Tagged with " seo"
Occasionally it can be a bit of a frustrating go of things with a client when they’re not willing to be educated on the finer points of SEO. It isn’t a common occurrence, but it does happen from time to time.
To hopefully help nip things in the bud before the bad information digs into you too much, here are just a couple of the more useful points to bear in mind. One of the bigger points that seems to escape the marketing folks out there is that proper optimization is not a one time thing. There’s no such thing as a fire and forget method that will work for everyone out there. Every site, every client, every niche market needs to have it’s own individual and unique attention. Adaptation and constant evaluation are necessities in order to keep your positions in the results pages.
Every client we take on we always ask to provide us with their ideal keywords. Sometimes they’re realistic – say they sell camper trailers and they want to rank locally for their term, it’s an intense process but it can be done. Where it starts to get a little silly though and we need to advise some restraint is if that same client wanted to rank all across Canada for the term “RV” for example. Could it be done? Sure with enough time, money and work we could likely make the site show up but would that really be the best use of time and resources?
The last point I’ll touch on for today is one that’s a little more obscure to a site owner, but it doesn’t make it any less important than the others. It actually enters the realm of not only SEO and how search engines find and rank your website, but your customers and visitors. While we’re working together to build and rank your website you need to bear in mind that you’re not only trying to rank your website better in the search engines, you’re also trying to convert those visitors to paying customers, email/newsletter sign ups, or even just contact information for an offline business. You can’t build a site for your purposes only, nor can you build it for just the search engines – your visitors are always your end goal.
There’s a lot of talk about all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) on the web it only takes a few moments to find all sorts of information about every point imaginable. The problem that a lot of small business owners who try to do things themselves run into though is what advice do you follow?
Here’s a couple of simple tips to follow when you maybe don’t have the budget to hire an online branding and marketing agency. First off you need to realize that just because you have a website, it doesn’t mean that anyone will find it online. A website is an amazingly powerful tool that can be used as a 24/7/365 store front to the world, but again only if people can find it. The simplest and most efficient step to being found is to have content relevant to what you want to be known for. Your business sells apple pies? Well your content at the beginning should be about apple pies then and not strudel, while they’re both desserts made with apples they couldn’t be more opposite when talking about online marketing. Following along in the same line of thinking, big beautiful pictures are great marketing tools for users, but search engine bots don’t have eyes so they can’t see that perfectly baked crust you can create. You need to describe it using text on the page, your content again, and you need to make it descriptive as well.
So great, we have the ball rolling with your content creation about your new apple pie selling website, and you’ve made sure to balance your text and images appropriately. A big mistake that we see site owners getting caught in is the problem of stopping their updating process or abandoning it all together, hoping that their current setup will continue to serve them as well next year, as it does today. That would be true if the internet never changed or evolved, but unfortunately it’s always changing. Sometimes as often as two to three times a day there are algorithm adjustments, and that can wreak havoc on an advertising campaign. Keep your content fresh as well as relevant, and you’ll keep the search bots happy and your positions agreeable.
Now you’re updating your site and you’re keeping your content relevant, now comes the hardest part of all – waiting. One of the biggest misconceptions about advertising online and building your business online is that it’s instant. And while there is a shred of truth to that statement, to have a lasting position in the results pages takes time. Adwords are instant visibility, but that can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month if you’re in a competitive market. In the last few months some of the major competitive industries have gone up to millions of dollars per month, just to stay at the top of the paid search results. So be patient, if you really are keeping your content fresh and relevant, you will begin to creep a little here and there and before you know it, you may even be working your way up page 1 of the results.
A lot of challenges immediately show themselves when working with a brand new optimization client. And when it comes right down to the start of things, it’s that first stint of around 3 months that tells us what we need to make you the best in your market.
Almost the best case scenario that we can hope for as online marketers is to start a campaign with a properly built website that had followed the best practices guide, that hasn’t been touched by any other marketers or agencies. Now the odds of that happening are very slim to none, so we work with what we find. Often it is a bit of a jumble of tactics that can be found across the web, the only real problem is that we have to take the time to dig through the convoluted mess to determine each step that was taken. Text is fairly simple to work with, and as long as it is relevant to your market that’s a positive for your marketing angle.
What gets really sketchy and a problem though is when we find that the old designer/developers decided to follow some advice they read on a blog or forum and convince a client to build off site landing pages and don’t properly link them all back to the main website. This can cause duplicate content issues, accidental removal from the index because it looks like you’ve scraped content for your websites. There can be multiple urls that are diluting your authority, and hopefully there hasn’t been anything done that could truly jeopardize your website or your true marketing potential.
