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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • Yeah, But... I Already Rank For My Company Name

    by Stoney deGeyter

    Every now and then we get a call from a prospect who seems to want to try to talk themselves out of buying SEO. We call them "Yeah, Butters." And if you've been following this series, you understand why.

    One of the common objections we hear is, "But we already rank for our company name, so why do I need SEO?"

    There are a couple dynamics at play here. One, you're probably seeing personalized results, not necessarily what the rest of the world sees. And two, because... and this is important here... UNLESS YOU'RE A WELL-KNOWN BRAND, NOBODY IS SEARCHING FOR YOUR COMPANY NAME!!! 

    Breathe...

    Breathe...

    Breathe...

    OK, I hope you've recovered from the shock. Now let's tackle each of these one at a time.

    Your Results Are Personalized Just for You

    Most people don't realize this, but the search results you see are not the same results someone else sees when performing the same search. This is because if you're logged into any of your Google accounts (Gmail, Google Docs, Google+, AdWords, Webmaster Tools, etc.), and if you don't deliberately turn personalization off, your results are being personalized.

    This personalization is based on a few things. Google looks at your search history and the type of sites you've clicked on, who's in your Google+ network and items you may have shared in the past. If you regularly search and read tech blogs, when you search for "apple," you're most likely to get results for the company. However, if you regularly search and read gardening and cooking sites, a search for "apple" might produce an entirely different set of results.

    Usually the contrast won't be that stark. In most cases you'll see just a few different results from the next person. But the more data Google has on your history, the more likely your results will differ.

    Another differentiation factor can be locality. Some searches automatically produce a local set of results. If your company is called "The Carpet Outlet" and a search for that puts you at number one, it's likely as a result of geo-targeting the search results. Perform the same search in another part of the country, and there's a strong chance you're not going to appear at the top. And maybe not even on the first page!

    The only way to get completely unbiased results is to log out of all Google profiles before performing your search. Even still, you're likely to have some personalization going on. You can also click the icon at the top of your Google search results page to "hide private results." However, it's possible you're still going to get geo-targeted results either way.

    People Search for Solutions, Not Brands

    customers-dont-search-company-name.jpg

    Most companies are not recognizable brand names such as Nissan, Pepsi, Nabisco or even Marathon Gas. But even if you are such a name, ranking for your brand name isn't enough. Each month there are approximately 300,000 searches for "pepsi" and 100,000 for "coke." However searches for "soda" and "pop" collectively reach 1.3 million monthly searches.

    Here's another example using a less well-known brand, School Outfitters. Monthly searches for "school outfitters" is 6,600. Monthly searches for "school furniture" is 8100. Not too great of a difference, but here's the kicker: School furniture is just one keyword that would drive business to School Outfitters.

    Let's look at just five relevant keywords, "school furniture" (8,100), "conference table" (5,400), "computer desk" (49,500), "fitness equipment" (27,100), and "office furniture" (135,000). Those five keywords alone are searched approximately 225,000 times each month. I'll take a top ranking for any of those over the brand name any day.

    My point here is that while brand searches can be valuable, they are just the tip of the iceberg. If you rank only for brand searches, you will get traffic that is already familiar with you. Your competitors are getting everyone else. However, when you choose to optimize for all the other relevant keywords for your industry, you begin to bring in new traffic that doesn't know who you are. You have a chance to convert a new customer and, hopefully, earn a customer for life. If you don't, they just might turn to your competitor instead.

    In all honesty, ranking for your brand name is pretty easy. It's ranking for other keywords--those that attract far more visitors--that starts taking time, effort and money. But if brand searches are enough for you, by all means, don't invest in SEO. However, if you want to grow your business and capture traffic that otherwise would go to someone else, you need to invest in quality SEO.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Does the Internet allow more differentiation?

    by Mike Moran

    If you are a marketer, you can't ignore differentiation. Differentiation is not just about differences from the competition--it's differences that your customers care about. Without some kind of differentiation, marketers don't have much to talk about. And talk they do. Every kind of advertising is based on some kind of marketing message--most about differentiation. But how does the Internet change the way marketers discuss differentiation? Does the Internet allow more differentiation? Read on. 

