Browsing "internet marketing"
When you’re looking at any kind of online branding or search engine optimization, there are a whole bunch of points you need to keep in mind. There’s all of the technical stuff, which has been covered in this blog a number of times. Things like your content management system, your coding structure and how clean it is and if it’s to proper web standards. Your content need to be clean and concise, and ideally be keyword rich and act as link bait so as to encourage other websites to link to your site.
A major element that unfortunately seems to be over looked, or perhaps misinterpreted, is budget allocation. The two major budgets that you need to keep in the fore front when considering SEO or online branding, are the budgets of time, and money.
Where the monetary component is concerned, it’s going to fluctuate depending on what your target is. Everyone would love to be on page 1 number 1, but what it takes to get there is different for everyone. It shouldn’t be any surprise that to hold the number 1 spot locally, takes a much different budget amount than that of a website trying to take the top spot nationally. It should also be known, that in order to place in top spots is going to take more than a few hundred dollars in a one time payment, online branding and organic search engine optimization are not one time deals or costs.
That’s the monetary cost where your website optimization is concerned, and as far as time is concerned, there needs to be realistic objectives as well. Smaller, local targets can be hit quicker in a search campaign, while massive national campaigns will take much more time to climb. The small local campaigns can begine to show results in as short a time frame as a few weeks, while larger campaigns can take a few months to show the improvements deemed necessary.
In the middle of last year or so, Google started slowly pushing out warnings to webmasters of what they deemed as ‘unnatural links’ which were pointing to their website. Unnatural links, for lack of a better description, fall under the realm of being unrelated to your website. As an example, like a plumbing forum having links pointing to a website on cooking or gardening. Earlier this year, Google stepped up the notification significantly and almost immediately, sent the world of search engine optimization into a tizzy.
It was at that juncture, that webmasters began to start to drop links too and from their website, probably in the hopes that sending in their reconsideration request they would be able to clear the mark from their webmaster tools page. It’s an interesting process that Google has put in to place with the unnatural links notifications, some webmasters have laid evidence showing that they did nothing and plummeted in the search results. While others, who went through untold rigmarole trying to get their links cleaned up, reported no change in their positioning, despite multiple notifications.
And to muddy the waters just a little more, over the last day or so, Google has sent out another massive batch of notifications of unnatural links to webmasters everywhere. It seems that as of late, with all of the features Google has been adding to it’s webmastertools suite, they’re really looking at placing responsibility on the web owners. An interesting twist to the equation, is when you consider that search engines place at least some of the portion of their ranking factor into the links pointing to a website. Maybe, this is the beginning of Google trying to diversify their ranking algorithm and ideals? Time will tell, but giving webmasters the idea that they need to carefully maintain their link profiles is an interesting step.
Just as Hitwise measures search market share, there is a report put out by ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) which tries to put a number on how happy users are with the varying search engines and social media sites out there. While there were some expected results with the survey, there was a surprise or two to be seen.
As far as search engines were concerned, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Google still on the top of the list with an overall 82 points out of 100, and Bing picked up a little ground on them coming it at 81 points of satisfaction. When pressed for reasons about satistfaction, more than half of the respondants who chose Bing, noted that they liked the ease of use of Bing. I may be somewhat biased as I’ve always primarily used Google to do the bulk of my searching, and perhaps it’s a difference of Bing.ca versus Bing.com, but I’m not sure how Bing is easier to use over Google when both are just a search box. The links which appear after performing a search are nearly entirely alike, and it’s a rather short affair to be able to specify your results and tailor them as you like. Opinions are different for everyone, and that is the main point of a survey after all, to gather as many different ones as possible, back to the list. Plonking our way down we pass Ask.com at 80 points on the list and Yahoo at 78 points in customer satisfaction. And note, the survey wasn’t conducted about who uses which search engine, Hitwise covers that quite well and the numbers are fairly static with Google holding onto the lions share of the market. The point of the survey was about the satisfaction of using their preferred search engine, acquiring a rounded opinion would mean that after a point, the survey would have filled their quota with Google results and have been looking for Bing, Yahoo, and Ask users.