Perhaps it’s the intangible nature of organic search engine optimization that new clients have difficulty in grasping, but the methods employed by the team here at Freshtraffic are done with the top of the search results in mind.
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?
Instead 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.
More often than not you’re looking to have your website visibility increased when contracting an online branding agecny, but as a different train of thought, did you realize you can use them to hide your website as well from the search engines?
To clarify a tad, you don’t typically engage a marketing agency to hide your business, but there are cases where you would want to keep the search engines at bay. Depending on the way your site is constructed for example, you’ll want to keep them out of your image files, or perhaps you have an extensive pdf collection hosted on your site, and you’d rather keep them from being indexed as part of your website. Maybe it’s even a new website build being done to update your look and content, and that needs to be completely hidden from the search engines until you’re ready to go live, just in case the bots get confused – they’re not intelligent at all in this respect. For those reasons, I submit a short list, on how not to be found on the search engines.
One of the simplest and quickest ways to be hidden from the search engines is by editing your web hosts robots.txt file. Not all website owners have access to change this file, but when you can it can be used to restrict search engine behaviour like nothing else. With just a simple phrase, ‘disallow’, you can completely obscure your site or pages from being found by search engine spiders. But just as uncle Ben said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ you need to be extremely careful with what you choose to disallow to the search engines, you may inadvertently block key components or pages of your site, rendering any search engine marketing efforts useless.
If the robots.txt change is too broad a stroke for your case, but you still have certain areas you would like to restrict the search engines from finding certain pages, you can use a meta string of code in the head of each webpage you’d like to keep from being indexed. It’s even as easy as it sounds, all you need to do is add the switch meta=noindex to hide a certain page, and there are a handful of additional switches which could be added to sculpt search engines flow through your site.
The two last methods for restricting bot activity on your website are the biggest guns in the game, and that’s using 404 pages for dead ends, and if you really get serious, 301 redirects to send bots and visitors alike to a different destination all together. These are the big redirects however, affecting your visitors and bots alike, and are not to be taken lightly. Sculpting your traffic flow entirely to a different destination is one that needs to be taken with care and foresight. One improperly executed 301 or 404 in your website, could bring your entire marketing campaign crumbling to the ground.
There have been a number of major updates recently and while the search game keeps changing, our message will always remain the same. Being found online is important, becoming a brand is the real goal.
A couple of the major updates recently seems to have shaken up a good deal of some of the marketers in the SEO field, especially with the change to the way that keywords (aren’t) relayed anymore via stats. The ‘not provided’ change happened just around a month ago now, and some of the light weights in the search world are feeling a pinch without that keyword data it seems. It doesn’t take much searching on any search engine to find a blog about the end of SEO now that you can’t work with the keyword data that the engines previously provided. Short answer to them from us here at Freshtraffic would be something along the lines of see you later then.
The PageRank is another point that seems to still make waves with online marketing providers too, as it hasn’t been updated in months. PageRank was a handy tool to quickly determine how valuable Google viewed a website, and a lot of people seem to have taken that to heart. It isn’t a stretch to think that with the keyword data shut off, and the PageRank no longer being updated, that the use a PageRank as a ranking factor will be going the way of the dinosaurs. Not entirely a bad thing however, as it can allow for a more objective search experience, and hopefully increased competition between brands.
The other major change that has happened in the last month has been the Hummingbird update. It has introduced the idea of contextual search to the web, so now you can actually use a phrase like “Who won the 1954 Stanley Cup” (the Detroit Red Wings by the way). It has introduced a method of search that conforms more to the way that a person might use in actual conversation with another, that you can use questions to find what you’re interested in instead of trying to be clever in your searches.
All of the major changes over the last year have been towards a more fluid use of the search engine that Google has brought to the web. It’s much more streamlined, and allows for real online branding opportunities to be drawn upon. Why you would want to push for building a brand as opposed to strictly internet marketing? We’ll delve into that canyon next time.
Misinformation and outright lies abound on the web regarding almost every topic out there, but it seems that one of the most proliferant out there are the myths and untruths about search engine optimization.
The most obvious one to bring up and discount right off the bat is that SEO itself is a dead industry. There have been a dozen or so very major updates to the search engine algorithm with Google, and everytime they make drastic changes the sky begins to fall. But to outright say that the search game itself is dead and over just because one of the players makes a change is heavy handed and sensationalist in order to generate an article full of link bait. Methods which properly used can actually generate a decent amount of link bait, one of the basic methods of generating traffic flow to a website, a.k.a – search engine optimization.
