Tagged with " search"
With the big changes over the last couple of months with the search engines it really shouldn’t be any surprise to hear, but for the tail end of 2013 heading into 2014, you will have to boost your online marketing budgets.
To start with the most recent change to always on secure search, Google has decided that it’s more important to encrypt all keyword data when someone is using their search service. Not a bad step to tell the truth, and they like to wave around the flag of ‘this is us protecting your privacy’. But it isn’t the encrypted key terms that brings cause to take a close look at the change, it’s more the fact that the AdWords players aren’t receiving the same list of hidden keywords. It has been known that using the AdWords platform is a great way to gain immediate traction in a new market you may be trying to break into, or a way to test marketing ideas, but in the end the keyword data analysis for paid vs organic were able to draw parallels. Now, it seems that the (much) deeper your pocket book is for paid search, the better sheaf of keyword analysis you’ll be able to receive for your efforts. Not the nicest of changes if you want to test a marketing idea to it’s fullest extent, but it’s all in the name of your privacy, right?
A little while back there was a rather large shake up with how the search engines also indexed your site and it’s backlink profile, and it caught some webmasters with the addition of some rules into the guidelines. Even little issues like ensuring that your own properties were correctly using the ‘no-follow’ attribute to link around the web became very time intensive projects, and who knows what’s to come as the online holiday shopping is about to commence. It seems that every year some company out there is made an example of due to nefarious backlink practices, the only real problem for them this time around is that the algorithms are much quicker at detecting, and doling out punishment for shady practices. If you are unsure if your agency is following the rules for backlinking, you need to check your webmaster tools and check the ‘Linked Pages’ section and you can peruse what you’re known for yourself.
The biggest change of the online marketing game however it seems has begun to show itself, and that’s the online branding image that your business and website need to project to the search engines. Having a strong, relevant brand online can highly influence your rankings dependant on your competitors. The shift towards brand bias has always been viewable in the search results, but it was always for the larger, more competitive terms out there. Brand bias has caught on however in most niches, large and small and who ever can step up to the plate first will have a decided advantage going forward into the holidays and into 2014.
With our highly successful online branding campaigns we have been able to ensure our clients positions for their niche targets, and have been able to grow their presence into unknown territory for the past few years. It’s time for the rest of the Winnipeg business class to realize that the way forward is online and when you call, Freshtraffic will be ready.
There are always changes in the search game, but with some of the recent changes is Google trying to change the rules enough so that they’re the only player in the game? Perhaps a little bit of a backstory is in order, I’ll aim to keep it as streamlined as possible.
A couple of years back Google introduced the newest addition to their search tool, if you wre signed into your account you could visit the secure version of Google.com to perform your searches. The end result of using the secure site was your keywords were not passed through to the website you eventually landed on, guaranteeing you some level of privacy – this was in 2010. This primary iteration of the search term accounted for maybe 10% in your analytics software. In 2011 they took it a step further and removed the need to use the secure site of Google.com, and instead pushed the privacy settings on to anyone who was signed into their account. In 2011 this translated to be the constant 25%-35% amount that search agencies grew accustomed to seeing in their analytics software when poring through a clients analytics. This was pushed slowly down the line and was added to the omnibar search in the Google Chrome browser and the search team mentioned they were working to make it a full time feature.
The most recent, and most drastic change has come about resulting in a full time secure search experience for any user, regardless of browser, being logged in or even having a Google account. The result from an analytics stand point? The result in analytics software jumped from a normal 25% to nearly 75% of the searches for a single day. Over the long term this would make any search agencies job more difficult to be sure. The thoughts are maybe this swift, unannounced change is due to the NSA spying scandal that has been making rounds in the news, another more lurid idea is that it has been done to boost ad sales in the Google AdWords platform.
The idea that Google would use the encrypted search results to push more businesses into using AdWords may sound outlandish, but over the last couple of years Google has made some interesting acquisitions. Between 2010 and 2013 Google purchased ownership, or partnership in strategic ad companies. One handles ad exchanges, another handles SEM and crowd sourced funding, and another goes even further to promote full advertising and ad handling services within Google. All of their purchases combined puts Google in display media advertising, social media agency growth, and has ownership and partnerships in different AdWords agencies.
So a quick recap takes us to where Google has picked up a handful of new advertising and ad delivery systems, as well as having implemented an entirely secure search environment. How these two systems work together is why it may be seen that Google made the drastic shift for their gain. Although the encrypted search returns a value of where organic search is concerned, paid search analytics are unaffected. Back to the original thought then, has Google changed the game enough that they’re trying to make themselves the only game on the web?
