Tag Archives: search engine

Sometimes Even A Little Can Be Too Much

There are any number of missteps that can affect your website and how it ranks online, but there is one in particular which gets under an SEOs skin quicker than any other. Any guesses as to what that might be?

GrumpInstead of playing 20 questions to try and take up a bunch of time let’s just come right out and talk about it. The most trouble some aspect of any search campaign isn’t the search engines themselves. It can often turn out to be a business owner, or an internal IT guy at a business who feels they “know enough” to do the same work that we do as search professionals. I’ve been over it a number of times, but you will always get what you pay for in the professional business world, and when you try and double dip in expertise it can most often end up costing your business time and money. And where even a day of traffic could potentially cost your business substantial sums, thousands of dollars – millions maybe, are the temporary savings worth it?

A little bit of knowledge can be a very dangerous thing in these cases.

The over abundance of information available online is a blessing, and a curse. It allows us as a professional agency an avenue to share with our clients to explain trends, topics, and some of the methods which we use to help their search positioning. Those are the explainable, tangible metrics that are easy for the layman to understand about the search game. Where the trouble starts is with all of the nuances associated with the game, and for every visible aspect there are ten hidden facets. Just a very simple example of how much difference even a letter can make, try a singular and a plural search – something like ‘house for sale’ and ‘houses for sale’. To a person there is virtually no difference, a single letter ‘s’ is all that separates the two terms. But to a search engine they are almost entirely different searches, and your results will be different from my own.

It’s a point that I learned very early on while being coached in the industry, but even something as innocuous as a letter, can make all the difference between being number 1, and being invisible.

Are You Panda Proof?

There’s a lot of scary terms in the the SEO world, and if you’ve been reading about the benefits that you can gain from a properly executed search campaign, you’ve undoubtedly run across some of them. Usually they include things like Google bans, black hat tactics, spam penalty, any or all of which can effectively lead to your website being dropped from the search engine results pages. So here are a couple of tips that you can focus on improving your website, instead of thinking about the unlikely doom and gloom that awaits those who try and trick the search gods.

brandingstampNow these won’t make you immune to any radical changes that Google or Bing introduce, but those types of updates are infrequent, and while can be devastating if you’ve been doing the wrong things for some time, don’t automatically end your online marketing campaign.

One of the first things you need to realize about search, is that you need to make your business a brand, regardless of which results page you’re trying to crack. When you conduct a search the most frequent returned results in the top spots are always major brand names. Especially if you’re searching for things like electronics, sporting goods, hotel bookings, most likely all will be major brand names. First instinct may be to think that they pay Google and Bing directly to perch their business and website at the top of the results page, but the realistic truth is they’ve built their brand. When you think of a company like Coke or Pepsi, you get the image of a soft drink in mind, Mercedes and Porsche brings up vehicles, and so on. You need to think of your company as a brand and what type of image you want to build for yourself online, then when you come to us with your goal in mind we can help you mold and craft your website to suit that image. Build your brand offline, and that traction and attention will follow to your online presence as well.

And when it comes to your website, forget about the search engine bots that crawl your pages and your content. You need to build your site for your users, not for the algorithms. While your end goal may be a sale to a visitor, you still want their interaction with your website to be so good, that they bookmark your site and even refer others too it. Create a high quality website with a positive user experience and you’ll find your internet marketing campaigns become doubly as effective.

A strong, positive user experience coupled with a clear and consistent branding campaign will boost any company in the search results, regardless of the size of their bank accounts. And as an added bonus to all of the effort in providing such a clear message online, as I stated in the beginning, you’re positioning your website to be almost entirely update proof.

Are You Mobile Friendly

Online marketing efforts have had a lot of changes come at them over the last 18 months or so, there have been large shifts in the ways and means necessary to properly compete for positioning on the results pages. At the top of the fastest changing metric for your online presence, is the rapid adoption of mobile devices to use the web.

leverageFacebookBefore you tear your website apart in a frenzy to ‘fit in’ to the mobile crowd, you need to consider the most basic tenet of online marketing and branding – your content. You need to be able to engage your visitors, and make sure that your call to action is clear in both access, and its message. Besides being relevant, engaging and unique, your content should also generate social signals for the marketing strategy to be considered truly successful. Access to their social media accounts is one the most oft given answer when usage details are probed with mobile devices. If you take the time to ensure that your content is socially shareable, you’ll have the larger hurdle over stepped.