    The biggest difference between digital marketing and other kinds of marketing is that with digital, you have unlimited space. You can always write one more paragraph on a page. You can add one more click to the story. You never run out of time or space, as long as you can hold someone's attention.

    The Internet gives you a way to tell your story in more depth.

    For many products, this is a gift from God. Complex products that could never be explained in marketing materials can now be fully described. That means that no matter what aspect of a product that a customer might be interested in, the story can be there. Just about any differentiator can be explained.

    And it's not just complex products. Even simple products might possess differentiators that only a few care about: Scotts Tissue disintegrates in septic tanks. It will never make the commercial, but it is an important feature to some people. Online, you have the room to tell them.

    And if this technique seems a bit lengthy and wordy to you, it doesn't have to be. Whether it is behavioral targeting, website personalization, or other methods, all that differentiator verbosity can be distilled into the one that matters. Technology doesn't quite fulfill that promise today, but wait. It will be here soon.

    So, don't be afraid to tell your story. To segment to the smallest segments that are profitable. Because each segment has a differentiator they are waiting to see. All you have to do is show it to them.Originally posted on Biznology Blog.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Not Every Piece of Web Content Is a Masterpiece--Nor Should It Be

    by Stoney deGeyter


    There are two types of writers:

    1. Those who write and produce masterpieces
    2. Those who write to produce masterpieces

    The difference between the two is that the first one is a better writer than the second.

    Writing to Produce a Masterpiece

    The writer who writes to produce masterpieces probably writes a lot less, and a lot less likely to be happy with the content they produce. There is always a flaw, always something to be edited, tweaked or fixed. Writing to produce masterpieces is paralyzing!

    George Lucas is a great example. Most would agree that Star Wars was a masterpiece. But 20 years after the original move was released, George Lucas decided to do some more tweaking and changing to his original classic, producing the crapfest Special Editions, complete with more critters, creatures and unneeded comic relief.

    book-flying-pages-300x296.jpg

    But even that wasn't enough. In virtually every subsuquent release (theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray) Lucas continues to tinker with his "masterpiece." And I'm sure more are to come as they re-release the original trilogy in 3D!

    Note to Lucas: Han shot first!

    While some of the enhancements in the special edition release(s) are great visual enhancements, most fans of the movies would argue that Lucas' continued tinkering made things worse rather than better. This is what happens when you only want to produce masterpieces. You keep tweaking until it's "perfect." Unfortunately, perfect is always just one more tweak away. Kind of like Michael Jackson's face.

    If you're trying to produce masterpieces, take a step back, stop tweaking and improving. Just hit publish.

    Why? Because when you do, you can enjoy the writing process more, and perhaps have more unintended masterpieces than you thought possible.

    Writing and Producing a Masterpiece

    The writer who writes and produces masterpieces writes more and has more fans and is generally probably more content with what they produce.

    Take John Grisham. Clearly this guy can write. Heck, I bet he could make a phone book interesting. But few would argue that most of the books he's written in the past ten years come even close to the brilliant A Time to Kill. Yet, Grisham is one of the top 50 best selling fiction authors of all time, and if you look strictly on earnings per book, Grisham is in the top 20 or so.

    Grisham is an occasional masterpiece writer, and he's probably better for it. On the other hand, Tom Wolfe, who many believe writes nothing but masterpieces, is nowhere to be found on that list.

    That's because those who write, not trying to score a masterpiece every time, find writing far more enjoyable and they produce content they--and others--like. That's the point. Not everyone has to love everything you write, they just need to like it enough to find it valuable. And even of those, you might be surprised at how many people love something you only thought was just OK.