There is a huge list of the things to do, and the things you don’t do when you’re working on online marketing. As an example, you don’t send out thousands of spam emails everyday just to try and get your web address out there, it’s a good way to quickly make a terrible name for your business. I’ve written a number of blogs about the steps to follow in order to meet the quality guidelines that the search engines advise you on. I have also written about what not to do to your website, as there are many mistakes that you can make to run on the wrong side of search, some of which can be entirely accidental.
Every time we get a phone call from someone asking about our SEO services it is a unique conversation and experience. Every person and website needs a different approach when it comes to improving their presence and conversions. We’ve had the occasional conversation with someone on the phone for example who has no need of our long term organic services once we’ve learned their goal. Sometimes it has been a problem of cost with a small or very new business, and there have even been times where we can’t accept someone as a client due to already having one in their niche market. That is one of the points which we don’t waver on here at Freshtraffic, we will only take on a single client per niche, because otherwise we would end up working against ourselves. We have a long list of clients who have been with us for a few years, all of whom retain our services because we’re the best in town.
Due to the way that we operate ourselves here, we have a handful of requirements which if they are unable to be met, can make our job difficult, or depending on the severity, impossible. As an example, we require either the FTP access of the CMS access to be able to process on site changes in order to make sure you’ve got the basics covered on your site. Very brief example would be if you sell widgets, and all of your content talks about cogs and widgets working together, we would need to help you recreate your content so you become more relevant to your market and target audience. All of the changes that we come up with are brought to you, and together we decide on the best course of implementation. Once we have the basics covered and your content tweaked, then we start to watch your traffic flow and your conversions. Based on how visitors conduct themselves on your site, we can begin to determine where your problem areas may lie, and then take the steps to correct those issues as well as continually working on your sites message and delivery.
Building up your website to make sure you’re capturing and retaining your visitors attention is only the beginning of your online branding journey. After all of the on site work is completed, we begin the long process of off site work, and from there your rise to the top.
Before exploring the latest trends in local mobile engagement specifically, it’s valuable to recognize the rapid growth of mobile and other connected devices and their impact on how consumers are accessing the Internet. Within the U.S. smartphone market, Google and Apple solidified their market dominance, with Android owning 53% of the market, and Apple’s piece being 36%, totaling nearly nine out of 10 smartphones in use at the end of the year.
The most important piece of the puzzle of users who own mobile phones though, is they’re also likely to own other mobile devices, and at the end of 2012 that number was beginning to get up to around 40% share. Between all of the smart phones and other connected devices, it all adds up to multiple ways for people to access the web in varying formats. Rapid growth of mobile connected devices drastically changed how consumers accessed the Internet as PC use appears to have peaked. Growth in the number of PC users accessing the Internet flat-lined for the first time last year.
An important factor of mobile internet users to keep in mind, is their much higher than average engagement rate. If your website is mobile friendly, and locally optimized, you already have two steps forward in the right direction to increased business. Take this last Christmas shopping season, nearly 50% of all mobile owners used their devices to search locally, and that number is expected to grow over the next year again.
Local businesses should be introducing advertising strategies and mobile and tablet-friendly websites to attract consumers increasingly accessing the Web from their handheld devices. Over 60% of smartphone consumers are now accessing local content on their devices; and, while consumers prefer apps to search for local content, use of browsers is also strong. Local businesses should ensure their mobile efforts include both apps and browsers.
A quick pop quiz for you, what do these terms all have in common: cheap, cost effective, reduced cost, low price, reduced price? If your first response is that they all are basically the same thing, then I could say that you’re correct. Wouldn’t you know it however, that the search engines, and the internet, don’t see things quite the same way?
Search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo are great at the basics of figuring out what it is that you’re trying to find online. Using the above terms as an example, if you searched for a “cheap washing machine” you would expect to get ads for refurbished machines, maybe some Kajiji ads or even Craigslist offers. The problem with the way that search engines determine what you’re looking for though, really becomes apparent when you search for “low price washing machines”. They are the same terms, and mean the same to a person, but to a search engine bot they’re completely separate values, you could just as well be searching for washing machines in one instance and a space shuttle the next.
The bearing this has on you, as a website owner and online storefront, is you need to be clear in your message you present, and your website needs to support your message. If you are in the business of repairing and reselling washing machines, then you need to be clear that yours are both cheap, and low price. Search engines, for as amazing as they are for what they do, has no idea of context, and as a result you need to relay that information to them. You do this both with your content, and with your optimization efforts. When you’re ready to finally be known for all of your business services, the online branding experts are here to help.
So a little while back there was a major site, Interflora which effectively been kicked from the search engines for breaking the search engine rules and passing Page Rank via paid advertorials. That was a couple of weeks back, and they were completely removed from the results pages, now it seems that they’re back in position however. When so many are claiming foul and being wronged by the search engines, is it really just that easy to bounce back?
