A Dilbert cartoon strip on Friday painted SEO’s in a rather unflattering light. A lot has been written by overly defensive SEOs in reaction to the comic strip, which is shown below:
This brings up some good questions about Search Engine Optimization. SEOs sometimes have a reputation as people who game the system for fast results. In the past, gaming the system was easier than it is now. Gaming the system in the past could sometimes bring better search engine rankings quickly. People who gamed the system could get away with it, and be profitable. Search engines are evolving. If you have an online presence, you have probably been approached by companies or individuals who promise you “guaranteed front page rankings on Google”. Be wary of anybody who makes this guarantee. That guarantee is one of the easiest ways to discern the type of SEO that this comic strip is referring to. SEO’s that were one time masters of gaming the system make promises like this.
Optimizing your search engine results and managing your online presence is an ongoing process. It takes weeks or sometimes months to achieve valid and lasting search engine results for the key phrases that are important for your business. Managing your online presence is about much more that Search Engine Optimization. Online Presence Management means doing all of the things the right way so that your web site will be found by potential customers looking for you.
Having a strong online presence can be one of the best and most cost effective ways of generating more business from your website. Don’t be tempted by those who offer quick results. A lasting, well executed online presence can become your best marketing tool. A quick jump in search engine rankings will typically fade just as quickly if it is not part of a well planned, continuously maintained online presence management strategy. Maintaining an ongoing strategy for a strong online presence may cost a little more, but the return on investment will be well worth it in the long run. As with so many things in life, you get what you pay for. Beware of the “Pantless Weasel” offering the $500 guaranteed search engine optimization package. Your online presence deserves better.
In an article on SearchEngineLand.com yesterday, Matt McGee stated that the current conventional wisdom on Google+ and online marketing is as follows: Even if your audience isn’t active there, it’s almost mandatory to have a profile and be active there because of the way Google is showing more Google+ content in its regular search results.
Since Google launched Search Plus Your World(SPYW), much has been written about the impact of SPYW on Search Engine Optimization. I covered some of the reactions and my opinions on SPYW in previous blog posts: How SPYW Will Impact SEO on January 13th, SPYW Reactions on January 17th, SPYW Reaction Continues on January 24th, and SPYW Forces Google+ to be Taken Seriously on Feb 8th.
The SearchEngineLand article summarizes the findings in two reports that attempt to put the change SPYW will have on SEO into some perspective. If you have an online presence and you are concerned about better search engine rankings, you need to stay abreast of changes in Google that impact search engine ranking page (SERP). You also need to be aware of potential opportunities created by the increased emphasis on a Google+ presence in strengthening your online presence.
The first article was by Ian Lurie on his Conversation Marketing blog. It was titled ‘Google Plus Box Ranking Factors Report’. He basically did two things. He surveyed 29 prominent SEO’s with 4 basic questions about Google+’s business future. The questions were:
- Will Google+ hit 400 million users in 2012? – 16 said yes.
- If so, will that spell trouble for Facebook? – 8 said yes.
- Do you see any difference in audience participation on Google+ versus Facebook? – All 29 said yes, Google+ has fewer but deeper interactions.
- Are you advising clients to jump on Google+? – 22 gave a qualified yes, most qualified it with they would wait and see if Google+ can gain some real traction.
The second thing he did was a detailed analysis of how Google+ factors can impact your Google+ box placement.
The second article cited was by AJ Kohn on Blindfiveyearold.com and was titled the Ultimate Google+ SEO Guide. It is a very detailed guide into what things on Google+ can impact how you show up in Google Search+ results. One thing he points out is that there are many ways that could potentially be ripe for spamming your way into top search results via Google+. This article is an excellent practical guide to all of the things you need to know if you are going to jump in and use Google+ for all of the SEO juice you can get.
SPYW, for better or worse, is impacting the world of SEO. If you have an online presence, whether or not you need a Google+ strategy is a big decision. It is still early on since the changes of SPYW have begun to impact SEO. These two guides are an excellent starting point for immersing yourself in all of the changes, opportunities that it presents, pitfalls to avoid, and how Google+ can be used in strengthening you Online Presence.
