Tag Archives: website optimization

Dominate Local Search in 2013

As a website owner, the past year was a bit of a roller coaster ride where search and search engine activity was concerned. Between Pandas and Penguins attacking across the web, and Bing and Facebook amping up their own search options, it can sometimes be a bit of a surprise that you came out the other end on a positive note. It’s a simple task to take a minute and search around for the projected search shifts for the year, so instead here’s a short list of topics you should focus on for your website, regardless of the unknown changes in search to come.

First things first, you need to address your website and its content. The search engines over the last year, contrary to popular belief, have been ramping up efforts to deliver quality websites with real content as opposed to scraper sites which offer only a sliver of real information. When you are going over your sites content you need to take the time to ensure that you’re delivering your message, in your own unique way. Keep your articles clear and on topic, and try to work in the trending terms or topics which relate to your niche. Once you’ve gone over your site and reworked everything you can then begin pushing it out, either on Facebook or Twitter social channels, or even providing snippets to industry white paper sites. It’s free to market yourself on your social pages, and if you didn’t get the message last year, search engines are slowly pushing towards integrating social content into the results pages. As an added bonus, if you’ve done a bang up job creating your content, you’ll garner backlinks and it will help your efforts that much more.

leaderSince you’ve taken the time to rework your content (you’ve done these steps right?) you need to go the next step and break down your website. I’m not insinuating that you take it offline or anything, but you need to carefully deconstruct your site, performance, appearance, layout, and then once you have finished optimizing for desktops you need to consider tablets and mobile displays. Over the last few months especially, the amount of users on mobile devices conducting search queries has grown to around 25% or so, and while that may not seem like much on the surface, think of that percentage again with the realization that there are more internet connected mobile devices on the planet than there are people. Ignoring the mobile search market is just as bad as ignoring the social angle, you’ll only continue to shoot yourself in the foot online. So load up your website on your tablet or smartphone and try using your pages, if you’re experiencing issues, correct them and count your fortunes later.

Now that you have your site mobile friendly, and you’re taking advantage of the mobile search growth, you have one more small step to take, and it is one that has been touted for a number of months as a trending market to grasp. You need to work on focusing your efforts into your local market, even if you don’t have a brick and mortar store, zeroing in on your target area and demographic will have the search engines loving your site more and more. Take advantage of the maps and local information that you can include on your website and social profiles, as the search engines will build a default local page for your site if you don’t already have one. Encourage your visitors to post their reviews to your social pages and engage your customers. Be active with them and you’ll soon find yourself with more work than you can handle.

Facebook Search Likely To Be Cheated

When you perform a search with Google or Bing, one of the elements which allows a website to climb the results pages are the backlinks pointing to the site. When the links are from a similar site, which is related to the site they’ve provided a link for it tells the search engine that “even though we’re an authority, this other site is better than we are” type scenario. This is an extremely basic description of how the search engine results pages become filled with those little blue links, but Facebook search is going to try and do something a little different.

leverageFacebookFacebook isn’t necessarily concerning itself with virtual locations, they are wanting to focus on the real world version of a page. Instead of using a similar system of backlinks however, they will be going down the route of using a like system, using your friends list as a foundation. It’s a twist on a way to determine a search results page, and it’s going to have some interesting applications moving forward with some people having hundreds and thousands of friends.

A solid description of one of the goals of Facebook search that I came across was it can be considered a multi-dimensional search results page. If you have a vacation planned for Las Vegas for example, you would need a hotel to stay at and try to plan it around the shows and events you would want to enjoy. Performing the search on Google or Bing, will return you the pages that have typically the best SEO laid out based on your search terms. From there you would do more research until you made your decision. The goal of Facebook search and using the Like idea, is that when you perform the same search within their service, you instead get a results page populated with the results based on your friends feedback. Instead of your results being based on the best optimization team, it will be based on the experiences of your friends, and if they enjoyed their visit to a particular venue.

There is a great deal of discontent already for the way that SEO works, and a lot of speculation that the methods used are gaming the search engines and breaking and bending rules to cheat to rank. The system, while built on solid principles does have it’s flaws, but it works as it is implemented. When Facebook introduces it’s method of basing their results around a like and share system, at that point I believe we will truly see what it is like to game a results page.

Retaining Your Image Through Upgrading

With the way that the internet is continuing to evolve, and will continue to evolve and grow for the foreseeable future, it is common place to want to change and update your website. And while making a change or giving your site a face lift normally isn’t too great of a concern, you can’t just start hacking away and changing the way your site has always worked. If you’re not careful with your methodology, you could end up disappearing from your online position, and virtual loss will translate into real world loss.

