I had an odd occurence recently in terms of how search is evolving and it involved a rogue browser extension. It’s mildly annoying when you have a toolbar become installed in your browser of choice, but it’s frustrating when it’s installed without your expressed knowledge, say by having the install clause buried in a EULA for another program.
The rogue extension in question was Surf Canyon, a real time search reorganizer would be the short description. With the internet being comprised of literally trillions of web pages, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are the big hitters in locating what you need online. They all offer their own pros and cons, Google is the weapon of choice for the majority of searchers out there for the past 10+ years.
Real time search results have become a challenge for all of the search players, with everyone working to get a solid solution to serving up relevant results which compliment the current organic offerings. The idea behind Surf Canyon extension is that it personalizes the web for you as you search. A fine enough idea, what was actually noticed however was the extension has somewhat a mind of it’s own.
Toolbars are a nuisance in a browser, fake links on webpages are a pain as you don’t really know what’s real and what isn’t without clicking. But a browser extension which supplants false links into webpages which you know have no outgoing links? That’s poor business practice and sketchy access to a computer and browser history.
Is Bing more biased than Google when it comes to the results pages? In research that has been gaining traction as of late, the answer seems to be yes. It wasn’t a directed study on a few select terms either, it was a large random sampling of the SERPs conducted by a professor at George Mason University.
What he found in the tests that he conducted was that for the most part, Bing will favor Microsoft content more often and more prominently, than Google favors its own content. According to the findings, Google references its own content in its first results position in just 6.7% of queries, while Bing provides search result links to Microsoft content more than twice as often (14.3%). The percentages may seem small, but when you consider there are billions of searches performed daily, suddenly 14% isn’t such a small number.
The findings also cast a different light on the recent FTC antitrust complaints which Google has been handling surrounding anti-competitive behaviour. It’s also a stark contrast to a similar study done earlier in the year, which concluded that “Google intentionally places its results first.” So now as a user with two completely different data points, which is the set to believe?
Well the second study which has been conducted had two goals in mind : To replicate the findings of the first study and to also expand on the methods used to determine if it was perhaps an issue in how the results came about. From the very beginning, it was found that while Google does favor its own content at some points, the selection of terms is exceedingly small. What was also learned and wasn’t mentioned in the first study, Bing does precisely the same in preferring Microsoft results, but for a much wider range of terms than Google does and is much more likely to do so. “For example, in our replication of Edelman & Lockwood, Google refers to its own content in its first page of results when its rivals do not for only 7.9% of the queries, whereas Bing does so nearly twice as often (13.2%)”
As for the second part of the study, the study used a much larger, more random sampling of search queries as opposed to the only 32 samples that the first study used to portray Google as the big bad guy of search. And the findings of the second study were related in the beginning of the post; Google references own content in its first results position when no other engine does in just 6.7% of queries, while Bing does so over twice as often (14.3%).
So, what does this mean as an end user?: Google (and Bing, though less so) really are trying to deliver the best results possible, regardless of whether they come from their own services (local search, product search, etc) or not. It all comes down to preference.
There are many steps which are part of a successful organic SEO campaign. There’s all of the little steps like writing good content, making sure you have the titles and meta tags in place and having a menu which is comprehensive. When you’re finished with the good practices pages, you begin to read about one of the time intensive steps of the campaign, link building.
Since Panda has reared it’s head over the last year or so, there’s been chatter about how the SEO game has fundamentally changed. That scrapers and content aggregators, the black hatters and the link buyers would just disappear and we’d have pristine, precise results. Time has started play it’s part and while the scrapers, aggregators, black hatters and link buyers have mostly been swept away, there has recently been a new call to revamp the way the system has been working. The desire to change the link building metric portion of the search game sometimes comes up in discussion as the points for and against the practice are argued. When you break it all down to the basic points, primarily every search engine will tell you the same thing: content is king. If you produce quality, relevant content, you will rank in the SERPs.
The kicker about producing this kind of content however, is you will naturally receive back links to your site and it’s pages. When you’re a new site and you need to visit and email possible consumers and possible partners in the same niches, building those back links takes time. But they will be built, they will be taken as a metric by the search engines and until an algorithm can come along which can read and evaluate content as a user would, link building will be relevant. It will be an important portion of any and every organic SEO campaign no matter how big or how small. The success of your link building campaign can be directly tied to how much work you’re willing to put into contacting those who are in an industry which compliments your own.
It’s reassuring, that even though some businesses out there are slow to improve their websites or their online marketing toolset, the trend is slowly but surely shifting. While still only a fraction of the marketing dollars spent out there, the numbers are showing that around 17% of most businesses marketing budgests are being spent on online marketing. Any positive growth is good for everyone involved.
