Posts about search engine optimization

2010 Online Advertising Forecast

Here is an interesting article that I came across.  The article takes a look at the forecast for online advertising for 2010.  You can read the full article and we have also listed some high level insights below:

Video Usage:

  • Senior Analyst David Hallerman suggests that more marketers will embrace online video advertising, and that more sites will support the growth of video.

Ad Targeting and Privacy

  • With the main stream availability of consumer behavior online comes more scrutiny about privacy policies:  What this means to us is users are becoming aware of ad-blocking software or add-ons and more deletion of cookies that makes the availability of what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and where you go online a lot harder to companies to gather.
  • On the government side there is potential for more federal legislation limiting website tracking
  • Again what does that mean: in order for search engines to get ahead of this legislation there needs to be a greater deal of transparency
  • In 2010 we should start seeing websites letting users know what data is being kept about them and give them access to remove themselves
  • Ultimately publishers will need to come up with better trade-offs if they want to garner any information from an individual

Search

  • Social sites and video results is something to change in search.  You will start seeing more of these results as part of general search queries.
  • Advertising is also predicated to continue increasing as we come closer to 2010
  • 2010 spend = $11.4 billion
  • 2011 spend = $12.2 billion
  • 2012 spend = $13.6 billion
  • 2014 spend = $15.8 billion

Internet Users and Usage

  • As we move into the new year internet usage is predicated to increase as the ease of accessing the internet continues to grow with the use of laptops, smartphones, and gaming consoles.
  • It is predicated that we see the most change within the adults ages 55 and older, who are now discovering social networks.
  • Number of internet users will begin to stabilize, as penetration reaches 66% of the US population, or 205.3 million people.

 

Google Removes PageRank in Webmaster Tools

Google uses more than 200 signals, including their patented PageRank algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important and shown to a user first.  Many business owners have thus become aware of their own PageRank and some may incorrectly believe that PageRank is THE metric that must be improved when vying for higher organic listings.  In October, Google removed this PageRank from their Webmaster toolkit.

What is PageRank:

In Laymans/Googles Terms – PageRank reflected Google’s view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. PageRank also considered the importance of each page that casted a vote, as votes from some pages were considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.

Google’s newly released position on page rank is: We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.

If you are so inclined, an in-depth mathematical computation for page rank can be found online.

What are Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Webmaster Tools provides webmasters with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google. GWT allow webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites through organic search.

PageRank is still shown within Google Toolbar, so you can still view this metric. Page Rank within Google Toolbar sends the URLs of pages that opted-in searchers visit to display the importance ranking that Google assigns to a page.

This goes to show that what you see in Google Toolbar and what Google actually uses are two different things when it comes to indexing your site.

I know a guy who knows a guy who got his website ranking number one in Yahoo for “Sheep Shears Georgia”! – and it only took him a week!

And that guy is more than willing to take your money to do the same for you.  These guys are everywhere.  Some of them aren’t even guys.  Man or woman, they’ll happily promise you the world for a low flat fee – usually a couple hundred bucks.  And that’s far less than the rates Leverage Marketing charges for search engine optimization services.  And you’re free to pay them your money and test out their “guaranteed first page rankings.”  But before you do, here are some things to be very wary of (they’re scary!):

Look out for:

Reciprocal link building

This was extremely popular 5+ years ago and is one of the main reasons that sites used to have whole pages dedicated to outgoing links.  Just because it was popular (and somewhat effective) 5 years ago doesn’t mean you should do it now.  In fact, link schemes like this can throw up major red flags in the search engines and can have your site booted from the search results.

Paid directory link building

Many companies still base their “SEO” programs around this type of link building.  The basic premise here is handing over varying amounts of cash in return for a link back to your site.  In one way, this sounds like basic advertising and sounds relatively reasonable.  But dig a little deeper and evaluate the value of a link from the majority of sites that offer this deal, and you’ll find it’s rarely even close to worth it.  Many companies recommend that you give them $300 so they can submit you to Yahoo’s directory.  And you’re a yahoo if you fork it over!  This link will rarely generate traffic and won’t give your site any noticeable link value.  Add this to the fact that paid links are easily identified and devalued by search engines and you have an optimization tactic sure to disappoint.

