Algorithms are the calculations performed by Search Engines such as Google and Bing which determine the rankings of the Search Engine results pages (SERPs) for given search queries, the exact nature of Algorithms is a closely guarded secret of the search engines, as the search engines are constantly striving to provide ‘better’ results Algorithms are constantly being updated
Penguin is designed to ensure that websites have good quality backlink profiles and to reduce the influence of spammy or poor quality backlinks, the first Penguin update was introduced in April 2012.Previous Penguin updates have lead to real concerns throughout the Search Engine industry with Google introducing a disavow tool so webmasters can refute backlinks from poor quality websites
Backlinks are links from other websites back to your website, Google and the other search engines treat these as votes for your website, the logic being websites that are useful and provide good quality content will attract lots of backlinks naturally, predictably some webmasters tried to game the system by buying links from poor quality websites known as link farms, it is this sort of backlink which Penguin targets sites with poor quality link profiles being demoted in the Search Engine Results pages(www.seroundtable.com)
There has been some suggestions that Google favours Larger businesses and that it is beyond the resources of Smaller businesses to employ specialist SEO teams developing website content designed to raise a companies SERP rankings, I agree completely with directtrafficmedia’s conclusion
‘As you can see, Google does not make it easy for small businesses to do well in search results. It is now more important than ever for online businesses to understand the environment that their site exists in. An SEO strategy is needed in order to avoid penalties, with budgets being put aside for external agencies or in house SEO. It is no longer acceptable in the world of search engine rankings to just build a site in the cheapest and simplest way possible and expect good rankings. Every small online business owner is now also an SEO, without it, online businesses cannot succeed.’(directtrafficmedias.co.uk)
Penguin underlines the importance of building a healthy backlink profile and not resorting to artificial means of boosting number of backlinks. It would be naive to assume the trading of backlinks has disappeared completely, however it does appear to be less high profile/obvious than it was a few years ago. The best way to ensure your website has nothing to fear from this or future penguin updates is to avoid link buying schemes and to develop good quality website content which answers the needs of clients and attracts backlinks naturally. Linkarati suggest that ‘However, ‘Penguin was very effective at finding and punishing spammy and automated links. This prompted a fundamental change in the SEO industry as automating your link building to create thousands of irrelevant links was no longer effective’ (Linkarati.com). The Monthly Carl Potts Designs newsletter covers topics such as Penguin regularly and provides suggestions how smaller businesses can compete effectively online, Sign up using the Contact Form on this website.
This weeks blog post was inspired by the trolling legislation the UK Government aims to introduce (personally I’m ambivalent about the need for it) I’ll focus on negative comments on social media. In my opinion part of what makes online communities so exciting is the fact communications can be either very positive or extremely negative in nature. It would be unrealistic and rash to assume that all communications you’ll receive are going to be positive in nature, this weeks post will examine how your company can prepare for negative comments & feedback and how to handle situations which go awry.
A number of experts argue against ignoring negative feedback in the hope it will fade away instead they argue that social media is about being social and you need to ensure with those complaints the public brings to your attention are handled professionally, there are numerous examples in books of companies which have handled online incidents in a calm and professional manner so these potentially sticky incidents can serve to impress customers and generate new leads and business. Meghan Sullivan (www.kunocreative.com) convincingly argues
We can’t help but think that negative opinions are toxic, spread to other customers like a virus and taint our image in the marketplace. In an attempt to maintain control, we think these comments should be eliminated, or if not eliminated, hidden. Downplayed. Kept quiet, made to go away, swept under the rug. Hence, the knee-jerk reaction when it comes to building a presence on social media to actively delete negative comments, or not allow comments at all. The problem is, if you’re not going to let people talk to you, then why are you on social media? One-way communication isn’t very social. (kunocreative.com)
I have encountered this attitude and approach before where negative feedback is ignored and deleted rather than tackled head on, it is understandable if misguided, answering critics promptly can defuse awkward situations can the best way to do this is to prepare a contingency plan.
When dealing with irate customers it is easy to lose ones temper in return, this is the worst approach to the problem either on or offline. If you r response follows these 5 p’s you should be able to resolve the problem successfully
Your response should be with 24 hours, less if at all possible
This is a fairly obvious point however it can be surprising how much online communication is less than polite.
this is a less obvious point if there is an incident, there is every chance there is a shortcoming in your companies procedures, this will need to be examined and steps taken to eliminate or reduce the chance of it being repeated.
