SiteStream SEO - Online Marketing Blog

Online Marketing This Week – July 24th

July 24th, 2010

Ok, so I missed a week.  Shoot me. 

What’s going on that will affect the great marketplace that is the web?

Here are a couple of stories I picked out from the last week or so.

Facebook Flops, Google Drops
American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has added a new social media category and Facebook is scoring surprisingly low given its success.  Facebook received an ACSI score of 64, significantly below the average of the new Social Media category (70).

Interestingly, while Google remains top among the major search engines with an ACSI score of 80, they have fallen 6 points.  Bing debuts with a score of 77, above Yahoo at 76.  The study is from Foresee Results.  There was some useful commentary on it from Search Engine Land.

Bing Powered Results Begin to Show in Yahoo
Yahoo and Bing continue the transition to the search partnership that will see Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) powering the results on Yahoo.  This week saw the first reports of Bing results appearing in Yahoo searches.

Here are some updates from Yahoo on the transition.

Didn’t My Web Designer “SEO” my Site?

July 23rd, 2010

Simple answer: No.

Your web designer didn’t “SEO” your website.  If you are asking this very reasonable question, your search engine rankings probably aren’t where you expected.  There are other possibilities but mostly you’ll be in one of these situations:

1. Your web designer is either a good or bad web designer but he is clueless about SEO.

2. You gathered quotes from people charging €3,000+, €1,500 ish and from someone offering a business website for €550.  You chose the €550 one and talked him down to €400.

3. You got a fully professional job done and you even found a designer with some SEO knowledge and he did a great job.

I’m going to go into each of these scenarios to explain where you are if this is you.  If you are in the third group you can be justifiably smug.  Your site still hasn’t been SEO’d because there is no such thing but the ongoing SEO should be off to a decent start.

Quick Note: If your site is an online shop or similar you’ll notice that your quotes were probably double these ranges or more.  If you are developing a custom web application, probably more than 10 times the figures discussed here and the whole templated €550 option probably doesn’t even have a comparison.

1. Your web designer is clueless about SEO

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  You could have a perfectly good web designer who is not an SEO and that is fine.  If you were sold the notion that all they have to do is bung in the tags to fool Google, you are probably in this group.  In fact, if you were sold the notion that they would build you an SEO’d website they probably don’t get it.

You could have anything from one of those ridiculous flash websites to a design based on a cool splash page or you might have a modern, standards compliant well designed site.  If you are lucky, your site is not doing anything to obstruct your SEO.

2. You went for the €550 job

I have no problem with people selling cheap templated web designs for low cost.  I wouldn’t buy one for my business but that is a decision that the customer has to make for themselves.  What you do have to understand though, is that you can’t have it all and get it for nothing.  Times are hard and you might have found someone in the €1,500 range who needs the work and puts so much into building you a good site that they’re working for under minimum wage.  I’m pretty sure that’s happening.  Even at considerably below minimum wage the cheapest sites you’ll see advertised can’t possibly include time to provide a unique design and then go on to think seriously about site structure, user experience, conversions, content planning and SEO.  Just designing a unique site and getting it into HTML is days of work.

Again, it is possible that your cheap templated site has done you no harm and is search engine ready.  It’s not likely that it’s the kind of site I would advise but it may not have any SEO nightmares. 

3. You got a fully professional job done by a designer who knows SEO

Congratulations.  Why are this group still in an article about not having an SEO’d site?  Because, in your best case scenario what you have is a site that is search engine ready (search engine friendly?).  The technology of the site is probably good for the search engines.  The navigation is spiderable.  You might have search engine friendly urls.  There is sufficient space and prominence given to content.  You can enter and alter the Title tags and the descriptions of the pages.

If you have spent extra money for SEO work to be done, you can expect to have been asked about your visitors, to have received some keyword research, to have put some serious thought into site structure and maybe even content.  Some work will have been done to target particular keywords on relevant pages.  They will have written Title tags and optimised other on-page elements.  Some link building has probably been done.

Didn’t Your Web Designer SEO Your Site?
If you are in a situation where you are wondering “Didn’t my web designer SEO my site?”, you are in a very common situation.  You expected your site to be built in a way that would get you on Google.  You might even have been sold this notion.  This is not your fault but there are some things you need to learn about how the web works and these can help your website make you sales. 

If you have this problem and you want to fix it, here is the first thing you need to understand:

Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing process.  There are aspects that are built into the design, coding and setup of your site and these are important but SEO is not something that is done once.  It is something that is done all the time.

One thing that everyone who asks this question has in common is this:

Your site is not where you want it to be.

If that is your situation then your first step is to find out where you are. 

  • Is there something about your site that the search engines don’t like?  
  • Or are you off to a good start but you need to do more work? 
  • Where does that work need to focus?

What Every Business Needs to Know About the Web

July 16th, 2010

This morning I read a post: Most Companies Still Don’t Get SEO – Yet They Want to go Social.  It reminded me of how many businesses there are that don’t understand things you take for granted when you build some experience of working on the Internet.

