Is Google Narrowing Our Exploration Online?

You may or may not have noticed that on many Google searches, you now receive search results that include links that your social circle has shared. My first two reactions to this were, ‘wow how cool!’ followed by ‘damn Google knows everything about me’. While it is incredible that Google can recommend links my friends already like, and there have been times where I appreciated this feature, a new revelation came to me about another implication of this feature – other links are being bypassed to allow for my friends link to be pushed up.

I may never see the links that get relegated off of the first page, or simply pushed lower by the ‘socially suggested links’ and that negates much of the reason I use Google. The social links make sense because they bring some immediate relevance to your search, but at what cost? I often use Google to find incredibly obscure pieces of information that I could never find anywhere else, not get recommendations from friends. Google already directs your search with geo-location, popular searches, past searches and other data collected, giving you what they believe is the best possible websites to find your information, which limits your ability to find less popular links.

If this niche-ification continues then popular websites will continue to become more and more difficult to ignore, which for the most part is why SEO exists – but is it really benefiting the Googler? Is your search world being narrowed daily by Google?

I appreciate the most relevant possible links when searching for specific information, but there are times when I am not looking for the obvious answer or opinion. These are the times when I want nothing to do with Google predetermining what I am looking for.

Do you think Google is narrowing our search parameters too much, or are they within a reasonable amount?

-Max Silver, Social Media Specialist at 451 Marketing

 

Avoid the “Curse of the Unseen”: Incorporate SEO into Your Website

It’s Friday the 13th – an unlucky day that the superstitious dread.  A day to avoid black cats, broken mirrors, ladders, and cracks in the sidewalks.  But there is one thing can that make a company “unlucky” year-round, not just on certain Fridays.  You might to refer to it as  “the curse of the unseen.”  Bad luck indeed – your company doesn’t  show up in search results and your  website is almost impossible to find because it hasn’t been optimized for search.  But it’s not really luck that determines how your company is found in search, it’s planning.  How can you make sure your company avoids the “curse of the unseen”  in your next site redesign?

A company’s website redesign is rarely initiated with only one goal in mind, such as obtaining a new look and feel. Dynamic businesses have many objectives to meet and constituents to please in the collaborative design process. Whether the drivers of the website redesign are a new product or service launch, new positioning, global expansion, new leadership, or all of the above, the redesign team must balance many objectives to create a product which projects the company’s image while attracting customers. This is a large order to fill. As you plan your website redesign, add Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to your list to ensure you aren’t affected by the curse — SEO is essential in increasing traffic to your new website.

Optimizing your website for search engines will boost new visitors and increase organic traffic, providing you with more leads to convert into customers.  By incorporating SEO strategies throughout the design process, the team is better positioned to author content and develop a navigational structure that improves the impact of the new site. If the SEO considerations are left until the end of the design process, valuable time is wasted reworking the hard-sought design, and you will be doomed to be unseen. Skipping the SEO initiative entirely, in the interest of time, bypasses a golden opportunity to optimize the website’s effectiveness and will, undoubtedly, require revisiting and another time-consuming redesign down the road.

Search engine friendly websites are those that allow search engines to quickly navigate sites, hand-feeding keyword-rich pages to the web crawling bots. This access is essential to successful organic search results. A thorough SEO site audit will enable you to identify any design problems or other obstacles that would cause the search engine spiders to bypass or get lost in your website. By applying SEO considerations to storyboards and testing prototypes, companies can determine their site’s search engine friendliness prior to launch. Your design or SEO team must also clearly identify target keywords beyond product names – the phrases and related search topics that drive prospects to the site. With the help of tools, analytics and competitor evaluations, you can effectively determine the keyword phrases essential to your site design. With those keywords in mind, the website content can be authored with a clear focus toward the words and phrases that entice prospects to visit your site. By incorporating the keywords into the Title tags, Meta Descriptions, and the body of the content, visitors will easily be able to navigate the site based upon those search terms that brought them there originally.

