Let us partake in a litmus test, if you don’t know what that is here’s a very basic definition for you : A test that uses a single indicator to prompt a decision. So here’s the question to answer: Do you have a website for your business? If the answer is yes then the answer to this next question is yes as well; you need to have a solid SEO plan in place.
It’s not voodoo or black magic, it’s not about putting videos up on Youtube and tweeting to your Facebook fans (that’s social marketing and it works as well) SEO is about making the search engines love your website. SEO is about telling the world that “Yes I am the authority on <your niche> in <your location>. I can take care of all of your needs.”
Now here comes the tricky part, there are some simple things you’re going to need to come to grips with when it comes to search engine optimization. The number one point you need to realize is: SEO costs money. Who’d have thought that having someone go through your website, clean up it’s code, properly build it’s navigation and make it faster online would cost money! It’s like putting a new engine in your car, if you’re incapable of putting the hours and skills into doing the work yourself, you’re better off paying the professionals. Even those very simpe steps I mentioned can help to increase traffic and visitors to your website. Another extremely important point, arguably the most important, SEO is not an instant quick fix to your search rankings. It takes time to re-tune your website, update the content and clean the code. After all of that the spiders need to come and crawl your site and decide if it’s better than the last one you had and how you would stack up against your peers now. You could be re-indexed in a day, you could be re-indexed in 2 weeks. You may be on page 6 when you started your campaign and after first pass you’re up to page 3, while not the page 1 where all of the action is you’ve literally improved 100% from where you previously were. The most common metric we tell our clients new and old is, you’ll begin to see significant long lasting results in a 6 month plus time frame.
Enough of those two big scary ideas (money and time), lets talk more about what’s going to happen to your website once you’re up in the rankings. Sitting on page 1 enjoying all of the new visitors you’re receiving, you need to begin to take a good hard look at your home page. Traffic is useless without a conversion of some sort. Sign up for my newsletter, subscribe to our coupon book, buy our product. You need a call to action on your website where visitors arrive. Because if people show up to the party and there’s no party, then the visit was wasted.
To recap: SEO will cost you money and it will take time. Once your campaign is in full swing, breakdown your website and determine your call to action on your landing page. Because without these 3 key understandings, it doesn’t matter if you’re number 1 on the SERPs, or number 1000.
So in the world of search there’s a handful of true search engines, those little boxes of which you type in your current question or conundrum and off you go into the wild internet. We have Bing, which holds onto somewhere around 27% or so of the search market, Google who holds onto the lions share of search at just over 65%, and all those little crumbs in the bottom are search engines like Ask.com etc.
It’s not difficult to find press about how Bing is making massive inroads into Googles share of search, or how last year Bing grew by over 90%.. blah blah blah. When you boil the numbers all the way down however, all you’re really left with is Google and Bing, and the only way Bing is going to make positive growth in search is to take it from Google. So using misleading titles to the tune of Bing overtaking Google, or Bing Grows 90% over the year are nearly wholely misleading. Even with all of this “incredible growth”, with all of the addins and marketing strategies Microsoft throws at Bing they’re left with a fairly large problem. Despite owning more than 25% of the worlds search volume, Bing doesn’t make any money for Microsoft.
That may not seem like it makes any sense, but look at it from a different perspective, try and see it from the advertising angle of things. The sole product sold by search engines are the advertisements that appear on search pages, which are sold not for a set amount, but based on how many times customers click on an ad tied to the search phrase that brought the user to the page. And since Google has such a huge search market share, they’re rolling in cash right from the start because of their cost per click for their adword programs. Now the one biggest reason Bing doesn’t make money, isn’t because they have a smaller search share than Google alone, as it turns out, the cost per click tied to their advertising model is as much as 1/5 the cost of Googles cost. As bad as that may sound as a revenue model, it actually gets a little worse for the Bing machine. Less CPC looks great on the surface, but as an advertiser it brings up the issue of what is driving that low cost. Bing has less traffic than Google at the outset, the CPC to serve the same ad on Bing is cheaper than Google and in the end it translates into less ad impressions on the Microsoft search engine.
So the question in the end really, is there ever really going to be a solid competitor to the Google machine? If a multi-billion dollar a year company can’t even step into the same arena as the giant and succeed, who truly can? I say bring them all on, competition is what made the web what it is today, more will only make it better.
