A question often asked in the course of a discussion with a client, whether new or existing, is how do we determine our costs as a search engine optimization company. It’s not a single, or simple answer as each clients needs are unique as anyone fully involved in the industry will tell you.
One of the factors which determines your cost for your SEO, is what types of keyterms you desire to optimize your website for. If you own a company which manufactures toys and you’re the new kid on the block, being able to drive your website up in the SERPs is going to be difficult. Doing just a generic search for the term ‘toys’ returns 1.9b (yes, billion) pages. Granted that’s a rather generic term to try and optimize for, but each term is met with it’s own challenges to overcome where keywords are concerned. The number of terms you’d wish to be optimized for also lend to the maintenance cost of your website.
Another determining factor that affects your overall cost is the overall quality of your website and it’s content. If we need to sit down with you and assist you in rewriting each and every page due to lack of quality content, it’s a necessary step which needs to be in place before we even begin to think about scouring the web looking for back links for your site. As well, if your website is full of choppy code which needs to be addressed, or even if your website is so woefully out of date that a complete rebuild is in order, these also contribute to the overall costs.
These are only a couple of the factors which contribute to your companies online advertising budget, thankfully however if you need to rebuild your website or rewrite your content those are often one time costs. The consistent maintenance which needs to be addressed to continue ranking well in the SERPs however, is where the majority of your budget needs to be directed. And as the web becomes more and more competitive, that budget will need to be adjusted every 12 months or so.
Around 18 months ago Google announced that it had a new search interface for the privacy concerned. This encrypted search, which encrypts both queries and results, was launched with the wireless user in mind I’d imagine. Seeing as it allowed for a level of privacy normally only enjoyed by a wired internet connection.
Now fast forward to today, on October 18, Google announced that it would begin pushing users with a Google account to Google’s encrypted search homepage. The move towards making search more private has some in the SEO sphere a bit troubled. Google is approaching this from an interesting angle as recently it’s being discussed that analytics is going to be changing as well to a different model of delivering search metrics.
The flip side of offering more secure searches and results to WiFi users and the portion which has some in the SEO community worked up, it also means that searches performed and returned in this manner won’t display the keywords which were used to conduct the search. Google search product manager Evelyn Kao wrote in Google’s official blog,
“When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”
Paid search results will still pass on the same information as in a non-encrypted search. The only information which will be available will be from webmaster tools and even then it will only provide the top terms for the last 30 days, with no details as to which pages were visited on site. That’s the scary side if you’re an inexperienced SEO who may work on the darker side of the grey scale.
The other half of the coming story, Google hasn’t released any information as to how many signed in users perform searches. With the deeper introduction of real time searches, friend shares and the like, I’d be inclined to believe that it’s going to take a fair while before there’s any sizable changes in the SERPs.
In the last couple of days in the world of search there’s been a bit of a rumbling about Google’s latest acquisition. Google is punching out the numbers to pick up Zagat survey, basically the first version of Yelp. Yelp if for some reason you haven’t heard, is a site which allows visitors to post and read reviews about businesses locally. Yelp has been around for the last 7 years or so while Zagat has been around for 30 years and climbing. Their chief difference? Zagat offers their reviews in print as opposed to purely an online offering.
Google places already has a minor version of a local review offering when you start drilling down into results, but nothing as in depth as Yelp was able to offer. With their picking up the tab for Zagat, it could very well give them the nudge they need to push hard into local review and advertising markets globally. Google in the past little while has garnered the ire of sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor for basically scraping their reviews to have them on the Places profiles pages, so Googles current offerings have significantly waned.
Besides restaurants, Zagat also offers ratings of entertainment venues, wine and travel. The online version of the site has an established community, so there’s a social networking dimension to consider as well as the content being purchased.
Zagat co-founders Tim and Nina Zagat said that they “will continue to be active in the business as co-Chairs, however, the merger of our resources, expertise and platforms with those of Google will give us the opportunity to greatly expand.”
Google said in its blog post that “Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering.” It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise or stretch to see Google pulling the Zagat ratings and reviews onto their Places profiles pages in time so as not to hurt the name brand of Zagat.
When we have new clients which are chomping at the bit to take over the world with their website, it seems more and more often there has been some confusion just to how the SEO process works. For some reason, the idea that we as search engine optimization and online branding experts can just call Google and tell them to place you at the top of the listings, seems to be what we do. The demystifying of SEO is a somewhat difficult task at times, even more so when contacts believe you can walk on water.
With this issue fresh in mind from a recent conversation, I feel the need to reiterate some basic SEO facts for those who may hopefully read this post before jumping to conclusions. First off, optimization of your website is only a very small piece of the puzzle for your online business. Any SEO worth their salt will tell you that in order for you to be successful online not only do you need to be visible, but there needs to be a clear call to action on your landing page. It does you no good as an online store for example, to have visitors landing on your contact us or about us page. You want users to buy from you, optimizing your site to drive traffic to your catalogue is your goal.
Search engine optimization is not an over night or fly by night success. It’s been said a million times, organic optimization takes time. If you’re lucky and have a solid base to work with, it may take as little as a month or two, but the norm is closer to 12 weeks + to begin seeing consistently measurable results.
After these two basic points, then you get into the meat of the business which has been talked about at great length all across the web. You need to keep website usability in mind. You need to keep your all encompassing goal when writing new content and rehashing the old on your pages. You can completely derail an SEO campaign with as small a change as making a term into a plural as opposed to singular. Remember to keep your navigation menus clean and clear, the more accurate and simple you can make them the quicker your site can be crawled and indexed.
Just some very plain, basic facts about the SEO process (again) which just seem to keep eluding small and large business owners alike. For all of your search engine optimization and online branding success, you need only pick up the phone and give the experts a call.
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.
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.
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.
If you own a website of any kind, and you pay attention to the traffic coming to and navigating it, you may discover that traffic is perhaps not flowing naturally through your pages. For example, a potential visitor arrives at your site, but upon not finding the information they were looking for quickly or efficiently they leave your site and head to a competitor. Another issue you might discover with visitors is a lot of traffic on pages which contain lots of images in regards to your market and you start to see them pop up on various other sites around the web.
There are a number of ways with which you can direct traffic on your website, the easiest of which is by building an easy to understand navigation menu highly visible on the page to help drive visitors where you would like them. Another method you can use to help direct visitors to your unique content would be to sculpt your traffic flow to your more popular interior pages on your site which contain more information than your front page. Think of it like setting up a series of traffic signals for the internet that helps people land on the pages they’re really looking for.
In the event of discovering your content is being scraped and used here or there on the internet, there are a couple of options easily and immediately available to you. You can contact the site owner and ask them to remove your content, and depending on the severity of the hijacking you may even be able to leverage the power of the DMC Act to help your case. If it’s a repeat offender, a more drastic way to deal with the prying eyes and light fingers would be to completely block their IP address from being able to access your website. It’s quick, fairly simple to implement and mostly absolute.
Using a method of blocking IP ranges can help you trim your traffic to the customers you’re truly interested in having using your site. For example with the recent buying frenzy that was created with Winnipegs new NHL team returning to town, the sales website could have essentially blocked all IPs that were not originating from Manitoba for the day of the sale and reversed the change when the sale was finished. At any rate, that would have cut down on the out of country ticket brokers from getting their hands on tickets they have no intention of using.
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.