommon to receive a finished image in the area of 40 megabytes and up. In terms of comparison, the average jpeg file is only a few kilobytes, it’s like filling a shot glass with water from a tap as opposed to a bath tub. The more appropriate way to be able to link your large, beautiful images to your website, is to embed the jpegs within your content, and create a link to your larger image, so that it’s not loading each time your site is brought up.
An interesting blog post from Bing has been gaining steam in discussion forums, and unsurprisingly, it pokes fun at Google and the recent Penguin update. A little poem of sorts has been made up, and it goes something like this:
Animal kingdom hurting ROI?
Pandas and penguins, oh my!
Take control and tell the fauna “Bye Bye”,
With these helpful suggestions to diversify!
It’s a silly little rhyme, but it has great sense in it; diversify. They go on to explain that by diversifying your websites optimization techniques, you can soften, or even eliminate the blow felt across the web with algorithm changes. If your organic optimization is flowing strong and healthy, focus on a weaker area, perhaps pay per click optimization and help to boost it’s output. Organic results are typically the hardest hit in search when there is an algorithm update or a sweeping change made ala Panda or Penguin. By having your additional channels of traffic performing at their peak, you can protect your position online and react if there is a drastic change occuring.
The Bing post went on to make great points as well, diversification aside, about how to manage your presence on the web. Keep an ear to the ground for any new and trending websites or aggregators, like Pinterest just a couple of months ago. It went from a simple board where people can share interests quickly and easily, to having a Pin button begin popping up on almost every major site out there. Pinterest had some key factors which helped make it incredibly relevant, strong, rapid growth, easily adopted technology, the media got on board quickly which spread the word and add in the interaction of friends and family and it took off like a rocket. Keeping your eyes on the horizon and watching for a trend can be an extremely helpful safety net.
There were a few great other points that were covered in the post, a lot of them were really just basics that cover some of the most basic SEO skillset. Like taking care of your sitemaps, are all of the links relevant and none broken. Same with your robots file, when was the last time you had a look at it’s contents to ensure it was still correctly configured? Do you have social sharing on the pages you want to have sharing on, and have you managed to keep any duplicate content issues down to nothing. Very, very basic work, not even necessarily from a search engine optimization stand point, but just from a webmaster stand point. Keep it clean, keep it basic, follow the news and trends, and you’ll be ready for the algorithm shifts across nearly all search engines.
Along with all things, changes to the way we use the internet happen on a daily basis for the most part. Starting from a single browser interface, to now having a half a dozen available to use depending on preference and platform, web tech has been changing and evolving almost as fast as the web itself.
Take browsers for example, just a few years ago in 2008, the online world was dominated by Internet Explorer, followed up by Firefox and just a sprinkle of the odd ones here and there. That was the year that Google Chrome was introduced, and since that time, the number one seeds have changed some. As of the start of 2012, there is a fairly even split of the browser market going to the top 2, Firefox and Chrome as the most widely used, Internet Explorer coming in at a distant third and the rest, still just a smattering on the internet landscape. As of March 2012, Internet Explorer has dipped under 20% of the browser landscape, thankfully at least half of that market uses an updated version of the browser, with version 8.
But browsers aren’t the only change we’ve had in the last few years online, social media has become a massive market on the web. The largest player in the space needs no introduction, Facebook entirely crushes the social market with having around a half billion users logged in on average per day. The unencouraging portion of that number however, is that nearly half of the businesses out there, don’t even use social media marketing to their advantage. Only about 20% of the businesses out there are even using Facebook to push their brand and market, with the smaller business owners more readily embracing the technology. Knowing it’s an avenue that needs to be explored, and taking that step to do so are two different things, and it seems that a lot of the time it’s people that try and make it complicated. Any concern for marketing is return on investment, and while organic search engine optimization is the best return in the business, it’s cost and time factors make it difficult for those with very shallow pockets. Freebie advertising though, like that can be found with Facebook and Twitter, can be easily measured however, broadcast your ad/tweet, and measure your traffic over the next couple of days. It’s not magic, it’s simple math when you have to keep it basic.
The goals of SEO are relatively simple, to make your site rank as highly as possible within the search pages for your niche. Whether you build houses, write stories, or draw pictures, search engine optimization is applicable for any website online. What a lot of smaller business owners can also use SEO for, is to knock the big players down a peg or two.
