There are risks and rewards to be found for your business in any advertising avenue, when you get to the bottom line you need to weigh the costs versus the return on the investment. And while some of the oldest marketing tricks in the book still work, like television, radio and newspaper. The simple truth is, less and less people are buy newspapers, watching television or listening to the radio.
Consumers are beginning to PVR their favorite shows, skipping the commercials and spending their time watching the content they want to see. Newspapers, once one of the largest staples of information, readership has been steadily dropping as more and more people get their news from an online source whether it’s via their computer or even a smart phone. Radio is starting to show some declines as commuters plug in their portable music devices and tune into their own music libraries. Online advertising is still in its infancy here in Canada especially and it’s painful to see when businesses and organisations just flat out refuse to listen to the evolving market.
Here in however, also lies a problem in and of itself. When you’re making that step online, who do you turn to for help? There’s no SEO club, there’s no secondary education available in a formal schooling to teach people how to effectively code online for optimization. We don’t carry cards, we don’t have a monthly news letter and we most certainly do not all fit into the same basket. So what is there you can do to ensure that the “expert” that you’ve hired is the real deal?
You can start at the beginning, asking for such things as previous clients and how their rankings were affected. You can search for their website using keywords you would expect them to be optimized for. Touting themselves as a PPC expert? Google them. Search for them on Bing, Google, Yahoo, pick your engine and scour away. If you’ve found that you’ve hired someone selling themselves as an expert and all they do is build you a Facebook account and a Twitter account, then don’t worry you still have time to get into the game. But don’t be fooled, your competitors are playing the same game as you, and if they started before you, they have the lead however temporary. To catch up, you’ll need to play harder, faster and better than everyone else.
There’s a million and one ways to make yourself found online, local, mobile, social, organic, ppc and within each of these there are countless other methods to work on. Let’s start with the assumption that you’ve followed all of the best practices when it comes to building your website.
You’ve used CSS and XML to create a uniform and attractive look. Used even simple things such as a doctype to tell your browser what it is that it’s reading. Creative, compelling content with a strong call to action which drives your visitors to buy your product, sign up for your news letter or forum and continue visiting your pages. Your images are tagged, your categories are tagged, you’ve worked hard at being the best in your niche market and are steadily enjoying the growing fruits of your labor. And then you learn, there is more which you can do to increase your traffic flow, visibility and as a result, improve your bottom line.
There’s always more which can be done in marketing yourself online, more steps which you can take to become more visible. That step you’ve taken to tag all of your images on your website properly? Congratulations, by taking a very simple step you’ve helped increase your visibility in the image searchs in both Bing and Google. With properly tagged and titled images, it helps your customers reach your site when you have clear pictures for your product to be seen.
Another strong step is issuing news about your company consistently. Whether you’ve closed that massive new merger which will allow you to double production or support, or even if all you’ve done is decided to hold a spring cleaning sale. It’s important to remain active in the eyes of your customer. This is where a blog is an amazing tool for your business, both small and large. It’s an ideal space for all of the aforementioned releases, as well as a location for your clients and customers to reply to your posts and even suggest improvements if some are needed in their eyes.
If you’ve cornered your niche market, and created your very own brand image offline, it’s extremely important to continue that leverage online. As an example, it wouldn’t do Pepsi or Coca-Cola any good to have direct queries for their brand name, direct users to competitors websites. It’s lost revenue and a lost avenue for income.
And if you provide a product or a service which has many steps or intricacies, it only helps your case to develop your very own how to pages on your website. If you provide a specific style of door knocker as an example, providing clear and concise directions on your website on how to install and care for your product can help instantly transform a curious searcher, into a new customer.
Just to set a few points straight, I’m going to talk about the very basic steps to getting your web presence up and running. Because as it stands, there’s always a schiester out there, who likes to sell themselves as an expert in website design, optimization and who knows what else.
Since we’re working with the premise that you already own a business, you need to see if the domain name you’re interested in is available for purchase. So for example, your business sells personalized bath towels and robes. Now when you’re trying to decide what your domain name should be, using personalizedbathaccessories.com isn’t necessarily the best idea. Sure it has your most relevant keyword as your url, but that really doesn’t make as major a difference as some would make you believe. Just in the interest of relative ease, we’ll use the domain name of bathwear.ca for the example, url is not the holy grail of search. Step 1 is in control, congratulations!