Web DesignSo if your site has a dated look, or you have a desire to revamp your image, don’t fret because it is possible to do, you just need to follow a few steps first. If you want to retain all of the authority that you’ve gained in your niche marketplace, it is best when you decide to build a new website to follow a few guidelines. One of the first steps you need to ensure, is that your goal, and your content remains the same. Your images, text, even if you can keep your navigation functioning the same, it doesn’t matter how strong your SEO is if you completely change your message. Sometimes even the most seemingly innocuous changes can wreak havoc on an optimization campaign. It is always wise to run any content changes passed your SEO provider to ensure it won’t throw a wrench into the works.

Once you’ve worked out that you are keeping the same content, the web development team needs to work it’s magic and try it’s best to retain the same URL structure to your new website. Really basic example would be if your product page is named products.html, that your new page on a new design is named products.html or even products. If keeping the same structure is impossible for what ever reason, then persevere to ensure that proper 301 redirects are in place so that the search engines, and users, can find their new counterparts. And when you’re ready to launch the new design, you really should not see a change in rankings or indexation by the search engines. But like with any major website design change, you need to test, test and test again to make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Losing Your Search Data

With the always growing concern over privacy online, it wasn’t a great shock that Google announced that their browser, Chrome, is moving to an entirely encrypted service. Currently the beta version of the browser provides private search features for logged in users, and they’re quickly working towards that being a default for all users, signed into your Google account or not.

It’s a mildly distressing point when you drill down into your analytics, because at present the average is somewhere between 20-30% of analytics traffic is coming up as “Not Provided”. Up until the last year or so, when a user conducted a search, made a choice, our analytics tools would show the URL that “refers” the visitor to that page, and would typically include what the visitor searched for. Now when someone performs that same search, the referring URL just looked like www.google.com. The analytics didn’t know how to provide a proper break down of traffic with that referrer, so instead it started giving results of “not provided”. And when you’re dealing with online optimization, not being aware of what your target audience is searching for can be a distressing blow, in the short term.

chrome-secureIt’s highly likely that the amount of users taking advantage of secure search methods will continue to grow, especially after Chrome makes it a default setting for all users of it’s browser. But just because the referrer is no longer being provided, it doesn’t mean all is lost. As a website owner, you’re losing the ability to easily see how trends are shifting in search for your particular niche, but you can counter that simply by being up to date with your clients and customers. You should be on the cusp of shifting trends in your industry if you expect to be a leader. Additionally, those search terms are not entirely lost, you just need to look in a different place. You should have Google Webmaster tools setup to monitor your website, and within that toolkit you can see the last 90 days of search terms for your site, with up to 2000 key terms. The data isn’t gone, it’s just in a different spot, and with the utilization of your entire toolkit you can still find any answers you seek.

Taking SEO Into Your Own Hands

social-mediaNow that Facebook is entering the search arena with it’s own version of search, which still has a fair amount of work to do on a large scale, it’s a good time for you to go back through your website and make sure you’ve crossed all of your t’s and dotted your i’s. There are a handful of basic practices that you can implement as a website owner, without the assistance of an expert, but only one piece of advice: If you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t do it.

First things first, when you’re ready to try putting together some basic SEO, you need to understand it is not a one shot deal. A change you make today, will need tweaking in a week, and every week there after. Website optimization is not impossible to take on yourself, just understand the time investment, and attention to detail required.

One of the points you need to focus upon first, is you need to examine the goal of your website. Are you trying to sell a product or service? Or are you looking to entice users to sign up for a newsletter or email? Examine your end goal, and keep that goal in mind while going through your website. There are a number of free services you can leverage to engage your customers and clients, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are free to use services that are a direct interaction with your current, and prospective customers. Where the cost is incurred, is your time. The more you are able to engage your audience, the more likely you are to grow your following.

You’ve determined your end goal, and settled on the time and attention required to attend to your SEO and social efforts, this is where you need to temper yourself. Every day there is an amazing new piece of software, or website out there that can tell you exactly what to do to become number 1 in search. They claim to have all of the answers for social and search, when in fact all they have is an untested idea. Don’t forget the basics, just to chase what might be, the fundamentals of website optimization remain the same. Clarify your message, stay away from sites and services that claim to promise number 1, and engage your audience on the social front. Adhering even to just those very basic points will help you to improve your positioning online.

Catapult Your Online Marketing

We’ve written countless times about the basics of online marketing and that the trying to work with the search engines, not against them, is a constantly shifting landscape. Once you’ve followed the basics, gotten your site steadily climbing the results pages and are working on your back link profile there is one more key component you can add that will help your position and your site. Take a look at your site, your content, and your activity on your pages and think to yourself: Would I link to my own content?

linkfishYou need to add some link bait to your site occasionally, so instead of continually hunting for back links, others in your industry (hopefully) will be following you and decide to naturally link to you because of your content. This is usually referred to as creating link bait, and it’s one of the quickest ways that you can build up a quality link profile for your website. You can start creating your link bait content by knowing what you’re talking about, everyone has an opinion and if you’re knowledgeable about yours, there is no reason not to share it. Sharing opinions is a great way to start a dialogue with people, whether it’s your customers or others in your business space, it gets people talking, and talking about you.