It’s an important step for all parties to consider SEO as a great equalizer online, you do however have to remember to stay within the rules. There are billions of web pages online, and yet with that daunting number in mind it’s still a relatively simple process to stay within the sights of the search engines. All you really need to keep in mind are the basics, even just following the best practices guidelines gives your website a shot at being picked up and indexed. But you need to also remember, the internet isn’t exactly a friendly place yet, a great deal of the web is free and wild. As a small example, you can’t control what websites choose to link to you if they choose too. This can be a difficult hurdle to overcome as well, as irrelevant, or inappropriate back links leading to your website can seriously hamper any SEO efforts you may have in place. This is only a single element of what’s known as negative SEO.
The larger, more established and authoritative sites such as Amazon are somewhat safer in this regards, however no one is completely immune to negative SEO. Negative search engine optimization can be defined as spammy links, blatant keyword stuffing, duplicate content or anything that isn’t considered white hat SEO by the search engines. Smaller, newer sites unfortunately are more susceptible to negative optimization problems. In the beginnings of a sites growth, it may not have much content or links pointing to it. If you’re not careful with how you craft your content or structure your links and navigation, you may even get dinged as having duplicate or irrelevant content in your niche. The number one point however that you need to keep in the forefront of your mind though, because the internet is still wildly untamed, the playing field is actually relatively plain and simple. Follow the rules, manage your website and monitor your content to make sure it doesn’t get scraped or that it has been copied from another resource. Even the big hitters can be taken down online, no target is too big or too relevant on the web.
There are all sorts of experts out there in the SEO world, and for all of the experts out there willing to take only a couple of hundred dollars to place your site, there is a larger road block to finding the real pros in the industry; information. Good info, bad info, just plain wrong info, if you search for seo expert, or anything along that though line, you will run into some real winners if you’re willing to dig deep enough.
The last year or so the internet search world has been buzzing with Panda, it dropped this clients site, or it ruined the results for the term which magically brought their site 20,000 visitors in a day previously. Casting aside all of the hyperbole, Panda didn’t affect the vast majority of the websites out there, the main aim of the algorithm is to search out spammy sites, sites with scraped content from other sources and even sites which use automatic posting means. Just like any of the other major algorithm shifts, if you weren’t doing anything wrong at all, you’ll have noticed very little change in your positioning, and in your visitors.
But, if you happened to be working in a back linking scheme to garner thousands of links from a seemingly active blog, and you magically dropped in the rankings, then chances are the blogger wasn’t quite doing things the proper way. Before you start reading information on search and taking it at its face value, you need to dig even deeper into the threads and posts on the site which calls itself experts. If it’s only comprised of a handful or so pages, chances are they haven’t done anything except find some decent content and copy it. If the information sounds good, check the post date on it, if it was posted even a year ago, then as great as it sounds then there are likely vast portions of it unusable. And finally, actually take the time to dig into the post, read it both silently and out loud. If something isn’t adding up as you read it, sentance structure is off, or the cadence is jerky, then there are a couple of strong contenders. The post in question was either scraped and put together in a hodge podge fashion to try and dupe the algorithms, or, the piece was written by a piece of software.
The last bit may seem a little odd, but there are programs available now which can truly write all of your blogs for you. You can feed it a topic, how many words you want, what type of emphasis, and a few minutes later you have a post. The key issue with these programs however, is just as bad as someone manually scraping the web for content, the posts are almost entirely made up of scraped content. The software is just designed to piece it together to make it fit the parameters you have set.
There is really only one rule to bear in mind when searching for an SEO, or when one approaches you: Can you find them when you search for them? Because if they can’t list their site in the top few pages, then chances are very strong they can’t do a thing for your site as well.
For a new business starting up, or for those looking to make their presence known online, the over whelming amount of options you have can be staggering. There’s pay per click, organic search engine optimization, social media and social media optimization, the internet is a speedway filled with potholes if you’re not careful.
Pay per click marketing, also known as AdWords, is a pretty straight forward marketing plan. It’s bidding on ad placement within relevant search results, to put it plainly. If your ad is deemed relevant, and you’ve won the bid, your ad will be displayed in a “Sponsored Listings” box on the results page. Basic optimization needs to be kept in mind, as well as the quality of your website and it’s landing pages.
