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.
There’s a massive amount of information on the Internet on absolutely everything, the downside of this of course is the (seemingly) even larger amounts of mis-information. This holds true in any industry, but when it comes to the topic of search engine optimization, it often seems that it’s not so much the fact and fiction mixed up. It’s more akin to the information being tossed in a blender and spread in a mess.
The most antagonizing part of all of the information out there, is that people who partake of what makes the most sense to them, claims to make them experts in the field. It’s from these same sources that the newest experts don’t even learn how to properly 301 a website, or are unable to tell the difference between paid links and paid advertisements. Some of the latest crop have seemed to be of the belief that building websites to rank for obscure long tail terms, is the same skill as being able to rank a client for their desired and preferred terms.
The whole idea about marketing your business is about driving qualified visitors to your website, where hopefully your SEO company has advised you on how to build your site to facilitate conversions. Whether it’s convincing visitors to sign up for your news letter, or to buy your product, or sign up for your discussion forums, the idea of pushing and marketing your site is to increase your bottom line, what ever it may be. Say for example your business is in making shoes, and your website has a built in shopping cart so your customers can buy custom footwear direct. Along comes the newest ‘expert’ in SEO and builds your site around a long tail search along the lines of ‘custom designed walking equipment’. You may shake your head an scoff at the idea, but it happens, and happens far too often.
No, this doesn’t mean that long tail searches are dead in any way, there are users out there who don’t use the Google Instant feature, or simply type out their entire query. But the point of my description was to drive home the idea that search engine optimization isn’t about tricking the search engines, isn’t about spamming on blog comments and posts and it isn’t about tricking visitors into visiting your website. It’s about driving qualified traffic to your site with the decision to purchase your product, or sign up for your newsletter or become involved in your community. Real SEO performed by the real SEO experts drives measurable, qualified traffic to your website to make your bottom line better.
Since last nights state of the union address, it’s been disected, analyzed, torn apart and chewed up by hundreds of thousands of people. As everyone has an opinion, we’ll all take away something a little different from the speech, but there were some points within which caused me to listen a little closer.
The main point I believe Obama tried to get across, is that for the US to become a world leader again, investments need to be made in the areas of innovation, education and infrastructure. A rather surprising statistic which was related, is that among the worlds nations, the US is 9th on the list with it’s current population having post secondary degrees. Obama is looking to reform the system, and hopefully by 2020 to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Innovation and inspiration remaining within the US was a strong point in the speech. Obama a number of times referred to the fact that while the rest of the world embraced the changes in the world and the way it does business, the States lagged behind, and is now paying the price. Illegal immigrants who had children in the US, who are going to University and excelling in their studies are being deported to compete with the industries within the US. He proposes a change to have that ingenuity, innovation and intelligence to remain in the country instead of being pushed out. A plan which is planned to be revealed within the coming weeks.
And moving ahead into the 21st century of business, Obama nearly pledged that in the next 5 years that high speed wireless internet would be available to 98% of all Americans. No small feat to be certain, but an incredibly worthy aspiration, as it’s an investment into the countries businesses. The world is online, Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging and researching. Collaborations are made every day across the globe between businesses that fuel their local economies. As Obama addressed in his speech, any business can setup shop anywhere and be profitable with an internet connnection. With the co-operation of the entire government, the hope is to double the US business exports by 2014. Obama knows the power of the internet, it was leveraged to fuel his political machine that drove him to the White House. The power is online, in the hands of the users and the US President knows it. It’s long time for business to get their heads out of the sand and move with the rest of the world, or get left further and further behind.
When discussing with clients, both current and prospective, about the costs entailed with their SEO campaign, there’s almost always a measure of shock and or disbelief at the bottom line. Being that it’s a marketing industry at it’s base, and other marketing campaigns yield little to no tangible results, SEO offers a break down that can be examined.
You can determine if you’re attracting the proper type of visitor. Are your keywords effective, is your content driving your search rankings to help you climb to, and maintain a commanding position on the SERPs? Or are you only receiving immediate bounces to your site because you’re appearing on the wrong results pages? SEO when performed properly, and maintained rigorously on an ongoing basis, can give you these answers.
As for the costs associated to get the results you want, just like in any industry you get what you pay for. There are bucketfuls of “experts” out there who will do your websites SEO for you for $200-$400, but what will that really get you? Just like when you need maintenance done on your car or home, if you’re not a qualified professional to do the work, you pay for the services you require. Now say for instance, instead of having a contractor repair your basement foundation, you get your neighbor who you’ve seen mix concrete help you, imagine the recourse you have available when your basement walls begin to crack, leak and sag again.