Submission to search engines

Besides the fact that this can easily be done yourself by entering your URL in Google’s or Bing’s form, it is completely unnecessary for all but brand new sites.  Google and Yahoo are very good at finding your URLs on their own.  Ensuring that the important pages of your site can be found from a sitemap, however, is still a good idea.

Concentration on optimizing Meta keywords element

It used to be very common, and somewhat beneficial, to target specific keywords in the meta keywords element of your site as search engines used to look here to get an idea of what your site was about.  Of course this was and still is used by many people in hopes of improving their rankings.  If only it were that simple.  The value of working on this Meta Element is extremely low if at all.  Creating unique descriptions in the meta description element of your pages, however, is important – but for a completely different reason which will be a topic of another blog post.

Guaranteed rankings or guaranteed amounts of traffic

It’s hard not to be warmed over by a great sounding guarantee.  Let me guess, you want number one rankings for the highest search volume keywords that even remotely represent your offering and you want traffic by the thousands to come to your site, correct?  Well shoot, we can get that for you if you’ll just sign this twelve month contract.  Truth be told, great guarantees are hard to come by. And I have yet to see any SEO companies guarantee anything but wasted time, a lighter pocket book, and a grudge against SEO companies.  This need not be the case.  A quality SEO company will show exactly what they are working on and how it will impact your website.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  I guarantee it!

The number of companies offering the above ‘services’ is not as high as it once was.  Many consumers have wised up to many of the above mentioned careless tactics but there still are many phony companies out there.  In fact, this post was prompted by a phony SEO company whose proposal was sent on to me – it included each of the above tactics as main offerings.  I’ll leave you with one important recommendation:  When considering an SEO company to establish a relationship with, grab your outlined goals for your business and with your B.S. cap firmly on, review the offerings.  Is there anything that seems too good to be true?  Have the company you are considering explain anything that doesn’t seem possible.  And by all means, choose with your head and not based on fantasy.  Lastly, how many people are searching for sheep shears Georgia, anyways?

Blogging for SEO: How to Speak to your Target Audience

As we spend the week discussing blogging and the power of demonstrating your brand’s voice, it’s important to give yourself a starting point. The real magic of creating a blog that is impactful is not starting with what you would like to share, but rather speaking to what your target market is looking for…

What I mean by this statement is that many blogs fail to speak to their audience because they do not answer the interests of their visitors/target market. While the blog posts may be very insightful, it fails to establish the credibility of the brand because nobody is “searching” for this information. How do you fix this problem? Simple keyword research will get your blog content going and allow your posts to speak to what your target audience is literally searching for. The easiest way to get this information is the Google Keyword Tool.

Google Keyword Tool

Google’s free keyword tool is a great place to start your research and find what people are looking for in your field of expertise. For the sake of our post, let’s use “blogging” as our focus. Here are some of the searches being run on Google per the keyword tool for the term blogging:

Google Keywords Tool(Click to enlarge)

In reviewing the results above, I can then populate the content or subject matter that I would like to tackle for my blog. These items would be:

  • Blogging Tips
  • How to Start A Blog
  • Business / Corporate Blog Set-Ups

Now that you have this list, you can start to build out your blog posts that focus on these areas. The importance of multiple posts per search query is that it will assist you in getting lift on these terms organically if done often enough. Think of Google’s algorithm as the human metabolism: the more blogs you feed it and update, the more often it gets hungry and comes back for more.

5 topics you should consider before starting a company blog

Seems like everyone and their ‘teacup’ pigs have blogs these days. If you’re not familiar with the term (likely noone reading this post!), a blog is basically a running (web) log of journal like entries – like the one you’re reading now. From personal blogs chronicling daily life to corporate blogs aimed at informing customers and building a brand, online journals or “blogs” can be an integral part of a business. But before you jump on the band wagon and start your own blog for the sake of being able to check “create a blog” off the ol’ list of to-dos, consider the following:

What are your goals and what are your reasons for starting a blog?