Unless you’re a member of the tinfoil hat group, you’ve undoubtedly used the internet and a search engine at some point in the last few days. You may have used Bing, maybe Google, but you had that need for information. Irregardless of which search engine you decided to partake in, you made your choices based on what you learned. But if you’ve ever been curious, ever taken the time, the results from Bing and Google can sometimes completely differ for the exact same search.
Effective searching is, strangely enough, a skill that everyone who is online should have, yet few do. It’s actually difficult sometimes to explain to clients, both existing and prospective, that the more complicated you make search in your head, the more frustrating your SEO campaign will be to you. The first problem as a business and website owner that you need to overcome, is the idea that when people search for you online, they use niche or specialized terms as they work. Unfortunately however, this is where things begin to go over the top in complication. If you own a website and business which fixes vacuums, then it’s in your best interest to optimize and build your site around that theme. The wrong approach to take would be to try and optimize your site around all of the different brands you deal with, instead of using an all encompassing term.
Different search engines display their results differently as well, and you’ll show up for different terms in them. Some of the points which will influence where, when and how you appear are things like your content, your url structure can even influence your positioning some what as can the lack of content. There’s no such thing as too much content, provided of course it’s relevant to your business and website. Keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and before you know it you’ll be showing up in the SERPs for all sorts of terms and phrases relevant to your business.
There has been a fair amount of chatter lately about the possiblity of the bear being let loose in the wild. The bear in this scenario, while invoking a cute and cuddly image, has been anything but to some webmasters out there. I’m referring to the Panda update which was primarily implemented earlier this year in February, which in the last few days speculation has arised it’s currently loose. Google of course is tight lipped about it’s algorithm and of their method of being deployed, this all together just leads to more specualtion and hyperbole.
One of the stranger aspects of the search game and the internet in general, it seems that people forget the internet is always changing. It’s not shifting a little, it doesn’t even shift somewhat throughout the week. It’s constantly shifting, pages being created, websites being launched and search, shopping and social algorithms are continually being tweaked and modified. And because these algorithms are always changing, always moving, so do the indexes. Shopping, social, search, none of the indexes you search for and look at today, even somewhat resemble what you would have found even a few months ago.
Is Google+ a contender, or is it merely a flash in the pan like Wave and Buzz were? If the recent trends where the beta testing of Google+ are the be taken seriously, then Google’s iteration of the social network is most definitely a contender. Even Mark Zuckerberg seems to be taking the upstart seriously as he’s recently reactivated his Plus account and has been spending some time using the network. It’s most definately a good idea and competition of course breeds innovation. Only good things can really come from the continued growth of Google+.
Saying that the social network being offered by Google is a contender in the social space, really isn’t as massive a deal as at first glance. Calling Google+ a contender in social is much the same as calling Bing a contender in the search game. Bing is holding onto a solid 1/3 of search volume occuring online, and if you use the same percentages for argument sakes, that would give Google+ a strong membership somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million members. Definitely a contender, have you tried Google+?
There’s rumor of another Panda update on the way, so it might be a good time for all web designers and programmers to do an in depth web site audit. The purpose: to identify and rectify and potential problems which may conflict with the coming update.
The previous Panda applications to the search index have mad a couple of general changes to the way the algorithm works. One factor which has gotten the axe is the Google index has become more stringent with the presence of scraped content. This hit the content farms the hardest initially, but it also managed to scoop up a number of innocent site owners in a round about way. The scneario played out as: web site owner publishes unique content, relevant to their niche. Keyword rich, interesting and informative it quickly begins to climb the search rankings in it’s niche. Along comes a scraper or aggregator from a major mashing site. Suddenly, you realize your original content has been dropped and the aggregator has essentially taken your place. It’s a scenario which has bitten creative owners in the backside for a long time but became a pronounced issue with the introduction of the Panda update. Legitimate creators were being bounced from the index along with the scrapers in a wide reaching effort to reduce web spam. It opened the doors to a long and arduous process to have your website and it’s content reconsidered for inclusion to the index.
Another variable which Panda introduced also ties in the first, the variable began to affect affiliate ecommerce websites. What had happened was, all of the affiliates had been given permission to use the same content as the original seller, and in doing so basically signed their own warrant for the Panda bot. The same net effect as previously discussed, legitimate business owners were finding they were being removed from the index where previously they had been able to make a comfortable living.
In the end when you’re in preparation for the upcoming Panda update, be sure to take a good, hard look at your content. Do your diligence and take every step to make sure your content is as unique, informative and informational as possible for your market to limit any accidental removals from the index. By not doing your homework, the only one to blame in the end is yourself.
