Posts Tagged ‘search rankings’
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
Small business owners often have difficulty understanding who they’re competing against online. It’s much easier off line. If you run a local restaurant, then your competition are other local restaurants trying to attract the same demographic of customers. Online, it’s a bit more tricky than that.
For instance, let’s say you sell widgets. Is every widget maker in the world your competitor? Probably not. If there is a widget maker across the street from you in your home town, they’re likely not your competition online. If they don’t have a website, then you aren’t competing with them. If they do have a website, you could be targeting different key phrases.
There’s the key. Your competition online is everyone who is targeting the same search queries that you’re targeting. Even if those businesses aren’t in the same niche as you.
If you sell books, Amazon is your competition. If you sell computer peripherals, Amazon is your competition. And so is eBay. So is Wal-Mart. It is likely that those three top businesses are targeting some of the same product keyword phrases that you are targeting. If they rank higher than you in the search engines, then you have some work to do.
Online competition is all about rankings. There’s a good chance that you have competitors you’ve never heard of. Do your research. Find out who’s targeting the same key phrases you are. How do they rank? It’s your job to beat them.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
One of the biggest mistakes YouTube marketers make is thinking they’ll get a rush of traffic from their uploaded videos. More often than not, the referrals from YouTube are pretty low. That’s because people go to YouTube to watch videos. They are not looking for websites to visit. They want to be entertained or informed.
That doesn’t mean, however, that marketing through YouTube has little or no value. It actually has a lot of value.
But what about rankings?
If you think that uploading vidoes to YouTube and then embedding them on your website is going to improve your website’s rankings, then you’ll be disappointed by that too. More than likely, those embeds will help YouTube rank better. If you own the channel those videos are uploaded to, then your YouTube channel could see a rise in rankings based on number of video embeds and social shares. That’s not a bad thing as it means your brand will have one more ranking than it did before. That’s great for reputation management.
The real benefit to marketing through YouTube, however, is in branding. YouTube is one of the top 5 most trafficked websites online and the second biggest search engine. That means you have a powerful marketing medium.
If you can get your YouTube videos in front of a lot of eyeballs, that’s powerful branding. And it’s the true value of marketing through YouTube. Forget about rankings and traffic.
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Search engine optimization has a bright side and a dark side. The dark side often involves chasing algorithms, as if they have the power to save. You might as well be a dog chasing parked cars.
It’s not that search engine algorithms have no power. They do. Their power lies in their ability to deliver relevant content to searchers. For the search engine marketer, their power lies in their ability to deliver your content to the right searchers. But to do that, your best bet is to write great content that targets the needs of a specific market rather than trying to guess the most important criteria for ranking.
I hope you see the nuance in this distinction. It’s a fine one.
Understand this: Search engines use more than 200 ranking criteria. On any given day, or on any given hour, any of those ranking criteria could be the most important. And it might change from day to day, hour to hour. What’s more, it might change from search query to search query. That makes it really difficult to optimize any particular blog post for the perfect algorithmic criterion.
That’s why I, and Google, say to write your content for your site visitors. Don’t write it for the search engines. But do use your keywords. Just don’t over use them.
Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Recent Google algorithm updates – specifically, Panda and Penguin – targeted low value content, and some people think it took a hit out on short form content. In fact, a lot of websites with short content lost rankings for important keywords they were targeting. Was there a reason for that?
In truth, a lot of that short content was duplicate content across a website. For instance, shopping carts with product descriptions were almost verbatim except for the name of the products. That’s lazy content writing.
On the other hand, long content gives you plenty more search queries that you can rank for. That’s a lot more potential traffic. So that proves that long content is better, right?
Not necessarily. The length of your content doesn’t really matter. It matters in the sense that you can rank for more search queries with long content, but if that content isn’t high quality content that people want to read, then it doesn’t matter. People might click on the search engine link, but they’ll likely bounce right out and go somewhere else. That sort of defeats the purpose of your content.
