There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with your search engine optimization campaign if your chosen provider isn’t totally on the ball. In the coming blog, I’ll discuss some of the simpler mistakes, how to spot them, and hopefully with that knowledge in hand, they will be avoided.
One of the primary mistakes that can be made when beginning to optimize your site, can actually be the combined fault of both the site owner and the SEO. Failure to conduct proper keyword research on your site, and on your competitors sites can actually hamper your efforts online. Improper keyword research can even lead to you creating or posting content which is improperly optimized, and your brand or website can become associated for the wrong terms. If the wrong terms become indexed it’s not just your current ranking which can be effected, but your long term can also be via backlinks from other websites. As an example, if you create a great document, well written, not too spammy and highly relevant, but for a topic unrelated to your website and someone finds and links to it; the search engines will index and categorize that link. If your website becomes the target for irrelevant backlinks, it begins to affect your authority on your niche market, especially if backlinking site is completely different from your business. So if you’re not sure which keyword phrases or targets you should be going after, allow your SEO experts to do their research and present you with a solution.
A mistake which is often overlooked because it isn’t painfully apparent, is when you’re having a website built or revamped, that it’s constructed in such a way that it impedes the search engines ability to index your site. Having a website which encourages intuitive use by the user, as well as the search engine spiders is very important to help propel you to the top. If you’re building a website with images or scripts as navigation, the users may be able to work out how to process it, but search engines don’t see things the way users do. If there is no way to identify the menu or page elements, the spiders will guess, or disregard the pages. That’s a dangerous place to put yourself for the sake of design, because it doesn’t matter how pretty or fun your site is if it can’t be indexed. A third common mistake which site owners get caught up in is lack of updating the site, either via consistent content updates, a blog, active forum or even a twitter feed. Building and launching a business website isn’t just a fire and forget enterprise with which you have one shot to be indexed and ranked, you should be working on your site and it’s content in a constant cycle. Either a blog every day or so, a forum update for members or a few tweets here and there during the day, engaging your clients and customers. If you allow your site to become stale and never udpate it, you’ll slowly be pushed further and further into the index by others in your space who do.
Lastly, even though we’ve already discussed the construction of your website, a last point to mull over. You cannot build a website purely for user interaction that is highly graphical with no actual content and expect to rank in the top of the searches. But by that same note, you cannot build a website with only the search engines in mind as all text and no user support or interaction. So while your site can’t be all flash and no substance, it also can’t be comprised of all substance with no flash, users will visit and never return due to poor user interaction. It’s a balance that needs to be met, and if your current SEO can’t help you with your existing site, call the search experts and we’ll have you flying in no time.
If you’re the owner of a small business, often times one of the best way to generate content for your website is to have an active blog where you can make postings about your product or services. It also allows your customers and clients to ask any questions which may be on their mind at the time, and can give your professional site a friendlier feel.
But with all good things, especially with the anti-spam algorithms that the search engines have running, it’s a very good idea to know how to mitigate the possibility of having your web authority tarnished. It’s not just the cheaters at the search game who get caught, more often than not it’s websites and businesses that follow the rules, but just happen to forget a very important step, moderation. Moderating the comments on your blog or any forum threads you may be actively participating in is greatly important, as nothing on the internet is truly private. If a thread you’re active in begins to get spammed, your name and business could be caught up in an anti-spam net, and you could end up devalued simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you have your own company blog, and you allow comments on your postings, it’s a good idea to have comments allowed so as to encourage discussion on your website. It’s a very good idea however, to also have a firm hand where moderation is concerned of any and all comments which are placed on your site. Blog spam comments are easily spotted however, as they’re usually placed automatically by bots roaming across the web. Their posts are typically poorly written, although some might surprise you, and contain a few links to sites which have no bearing on your own. There is thankfully, a rather simple way to deal with comment spam if you have a highly active forum or blog, and don’t have the time to moderate all of the discussions or comments occuring. You can simply add the NOFOLLOW meta tag to your discussion pages or directories, it’ll tell the spiders to simply disregard any outgoing links on the pages and you can let the discussion flow. It’s a simple line of code which allows you to protect your sites page rank, as well as it’s online profile with the search engines.
At present, there are a couple of different sets of active penalty systems being tossed around on Google. There’s the Penguin update, and the link penalties which are being levied against sites with strange link profiles. If you’ve noticed a backtracking in your site position, how are you to know which way to proceed? Let’s have a quick look and see if it can be narrowed down some.
