It's always big news when Google decides to change the recipe for its "secret sauce," and the latest Hummingbird algorithm update is no exception. Although not as far-reaching as the Penguin and Panda updates (at least not yet), it does point out some interesting technical and philosophical shifts in the way the world's most popular search engine works.
Without going too far into the specifics, what you really need to know about Hummingbird is that it allows for longer, more complete search strings, instead of just breaking them down into smaller keyword chunks, and uses another part of the algorithm to determine a searcher's intent when matching up specific results.
In other words, Google doesn't just want to know the exact words or terms you are looking for, but the meaning behind the search terms, in order to help you find what you want or need faster.
That's likely to be more in line with the way actual users think, which makes Hummingbird a net gain for Internet searchers. At the same time though, it has other implications for marketers. Here are five of the biggest and most important:
1. A more complex search engine optimization strategy is now called for. Simply putting keywords and links next to one another isn't going to cut it anymore, especially if your content is rich in search terms and low in actual quality. Google users want real answers, and the company is determined to help them find what they're looking for online.
2. Mobile computing really is changing the Internet. One reason for allowing longer search strings is to properly deal with the input that mobile phone users speak into Google's app, which often come in partial sentences, rather than keyword strings. As mobile influence continues to grow, expect to see more and more of the Internet tailored for smartphone and tablet use.
3. Customers want results with more than keywords. Another reason for longer searches and longer search strings is a general dissatisfaction with the top results in any category. Keywords might have gotten you a good ranking in the past, but they aren't enough to help you hold on to a customer’s attention once they click through to your page.
4. Relevance across an entire website is more important than ever. In moving towards finding thorough answers, instead of keyword and link combinations, Google is bound to put more weight on the search relevance of an entire site instead of a single page.
5. Websites with large amounts of content are the real winners. More searchable content on the site means higher compatibility with long-tail searches and complete phrase matches. Or, to put it more simply, having more content on your site makes it more likely that users are going to find something close to their actual search term if they use longer strings. With that in mind, now is the perfect time to start adding to your blog, product pages and other content.
Is your search engine optimization plan still based on old ideas? If so, now is the perfect time to speak with a member of our team and let us show you how we can make your site easier for customers to find and search. Call us today to arrange for a consultation.
When most people think about the details of Internet marketing, search engine optimization is the first thing that comes to mind. Because Google and its competitors get such a huge share of daily web traffic – and particularly those people who are looking for products, services and answers – achieving a top search position can be the first step towards generating new leads and sales online.
That doesn't mean that all of the accepted wisdom about good SEO is necessarily correct, however. In fact, it could be that most search engine optimization plans are actually built backwards, designed to improve traffic and web statistics rather than real-world sales. They focus on the process, not the end result that actually matters.
Is your campaign put together the same way? Here are three things to consider as you ponder that question:
Visitors and buyers aren't the same thing. The biggest problem with the way most search campaigns are organized and executed is that they focus solely on generating traffic, but attracting people to your website doesn't automatically make them buy or even request more information. Instead, it takes the right fit between the searcher, the company and the offer being made before anything positive can happen. That means you need the right traffic going to the right pages to be successful, not just more page views.
You should be very careful when changing a successful website to optimize it for search positioning. If your website has been a good source of leads for online sales in the past, be careful about changing a winning formula just to jump a few places on Google. For one thing, altering elements like your copywriting or offer might hurt conversion rates. Additionally, search algorithms change all the time, so you might end up chasing a moving target. In many cases, it's better to add content to your site than it is to take away something that's already working.
The most successful business websites are only partially dependent on search engine traffic. Smart businesses don't rely solely on Google to help them attract new customers. They also take full advantage of social media, online reviews, email marketing and other methods to keep drawing interested buyers in. No matter how good or bad your search traffic is, you should always have other outlets you can count on, so you're never at the mercy of an unpredictable Google update.
Search engine optimization is important and will likely continue to be a huge component of any Internet marketing plan for years to come, but if you're paying more attention to search rankings and statistics than actual sales and buyer feedback, that backward approach is likely to do more harm than good over the long run.
Want to learn more about Internet marketing and the best ways to make your company more profitable online? Call us today to arrange for a free consultation.
Starting a new company from the ground up can be incredibly exhilarating and brings the potential for huge personal and financial rewards. At the same time, however, it can also be stressful and time-intensive and require lots of tough decision-making and weighing of different priorities.
It's that last part of the equation that we want to focus on today, since entrepreneurs and business startup clients often have a hard time formulating a good web strategy. On the one hand, they have no customers or market reputation to start with, so it's natural for them to want to begin with an online marketing blitz. On the other hand, they have limited resources to work with and little margin for error.
How can you start bringing those two sides of the same coin together and come up with a business website that's sharp, efficient and cost-effective? Here are five great pieces of advice, based on our years of experience, for new entrepreneurs:
1. Invest in quality. By far, the biggest web design mistake new businesses make is going for the cheapest option, instead of the one that represents the right long-term value. You only get one chance to launch your company and make the right public impression, so it's important to concentrate on quality, credibility and marketing impact. In other words, while it's hard to do start strong on paper-thin budgets, your website is a critical investment affecting the future chances of your business’s success.
