You know predicting the next PageRank update is a bit of fun , you’ve got to do it, as a search marketer it’s the expected thing. Here’s my prediction – it’s going to take place between March 31st and April 30th – that’s a bit of a cop out really as we all know it’s going to update in that time frame. I suppose if I’m going to get pinned down on when the update is going to take place I will probably go for the end of this month – so updating on or around 30th March. Google has been updating its PageRank algorithm pretty regularly for the last couple of years, so I suppose it’s fair to say they’ll do the same this time round. Plus it’s not long since Google did a fairly major update in the shape of getting Google Caffeine out to the masses, so I expect they are going to want to do it sooner rather than later to make sure everything is working as it should do. I’d be interested to hear if you think the PageRank update will take place in April and what makes you think that?
Most people think that building a website is the avenue to success. It gives them great access to qualified visitors, or potential customers that their business wouldn’t have previously received, it can make a small operation look massive and sometimes a large company look deceptively small. Most organisations pay literally thousand for web design and then sit back and wait for the deluge, only to find out the deluge of visitors is simply a steady trickle, and those hundreds of sales or conversions simply don’t come in. Even if you’ve built or had built the perfectly SEO’d website, don’t think that’s it, it’s very likely that you’ll get a flood of traffic, but you probably won’t get the conversions you expected to start off with, you’re going to have to tweak your website over the coming months until you find out what works.
Simplicity is web designIt’s very easy to fall into the trap of over designing a website. Simplicity is the mantra of most good designers and it should be the case with web design too. Don’t cram as many calls to action button in every bit of whitespace you’ve got or the visitor won’t know what to do, why’s this?
What is choice paralysisChoice paralysis occurs when a person is presented with too many choices. I can honestly say I’ve experienced this and consciously thought about it first hand. I’m from a small town in the UK, I’ve lived and worked in big cities, but I’m not a massive fan of them. I’m happy to spend my day in a field in the open air. When I went to America for the first time I went to a supermarket and the level of choice was immense. I was trying to decide what I should get and eventually I gave up, at the time I rationalised that I hadn’t been conditioned to making this kind of choice because I wasn’t used to having this many options. It’s the same with the net. Put too many choices on your websie and the visitor won’t know which action to take, your conversions will dip.
How to find out if your visitors suffer from choice paralysisAnayltics is a good place to start, you’re going to need some good tracking software, if you’ve got an ecommerce site I doubt Google Anayltics is the right package for you, if your website has relatively few pages then GA is probably fine.
Removing choicesI think it’s always a good idea to remove the choice options one by one, leaving the site for a couple of weeks and then reviewing the website statistics to see what effect you’ve had. Often there isn’t a great deal of difference to scream and shout about. I used to work for a large hosting company, and their standard webpage was laid out in a particular fashion with body text including a call to action and some request a quote buttons at the top. They were effective, but could be better. Whilst reviewing the site I found that there was one page on the site that had a conversion rate that was about 5 times greater than the other pages, this page had a simple table which compared three variations of the same product. By replicating this formula on every page we were able to increase the conversion rate by 300% – when we tried to increase the number of options from 3 to 5 we saw a drop off in the number of conversions, the conclusion being that there was simply too much choice and the visitor no longer knew what to do.
Displaying the optionsIt’s also possible to display the options in such a way that the user is directed to the option you want them to take, for example by highlighting the middle option you can increase the likelihood of the user choosing that option – sounds simple and obvious but it’s surprising how many websites don’t have these fundamental elements The key to really effective website design is simplicity and make sure you know from the start what action you want your visitors to take and give them the opportunity to ke it by giving them the perception of choice without too much actual choice.