Firstly, the Penguin update which is still running around, seemingly causing mass havoc with some site owners. The most recent version of Penguin in the wilds of the web are searching for unnatural backlinks, a tighter field of view when looking for fresh content, better page title generation (if your page doesn’t have one), and better detection of hacked websites and pages. Note as well, that all of these algorithm changes, and much more, all run automatically as the spiders break down your site. If you’ve received no notification in your webmaster tools area, chances are you’ve been hit by a Penguin drive by.
The second current most common way that sites are being hit, is with what is called an unnatural link penalty. The key difference between this method and Penguin, is the link penalty is manually handed down against your website. If you pay heed to your webmaster tools notifications (you did remember to set that up right?), then just follow the steps in place to correct the penalties levied.
Or as I saw it put so succinctly:
Unnatural links is more about link networks, paid links, blog networks and unnatural link patterns.
Penguin is more about low quality links with weird looking anchor text, plus other over optimization related link building techniques.
In the discussion that has followed, it has been noted that the two seem to be inter-related to each other, so be sure to keep tabs on your websites performance, and don’t ignore the notifications you receive. You’ll only be sinking yourself faster should you choose to ignore any warnings or messages.
Search engine optimization, it’s the big marketing buzz word of the last 5 years or so. And what was once known as a highly technical, and relatively unknown business tactic has become a medium embraced by the masses. So well embraced in fact, that it’s become more and more populated by people who barely understand what the term means, let alone how to properly implement it on a clients site.
It’s becoming ever more obvious when we speak with prospective clients, that their first introduction to the world of SEO wasn’t all it is cracked up to be. The most common way to be taken in is usually with your webhost, offering what seems to be an amazing suite with submissions to directories and search engines. What these small, and sometimes large companies don’t seem to realize, is that directories don’t carry much influence with the search engines, and as for being submitted to them, well it’s not a process that exists in so many words. This scenario, as bleak as it may seem, is the best case scenario unfortunately.
The worst case scenario, and we’ve run into it a few times, is a client who’s been attracted to the false promises, and ‘darker’ side of SEO. The black hat entrpreneurs, if you can call them that, lure in their clients with promises of page 1, top 10 positions and quick return on their investment. The problem here, is the tactics that employed often destroy the online reputation of the company, and lead to the website often being removed from the index. When we’re engaged with a client in such a predicament, we’ve actually had them start over entirely, new url, new website, the works.
Key points to remember about legitimate search engine optimization are: It is not a one shot deal that will place you in the top rankings
It is a long term, high ROI solution
It is the highest ROI marketing solution when the costs and gains are weighed
And a real SEO expert will engage you as a client, to help you create content, and create an online experience to help bring qualified visitors consistently to your site.
Don’t be fooled by get rich quick schemes where SEO is concerned, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t exist and anyone who is trying to sell it to you should be black listed in your contact book.
With all of their updates that have been applied in the last while, Penguins, Pandas and who knows what else is coming, it’s becoming fairly common to read the occasional article on how poorly Google is faring as a search company. The news headlines are even beginning to creep into mainstream media more and more often, especially with Google+ trying to creep into Facebook territory.
But when you start to look at the numbers, year over year, nobody is really going anywhere. Where online search is concerned, just over 2/3 of the users choose to use Google as their search engine when looking for information online. The Bing/Yahoo machine (since Bing provides all of the results for Yahoo) stayed at a near 30% search share for the month of May, overall a loss of search share for the duo. Bing remained constant from April, and gained from a year ago, but since they’re filling the role of search engine for Yahoo, it is only logical to lump the pair together. The remainder of the search market is taken up by everyone else, Ask, AOL, and all of the other smaller engines out there like DuckDuckGo. These numbers are relevant to the desktop search market.
The mobile search market is much different than the desktop variant. While there maybe a much more varied platform base in the mobile market, it is absolutely dominated by Google, taking up the monster share of 95% of the US market. It seems that regardless of how much some SEOs decree the death of Google as a search engine, that the general user disagrees. At this point in the life of the web, the original search engine, is still the best search engine, going by the numbers. Your personal use and interpretations will vary somewhat from the general public.
Google, the Government, and you
Going over the search share numbers, it’s very plain to see that Google is sitting on the largest share of the pie, by a very clear margin. Being a company of such a huge size, with such a massive market share, makes you an impressively large target to take aim at. A couple of years back, in order to make information more available for view, Google began a new feature they dubbed as a transparency report. The introduction of the information was to give the general public an idea as to the types of removal requests the company faces on an ongoing basis. They’ve released their fifth data set, which gives a fairly clear timeline of events and online postings, and in their blog post from yesterday, Google has noticed a disturbing trend.
“We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.”
