Tagged with " seo"
Online branding and marketing techniques will always be changing and evolving to match the ebb and flow of the web and those who use it. This year especially saw a wide range of changes with the search industry and how Google in particular indexes the web. Major changes such as Panda, Penguin and the EMD (exact match domain) update put some webmasters in the unsavory position of having lost rankings and traffic. Depending on how badly they were affected, some still haven’t recovered lost traffic and potential income.
It hasn’t been all bad though, it’s been a good year in the sense that the word has spread of the differences in the quality of service that some companies can provide you. It’s a fairly safe bet for example, if a search marketing company has pitched working on your companies site, while extoling the dangers and pitfalls of Panda and Penguin, that they’ve been caught and penalized by the system. Call it once bitten twice shy, but it’s safe to say thhat they’ve been shown they’re not doing things quite right, and have have been slapped with a penalty as a result. With the growth of awareness where the quality of your site and how it’s constructed overall, a fair amount of the fly by night experts have disappeared from the playing field, and as an added bonus, there has been an all around increase in online marketing budgets for the coming year. So as we have written in the past, the wheat has been separated from the chaff and as an added bonus – budgets have increased!
Hopefully the changes in the search industry haven’t scared you off from building or promoting your website, the key element we’ve always focused on helping our clients with is by focusing on the content. While a great deal of pretenders have lost position and relevance in the industry with Panada and Penguin, working the quality content angle as we always have proved to be a strong element to remaining at the top of the results page. Going forward into 2013 we’ll continue to deliver strong positioning for our clients, and help them dominate the SERPs for their desired terms. With the loss of some of the local ‘experts’ it’s only made our job easier in the coming year.
I am writing this article in response to the recently posted “Google Quality Rater Guidelines 2012″ document, seemingly leaked, speculatively injected into the market. Before I dissect the specimen, let me start with a general Google overview first. For all practical, technical, scientific, and artistic purposes, Google is not a search engine, at least not for me. Google Search is an advertising engine – period. It is so simply because all the top results it brings are information served to you from rich people, people who have enough SEO money to be on top, or at least enough money to advertise at the top of search terms. In this search mechanism, neither you nor I have any choice for seeing anything other than what other people have decided for us to see based on their financial power. This is not a definition of a search engine in my book, nor should it be in anyone’s. Read the full Story here
There’s been a number of news worthy topics which occured today, one of the biggest in the search sphere would have had to be the glitch with the Google Webmaster tools. It created a bit of drama, thankfully it has been addressed so it’s not an issue anymore. There’s Larry Page who is sitting down with the FTC, extending the cycle of litigation against the search engine that it is biased in it how it displays search results, favoring it’s own products over others. The other tid bit of news which caught my eye was around DuckDuckGo, the crawl frequency it has and how it seems like it runs on it’s own set of rules.
The only real issue between Google and the FTC is that they really don’t want to be negotiating at this point. With Page sitting down with the FTC over the antitrust talks, there doesn’t seem to be any common ground where the two are even attempting to meet. The FTC won’t give in unless Google allows them enforcement authority over the results it serves, and they’re not very likely to be giving that control up anytime soon. The disappointing part is that it is likely that neither party wants the case to go to litigation, as it’s just going to increase the time it takes to make any kind of progression on the claims by fairsearch.org who believes that Google is guilty of search results bias and serves it’s own web properties over others. Soon enough, someone will have to buckle somewhere, it is just a waiting game at this point to see who it is.
As for all of the drama surrounding the Webmaster Tools accounts with Google? Well someone must have plugged in an old verification server because there was a glitch where by it was noticed that people who no longer had access to some accounts, once again did. Thankfully the error has been repaired, it does however leave a bad feeling about the verification process and about how it was skipped with just a glitch in the system. Hopefully it’s not an easily repeatable error, as having access to site information you’re not supposed to have can likely be a chargable offense.
The small story about DuckDuckGo has some interesting implications for the still somewhat small search engine. DDG has prided and formed itself around the idea that it does not collect user data and as such, you get “clean” results each time you search. The idea being that the most relevant should be able to always nab the top spots, regardless of your online activities. It was noticed however, that DDG was crawling under it’s UP, but it wasn’t coming up as displaying it’s own useragent – a way for site owners to determine who visited their site. The answer from the horses mouth was fairly basic, but depending on how it’s information that it returns is interpreted into it’s index could have some interesting SEO implications.
