Tag Archive: search engine optimization

  1. Should I Start a Google AdWords Campaign? What You Need to Know Before You Start Your Campaign

    Appearing in the number one spot on Google by simply shelling out some cash may sound like a no-brainer, but there are a few items to consider before you start re-allocating your marketing dollars. Just like any campaign, Google AdWords requires (you guessed it) strategy–and lots of it.

    Should I Start a Google AdWords Campaign? The Good, Bad & Ugly of This SEO Tool

    AdWords allows for rapid visibility. Unlike organic search, you don’t have to rely on slow increases in search rankings after months of accumulating links to your site, crafting valuable content, utilizing proper title tags, etc. This type of campaign allows you to bid on keywords, target specific locations to reach your audience and show up as one of the top results in the search listings. Alternatively, display ads and retargeting can be used on specific websites to meet your audience where they are.

    These quick results come with a price tag, however. It can be costly to ensure you outbid the competitors and actually show up in position one to three on the search listings. In addition, it is time consuming to maintain ads the proper way. After the initial setup, someone with sufficient AdWords experience should be dedicated to reviewing and making tweaks to the campaigns nearly every day. Rather than a slow-cooker-esque, “set it and forget it” strategy, proper planning is recommended for an ad campaign to work effectively, including putting thought into the ad copy and imagery (if applicable), keywords and landing page that the user is sent to.

    So You Want to Start an AdWords Campaign

    Your End Goal

    Because there’s an entire painter’s palette of ads to choose from, it’s important to identify the goal of the specific campaign. Whether your goal is to increase leads, sign-ups, or brand awareness, the type of ad used, as well as the landing page, should reflect and service the given goal.

    Search vs. Display Ads

    • Search Ads: These are the ads that appear at the top or side of the search listings, which are typically the ads people are most familiar with when they hear the term “Google AdWords.” This type of ad is best for the “active searcher.” Namely, someone who is on a mission to find a particular thing (think: plumbers, locksmiths, etc).
    • Display Ads: These ads display on a particular website, typically on the sidebar, header or footer of the site. These work best to familiarize people with your brand or if your product requires a lengthy sales process or has major visual appeal that you want to showcase.
    • Retargeting: Have you ever abandoned your cart on a particular website, only to be “followed” by an ad for that same product when you visit Facebook? A little creepy, right? This form of modern-day, digital haunting is also known as retargeting, and it’s an effective sales tool for companies with longer sales cycles.

    Be Specific

    It’s important to include specific keywords, ad copy and landing pages that all come together like the pieces of some kind of sales-driving jigsaw puzzle to complete your campaign’s goals. Create a landing page with a call-to-action and content that is specific to the targeted keyword rather than sending a user from an AdWords listing to your homepage with no action step. Negative keywords can also be targeted to steer an unwanted audience away from your ads. For example, if you are creating a campaign around VIP ticket sales to an event, you may want to target “cheap” as a negative keyword so that your ads are not served to those whose search query includes that word.

    Set Expectations

    Understand that every new campaign includes a test period–we’ve all had to work through our awkward phases, after all. It’s best to target an array of keywords, use different sets of ad copy and/or imagery, as well as landing pages to see what resonates best with your audience and adjust your campaign in response.

    Depending on your goals, AdWords can be an effective tool when you utilize the right ad type and create a specific and well-monitored campaign. For the greatest chance at success, we recommend this simply as a tool in your toolbox of an overall strategy that includes other tactics to support it, such as organic SEO, content marketing, email marketing, public relations and social media. There’s no quick solution for long-lasting SEO success, but taking the time to adopt the best practices and learn tools of the trade can go a long way toward getting your site seen.  

  2. 5 Reasons Why Google’s Just Not That into You

    “Why am I not ranking for this word/phrase?” is a question we hear frequently when discussing search engine optimization (SEO). It’s a tough question to answer, because the truth is, Google has an algorithm it uses to rank websites that goes far beyond keywords. So before youy pull your hair out trying to climb the rankings, read our list to find out why your site may be invisible to Google.

    1. There’s too much competition

    Ranking for general keywords is not an easy feat because of the volume of online content and websites that exist. This is why keyword research is incredibly valuable, as it’s important to review not only the search volume, but also the competition level. In Google’s world, if you’re not first you’re last, since the first page of search results receives 94% of the clicks, and ranking on the first page of google for general terms is tough. It’s important to get creative with the terms you want to rank for and think outside of the box. Consider the questions you receive from your clients on a regular basis, and write content around those questions. More likely than not, they are typing those same questions into search engines as well.