There are millions of websites and blogs on the world wide web as it is and we humans only have a limited amount of time to browse through content. Translation: you better have something compelling to say if you want people to read your content. Of course, your goal may not necessarily be to create a following. Perhaps your big goal is to effect natural search rankings by increasing your amount of content. Before you create your blog, deliberate on what types of goals you would like to accomplish. If your goals include some of the following, then perhaps blogging should indeed be in your future.

  • Obtain/improve natural search precense
  • Open up the doors to two way communication with your customers/interested parties
  • Build a community for like-minded people
  • Become a recognized thought leader in your community
  • Increase return visits to your site

Do you have time to maintain and post fresh content?

Successful blogs tend to be updated on a very frequent basis. One of the interesting things about a blog is the fact that many blogging platforms display the date and time that you publish your content meaning that it is easy to tell how fresh content is. I don’t know about you, but I generally have a bias toward fresh content (the search engines do too!). Based on my experience, I would recommend shooting for at least a weekly update but depending on your goals from above, you may want to shoot for more like once a day if you can swing it.

  • Do you have enough topics for creating at least one new post per week
  • Do you have enough time for creating at least one new post per week
  • How do you plan on monitoring comments and discussions
  • Do you have time for responding to comments
  • Will you write everything or do you have writers
  • How good are your writing skills
  • Can you keep to a consistent schedule

Who is your audience?

And are they online. One of your goals may be to form a community centered around your business and your offerings or expertise but if your audience does not want to interact, simply having a blog will not be enough. Knowing your audience and targeting your content to them will help, however.

  • Who are you targeting with your blog content
  • How will you perk the interest of your target audience

How will you promote your content?

Just because you built it doesn’t actually mean they’ll come. You’ll need to promote your content in ways that attract the right kind of audience. This exposure can of course come from a lot of places. Below are some places to start:

  • Display a link or snippets of your content in a prominent region of your main site (assuming you don’t have just a blog)
  • Participate in related blogs, forums, and Q&A sites
  • Participate in blog promotion and blog community sites
  • Create a link to your blog in outgoing email
  • Participate in social networking sites

Are you willing to do a whole bunch of work before you see a return?

It may be a little lonely on the blog in the beginning but nobody said this was going to be a quick and simple process. Depending on how well you promote your content and how big your potential audience is and how much traffic makes it over to your site, it may take a considerable amount of time before you start accomplishing any of your goals. Know that traffic won’t just appear out of nowhere and that you have to earn it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Writing and interacting in a blog can be a rewarding endeavor. But it can also be a huge time investment that doesn’t result in satisfaction. Help yourself out by setting solid goals, deciding on how you’re going to go about accomplishing those goals, be willing to pour in the time and effort, and you just may create success. If you’re not quite ready to move forward with a blog at this moment, there are plenty of other places to spend your time and effort to improve your site.

PPC and SEO Work Well Together

When dealing with the complicated world of internet marketing, there are numerous headaches to getting a web site noticed. Whether it is the competition or the clutter, really driving prospective customers to a site can be a hassle. Some seem to think internet ads are the best way to go, while others would rather crawl their way though the ranks of search engines to come out on top. While many internet companies search intently for the solution, the true answer is easier than it may appear. The answer is BOTH: Paid search ads and natural search optimization together work more effectively and efficiently than either by themselves.

*12.6% of conversions credited to natural search were preceded by ad clicks

*Searchers use nearly as many branded searches as non-branded searches

*Branded ads increase new visitor traffic by 12%

Some internet businesses stick to one or the other, but the truth is that they are an effective tag team for many reasons. Most companies aren’t the number one result in an online search results page immediately when they begin their search engine optimization, so while your web site climbs in search rankings internet ads keep you in the customers immediate search results.While your natural rank may not show immediately, your ad will. This supplementation will lead to valuable traffic as your ad can drive interest to your web site. Many companies believe they are done with advertising once their site has a sufficient rank. Sadly, this is not the case. Many times customers’ searches are too long, too specific, or just to general. Paid ads can help insure that your relevant page is still displayed even in these instances. Another benefit with the saturation and supplementation of both elements is it can aid in brand association, so that customers think of your product or service in a particular category due to its dominate presence in a search.