Step 2, you need to decide on a host for your website. Things can get really crazy in this aspect, bandwidth usage, email usage, users allowed on the site, so on and so forth. When it comes to your host, you’re most interested in server uptime. It doesn’t matter if it only cost you $5 a month to host your site if it’s offline for 30% of the time. That’s 30% less time you have to be making sales online! You get what you pay for, so if your hosting plan for 99.99% uptime is $45 a month, bite the bullet and go with quality. You definitely get what you pay for, and if you’re curious about the reliability of a host, a quick perusal of their support boards is a good gauge of their quality of service.
Step 3 is where the magic begins, you’ll begin to build your website! There are dozens of different programming languages out there, but the tried and true HTML coding with some CSS magic for aesthetics can do an amazing job of a website. Additionally, it’s exceptionally easy to find even free templates with which to work from. If you visit a developer and they tell you it’s going to cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars to develop your basic website for your business, then it’s in your best interest to ask for some examples of their work. Another point to consider, how did you find the developers website to navigate? It’s often a reflection of their devotion and competance in their field of work.
Once you’ve gotten your website built, uploaded it to your host and assigned your DNS properly, you’re good to start spreading the word that you have yourself a website. There’s always the path of using existing media, television, radio and newspaper, or you could opt for a much more results oriented and trackable search engine marketing and search engine optimization. As a new website, just making it’s way online if you’re looking for fast “rankings” AdWords is the way to go. It can help draw attention to your fledgling site as you begin the much more intensive organic listings work with SEO. If you haven’t been caught by the snake oil salesmen yet, this is your last hurdle in their maze. SEO and SEM, while time consuming are both extremely measurable metrics tied to their investment. If you have an SEO for example tell you they’ll work for only $200 a month, you might think that’s a great savings, but that would be like going to the school carwash to detail your new Porsche. You absolutely positively get what you pay for when it comes to a search engine optimization company, and the number one way to find the big fish in the pond?
Search for them.
There we go, not so hard is it?
Since Mr.Page has taken hold of the reins of the Google ship, he’s made some clear moves to date. Appointing 7 executives who he can deal with directly in order to steamline any changes in their products, and to serve up a Google wide memo to prove just how serious they are about getting social.
Pages memo is quoted as: “strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products. If we’re successful, your bonus could be up to 25% bigger. If not, your bonus could be up to 25% less than target.”
So it’s time to take that 20% free initiative time and develop the next social step stone at the Google Plex. It’s interesting, and a little scary to see Page directing so much development power towards a single goal with the Google engineers, it’s going to be an interesting year in the social market I’d bet.
And as if not to play any favorites, the Department of Justice has decided that yes Google can have ITA, but we get to watch what you do with it. Oh and also, you need to share it with everyone. And development? You can’t put anymore money into it than ITA already has.
Those may come across as negative points, but on the whole they’ll help foster a more powerful travel search feature across multiple platforms. Everyone is a winner, Google gets what they want, and the travel industry gets to share on the level of innovation that is developed from becoming part of the Google machine.
If you think of the internet as the wild west, then it’s safe to make the correlation of there being good guys, bad guys and everyone else.
Using this basis of comparison, who fits into what category is a completely arbitrary decision that changes between people and organizations. The search engines for example, Bing, Google, Yahoo etc, are they the good guys because of the services they provide? Or are they the bad guys because they can provide you with a basicly clear window to the internet? What about the RIAA, FCC and those of the same ilk. Are they good or bad because they want to be able to monitor online content, filter it according to rights and punish all who may dare to break their rules.
It’s a new age of content creation, distribution and monitoring, so I find it a little strange that the policy makers are pointing fingers at the big guy, Google. Their claim as a part of the proposed Web Censoship bill, is that Google (in a nutshell) is responsible for policing the internet and what their searches turn up. A spokesman for Google, Kent Walker was plain in his answer in saying that if this bill were to pass, then private companies will have a tremendous amount of power over Google and it’s behaviour. He also pointed out that there are flaws in any system, and that the bad eggs are out there specifically working on gaming the system and that just because a website has a link to content which may not be hosted by them, they shouldn’t be punished.
