Friday, November 16, 2012

'Dark Google' and Your Privacy

It's been a pretty slow couple of weeks with changes to search algorithms but I did come across some information on what has been coined, "Dark Google."  It relates to Google searches, analytical data available through Google and your privacy.

About a year ago (October 2011), Google announced that in an effort to shield search information and other private information linked to your Google user account, they would block your information from the domain data when you performed a search and clicked on an organic link.  An organic link is created naturally and differ from traffic from referral sources and paid links such as the sponsored ads you see on search engine results pages.  For example, right now I am logged into my Google account in order to write this blog posting.  If I were to conduct a search without logging out, this search data would be blocked and would appear as "not provided" to the Google Analytical Data for whatever website I visited as a result of that search.  Right?  Wrong!

The Real Deal
Google decided to make this information available if a user clicked on paid or sponsored ads.  This is how Google collects billions of dollars in revenue: through paid ads.  It makes business sense to allow advertisers paying for ad space access to this type of search data so they can better target their ads towards a specific audience.  But is it ethical to provide this search data for a fee?

Other companies have been forced by shareholders to increase their revenue through paid advertising.  Facebook released a Promotions feature a few years back and offered this as a free tool for business page owners.  Now, this services costs a fee and is now available to regular users as well.  Globally, online advertising revenue hit $17 billion in the first half of 2012.  Some project yearly revenue to reach $143 billion by 2017.  

The SEO Data
Website publishers have been noticing a very large increase in "not provided" search data in their Analytics since this initiative took effect.  Most publishers, about 35%, are reporting between 30-50% of their search terms "not provided."  My business website, Web Crawl Consulting, has 41% of its search terms "not provided."  In the SEO reporting world, this poses a threat to 'business as usual' methods.  SEO firms must utilize multiple reporting tools to gather all pertinent data for their clients.  But SEO isn't all just keywords and phrases.  The big picture is how to drive traffic to your website.       
In Reality

From a business standpoint, I get it.  As a publicly traded company, there is much pressure to raise as much revenue as possible to make shareholders happy.  There are over 1 billion users on Facebook and 500 million Google + accounts.  It's free to sign up and use most of the services they provide but at the end of the day, companies have to turn a profit.  They have to get creative in order to meet multiple goals and some of these goals become intertwined.  I think people should be aware of how their information is being shared online.  Don't become like South Park's Kyle in "The Human Centipad" episode.      

Friday, October 26, 2012

Building Links to your Site: The Future Trend

There are many large internet marketing firms out there that promise to link their customers' websites to other webpages throughout their network and list them in their directory as well.  This is a form of SEO practice called "link building" which is very important when it comes to search page ranking.  Link buyers beware: this certain form of link building is being targeted by Google through their algorithm changes made this year.

These web directories have been taking ranking hits this year as Google has rolled out the changes.  It appears as if Google is trying to drive better link building strategies, in effect, saying that it is better to earn quality links than to pay for an inclusion in a directory or network.  So what does this mean and how do we earn more valuable links?

Here's the logic behind link building:  you have a business website that you are trying to rank higher on the web.  By building links across the internet, you can generate more relevant traffic to your site by gaining links on highly trusted websites which essentially acts as a point or vote for your site.  The key phrase is "highly trusted websites."  You want to make sure that whoever is creating links to your site across the internet is doing so on trusted sites, otherwise, that link won't count as much or at all towards your site's ranking. 

One way to build high trusted links that will most likely also drive traffic to your site is through social media.  It's free to sign up and since so many people use social media sites, they are highly trusted on the internet.  Web Crawl Consulting offers full social media marketing management for businesses looking for help in this area. 

Another way, although not as strong, is through blog content writing and blog comments.  By getting published on other sites, you are often allowed to include a link back to your website.  Keep in mind that your blog and comments should be related to your website's industry.

To see a more on this subject, please see the video at The Death of Link Building.

Author: Michael Palmer

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Use Social Media to Increase Web Traffic

I recently met with the manager of a business who was asking me how they can increase awareness of some changes to their location in order to drive more customers through the doors.  We did a quick local search for them online using a few different keywords and based on those searches, their website wasn't even appearing on the first or second page.  One thing to keep in mind is that they have had an active website for about 10 years now but their on-page SEO was non-existent and they are also not using social media to promote their business.

Next, we did a quick competitive analysis of a few related businesses who were appearing on page 1 of the search engine results.  At first glance, the competition's websites weren't all that impressive in comparison.  Then we took a look at the competition's social media activity... AND IT WAS BOOMING.  One had over 1600 "likes" on Facebook and have been open for less than 2 years. 