It astounds me that there is anyone involved with a website that doesn’t understand the value of search engine optimisation (SEO). 

Not the details.  Just the concept that ranking in the big search engines for some really important terms would mean more sales.  It astounds me but I know it’s true. 

Here are some figures that help with understanding how important the web is to a modern business if you only do things right.

  • Google alone accounts for 87.8 billion searches in a month (December 2009 figures)
  • US searches were up 22% on the previous year.  UK searches were up by 35%
  • Google was up by 58%
  • As long ago as 2007, search engines were already more important for finding local businesses than the Yellow Pages.  74% using search engines to find local business information vs. 65% print Yellow Pages, 50% Internet Yellow Pages and 44% traditional newspapers.  More details

If you don’t sell online but run a store, these might help:

  • 69% go online to research product features
  • 58% locate products online before going to the store to purchase them
  • Only 13% of survey respondents felt the Internet has not improved their shopping experience

Source: Accenture 2007 survey

Those numbers are only going up.

If you read last weeks digest here you’ll know that 75% of US adults are now on the mobile Internet and that smart phone users are contacting local businesses after finding them through search on their phones.  If you own a shop, they are checking reviews and prices on their iPhone while they are in your shop.

If you are thinking about E-commerce:

If you are only interested in Ireland:

  • 69% of Irish people are regular Internet users
  • €2.5 billion was spent in total online transactions in Ireland in 2008

Source: Don’t know, Google posted it to me. :)

Just because you know how important SEO is, doesn’t mean you should think that Social Media is somehow not important.  The web is a social medium and becoming more so and this is crucial to understanding where your business needs to be in 5 – 10 years (it is also likely to be crucial for your SEO).

Regardless of your business, you should know:

  • 50% of Irish consumers look for advice online before purchasing
  • The only thing that influences purchasing decisions more than word of mouth is online reviews.
  • The Internet ranks above calling the manufacturer when looking for customer support information.  Second only to user manuals.

Source: Search Engine Watch and the aforementioned mailing from Google.

Think about this…
If it is not you, someone is at the top of the results.  Someone in your market is making sales, getting enquiries and/or getting their message out through the web.  They understand the earth shattering magnitude of the importance of the web to modern business.  They understand the near complete stranglehold that Google has on search traffic.  They understand that being in front of searchers when they are looking for what you do is immensely valuable.  And so they have done something about it.  They have invested time, or money or both because they understand that the return will far outweigh the cost.

If your business uses the web then you need to know that search engine traffic is vital.  If your business doesn’t use the web then you have some very serious questions to ask yourself.

Once you start to understand the value of search traffic in terms of generating sales and revenue, you can start thinking about it’s value in your specific case.  Then you can think about how you can do something about it.

Online Marketing News This Week – 9 July 2010

July 9th, 2010

I thought a bit of a digest thing might be useful.  Just to sort of cover what was news in SEO and online marketing during the week.  I didn’t have time to get together a very exhaustive list of sources but here is some stuff that might help keep you up to date.

Bing grows by 7% for June 2010

Experian Hitwise has released its most recent data on Search.  Google is still the massively dominant player with 71.65% of all US searches but Bing continues to show impressive growth.  Bing is up 7% in the last month alone growing from 9.23% of searches to 9.85%.   Read the Hitwise Search Share for June 2010 for more details.

Bucketloads of people have smart phones and they use them a lot

75% of US adults are on mobile Internet and more than half of those (55%) go online with their mobile phones at least once a day.  Nearly 1 in 3  smartphone owners has contacted or gone into a business after finding it with local search.  They are also checking reviews, prices etc. and looking for better deals while they are in the shop.  You can read the Search Engine Land article on smartphone use here.

Link Building Experts Speak

July 8th, 2010

I wasn’t planning to blog today but over at Outspoken Media, Rae Hoffman has released another in-depth interview with 11 leading Link Building experts.

If you are involved in building links for your own site, or interested in link building and how it is analysed beyond the sort of “Get links from sites with PR 4 or more and never link out” nonsense that beginner SEOs practice, this is pretty much recommended reading.

Before You Get Your SEO On – Define Your Market

July 7th, 2010

Before you can “SEO” your site you should look at our first tip and make your site better.  Before you can make your site better, we have to consider the question “Better for who?”.  So we are going to define our market in the sad old stale tradional off-line way.  We are going to try to ask ourselves “Who are we building this site/content for?”

Often, as an SEO, we might see keyword research as a starting point for the search engine optimisation process but really we should start here. 

What can we write down about the visitors that we are trying to attract and please? 

Are they male or female? 

Do they have an age profile? 

Do they spend much time online? 

What are they doing online and where are they visiting?