Again this is a less obvious point but it is in my opinion equally important, nothing irritates me more than interaction, which appears insincere, and in the worst cases to be copy/pasted and corporate in tone.
Viewing negative feedback as an opportunity rather than a problem could transform your companies’ success and image online, I’m aware this sounds somewhat glib but I genuinely mean it, if you can resolve issues confidently while others fail to deliver then you will stand out from the competition.
Research has shown that mobile users value convenience highly as Jessica Davis infers:
‘Mobile users are known to abandon their attempts to visit any website if it takes more than a few seconds to load’ Jessica Davis (zemanta.com)
Mobile Users expect websites to load quickly & to be convenient for them to use on a mobile device, if your website fails to meet their requirements they are quite likely to leave it and go elsewhere for the information they need
Copywriters need to use smaller headlines to grab the attention of mobile users; this coincides with the shorter tail of search for mobile users (in short mobile users tend to use smaller search queries)
Images also need to be smaller download sizes to be suitable for mobile phone users; there are two main technologies for adjusting the size of images adaptive & responsive. Additionally there is a need for caution to be exercised when selecting website images, detailed high-resolution graphics which may look perfect for desktop users maybe unreadable for mobile audiences.
Forms are another design consideration that requires careful attention to detail; otherwise what is a perfectly good form for desktop users could be a usability nightmare for mobile users. Given the low tolerance of mobile users for slow awkward interfaces failing to design with them in mind and accounting for the characteristics of mobile browsers (such as field zoom on forms) could be a costly mistake.
Mobile devices display things differently to desktop equivalents, your usability testing needs to take this into account otherwise you may fail your mobile audience
In addition to these website usability considerations, content such as eBooks should not neglect mobile audiences, with care it is possible to ensure that mobile users can enjoy eBook content.
Given the impressive growth of mobile computing it would be ill advised to neglect mobile users when developing a company website. Having a responsive website is an excellent starting point but mobile considerations need to influence every aspect of the website including the content it contains. Bloggers such as Susan Waldes (searchengineland.com) have bemoaned the lack of consistent quality control on the mobile web, Waldes suggests that ‘the mobile web of today reminds me of the regular web of 1999’(searchengineland.com) even larger companies such as Marin & LinkedIn are guilty of these inconsistencies when providing content which fails to meet the expectations of mobile users. Given the rapid growth of mobile computing with it predicted to account for a greater share of UK search traffic than desktop by 2014.Surely it makes sense to differentiate your brand by developing a website & content which comfortably exceeds the expectations of mobile users?
Definition of mobile search: using a web-enabled mobile device – feature phone, smartphone or media tablet – to query a search engine, using a relevant word or phrase – e.g. “emergency plumber in Manhattan” – known as a search term.(Source:Mobiforge.com)
Mobile Search is the practice of querying a search engine from an internet connected handheld device such as a smart phone(Source:techtarget.com)
My definition is as follows:
Mobile Search is any search conducted using a mobile device (smartphone or mobile), which may take advantage of the devices GPS tracking.
Mobile Search continues to account for an increasing share of searches with mobile search predicted to overtake desktop search in the UK in 2014(intelligentpositioning.com), research by fresh egg shows that just over half (52%) of UK smartphone owners search daily, this figure is likely to continue growing as 4G technology becomes more widely available in the UK.
Mobile Search continues to account for a larger proportion of Uk searches with it predicted to overtake desktop search in 2014.
Icebreaker consulting found that 40% of mobile users will navigate to elsewhere if presented with a search result which does not cater to a mobile audience (source: vocus.com) in addition vocus.com found that mobile users expect a website to be quick loading (loads in less than 3 seconds)
Mobile Searchers value convenience highly and are likely to visit another site if dissatisfied with a search result, which fails to cater to their needs
Google recommend 3 approaches for accommodating mobile phone users these being:
I. Responsive Web Design
II. Adoptive web design
III. Dedicated Mobile site
There is some debate as to which is the best approach with Google preferring the responsive route
Susan Walders suggests that the mobile web of today reminds her of the standard web of 1999 she also questions why so little effort is spent checking the quality of mobile websites compared to their desktop counterparts, if even major brands are failing to provide good quality mobile websites (source:searchengineland.com), the problem is likely to be much more severe at SME level.
