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Browsing "internet strategy"

Local Online Brand Management for 2011

Dec 27, 2010   //   by FreshTraffic   //   business, internet advertising, internet marketing, internet strategy, local search  //  21 Comments

In the past, the most natural way for a small business to grow was with a solid reputation within it’s community. Spending a little cash here and there for a mail stuffer, newspaper ad and the obligatory ad in the yellow pages. The hard work, strong ethics, positive attitude and positive customer relationships could make a good business into a great one.
Time has shifted a little bit since then, but the basics remain the same. Treat your customers right, and it will help you attract clients in the future. Think about how being out with a friend you ask their opinion on a restuarant you’re curious about trying. Or about the local mechanic who started in his garage and found he needed more room so he opened a shop locally. Local reputation is very important to small and/or new businesses.

In 2011. it is expected that local online advertising efforts will grow north of $20 billion. Definitely much more than just chump change, local business owners seemingly are starting to realize that the yellowpages print ad they’ve used just isn’t cutting it anymore. But as an aside, brand management, or online reputation management, has become increasingly important. Where word of mouth has been increasingly become ‘world of mouth’ being able to manage your own business online has become a more important affair, becoming much more than just taking care of your AdWords account. And active blog tied to your company can help push you up the SERPs, so long as it’s kept active. Allowing comments to be posted onto the blog as well can help boost your positions, but it’s a double edged sword. Diligent management of the comments section is very important, to ensure you’re not having your competitors posting links back to their site, and piggy backing your climb up the rankings.

Online brand management has become more and more important as the world comes more to the online store to conduct business. The danger in improperly managing yourself online can drive your business to the ground if false company reviews are made to climb higher in the rankings than you rank organically.

New Google Results

It’s not a new trend that Google is always tweaking the way their search works, or how the results are displayed. And they’ve made another change live, which drives home the importance of being certain your website is optimized.

Normally when you conduct a search on Google, the results you’ll receive are a mix of the most relevant websites which contain your terms. Occasionally, when it was applicable, the same website may show up twice, if the algorithm deemed it applied. This recent change however, can return up to 4 results from the same website with shorter descriptive text in the results. The remaining results on the page will be the other varied relevant websites. Now why should this concern someone working on climbing the SERPs? Well, when you perform a search, the results page you’ll see contains the top 10 results. And if 4 of those top 10 are from the same website, odds are you may not have even made page one. The change is recent with Google, and if you’re ranking 5 and less on page one of their results, if your not diligent with your SEO you may soon find yourself on page two!

Page one of the Google SERPs is a difficult nut to crack, and with this recent change it’s added another level of finesse which has to be used as your site is optimized. When interested small business owners reach out to the SEO experts, it’s often they balk a little when they learn what the actual cost is to hire a professional; but if you think a pro is expensive, try hiring an amateur. Search engine optimization is the best return on investment in the online market place, so what is it worth to you to be found.

No Master of All

There are a great many different trades out there, with widely varying skillsets. Chefs, mechanics, electrical engineers basically you could list jobs until you run out of breath. But just because someone once cooked breakfast, I wouldn’t assume that they could handle a full course meal for 100 guests. The skillset just isn’t there.

So it’s the same for search engine optimization and search engine marketing. The terms are very different, and different measures and skills need to be applied when working with the two. As a for instance, the largest difference in SEO and SEM is placement within the SERPs. SEO will return organic placements, in the center of the page only partially based on your content if it was deemed relevant to the search parameters. SEM on the other hand, will net you a place within the sponsored links area of the SERPs, where compelling ad copy can net customers. Different skills for different results.

Just as SEO and SEM differ, so does the practice of SEO, web design and web programming. Web designers who sell themselves as web programmers who can also list you page one for SEO, that’s an exceedingly wide range of skills. Often these skillsets can mesh and work well with one another, but just as the saying goes “jack of all trades, master of none” if you try and contract a do it all for your online branding, you’ll find your results lacking.