With the rapid growth in the use of the mobile devices, once you have your content it is time to ensure that you have your pieces in position to found on those devices. Tablets, smartphones and even netbooks can be lumped into this space, as their small screen print and processing power can sometimes put your website into a poor position to be accessed by them. Some of the simpler steps to take is to avoid using flash, or building your pages to incorporate large images. If your website developer has done their job correctly then neither of these issues should cause any alarm. There are many ways in which to deliver a quick, easy to navigate website to a mobile device, and the majority of the development platforms out there already incorporate a ‘responsive’ side to the site. Essentially your website is able to determine if your visitor is on a mobile device, or on a computer, and will deliver the correct version of the site to them.

Search engine optimization is almost the fairest marketing game that can be played by any business, in any space. Unlike television, radio and newsprint you can’t just throw wads of money at your internet provider to place your brand image everywhere. But when the job is done right, and you make sure to start your campaigns ahead of time, you can very well be at the top of the search results when it is most important. As an example, we often advise new clients that depending on key terms, competition, market goals and the quality of their website and content, it can take four to six months to find themselves in the results pages at their desired position. From today, that window puts your website at the top of the results right in the heat of the largest selling days for the online marketplace, the last 6 weeks before Christmas. Ho, ho, ho everyone, don’t be left out in the cold.

Your SEO – Helping You Help Yourself

A few months back, there was an article posted calling on business owners to wise up, and stop spending money on search engine optimization as it is a useless endeavour to try and improve their position on the results pages. It has been near 6 months now since that article, and its follow up have been posted, and putting aside that the article was a cleverly written piece of link bait, it made some valid points for business owners to take heed.

brandingstampTo be upfront, I do not agree that SEO is dieing or that it is going to anytime soon, the practice of search engine optimization is all about working within the guidelines to help improve your online visibility, and so long as there is an internet there will be a search engine, and there will be need of our services. But as I read the article, the major point which I took from what was written, is that your SEO company can not write your content for you and your business. For years the web spam team at Google has posted blogs, videos, articles and answered help threads in the webmaster forums and always with the same response: create your website for the users, not the search engines. The focal point of that statement is simple and it’s one that we always push with our clients – quality content will do more for you than most anything else to be noticed on the web. What no one at Google will actually come out and tell you however, is how to mould your content, your website, and your social profile to work together to portray your best brand image and improve your online image. That would be where our services as search engine optimization experts comes into play.

The misunderstood nature of SEO is that you are trying to trick the search engines, or manipulate them to place your website at the top of the results pages. The boring truth however, is we do nothing to manipulate the search engines, we have no direct phone number to the algorithm creators, we have no magic wand that can fix everything. But what we do have is more than 20 years of experience working within the guidelines, and continually, successfully working with clients and their websites to give them the best possible chance to climb the results pages. It’s the level of knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a blog post or a webinar, and it is why you should be very wary when approached by an agency offering you page one for only $200.

The SEO world is definitely changing, and with the most recent shake up with the addition of Penguin v2, for all of the extra work it initially entails, it really serves to “clean up” the industry as a whole. It’s major addition and changes to the algorithm that shines an ugly light on the SEO practitioners who believe it is only a game, and not realizing the amount of constant upkeep it requires. Don’t fall into the belief that it is an easy affair to implement every step to give yourself the best possible chance to rank positively online, the best thing you can do for yourself and your website is to keep it simple. Keep your content clear and relevant to your services or products, and if you truly want to improve your online image, call us before you get too far down the rabbit hole, we are here to serve.

Control Your Advertising On A Budget

One of the more difficult aspects of being a consistent force online, is being able to show to not only the search engines, but your target audience, that you are approachable as a business. One of the cheapest, and simplest ways to prove to the powers that be is by utilizing the power of social media. The most difficult phase of using social media, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, is just the time involved in keeping your target audience engaged.

leverageFacebookRolling with the assumption that you have the time to sit down and engage your audience, instead of tweeting and posting everything to your social pages, there are some points which are more beneficial than others to cover. Right off the top, one of the biggest bonuses for you to try and keep on top of would have to be the news that is relevant to your market. If you sell toilets for example, and there has been a revolutionary break through in the industry, you’ll want to let your followers know that you have the newest and best crapper in town. Add in to the mix all of the facts and figures regarding the news is the simplest way to offer up quality information, that is quickly and easily consumed by the search engines and by your followers. People on the whole, love having statistics at their fingertips that allows them to compare products or services at a glance, and if you’re at the top of the offerings and quick to act, you’re greatly increasing your chances at making that next big sale.