    2. You don’t post valuable content

    It’s important to keep in mind that every search engine’s goal is to provide the most relevant content possible to the user. People turn to search engines to answer a specific problem and to research the best products/services by reading reviews. This is why when you search for something like “vacation rentals,” a few major companies show up and the rest of the results are review sites and blog articles written about the top rental companies. It’s become more evident over the last few years that search engines value blog content, and it’s important to have timely content posted to your site that would be of value to someone searching.

    3. You’re trying too hard

    More often than not, we hear people talking about SEO in a very tactical manner, when in reality, SEO should be strategic. Placing X amount of keywords on a page is not going to make you rank for that keyword instantly. In fact, if you are “keyword stuffing” your content, search engines may actually punish you for it by lowering your rankings. SEO is not all about keywords, either. Other marketing initiatives, such as social media and public relations, can play a large role in your rankings. For example, if public relations efforts leads to an article written on your company on Forbes and the article also links to your website, that will have a positive impact on your rankings.

    4. Your site isn’t mobile friendly

    In case you haven’t heard of Mobilegeddon yet, we’ll be the first to tell you: if your site is not mobile-friendly as defined by Google, the search engine will actually lower your rankings in mobile searches. That being said, Google clearly favors mobile-friendly websites. It’s obvious that mobile devices are taking over. Nearly half of consumers say they won’t return to a website if it doesn’t load properly on their mobile devices. Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out if your site is mobile friendly, and if it’s not, do something about it!

    5. You’re giving up too early

    Organic SEO takes strategy, testing and time. It’s not a quick-fix, and you will not see results over night. What you should see is slow, stable progression over time. Stick with it until the results are where you want, but know that it takes time. Bottom line: don’t mess with Google. Play by the rules and publish valuable content that people are searching for.

  3. SEO: 2014 in Review and New Year’s Resolutions

    If there’s one constant in the world of SEO, it’s that there is no constant. Between algorithm updates, best-practice tips, and users modifying how they search for information, you can always count on something changing.

    This past year may not have brought as many huge upheavals in search engine optimization practices as in years before, but there were still some pretty significant SEO changes from 2014 that are worth noting.

    SEO Changes in 2014

    This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but I’ve included some of the highlights and biggest SEO changes 2014 brought. I would say let’s put the past behind us and start prepping for 2015, but in order to effectively do that we need to know what changed this past year!

    search strategy

    • Guest blogging: Just say, “No.” That’s not to say you can’t ever utilize guest blogging, but make sure you’re following best practices. Over time it has become more of a spammy practice, and it’s not nearly as reputable or effective as it used to be. As Matt Cutts shares, “A trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”
    • Google’s 100% secure search: Have you seen that “Not Provided” keyword section in your Google Analytics, yet? You’ll be hard-pressed not to; more than 80% of Google traffic is lumped into this section now.
    • Google+ Authorship demise: Google Authorship, what was once a promoted and driving force in G+ land, went away. The authorships program originally lost author photos, and then Google did away with it altogether.
    • Mobile emphasis: Have you thought about responsive web design, yet? You should, if for no other reason than Google emphasizing its importance. When users are scrolling through SERPs on a smartphone, a new “mobile friendly” tag now appears next to websites that are responsive.
    • Panda 4.0: Beware poor content! If you want to have a site that’s user friendly, then make it user-friendly – this includes the copy on the site.
    • Pigeon: Local search got a refresh with this algorithm, which focuses on distance and location ranking parameters. It aims to deliver a relevant experience for those searching for local results.
    • Penguin 3.0: Designed to target sites that are spammy, this update was a major release for sites that had been penalized in the past. It provided the opportunity to submit a reconsideration request and maybe get on Google’s good side again.

    Make SEO Resolutions for 2015

    2015 SEO trends

    Now that we’re caught up to speed on some of the biggest SEO changes that happened this year, let’s start prepping for 2015.

    • Remember the intent of the searcher: Thanks to the Hummingbird algorithm, phrases and keywords in SEO don’t hold as much weight. Google looks at actual search intent. When crafting content, bear in mind that your audience probably isn’t simply looking for “flowers” around Valentine’s Day. They’re most likely searching for results using phrases like: “Valentine’s Day bouquets,” “fast delivery for Valentine’s flowers,” “Valentine’s Day flower specials,” etc…
    • Check your site’s structure: Think of a house. Even if all the cosmetics are in place and there’s new paint on the walls, if the structure is rotting and the foundation has cracks in it, at some point you’re going to have major issues. The same remains true with a site’s URL and coding structure. Take the time to make sure the coding is clean and the URL structure is streamlined and organized.
    • Quality, not quantity: It doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 back links if only 5 of them are reputable, trust-worthy, and viewed as an authority in your field and industry. However, if you only have 250 back links and 200 of them are authoritative and trust-worthy, your site is much better off.
    • Responsive Design: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – having a responsive website is becoming more and more important. You have to think about the entire user experience now, not just how a site looks and performs on a desktop. Google has already penalized sites that provide a bad mobile experience.