Organic search engine optimization, SEO, or the holy grail of online marketing, are the results you see in the center of the page when you conduct a search. A fair amount of time, resources, knowledge and creativity are involved where organic SEO is concerned. Finding an expert in the field can be a difficult, if not troubling experience. In recent years, the field has become inundated with web designers, graphic artists and the like all proclaiming to be SEO experts. If you find your business is being contacted by parties wanting to sell you SEO services, here’s a little tip. After they tell you their business name, try searching for them. Because after all, if they can’t list their own business, how can they list yours?
Then we get into the bustling world of social media. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and now Pinterest all vie for your attention. And as an added result, your customers attention as well. It’s incredibly cost effective, if not free, to become invested with social media for your business. The majority of your investment is going to be with your time and creativity. Taking the time to leverage all of the social angles is a consuming process, but it’s well worth it as it can quickly build a positive brand image.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the terms search engine optimization became a staple on the web and it has gone through a number of changes. Both in perspectives, actual and perceived, and in usage. For the most part however the basics of proper web development, online marketing and promotion have stayed the same.
When building your website, there are only three words to keep in mind Keep It Simple. Search engines like to say they have no problems crawling imperfect code, it’s safer to assume search engines are dumb and help them in every way I can. Simple code is honest code it also makes your website easy to analyze and troubleshoot should anything break down. The more code you use on a page, the more things that can go wrong from spider access to browser compatibility.
Looking passed your coding, you need to keep in mind your overall design. It was a great example given, but when using Apple products as an example with their pure, simplistic forms. By contrast, too many websites, primarily enterprise sites, try to be all things to all people. Their administrators or managers fear they might miss out on a conversion for lack of a link.
Websites should have clean internal linking. You do not need a site-wide menu three levels deep. As long as people feel that they are progressing toward their goal or the useful information they seek, they will continue to click through your site.
Coming up next, the age old king of the web – content – will be discussed as well as how its importance has only increased over time on the web.
It’s not a secret that the search engines have to frequently tweak their algorithms in order to shake things up a little on the SERPs. It also isn’t a secret that Google, Bing and Yahoo occasionally like to shuffle those results and sometimes you may find yourself without a positive ranking as you were accustomed too, only to find that a few days later you’re back where you’ve always been. So what point does it serve to remove you from your positioning, only to place you back? It can make you think, do search engines and SEO really make any difference at all if they can change things on a whim? The short answer is yes, the long answer.. well it’s the long answer for a reason.
In keeping with the times, you need to remember the web is everywhere. At home, work, on smartphones and tablets, it’s never been easier to be connected. And with all of that information at their fingertips, 9 out of 10 times people will search. They’ll visit Facebook or Twitter, Google or Yahoo and they’ll search for their answer or ask their friends for an opinion. For some it’s as small as what to have for dinner for any given evening. For others it can be as life defining as what area of a city to buy a new home in.
So yes search engine optimization matters and yes having a website is important. Google and Bing send out their robots and scour the web so that you don’t have too. They arrive on a site, chew through the content as quick as can be and ranks the new site against it’s current list. As a business, having your plumbing business on the top of the maps listings when someones water heater suddenly dies, means hundreds of dollars in difference to not taking the 20 minutes to set it up properly. There’s also the adword side of the search game which works on primarily a bid and auction system, so long as you have the best bid on a keyword you could rank on page 1 number 1 in the ad spaces.
That’s the cookie cutter steps that everyone should be taking or at the very least, be very well aware of that are available. This is where organic SEO comes into play. For what you could spend on an adwords campaign, if you put those resources and time into properly building and working on your website, you can rank in the organic listings for your key terms. This is also where you’ll notice when the search engines are doing their big shuffle when they reindex their results pages. First rule you need to remember about organic listings – if you randomly disappear with no warnings or emails from the search engine, don’t panic. Take a look at your site and ensure you haven’t broken any of the rules. If you’re good on all fronts, just wait at first. Be patient and wait to see what shakes out. Search engine optimization matters, as do search engines and having a proper website, not just a Facebook or Google+ Places page.