As a business owner, your success can often depend on your online presence. There are those who build a website and then let the chips fall where they may on all of the other factors that determine the strength of your online presence. There are many factors that impact the strength of your online presence. I covered many of these factors in previous blog posts in an 11 part series, my Online Presence Management Guide. Probably the most well known component of a strong online presence, aside from building a website, is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are many SEO consultants bombarding anyone who puts up a web site with promises of better search engine rankings. How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys? Just like in the old west, there are what is considered “black hat” SEO and “white hat” SEO. The easiest way to tell the difference? Promises of a #1 ranking on Google will almost always come from someone who should be wearing a black hat.
Having a strong online presence does require search engine optimization, but it has to be done the right way. Lately, a lot has been said about the changing of the search engine algorithms, and site that have been negatively impacted by these changes. A great article in SEOMoz.org outlined the history of what these games have been for the last few years, and how all of these gaming strategies eventually failed. This put one thing in perspective. If an SEO expert is out to game the system, they may find short term success. These are the black hat guys. They will eventually fail in the long run.
If you want long term success that isn’t going to be impacted by algorithm changes, avoid the current latest method of gaming the system. Follow the guidelines of what the search engines are trying to accomplish. Make your site engaging and relevant, so that it is a site that others want to link to. Make your site easy for the search engines to find, crawl and index. Make all of the content true to the real purpose of your website.
Doing SEO the right way means never having to worry about algorithm updates again.
The SEO experts have begun to weigh in on the Google Search Plus Your World update, and how it is going to impact Search Engine Optimization. The responses seem to range from making a case for how wrong it is for Google to push Google+ content ahead of where it has any relevance, to acceptance and prediction of how SEOs will probably react, to strategies SEO’s need to think about moving forward with the change.
Danny Sullivan builds a case for how Google pushes Google+ content in this great article. He speaks of the coming anti-trust case, and how this has given all of Google’s competitors ammunition. He then gives examples where he logged in incognito, for certain terms like “music” Britney Spears Google+ page was prominently displayed on the first page sidebar. He goes on to make a point that if this creates an opportunity for companies, but only if they start creating lots of Google+ pages to pop up for all of the keywords.
In this post on mashable.com, Erin Everhart makes some good points with a pragmatic approach. If this change stands, and you want better search engine rankings, you better make sure you have Google+ business page, and you need to get that business page included into as many circles as possible. You also need to do anything you can do to get your site linked to other Google+ pages, such as having quest bloggers who have links to their Google+ pages. So her approach would be if peoples search results are going to have all these personal results ahead of traditional organic SEO, you need to be in a circle that is going to get you somehow into the Your World results. Is this really feasible? If someone is searching for something and you are already in a circle that would put you in their your world results, would they be searching in the first place.
Another article by Jon Henshaw in the Raventools.com blog hypothesizes as to Google’s motives for this change and speculates on how SEO’s are going to react. He predicts that SEOs will attempt to create circles will empty profiles to build a websites social credibility and therefore their rank in the social component of the search results. This is analogous to the way link farms created empty links to boost rankings before the Panda update. He predicts that this will fail, but goes on to say that websites need to think about being positively connected to people and influencers.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see how being positively connected to as many people as possible is going to help you social ranking for a particular searcher if you are not already in a circle directly connected to that person. As for the earlier examples where searching while not logged into your google+ account, what are going to be the criteria to get your website to the top of the social rank? How come a search for music returned Britney Spears in the top 3 results? It is because she has a Google+ page, but a lot of musicians have a Google+ page. Was she ranked highly because of her number of followers? There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how these results are ranked, and until a little more exploration is done, It is still too early to be allocating too many resources to ranking in social search. With the public outcry and the coming FTC probe, it is not inconceivable that this change will be rolled back. If you have an online presence, or if you are an online presence manager, my advice would be keep an eye on this story as it develops, but don’t jump onto the Google+ bandwagon just yet.
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of quality control and Amit Singhal, one of Google’s primary algorithmic engineers, this week presented PubCon’s keynote speech on the state of search and SEO. In it he gave one of the best quotes ever on search:
“You do not want to go where search engines are; you want to go where search engines are going to be.”
Where is Google/SEO Going?
He recommends having a strategy in each of these areas:
Mobile – A cell phone is a computer you carry with you everywhere.
Social – Google can only crawl the open web. If the Googlebot is blocked, then they cannot see it. However, social is an important aspect of Google eliminating spam and this will become a bigger and bigger portion of the algorithm
Local – Most purchases take place here and this will become bigger and bigger
Yesterday, Matt Cutts , head of the search quality group at Google, retweeted a link to the following blog post from the official Google Search Blog: A new way to get information about real world places
The blog post outlines changes in how Google returns local search results. Rather than just locating a business on the map, where available for the business you will also find pictures with a small yellow “pegman” icon.