Mobile Search continues to grow in importance and this trend is likely to continue into the future s tablet ownership becomes more widespread and 4G capable smartphones become widely available. This means that businesses cannot afford to neglect mobile users, and their websites need to cater to the specialist requirements of mobile users
Aleydra Solis argues that
‘Mobile SEO differs from desktop SEO since it’s specifically targeted to the mobile search environment, taking into consideration the specific mobile user’s search behaviour and intent, and the characteristics, requirements and restrictions of the mobile web platform from a content, interface and technical perspective.’ (econsultancy.com)
This suggests that simply having a responsive website is not enough to completely cater for the requirements of mobile users, content also needs to be tailored accordingly with less emphasis on long tail keywords.
This weeks Blog Post has been rather a difficult one to write. it concerns the Google plus network, which I’ve examined in previous posts. Rumours continue to surround the future of the Google plus with observers split on the future of Google plus, one thing is for sure there’s an awful lot of confusion concerning Google plus, I’ll attempt to clarify matters with this article and examine the cases for and against Google plus together with my conclusions.
One of the most fundamental confusions has been concerning the purpose of Google plus, is it a social network a la Facebook and twitter or a Social Layer which integrates Google’s family of products such as You Tube, Google Calendar, G Mail and Google Docs. Unhelpfully I think its a bit of both and I’ll use two definitions of Google plus for the rest of this article, these being:
Social Network this is the service accessed by pressing the plus button when logged into a Gmail account with circles
Social Layer this is the way that Google plus accounts are integrated with services such as You tube(I can leave comments on you tube using my Google account)
More confusion stems from how Google calculates User figures for Google plus, the Bloomberg BusinessWeek famously described Google plus as a ‘ghost town’ and the social network is fairly quiet especially compared to its main rival Facebook, does pressing a plus button on an external website characterise someone as an active Google plus user? When compared against the Facebook social network Google plus has undoubtedly been a failure. I’ll now examine the arguments from both camps before offering my conclusions on Google plus
Most of the positive posts about Google plus’s future are now getting rather old they certainly predate the departure of Vic Gundotra from Google in April 2014 (he’s generally regarded as the main driving force behind Google plus), most of the Google plus articles since that watershed are considerably less upbeat. Generally the positive posts had an element of “Wait and See” about them and pointed to the potential of the Google plus, a potential I’d argue was hinted at but never truly fulfilled
After April 2014 the general view is less upbeat with some observers such as TechCrunch describing Google plus as walking dead this is despite protestations from Google spokespersons to the contrary,Marketingprofs.com point to Google transferring resources to other projects suggesting that
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Google+ has been massively deprioritized internally and is being disassembled, piece by piece.(Marketingprofs.com)
If taken alongside other consideration such as the ditching of Google Authorship in June 2014 and the fact that the creation of new G Mail accounts no longer integrates new users into the Google plus superstructure, the future of Google plus as both social layer and social network looks pretty bleak.
Personally I don’t feel that Google plus has much of a future as either social network or social layer however it would in my opinion be premature to discount it altogether as it is still integrated with local search even if in a somewhat haphazard manner, I do feel it would a waste of time and resources trying to develop a major presence on the Google plus Social Network however maintaining at least a company profile page would make some sense even if its just for Google local purposes.
• Businesses that blog have 55% more web visitors.
• B2C businesses that blog generate 88% more leads per month.
• B2B businesses that blog generate 67% more leads per month.(j6design.com.au)
Most people are familiar with term blogging these days, even if they don’t know exactly what it means, it’s simply a combination of the terms web and log, log here meaning ‘to record incidents or facts’ like the Captains Log which Star Trek fans are familiar with, an online notebook or journal is a good way to picture it. This two part post will examine both the benefits of business blogging and look at what sort of topics should your business blog be examining, I’m aware both these topics have been covered to death elsewhere but I really want to go beyond the typical 5 benefits of blogging post and cover everything the blogging neophyte needs to know, I often encounter misconceptions as to what blogging is about , Some people think that blogging is basically an online place where people rant to rail against the rest of the world, some personal blogs are like this, however I’d advise not adopting this approach for a business blog where your company is represented.