A successful marketing campaign must include both advertisements and a high ranking natural search result. In the highly competitive internet market no company should simply be satisfied with a decent ranking or clever advertisement. Using both strategies ensures that you are receiving the maximum return on your investment. – J

Search Engine Optimization – Google Speaks on Natural Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a topic that Google discusses often publicly, so the release of Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide – was met with great enthusiasm.  While the guide doesn’t give away any super secrets on how to increase natural search rankings the reader will come away with a deeper understanding of SEO, site design and even a plan of action for creating a new website or increasing the natural visibility of a current site.

Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results. You’re likely already familiar with many of the topics in this guide, because they’re essential ingredients for any webpage, but you may not be making the most out of them.”

A selection from the SEO Starter Guide that I found very informative was all about “description” meta tags.  Description meta tags differ from page titles and page title tags, but are no less important. “A page’s description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page’s title may be a few words or a phrase, a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph…Google Webmaster Tools provides a handy content analysis section that’ll tell you about any description meta tags that are either too short, long, or duplicated too many times (the same information is also shown for <title> tags). Like the <title> tag, the description meta tag is placed within the <head> tag of your HTML document.”

“Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say “might” because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page’s visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user’s query. Alternatively, Google might use your site’s description in the Open Directory Project.”

Most of the information above was taken from Googles’ SEO Starter Guide – so this is about as simple (yet detailed) body of knowledge that Google will probably release for quite some time about SEO.  For more in-depth or simple to follow directions – I would suggest you find yourself a great Search Engine Marketing company that offers SEO along with white hat optimization and flexible contract terms.

At Risk of Being Redundant; Google On Duplicate Content

Part of the job for the PPC or SEO analyst, consists of debunking… a large part of our job revolves around explaining rumors and misreads. For years, we’ve had to explain a particular twist of semantics that somehow has convinced people that if you have duplicate content on a web site, Google takes out a pen and puts a black mark by your name.

No, Virginia, there is no duplicate content penalty – at least not the way people think.

When faced with multiple pages that look too much alike, Google has to decide what’s what – why it’s seeing double, or whether there’s any malicious intent with what it’s finding. For the most part, the average website doesn’t practice malicious copying, nor do they usually scrape content from other sites. What happens is they end up with catalogs and parts listings that contain 80% plus duplicate wording, or end up with 16 different possible ways to land on the “same page” because there are that many different search options in their web catalog that will land you on the same exact item. This can cause confusion.

Google’s basic, and hopefully final, word on the subject is simple – when we find a bunch of pages that look really similar, we group them into a “cluster,” then we pick a single URL to represent all pages in that cluster. But then they do something else that the average webmaster probably never even notices.

“We then consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.”

Notice the absence of any pens, or black marks, or slaps, or shackles or any other form of “punishment.” They just group all “duplicated” pages and consolidate the info under one indexed URL. For the average e-commerce site, this is not a problem.

But let’s say you are one of these folks who has 854,000 items in a dynamic, database-driven catalog and all items are shown on a “shell” page that gets populated by the shopper’s query when they’re looking for their item, but because of the way your catalog is built, the ONLY thing that changes on the pages is the image file name, the price, the part number, and the name of the item. Sounds like you probably have 845,000 duplicate pages that will not be indexed individually. If you’re looking for some massive number of “pages indexed” (for whatever reason), you are quite liable to be disappointed. Until there is enough variance between items, like a longer description, or some individualized stats which also populate those pages, you stand very little chance of seeing more pages indexed – you are more than likely seeing fewer pages indexed as Google compiles it’s clusters.

In fact, catalogs that work this way violate Google’s best practices as outlined in their Webmaster Guidelines. Google doesn’t publish all this info for fun – they are trying to help us help ourselves. They say very plainly:

“Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

If you feel like your site is suffering from this “clustering” of pages that seem to be duplicated, work with your webmaster to rectify the situation and then use Google’s Webmaster Central tools to request a re-evaluation of your domain.

If you just have 16 different search options that all lead back to the same item, don’t worry about it – one of those URLs will be indexed, and that’s all you need. You’ll want to monitor your SERPs so you can see which pages make the cut so you know how Google “sees you, and keep your site map up to date, but other than that, most of us have very little to fear from the Duplicate Content Penalty…

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