There’s nothing wrong with short, concise content. But you have to make that content shine. If you can consistently write long content that is excellent, well-written, and that readers love, then you will be much better off. Not a lot of us have the time to do that. Do what is best for your business, but do it with quality.
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
The Panda and Penguin Google updates have certainly spooked a lot of people. The slightest move in website traffic volume is now being blamed on either one (or both) of these updates, and whilst significant drops in traffic are a worrying sign, a closer inspection sometimes shows the opposite to be true. I recently looked a website that had seen a 50% drop in traffic, and that drop coincided with the Google Penguin update.
Google Analytics is a great tool when used effectively. Using this tool, I could drill down into the various statistics for the both the day before the Penguin update, and for the day after when there was a significant drop in traffic. What I found to be interesting was that Google’s Webmaster Tools showed there was not a significant change in the average search rankings for the targeted keywords. So why the huge drop in traffic? Surely people didn’t suddenly stop using those search terms?
In this case, the drop in traffic came from two sectors, mobile, and Europe. For some reason this website had been ranking highly in search results in Europe. It was also ranking highly in mobile search. Neither of these two sectors were important to this business. They were not geared to provide a service to European customers, and being net based business, mobile traffic had tiny 0.01% conversion rate, so the loss of that traffic wasn’t harming the business.
Whilst there was a distinct drop in traffic numbers to this site, the number of sales were the same both pre and post Penguin. In fact, the post Penguin conversion rate as a number almost doubled – and so it should, half the traffic for the same volume of sales. When looking at traffic numbers from search results, it’s important to dig to find out exactly where you have lost traffic. Is it one page, is it site wide, is specific to a region or connection method?
If this business had kept a closer eye on their search analytics, the fact that almost a third of traffic was coming from Europe may have opened doors for new business. That window has closed now, however, they can look at much improved conversion rates.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
Much is being written about the difference between ‘freshness’ and ‘relevance’ in Google’s search results. Much of this discussion stems from Google’s own ‘freshness’ update in recent weeks. There are a couple of points that are well worth noting now when it comes to search results. These include:
What you see is not what you get. Checking search results has become a bit hit and miss over the last 12 months. You and I can type in the same search term and yet come up with completely different results. Our differing locations, our previous search and surf history, and that ‘freshness’ factor all affect search results. It’s almost impossible to now proudly claim number one position for a search term since that ranking isn’t across the board.
Relevance is in the eye of the beholder. What is relevance? After all, what is relevant to you could be totally irrelevant to me. Again, time and location are important. Chris Crum on WebProNews wrote an article about this issue, using his own search criteria as an example. I used the same search criteria that he used, and came up with different results again.
Search has never been perfect. Whilst this is probably not an acceptable point to many, with billions of pages on the Internet, search is never going to be perfect. Using Chris Crum’s example, whilst the term he was searching for wasn’t ranked at number one in the results, it was ranked at number three. Google probably is over rating fresh content, however, the biggest complaint in the past was the staleness of results. Old out of date pages were ranking highly simply because of age and the number of inbound links they had acquired.
The current preference for freshness over relevance is creating problems for many businesses, especially when freshness is delivering inaccurate results. If you’re search rankings are being underminded by fresh content, I wouldn’t panic too much just yet. I would look closely to ensure my content was up-to-date and not stale, and that my content was relevant to my readers. If it isn’t, then it may be time to publish more relevant content – and it’ll be fresh too.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Some areas of SEO have been dead easy in the past. You could look up the most popular search terms in relation to your business; match those terms to your keywords; then set your SEO strategies to work to target those keywords. Search is evolving, and whilst that method does still have some air in it, other factors are becoming more important. One of those factors is semantic search – a search engines ability to guess the reason behind a particular search phrase used.