I don’t have a background in offline marketing so the definitive customer profile checklist isn’t something you’ll find here.  These links might be useful:

What I do find really helpful is to just sit down and do the thinking.  Have a meeting and discuss the market for your site.  If you are a bigger operation with a marketing department, then ask them for any customer profiles or market segmentation work that already exists. 

What you want to be able to do is just write down a short description of who you want the site to appeal to.

It is worth considering that your site will likely have several different targets.  Your content needs to please prospective customers and possibly wider groups and it may well have to reach out to them at very different stages in their buying cycle.  Your site may also have to serve existing customers who will likely have very different content needs. 

One of the target markets for your site is not even human.  The search engine needs its own consideration.  You need to make sure that the search engine can access your content and you need to present your content in a way that the search engine is happy.

Another very important market to consider is the sub-set of people who control links.  People who blog, industry websites, journalists, ordinary visitors who might share your content by Twitter, or Facebook or elsewhere.  Links are a massive part of getting the rankings you need and this is one of the main reasons that you are considering your market so early in the process.  These people will probably never buy your product and yet can be exponentially more important than potential buyers.

Your site will have to appeal to these differing markets.  You will likely find these visitors in different ways, they will search for different things, they will read different websites and it might take different content to satisfy them.  When we look to build a better site, each improvement we make should be targeted to better serve some portion of our target market.

What we know about our market(s) and the different customers that our site needs to serve will feed into our SEO strategy.  It will affect our keyword research, and our content planning.  It will help us develop a link building strategy.  It will be the starting point that allows us to do a lot of normal SEO stuff but helps us do it better.

SEO Tip #1 – Build a Better Website

July 1st, 2010

Right.  When you come to the SEO Tips section of your local online marketing blog you probably aren’t expecting “Build a Better Website”.  No Doubt, you want the little tips and tricks that make the SEO magic happen.

You’ve got a site, it’s down on the third page for a couple of your important keywords and you just want to know how to “tag” it so it comes number one in Google?

That’s grand.  If you are in a fairly uncompetitive space there might even be some tips that will help with that.  But I’m starting with this tip cause I’m hoping it helps make clear what is actually important.

Build a Better Website

To be clear.  I don’t mean re-design.  I’m saying build a better website not build a better looking website.  Take a look at your site and take a look at your competition in the search results and ask yourself:

  • What makes my site the best resource on this subject?
  • What makes my site useful or interesting to visitors?
  • Why would someone talk about my site and what would they say?

You want to be number one so ask yourself, is this the best site available?  If you don’t rank it number one (or somewhere close) then why should Google?

You can use SEO tips and tricks to improve your rankings but I’m suggesting here that you look at the long-term.

Thousands of visitors a month to your website are worth thousands of euro a month to even a small business.  That’s thousands of euros worth of sales every month, so it’s well worth looking at the long-term.

Google’s job is to find the best matches available in answer to the query the visitor entered in that little search box on their site.  They are putting millions of dollars and millions of man hours into improving their ability to find the best sites.

How much of your strategy do you want to base on fooling them that your site is better than it is?

My suggestion for this tip is this.  Google are probably smarter than you.  They are looking for the best site.  So put some genuine effort and thought into what might make your site better for visitors.

Your SEO and online marketing will benefit greatly when their job is to get across the positive aspects of a genuinely great site rather than drag people to a worse than average one.

Another SEO Blog?

June 30th, 2010

This is a strange blog and a strange post in that the blog may be over by the time this post is.  The World needs another seo blog about as much as it needs … Well, the world basically doesn’t need another seo blog at all.

So,  can I really justify polluting the web with my thoughts?

The jury is out, so this may be the shortest running blog of all time.

Blogging on the topic of search engine optimisation isn’t easy.  Most good bloggers in this space make their money as seo professionals.  If they are consultants, that means a constant conflict between the desire to share and inform and create great content on the blog and the commercial side of things which would perhaps be more guarded with information.  Especially the good stuff.

Plenty of the bad bloggers in this space are also seo professionals.  Some of them can’t write, some of them can’t speak English, some of them are writing extended infomercials on how vital the 1999 tactics that they provide as services are.  Some of them just don’t know the first thing about the subject.  The list of terrible, terrible seo blogs (and forums for that matter) is almost endless.

The web just doesn’t need another bad SEO blog.

The World might just be OK with another good blog on search engine optimisation but that isn’t easy.

Why blog?

Well.  A blog might be able to add something to the site in terms of fleshing out who and what SiteStream SEO is and the approach.  It gives somewhere to add content that wouldn’t ever make it into full scale articles on the site.  It might allow potential customers to get a more personal feel for us and for the approach that we take to seo work.  Blogs are a damn handy way to ensure that we are keeping the website active and constantly developing content.

Those reasons though are all about us and they aren’t enough to make a worthwhile blog.  We’ll blog because SEO is vital and missunderstood.  Because there seems to be a quite remarkable and persistant need for the information and because we need our potential customers to understand the background of what this is all about.  We’ll blog because we think it might be valuable to our visitors.

We’ll see how it goes.

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