A new report that ACSI has put out however, has detailed the satisfaction level of those who use social media sites like Facebook and Google+. And again, just like the report for search engine satisfaction, it’s not about market share, it’s satisfaction so the same principle applies – to form a rounded opinion you need to have as equal amount of respondants as possible for each social media site. It was with this report, that the numbers were beginning to be surprising. The top marks in the survey actually went to Google+, with 78 points out of 100, followed by Youtube (73 points) and Pinterest (69 points). Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all took the bottom spots, with Facebook holding the basement spot with 61 points. With such a vastly diverse user base, it is understandable that opinions would be strong with some users about how Facebook handles itself, but there were some key reasons which came out which hurt the social media giant. The biggest issues came from the implementation of the Timeline feature, users felt there were too frequent, unnecessary changes to the user interface. Intrusive advertising came in as an issue with nearly 20% of the respondants complaining and one of the largest contributors to unsatisfaction was the privacy concerns which still dog the social giant. Nearly half of those surveyed rated Facebook a 5 or lower on a 10 point scale on how they handle privacy. Not surprisingly, the reasons Google+ excelled on the survey, happened to be the reasons Facebook tanked in comparison. On that same 10 point scale, 60% of the respondants for Google+ ranked their privacy protection as excellent with the fledgling social site. No advertising, at least not in the sense that dominates Facebook, exists on the service, and at present there aren’t any plans to add them, and a very strong mobile presense all helped Google+ to attain the top marks in satisfaction this year. There is, however, a small caveat to bear in mind with the social media results. On the whole, taking all of the social sites in hand, users are only 69 points out of 100 satisfied with social media sites, almost putting it in the basement of the study with television, newspapers and airlines.
When discussing links and linking strategies to your website, I had made mention as to the negative connotations around having poor, or unrelated backlinks pointing to your website. The watered down version of this would be, say you own a window repair business and in passing the search engines notice that you have a few hundred links from a taxidermy site pointing to your url. That’s a very quick way to get yourself in trouble, have your site scrutinized and quite possibly, dropped from the index until you have gone over all of the backlinks pointing to your site.
It’s long been an issue for the search engines in dealing with the proliferation of improper linking schemes employed by sketchy SEO practitioners. Google has their list and documentation about what they’ll do to your site should they happen to have improper links or linking strategies pointing at your site, but have they been beaten to the punch in truly dealing with the problem? Very recently one of the other guys in search, Bing, has released a way to allow users to disavow the links pointing to a website. What leads to a tad bit of confusion however is the way that Bing talks about the way improper backlinks affect your site, sometimes saying that it won’t do any harm and them sometimes saying that it could very much negatively affect your position within their rankings.
From the Bing Webmaster Blog:
Today we’re announcing the Disavow Links feature in Bing Webmaster Tools. Use the Disavow Links tool to submit page, directory, or domain URLs that may contain links to your site that seem “unnatural” or appear to be from spam or low quality sites.. There is no limit on the number of links you can disavow via this tool.
It’s a great way for you to have more control over who is pointing their content at your site, as well as the control it lets you have over your own web positioning. It’s a solid first step in being able to control your backlinks, it will be interesting to see how Bing deals with the reports which are submitted, as they have been notoriously slow to deal with changes and updates to their index.
It’s almost that time again, are you starting to get ready for Christmas? You may read that and think us all mad here, but just take your time and read and you’ll understand.
There are a number of tactics you can employ to be found online, the good stuff, the bad stuff and the stuff in the middle that may, or may not, get you into trouble. The good stuff, or the best practices lists that you can find on the search engines help pages, are really just the basics of good principles. Don’t use hidden text, don’t use spammy content, try to balance your text to image ratio, the list goes on and on. There’s no real need to go into the bad tricks or the ones that may or may not get you into trouble, the basic point is there is a lot of information out there.
But one of the points that the organic search engine experts will be able to corroborate is: becoming listed properly takes time. It doesn’t happen over night or even in a month. It can take upwards of 3 months and more depending on how competitive your market is to even be found on page 2 let alone page 1. So what’s your course of action? Start early and work at climbing the ranks diligently. If you’re already on top, then you’ve won half the battle, but you need to be ever mindful of your competition, if they’ve employed a proper SEO they will be coming on strong to try and tople you from your position.
Now with some very basic timeline information in hand, with it already being July, is it easy to understand why Christmas is so much more important than you already knew? The 3 month marker would put your campaign at mid October, perfectly poised to rash in on the online shopping bonanza that is Christmas.