It should be no surprise that governments are keenly interested with online activity and online content, it was only a short time ago that portions of the internet went black in opposition of the proposed SOPA bill. But even though governments have been requesting blog posts, videos, and sometimes even entire websites to be removed from the index, in the end they are just that; requests. And with the nature of requests, can come denial, which is what Google has been doing with most of the requests they’ve received. You can delve deeper into the report by following this link and it’s safe to assume that other search engines often receive the same requests to remove content from their index as well.
We’ve been over the steps of what you need to do when you’ve been penalized and dropped from the index, but once you’ve followed all of those steps, you might be wondering just what’s next? To recap quickly what you should do, first go over your email (which you most undoubtedly have) and follow their major points of issue. If it’s bad backlinks, do your best to have the removed. Spammy content? Get a handle on it and rewrite it. Found out your SEO is playing the black hat game of gaming the engines instead of working with them? It’s time to drop them and call the real experts in search. After all of those steps, you resubmit your site for inclusion.
But once you’ve done all of that, it’s in the hands of the search gods. It’s where you need to sit on your hands, and wait for them to decide if you’ve done enough, to be reindexed and included back into the search rankings. What some people don’t realize though, is sometimes the search engines don’t fully clean your record, it may only be a partial pardon, incentive really to clean the rest of your act up. Just like search engine optimization isn’t just a black and white industry, neither is directing traffic at Google or Bing.
So, just how relevant is too relevant? It’s a question being asked lately as more and more often, the results page tends to be over taken by the same website. There was a short video put out by Matt Cutts and the Google team, trying to describe just what’s going on.
The method for displaying these newer results however, have been getting under users skin however. How diverse do the search results really look, or seem, when the top three or four, and sometimes the entire page, is taken up with a single result? Relevance to the search query is obviously which drives Google and other search engines to deliver their results, and the better refined they the better it is for the end user. Have you had any instances recently where the search results page has been dominated by a single result?
The web is a huge place, full of anything you can think of at any given time, because chances are if you can think of it, someone has made a website or web page for it somewhere. It could be as common as people writing about the latest movie or song, or it could be as low key as a new local band for instance, but if you were to hit up a search engine you will almost always find at least a webpage about it.
And with all of the billions and billions of web page and websites out there, it creates a market, and with any market comes the marketers. Search engine optimization, adwords, white hat, black hat, when you start reading about the industry you will find yourself running into terms which become more and more unfamiliar as you go. It’s no wonder that when you start having the conversation with a prospective, or sometimes even existing client, that the question comes up “Do you know how Google/Bing/Yahoo works? Can you promise me number 1?” Now the polite, short answer to that question is “No” and the long version is “No, we can’t promise number 1″. And then the inevitable happens, they utter the beginning of the worst phrase you can hear as an SEO “But I read/heard/was told that..”
Here’s the short reason why we can’t guarantee you number 1 in search for your business: the web and the search algorithms are always changing. When Sergei and Larry initially created the Google algorithm to run around and start indexing the web, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear they never imagined it would get so massive. It’s rumored that the algorithm that runs now has somewhere between 250 and 300 ranking factors in it as it parses your website. And some of the confusion for those on the outside of the market, is when they read an article about how someone has cracked the algorithm to always rank on the top. I apologize for being up front, but anyone who tries to tell their clients that is a conman. At this stage of the search game, with as long as the algorithms have been changing and adapting, I doubt there is any one person employed by Google or Bing, who can sit down and tell you just how it works. Because at this point, they are just too big, too complex, and take into account so many different points that it’s mind boggling.
So your best course of action, is to adhere to the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t get crazy with your site, don’t get too smart with your content and follow the best practice guidelines; and you’ll be okay.
With Google commanding somewhere around 2/3’s of the internet search market, it’s important to remember the basic steps we’ve discussed here. Simple navigation, a solid website built as simple as possible, while maintaining an aesthetic that you enjoy and solid content with which to bait and capture the bots, and your target audience.
Of these items, it’s content which can actually make or break your online presence. Your content is the meat of your website, it’s what captures the search engines attention and is what makes you relevant to your target market. If you’ve written it well, made sure that it’s relevant to the theme of your business then you’ve started yourself on the road to the top. When it does come to your content though, you need to also keep in mind the people that you want to read your information. Most visitors to a website, if they can’t find their information quickly and easily, will just as soon click that back button if they can’t find their way to the content they desire. It’s a great idea therefore, to break up the monotony of your website and have snippets of highly relevant information, stand out on your pages. Bolded text, italicized, and placed high in your pages helps deliver a message quickly and clearly to visitors to your site.