A great graphic depicting some of these changes has been put together, which outlines some of the changes coming about in the marketing world. In the US, 70% of the businesses out there have indicated that they will be increasing spending on social media advertising (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and 64% also chimed in to add their budget is increasing for SEO as well. With consumers spending more and more time searching online for their next purchase, it’s much more advantageous to get into the game now, as opposed to later. The longer you wait, the greater your costs are going to be. Surprisingly however, it came back that 17% of businesses out there planned on increasing their marketing budgets on print media, which is much like buying stock in Yahoo these days. I kid, I kid, all jokes aside however, almost anyone out there who has a job has access to the internet. It should be no surprise that on average people spend 3+ hours browsing the internet. 84% of people who use the internet, spend their time searching for information on what has caught their interest, there are billions of searches per day.
There’s a great deal more information which can be gleaned from the stats, have a look and take a moment to conisder your marketing plans. Are you on the side of innovation and forward thinking? Or trying to cling to an outdated, unmeasurable stand by. Just remember that the longer you wait, the more difficult the game becomes.
So remember a little while back when Google decided to try the whole social thing and launched Buzz? And it cost them a few million because they “oops forgot privacy”? Well the FTC has finally decided how to handle the giant and it will throw a bone at the privacy concerned members of the public to boot.
For the next 20 years, Google will be subject to privacy monitoring from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. By using what are being called “deceptive practices”, the FTC will babysit the search giant thanks to its now dead Google Buzz social networking service. The investigation into Google’s privacy practices began after users complained that their Gmail contacts were made public, and that the steps to protect their privacy weren’t clear or effective.
When the service launched, Gmail users were given the option to participate in Buzz, but what Google failed to mention was that the people they email most often would be listed publicly. Those users that declined to participate were also automatically enrolled into at least some of the Buzz features without their consent, according to the FTC investigation.
“In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors,” the agency said. “The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.”
The FTC also added that Google had misled the public in regards to its privacy policies, and misrepresented its compliance with U.S. and E.U. Safe Harbor “or other privacy, security, or compliance programs.” So for the next 20 years Google is going to have a monkey on it’s back with the FTC being able to watch their every social change and if the search giant isn’t careful, may find itself back in hot water.
It’s been just around a month now that Google+ became open for business, and Google remains undaunted in its effort to go toe-to-toe with Facebook.
Vic Gundotra, vice president in charge of Google+ said, “We are in an enviable position that we have people who come to Google, we are in this for the long haul… By Christmas you will see Google+ strategy coming together.”
Google+ has attracted more than 40 million users since it opened to the public , but has a long way to catch up with Facebook’s membership of approximately 800 million.
Google is looking at tying all of their current Apps and extensions into Google+ accounts, the goal being able to synch the whole mess together with Docs, Youtube etc. Eventually, Google aims to open the platform to outside developers to make games and other kinds of installable “apps” that have been part of Facebook’s success.
Google is moving slowly and cautiously to make sure its social network is a safe, stable haven for families, friends, and other associates who connect with one another in “circles” created at the service.
Gundotra acknowledged that Facebook has the advantage of a “network affect,” in that complex webs of friends are established there and people might find it daunting to up and relocate to Google+.
“The incumbent (Facebook) has a huge advantage, if you play the same game, you are not going to win… So we are going to do it differently.”
One of the larger contrasts between the two networks, Google+ offers much more discretion on what you share, with whom.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out your mouth… We think a core attribute to being human is to curate.”
Google+ launched with a requirement that people use their real names online in order to let others find them more easily, but they are aiming to eventually allow people to use pseudonyms on your account as opposed to your real name. It’s been a thorn in the fledgling social network since early in it’s beta incarnation.
“We wanted this to be a product where you can discover people you know,” Gundotra said. “You don’t know ‘Captain Crunch’ or ‘Dog Fart’.”
Based on the rest of the discussion from the conference, it’s looking like Google can’t wait for Christmas to get here.
An issue that some small business owners who try and handle all aspects of their marketing campaigns encounter, is time. Especially when it comes to the online marketing aspect of the business, being able to consistently put time and effort into your website is a crucial element.
There are a number of small business owners out there who are self-made, done it all on their own types so it’s only logical (in their mind) that they can handle all of their site maintenance as well. What’s quickly and unfortunately learned, is slapping quick fixes and changes which you may read in a forum or blog can be a hindrance to your online marketing efforts.
Another common misconception surrounding the online advertising industry is it’s a one shot done deal. The truth of the online world is completely different however, as it never sleeps, stops or even slows down. When you’ve broken down your site and completed all of the changes and updates to your content to help your positioning, no sooner have you finished than you need to start all over again with your competitors.
So when you realize, as a business owner, that you don’t have the time, the knowledge or the expertise to help your business rank at the top of the SERPs, it’s time to call in the experts. The most dangerous thing you can do to your website is trying to interpret search signals and make changes to your site based on speculation in a forum or a blog. Information taken out of context can bury your site if you’re not careful.