With the way things have been progressing online, it’s not much of a stretch to think that some of the old ways have gone to the wayside for search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo and all of the others out there need to choose a metric of sorts where by it allows them to determine what is relevant to certain topics and categories. The long running, and highest contributing factor since the beginning, has been linking to websites; both those which are relevant to your business and those which may help your positioning. It’s a very simple formula really, site A compiles a great deal of information about cogs and becomes known across the country as the top producer and information source for them. Site B, is a reseller of site A, and as such provides a link directly too site A, helping cement their positioning online as the top purveyor of the cog industry. That’s a very basic example, multiply that a trillion times and you’re beginning to see the beginnings of the internet, and how linking works to sort out the web.
Over the last couple of years especially though, the social web has made a big splash. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, all social sites which are being hooked by the spiders and are being more frequently plugged into your search results. Some companies out there like to make the correlation that the larger the web has gotten, the more community focused people have become. Instead of searching out for the best cog company, people are asking their friends on Facebook and Twitter for example. It was a shock that ran through the SEO industry to think that the value of links was going to be tossed away, all because people suddenly had the ability (not that they didn’t already) to ask their friends for their opinion. It’s a (non)issue that continues being blown out of proportion by the unseasoned search experts out there.
Bet a very simple truth is this, the weight that linking and back linking to websites sin’t going to go away. Not just yet, and not in the near fore seeable future at any rate. That’s not to say that social signals and social linking isn’t going to become the heavy weights at some point, but that point is not today, not next month, and not next year.
It’s simply another method which you can use to become a more trusted business online, but Googles AdWords advertisements are sometimes met with ire. With complaints of search privacy and too many advertisements, Google is about to roll out a feature which should help clean up your browsing in the near future.
The newest feature to begin rolling out, is one which directly, and indirectly affects your browsing. Ads which are displayed on Youtube have had a small [x] in the top corner which allows you to close the ad so you can continue watching your chosen video uninterrupted. This muting feature, is currently now on its way to all ads served on the AdWords display network. Display ads are visually driven ads, often pictures or a short gif, as opposed to the purely text ads you often find attached to search results on the Google results page. By allowing users to be able to mute ads, it’s allowing a few things. You’re telling the search engines that you’re not interested in seeing ads from that ad group any longer, and a link to an Ad Preferences page where you can tell Google the types of ads you don’t want to see. By using the ads preferences page you can tell Google exactly which types of ads you don’t mind seeing occasionaly on your browsing adventures, and which types you explicitly don’t want to see.
With the idea of being able to mute display ads, you’re also saving advertisers money, as they don’t have to pay for ads which are served to individuals who aren’t interested in them, and you don’t have to continually filter out advertisements in an ad group you don’t want to see. All in all it’s a solid step forward for both parties online, the advertisers and the consumers.
There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with your search engine optimization campaign if your chosen provider isn’t totally on the ball. In the coming blog, I’ll discuss some of the simpler mistakes, how to spot them, and hopefully with that knowledge in hand, they will be avoided.
One of the primary mistakes that can be made when beginning to optimize your site, can actually be the combined fault of both the site owner and the SEO. Failure to conduct proper keyword research on your site, and on your competitors sites can actually hamper your efforts online. Improper keyword research can even lead to you creating or posting content which is improperly optimized, and your brand or website can become associated for the wrong terms. If the wrong terms become indexed it’s not just your current ranking which can be effected, but your long term can also be via backlinks from other websites. As an example, if you create a great document, well written, not too spammy and highly relevant, but for a topic unrelated to your website and someone finds and links to it; the search engines will index and categorize that link. If your website becomes the target for irrelevant backlinks, it begins to affect your authority on your niche market, especially if backlinking site is completely different from your business. So if you’re not sure which keyword phrases or targets you should be going after, allow your SEO experts to do their research and present you with a solution.