A website redesign without SEO consideration can produce a beautiful website, full of flashes and visually appealing graphics. But without the words and phrases that describe the business, reference related topics, and identify problems the business solves, the search engines will overlook the site and you will be cursed to receive very little traffic. By enhancing the search engine friendliness of the website, you will improve the rate at which website visitors are converted to customers.   No website redesign should be without a solid SEO initiative.  It is a winning strategy for boosting exposure, attracting visitors, avoiding the “curse of the unseen,” and converting those visitors into leads.

On this Friday they 13th, do you have any other tips on how companies can avoid bad luck?  Let us know in the comment area below!

 

By Kathy Walsh, 451 Marketing Intern

451 Marketing

 

 

Punk Rock SEO: A DIY Approach to Internet Marketing

The DIY ethic, a necessity for the first few thousands of years of human existence and reclaimed by punk rock in the late 70s, is making a comeback as the world wide web grows bigger and gets faster.  Wondering if the non-working turn signals and non-working backup lights in your 2002 Chevy Cavalier are related?  Well, I was yesterday, Googled it, and fixed the fuse myself.  Search engine-enhanced DIY is all around us.

DIY SEO can help your website get a jump start on getting found, but there are many nuances to SEO.  It’s a good idea to work with a professional SEO to take you to the next level after you get a good grounding yourself of how it works.  First, I’d take a good look at respected online sources.  Here are some good ones:  seobook.com, searchengineland.com, and of course (straight from the horse’s mouth), Google’s SEO Starter Guide.


Then, Try Your Hand at These DIY SEO Basics:

Keyword Research – Figure out how your target audience searches for your site.

  • Brainstorm a list of 10-20 search terms that you think people would use to find you.  Enter each one in Google and/or bing to see if your website would be a reasonable fit with the other sites showing up for these terms.
  • Look at competitors’ sites that are showing up for your target terms. Are they using any other keywords that you haven’t thought of?  Add these to your list.
  • Use a free keyword tool like The Google Keyword Tool to get even more ideas and to see the level of interest and competition for each term you’re considering.
  • Narrow your list to those keywords you think will produce the most relevant search traffic.

Incorporate Keywords – Strategically use keywords in your site meta data and content.

  • Match each keyword on your list to pages on your site with corresponding content.  (spreadsheets are good for this). Don’t force the issue, though.  If you have “orphan” keywords in your list that don’t match up with any pages, keep them in a holding area to use for future relevant content.
  • Use the target keyword for each page in the page’s title (keep it under 60 characters), in the meta description (should describe the page in under 145 characters), in the url if possible, and within the page content (several times, naturally, and in Headings, if possible).

Optimize Site Structure – Make sure your site is easy to navigate for humans and bots.

  • Google hearts html.  Don’t mess around with too much flash and don’t have your text tied up in images.  This happens all the time!  Engine bots can’t read it.
  • If your navigation structure is logical to humans and is text based, you’re head and shoulders against many other (even very expensive) sites out there.
  • Make sure your robots.txt files are in order.  This is not as intimidating as it sounds. They basically tell engines which pages to crawl, index, not crawl, etc.  Here’s a brief primer: http://www.robotstxt.org/

Get Links – Getting links back to your site is an ongoing process, but well worth your time.  Note: Don’t overdo it because your site could be penalized and disappear from search results if it appears like you’re trying to dupe the engines.

  • Make sure you are getting links from sites that should be linking to you (associations you belong to, Chambers of Commerce, BBB, etc.)
  • Anytime you give a presentation, a quote in an article, a testimonial or any activity that may be mentioned online, ask if the author could send a link back to your site.
  • Write informational articles about your industry and submit them to articles directories like ezinearticles.com
  • If possible, try to include your target keywords in the links back to your site.  This instructs search engines to associate your site with those words.

Finally, to measure your results, use a free Analytics program like Google Analytics.  It’s very easy to set up and there are tons of user resources on the site.  See what’s working and what’s not and adjust your strategy.  Most DIY’ers need help sometimes.  When my Chevy’s muffler falls off (which I’m anticipating will happen soon), I probably won’t try to figure out how to fix it myself – I’ll go to the garage.  If you hit a snag, get in touch with a professional SEO who can help you trouble-shoot, strategize, and basically rock with your search marketing.