Twitter especially is great for pushing out snippets of information quickly, and using a website that greatly shortens a web address (like bit.ly for example) allows you to host information on your site, without eating up your 140 character post limit. Taking the SEO side of the equation into consideration, this allows you to break down your visitor flow through your website, as we can tell at a very quick glance if you’ve been found in the results pages for your organic terms, or if people are flowing into your site via your Twitter or Facebook postings. A growing method in the last year or so especially for offering up quickly digestible information has been the use of infographics. Typically brightly colored and visually appealing, infographics allow you to sell your business and it’s services in a simple format. Prevalent more so on Pinterest and it’s growing userbase, the graphics can help to outline why you’re the best toilet salesman around, with the facts and figures to back it up. Producing any kind of content that can be taken in quickly and visually is one of the roadblocks to leveraging social media to engage your audience, as consistency is greatly important. Your content must resonate with your audience emotionally is the best case scenario. Start by creating a compelling title, one that is clear, concise, and relevant — and maybe even mysterious. Invigorate your social media marketing with bold new content ideas, and you will see your website being boosted with shares across the web.

Manage Your E-Commerce Image

growthIt is no shock that the internet has been a massive attraction for businesses to sell their products and services online, there are even the mega sites like Amazon who made it their business to sell other peoples stuff. E-commerce is a multi-billion dollar industry, that depending on how you handle your customer interaction can either positively, or negatively affect your sales figures.

In what could be described as an average online shopping experience, it would follow a few basic steps. First off, you are clearly looking to purchase an item for yourself or as a gift, I’ll use a tablet as an example. The first inclination of most people would be to just go purchase an iPad or an iPad mini, but even at that micro of a level there are a dozen different configuration options ranging from memory size to even color choice. Let alone the other dozen major companies that also sell tablets like Samsung, Microsoft or even a Google product. After that item has been decided on, that’s usually where the research starts, and where your SEO should have been mindful of. One of the most neglected areas I’ve found in the online retail space, is the review space for a clients product. Tablets can range in price from $200 to $500 and up, so they’re not small purchase, and a little due diligence and customer interaction can actually increase your sales.

Take for instance, you’ve started a new company to sell the aforementioned gift, named Tablets4U and you have a unique product that is just as good as everyone elses on the market. This is an avenue where marketing and SEO should be working together, marketers sending out the product to review sites and your SEOs to build up quality content for them to link back too. Your web design in a best case scenario would have the option for people to leave reviews on your own website where you can address any questions or concerns, and you should have your SEO actively monitoring social media channels to catch any buzz about the product. As a consumer, one of the first things I look for on the web when I want to research a purchase, are for customer reviews. I don’t need to know technical specs, and I’m not concerned with colors at this point, I want to know what other users experienced with the product. If your SEOs and other marketers have done their jobs correctly, even a negative review can be turned into a positive experience by handling it correctly. Brand management is a very serious concern, especially with more and more shoppers heading online every year, don’t forget about the end user of your products and services as it may lose you sales in the long run if you neglect them.

Ever Lasting Search Battles

Search engines catch a lot of flack for various things, some of the items which top the list are privacy concerns, spam issues, and irrelevant search results. The laundry list of complaints and concerns that users come up with about the engines is as varied as the user, and can sometimes border on the silly; like the recent court case Google won.

WebsitegoalsAll things being even though, the complaints do have some merit as there are lingering issues with search and the results pages. There are some unscrupulous users out there that try and ruin it for the rest of us by gaming the search engines. Cloaking pages, hidden links, scraping genuinely great content and sometimes even just running a content generator that spits out nonsense. At a recent event, Matt Cutts came out and discussed some of the top issues that Google actively works on keeping from their search results. Some of the ones that you would expect are in the list, spam content that was auto generated, this usually reads like nonsense and is stuff to the brim with keywords. Not surprisingly, keyword stuffing also made that short list of immediate no-no’s, where SEO is concerned this is even a basic of the basics, you just don’t do it. As it should be expected, pages that are full of nonsense text for no reason at all, it isn’t too difficult to find unfortunately, as you can just run a search for “Lorem ipsum” and you’ll be able to find too many poor businesses out there who have no idea they’re being swindled.

One of the methods that was discussed which is still an issue online, is full on hacking of websites. It started when the web was born, and will likely always exist in some form or another. There are many different levels of hacking, and not all of them are malicious, web developers have been having to deal with Internet Explorer for years with some of these methods. But there are still malicious hackers out there, who will attempt to seize your website and use it to their advantage. You can deter most attempts however just by following safe web practices and ensuring your website software is up to date, and by taking the time to actually look at your own website from time to time. If something looks wrong, investigate and fix it before it becomes an issue.