Google confronted the company on links that were the paid advertisements, as well as linking setups that they had labeled as toxic or suspicious. The number was so high and so evident, some sources saying it was as high as 70% of the links were toxic, that it the manual penalization team couldn’t miss it. Since the company had fallen out of grace with Google, they had a long row to hoe and a relatively short time to do it, as one of the biggest flower giving days the world over is coming up, Mothers day. Due to the circumstances of how they were handled within Google, how they went about dealing with their mistakes, and leveraging the tools available to them within Webmaster tools, their rebound begins to make more and more sense.
Ironically, one of the reasons that they were able to get back into position quickly was due to Google pouring all over their site and their links as they were clearly being naughty previously. They began that painstaking process of of cleaning out their poor backlinks and disavowing using the disavow tools in their Webmaster tools account. It’s a long, and arduous process, but by getting lots of people on the job they cleaned out their entire linking profile and stopped handing out Page Rank to various places on the web. There has been some speculation that properly recrawling every single page and link that was previously tied to the company should have taken months, and with the disavow tool still relatively new and uncertain of it’s inner workings, a couple of theories have cropped up regarding their speedy return. One is that Google manually took care of the process, which is possible seeing as they were well aware of what the company was doing. And the other contender as a possibility is that when the penalty that was leveraged against the site, was lifted even after only a small number of the links were crawled, kind of like a forgiveness nod for cleaning up a mess you created.
Where we are in the end is the company is back in the search pages, it’s linking profile, while not completely fixed, is noticeably better, and there are more questions unanswered rather than answered. It’s likely that due to their size as a business, that Google kept a very close eye on them and are being quite lenient with any remaining links that they may have. The sullen side of the web though is crying foul and chanting that the larger sites on the web get special considerations while the little guy wallows in the depths of the web. Only Google really knows what happened in the end, but regardless of why their return was so quick, it was a great litmus test of the disavow tool, manual reconsideration and search reinclusion requests.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how the web works, about how search works and that some people think there is a different set of rules if you have a large wallet you can spread around. What seems to escape a lot of users memory or knowledge however, is just how different the web would be if search engines of any kind didn’t exist.
The rules that govern the online world are still very fluid as they’re always being re-evaluated, by the users of the web and government bodies across the globe. Google is often used as the target in any change or suggestion to the activity online, and with good reason. When Google made their place on the web, they changed the way everyone uses the web from that day forward, as up until that point there hadn’t been a full indexing of the web by anyone, the idea was ludicrous. They changed the way the web was used from that day forward, and they were very aware of the ramifications of their new position on the internet. There have been a few in the course of their lifetime that have run afoul of the rules which Google uses to build their results pages, and contrary to some of the noise found on the web, you can’t buy your way out of breaking the rules.
Six or so years ago Google came out and said plainly that selling links will damage your rankings in the results pages, and began by hitting some of the largest businesses on the web, Forbes, Sun Times, BMW at one point and many others through out the years. Just in case you were wondering if they had gotten lazy in recent years, the search engine has recently killed the page rank on more than 150 UK news sites for selling links, and it wasn’t just a small drop either, they lost all of their Page Rank. So in case you were wondering, yes they still pay attention, no it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, and yes they will still penalize you if you break the rules.
Every now and then you need to stop and take a look at your website, how it’s performing and make a decision based on your findings. Is your traffic up? Have you made any major revisions in the last year? Conversions, are the up or down? Whether you’ve engaged an SEO company or are managing your stats yourself, with a little invested time you can discover the answers to these questions, and any others you might have, without too much trouble. But once you have your answers, what is your next step? Just remember your grade school English class, and the rule of the 5 W’s, who, what, where, when, and why.
Your number one questions, whether you have a new site, an old site or even if you’re thinking about making some updates, is who am I targeting, and what am I after from them. Are you after industry specific targets who are going to use specific terms, or are you after more general users and have to be more in sync with your industries trends and changes. This is paramount, because if you don’t know who you’re aiming for, you’re definitely going to miss; step 1 complete! Take a good look at what you have to offer your audience, whether it’s content, connections, a product or even a service that you provide. Sell yourself quickly and simply and you’ll find that your returns will compound on themselves. Continually delivering on your products or services and being a professional in your space is the quickest way to boost your bottom line. Examine the potential costs you may incur when you’re trying to boost your position and website, do you have the time, money, and manpower to properly execute your plan? There’s nothing worse than setting a lofty goal and falling short due to underestimating any of those costs.