Everyone has a hiccup every now and then when it comes to creating your content, especially if you’re the lone person responsible for it, so don’t be scared to talk to your co-workers. Sometimes a brief conversation can help you decide on a blog topic, a new page to create or a way that you can help drum up news or a flash sale for a product or service that you may offer. We all need inspiration sometimes, and everything becomes easier when you ask for a helping hand. Being able to write a high quality page or article is fine, but if you’re unable to grab any attention with it, or drum up some discussion with it then you won’t garner a great deal of backlinks from it, if any at all.

Search is Changing Again

Since Google has been given the all clear signal from the FTC about the charges of them using anti-competitive behaviour, it loosens the reins a bit for the company. To be completely fair, the evolution of search and the ever present forward advancements should be evidence that the industry has never really stopped evolving.

Bing sold itself initially as a decision engine, conduct your search and you can make a decision then and there instead of digging through results pages. Then, just a short time later they started to re-brand themselves again, into the “do” engine. It’s been a year since then, and while they’ve had their hiccups (and tantrums) along the way, they’re also growing and changing with the web. It’s not just the internet that’s evolving, to technologies like IPV6, fiber connections and what not, users are evolving and changing at just as frantic a pace. Bing recognized this, and has been trying to tap into the market of people who are ready to make a choice now. Google has also recognized this in online users, when they introduced their “instant” version of search results. Instant search is basically a cached version of search results which begin to appear, if you have the feature turned on, as quickly as you can type your query. It was just one step of many to come, by both search engines to engage a quickly growing user base, those who want information now, not just options to dig through.future

So what’s to come with search in the future? No one really knows for sure, but Google and Bing both have their teams working furiously to try and embrace the changing landscape. Amit Singhal, Googles head of search was even heard to say:

I would be so bold to predict that in the next two years, you’ll have a conversational search engine that you can talk to like you’re talking to me.

As much things change with the search world however, for the time being there are a few points you need to continue to work with. Remember the basics, and follow the best practices guidelines for building and maintaining your website. Your keywords are important, you can’t just slam a ton of text on your site and expect the search engines to sort it out for you, it needs to be properly written and useful to your users for the engines to take notice. Your website titles, they should follow some sort of relation to your business or service, but again, shouldn’t be filled to overflowing with keywords as that’s a no-no in the guidelines. Your URL structure is important too, as it can be used to create quick, and simple navigation for users and for crawlers as they go over your site. Having your pages properly named, and instead of using query strings for a dynamic site only helps your site gain brownie points online. As an example, what’s easier to remember on a website, an www.yourwebsite.com/about-us/ url, or www.yourwebsite.com/?q=7s9b992 . And lastly, it’s slowly making it’s way out, but your metatags still have some information to share with the search engines and your users, as you can layout what keywords you deem important and the description you use for your website. The future is definitely on the way for search, but you can’t move forward and completely forget what got you there in the first place.

Bouncing Visitors? Examine Your Message

Since you have your website built and online, you’ve added some great content and attached some analytics to monitor your traffic. You’ll start to notice a term in the layout that often gets more read into it than it really means – bounce rate.

bounce-rateYour websites bounce rate isn’t a mystery, all of the answers as to why people would leave your website are right in front of you, on your website. Where the confusion sometimes comes from is when users start to confuse the terms bounce rate and exit rate, as they’re not the same thing. WOrking with the definition of bounce rate from Wikipedia:

It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

Then, compare this to the base meaning of exit rate:

represents the percentage of visitors to a site who actively click away to a different site from a specific page

and you can see why they might get confused as they seem the same on the surface.

To begin with bounce rates, there is no such definitive value with which to balance your websites individual bounce rate. If you have a website built to sell running shoes for example, customers in search of loafers who searched for comfortable shoes will likely “bounce” off of your site once they see a front page full of cross trainers. With your analytics installed on your website, the only real clue and method to deduce why your bounce rate may be at a given level, is to go through your keyword breakdown, and see if there is a discrepancy there. If you find that you’re listing for terms which don’t entirely match with the goal of your site, you’ll experience a bounce rate roughly equal to the ratio of unrelated terms.

The exit rate from your website, may not in fact be a bad thing, depending of course on the aim of your website. If you act as a referral site for example, and you have a high exit rate to the sales or sign up site, then you’ve served your purpose. If you’re concerned that your bounce rate seems to be higher than you believe it should be, examine your content, and examine your message. All of the answers are there for the picking, you just need to take the time to work out the kinks.

