Hummingbird has just changed the SEO game

google-hummingbirdGoogle announced that they have implemented algorithm update Hummingbird. As a result, keyword-specific data is not being tracked. If you look at your Google Analytics, or any analytics program, the top keyword term is, and will be moving forward, ‘(NOT PROVIDED)’. Now, this is a major change that SEO companies should have seen coming. For years, Google has specified that they rank based mostly on human readability, load times, website flow, ease of use. Loading up the home page with keywords rich text and links overstuffed with title tag keywords is not doing things Google’s way. Your entire site needs to conform and for that, businesses need to look to business savvy resources for help. Your website is now more than ever a collection of home pages, not a linear top to bottom single entity. For a company like Home Depot, you need to code your Refrigerator pages to be found in search in a way wholly different than the pages for hammers. your navigation should be clean and simple to use. Don’t let your web developer test it out, have someone who never uses the web try it. My benchmark has always been, “Can an 85 year old man who is techno-phobic find what he is looking for and do what he needs to do”.

Improve your search rankings by improving your site, that’s the bottom line.
Contact Marcus Interactive for help if you need it.

http://www.MarcusInteractive.com

How to Start a Business Website – Part 3: Social Media

In this 3rd part of our series, we tackle the ever-growing, sometimes understood topic of Social Media. Now, let’s be clear on what social media is. Facebook? Sure. Twitter?Yup. MySpace?Foursquare?YouTube? All yes. Social Media as defined by Wikipedia is “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” In normal English, Social Media sites are websites that allow social interactions between individuals and groups and encourage user-generated content. It is also the great advertising vehicle of the 21st century and something you are going to have to deal with if you expect your business to succeed. Now, I paint here with a braod stroke, because there are businesses that will not benefit from social media and not all social media sites are appropriate to all web businesses. If you have a brick and mortar location, you want to make sure you are involved in FourSquare which allows for location-based interactions and sharing. If you’re a global or regional company, there’s less reason to spend your time there.

Time..that’s the whole key to social media.  What are you spending your time doing? Are you investing your time and your company’s time to maximize your presence or are you spending the time to create a presence only to waste that time by not keeping current. If I had a bakery in New York City, arguably the most densly competitive marketplace in the world, I would need to have a presence everywhere. I would either invest my time, or hire someone I trusted to spend the hours needed to work the social media outlets. Back in the middle ages of the 20th century, advertising consisted of print, radio , bilboards and tv. TV was much too expensive for local businesses, until cable came along and leveled the playing field some with low local advertising rates. Social Media is an extension of that with the playing field further leveled by having free avenues. The investment is time and this is what will differentiate you from your competition. The great majority of small companies jump into social media and within a couple of weeks, the enthusiasm wanes and the profiles stagnate. You need to have realistic expectations. Social media marketing is not like pay-per-click or traditional advertising avenues. It’s a long term endeavor. You need to engage potential clients. You need to provide a reason to commit to you as an individual and to your business. Offer something of value for free to get your potential clients interested in what you can do for them.

In closing this part of the series, social media is a constantly changing landscape that you need to decide whether you can devote the necessary time to nurturing.  If you can devote the necessary time and have the right expectations, you can get a huge reward, but if you go in halfway, it will show and act as a negative against your business.

Check Back Soon for Part 4: Forums and Your Page Rank

How to Start a Business Website Part 2 – Website Marketing

Well, now you’ve built your site and are ready for all those people to flood your site with traffic and make you a millionaire overnight, right? Yeah, I know, you’re smiling now. not so easy, is it. If you’ve put up some sites and watched and waited for the traffic to come in, you know it takes getting your business out there and getting yourself “found”. First things first, is the beautiful site you just built optimized for search? Since I know you read part 1 of this series, I know you have done your keyword analysis homework and figured out what terms you want to be best found on.

Marketing a website is a multi-pronged thing. What I’ll cover in this part of this series is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click Advertising. In future blogs, I’ll discuss Forum Posting and Social Media.

Now, SEO is the holy grail of Website Marketing. You configure your site to maximize your position on the search engine results pages. Only problem is that the different search engines look for different things and it changes from time to time. So, you need to think about who your audience is and what they might be searching for that you want them to find. Keywords are the key here and multi-word keywords are significantly better than single words. You want visitors who are going to be specifically interested in your product or service.  Single word keywords are, for the most part, too generic to get you a customer. by using 3-4 word keyword terms, you hone in on exactly what you are selling and what the customer is looking for. Research by Google, which commands 65% of the US search market, shows that more consumers are using multi-word keywords to fine tune their searches and 3-4 word search terms are the biggest growing section.