This is the same Icon that when drug onto a Google map puts you in street level view. If you are a small business owner, part of managing your online presence is making sure you are correctly registered in Google maps so that when someone searches for you will appear correctly on a Google map for local searchers. Now the importance of this proper registration with Google has been taken up a notch. Now local business can take a 360 panorama shot of the inside of their business and register this image or multiple images with Google maps. This means the virtual world that is Google Earth has (or can be) expanded so that searchers can virtually step into your business and have a look around.
As a business owner, this is just another piece of your online presence that needs to be managed. It presents an opportunity for early adopters to stand out in search results if they have added the panorama view to their registration with Google. This is one more example of how all of the pieces for maintaining a strong online presence change on a daily basis in today’s world. A strong online presence can be your best and most cost effective marketing tool. Online Presence Management is a complex and ever changing world. To stay on the cutting edge and get the best return, an SEO expert can very well be the best way to spend your marketing dollars.
In my last blog post I made the case that an increasing number of the potential visitors to your website will be using mobile platforms, such as an iPad, iPhone, or other smartphone. Most people agree that going forward, this will be an ever growing number. If their experience with your website in their mobile browser is not a good one, you could come off as unprofessional, and lose a good chunk of this every growing market.
As part of managing your online presence, you have to manage the visitors experience on your website. And more and more that experience is going to be on a tablet or smartphone. As you begin managing your online presence, one part of that process will be using SEO techniques. This will improve your search engine rankings. As you get better search engine rankings, you will get more first time visitors to your site. If they are on a tablet or smartphone, you need to make sure your site is easy to navigate, graphically appealing, engaging, and as informative as if they were viewing your main website in a desktop browser. In this blog post I’m going to outline the basics of making sure your website is well represented on mobile platforms.
Once you’ve decided to make your website mobile friendly, the first question is to decide which of the following two routes you will take:
- Optimize your existing website to be mobile friendly.
- Create a separate, parallel mobile site completely streamlined for mobile users.
When making this decision, one of the main things you need to consider is the percentage of current users of your website that are from a mobile platform. Your current weblogs or analytics should allow you to get a percentage of all visitors to your site who are using a mobile platform. This report from comscore.com shows that currently 7% of all digital traffic is from tablets and smartphones. This is the average across all types of web sites and for all demographics. Depending on the nature and target demographic of your website, the number you get from your analytics could be substantially higher. If it is in the 25%+ range, you should definitely consider a separate, parallel mobile website. Creating a separate parallel mobile site will give that 25%+ segment of your visitors a more satisfying experience. If your current visitors on mobile platforms are in the 10%-25% range, either path is probably a good option, depending on available resources. If less than 10% of your current visitors are on a mobile platform, you can probably safely consider streamlining the existing website for better mobile viewing.
Optimizing your existing site to be Mobile friendly
Optimizing your existing site for mobile friendliness will involve testing, tweaking, and refining your current website to make it more mobile friendly. By testing how your website performs on various platforms, you will quickly begin to see which features perform well, and which feature perform poorly, or don’t perform at all. For example if your site uses Flash menus, your users will be literally stuck on the home page when they view your site on an iPhone or Ipad. Simply replacing your menus with similar HTML 5 menus solves that problem. By continuously testing and refining your site, you can establish new design specifications for your site. Eventually, you can get to the point where the experience on most major mobile platforms is acceptable. You may never get the full user experience for your mobile visitors that they would have gotten if you designed and maintained a separate mobile website. You should at least get to the point where the mobile device user can navigate the site, easily peruse content, and generally feel like they are getting something of value from a professionally designed site.
To begin the process of testing and refining your site, the following tools check cross browser and cross platform compatibility by showing your website in all of the many mobile configurations:
- W3C mobile – A simple tool at the W3.org website that validates web pages as mobile OK.
- Gomez Cross-Device Mobility Test – A free test for your website on the big 4: Google Android, Safari on IPad, Safari on iPhone and Blackberry.
- Crossbrowsertesting.com – Web-based software to easily view your website across all major browsers and all major platforms, with a free trial and plans starting at $29.95/month.