On the other hand of the spectrum, you have your entire articles placed within your pages for the audience you wanted to have continually return to your site. This is for that captivated visitor, whom you’ve already sold your business or website to. To a reader, all information is generally good information. The more they know about the product, your company and anything else that increases your credibility will help them feel secure in doing business with you instead of a competitor. Text is an important part of the decision-making process. From the homepage to categories and sub-categories to the actual product page, the reader is intensely interested in what you have to say, as it will be the determining factor in whether you get a conversion or not.
Good website marketing isn’t about building a site for any one type of visitor, it’s about building a site that speaks to as many different visitor types as possible without alienating any. You must have the right pieces in the right places in the right way. Skimmable content allows you to target all types of readers and give them even more than they want. That way, everyone has a positive experience.
When you’re looking at building a website, there are the fundamentals you need to take care of. Do you have your content ready for the site? Basically, have you written more than just a few lines of your idea, have you actually fleshed it out, to make it meaningful both to your target audience, and to your ideal theme. Once you have the words, you need to take the time to get together the visual aspect, do you have your images? Are they clear and easily display what point you’re trying to get across? Or do they clash against your written content by not clearly showing what you’re trying to convey.
Once you have those two very basic points together, you need to then consult a web designer to help bring your dream to life. And it’s at this stage, that it seems that there is a general unknown aspect to the process. It’s not enough to have an amazing idea, product, or service anymore, you also need to consider two more, somewhat major, components which will make up your online persona. The first you need to consider, is your website address, or URL. Ideally, in a perfect world you could create your address (domain name) out of a keyword or perhaps two, which is simple to remember, and relevant to your business. The odds of this happening however, get slimmer each and every day with the ability of anyone to purchase any domain name, provided it hasn’t already been scooped up.
But lets pretend that you had no problems snatching up your domain, and now you’re ready to build. This is the key point where even a little knowledge can help your cause greatly. You have your content and pictures, you’ve managed to snag the perfect domain name, now you need somewhere to park yourself. Your own little corner of the internet where you can upload everything and make it accessible to the world. You need a web host, and as simple a step as that may seem, there are some points you can cover which will make your online life immeasurably simpler. Procuring a web host isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, and if you take the time to look around you can very easily recoup the costs of having a quality host. Web hosting works very similar to SEO on the cost to quality scale. If you cheap out on picking up a host, chances are pretty good you’re going to have issues with them. It can be anything from slow website performance, to improperly configured servers. Spending a few extra dollars on a web host can net you a fully accessible, fully configurable host with unlimited bandwidth, extremely flexible architecture to build your website with, and nearly 100% uptime for your site. Nothing is more embarrassing than directing someone to your website as your primary contact point, and having to explain to them that your site performs poorly, just so you could save a couple of dollars.
An interesting blog post from Bing has been gaining steam in discussion forums, and unsurprisingly, it pokes fun at Google and the recent Penguin update. A little poem of sorts has been made up, and it goes something like this:
Animal kingdom hurting ROI?
Pandas and penguins, oh my!
Take control and tell the fauna “Bye Bye”,
With these helpful suggestions to diversify!
It’s a silly little rhyme, but it has great sense in it; diversify. They go on to explain that by diversifying your websites optimization techniques, you can soften, or even eliminate the blow felt across the web with algorithm changes. If your organic optimization is flowing strong and healthy, focus on a weaker area, perhaps pay per click optimization and help to boost it’s output. Organic results are typically the hardest hit in search when there is an algorithm update or a sweeping change made ala Panda or Penguin. By having your additional channels of traffic performing at their peak, you can protect your position online and react if there is a drastic change occuring.
The Bing post went on to make great points as well, diversification aside, about how to manage your presence on the web. Keep an ear to the ground for any new and trending websites or aggregators, like Pinterest just a couple of months ago. It went from a simple board where people can share interests quickly and easily, to having a Pin button begin popping up on almost every major site out there. Pinterest had some key factors which helped make it incredibly relevant, strong, rapid growth, easily adopted technology, the media got on board quickly which spread the word and add in the interaction of friends and family and it took off like a rocket. Keeping your eyes on the horizon and watching for a trend can be an extremely helpful safety net.
There were a few great other points that were covered in the post, a lot of them were really just basics that cover some of the most basic SEO skillset. Like taking care of your sitemaps, are all of the links relevant and none broken. Same with your robots file, when was the last time you had a look at it’s contents to ensure it was still correctly configured? Do you have social sharing on the pages you want to have sharing on, and have you managed to keep any duplicate content issues down to nothing. Very, very basic work, not even necessarily from a search engine optimization stand point, but just from a webmaster stand point. Keep it clean, keep it basic, follow the news and trends, and you’ll be ready for the algorithm shifts across nearly all search engines.