Web designers typically aren’t interested in what’s necessary for organic SEO to be most efficient, as it really has nothing to do with how aesthetically pleasing the page is. Web programmers conversely, are likely to use a lot of dynamic coding which doesn’t play well with organic SEO either. There is a middle ground, where an aesthetically pleasing website, can be active and interactic for your users. Ensuring you properly weigh out a budget for your web design, programming *and* SEO separately, is your first step to running your way up the SERPs.

The future of the Web – Facebook Style

Nov 19, 2010   //   by FreshTraffic   //   facebook, internet, internet news, internet strategy  //  176 Comments

Lots of news came out of the Web 2.0 summit, and there was an interview hosted by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle where they spoke with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. They touched on a number of subjects, ranging from the new Facebook Messages service, to privacy and on to opinions and thoughts of “what’s next?” for the web.

Zuckerberg said that initially the idea of Messages came to him when having a conversation with a high school student who lamented that email is “too slow”. Taking the idea to the drawing board, the development team decided that they could lose certain aspects which makes email a “slow” medium of conversation. Things like the subject line, multiple paragraph letters and formal signatures. Messages aims to streamline communications between instant messaging, SMS (simple messaging service) and email.

When Zuckerberg was asked about Facebook and some of the privacy concerns, as well as the seeming mantra of “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” he deflected the conversation within a sentance or two back to the Messages service. Mark made the point that even though Facebook allows the friendship relationship to share information across wide groups, he made the point that “I don’t know that we’re 100% right about it”. Also admitting that Facebook is often in the crosshairs of privacy watchdogs because “Facebook is at the forefront of the internet privacy issue, and are trying to come up with solutions” Getting everything right, everytime isn’t a possibility for any company on the web, but it’s perhaps the two values being pressed to development teams at Facebook that keeps it in the privacy limelight; move fast, and be bold. If an idea is fleshed out, take the chances and move fast on it and let it into the social world. Change is always scary, but it’s also the quickest and surest way to grow and adapt.

A rather pointed question about competition was directed about the ad network on Facebook, in the form of being socially driven. Zuckerberg somewhat deflected this question as well, stating that he’s not sure it’s the right direction right now, and that there’s still a lot of work left to do on the web. When it came to the user base of Facebook, the metric which was given was that “50% of user accounts on Facebook are active everyday” and in the next 5 years or so, we’re going to see the internet moving into a more socially interactive model. Seeing as how Facebook is *the* social place to be online right now, the question was asked if there will be other social graphs to make an appearance and gain importance. In answer, Zuckerberg showed that a few years ago, app developers wouldn’t have contributed to the web space mainly because the user base wasn’t centralized. Now that developers can safely assume that 60% of their userbase are Facebook users and are “socially enabled” it allows companies and businesses to develop apps and services that even just 2 years ago didn’t make sense. The expectation is there will be various social graphs online, and they will all be able to work together.

One of the better questions pose was in terms of with Facebook becoming such a giant in the social space, is Facebook aiming to be the prime destination online, or is Facebook wanting to be an enabler for the web. Unexpectedly in a sense, Mark made the admittance that Facebook will be more of an enabler of the web as we move forward. There was a graphic at the summit, outlining the web in different countries in a way. At the end of the interview Zuckerberg pointed out that the image should be changed. As the graphic detailed the internet and online industry in a “zero sum” fashion, as in no room to grow or change other than taking anothers place, the image should be comprised primarily of an undetermined space. It’s the skewed view of the media, and a great many industry analysts that the web is a defined space, that leads to the headlines of “Facebook declares war on Google” and so on.

It was a good interview to listen too, and Zuckerberg had some interesting points to share on the web industry as a whole. Have a watch for yourself and see.

Google gets closer

Google has rolled out another new feature to search, and this time they’re getting to your roots. Currently dubbed Place Search, the idea is that all of the local information of Google Maps and listings are being turned into a searchable interface.