    That’s the basic game plan for 2015, though there’s much more that can be done and should be done to help ensure your site is at the top of its game (and SERPs) for the New Year.

  4. Life After SEO for Content: What’s Next?

    search engine optimization changes

    It’s no secret that the world of search engine optimization and search in general is constantly changing. The trick is to not just keep up with the change, but stay ahead of it. The mantra “content is king” has been the precedent in SEO for a while now, but what do you do after you’ve incorporated quality content into your site and optimized every page and backend as much as possible?

    It’s time to think a step further AND a step ahead of Google. One of the newest cries in the land of SEO is semiotics. What is this exactly, and what does it imply for SEO? It basically asks for a shift in thinking where we don’t just consider what’s written and embedded on the page, but the meaning behind it all.

    Three’s Not a Crowd in Semiotics and SEO

    Semiotics is basically comprised of three components:

    • The relationship between items and objects. Example: American streetlights are always green(go)-yellow(slow down)-red (stop); they follow a certain order, and the light will always turn yellow before it turns red.
    • The meaning of something and/or its context. With search and SEO, context, synonyms, and more are looked at to provide the most relevant search results possible.
    • The meaning of words based on their relationship with the user. For instance, if you have fond memories of going to the beach as a child, you’ll most likely respond positively to words such as: beach, sand, ocean, surf, etc.

    So what does this mean in terms of SEO? For starters, relationships and meanings are already at work in search results. To approach content, design, and SEO as a whole from a semiotic approach all that’s missing is one more piece: the relationship with the user.

    Use Pragmatics to Incorporate Semiotic Thinking into your SEO Strategy

    Right now search engines aren’t developed enough to take pragmatics into consideration when answering a search query; however, that doesn’t mean this factor still doesn’t matter. After all, at the end of the day a person — who is influenced by pragmatic associations — is using your website, not a robot.

    Applying pragmatics to your SEO strategy, website, and content is relatively straight-forward. The short of the long is it requires companies to consider the user while making content and site changes.

    Some ways to incorporate a pragmatic approach include:

    • Use satire or other humor: Machines and technology don’t have the capabilities to understand humor, but people do! Using appropriately funny and amusing stories/jargon can make your site stand out from the rest of the crowd and (just as importantly) make it memorable.
    • Utilize a lexicon: Does your business have its own language or jargon? When creating content, it’s important to consider the users and not just the search engine. As much as possible, try to communicate with your targeted audience in the same or similar way they would speak and communicate.
    • Incorporate metaphors: This doesn’t necessarily mean “copy only,” either. The design of your site can be metaphor; it’s an opportunity to showcase what makes it unique. At Findsome & Winmore, we specialize in both traditional and digital marketing initiatives, so we recently re-branded our company from “Websolvers” to “Findsome & Winmore: The Classic Digital Marketing Agency.” You can see this message through the theme of classic and modern elements that are applied throughout the entire site.
    • Consider culture when designing: What is the culture of your targeted demographic or market? One (relatively) easy way to capture the attention of your audience and connect with them is by having your website design reflect how they process information.
    user friendly website

    Website designed for American culture

    American culture tends to appreciate websites that have  a cleaner look, where the information is clearly visible and accessible without cluttering the page.

    Japanese website

    Website designed for Japanese culture

    The Japanese version of the same site, though, shares much more information in a more compact space – indicative of Japanese culture and how users there prefer to view and process information.

    It can be easy to focus on content and keywords when it comes to optimization, but be sure to look at and consider the big picture! Even though technology may be crawling and indexing the page, where the user chooses to go is still up to them.

    Additional resources to consider:

    Google’s Hummingbird Deepens Semantic Search Results: Deciphers how Google now approaches providing search results to deliver the best content possible.

    Semantic to Semiotic Evolution Search: Reveals the role of semantics in search.

    Intercultural Design by Smitha Prasadh: Explanation of what different perceptions can be, and its implications for design.

    The Harsh Realties of SEO That No One Tells You: SEO goes beyond keywords. HubSpot explore some of the finer points of SEO that can be easy to overlook.

    Understanding SEO Friendly URL Syntax Practices :This article may be from 2012, but it does a good job explaining the value of a URL structure, and why the structure (ie syntax) matters.

  5. SEO is a Journey, Not a Day-trip

    The early age of the search engine optimization trade (think 1996) was a simple time.  The number of Web sites on the Internet was much smaller (meaning less competition for search results) and the rules of the game were pretty straight-forward:  put up a page, insert a few relevant keywords, submit your site to the engines, and watch your position rocket to the top!  This is perhaps an oversimplification of the process and the expected result, but a fairly accurate description no less.