‘The benefits of a website (for business) are undeniable. As a platform for websites, blogs magnify those benefits tremendously, delivering on them better than a non-blog website can.’ (Michael Martine quoted in Wayne Liew)
A blog is a great asset from a Search Engine Optimisation perspective, a well researched, informative, useful and interesting blog is a great way to demonstrate expertise in a niche (preferably one your clients are interested in), speaking personally it was a blog post about EU cookie law which generated the most links to my website(if not invites to parties), thus dramatically boosting my websites search engine performance, this neatly leads to the next benefit of business blogging
You may possibly have encountered the term ‘thought leader’ whilst exploring the web its merely a fancy way of saying ‘industry expert’, what better way to demonstrate your expertise in a subject than a regularly updated blog or column? Webreference argue that ‘The appearance of authority is also important to online businesses. Customers will be much more likely to use your service or purchase your goods if they see you as an authority on a particular subject.’(webreference.com), this is a point underlined by j6design
’If your company’s blog contains well-written, insightful content, internet users will be more likely to think highly of your company and consider your company a leader in its field.’ (j6design.com.au)
The Authority of websites is an important factor when ranking search engine results
Blogs provide an inexpensive way to demonstrate knowledge and expertise. They offer an effective way to develop content, which can be shared easily on social media to publicise your company and to develop brand awareness, in addition it enables you to make your company appear more accessible (especially if your blog supports comments) This conversational aspect is important as it gives you a perfect opportunity to gauge what is important to your customers and to tailor your products and services accordingly. A business blog could be justified for these benefits alone (there are plenty more), to discover how Carl Potts Designs could help you with your company blog, contact me today.
1. 10 Benefits for Businesses to Start Blogging by Wayne Liew
2. 10 Big Benefits Of A Busy Business Blog: (And How To take Advantage) | Webreference.com
3. Why have a business blog? How can a blog help my business?
This weeks article will examine Pigeon a recent Algorithm change introduced by Google, note Pigeon is a moniker bestowed by the searchengineland.com website for the change and not the official Google name for the Algorithm change. I’ll examine what has changed as a result of penguin and how this will affect smaller businesses and any implications this may have.
The most obvious change has been to the appearance of the local pack in the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP, On Search Engine Land, Greg Gifford highlights this with a number of searches
• “used cars” = seven-pack
• “used cars louisville” = no map pack
• “used cars louisville ky” = three-pack
He argues that before pigeon all of these searches would have resulted in a seven-pack display, this is no longer the case, but results can be somewhat random. Detailed research has been undertaken by companies such as brightedge. This shows that local pack results vary by industry, with industries like real estate/estate agents taking quite a big hit as a result of Pigeon, with much less likelihood of gaining a 7 pack listing (source:brightedge.com)
Another change has been to correct what has been described as ‘the yelp problem’ by some industry observers.
The Yelp Online directory complained to Google about Yelp SERP listings appearing below listings of Google owned services such as Google plus and Organic Google local, SeachEngineLand.com suggests that this problem has been rectified for a range of local business directories and not just Yelp! Listings, here is Search Engine Lands verdict on this aspect of the Pigeon algorithm changes
It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefiting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have. (Search Engine Land.com)
Some Industry experts such as Mike Blumenthal and Andrew Shotland have suggested that the pigeon update results in greater hyper localisation of Search Results
Hyperlocal searches are conducted in a specific locale, womeninbusiness.com offer the following definition, hyperlocal=local community. Google offer the following definition ‘Hyperlocal distance information lets your customers know how close they are to your business. Available on smartphones, hyperlocal ads gives users down-to-the-block-level detail about your business including your address, phone number, and where you are on Google Maps for Mobile.’(Google.co.uk) Given the growing importance of mobile/local search adjusting the search engines to really take advantage of smartphone technology makes a lot of sense. The advice offered by Google is fairly standard when considering local search results, its important to make sure your businesses NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is displayed on every page of your website. Its also important to ensure that this information is consistent around the web (i.e. the same NAP is used in business directories)
Visual Content has a number of advantages over other types of information such as textual content.
A 2012 report by ROI Research found 44% of respondents were more likely to engage with brands that posted pictures on their social media channels rather than any other type of content (Source: Curve.gettyimages.com)
Photographs and other images are for more effective when it comes to conveying emotions that their textual equivalent, especially when other people and animals are featured in the photographs beautiful natural scenes also result in positive feelings, when it comes to emotions such as Joy or Sorrow, the effective use of photographic imagery has no equal. Redsicker argues that:
‘People connect more emotionally with images than they do with text. In fact, customers are more likely to take action or make a decision when prompted with an image.’(socialmediaexaminer.com)
When this engagement leads to the sharing of content, the results can be dramatic with viral videos and memes being a substantial part of what drives the social networks
One large advantage which visual information holds over textual is the ease and speed with which it is assimilated, up to 60,000 times more quickly according to some research (Walter & Gioglio 2014), in an age of limited attention spans this is a very desirable quality, especially when selling to a younger audience, Data visualization allows large amounts of data to be looked at quickly (Sviolka) this is why the use of infographics has seen such explosive growth in recent years, alongside standard inbound marketing considerations.