Just as it is with the “experts” out there, when you’ve noticed that the $200 you’ve paid doesn’t deliver you any measurable, or quality results, there’s only one person to blame. Nickle and dime spending when it comes to your online branding and marketing has to leave the train of thought, you get what you pay for.
Time to get to work on that Facebook profile again and make sure everything is as you want it. Dig through those privacy settings, and ensure that you’re not sharing more than you intended.
In a late posted blog on Facebook, Jeff Bowen (Platform Developer Relations at Facebook) posted:
We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object. Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user_address and user_mobile_phone permissions. These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs.
Paraphrased basically saying that now when you develop your apps for Facebook, you can now get users addresses and mobile phone numbers. So now not only will you be spammed on your wall by games, random ‘questions about you answered by..’ posts and as well as scraping and sharing all of your friends information, they can have your home address to send you mail if they want. Or send you spam text messages or phone calls to your mobile phone. Perhaps ‘accidentally’ subscribing you to a premium phone service just for clicking that ‘Allow’ button when you load up their app for the first time.
Privacy is very much in your hands as a user, but with no notifaction to the userbase about this change for developers, and with a large percentage of the Facebook users already having accepted apps sharing their information; how long until these ups make a ‘critical update’ and soon you’re receiving fliers in the mail to buy Mafia wars or Farmville merchandise? Or worse yet, the information is collected, and sold to a third party advertising site who turns your information over again until it reaches a point that you’re receiving mail, text and phone calls from random companies and places you didn’t give permission to contact you. As one commentor on the blog post pondered, ‘Have you become a data collection site and are no longer a social site.’
What is the greatest guessing game you ask? It’s the game which has made Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other search engine start ups and even failures, piles of money just by mention of the word. Search, is the greatest guessing game.
What happened when Google took the game and applied it’s own rules, was dominate the online community as it propelled itself forward, clawing and fighting for all of the infomation it could find. There are various illustrations of the web which come to mind when it’s pictured. Firstly as a web of course, of interconnecting websites and pages, all of which the search bots, spiders naturally, navigate their way around and build up this interconnectability between them. I’ve seen pictures of the internet visualized as planets in galaxies and solar systems, as continents on a map and even as a DNA strand at one point. The best visualization I can come up with is that of an ocean, and all of the websites and pages of the internet are just kind of floating around. People are like little fish, darting around from point to point, sometimes finding what they want, sometimes not. But it’s a fluid environment, never the same from day to day and always on the move.
An article written about which search engine is better at delivering relevant results was the inspiration for today. It tried to demonstrate that by using identical results in different search engines, that one could clearly deliver better and more relevant results than the other. The reality is I believe, much murkier than that. Google is absolutely a brand name, and used extensively in all walks of life. Bing is working hard on branding itself as a decision engine and not a search engine, but in the end both algorithms do primarily the same thing. They guess at what you’re looking for, they guess that they’re delivering you what you want to see and they guess mostly correct only because you’ve already told them what you want to see. Whether it’s via your search history, cookies saved on your computer or even your directly typed search query. Search is still just a game, and for now Google still plays it best. The internet and online technology being what it is, we’ll revisit the topic in a year and everything may be upside down.
One of the largest issues online and one that especially plagues Facebook and other networks like it, is the privacy issue. Facebook likes to use the argument, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt caught fire for the same sentiment, that if you’re online and don’t want the world to know something of you, don’t share it.
At present the general demographic of internet users range from the 12 year olds doing book reports and discovering social networking, to 80+ grandparents keeping in touch with family with email, Facebook and so on. When you through an idea as complicated as ‘privacy’ into the mix of a demographic so large, problems are created. Looking at the definition of privacy:
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes.
The ‘basic common themes’ would be the language pertaining too ‘the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively’. The idea that you control what others know about you isn’t a strange ideal to uphold, and Facebook et al would escape a lot of criticism if they made one simple change to their policies; instead of having users opt out, allow them instead to opt in to new features and services. Where a lot of the concerns and issues come from is the second part of the definition which says ‘boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals’.
Privacy at it’s root, is a value shared by every person innately, but just like everyone has an opinion, everyone has a different take on privacy as a whole. What the privacy commissioners of the world deem as protection of privacy today, will be different for my childrens generation. Each generation as well, is becoming more and more comfortable with controlling their information online which will also contribute to changes in outlook. So before you click ‘Allow’ on that next Facebook application that your cousin sent you, take a minute instead to actively read what information it will be collecting and sharing about you. Privacy online has always been in the users control, the majority just fail to seize it.
At what lengths do you go, to save yourself or your business some cash? Where do you decide to trim your budget. Production? Acquisition? Marketing? Development? Depending on your niche and business model there are many more to add to the list I’d wager. So when it comes right down to it and you need to find some money, where do you trim, all too often the budget cuts fall on the marketing angle. And the first place that gets the shaft, is online marketing more than not.