The very basics of SEO are that you need a great website title, a good website description and good on-screen keywords. Now, let me hit on the keywords META tag debate first. Google has long said they don’t bother with them. Neither does Bing. So what about Yahoo. well, funny thing. Yahoo SAYS they don’t. But a test of a jibberish keyword proves that wrong. So, for 18% of the search market, you’re damned right I’m gonna make the effort.

A website title is that single sentence you see at the very top of your browser, just to the right of the Internet Explorer or whatever other browsers’ logo. It is NOT necessary to put your company name in there. The way I figure it, if they knwo your company name, they’ll find you. What you want in your title is a single 35-40 character sentence that entices the viewer to click and also gets picked up by as many searches as possible.

Last on the SEO bandwagon is the site description META tag. This would be a 2-3 sentence description that accurately describes what your visitor will get from your site. Here’s your marketing pitch, in 65-80 characters. Don’t load up with keywords, it won’t be a good thing.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Sometimes this is also referred to as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. Each search engine, and social media site too, has ads on the side that relate to your current search. This is the ads you want to concern yourself with. You pay per click, real piece of writing savvy there huh, and you can  set your account to bid on keywords on a word by word basis or allow the place you are advertising to do your bidding based on your per day ad budget. Yes, you have to bid on each keyword and it’s not the highest bidder winning. This is where is gets a bit funky for the rookies out there. Each search engine works a bit differently, but the more popular the keyword or keyword term, the more expensive and the more competitive the bidding is. Everyone wants page 1 and for good reason. Think about your own search experience, how many pages down do you go before you do a new search? Google has a terrific keyword research tool as well as a plug-in for Excel that works with the AdWords keyword tool. A warning about using the Excel plug-in, it’s complicated and should only be used by someone familiar with keyword research concepts.

Well, those are the basics. I know I skimmed alot of things, but this is a huge topic and hopefully you now know enough to do some research and be able learn more as you go. If you don’t have the time or want to do the SEO or PPC campaigns yourself, at least you now know enough to speak with a professional intelligently about the topics.

Please post your comments, I’ll use them to help mold the next chapter in this series, SOCIAL MEDIA.

How to start a business website

Starting a website is one of the simplest, most difficult things a company can do. OK, a bit of a confusing sentence there, but if you think about it, it’s right on target. You buy a URL (web address), get hosting, make a page and voila, your site is born. Now, of course what appears to be incredibly simple is incredibly complex in many things.  Let’s take this one step at a time and you’ll see that a tremendous amount of thought needs to go into planning a website before you ever get to the URL purchase stage.

Find a URL

Finding a URL requires some research. First determine what your website is goign to be and going to sell. Google ranks your domain name in it’s search criteria, so a business selling bracelets would do best to have the word in it’s domain name. Look up your domain on a respected domain selling website, I prefer GoDaddy, but any large hosting company site will also sell domain names. Once you’ve exhausted all the names in your head and not found one to your liking, do a keyword search for your product with Google’s Keyword tool. When you decide to purchase your domain name, make sure you do not make a 1 year purchase. Do it for a minimum of 3 years, that says to Google that you’re serious about your business and not some fly-by-night site, it works into your page ranking and your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) listing. But don’t buy your domain name yet, because there are combo deals to be had with your hosting package…

Find Website Hosting

Websites can be hosted on any server in the world. You want a company with 24/7 support and the promise of 99.999% uptime. Don’t do it yourself! The cost of hosting is so reasonable, it mitigates you having to do server maintenance and the headaches of server attacks. Again, I recommend using a big company and secure more than a one year deal. Most companies will price it out month to month, but you’ll save a bunch by going with a multi-year package. And they tend to reduce the domain purchase to extremely minimal.

Build Your Site

Now here is where we get into the investment in your new business. Building a website can cost you anywhere from nothing to hundreds of thousands of dollars and everywhere in between. Be realistic. Storyboard it yourself so you know EXACTLY what you want. A storyboard is a series of pictures telling a story. Your website is going to be your business’ story. So, lay out what you envision it to be. Home page, product pages, about company page, informational page, etc. Every site is different, but before you ever start buiding, give yourself an idea of what it’s goign to be. Do some research on the big players in your industry. Get some ideas on what they do that you like and dislike.

Now, there are several ways to go with building a website.

Do it yourself

If you have the time and technical capbilities, doign it yourself lets you have complete control and artistic freedom. There are many programs to help you along such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expressions. Most hosting companies have content management systems where you can build pages and manage content.

Hire a Local College Kid or Relative

I know this sounds crazy…and it is. Many sites are built like this, however and while it will get you started and online more quickly and cheaply, these sites always look amateurish and rarely get the traffic back that you lose initially. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Hire a professional

If you have a serious business, then be serious about building a website. There are thousands of companies out there that create websites. Look around at other sites and see what you like. Then find out who made it, many web design companies add their own link at the bottom of each page. Shop around. The be ready to let them know EXACTLY what you want. Make sure they know SEO, so you don’t have to have your site redone later on.