Protecting Your Online Reputation

reputation-repairWhile you can’t make everyone happy all of the time, you can make most of your customers/clients happy most of the time, one of you will make a mistake and ultimately someone will leave with bad feelings. There are a number of things you can do in this situation when you’ve been on the receiving end of a bad review. Here’s a tip: throwing a fit is the wrong answer.

1) Try talking to the complainant
If everything worked in a perfect world, then you would never have any bad reviews or unhappy customers ever, but sorry to say, it will happen eventually. In almost every case where an author of a bad review was asked why they chose to write it, it was after they tried contacting, or dealing with the company directly. The black mark only came to exist once those avenues were exhausted, so if you have someone on the phone with a complaint, or someone at your door with a grievance, it’s in your businesses best interest to deal with it as quickly and promptly as possible.

2) Sleep on it
If you’ve managed to miss the window of opportunity to deal with the customer before they air their dirty laundry on the internet, the best thing you can do for yourself, and for your business is to do nothing. At least at first, once you read or hear of a scathing review, it’s human nature to want to lash out to protect yourself and your interests. It’s a normal response and one that you don’t need to fret about having, but it’s the wrong response. In the online world of word of mouth, those who fire the first shot often win. Consumers usually side with the reviewer, who is often perceived as the “nothing-to-gain” victim facing a profit-focused business owner. While consumers expect local businesses to show a more personal side in how they speak with customers, there is little sympathy for defensive and unprofessional responses. So sleep on the review, send the author an email or private message if possible, and attempt to correct what ever the issue was. You may find that by taking the time to calmly address the complaint, that the review becomes modified to reflect your attempts at correction, or even disappears altogether.

3) Wait and see
If you’ve attempted to correct the issue with the services provided which made your customer/client so upset, and had no success, the next available action for you to resort to is to wait and see what the public does. Community review sites like Yelp, allow businesses to post their own version of events relating to a review, so it gives you a window of opportunity to share your side of the story. Because every business has had one of them: that obnoxious customer who wouldn’t be satisfied no matter what your recourse. As a respondent online to a bad review, you won’t win any friends or arguments by slinging insults back and forth at each other.

4) Encouragement
Once that bad review has been written, all avenues exhausted for reconciliation, and the bad press is still there, you do have an option to deal with the situation. You could bury it. You don’t physically bury it of course, but you make it a point to your customers that have positive experiences to post to the same review site, as well as others, to speak of their encounter with your business. It won’t happen initially, but over time the good will steadily drown out the bad, until it’s finally, entirely buried.

Basic Web Practices and Your CMS

When we build a website for a client, whether they’re in Winnipeg or anywhere else in the world, we make sure that any kind of forward thinking marketing is covered. And since we’re in the business of online branding and internet marketing, we try and make sure that each website we develop has the capabilities to become a leader in their niche, so long as they decide they want too. We didn’t just come up with some arbitrary stats which we settled on, there are some very specific points that we look for. We’ll go over a handful of the options this time around, if you’re involved in the industry in any way, you’ll probably recognize some traits in the platform you use.

One of the very first points that is a necessity, is being ablt to customize page titles, and the meta tags of each page. If it’s a properly built website, and you’re following the best practice guide that both Google and Bing have readily available, then you should know already that having an identical title or tags on all of your pages is a big no-no. You should at the very least be able to customize each page title, meta data, and your header tags, if you can’t manage these very basic snippets of information on your site, then you’ve already started off on the wrong foot and we haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet!

I’ve touched on this point several times, but when you’re building your site you need to think about the navigation menu. And I’m not referring creating a singing and dancing menu that thanks a visitor for being a part of the website experience, I’m looking more at a navigation menu that uses CSS to control the display elements. You can have an impressively interactive navigation menu just by using CSS elements, which are easily indexed by all of the search engines and are much more responsive than a java or flash equivalent. Besides being responsive and a solid display method, it also allows you to control the contents of the menu, so if you happen to make a spelling mistake, don’t be surprised to find it indexed if you’re not paying attention.

It is an often overlooked feature, as a normal site owner doesn’t usually think about the website link beyond the main address, but being able to control how your URLs are created is a major point where best website development practices are concerned. If you’ve ever been on a major online shopping site like Ebay for example, if you’ve ever copied and pasted a link of a page to an email you’d notice the link contains a mess of letters a numbers (=item20cdb2380c&_uhb=1#ht_599wt_1139). These letters and numbers aren’t there for users, they’re definitely SEO unfriendly, and need to be avoided at all costs if possible.

These are only a couple of the very basic best practices that you’ll find discussed in any of the website development guides out there. If you’ve got the time, you should work your way through your site and if you have it, your CMS backend and ensure that you have all of the above listed functionality. If you’ve learned that you don’t have these capabilities, get in touch with us here at Freshtraffic as soon as possible and we’ll get that taken care of for you. The longer you wait on necessary changes like the above, the deeper you could be lost in the results pages.