    All Content Is Your Masterpiece on the Web

    What's all this have to do with writing web content? A lot.

    Writing for websites is very different from any other medium. The web is more than a publishing platform. It's an interactive medium. People do more than read your content, they read, interact, follow and share.

    It's true, the greater the "masterpiece," the greater the chance that the content will be shared and the more followers you'll get as a result. But waiting for the masterpiece to come before hitting the publish button creates a lot of dead space in between content. It's in that dead space that you lose followers, the interaction dies and nobody is sharing anything of yours.

    However, when you write and publish good content, not everything has to be a masterpiece in order to get more followers, more shares, more interaction. In fact, the less-than-phenomenal stuff can still be interesting and valuable to your audience, can still help you build engagement, still drive traffic and, ultimately, give you a bigger audience for the next masterpiece that you actually produce.

    Don't Wait for Inspiration, Just Write

    Content creation and interaction is important to a solid web marketing and SEO campaign and an increasingly important factor in SEO. It doesn't have to be great, but it does need to be good. But writing good content ensures that you'll still get out a few masterpieces here and there that garner you even more attention.

    Those that produce more good to great content are doing themselves a favor over those that wait for inspiration to strike. One of my college professors told us, don't wait for inspiration to strike. Just write and let inspiration come. On the web, a similar principle applies. Don't wait for your masterpiece to come to you, just write good content.

    So when your web marketing firm tells you to put yourself on a rigid blogging schedule, you can understand why. Better to get out there and write something good, rather than writing, tweaking, adjusting and never publishing something fantastic. In all of his post-original-trilogy faults, at least Lucas released his "unfinished" version of Star Wars for us to enjoy over the past 30 years.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Is Your Hosting Coasting? Here's How Site Speed Affects SEO

    by Jayson DeMers

    Search engines consider hundreds of factors to determine search engine rankings. Many of these factors are related to a website's content, such as its text and titles, or to the authenticity of the site itself. Several years ago, Google announced yet another consideration regarding ranking; the speed with which site visitors can view the pages.

    Unfortunately, a significant amount of speculation remains regarding what constitutes sufficient speed, and just how much site speed affects rankings. Concern is heightened now that slow mobile sites can also be penalized. It is ultimately important to remember that a website performing poorly will lead to poor user experiences. Negative user experiences, therefore, warrant less recognition in search results than their more efficient counterparts.

    How Speed Affects Rankings

    Back-end performance and infrastructure are the most critical determining factors regarding site speed. Research has found a connection between ranking and speed; possibly because Google and other search engines can quickly and easily detect these metrics. Improving visibility via speed, then, largely depends on the quality and capabilities of particular servers. That's why it's crucial to select a hosting provider that can provide excellent website loading speed. 

    The details of one study, conducted by Matt Peters, a data scientist at Moz, are outlined below. With the assistance of Zoompf, a website auditing firm, this is what he found:

    ·         Methodology. The team compiled a list of 2,000 random search terms and identified the top 50 search results for each one. This resulted in a list of 100,000 pages for evaluation. The next step was to launch 30 EC2 instances, which ran in the Northern Virginia cloud. Each of them included an identical open source tool (WebPageTest). This tool utilizes the same web browsers as most consumers to collect more than 40 performance measurements. Chrome was utilized to test each page in this investigation.

    ·         Page load time. This term often refers to two different measurements - either the "fully rendered" time or the "document complete" time. The "document complete" time is the time it takes a site to load for the user to begin typing or clicking - even if the content is not completely visible. The "fully rendered" time is the amount taken for a full download, including images, analytic trackers, and advertisements. Representatives at Google have not clearly indicated specific expectations regarding load time, so the effects of each concept of time were examined. Results suggested no clear relationship between either of the times and rankings.

    ·         Time to first byte. Because no clear correlations were detected at this point in the study, the investigation was extended to test the Time to First Byte (TTFB). This term refers to the length of time it takes a browser to receive the first byte of response from a server when a particular site is requested. Essentially, it is the time the server spends processing and generating information.