Things to think about

  1. Marketing
  2. Social Media
  3. Forums
  4. E-Commerce

I’ll cover each of these in future blogs.

Now, I’ve shared my thoughts, how about yours?

When you have nothing nice to say, you must be Brian Halligan

Last month I attended the Connecticut business expo in Hartford, CT. During lunchtime, one of the seminars open to all was about improving your web traffic through blogs and social media. Since I have a business in website marketing and I’m always looking to learn new things, I made sure to listen to what Brian Halligan, the co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, would say. Listening to him speak down to a non-techie audience was annoying in itself, but I stayed thinking, “Maybe this guy has something to say”. When it came time for Q&A, Mr. Halligan decided to take a big old verbal dump on all SEO companies. responding to a question about SEO, he said that SEO companies were a scam and anyone could do what they do without paying all that money. Of course, not only does HubSpot offer SEO as one of their services, but today, while seeing how my own AdWords account was placing ads, I came across HubSpot’s SEO ads, again and again. Now, I have always gone by the precept that you do not talk badly about your competition. It’s a scummy practice. If you can’t outperform your competition, then if you’re desperate and untalented enough, trash them. Which brings me back to the title of this blog posting. Hubspot is a pretty big company, their Alexa traffic ranking is 1584, pretty darned good. So, why talk badly about your competition? Because scummy business practices work. We all have opportunity in business to do something scummy. Take an employee’s idea and run with it without giving credit, maybe even firing the employee. Screw your partner over. Run up personal bills on the company and then file bankrupcy, you get what I’m saying. but most of us as not going to be successful like Mr. Halligan because we have personal ethics. We don’t knowingly make promises that we know have no chance of being realized. And we don’t publically trash an entire industry of professionals just to make our competitors look badly so that we can take their business. I have heard many stories about less that savory SEO companies. Companies that take a retainer and are never heard from again. I think every industry has these scumbags and the faster they are out of business, the better for all the legitimate business people.

In-Bound Linking

Google Page Rank is one of the holy grails of SEO. The way Google ranks a website is based on it’s spiders and the web they weave. Now, many people think that trading links with other websites will get them the desired results. That’s only partly true. Linking to your site from other similar websites is critical to gaining consitantly solid organic search results. The way Google figures things, if you are being referred by other sites in your field, then you are offering something of value, something more than a great sales pitch.

Creating a linking network requires work. The best way to get links to your website is by creating helpful articles or blogs. There are thousands of places to post articles. In forums, in a blog, through article submission services and on social media websites. Craft your article to inform and entertain, not to sell your product or service. If what you say and how you say it is good enough, people will visit your site. Other sites will report your article and will link to it.

Now, this is not going to happen overnight. Which is why there are many paid submission websites to submit articles to. The problem with them is that they carry no influence with the search engines. Remember, the key here is to get sites linking to you that have something to do with your industry. If you post an article about drain repair and a website that links to all different kinds of websites links to your site, it gets no “seo juice”. However, if you post the same article in the plumbing repair section on e-How.com, and others link to it, that will give you credibility with the search engines.

Building a network of in-bound links for your website is something that takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth the effort.

PPC is NOT SEO

I read in many places about how pay-per-click advertising is part of their overall SEO strategy. Pay-Per-Click is when you literally pay for each click on a sponsored link, you know those links in Google on the top and right of the page. Now, it’s not just Google that has this, of course, it’s on all the search engines and all the social media networks, heck, just about anyplace that a lot of people go to.

SEO means, literally, Search Engine Optimization. Now there is generally some disagreement and confusion about what exactly this entails, leading to a rash of definitions. Well, since this is my blog, here’s mine. I think of SEO as ORGANIC optimization, meaning that I optimize the website itself for all the things that the search engines, not just Google, look for. Then I focus on link building from article submissions and target relevant sites to work on linking.   I view Pay Per Click as marketing and a quick, strategic fix for traffic. You get your organic SEO set and then work on your PPC campaigns on a basis for a specific campaign.

Setting up a Pay-Per-Click campaign takes research and some time. Look at your target demographic carefully and then find the best venue for your product or service.  Most social media networks offer PPC advertising, so if your product is appropriate to a specific social media outlet, you may do better trying a campaign there versus a campaign on a search engine.  The whole point of pay per click is to maximize each and every click to turn that click into a sale. SEO is more about getting the most people possible to your site, utilizing specific keywords to generate the click to try to target the user, but you’re not paying for those clicks, so you can open your net a bit wider.

Do you have a PPC campaign running? How much time do you put into fine tuning it? How much time do you put into keyword research? Where do you run it?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.