Couple in Google Instant, and the search page changes to show you their prediction as to what you’re looking for. Restaurants, appliance sales and repair or what ever else might tickle your fancy, if it’s local, it will have a new search results page. What you’ll find when the page comes up is phone numbers, address, a brief description of the ad as well as reviews if you happen to make a choice and click on a link.

Jackie Bavaro – Place Search’s product manager:

“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go…”
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”

She added:

“In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”

Local search just took a huge leap for Google, in a way it’s their answer to FourSquare local reporting and listing power. If you’re not being found now on Place Search, it’s the next step in the powerful world of SEO, and there’s only two places in the race for the top. Page one, or page none. Where are you?

The New Social Search – BingBook?

There was the big conference today from Microsoft Bing and Facebook, and from the sounds of things they’re trying to give the world of search a stiff shake. The partnership idea that’s been rolled out (very small snippet) is when you search for an item or topic on Bing, your socially relevant searches would appear first. Your friends likes/dislikes on a subject or topic that you’ve plugged in. Some good questions have been asked from the conference, items of privacy of course what with Facebooks infamous history thus far, and of course someone asked about the money incentive (no answer on that last one). The far reaching goal is that your search is tailored exclusively for you. It’s personalization of the SERPs for *everyone* who uses Bing.

About the privacy factor, the social search angle is functioning like a module within Bing. A module, which can be turned off should you choose to shut it.

Zuckerberg stated : “We have this idea. 500 million people can look you up on Facebook. We think why shouldn’t applications be able to do this to?”

Because everyone is searchable on Facebook, set to private or not, the train of thought is to allow applications the same level of trust. Bascially you’re allowing Bing, to see all of your informationg you’ve made public on Facebook, and makes that information searchable to your friends list.

The social search angle isn’t meant to completely remove the traditional SERPs page you’re accustomed to seeing, it’s being added to help personalize your queries and provide you with unique results, relevant to you. It’s an updated twist on the personalized search results you start to see within Google for example, minus the cookie saving sessions. The negative side I personally see at this juncture, would be the fact that you need to Opt-out of the service should you choose not to use it. Some would think Facebook learned their opt-in, opt-out lessons by now. Only time now will be the determining factor on this new idea.

Does your website need an update?

Appearance, usage, accessibility and speed. Four qualities which should be incredibly important to any website owner and doubly so for users. If a site isn’t appealing to the eye, easy to use, have intuitive navigation and is slow to browse, it’s almost certain to be skipped over by users first and search engines later.

The qualitites came to mind over a conversation with a friend, they’d lamented that the coroporate side had changed the website and made it unfriendly to use. Previously their site was css based, very little code written on page, and had a good deal of content to be indexed relevant to their rather competitive niche. The new look and layout for their site, abandoned CSS in favor of Java, Ajax and active scroll over elements on the page.

The new site is visually more appealing than the old one, the effects that were added with all of the new coding however, was unecessary. Dropping indexable, search engine friend CSS for Java and Ajax was a half step backwards though in the search wars. While the coding offers a great deal of flexibility in what your website can look like and do, it’s basically entirely skipped over by search engines. The website in question has been running a brief survey on the new look and feel, and so far the consistent response has been that past consistent users, have begun to use other portals to meet their needs. Their new site, while more appealing to look at, was too slow, difficult to navigate and wasn’t easy to understand at all.

It’s a good example of the addage, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”

Clever Content Not Always Best

Content is an incredibly powerful optimization metric on your website. It’s your effective communication to the search engines of the value of your website. Stuffing your page full of pictures, and not describing them in any way is almost a guaranteed way to get yourself lost online with little to no viewers via search. Now the flip side is also true, you can’t cram a thousand lines of text on a page and expect to rank on page 1 for your niche without using a degree of care.

The simplest way to describe it, you want to sculpt the language on your site, to appeal not only to the search engines, but to your visitors; current, and future of course. No one knows your business like you do, but a key point you need to be aware of as a business owner, is that your clients don’t know your business like you do. So don’t clutter your text with technical terms, or vague descriptions around products or processes. Making the assumption that your customers and clients know you as well as you or your salesmen do, can be a detrimental step in the structure of your content.