What you’re seeing is not a crawler, but a parked domain checker. We don’t believe it needs to be identified as it only makes one request very infrequently and doesn’t index any information”
There’s been a case of defamation in an Australian court where it was claimed that Google (knowingly) defamed someone by tying him to organized crime, both in organic and image search. Google was found guilty by jury, and has been ordered to pay a fine of what amounts to about 30 seconds of work for them ($200,000), but it’s not the fine that has the company a bit worried, it’s the precedent that it would be setting. Google is currently in the process of appealing the decision, we’ll all have to wait to see what happens.
The case was launched off of the search results for both organic and image listings which showed the claimant with ties to the local crime scene. Google responded that they’re not in control of the results page, that they merely list what has been observed as being popular search terms for the area. It sounds like a weak argument, but you can see how Google tracks their top trends by looking at Google Trends, you get a very brief glimpse into what the top searches were for the last day or so.
Back to why this is a bad idea however, to hold Google accountable as a publisher, and not as an information provider. The jury in this particular case decided that Google was guilty as a publisher and created the page which delivered the false information, and the images pages that are served up when you search are Google specific creations. As anyone who has any experience working with images online can tell you, there is the alt tag which can be used to give an image a text like value, which can then be indexed by the search engines. The image results page is actually the most recent target by black hat manipulators the last couple of months, not only because of this feature but it helps them get listed much quicker than pushing for listings in the center of the page.
Google being declared a publisher of the search results pages makes them accountable for the comments that came up in search, even though they never actually created the content themselves. It’s happened a handful of times that have made the news in recent years, with Rick Santorum being the most recent victim of results page manipulations by spammers and some other unscrupulous methods, but the results pages were driven by the users and by the most frequently used search terms. Blaming any search engine, not just Google for the aforementioned issue is like blaming your mechanic for your bus being late getting you to work. Once something is on the internet it’s also notoriously difficult to try and remove, ask anyone of the stars out there who have unflattering photos which pop up from time to time, once it’s online, it is forever. This also brings up the point of online brand protection, and the importance of a positive relationship in the local scene, with proper brand management mistakes like this can be captured and stopped before they begin.
The ruling sets a scary precedent in a way, as if it stands then it opens the door to an increasingly censored internet. Add into the mix that the ITU will be meeting in just a couple of weeks and the issue of net neutrality and freedom of use and access starts to become a threatened point.
Does search engine optimization need to go the way of the dinosaur? If you follow any of the reporting outlets out there, it’s usually a couple of times a year that they’re bringing out the funeral procession for the SEO industry, but since it became the defacto method of gaining visitors it hasn’t budged. But is it really, finally time to bury it?
Before I get too far ahead of myself, it needs to be said that the search industry isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. With more mobile devices connected to the web than there are people on the planet, the method of delivering results is going to continue shifting to that marketplace, but it will never disappear. A better way to pose the question might be, is it time to lay the term SEO in it’s death bed? Search engine optimization began it’s time as the goody two shoes brother to black hat results page spamming that plagued the internet in the early days, and still to this day plays it’s own part in the search world. Black hatters, for all their dastardly intentions, actually play a vital role in the search market, because if they didn’t exploit things and try and find ways around the algorithms, then it could never improve at the results it provides.
But that aside, with the prevalence of information on the web about best practices, Bing recently came out with their own version and it reads much like the Google one, blogs, forums and podcasts about some of the methods and means of working with your site and it’s content to rank on the web, it seems like these days everyone is trying to be an SEO expert. And with this happening, the name and it’s methods have become muddied, with conflicting steps and methods, with some who profess to be gurus who outright skip using the basics.
It is a difficult decision, to try and come to a conclusion of burying the term search engine optimization, but then what to use in it’s stead. Online marketer, online branding consultant, perhaps internet consultant. The one simple problem remains though, that no matter what moniker gets attached to the industry, eventually everyone who followed suit into the SEO realm, they’ll follow along with the new buzz term. Maybe with that in mind, it’s just as well to let SEO live for another day, for now.