    Somewhere along the way, however, the game changed.  Some started to manipulate the system unfairly and search results became slanted toward those who were the most manipulative–not necessarily the most relevant.  All the while, the number of Web sites vying for prime positioning skyrocketed–naturally making search even more competitive.

    But perhaps the biggest game-changer was the birth of Google in 1998 and its rise to prominence in the few years that immediately followed.  Among other reasons, Google began to dominate because its search results were more relevant than other search engines.  Why?  Because Google’s system disqualified (not rewarded) would-be manipulators and boosted the search positioning of those sites with the most sites linking to them.  Google started classifying a site’s inbound links as votes of endorsement from others (it can be a revealing exercise to actually skim through Google’s patent awards).  While some still try, theirs is a very difficult system to manipulate.  And while no one knows for sure, there a number of other factors that Google is thought to reward in its search results: how often a Web page is updated, how long a Web page has been on the Internet, and a host of other items.

    Most of the above is common knowledge.  But it sets the stage for sound thinking when it comes to attractive positioning.  Unfortunately, though, getting attractive search engine positioning isn’t as easy as it used to be.  And while most companies want to have a quick and easy solution (an undertaking that begins and ends within a few weeks), the truth in today’s environment is that there is no such thing.  Good search results require some research, a plan, and an ongoing commitment to the cause.

    While there is no cookie-cutter process for all sites to follow, here are a few simple steps that represent a sound methodology for gaining search engine momentum:

    1. Perform sound keyword research to determine what word searches might represent those looking for your company.  It is not wise to rely solely on your “hunches” in this area.
    2. Filter keyword research according to the competitiveness of the terms; it may not be wise to pursue ultra-competitive terms.
    3. Structure content, page names, and tags according to the terms you wish to pursue.
    4. Develop a linking strategy to trade links with other sites that may have overlapping relevance with yours; this can be tedious and time-consuming, but well worth the effort.
    5. Use sites like www.backlinkwatch.com to monitor your progress.
    6. Keep your site’s content fresh.  Consider adding a blog to your site to facilitate this.

    Most importantly, recognize that search engine success is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing journey that requires much in the way of time and effort.  If you have dabbled with a few activities to try and improve your search ranking, try broadening (and lengthening) your perspective first.  While the road may certainly be long, the benefits are considerable.

  6. Google: Getting to the Top

    Almost every day I entertain the question of how one can snatch a number one listing on Google for a particular keyword or keyphrase. As anyone who has worked with search engines know, this is not at all a simple answer. There are too many variables to consider in terms of industry, stature in the marketplace, target market, and longevity. My typical tact is to try not to give a definitive answer (because, often, one does not exist) but to help clients think about how Google functions and how it might work for them. Similar to the ‘training versus educating’ line of demarcation, the first step toward Google success is learning how to think about it.
    In my conversations with clients, I try and help them think through several concepts related to how Google functions with a Web site and how it assigns rankings. Many of the mechanics of Google are trade secrets (think the Coca-Cola recipe) and unknown by anyone outside of a select few employees. There are several widely accepted principles, though, that guide search engine marketers in how to cozy up to high Google rankings.
    For the sake of simplicity, let’s think of these accepted principles in two categories:
    1. On-site factors: Google takes a look at the content and structure of your Web site to determine how relevant it is to a particular keyword or keyphrase
    2. Off-site factors: Google looks at the greater Internet (factors external to your Web site) and how it relates to your site
    Once you understand this delineation, you’re on the way to understanding higher rankings. Let’s take a look at some of the invididual principles within each of these categories.
    On-site factors
    1. Google cares about your content, how original and genuine it is, how often it is updated, and how many times a particular keyword/keyphrase is used.
    2. Google looks for specific, descriptive tags (called META tags and TITLE tags) and the keywords therein.
    3. The presence of a site map (similar to an outline) within your Web site denotes structure, organization, and a specific hierarchy to Google.
    4. Google evaluates your site to determine how structurally sound (i.e. strong coding) your site is as a measure of its relevance.
    5. Google can’t often interpret images and FLASH content, so the site must contain a balance between readable text and graphics.
    Off-site factors
    1. Google counts the number of sites that link to yours.
    2. Google determines how relevant/important those linking sites are; a link from a heavily-visited site is more valuable than a link from a site with little traffic.
    3. Google looks to see how long your domain has been existence and in its database; as a rule of thumb, domains with longer lives are seen as more legitimate.
    4. Google evaluates the text within incoming links as a way to characterize what words are associated with your site.
    5. Google looks to other closely-related sites like a corporate blog or other affiliated site as a way to determine how relevant your site is.
    This list isn’t meant to represent a be-all / end-all. Anyone who tells you that they have such a list is likely exaggerating (or violating a Google patent protection). It hopefully is, though, a start toward helping you to strategically think about Google and how to find your way to the top!