With the rise of social networks such as Flickr & Pinterest that are essentially visual in nature, the importance of visual content & social media is emphasized, This importance is likely to continue into the future, the purchase of Instagram (by Facebook) and Vine by twitter confirms this importance. Due to the fact the human brain is largely visual in nature, this importance is not likely to be lessened any time soon., therefore it is imperative your companies content & Social Media campaigns take the many advantages of visual data into account, for assistance in helping your company to develop an effective visual content marketing or visual social media contact me today, I’ll be delighted to help with any questions you may have
The 7 pack is the name of the area reserved for local company listings on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), all of the major Search Engines (Google, Bing & Yahoo) have an area set aside for local search results, as the Google area frequently contains 7 company listings it is known as the 7 pack.
Citations are an essential element when developing a profile for local search; Rutledge suggests that ‘ the best way to target your area is to make sure your business is listed on every local web directory available’ (Rutledge 2014) these listings are classified as citations. Any website which makes reference to your company is a citation. Citations have been identified as a key component of the ranking algorithms for both Google and Bing (moz.com) who go on to suggest that a citations also validate that a business is a part of the community, this is especially true in less competitive niches where competitors are less likely to have company websites.
Building an effective citation profile can be quite a time consuming process and to help a number of companies have developed tools to speed up the process and to check for errors in your citation profile such as inconsistencies, Unfortunately it looks like not all of the tools cater for the UK market.
Consistency is a vital part of the efforts to obtain a 7 pack listing for your website, by this I mean the same NAP (Company name, address, phone number need to be employed between the various websites which are used form your local search profile, Google and the other search engines will penalise inconsistencies in this data and it ill affect your chances of attaining a 7 pack listing, for these reasons I find it useful to draw up a ‘standard profile’ before my profile building efforts get underway, this is usually in the form of a Word document containing Company name, address, phone number, website URL, email address and company description so I can simply copy & paste the information required when creating company listings and accounts on various websites such as Google plus, Yelp et al, it makes life a lot easier in the long run if profiles are created with consistent data rather than trying to adjust it later.
On page optimisation also has a role to play in local Search with Rich Snippets being especially important; this involves using microdata which utilises the schema.org vocabulary this puts your company data into a format readily understood by the Search Engines when they crawl your website.
‘Use your Paid, Owned and Earned Media not only to sell in the short term but also to increase the size, engagement and value of your Proprietary audiences over the long term'(Rohrs 2013)
Rohr’s conclusion is that three elements are essential when developing proprietary audiences these being size, engagement and value (Rohrs 2013)
Genuine engagement goes far beyond a basic ‘like’ and the generic tactics utilised by organisations such as pictures of cute kittens, I’ll argue that real engagement is based on interaction above and beyond simple likes or pluses its based on conversation. I feel that ‘join the conversation’ almost qualifies as a banality such as ‘content is king’, if Social Media for business is allowed to degenerate into turgid missing caption competitions and the use of ‘cute’ stock imagery then its a real opportunity lost by Small Businesses to engage and build a genuine rapport with their clientele/customers so there is a need for businesses to genuinely join the conversation rather than just pretending to, engagement is earned it cannot really be bought.
I appreciate that social media needs to be monitored, but while developing metrics and measurements practitioners could potentially fall into the cynic’s trap of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. At the heart of every Social Media success story lies engagement.
Of all the Social Engagement Metrics I have examined, I prefer the ones proposed by Avinash Kaushik because they are readily measured but don’t rely on too esoteric metrics, the metrics he proposes are as follows:
• Conversation rate
number of replies per post
• Amplification rate
number of shares or retweets per post
• Applause Rate
number of likes, favourites or plus ones per post
• Economic Value
Value per visitor (kausik.net)
Conversation Rate. Amplification Rate. Applause Rate. Economic Value. Four simple measures that get you to focus on the right thing from a social media participation perspective help you understand how well you are doing at it, and quantify the business impact. (kausik.net)
These Measurements offer the best of both worlds as they offer actual figures for those who like to measure the impact of social media additionally practitioners can easily monitor campaigns. Kausik helpfully suggests Analytics solutions capable of monitoring these metrics.
I believe that engagement lies at the heart of effective social media some commentators dismiss engagement as a meaningless buzzword I disagree completely and feel it’s a shame that that the term has been devalued, hopefully this article has provided food for thought and a possible solution for monitoring the impact of your social media efforts. Note that Carl Potts Designs offer social media campaigns designed specifically for Smaller Businesses contact me today to request a consultation.