    ·         Page size. Page size refers to the full amount of all bytes downloaded to completely render a page. Such information includes ads, images, fonts, and third party widgets. After graphing the data, the team found a relationship between decreasing page sizes and decreasing page rank. They developed a theory based on these results, speculating that the lower ranking sites likely belonged to small companies with little resources, and therefore had minimal content and complexity on their pages. As rankings increased, complexity generally did as well.

    ·         Conclusions. The lack of relationships between page load times and rankings applies to both generic and long tail searches. There was no consistent evidence of pages with fast load times ranking higher than those with slower load times. It can be assumed that if page load time does influence ranking, it is lost in the mix of other influential factors.

    There does, however, seem to be a correlation between TTFB and higher rankings. Sites with servers and quality back-end infrastructure capable of efficiently delivering content were ranked higher. Ultimately, it is back-end operations that directly affects ranking. This is because Google's crawlers can easily capture these measurements. Because "page rendering" time directly relates to user experience, however, it will probably also factor in to rankings in the future.

    TTFB is a useful metric with which to gauge performance because it is affected by how heavily loaded the server may be, how quickly the site's back-end can produce content, and the network latency between server and visitor.

    Back-ends include network connections, the use of content distribution networks, web servers, and database and application servers. Website owners can improve rankings by optimizing application code and database queries, employing content distribution networks, and ensuring responsive and effective servers. VPS and dedicated hosting servers are becoming more popular as webmasters are beginning to realize the importance of site speed on their brand's overall visibility and user experience.

    Fast websites tend to have visitors who are more likely to click on ads and purchase products. These visitors have the best user experiences, and are apt to link and share site information. All these factors contribute to rankings. Front end interactions such as these are easily as important to high ranking as back end structure and speed.

    There are hundreds of other factors that influence SERP visibility, some of which are listed here:

    ·         Keyword is the first word in the domain. Domains that begin with a targeted keyword are slightly more beneficial than those with keywords in the middle or at the end.

    ·         Domain registration length. Legitimate domains are usually registered and paid for several years at a time, while doorway domains aren't typically in use for more than one year.

    ·         Exact matches. For quality sites, domains with exact matches to keyword phrases are beneficial.

    ·         Previous penalizations. If Google or other search engines have already identified a website as illegitimate or in some way low quality, it may continue to be scrutinized.

    ·         Country codes. Domains that include country codes receive favorable SERPs for their particular countries.

    ·         Duplicate content. Content that appears identically within the same site can negatively influence SERP and result in penalties.

    ·         Recent updates. Google and other search engines prefer sites that have been reviewed and updated recently or routinely. The magnitude of the updates is considered as well.

    ·         Quality of outbound links. Content that links to reputable sites are considered more trustworthy.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • SEO is a Partnership, Not a Solo Endeavor

    by Stoney deGeyter

    Where do the lines of responsibility of SEOs and their clients fall? Is the SEO solely responsible for the success or failure of the SEO client? Is the client responsible for anything? Or is there reasonable argument that they both can be held responsible?

    A couple years ago I wrote out an SEO's Bill of Rights as well as an SEO Client's Bill of Rights. Both articles are worth a read as they lay out some of the expectations that both SEOs and their clients should be able to agree to. But I wanted to extend that conversation a bit, especially in light of the recent news of an SEO company getting sued for lack of results and engaging in spammy practices.

    Who Gets the Credit, Who Gets the Blame?

    business-hands-teamwork-300x230.jpgWe work in an industry where expectations between the client and the providers don't often align. I suppose this can happen in any industry. Anyone who has seen a Roland Emmerich movie has probably suffered severe disappointment from misplaced expectations. When disappointed by a movie, you can rest knowing that the tickets only cost a few bucks. But disappointment from an expensive web marketing campaign isn't something that either the SEO or the client wants to experience.