How to Build a Smart Powerful Keyword List

Keyword research can be a daunting task, but it forms the basis for paid and non-paid campaigns. Many people make the mistake of:

  • Only targeting their product names as keywords;
  • Using only a handful of keywords in optimization and PPC; or,
  • Targeting the wrong keywords altogether!

It is necessary to target the right keywords from the very beginning of your search marketing strategy, in order to get more clicks for your paid ads and to rank higher in SERPs.

The process of research begins with brainstorming. Try to think what customers or potential clients would actually type in to find your products/services. Sit down with your friends, colleagues or customers to come up with some terms. Try to avoid very generic terms, like ‘jeans’ for example, if you are not a very well established website with very high domain authority.  These extremely competitive phrases are very difficult to rank well organically if you are just in the beginning phases of website development/website optimization, and are often very expensive in pay-per-click.  During this stage, you might want to check your competitors’ websites and ads just to get an idea of what they are banking on. After this initial stage, you should have a list of at least 15-20 relevant keywords.

There are many keyword tools available in the market, but would suggest using“The Google Keyword Tool”.  As of this week, this tool (which replaces the former Google keyword tools) is out of beta testing.  Enter your shortlisted keywords in the keyword tool to find out different variations of the keywords you came up with during your brainstorming and research. Along with finding keyword variations, you will get an idea of how often the keyword is searched for, as well as how many other online advertisers are trying to get traffic on the phrase.  After this stage, you will have a better idea of which keywords you should and shouldn’t be targeting.

I also take advantage of two other cool Google tools in keyword research. The first is the Google Suggest, which ‘suggests’ different phrases as we type in the search box. This feature suggests queries that have previously been entered by users, so you might want to add the relevant ones to your list. Again for jeans, I get these suggestions:

The second are the ‘related’ queries that are displayed by Google at the bottom of the page. For example, if I search for jeans, I get these related terms that I might want to consider:

When all is said and done, it is important to have a list of keywords that exactly define what your product or service is, does, and the benefits of using it.   Don’t be afraid to be too exact or precise in the keywords you target.  Your optimization efforts will pay off by driving very qualified traffic to your site if you build a smart keyword list.  To use the jeans example one last time, if you only sell men’s designer jeans, why would you even want to put a lot of effort toward ranking well/advertising on the term ‘jeans’?  The people coming to your site on the term ‘jeans’ could be looking for women’s jeans, children’s jeans, work jeans, you get the idea.  Hope this post helps you build a powerful keyword list. Do let us know of any other techniques you use to research keywords.

The Power of Local Search: Create Awareness & Increase Customer Base

Often small, local businesses face the question of how to grow visits to their websites, and ultimately, to their businesses. SEO and PPC are the traditional, proven ways that can boost site traffic and leads to all sites; but, for small and local businesses it makes great sense to start with local search optimization. Local search has been around for some time, but very few people know how to take advantage of this free Google feature.


The process begins by creating a Google Places account (this used to be called Google local listings). It is one of the best and easiest ways to increase your customer base economically, as it is absolutely free! Recently, Google launched Google Tags, a new advertising feature, which helps you stand out from the competition. It adds a small tag beside your listing in the Google Places “7-pack” and charges a small $25/month fee to use this feature.

Once you set up an account, be sure to fill out as much information as possible because it definitely affects the rank of your listing and adds more credibility to your business. You will have to “verify” this listing, which can be accomplished by entering a verification pin you can choose to receive by phone or mail.

Here are some important factors you should consider when optimizing your Google local listing:
•    Put in your exact address and choose the most relevant business categories
•    If the opportunity presents itself, use a keyword in your business name (for example:  Brother & Sister Moving Company)
•    Add photos and videos of your office and products/service.  Many businesses aren’t currently taking advantage of this feature, so you can one up your competition quite easily in this respect.
•     Offer a special coupon in your profile, which will encourage users to both visit your business and (hopefully) write a positive review on your Places page.
•    Submit your business information on local search engines, local databases and local business listings
•     Make sure your information on superpages.com and other local-based information sites and user review sites is accurate, as these citations will show up on your Google Places profile and are thought to improve the optimization of the profile.

Hope this information helps your local search optimization efforts. Let us know if this post helped you set up your Google Places account. Share your thoughts and experiences.