Search engines and the internet are still very young technologies if you really break down the numbers, they have a lot of evolving to go through in their lifetime. There is clearly some massive potential for growth in all sectors, search, websites, and information sharing, etc, and for as many innovations we make there will be users who try to take advantage. Be aware of your website and it’s content, and try to keep in touch with your website admin and your SEO provider, you’ll be thankful you did.

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.

What Drives You

social-marketingWhile Google is undoubtedly the largest search engine on the web with its trillion pages indexed, they are not the only tool out there with which to make your way around the web. But while there are hundreds of millions of web users out there, there is only a handful of search engines that really garner any real use.

Google, as mentioned previously clearly holds the dominant spot online and has for a number of years. With more than 2/3rds of the market share in search, it has an massive presence on the web. With the clout that they have with the worldwide market any business that has a website is keen to try and make a place for themselves on the front page. And the bigger the target, the more detractors one is bound to have, and Google definitely has the majority share. Privacy issues, a social platform that (at first) floundered and has grown somewhat stale, and a long list of competitors claiming anti-competitive behaviour it seems amazing that they could still be in business, but while they haven’t made friends with every user on the web, 66% is more than enough.

The second most widely used search engine is really two, as it delivers results for both bots, Bing and Yahoo gobble up the majority of the remaining search activity. The Yahoo results pages for more than a year so far have been provided by a Bing search bot, as opposed to running their own bot, and building their own index of websites on the web. And while this still allows the adopters of the Yahoo portal a way to browse the web, they’re not being delivered their own true results. The new CEO at Yahoo however, seeks to change all of that, hopefully 2013 has some shaking up in the search world. Bing as a search service has been trying hard for a couple of years to break into the market that Google dominates. With some clever ideas with image search, flyout snippets of search pages and sometimes widely differing results at times from Google, Bing has a share of the market that hasn’t shifted much in a number of years. Perhaps they can rekindle their search agreement with Facebook and together they can develop a full fledged social search service, only time will tell.

In the last little bit of the search world, you have some of the little guys who are trying to shake up the web. Blekko, one of the more interesting search services out there is a great way to pick your way through a search results page that bills itself as being spam free. Your experiences will vary wildly based on what, and how you search, but with their usage of what they describe as slashtag which allows you to greatly fine tune your search parameters. It’s an interesting technology and definitely gives a differing view of the web and it’s offerings. Another small fry in the search landscape, but one which can cater to those concerned with privacy is Duckduckgo. It has the same clean search ui as the others with a basic text input box, but it delivers you results from “outside the search bubble” they describe that other search engines put you in. It is a great option to have a look at what the web might look like with no search history to go on, the results can be interesting to say the least.

Beginner SEO Steps

brandingSo you’ve started your business, you’ve built your website, and you think your designer followed all of the basics where the web is concerned. You have a little left in the marketing budget and you’ve decided to make your play on the web, the largest marketplace in existence, so where do you start. Search engine optimization is a jungle of misinformation, bad ideas, poor advice, and is full of fly by night operations across the globe. In order to protect yourself and your business, we’ll provide you with some basic information that everyone should have where web marketing is concerned.

A quick read of any SEO related material will tell you that the process relies on your content and the keywords contained within. Those keywords, or keyterms, are the first stop for the search engine spiders when they get to your site, they try to discern what your website about. Once you have identified your target audience, whether it’s specific to an industry or a customer type, you can work with your content, and your keywords serve you best when they reflect your target. If you are a manufacturer of a product for example that can be used by a wider audience, then you need to be aiming for an industry sector, if you make a unique plumbing tool then you want to target plumbers as an example, not home owners doing their own repair work. Knowing which terms to use for which audience can make or break your business, because while any traffic is good, qualified traffic is obviously preferable.

And while it may seem obvious when you say it, sometimes a website doesn’t completely leave development with all of the right settings. You should ensure when your website is live, that it can be completely crawled and indexed by the search engines. There are a number of free services out there that allow you to crawl your site as if you were a bot yourself, and if you find that you can’t access your site you need to correct the issue as soon as possible. Lost traction today, is a lost sale tomorrow, and when you’re dealing with a store front that never closes every second counts. Make sure that your developer knows the steps to keep your site available to the spiders, and has built your site in such a fashion that allows for quick spidering.