And to somewhat follow in the same train of thought, if it isn’t dieing then it’s surely cheating if you can make a site rank for any of its key terms. Search engine optimization really isn’t a difficult advertising theme to understand if it is all you do every day. But when you have the joiners hopping on board comprised of web designers, and even old media industry giants like newspapers and yellow pages, when they’re unable to actually perform in the extremely competitive SEO arena it is easy to say that everyone else must cheat or spam to win. That’s just like the kid at school that hates losing who wants to take his ball home when he can’t keep up during the soccer game, either do the work to get better, or pay the people who can.
To continue a moment on the thought that search engine optimization isn’t a difficult industry if it’s what you do consistently, here is some free advice for all of the new comers out there. If you feel unsure about what you’re doing with SEO, or you’re unsure of a certain method or implementation of a tactic, stop. Stop trying to push your site up the search engines by following the posts you find in forums, and stop trying to get your IT guys to do the work that they’re not qualified to do. Properly working within the search world can sometimes be like a constantly moving game of hop scotch, if you miss a jump or step where you’re not supposed to, you’ll find yourself completely out of the game. Not a position you ever want to find yourself in.
If you really want to know, the real secret to high quality search engine optimization is you’re already here.
Ever since Google has passed it’s most recent milestone of 15 years of age, they have begun a new wave of algorithm changes. And true to the nature of the marketing world in general, SEO is once again dead as an industry.
I would like to get one point out of the way before we get too far into this, and that point is that search engine optimization is not going to die because of the recent changes. That’s a load off of my mind, now to address the most recent changes in the search world, and why the internet marketing world has changed, but only for the better.
Addressing the most recent update that Google acknowledged, one which they’ve nicknamed Hummingbird, has made a big splash on the scene over the weekend. The purpose of the change to the algorithm was to introduce more semantics into the search world, and is designed primarily to bring the user more relevant results, faster than before. It’s a great idea in the long run for search and for users, as the whole idea is to deliver highly relevant results to get you to your destination faster. But this change, regardless of how much it has changed the search algorithm is still not the end of SEO. The semantic addition to the algorithm for the first part, only makes highly relevant and optimized content be more friendly to the search engines. And the chief reason I know it isn’t the end of search is the algorithm was updated over a month ago. If search engine optimization was going to die due to the Hummingbird inclusion, it would already be dead and buried.
The other major addition to the search world has been the shift by Google in particular, to encrypt all of the search terms used when performing any search. I have already dissected why the encrypted searches aren’t a factor to any real online branding agency, so I don’t need to go into great depth. But just like the Hummingbird update isn’t going to end the search game, neither will the encrpyted search terms.
What these updates will do however is change the game enough that the posers won’t be able to swim in the deep end of the search pool anymore. Time is up kiddies, shuffle off to the shallow end or leave all together, it’s time for the big people to have a swim.
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?
When you have your business online and are marketing towards a certain niche market, the more consistent and relevant you can make that marketing the greater your chances of success.
Consistency, and relevance are two of the more important factors that affect your online visibility, and surprisingly one of the most damaging things that you can do to a successful campaign is to rebuild your website. That’s not to say that a facelift to your website is always a bad thing, but you need to keep your audience in focus. Are you after general traffic as an informational site, or are you after qualified leads in order to make on site conversions and boost your bottom line.
Significant issues can arise with launching an updated version of your website not only from a search engine bot perspective, but even from your users end. While the web is always in a fluid state, if you suddenly revamp your website without notice to your end users you will experience a sudden, and likely slight, drop off in traffic and page loads. To handle any user experience loss one of the simplest measures you should take is to use a post or a banner with the note “We’re updating!” or something to that effect. What this does is it puts the comfort into their minds that there is a reason that the site looks different, and it’s not the end of the world if I can’t find something right away. Use a feedback form for returning and new visitors to gauge how well your new site is being taken, and also as a notice if there is something missing or not functioning correctly on the site.
From a search engine spider perspective, you need to be careful of how you build your new site. In a perfect world you can keep everything exactly the same as it was structurally, with the same urls and everything that goes with it. But since that’s probably very far from the truth, you need to apprise your SEO team of all changes, not just some of them. If you change a url for example from home.html to home.php, that needs to be communicated as search engines do not view them as the same page. I won’t even begin to get into the 301s that need to be considered, the idea is your online marketing team works through the entire site before it gets turned live to the world.
Professionals are contracted in all manner of business whether it is plumbers, carpenters, coders or marketers – the idea is they’re being paid for the knowledge that you do not possess. The first rule of thumb should always be when you’re given instructions to complete, it’s a good idea to listen as there is a reason they’re advising you.