    SEOs pretty universally reject the notion of guaranteed rankings. Unfortunately, that makes SEO a much tougher sell. To the potential client it probably sounds like we're saying, "Please buy our service, we hope we can give you what you want."

    The SEO can only educate the potential client so much. And regardless of how much we say, "we don't rank websites, that's Google's job," the client still wants a return for their investment, and rightly so.

    At the end of the day, both the client and the SEO bear responsibility for the success of any campaign. The client and the SEO must work together to develop a strategy that is reasonably certain of working. Both get the credit and both can get the blame.

    Have a Solid Plan for Business Success

    No amount of SEO can make a business successful if there isn't a business there to begin with. Just because you have a great idea doesn't mean you are filling a need that people have. That's the core of business. Find a need and fill it, and do it better or differently than the next guy.

    If you already have a successful business, are you doing the things required to make that business successful online? We see many prospective clients that want to grow their presence on the web, only to find out they are not willing to do what it takes to get the results they want.

    That's a deal breaker. It doesn't matter how successful your business is--Fortune 500 or not--no SEO can make a business successful on the web without the client's willingness to implement the optimization strategies that the SEO recommends. If the client consistently gives the SEO pushback, success will be limited and possibly even nonexistent.

    As an SEO, I try to be selective about my clients. My company only wants to accept clients we believe will be successful. Under no circumstances are we willing to take someone's money believing failure is likely. Among other things, this means we have to believe they will be willing to implement our recommendations. That requires us to vet each potential client almost as much as they vet us. It works well that way and usually leads to long-term and very rewarding relationships.

    The SEO Campaign Aligns with the Client's Business

    There is no one-size-fits-all web marketing strategy. Every client is different as is every client website. The online marketing needs of one client will never be exactly the same as another.

    The SEO should come to the table with a strategy based on the client's needs, expectations and budget requirements. And the expectations the client has should be adjusted based on what the SEO can deliver for the budget required. SEO doesn't have a "price." Proposals, until signed, should be fluid in order for the SEO and the client to work to develop the strategy that meets everyone's goals and expectations.

    Moving forward, the SEO has to ensure that the work they do continues to align with the expectations originally agreed upon, and the client needs to be sure that they also keep their expectations in line with the conversations had during the proposal process.

    If the SEO strays from the client's expectations, it's important that they communicate why. The client has a reasonable expectation that the SEO will not do harm to their site. However, many SEO strategies that worked yesterday don't work today. The client has to understand that search engine algorithms change with time, and therefore so must SEO strategies as well. Change is the only constant in this world, and this is especially true of SEO.

    What does this mean for the client? They need to realize that the strategy approved in the proposal may need adjusted as time goes on. Sticking too rigidly to a set of deliverables that the SEO no longer deems effective will result in poor performance overall. Though I should add, the SEO should be more forward-thinking about potential algorithm changes down the road. They can't be perfect, but they can optimize in a way that is largely algorithm change-proof.

    Web Marketing Is a Partnership

    Healthy is as healthy does. You can't consistently smoke a pack a day or eat jelly donuts every morning and expect to be the picture of good health. If you go to your doctor and say you can't understand why you're hacking up a lung and you've gained so much weight, he'll probably tell you to quit smoking and enter donut rehab. Doctors can only help you if you follow their advice. Surprise! There is no magic "good health" pill for your body, and there's no magic "No. 1 ranking" pill for your website..

    An SEO can tell you how to do things, and even do some of things for you, but inevitably, there are things that only you can do. Not only do you have to approve of the SEO's suggestions, you have to have someone who can implement those things that fall outside the scope of what the SEO is able to do, yet are required to bring about the desired results.

    Both the client and SEO must work together to make sure the web marketing plan is successful. Once you hire an SEO, you can't expect to be hands off. Very much the opposite. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make and keep your site healthy.


    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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