You’ve taken care of who your audience is and what it’s going to take to get them onto your website and after your product, and it may sound like a strange question but when do you want your traffic and visitors. Take Valentines Day as an example, if you’re in the business of replacing roofing, you’re likely not going to be sinking a lot of time and money into attracting people to your website at the moment. At least here in Winnipeg, we have a few more weeks of winter to look forward to. Timing is a very important factor to bringing traffic to your site, you need to focus your time and resources to acquiring the right traffic at the right time. A little more obscure question to answer, is the why side of the equation. Why are you promoting your site at the moment, why are you making content changes, why are you adding new images etc. If at any point you find yourself saying “..because these guys did it” then it’s likely the wrong move for you. Your end goal should always be your customers, gaining them, engaging them and delivering on what they’re expecting. Because if you fail on properly executing your customers/clients needs and wants, you’re in the wrong business to begin with.
The steps to be able to rank your website effectively online are relatively simple, and can be broken down into a few very broad basics to follow. If you have a simple website, say a few pages detailing a local business for example, as long as you have a good title, strong content, and some kind of a social presence then you have most of the puzzle sorted out. The big time sink though, and usually the most difficult step to work out, is building up that backlink profile.
Building a proper backlink profile seems to have a lot of mystique surrounding it when you start reading online. Wading your way through the myths, theories, and hyperbole may seem like a daunting task, but the rules are simple to follow. It’s only time intensive because you actually need to work at building your profile properly, because just like when you build anything, if you make a mess of the foundation the structure will come tumbling down. When you’re taking the time to build up backlinks there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself, and once you’re satisfied with your answers you can decide if you’re going to approach a site owner to work out a link exchange. First item on the checklist, is their site (the one you’re going to approach for a backlink) relevant to my website/business. A bad idea is running around online just building as many backlinks as possible with other site owners just to have them, if they’re not relevant to what you do then at best you don’t get any help from them, at worst you could be penalized. Once you’ve decided if they’re relevant or not, start browsing their website, keep in mind good website practices as you do so. Do they have a lot of popups or funny activity on some pages? Just like you want your customers to have a great online experience, you want your link coming from a reliable source, because the web works in strange ways at times.
And that is really the bare minimums when you’re looking for a link exchange or a backlink to your site that you need to follow, are the relevant, and are they staying within the rules of the game. If you’re satisfied with your answers then you move ahead to try and work out a link with the site owner, and that would be one link down. This process could take as little as a day, to as long as a week or so, depending on the time you have to put into it and the size of the prospect you’re looking at.
The basics of building backlinks and what to look for are just as important as what you should be staying away from. For every positive and authoritative backlink you could build for yourself, you need to stay away from the places and pages which could sink you. Directory listings as an example, aren’t innately bad for your link profile, but since Penguin last year and how so many were removed from the index they’re not nearly as useful as they once were. A good link should not be the subject of an internal debate with yourself. When you see a good link you know it right away and once you start debating whether it could be considered a good link or not, it just isn’t. And last but certainly not least, does the link enhance your brand to your customers, because ultimately that’s who you’re trying to reach.
It hasn’t been new news for a while now, but the Facebook Graph search feature that is being tried and tested is slowly making it’s way to a live feature available to all. The massive social sharing site which has more than 900 million members has an unimaginably large data set to pull answers from, and allows you to search the interests, location, and preferences of your friends list. At it’s current state, it is the tail end of that statement which holds the most important piece of information – preferences and interests of your friends.
The implementation of Graph search is not a bad idea on paper, or in practice, it does have a long way to go however where you’re really searching for an answer. The best way to describe the service and what it offers was summed up here
For anyone who uses the Internet to search restaurant recommendations, travel advice, books to read on vacation, or which political candidates to vote for, Facebook may have replaced Google as the best search engine.
The veracity of the end of that statement is questionable at best, as Facebook Graph isn’t so much a search engine, as it delivers you a report of your friends opinions. The bonus is you can compile the information quickly, and in an easy to digest fashion that you can use to reach a decision on what you searched for.
The downsides however, have been slowly been coming more and more to light as more people are being allowed to use the service. For example, really searching for a person or topic, doesn’t happen with Facebook Graph at the moment, on the surface it seems that Facebook is using it’s algorithm to scrape statuses, updates and likes. The downside to that being, if you haven’t liked a page, commented on it or had a status update with the term in it, it is highly likely that you won’t show up for some of your interests within their search provider. I’ve not had the chance myself to try the service as it is in beta testing in the US only at the moment, but taking a snippet of information from other sources, it seems they have other issues as well. The image search doesn’t work as well as it potentially could due to most images not having a geo tag associated with them. The Facebook version of instant search goes a bit over the top by putting in elements of auto complete as well, by trying to anticipate what you’re looking for.
Facebook has an immense amount of data and power at it’s fingertips with their user base, but it isn’t a surprise to see them stumbling along in an area they are not suited for, search. It may be a strange thing to say, but I hope they improve and I hope they find a way to truly integrate the web into their service, Google is an incredibly powerful tool and everyone does just that much better when there is some real competition. Here’s hoping Facebook doesn’t drop the ball with Graph search, and the overall improvement of the web.