Every now and then there comes a point in the progression of a business’ online presence that the business outgrows its existing domain. maybe it’s time for a change of brand, maybe the domain doesn’t reflect the scope the company now faces or maybe the domain needs to be localised to give it better search engine reach. It’s not so bad it the website doesn’t really work, but imagine how hard that decision is when a domain does work, when a domain is at the top of the search results for search terms that deliver real, converting traffic. Hard decision, but if a new domain will give youeven greater visibility then it’s a decision that needs to be taken. I strongly believe that only by acting boldly and taking the bull by the horn can you make those great leap forwards – admittedly sometimes it goes wrong and you have to track back and undo as much as possible what you did. There is likely to be an element of pain to changing a domain. Even if the website is the same and all the correct procedures are followed, such as 301 redirects from all the slugs off the old domain, you’ve got an xml sitemap, you’ve submitted it to Google Webmaster tools, informed Google of the change of domains you’re still likely to have some disruption to the search results in the short term, you may see a drop before the new domain rebounds to the positions previously occupied by the old one. Although you may get more coverage in the search engines with a new domain, especially if it is keyword rich, you may not see any great increase in organic results. Can you business afford the downturn on the chance that the organic clicks may increase? Personally, I think it’s always going to be a risk worth taking, however recently I saw a drop of around 8% which lasted for 3 weeks, which was having serious knock on effects to the number of conversions being provided by the website. Fortunately for that business and site the business was able to take the hit with the knowledge that there business would benefit.
Google gets ready to launch Google Caffeine. Caffeine is now active in its first datacentre so it won’t be long until it’s rolled out full time. It’s exciting times – we’re going to have to figure out all the new set of rules. To be fair it’s about time, it’s been a while since the last main update which (in my opinion) was Google’s Universal Search, which saw more maps, more videos, more product in the search etc. So what makes the launch of Google Caffeine so important? In short it reflect a shift in the way the internet is being used. It signals the end of the page as being the unit of value that has been the standard since search engines started trawling the net. With the advent of the datastream we see a new way to cartegorise a form of information. What’s a stream? Think Facebook and Twitter, those quick successions of posts and responces. There is also a greater focus on localisation as well as a plethora of other fun stuff for us to get our teeth into. What does this mean for search engine results as we know them? Well probably not a lot to start off with, but over time we’ll begin to see them becomming more and more important and we will probably see the bobbing effect of a system trying to restore the balance as everyone gets in on the act. I leave you with one last thought. Streams are real time. Imagine if the changes you make to you website have a direct effect on the search results? Wouldn’t that make SEO even more exciting.
It’s really easy to make a mistake when you’re dealing with online reputation management, you can say the wrong thing from time to time and it’s possible that this can come back to bite you in the behind. I once published a letter of resignation on a facebook profile. My intention with this was only to let my old colleagues know why I had left, inadvertently this lead to me disclosing information that the company deemed potentially damaging, this had an affect on me, my business and personal relationships with colleagues. The thing I have learned from this is to be careful with absolutely everything I put out there – it all has an impact and has implications. What is done can’t always be undone – even if you hit delete.
SEO is an essential element to the marketing role of most marketing departments in most business. The main problem with SEO is that it’s difficult to measure. It’s therefore important for anyone carrying out SEO for a client or internally to make sure they scream and shout about what they are doing. Remember often the changes that you make in seoing a website will take weeks to have any real impact, so it’s important to log every single change that you make to the website – you’ve got to be really anal about it, being able to go back is essential, and sometimes you know what? Even this won’t help because your seo efforts are effected by other factors such as the seo efforts of a rival website, or changes to algorithms. he other thing is you can be adding 20 relevant pages a day with great content however they’ll probably only get what appears to be a small number of visits, maybe a few a day in some cases – so you’ve got to focus on the overall picture and strategy when talking to the decision makers, after all if you can add 20 really good pages a day to a website and you get a few visits to each the seo team are going to be generating some serious traffic overall in a week. It’s when the accountants get involved that you have a problem – seoing a weebsite is about the future of that website and the busines, it’s not like ppc were the returns are instant, with seo the returns take months and they are incremental and you’ve got to speculate about the success of a page. If you focus on the individual aspects of seo too much your decision makers will lose sight of the overall bigger picture and start to devalue the seo your are carrying out for them. As ever in business, and especially marketing, if it’s going to be done you better make sure you can back it up with data and it’s especially true when managing an seo campaign.
One of the most important elements when SEO’ing a website is getting the keywords in the alt tags. This is especially true of most modern websites where the pages are built using a generic database. It’s important that the if you’re using a generic template throughout the site that consideration be placed on which keywords are used – this then has to be balanced out by the text that is being put on the page – the text and the generic alt tags have to be relevant, and on those pages that will go into more detail about your key keywords it’s important that the % of keywords is balanced so you’re not seen as being a keyword stuffing website – ie a spammer. Search engine optimisation is a balancing act, and to do SEO right it’s always best not to use templates, to make sure that every single page is specific – however in the real world this isn’t always possible because you won’t have enough man hours in the day to be that anal about things. The other fatal flaw is to over look them all together, remember search engines do put a lot of weight on the alt tags keywords – some would argue more weight is put on these than the anchor link text – and they get far more weight than title tags do – so don’t worry too much about the title tags!!