Of all of the pieces of your website that needs to be impeccably clear, a call to action is arguably one of the most important. Bringing visitors to your website is irrelevant if you give them no instructions once they get there. Whether it’s as simple as signing up for a monthly newsletter, or as in depth as making a secure online purchase, the only way a visitor will know what you want them to do is if you tell them.
The application of a clear call to action can be done in a number of ways. different colored text, bold and clearly stated so nothing can be mistaken. Using graphics such as animated or flashing buttons is mostly frowned upon, but a static button which stands out from the background is entirely acceptable. It’s been found however, that using terms like ‘click here’, ‘submit’, and ‘go’ can be one of the absolute worst phrases you can use.
If you’re using the graphical approach to initiating a call to action, some of the same basic rules to website construction apply. Building the button in an elegant way which accents the website is strongly advisable as opposed to the garish flashing gif or flashing button. As for the text or message to be delivered, keeping it simple and to the point is the best idea. Using clear terms like ‘Download our annual report’ as the text of your graphic is a stronger and clearer statement than the ubiquitous ‘Click here!’.
So as a rule, when you’re auditing your own website you need to be certain you have a clear and visible call to action. If you’ve found that your bounce rate has been increasing, and overall your traffic is down, a quick rundown of your home page is definitely in order. It would be a shame to lose valuable traffic and customers because you don’t have a purpose for your visitors.
When you logon to your computer, fire up your browser and start your internet trek for knowledge, entertainment or what ever it is that has your mind occupied, are you going to be able to find your answer? It’s a question which has been gaining more and more traction in the last year or so, and DuckDuckGo, a new start up search engine has been shaking the search cage in an effort to forge it’s own path.
Recently they have put up a page detailing how when you perform a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo, you’re not getting a true results page. The screen shot of the search results clearly shows that different people will receive different results searching for ‘Egypt’ as a search term. Without reading the link text, it’s clear that the results pages are vastly different. But why are they different comes down to dozens, if not hundreds of different reasons. It can be as simple as your location in the country, the time of day or the trend in the news lately. The short pictorial provided on the DuckDuckGo page details essentially how search engines, Facebook, Twitter etc are all delivering pre-packaged results based on your web usage and they also contend that this shouldn’t be happening.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine which doesn’t save your search results, doesn’t pass your search terms onto referred websites, has a nifty red box they call zero click info (handled by Wolfram Alpha) which appears on some searches and after all that, is throwing their hat into the search engine ring. Being a new player at an old game is a tough market to break into, and DuckDuckGo is performing search in a way that is attempting to deliver a filtered *and* unfiltered internet. It’s a noble idea and does have some merit if you’d like to perform somewhat private searches on sensitive matters it may be an alternative for you. Google Chrome and Internet Explorer however both offer a cookieless browser which accomplishes the same result so you don’t really have to give up the engine you know and are familiar with.
The only real way to test if you genuinely live in a “search bubble” is to perform the same search, with 0 clicks on multiple computers. If you begin seeing that your results are significantly different than other peoples then perhaps you have a case. Personally after viewing the screenshots, when you look closely at the how many pages were fetched for each search term, there are tens of millions of pages of difference, so of course the results are going to be different. Part of Google, Bing and Yahoo’s success comes from the fact that they pass some search data to the referred website in the form of the search term, it’s what enabled the search engines to build their ad programs for web users. There are dozens of different variables when you receive your search results after you click that search button and even a simple variable like which data center sends you your results influences your page. If it happens to be running with an index which is a few hours older than others, you can very easily get different results when performing the same search multiple times.
There’s a new Google search results page being tested out in the wilds of the internet. Varying reports have been given at present, but there seems to be a central theme to the different layouts discussed. The most consistent trend that is being reported in the new pages is.. more white space in the results.
It doesn’t sound like a search game changing shift, but in reality it very much is. There are millions of people using the internet every day do a myriad of things. Searching, playing games, writing stories and blogs or researching who knows what. Almost all users use a 17 inch monitor or larger and the resolution to match. As strange as it may seem, monitor size and resolution also play into the new search results page and how it may affect your search ranking.