A mistake which is often overlooked because it isn’t painfully apparent, is when you’re having a website built or revamped, that it’s constructed in such a way that it impedes the search engines ability to index your site. Having a website which encourages intuitive use by the user, as well as the search engine spiders is very important to help propel you to the top. If you’re building a website with images or scripts as navigation, the users may be able to work out how to process it, but search engines don’t see things the way users do. If there is no way to identify the menu or page elements, the spiders will guess, or disregard the pages. That’s a dangerous place to put yourself for the sake of design, because it doesn’t matter how pretty or fun your site is if it can’t be indexed. A third common mistake which site owners get caught up in is lack of updating the site, either via consistent content updates, a blog, active forum or even a twitter feed. Building and launching a business website isn’t just a fire and forget enterprise with which you have one shot to be indexed and ranked, you should be working on your site and it’s content in a constant cycle. Either a blog every day or so, a forum update for members or a few tweets here and there during the day, engaging your clients and customers. If you allow your site to become stale and never udpate it, you’ll slowly be pushed further and further into the index by others in your space who do.
Lastly, even though we’ve already discussed the construction of your website, a last point to mull over. You cannot build a website purely for user interaction that is highly graphical with no actual content and expect to rank in the top of the searches. But by that same note, you cannot build a website with only the search engines in mind as all text and no user support or interaction. So while your site can’t be all flash and no substance, it also can’t be comprised of all substance with no flash, users will visit and never return due to poor user interaction. It’s a balance that needs to be met, and if your current SEO can’t help you with your existing site, call the search experts and we’ll have you flying in no time.
If you’re the owner of a small business, often times one of the best way to generate content for your website is to have an active blog where you can make postings about your product or services. It also allows your customers and clients to ask any questions which may be on their mind at the time, and can give your professional site a friendlier feel.
But with all good things, especially with the anti-spam algorithms that the search engines have running, it’s a very good idea to know how to mitigate the possibility of having your web authority tarnished. It’s not just the cheaters at the search game who get caught, more often than not it’s websites and businesses that follow the rules, but just happen to forget a very important step, moderation. Moderating the comments on your blog or any forum threads you may be actively participating in is greatly important, as nothing on the internet is truly private. If a thread you’re active in begins to get spammed, your name and business could be caught up in an anti-spam net, and you could end up devalued simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you have your own company blog, and you allow comments on your postings, it’s a good idea to have comments allowed so as to encourage discussion on your website. It’s a very good idea however, to also have a firm hand where moderation is concerned of any and all comments which are placed on your site. Blog spam comments are easily spotted however, as they’re usually placed automatically by bots roaming across the web. Their posts are typically poorly written, although some might surprise you, and contain a few links to sites which have no bearing on your own. There is thankfully, a rather simple way to deal with comment spam if you have a highly active forum or blog, and don’t have the time to moderate all of the discussions or comments occuring. You can simply add the NOFOLLOW meta tag to your discussion pages or directories, it’ll tell the spiders to simply disregard any outgoing links on the pages and you can let the discussion flow. It’s a simple line of code which allows you to protect your sites page rank, as well as it’s online profile with the search engines.
At present, there are a couple of different sets of active penalty systems being tossed around on Google. There’s the Penguin update, and the link penalties which are being levied against sites with strange link profiles. If you’ve noticed a backtracking in your site position, how are you to know which way to proceed? Let’s have a quick look and see if it can be narrowed down some.
Firstly, the Penguin update which is still running around, seemingly causing mass havoc with some site owners. The most recent version of Penguin in the wilds of the web are searching for unnatural backlinks, a tighter field of view when looking for fresh content, better page title generation (if your page doesn’t have one), and better detection of hacked websites and pages. Note as well, that all of these algorithm changes, and much more, all run automatically as the spiders break down your site. If you’ve received no notification in your webmaster tools area, chances are you’ve been hit by a Penguin drive by.
The second current most common way that sites are being hit, is with what is called an unnatural link penalty. The key difference between this method and Penguin, is the link penalty is manually handed down against your website. If you pay heed to your webmaster tools notifications (you did remember to set that up right?), then just follow the steps in place to correct the penalties levied.
Or as I saw it put so succinctly:
Unnatural links is more about link networks, paid links, blog networks and unnatural link patterns.
Penguin is more about low quality links with weird looking anchor text, plus other over optimization related link building techniques.
In the discussion that has followed, it has been noted that the two seem to be inter-related to each other, so be sure to keep tabs on your websites performance, and don’t ignore the notifications you receive. You’ll only be sinking yourself faster should you choose to ignore any warnings or messages.