Social media is becoming ever more of an important factor in how a website is ranked by search engines.  It's a great way to promote business by posting about daily events, promotions or even just to get the name out their and keep it on customer's minds.  It's free advertisement but someone has to put in the work to gain those connections and keep the updates flowing on a regular basis.  It is also a great way to gain referral web traffic to your main website.  When you post something new on your social media page, include a link to your website.  People are more likely to click on it to see if there is anything else new going on at your business.  Of course, it also helps to keep your website updated on a continuous basis so that when the user does click on the website link, they are presented with new information that may drive them to your business.

I recently read an article from a popular Blogger who was talking about the new age of link building.  Link building is the practice of obtaining links on other websites that refer viewers of that site back to your website.  This is a very important practice in SEO.  It's a way for one website to say, "Hey, I trust this other website to provide good and relevant information and I would recommend that you visit them."  Search engines continue to change the way that they rank relevant links.  The trend is slowly going towards social media linking whether it be through Facebook, Twitter or local places reviews such as Yelp! or Google Places.  In the mind of the search engines, this new trend of link building provides more credible linking because it is a more social way gaining traffic to your site rather than paying to have your site listed in a large directory.  It's also a way for other users to socially recommend your business and as many people know, the best customers are the ones that refer others to your business.   

Author: Michael Palmer   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Google Makes Another Search Algorithm Change

After making a few major updates to their algorithm in the past couple of weeks, Google announced again that they have made another update.  This update is being referred to as "Top Heavy 2" and pertains to web page layout criteria.  This update is expected to only impact a minimal amount of sites, but the reason for the update is to assign a lower rank to sites that are heavy with paid advertisements along the top tier of the each page.  To rationalize, Google says that users want to see content related directly to their search as soon as they enter a website.  This algorithm change will negatively impact those sites with a cluster of advertisements along the top portion of the site.  The question now becomes: how much is too much?

The original update was ran back in January of 2012.  Many webmasters, however, are reporting that they have been seeing more ranking changes related to this update between now and then which leads some people to think that there have been other updates since.  Another issue is that with all of the recent changes that Google has made in recent weeks, some SEOs are complaining that they are all happening too close together (almost on top of each other) making it more difficult to keep websites current to algorithm guidelines.

As I see it, the only reason to place an enormous amount of ads on your page is to maximize potential revenue.  It DOES mean that the user will have to scroll in order to find the relevant content within that particular site so I applaud Google on this change if it heightens the user's search experience.

Please visit our website and follow our blog for more changes that affect the ranking of your company's website.
Author: Michael Palmer 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Recent Changes in Search Results

There have been a couple changes implemented over the past couple of weeks by Google that affect search engine rankings .  One, you may have noticed; and another that is not as apparent.  Both are important and should be noted as Google continues to raise the bar on site ranking algorithms.  In my opinion, these changes are going to make some people unhappy but at the same time, it is progress and theoretically, everything evens out in the end.  It definitely keeps all SEO firms on our toes.

The most obvious change has been the decrease of links in the first page of search engine results from 10 to 7.  Google claims that this only affects 20% of searches.  What does this mean for SEO?
  1. It means that a #8-10 ranking no longer guarantees a first page result.  An SEO can no longer use the "Top 10 Rank" sales pitch.   
  2. It places more time to be spent on behalf of the SEO spot-checking rankings in the search engines (granted, it is a good idea to do this anyway). 
  3. It places more pressure on the SEO to provide better quality of work for their clients to ensure that their web pages rank well (this is a good thing).
  4. It creates the need to keep your SEO employed (another good thing).  SEO isn't just a "one and done" job.  It takes time, effort, knowledge, effectiveness, etc. etc. etc.  
There are SEO bloggers out there that say this could be Google running an analysis and there is no reason to think this will or will not be the standard rule for SERPs in the future.  However, it is a good indication of what we might expect.

The second change is related to exact-match domains with low rankings.  This change is expected to initially affect less than 3% of websites in the US-English markets.  The purpose of this change is to keep low-quality domains with query-matching names from appearing in SERPs. 

For example:

You're shopping for widgets in San Antonio and you perform a search for "san antonio widgets." If a domain is but does not rank well with Google, it should no longer appear just for the sake of domain name.  