Simply defined, white space is literally just the amount of blank space between elements on a web page. By adding more white space to the search results pages, Google has effectively lengthened the page, meaning to get to number 10 of the top 10 results, you have to scroll down on the page. Just as in the real world, location is everything when it comes to search results. If you’re not in the top 10, you’re not betting the views you need to be competitive as a very high percentage of search users don’t click on page 2 let alone page 5 of their search results. It’s been seen in demographics as well, most users don’t even scroll down to the bottom of the top 10 of their searches!
At present most users see the top 5 or 6 on their search results page. If Google were to decide to go live with this change of adding more white space, you would only see the top 4, or 3 even depending on your monitor and resolution. If you were happy and content seeing that you were sitting at number 5 or 6 in your niche, it may be time to take a long hard look at your current site to see if you can kick start some forward gains. The top 3 when it comes to being found is becoming more and more important.
When you’ve decided you need to give your website a facelift, whether it’s dated images or content or perhaps to remove flash or java elements, you may find that you’re in a pool of options much deeper than you bargained for. Joomla, Drupal, PHP, ASP, there are easily a hundred different types of content management systems you can make use of. Personally as an SEO I prefer working with HTML and CSS as it’s elegant in it’s simplicity.
Why a content management system? Because it’s easier for the end user after the site is completely built. It allows the owner of the site to be able to login to the site, to make any changes or additions that they may deem necessary, it allows the designer to create a site to your specs and leave it with you to manage in the end. This is a great idea from a designers view as maintenance and upkeep are out of their hands. As a user however, if you’re not mindful of the content you add and change, you could accidentally find yourself kicked out of the SERPs. The safest way to ensure that all of the rules and guidelines are being followed is to be in league with a search engine optimization expert. Someone who you can contact and who can direct your online efforts to better position yourself on the organic search listings.
What type of website you have built, also determines the level of difficulty your SEO will be confronted with online. There are nuances and intricacies which exist in code which can go so far as having as simple a mistake as an extra space in the page completely takes your site down. It’s of importance when you’re contracting someone to perform your SEO, that they know your CMS and are comfortable in using it.
There needs to be some distiction made about those who are truly search engine optimization experts and web designers. Web designers selling themselves as SEO experts aren’t going to do you the services you may need or require to get the results you desire. Purely SEO companies will most likely not be able to design and build you the website look you desire for your brand. Just like you wouldn’t hire a plumber to build your house, you don’t hire a web designer to perform your SEO.
Search Engine Optimization, we’re in the business of driving your website to the top of the search results relevant to your industry. A lot of the time, it sounds too good to be true, that when reaching this position you can literally count yourself as a leader. So you sit back, relax and watch as the visitors pour in. And then you start to notice something you didn’t prepare yourself for, your visitors start dropping off.
Where you once were receiving hundreds of qualified visitors to your site, you’ve watched it drop off to a trickle of where you were at your peak. So what happened? Did your SEO expert fail you? Possibly, we do make mistakes from time to time. But the first rule of SEO is KISS it; Keep It Simple Stupid. With that in mind, grab your pencils and paper and let’s take a look at what are the contributing factors to dropped traffic.
First and foremost, check your content. Have you been creating fresh and compelling content for your site? Have you allowed your SEO to read it before you upload it to your site or did you just toss up what ever jargon you happened to jot down in a hurry? The search engines have always proclaimed that content is king and when your content doesn’t measure up anymore, you’re going to lose your crown. That means when you’re being creative, you need to bear in mind your visitor base. Do they understand industry terms? Or do you need to use generic terms. Will they be able to handle acronyms and specific statements about your products and services? Being hasty in the creation process can be a huge contributor to losing traffic to your site. Properly spelled, grammatically correct and most of all relevant to your site content, can drive you to the top of the mountain and keep you there like an anchor.
Another avenue to explore for you, have you done any massive changes to your website either functionality or design? If you’ve changed the way your navigation works on your site and didn’t properly relay that information to the search engines, you’ll likely slip off of search until the spiders find all of your content again.
Have you kept an open and consistent dialogue with your SEO expert? When a change is requested that needs to be completed, you need to bear in mind that the internet doesn’t stop. It doesn’t sleep, rest, eat or use the washroom. The bots are always out there, always searching, parsing and indexing. A requested change needs to happen as soon as possible. Lost time when making changes can make a huge impact on your search position.
The marketing game has changed significantly in the last 10 years with the growth of the search engines. Gone are the days of dumping a quarter of a million dollars into an ad campaign and waiting for the kick back from it. International marketing superstardom can be had with a well coded website with strong quality content created by one person sitting behind a keyboard.