Because let’s be honest, as any web designer can tell you, a site can be created in about 20 minutes and uploaded and active online in 30 total. That site will then be crawled and placed in the index as appropriately as possible. Now the people trying to game the censorship system, all they have to do is create site after site, after site. The pages will be up and indexed faster than they could ever be taken down, any one with even half of an idea as to how the web works knows this.
If the bill should pass, it will mean new stringent guidelines to be adhered to and that god forbid you post something that becomes unliked by someone in power because you may just find yourself invisible in search no matter what you do. It’s an authoritorian rule, managed by those with the most power. And Scarface said it best:
In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power.
For further information and reading, you can find both sides of the argument at ArsTechnica. Both sides of the argument are discussed, those for the bill, and those against the bill.
The internet is an amazing place, it has pretty much anything you could possibly want on it. It has examples of every facet of humanity and culture, it will be somewhat a wonder what it’s going to look like in the next 15 years considering the leaps and bounds it has changed in the first 15 of becoming widely accessible.
You can find essentially anything online. Recipes, songs, programs, services, information, the list is inhibited only by your own imagination. But does that make what you find true? A court in Italy has recently decided that just in case it is, Google needs to filter and censor their auto complete data.
A little bit of background is probably in order. Basically someone searched for themselves on Google, and the autocomplete feature offered suggestions such as con man and fraud.
Defamation and slander will always exist in some form or another in the open world. Auto complete within Google searches is a relatively new feature, so when I read of the decision that was upheld in the Court of Milan I somewhat echoed Googles disappointed response.
It’s not up to the search engine service to censor the entirety of the internet, after all the pages which the terms were a part of still exist, are indexed and can be found when you look. This is where brand and image management come into play, if someone messes with your online image, it’s dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps this is just another strong example for anyone with prospective web ideas. Always go with the option to opt-in as opposed to opt-out. The web is experiencing it’s own version of growing pains, when you’re ready to make your tracks online just be sure you have the search experts on your side.
There’s something to be said about the myths which surround SEO as an industry. In a way it adds a layer of ‘magic’ to the processes which can drive your website to the top of search. On the other hand, it allows the cheaters and snake oil salesmen to get in the door to respectable, naive business owners who only have half an idea.
Let’s face it, the world is going digital and online, the cloud is the next major leap forward as one of it’s goal is to eliminate the need for mass amounts of software on individual machines. Every major player in industry has recognized this fact, newspapers especially which have been hit substantially in the shift to online content generation and consumption. Radio and television have both added online content distribution to their industries, even going so far to use specialty content only available on their site to drive visitors. But they all know, the multi-million dollar advertising industries are slowly shifting their budgets to include online optimization in bigger and bigger steps.
Now if all of the big boys get it, that the world and it’s people are shifting online, what’s with all of the hesitation? Because unfortunately in the end business is ignorant and resistant to change. There’s short cut takers and cheaters in every industry, not just in the SEO/SEM world, and just like every other industry, when they’re caught, they’re thrust out into the light and are left to burn. The growing pains that the SEO industry is experiencing in Canada, Manitoba and Winnipeg in particular, is one of naivete. Winnipeg is a small city on the global marketplace, but with it’s geo-location it should be a significatly larger player that it is. All we need now is for the old, naive, ignorant and resistant guard to change, and let the youth take over. I’ve heard it said a number of times that once you’ve lived in Winnipeg it’s hard to really want to plant roots anywhere else. My reason why (unfortunately) is because Winnipeg just doesn’t change; at least not fast enough to be a global player.
The newest hype to hit the tech wire would have to be the talks which have been occuring with Twitter, Facebook and Google. Rumor has it that the seriousness of the talks hasn’t reached a fevered pitch as of yet, but that Twitter is courting the two giants is enough to make the industry ears twitch.
The current evaluation of Twitter is somewhere in the $10 billion range, a solid improvement from it’s worth last year being tagged at just short of $4 billion. Whether or not the search, or social media giant will actually pay this amount is in doubt. Twitter has tried only a handful of money making schemes, but on the whole the media which Twitter introduced to the world doesn’t have a lot of marketing punch. It’s a useful tool for some industries and aspects of day to day interaction, but with having to reduce your world to 140 characters at a time, it can leave you short on the information side. Speculation around the talks has been springing up which supports the idea that because Twitter is running out of ideas to market itself and make it’s own money, it’ll instead sell it’s idea and worth to continue on.