We’re firm believers that you choose the right tool for the job, and that’s why here at Fresh I am not a web designer. I can optimize a site, I can make it run like it’s on lightning and clean and organize code to an point of near OCD. Design a site however, and I fail horribly in the aesthetic aspect. It’s at that point that we bring in a proper designer to create the product image, and I take it from there.
It is very important that we do this too, as just as it’s a time consuming process to work the optimization to a proper level, so is the design of a site, all the way down to the color scheme. Color isn’t so much as a deciding factor in the case of organic search optimization, but you need to consider what visitor you’re building your site for. People, not crawlers are what is going to bring you the return on your website investment, and if a visitor is immediately turned off by the aesthetic of your site and clicks that back button, you can just as well chalk it up to a negative mark to the search engine results pages. If visitors don’t like spending time on your site, it won’t matter if you have the best content in the world, they won’t link back to it and you won’t build relevance which won’t help drive you up the results. It’s a circular issue, and it can all come down to a simple website trait, even just your color scheme.
It’s been offline for a great while, but anyone who used the web 10 years ago remembers the visual atrocity that was the Geocity personal pages. Gif laden with pixel graphics and flashing banners, it was a difficult task to navigate through them to find what content you might happen to be looking for at the time. I’m sure there are enough people out there who remember trying to read yellow text on a green background a time or two. The web has thankfully matured to a much better point, with high resolution graphics and some vastly talented designers coming up with some incredibly detailed and interactive websites.
So when you’re working on your image of your website, remember to keep things easy on the eyes. You can be stylish and still be functional, make your site easy to navigate and read. Make sure your images and graphics blend in naturally with your site and try and stick to color schemes that don’t assault your senses. It seems like such a trivial point when you think of the bigger picture, but even just the colors of your website can drive your site around on the results pages.
After putting in extensive time and effort into procuring a website and filling it with great content, it’s then that the single most important step you can take online needs to take place. Your search engine optimization efforts – do you hire the professionals, or do you try to take care of it in house. In case you’re asking, the right answer is always hire the professionals, but, if you do decide to take on more than just the basics of good design, there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of.
One of the primary steps you need to consider with a new website if you had one previous, is what to do with all of those old links and content. The right answer, is to properly 301 redirect them and make sure that you’re tieing everything together properly. If you don’t, you’ve basically destroyed any kind of history and relevancy you may have already built with the search engines. Just because you’re revamping your image and/or your marketing drive, doesn’t mean you immediately toss out what you had previous, think of your old site and links your bedrock. If you just toss it to the wind you’re cutting your legs out from under you.
Also in the same line of thinking, just because you may be the big fish in the pond for your industry, that means little or nothing on the search engines. Even if you’ve been the key player for the last 10 years, don’t automatically assume that you know how your current and prospective clients might try and search to find you. Proper keyword research is absolutely imperative in being able to be properly indexed and found online. Just like in the previous example, you’d be selling your site short if you don’t do it right.
Don’t be lazy and take shortcuts, whether it means in your website or in your optimization efforts. If you’ve hired someone to take care of your SEO for you (as you should) then make sure to get periodic updates from them so you can have an idea as to how you’re progressing online. It’s in our best interest to do our absolute best for you, because great ROI for you means great ROI for us, it goes both ways. If you’ve chosen to go your own way and try and perform SEO on your own, be extremely mindful that there are hundreds of ways to get caught up, even accidentally, in the search web. If you don’t know how to navigate through the myriad of mazes that is the search engine optimization process, then you should know enough to call in the big guns.
My last point has to do with the idea of being lazy, and not really knowing what you’re doing, but I won’t elaborate on it a whole bunch as the answer is very simple. Links – if you don’t have the time or the skill to properly build them, do not assume you can buy them. You never buy links.. ever.
So finally the election is finished, and the winner has been decided. If for some reason you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of days, Obama took the crown and is set to begin his second term as the President of the United States. And regardless of who you were rooting for, there were some interesting search discoveries over the last couple of months of the battle, which have their roots in search.