- Perfecto Mobile – Cloud based application, you pay for the time you spend viewing your website on any browser platform combination ($10-$14 per hour)
- Multi-Browser Viewer – Standalone software that simulate iPhone, Blackberry, Windows mobile, Google Android, and iPad mobile with all of the major browsers. ($139/year, $99 Annual Refill and update)
Creating a separate mobile site
Creating a separate mobile site will increase you web development costs. There will be costs to set it up as well as increased maintenance cost of your website going forward. More and more, website visitors are using these platforms for a greater share of their web browsing. All indications are those numbers will continue to increase. The extra cost justification should be easy once analytics show more than 25% of your visitors are on a mobile platform. A separate web site designed to offer a professional, easy to use, scaled down version of your main site should easily pay for itself.
There are many tools designed especially for creating a website that is tailored for use on mobile platforms:
- Mofuse – Build and host your mobile site on their platform (starting at $39.00/month)
- Mobify – A leader in ecommerce mobile sites
- WPtap – Specializes in themes/plugins to convert a WordPress site to a mobile site.
- Mobisite Galore – Build and host your mobile site on their platform (10 page pack $156/year, unlimited page pack $225/year)
- WPTouch Pro – Converts WordPress (WP) based websites into mobile friendly sites. (Cost: 1 WP website $39, 5 WP Websites $69, Unlimited WP Websites $199)
As part of strong online presence management strategy, you need to understand where your visitors are coming from. A larger percentage of them will be coming from tablet and smartphone devices, as people spend more of their online lives on these devices. You need to make sure that no matter what platform or browser those visitors are using, they need to come away from your site feeling more engaged and more informed.
Smartphones and Tablets now drive nearly 7 percent of total U.S. Digital Traffic, according to a report released October 10, 2011 by comscore.com. The report was entitled ‘Digital Omnivores: How Tablets, Smartphones and Connected Devices are changing U.S. Digital Media Consumption’. Some key findings of the report were that the mobile media user population (defined as anyone who browses a mobile web, access mobile applications or downloads mobile content) grew 19% to more than 116 million people. Also, nearly half of all iPad owners had made a purchase using their iPad. See more of the report here.
These numbers seem to support conventional wisdom that if someone is searching for a product or service on the web, more people than ever are doing that from a tablet or smartphone, and those numbers will continue to grow. Having a strong Online Presence means you need to understand the ever changing online world. You have to insure that your website is friendly to all of the platforms that your potential new customers are using.
Also, a study by www.emarketer.com showed that mobile ads seemed to have a stronger influence than similar ads displayed on a desktop PC. The various factors that seemed to be influenced more strongly by the mobile ad are shown in the chart below (and see more info on the study here):
These reports show an opportunity for online marketing. SEO experts are noticing that for whatever reason mobile users don’t seem to be tuning out advertising at the same rate they have been conditioned to tune out PC based advertising. This could change over time, but seems to be the case right now. Businesses that have a strong Online Presence Management Strategy need to insure that the mobile users experience with their website is optimized for their platform. If you choose to use pay-per-click search engine advertising as part of your online presence management strategy, mobile advertising may be the best way to spend the money. You need to keep in mind going forward that as you improve your search engine ranking, there is an ever growing chance that those who find you will be finding you on a smart phone or tablet. When they do, you or your SEO expert need to make sure your website is ready for them.
You hear it over and over again from SEO experts, “Content is King”. If you want to improve your search engine ranking, you have to engage users with content. Better search engine rankings mean more traffic to your site. What happens when the customer gets to your site? Content is still king, as the following infographic shows, content is a major factor in impacting purchasing decisions and converting visitors to customers. 61% of consumers are more likely to purchase goods from businesses that offer custom content.
Infographic from Brafton.com
Regardless of whether you are a B2B or a B2C business, custom content is key to closing the sell. If you are a B2B company, 60 percent of business decision makers say content helps them make better purchase decisions. If you are a B2C business, 61 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from companies that offer custom content. The information people find online impacts their purchase decisions, and custom content is your best opportunity to show what you know and separate yourself from the crowd.
Google, in its webmaster central blog, has given some insight into how important quality content is in achieving consistently high search engine rankings. In response to the criticism of Google’s Panda updates They stated the following in a blog post: “focus on developing high-quality content rather than trying to optimize for any particular Google algorithm”
A strong strategy for online presence management needs to include a plan for consistently and continuously providing quality, custom content. Your website SEO will benefit, and all aspects of your continuing online presence will be stronger.