Which giant could benefit the most from the purchase of Twitter isn’t a question, as Facebook already has it’s own micro-blogging idea built in in status updates. Google most definitely would have the most to gain with the purchase of the site, it might even provide the search giant with the social boost it needs to begin carving it’s own tiny niche in the social arena.
The internet is running out of IP addresses, Bing is copying Google, Facebook can’t handle your data and locally we’re resisitant to change. The loss of IPs online has been broached in the last few days, and the as the last block allocations are doled out I’m certain that the naysayers will be heralding the end of the world (wide web). At least on some level of course.
Bing copied Google’s search results on a really obscure search term, as Bing cries foul over Google copying some of their display methods. It’s one thing to copy a snippet tool to display where on a page information was located and a change in how images are displayed. It’s an entirely new bag of snakes when you literally build your results based upon the users actions on another search engine. Bing has cried foul as well over being setup in Google’s honeypot action and well, that was the point. Google noticed a trend of Bings top 10 searches bearing much the same results as Googles. A hypothesis was formulated as to why and how this could happen, and a test was executed. It just so happens that the test came back positive, and Bing has been caught red handed sneaking results. Deal with it, learn from it, for Gods sakes admit it and carry on.
And just to switch things to a local, Winnipeg front for a moment. A downtown restaurant, long heralded as an icon in it’s uniqueness, the Paddlewheel Restaurant is to be closed and renovated. In the story I’ve most recently read about the eatery, the vast majority of the comments and content were unhappy with the coming closure, citing their memories of past visits with friends and family as evidence of enduring success. “It doesn’t need to change” and “It shouldn’t change” were the over lording tones of the piece. There was a video accompanying the story, and while it was somewhat saddening to hear about how a visit to the restaurant with their mother and grandmother for a plate of fries and a coke would be gone with the change, change needs to happen. By the way, the aforementioned visit with family, the fries and coke cost 15 cents to purchase. The video was filled entirely with elderly visitors, no doubt the frequenters of the establishment with the exception of one gentleman interviewed whose thoughts were simply “I understand it’s popular among those with a history of coming here”. The idea that change is bad needs to leave the collective thought process of this town, change is anything but bad. Scary, exciting, turbulent and it can even be smooth, safe and uneventful. But it’s never a bad thing. Change is inevitable, it’s when people, places and the environment they exist in cease to change that they wither and die. Take a clue from one of the oldest businesses still in operation today, in order to survive, they need to change.
In the midst of the unrest in Egypt, the name calling and hand slapping that’s been going on between Google and Bing. There’s only one other interesting point of note that’s about to occur within the online tech industry.
The world wide web, is about to run out of IP addresses. Just like back when the toll free system ran out of 800 numbers, it won’t be the end of absolutely everything, or anything for that matter, it’s only an eventuality that was expected. The speed at which it’s happened however was a surprise to the web watchers out there. IPv4 has been touted for a long time as being an outdated system, and a backup has long been in the works, there’s only one small catch. At it’s present state, the new standard of IPv6, isn’t compatible with IPv4. One of the biggest issues with compatiblity however is simply an issue of age. A lot of the older software and hardware isn’t quite ready to be compatible with the 64bit addressing system due to come into play. The world of business and productivity has long been overdue for an overhaul in technology, and as the newer IPv6 comes more and more to the forefront as the addressing system of the web, the change will become mandatory.
Only a quick note on the he said/he said drama between Bing and Google, this time it’s Microsoft firing back at the search giant. While the Bing team hasn’t come right out and said “no we don’t swipe Google’s searches” they’ve said that they do use 1,000 different search variables in building their results pages. Additionally, they’ve made it a point to mention that Google has copied some of the search display features which were implemented in the Bing engine. While Google did indeed copy the display of the results, they did not however, scrape results from Bing searches as it’s becoming more and more apparent that this was the tactic used by Bing.
Both of these factors in tandem are set to change the internet and the world of search. It may be time to hang on as it has the potential to be a wild ride.