There aren’t any magic tricks you can do to make your site rise in the search rankings. You could spend the rest of your life reading detailed guides to SEO and meticulously cramming keywords into every possible tag on your website. But for companies with limited resources, it’s critical to focus on the SEO strategies that yield the best results.
For those with absolutely no resources to build and develop a website, WordPress offers you a great option. The use is free, learning to develop the software and build a website only takes a week, maybe two weeks at the most. And with a host of plugins available to help with optimization, WordPress has made the basics as simple as they could have.
You can use Google to tell you what people are searching for. Load up Google and start searching what you *think* is relevant to your business niche. Do you come up in search? If not, visit the top 10 websites as they’ve been deemed more relevant than your own site. You won’t be able to discern 100% of a companies SEO campaign by visiting their website, but you may be able to pinpoint why they’re placed higher than you are.
Keywords are the bread and butter of search, the search indexes out there are founded on them. However, shorter keywords are significantly more competitive than, what you’ll find referred to as, long tail keywords. Using long tail searches like search engine optimization in winnipeg is often a simpler approach into a market as opposed to trying to balance a site around a more competitive keyword like seo, or seo winnipeg.
If all you have is time to invest into performing optimization on your businesses website, I’m sorry to say you’re likely not going to rank in the top 5 for your niche business model. However, that does not mean that you should just give up or ignore the best practices and basics of optimization. Create a solid website, fill it with quality content and promote yourself to your clients. In time, you absolutely carve out your own little corner of the web.
There are a lot of tips out there online about search engine optimization and the methods you can put to use to rank higher in the Google/Bing/Yahoo SERPs. You can find some of the same type of posts on our blog here as well. You’ll find discussion of white hat techniques, black hat techniques, the common steps known as well as some of the not so obvious ones.
What you don’t find very often however, are posts about what not to do, or what to look out for when you’re looking at contracting a company to perform SEO on your website. While the search engines are somewhat flexible in what you’re allowed to do, there are most definately some tricks which can get you black marked, all the way to completely kicked from the SERPs.
So, when you’re looking for a company to perform optimization on your site, keep your ears open for any of the below terms. If there is mention of using any of these practices, it’s time to run for the hills.
Using Cloaked content
This is one of the most common, and most likely to get your company banned, practices out there. For the most part, when you create content for your site you’re telling the search engines what your site is for. Google/Bing/Yahoo then lists the website under the titles and keywords that is found in that content. Cloaking content is when a company shows Google content, and then shows viewers different content such as ads or links to malware infected sites. This is what is cloaking and will get a site removed from Google in very short order.
A lot of blogs talk about how the meta data for keywords and description are defunct, but Google often looks to these as indicators of keywords that make up a site. For example a site about water softeners will often contain content relevant to that industry. Some companies, however, try to gain new content by what is known as “keyword stuffing”. Mainly this involves hiding keywords with single pixel sized font or camouflaging text the same as the background color to try and get listed more often, for more terms. It may seem to work short term, but it will get a site removed from the SERPs.
Duplicate content Websites
Some novice SEOs and SEO companies try to increase rankings by putting the exact same content on different pages on multiple sites. Typically they also use a scraper tool to gather quality content from websites for their own. Search engines have gotten adept at catching this and will happily penalize, a website that has too much duplicate content.
Auto Generating Content
Another poor technique is to use a program to write content for your website. This is exactly as it sounds, taking one article and then having a program rewrite the article by changing a few sentences and keywords over and over again.
Those are only a few of the terms you need to be aware of when speaking with an SEO company. Absolutely stressing the point that if any of the above techniques are mentioned as a tool they use, avoid them at all costs. There is no shortcut to success in online marketing, real SEO takes time and the more time and effort you can put into it, the bigger return on investment you can expect.
When Fresh first came to Winnipeg, to say there was some resistance to the notion of online marketing and branding would be putting it mildly. Responses to the idea that business and the world were going online and digital ranged from the “convince me first” crowd to the flat out “not happening I don’t need it” group. It seemed that the larger the company we approached, the more resistance was met. The majority of our clients a few years ago weren’t even in Canada, let alone Winnipeg.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.” But nobody ever thinks they’re stupid, right? You certainly can’t come right out and say as much to them. So, how can we identify and combat stupidity? Aggressive stupidity goes by another name at many organizations these days … management.
That’s not meant to be a kick in the teeth to all business owners, but if the door to real innovation, to real growth as a company is perpetually closed, then if the shoe fits. It’s rather difficult to hold a straight face when the manager of a company can tell you in a meeting they can’t afford to market or update their website, when they’ve said in the same meeting they’re spending upwards of $3000 on a single advertisement in a newspaper. Or on a block of mid-day radio spots, or a 20 second television commercial which only comes on after midnight. Marketing and advertising priorities need to change, Winnipeg business owners need to get with the times.
In the end, though, whether or not you’re successful boils down to how hard you work.. and a little bit of luck. But Thomas Jefferson had it absolutely correct when he said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”