Search engine are becoming smart in the way they analyze a search term before delivering search results. The browsing history, and prior searches, are being used to determine the intent of a user when entering a search term or phrase. Users are also becoming more adept at manipulating search phrases to fine tune their search. Search engines are also looking at an individuals location, especially when it comes to mobile search, and often delivering results that target the users location.
For businesses, a simple set of keywords is no longer enough. As we move into the future, SEO will become deeply embedded in the psychology of a user, trying to work out key-phrases that a search engine can easily match to semantic searches. Key-phrases will, for some businesses, also need to include geographical terms to boost their local search rankings.
Semantic search is a direction we all know the search engines want to go. For SEO experts, the emphasis should be on trying to optimize web pages to rank well in current search, whilst also optimizing their pages semantic search. It is possible to do both, and over time, traditional search as we now know it will become less of a factor.
Is your website ready for semantic search? If not, you may want to consider engaging the services o f an experienced SEO consultant. If you do, ask them if they are familiar with semantic search first.
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Every time Google releases a piece of advice on how to optimize a website for search, they repeat the same old message – produce content for your visitors, not for the search engines. In the past, many website owners, and quite a few SEO ‘experts’ ignored this advice, often producing content aimed fairly and squarely at the search engines. If you were to read their content, you’d be turned off before you finished the first paragraph. Guess what – the time has come to listen to Google.
Their latest piece of advice is well worth reading and taking note off. What is more important is to consider the changes that have occurred over the last 12-18 months. Panda and several other updates have really penalized, or at least disadvantaged, content that isn’t quite up to standard. There is a good reason for this. Google for one, is now trying to act like a real human being. When ranking sites for keywords, they are trying to work their algorithms to represent a real person’s needs. Whilst keywords, links, likes and other ranking factors are important, a persons search and surfing history is starting to play a bigger role. The influence of their social networks is also starting to have an effect on search results.
The end result is that two people, in the same town, entering the same search criteria, could have entirely different results shown. Rather than seeing this as a negative, businesses need to look at this as a real positive – you are going to receive more targeted traffic. Users are going to be shown results that are relevant to them rather than the hodge-podge of irrelevant results often displayed in the past.
I strongly recommend small business owners to look at what Google has to say about search engine optimization, spend a moment or two watching the video, then to think carefully about their content. Does it satisfy the needs of a user? If not, why not? That’s not to say you shouldn’t look at areas in your content that could be optimized for search, just don’t overdo it.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Gone are the days where a website that was five or more years old with a thousand or more pages could count on ‘age’ as a positive factor in the search results. In some cases, those old pages could be having a negative effect on your search rankings. Search engine users have long bemoaned the fact that search results were often outdated and not relevant to what they were looking for. Sure, you could tweak the results to find the most recent content related to your search term, but that takes extra work, and modern users want the best results first time every time.
Google is now taking positive steps to promote fresh content over old content. I won’t go into the technicalities here – you can read an excellent article by Justin Briggs on this topic here. It’s not rocket science to work out that fresh data is often more preferable to stale data, even if the fresh data is only rehashing what is in the stale data. As website owner, you need to determine whether or not your content is starting to fall into that stale category. If it is, there are a number of options available to you.
The first option is to ignore the stale content while adding new content on a regular basis. Hopefully the new content fits the ‘freshness’ test and helps to prop up your website. A second option takes the process one step further – you create new content based on your very old content. The key is to make it relevant to today including links out to some of the latest information available. Your third option is to update your old content using current data and links to current discussions or information.
For most business owners, time is the biggest issue. Do you have time to work through your old content to bring it up-to-date? You will also need to consider relevance - is the content written five years ago still relevant to today’s user? If it is, then another option exists; that’s to gain some social media activity around the content and to build fresh links. If the search engines can see that your old content is still relevant to today’s users and that these users are still referencing it in social media and linking to it on their websites or blogs, then rather than being classified as stale, it maintains importance and age once again becomes a positive factor, not a negative. Is your website looking a little stale?