2. Focus your efforts and energy. It's understandable that new business owners want to do everything at once, but a better strategy is to figure out which parts of your website and Internet marketing plan are most likely to work right away, and then focus your energy on those pieces. You can always add more elements to your site or plan later, but you don't want to spread your budget and other resources too thin in the first few months or years.
If you are the owner of an established e-commerce site, you probably already understand exactly what our title is suggesting – online retailing is changing, and the established leaders in the market are coming out as winners.
That's because it's getting harder and harder for smaller unpopular e-commerce sites to attract search traffic, gain any momentum through social media or generate the kinds of "buzz" that get people coming to their site. Even pay-per-click and other forms of advertising are becoming prohibitive if you aren't sure of a high rate of return.
But while this might sound like bad news, there is also a silver lining: For the businesses that are on top, or willing to do the hard work of getting there, e-commerce is getting easier and more profitable. With that in mind, here are seven tips for finding success in today's top-heavy online retailing market:
1. Know your customers inside and out. The days of trying to sell everything to everyone over the Internet have largely disappeared, unless you happen to be in charge of the marketing for a site like Amazon or Zappos. Focus on your best customers, and tailor your marketing to their needs and buying motivations.
2. Start developing your own original content. From product descriptions and reviews to user guides and helpful tips, the more of your own content you have on your site (and that isn't syndicated from manufacturers and others), the easier it will be for you to stand out with customers and search engines.
How much do you know about search engine optimization? If you are like most business owners and executives, you can come up with a few basic ideas and details, even if you leave the rest to a web design team or Internet marketing partner. But, a better question might be: How much are you sure you know about search engine optimization?
This is an important distinction because the notions that you carry may not be correct and can actually do more harm than good. In fact, it isn't unusual for us to meet new clients who have lots of mistaken beliefs about search engine optimization and the process of putting an SEO campaign together. For that reason, they often run into many avoidable problems later.
To help you keep clear of the same mistakes, here are three of the most common search engine optimization misconceptions that can kill traffic to your website over time:
1. Search engine optimization is all about complicated HTML code. Because some of the terms associated with search engine optimization (like meta tags, inbound links, etc.) sound technical, business people tend to assume that the solutions are technical, too. However, search engines are fairly simple in the way they work – they evaluate content, look for incoming links to a site and then use that information to try to figure out what the pages are "about" in a searchable sense. Although parts of SEO are a little technical, the overall concepts are usually straightforward.
If the dozens of cooking shows that are currently on the air have taught us anything, it's that dinners made from scratch - preferably with "fresh, local ingredients" - taste better than processed foods. Going on years of experience, we can tell you that the very same principle applies to your website.
Far too many business websites go online with stock photography images cooked into the batter. Like pre-made spice mixes, stock photos are easy to find and use, but just like those cheap substitutes in the grocery aisle, they don't give you the full depth of flavor, or in this case marketing effect, that custom photos shot in a real studio do.
If you are thinking that custom photography takes too much time or is too far in excess of your budget,
Unless you're really into politics, election season can be a bit of a downer. Not only are the major candidates reminding us of all the things that are going wrong in the world (and blame each other for them), but supporters from either side tend to become a little hostile towards one another.
And that's to say nothing of the constant barrage of television, radio, and Internet ads.
Instead of shrugging your shoulders, wringing your hands, or becoming irritated, we recommend you take a different approach – learn a little bit about online reputation management from what you see in political campaigns.
Think politics doesn't have much to do with Internet marketing? Think again. Here are three things election season can teach you about taking care of your profile and reputation online:
Website access patterns from mobile devices have substantially different characteristics from their PC counterparts. Many users accessing a site from a mobile device are looking for quick information such as a phone number, operating hours or directions to a store. A good mobile site should place this data in a highly prominent location, so it is easy to find.
Mobile devices also have much less computing power than PCs, so they should contain very few graphics and only key bits of information such as the services you offer and a brief bio or snapshot of your company in addition to the items mentioned above. If they are really interested, they can visit your full blown site when they get back to their desktop, laptop or tablet.
Graphics use far more data than text does, so we want to stress that you should keep images to a minimum. Your clients and customers will thank you for having a mobile site that loads quickly and doesn't consume an excessive amount of data against their plan limits.
Also, keep in mind that a mobile site is different from an app. An app is something you download from the marketplace (App Store or Google Play) that has explicit functionality, not a website you access via your phone's internet browser.
If you think the only way to view a website on your computer is by opening Internet Explorer, it’s time to broaden your horizons. Excellent alternatives to Microsoft’s built-in web browser have existed for years, yet many people still do not realize they have options. By far, one of the best browsers available today is Chrome, and Google makes it available to the public free of charge. Here are a few reasons to consider switching to Google’s portal to the World Wide Web.
Continuous Updating. Once you install Google Chrome, you will never have to manually check for updates again. Chrome automatically downloads and installs the latest release version without you even having to think about it. If you are still running Windows XP, as many people are, the latest version of Internet Explorer is not even compatible with your operating system because Microsoft has decided to drop support for XP.
Simplicity. Of all the major web browsers on the market, Chrome’s user interface is the cleanest available. When you start the browser, all you’ll see is one or more tabs, a few simple buttons and an address bar. The controls are