It’s important to start every Web site development project by understanding the role of SEO in the project. The team of people working on the project has limited time, and most likely they have a schedule. Focusing them on the wrong things will produce less than optimal results. Let’s focus in on the role of SEO in the project plan in the context of developing a new site. But these principles can be applied to any new SEO project with simple modifications. Start the SEO effort before you write the first line of code. Search Engine Watch readers are probably aware of the following four points:
- You can easily pick a technology to build your site that will cause search engines to not crawl your site, or to crawl and index your site in a less than optimal manner. An SEO expert must review the Web development choices before any decisions are made on Web development technology.
- Performing keyword research before you start coding is also critical. This will help you learn the behavior patterns of your customers, and this knowledge is likely to impact the site architecture and navigation.
- You need lots of content, probably far more than you might think (or a smaller number of pieces of earthshakingly good unique content). Content drives link building, and is also essential for picking up search traffic from the long tail of search, which is where 70 percent or so of all search volume can be found.
- You need the previous three items to have a chance to compete for search traffic, but you need inbound links to drive rankings. Put another way, without links, you can’t rank. Far too often, people understand the need for technical SEO, but then think they’re done.
- What are the goals of the Web site? To sell a product? To develop leads? To disseminate information? How would you build the Web site if no special activity was needed to obtain search engine traffic?
- How will you market the Web site? What is your plan for getting people to link to your site, and why will they link to your site? The link building plans for a Web site are likely to change the organization, structure, and even the look and feel of the site.
As Google has looked to increase revenues and move beyond being “just a search engine” they have put themselves at the top of the food chain in multiple categories. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc. 😉 If you search for books their book search is the result in natural search and when you search for movies they push their iGoogle application in paid search. Every holiday season Google tries to make further inroads in ecommerce by doing things like offering free Checkout services (at launch of Google Checkout), integrating Google Checkout with AdWords ads (and claiming this increases ad CTR by ~ 10%), and promoting Google Base / Google Product Search more aggressively in their navigation and organic search results. Some early Google Checkout users also got free links. As Google dives into music services a new one-box with links to selected partners will appear at the top of the search results. And as Google makes tie-ins with more software providers you can look for Google to promote Google pack and other such offerings across the spectrum of search results. Google has tested creating a mortgage marketplace in the UK and LendingTree is suing a business partner because they heard that the company might sell data to Google. Everything is a beta and everything is a test. And then one day a new competitor appears from nowhere. At times Google seems unbelievably savvy, but at times they seem unbelievably conflicted. Google claims that searchers are expecting more for advertisers and that advertisers need to start acting more like magazine publishers who publish (and advertise) great featured content. Sounds good, maybe. But then Google launches an AdWords ad translation kit. It is pretty safe to say that if a machine translates your ads in a competitive marketplace you are wasting an awful lot of profit margin. Google claims to like brands, that brands are how you sort out the cesspool, and to show brands for generic keywords to increase user satisfaction. But lets look at a recent search result for the eBay brand. Google knows that eBay.com gets a 90%+++ CTR, that the keyword is a trademark, that the keyword is navigational, etc etc etc. And in spite of eBay even bidding on their own brand, this is perhaps the first time Google takes a valuable partner hostage. If Google claims that they need to show brands on generic search queries to increase user satisfaction then why do they pollute the associated brand search results with irrelevant nonsense? Navigational searches are the easiest ones in the world to get right, and if a site has historically got a 90%+++ click-through rate for a keyword, why would it ever make sense to risk putting a universal search result or a marginally relevant ad above the obvious #1 result? If people are looking specifically for news when entering a branded 1 word trademarked keyword then surely they would skip past the #1 result for the official site. Sure there is money in promoting apps for eBay, but it seems so counter to Google’s messaging when justifying their algorithmic editorial philosophy elsewhere. Sourced from SEO Book