This is Google's effort to increase the relevancy of their search results.  Just because the domain matches the search doesn't mean it will automatically appear on page 1.  This may upset some of those people who invested a lot of money in buying a specific domain just for its name.  This also tells us how much Google is really putting an emphasis on the importance of the site's content while driving away from  the days when meta tag keywords played a huge role in site ranking. 
Author: Michael Palmer

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The SEO Client

One thing I have learned in trying to market SEO: most people know little about it and are getting scammed by larger companies who profit off of the lack of knowledge and empty promises.  I was shocked to learn that my local newspaper offered this type of service to local businesses.  My potential client was pitched by one of their salesman to purchase their monthly services which promised to generate "X" amount of leads each month.  As a skeptic, this customer decided to contact other business owners to see if it was worth his investment.  The answer he received: a resounding "NO!"  Unfortunately, a customer looking for instant gratification and a 100% guarantee is not a good customer for SEO.  A customer who is looking to invest money for the future of their business is the ideal client.  

I would love to develop some sort of proprietary software tool that could help a company manage their SEO or even claim to generate leads.  I have yet to see a product that costs the client money but replaces the need for an actual person managing a company's SEO and SEM campaign.  When it comes to SEO, it is not only what the search engine sees but also how your client's potential customers think when they are shopping for a product.  You could pay $80-$200 per month easily to a company that uses software to market your website.  They will place ads for you all over the internet for potential customers to click on.  They'll claim to get you a number 1 spot.  They'll offer you the comfort of a guarantee.  At the end of the month, you will probably have a lead or two (maybe), zero closed business and be out at least $200.  You might give them another month or two to prove themselves, but in the end, you will likely have a 0% return on investment, a 100% loss of your money and have a sour taste in your mouth about internet marketing.  You also won't have any more ads running and your website will not have gained any ground in search rankings.

If you still understand the value of a well-optimized website, you might want to consider another marketing strategy.  A real SEO company will want to work with your website developer or webmaster.  A real SEO company will make suggestions to change content on your website.  A real SEO company will have a person making educated decisions and consulting with you about the direction and organic ranking of your website.

Now, the bad news: a real SEO company will not charge you $80-$200 per month.  It will be more.  However, this is where the investment comes in.  You may pay an SEO consultant $1000 for six months for a total investment of $6000.  During those six months, your website will undergo an overhaul.  Changes made will be monitored and altered (optimized).  Once the work of the SEO consultant is complete, your website will continue to improve in site rankings because the changes made to your website do not go away.  In fact, they keep working for you during the entire life of the site.  New customers continue to find your company on the Internet long after you stop paying money to the SEO firm.

Educating the SEO client can be difficult.  The ability to explain the benefits and the differences in services is a strong ally.  The perfect SEO client can be hard to find.  It is unfortunate that many internet marketing companies take dollars instead of making them for their clients.
Author: Michael Palmer

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Networking and SEO

One of the barriers to entry when starting an SEO firm is an effective Sales strategy.  Without the ability to close a sales deal, you have no business.  The most time consuming and frustrating part of the sales process in the courtship.  There are multiple methods: cold calling, email blasts, pay-per-click advertising, etc.  Our most successful strategies in the early stages of our business has been referrals and joining a Business Networking group.

When you are a young SEO firm, chances are that you will have to wear many hats within your company to be successful.  You will likely need to have the ability to sell your services as well as follow through on the technical aspects.  The combination of the two can be a deadly force when it comes to client meetings and closing deals.  A client of ours, unhappy with their previous SEO company, informed us that when they asked their SEO Sales Rep about how their campaign was being run, the Sales Rep responded with, "I don't know the back-end technological side so I can't really answer your questions..."  Meanwhile, the same client has praised our approach saying that they are impressed with the amount of information they were given in our initial sales consultation.

The quality of interpersonal skills is a quality that we look for when hiring not only our Sales Managers but our SEO Analysts and Technicians as well.  Not only do we work on the back-end of a client's SEO campaign, we also interface with our clients to consult them on the "What, Where, Why, When and How" of the project.  We think this adds value with not only customer satisfaction and sales success, but also with customer retention.  Happy customers are likely to refer your business to other potential clients.  This skips the main courting phase of the sale often eliminating 2 to 3 sales calls before getting face time with the decision-maker of a potential client.  Sales Cycle Time is a very important sales metric.  This is the process length of a typical sale from initial contact with a potential client to contract signing.  A referral can cut up to 4 weeks in the Sales Cycle Time allowing your business to save money and very valuable time.

Another great way to get business referrals, in our experience, has been through Business Networking groups.  I spend about 2 hours every week at my main business network chapter meeting.  We have a very active group that loves to give out good referrals.  Each meeting allows me a chance to help my fellow chapter members single out what a quality lead for me would be.  With more than 35 members in the group, this increases my sales force for the cost of my time and the yearly dues which will be earned back 5 times with the close of one deal.  The ROI of this sales method is much greater than a typical cold call sales methodology.   

Web Crawl Consulting
Author: Michael Palmer