A few days back, there was a story run in the Wall Street Journal about how Google was serving up results pages in what some were thinking was a strange coincidence. It seemed that even with being signed out of a Google account, and being on a cookie free browser, the results when searching for Obama almost bcame personalized. The article that was published even went on to say that the search engine was biased when searching for obama and related news, with one story coming right out and saying that the candidates were being treated unfairly. While it would make for a great conspiracy story, the unexciting truth is that it’s just how the Google algo works. Google simply displayed results based on how people searched for terms, the example being
more people searched for “Obama” followed by searches for “Iran” than the number of people who searched for “Romney” followed by “Iran.”
That was the first interesting point, the second follows in a similar vein.
It’s not really news anymore that between the candidates there were hundreds of millions of dollars spent on campaigning, but it was interesting to find that Obama out bid Romney on search ads online at nearly three to one. Both were bidding on the big hitters like ”2012 election” and “2012 presidential polls” to lead people to their campaign websites, but it was the former President who owned the paid advertisements of the results pages. Sticking in the trend of online visibility, Obama had Romney beat across the board with more Facebook fans, website visitors and Youtube video views.
The largest demographic in the voting populace is shifting to a much younger, information hungry crowd, so being able to be found online should be an integral cog in any parties agenda. When you shake all the numbers out from organic results to paid search, it looks like in the end Obama simply out optimized his opponent, and as helped secure himself with a second term.
Recently Google confirmed that another Panda Update has happened. Worldwide, the update will impact only about 0.4% of queries that a regular user might notice, in the US that number reaches around 1.1%. This latest update makes the 21st confirmed Panda Update by Google and while it can leave site owners a bit leery, there are a few things that you can do to help your site.
One of the simplest things that you can do for your online position is to create a dialogue between you and your customers. Keeping them apprised of developments in your business or your product, and encouraging discussion. It can lend your site ongoing, timely stuff to encourage the Google algorithms that feature content based on freshness.
What this can do is attract your audience to interact with you. User interaction signals like a comment discussion, can help your site gain higher prominence in Google local results. Having an active blog can also develop into more subscribers and frequent visits, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open. Blogging enables you to rank in Blog Search results as well as assisting with regular keyword results. Ultimately your goal, is gaining more prominent positions in your local search result.
An added benefit of blogging is it provides you with your own voice, in case anyone ever tries to attack your company online. You can think of writing your own blog as a linchpin of proactive online reputation management. Because where the internet is concerned, it’s forever and once it’s out there anyone can find it. This is also your simplest route into the social media market, as you can develop your own Facebook fan page, Google+ page and a Twitter feed, and link your blog directly to it. This provides your business with a solid bedrock for developing your own, unique social media presence. Using your blog as a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want.
In the online digital world that we’re moving towards, there are a lot of intangible elements that can leave you wanting for more. Are my documents really safe to be stored only in a cloud service? How can I discerne how my visitors interact with my website? Is it possible for me to work out a precise return on investment for my SEO and PPC (pay per click) campaigns?
With there being so many extra variables, it’s difficult to acurately answer those types of questions, as each case is unique. Some cloud services are much more reliable than others for example, while even the biggest and best companies don’t sell themselves as having 100% uptime. Because where the web is concerned, it’s still has more than enough unknown variables affecting performance. There has been software, which reports assumptions of how visitors interact with your website for example, basing it’s calculations on mouse point duration and location. It takes the clicks that users perform on your website and use the aforementioned mouse position to determine your highest activity zones on your website. It’s still a best guess scenario at any rate, as it can only assume that each visitor to your site is actively engaged, and not tabbed out of the screen leaving you with a false positive.
Return on investment, is also one of those intangible variables that can be difficult to distinguish where search engine optimization is concerned. Pay per click is different in that you are actively bidding on your traffic and visitors, banking on their impulses to make conversions. Google Adwords for example can give you a calculated percentage of what each click through visitor was worth for you, so you can determine if your Adwords cost is justified, so you can make a solid decision on that investment. SEO is a tougher variable to work with, as your site content has to be that much better. Once you’ve worked on your campaign well enough to rank organically, you need to then work on your content to determine if it will elicit the response you want, whether it’s a newsletter sign up, email address or a direct purchase. There are a handful of sites which are built to help you work out the return on your SEO investment, some of which run with a hefty price tag. Organic optimization is the business of bringing your website relevant traffic, if your content is well done, you’ll convert to the type of result you’re looking for. Sometimes the information you’re seeking, is only a few clicks away, and you will learn how you’re being found.