The number one rule when it comes to content generation?

Keep
It
Simple
Silly

On the social front of your site or experience, there’s been a mashup of the trendiest, retweetable terms determined. It seems that while there’s no sure fire way to have your news or posts immediately rebroadcasted, there are ways to help increase your chances. The most popular terms for titles would have to be “How to”, “Increase”, and “Social Media”. In theory, a surefire way to have your post picked up and passed around would be to use that text as your title, and craft an article around it. Apparently however, “Trust”, “Talk” and “Sentiment” seem to be very undesireable text tweets. Food for thought.

The Process of Dispelling SEO Myths

Sep 17, 2010   //   by FreshTraffic   //   basic seo, Google, internet strategy, search engine optimization, search marketing  //  153 Comments

As with any industry, and any news source, there’s always a degree of fluff and grandeur applied to stories. It’s not different in the search world, although at times there are headlines which just strike as odd.

Take for instance the headline stating “Bing overtakes Yahoo for number 2 in search”. If you’re new to the game, that might seem like a pretty big deal, considering search engines generate cash in one way, by having users. If however, you haven’t had your head buried in sand for the last few months, you knew this was happening. Technically, Yahoo doesn’t exist as a search engine anymore, it’s just a name. Yahoo search is powered by Bing now, so the idea that Bing has overtaken them, isn’t entirely true; it’s more like they consumed them.

It follows the same line of surprise as when we have an inquiry call, and they utter a comment like “The last company I spoke to said they could have me on page 1 within a week”. It takes a minute to collect the thoughts, and re-itterate to them that SEO and SEM are not the same marketing strategies. They have some fundamental principles in common, how ever, they work differently. Driving a persons website to page 1 within a week is not SEO, if anything it’s SEM and AdWords promotion. Maybe if you owned the 1 website on the internet which serviced the niche market there’s a slim possibility it could happen. And by slim, I mean take the number of online pages in your niche (blogs, forums, picture repositories etc), double it at least, and that’s your chances of landing page 1 in a week. It’s almost always after saying something along the lines of “SEO isn’t the same as SEM” that callers make the statement “Oh, they never told me there was a difference” And that’s when the light is turned on, and the truth is realized, they’ve been sold snake oil.

The first right step was made, they called the experts. We’ll dispel the myths, we’ll uncover the truths, and we’ll tell you how it is. If we can help you, and you want our help, give us a call. If you’d rather continue on paying for AdWords campaigns, more power too you. Just remember, Google has shaken the search tree with adding Instant into the mix. Relevant, organic page 1 results are going to be returning as the creme de la creme of online marketing. This is only just the beginning.

Time to be Found – Google Instant

Sep 8, 2010   //   by FreshTraffic   //   algorithms, Google, internet marketing, internet news, internet strategy, online branding, online marketing, seo  //  19 Comments

So the big news so far this week would most definitely have to go to the newest change in Google search, Google Instant.

Google Instant is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.

In a nutshell, Google is completetly your searches for you as you type, so no need to hit that enter button. They broke down the search time in a basic format. It takes about 9 seconds to type a query, 1 second to return results, and on average, 15 seconds to select your best choice. The idea, is that Instant will reduce search times by as much as 5 seconds!

Unless your a professional racer of some sorts, 5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it can mean the difference between an ad impression, click through, or new visitor to your site. As a business owner, you need to decide and realize what your time, product and online presence are worth to you. Google Instant isn’t available widely, and can be shut off by users who dislike the service. But, what are you worth? Is your competitors site optimized better? Is your nearest rival perhaps in a better search position on the “normal” SERPs? With the looming introduction of permanent Instant, how much is your online brand worth to you? A difference of 5 seconds could mean the difference between a new contract, or being on the receiving end of a dusty unused website.