The argument usually heard is that it’s not tangible, you can’t track any results or gains with it. The internet is a virtual world of switches, capacitors and electrical connections, so in a touchable tangible sense it’s not “real”. The numbers however, the web is full of numbers which are very easily countable. That machine you use on your desk at the office and at home everyday is, at it’s core, an overgrown calculator. Traffic, sales, visitors and unique first time viewers are all metrics easily tracked by the software that expert SEOs use to demonstrate to clients that what we do works like gang busters.
And a question that we are asked time and time again is: “Why should I retain you on a contract if the guy down the street says he can do the same for me for only $300?” And since people keep asking, the simplest and honest to god answer is maintenance. See, the internet never sleeps, never rests and is always changing. Google, the king of search and search marketing is the same. Always changing the algorithm, making it faster, smarter and it can throw the entire results page into disarray when they make a number of changes at once. Retaining your position on the SERPs in the midst of these changes is why we’re the best. And it’s why we can command the costs required for the care we give to your online marketplace. Now, if you’re still unsatisfied that this is the case, a simple analogy for you in easy to understand terms.
Your website is a car and Google is it’s engine. The internet are the roads you travel endlessly. Knowing you need a tune up (SEO) you look for a mechanic to tend to your car, and decide to settle for the budget variety to save a few dollars and settle in for a rest. Waking up, you find out that your Google engine has decided that it doesn’t like unleaded fuel anymore and instead wants diesel. So back to your mechanic who tells you ‘Sorry, I don’t know what I need to do to work with diesel’. And instead of driving your way to the top, you’re stuck, stranded on the side of the road with a stalled site (car), and work done on your engine that no longer works.
If you need to save some budget dollars and decide to focus on marketing, then trim your budget in the old, untraceable metrics like television, radio, newspapers and billboards. Playing catch up on the web is an exponentially more difficult game the longer you wait Winnipeg, time to get a move on.
In the world of SEO, there’s the good guys and the bad guys. It’s discussed in great detail on a lot of websites, blogs and forums. So to contribute to the trend, I’ll briefly touch on the subject as well.
The big news as of late to hit the news reel is the royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it’s been in print, online, I’m certain it’s been on television and the radio by now as well. But before you run off and hit the web to find all the latest gossip about the couple, follow a few simple rules first.
1) Know full well, that with news which floods the web like this engagement, it’s a prime target for black hat SEO. What black hat is usually associated with are all of the wonderful malware infections which keep computer repairmen in business, and shady companies in cash. What happens is the black hatters pick a hot, fast rising trend, and “poison” the search results. With hundreds of millions of people using search daily, it’s easy to pull in a few unsuspecting curiousity seekers.
2) Don’t click a link, if you don’t recognize the url. When you perform a search in Google, you’ll have the blue link headline, the black description text, and a green url. If that green text is not a website you recognize easily (such as cnn.com or bbc.com for example) take a pass on the link! It doesn’t matter if the description says it has the latest on the wedding, your hard drive and OS will thank you later.
3) The easiest way to gather information via search is built right in now thankfully. All of the major search engines return relevant real time results as well as part of a search. If a topic is trending well, and people are posting about it, there’ll be social and real time search listings.
Do yourself a very big favor when it comes to search, just because the websites which rank in the top 5 say they have the dish on all of the secrets, think first and click later. Malware has larger implications than just slowing down your computer and providing nagging pop ups. It can start there, and go all the way up the ladder to identity theft, password stealing and/or keylogging.
Bing and Yahoo have officially come together, with the results on the Yahoo SERPs being fully “Powered by Bing”. The process began 6+ weeks ago, with it finally being completed this past week.
Slowly and surely, Bing has replaced Yahoos results page with their own, so maybe it’s just me but, the recent market share numbers posted by Nielsen stats don’t make a difference in the search engine world. Google was sitting at 64% market share, while Yahoo and Bing have a combined 27% share. Sensationalizing results, is a method of the press, and what better way to grab attention than to say ‘BING UP 50%!!”
Now, Nielsen has Bing sitting at 13.6% market share on it’s own merit. This time, last year Bing (a repacked, remarketd Live search) was in it’s infancy at 2 months old, which at the time, Bing had 9% of the search market share. Here’s the sensationalizing part, 9% increased to 13.6%, is 4.6%, yay math. But since 4.6 is just a hair over half of 9, that means Bing grew by 51%!
In the end, the numbers don’t lie. Yahoo’s “market share” will essentially decrease over time until it’s just finally lumped in with Bing, and we’ll end up with Google on top, YaBing in second, and everyone else coming in respectively after the two major players. Online PC based search is slowing down a tad as well, with the advent of more intelligent and handy smart phones, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.