October 24th, 2011.
Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first. 450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?
Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.
It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.
As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!
Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.
It is a difficult thing running an online business.
The number and variety of companies offering comparable products and services can make it difficult to stand out in a crowd. Your site has to look the part and match the expectations of your target audience.
Your offering has to be priced on a par with your competitors, or the premium justified by quality, environmental friendliness, scarcity, or some other characteristic that matters to your customer.
And then on top of all that, the customer has got to trust you enough to hand over their hard earned cash.
How is a blog going to help?
Within most B2B and B2C websites, there are only so many opportunities to talk about your organisation. You have the product/services pages, the FAQs, press releases and so on, but there comes a point where it looks like you are creating pages just for the sake of it
Blogs have become mainstream due to their personal feel, and writing without a corporate angle means that the content will not appear awkward or contrived.
Yes they require effort and time to maintain. Agreed – you have to think of interesting things to say. OK maybe your competitors don’t blog and they seem to do all right without it.
Here’s why we blog
- it adds extra unique pages to the website
- our blog posts allow us to explore topics at length that don’t necessarily “fit” within the core pages
- well written content attracts links to the site which improves rankings in search results
There are a number of choices out there when it comes to blogging, and your web developer may even have their own bespoke software.
We use WordPress for our blog – the software is free (a perfectly sound reason in itself), it can be configured to behave exactly as you want, and WordPress posts get picked up very very quickly by search engines.
Plan your first posts
List some topics that you are knowledgeable about and feel confident enough to write on. You may even find that some areas need a separate piece in their own right.
Don’t force a style
After you have written a couple of pieces, the articles develop a rhythm of their own. The content will influence the tone and certain topics will lend themselves to humour, sarcasm and so on.
Set a schedule you are comfortable with
You don’t need to publish a new post with clockwork like regularity, and inevitably there will be other things during the working week that require your attention. The more frequently you post the better of course, but keep an eye of the quality of the article. Ask yourself “Is this interesting / useful / important information that my customers should know?”
Have a point of view
You are not the only operator in your market, but your (well presented) opinion is valid. Stay on top of goings on within the industry and have an eye on events at the periphery. In doing so you’ll start to garner the trust and respect of your audience, and they will have confidence in what you say.
Your blog is not a direct sales tool
It is all to easy to list your latest product, special offer and so on in the blog. Don’t. Your blog is an indirect marketing channel and you are writing content that is supposed to get them interested in you, and your ideas. Keep it interesting, resist the urge to sell directly, and your audience will engage with you over time.
If you use the above ideas as a springboard you’ll have the beginnings of a great blog.
Now isn’t there something you want to say to your potential customers?
December 22nd, 2009.
One of the first tasks we perform when working with a new client on search promotion is a health check of the website. The idea is to make sure that the way the site is built does not hamper its performance in search engines.
Business owners and managers don’t have time to learn technical jargon, so if their web developer puts keywords in the URL then the “search engine friendly website” box is ticked. There’s a bit more to it of course, and here are some pointers…….
First things first – hosting
Is your website a .com address? Which company is hosting the site, and where are their servers located?
.com / .net / .org and similar domains are glamorous for businesses as they don’t “belong” to a country like a .co.uk web address does. When confronted with a .com (and other non-country specific domains) search engines look at where the server is geographically located to determine which country the website is intended for. If your website is aimed at a British audience, has a .com address and is hosted on a server in Germany, then your website will tend to perform better in natural search results done by people on German soil. You need to host your website with a company that has servers in the same place as the majority of your customers.
Put your web address in http://whois.domaintools.com to find out more.
If you’ve got a .co.uk or a country specific domain, then you don’t need to take any action.
How much Flash on my site?
Sites built completely in flash don’t always do well in search engines, and tend to be used as a marketing tool or a campaign site. http://www.speakvisual.com is a good example of a brand using flash as a showcase site.
If you go to Google and search for something competitive that people want to buy e.g. consumer goods, clothing, specialist equipment etc, the sites that feature at the top of the natural listings make limited use of flash and concentrate on providing text that search engine spiders can crawl.
Want to see your site like a search engine does? Go to http://www.seo-browser.com and enter your URL.
If you see some text and blue underlined hyperlinks, then what you see is what a search engine knows about your site. If you can click your way through to all your pages then a search engine can do the same. Try getting to Colin Smiths’ page on Speak Visual using SEO-Browser…..
There are a number of different definitions of this word. Google them at your leisure. For this tutorial its the process of choosing between http://www.example.com and http://example.com versions of pages.
Try this simple test go to your website and type in one of your deeper pages without the “www” part e.g. http://example.com/page
- if the website automatically adds the “www” to the URL and you see the page you expect then you’ve got nothing to worry about
- if the website shows both http://example.com/page and http://www.example.com/page then you’ve got duplicate content that needs to be fixed
“If I’ve got more than one version of the same page on my site then its all good! It means there’s a greater chance of search engines finding it right?”
Search engines take the view that information on a website should not be repeated, and generally adds one version of a page to their records, and ignores other versions.
http://www.webconfs.com/similar-page-checker.php have a good tool for checking duplicate content.
Canonicalization is one instance where duplicate content may happen. For ecommerce sites a particular problem is where a product may “live” permanently in the brands category, and the lifestyle section, and therefore will have two (or more) web addresses for the same item.
The content management system can be configured to create only one version of a page, and its worth talking to your team about their proposed way of addressing this.
Page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, and headings
Search engines scan the HTML code on websites for clues as to what the site is about. Its easy to get carried away here so in order to keep it simple….
page title <TITLE>
Each page on your website should have a unique title with the most important word starting on the left….
description <meta name=”Description” content=”…..>
The information that appears here is not visible to customers looking at your pages, however search engines sometimes use this text as a summary of the page when it lists natural search results. This should include calls to action to encourage people to click on your entry rather than others listed on the page…..
headings <h1> – <h6>
<h1> is the most important heading <h2> less so, and so on. So keywords important to your business (and appropriate to the content on the page) should be organised accordingly…..
Most content management administration systems give you the ability to manually edit page titles, and meta descriptions.
Hopefully this article has explained what some of the jargon in SEO-world means, and you now know what impact it can have on your business. Have the conversation with your people, and if any of the above need attention, ask them to fix it.