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Google is Gospel and Other Snippets from the Experts

I really hope that by now I have demonstrated that I am an web design and search marketing expert.  But now and then, even the experts need to take time out and gear up on what like-minded and other experts are telling the world.

So last Friday I attended the Great British Business Show at ExCeL London.  Despite it actually being Summer outside,  I sat through about  4 hour’s worth of seminars, a networking board (the busy person’s way of networking) and obtained a stash of pens and a couple of toy freebies to keep the kids happy.

The seminars were the most valuable of all:  I sat through the seminars of Simon Coulson, http://simon-coulson.com/, Kimberly Davis http://www.sarsaparillamarketing.com/ to name a couple.  There were a few more, but  these three were the most inspirational.  I apologise for not remembering the others, and for not being able to hear James Caan properly, but the live feed room had the sound quality of bees playing comb and paper.

So here it is the best snippets from what I learned last Friday:

90% of UK Search is from Google.   Yes you read that right.  Google is definitely gospel in this country.  If you’re operating in the UK and not ranking in Google, then if I were you, I would work on  reversing this!  In America this figure is about 67% with Bing progressively rising to 17%.   If however, you are covering China, then don’t bother:  Google has only 15.6% of the market share http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/1972/china-search-engine-market-share-in-2012

YouTube is the 2nd most popular resource for search.  YouTube isn’t just a resource for watching Susan Boyle’s first audition or the cat that can say “No”:   It has become a resource for step by step advice, to find out more about a company or product, breaking news or a simple behind the scenes.  A lot of companies and brands have even set up their own channels on YouTube.  Jamie Oliver’s Food tube is a prime example https://www.youtube.com/user/JamieOliver.  A more recent channel that caught the news was the McDonalds behind the scenes photoshoot by McDonalds Canada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSd0keSj2W8

94% of websites don’t work.  Now I am sketchy on this particular snippet.  I don’t think that 94% of websites have an online form that doesn’t work or their Twitter button directs to the wrong page: More likely, its a case of 94% of websites are not getting their message across.  This particular conversation stemmed from site owners that decided 2 weeks before launching their business that they should really have a website.  So cue either stressed business owner trying to put together a few hurried pages with no clear message or purpose or cue stressed web designer putting pages together for stressed business owner.  This is why I always stress that it is so important to plan what message you are going to portray on your website as soon as you’re thinking on setting up a business.  And for the “don’t work” reason, this is why constantly monitoring your website is vital.

Google has the reading age of a 14 year old  Have you ever been onto a website where you could read about 3 pages and still not understand what the company is about or even trying to promote?  People at different levels are going to visit your site from beginner to expert:  if they’re new to your sector, why scare them off with technical jargon?  And referring to my first snippet, why would you want to scare off Google?

Write well-written content that’s engaging. Other adjectives were used here:  topical, human, relevant.  This snippet isn’t just for web pages, it also applies for social media and blogs.  If you’re wanting to engage with others, and gain their trust give them something to engage with.   What does everyone think about a latest development in the news?  Note that on Social media, keep it short and snappy, on Twitter you only have 140 characters!

On social media its tell, tell, tell not sell, sell, sell  As said before, you want to engage with people and gain their trust.  As soon as you launch into a sales pitch, the trust is broken, they drop you like a hot potato and others will certainly follow.  So share things that are topical.  Connect with like-minded people,  share your content, like and share other companies’  content (Tip:  if you’re promoting your company page, like and share and contribute under your Company name)

So at this point, I bet you’re asking yourself, so why use social media to promote my business, sounds like a waste of time.  But its not all for this little snippet:  85% of people rely on online people to make buying decisions.   Just last week I had a friend on Facebook asking her friends if she should buy the new iPhone 5 or the Blackberry Z10.  I myself have asked advice about what the best family car is to buy or asked advice on getting the back off a watch.  In every case, someone gave me  their recommendation or pointed me in the direction of a handy YouTube step by step guide.  Now if any of those friends mentioned that  they followed a local jeweller that supplies the tiny flathead screwdrivers needed for getting the back off a watch then definitely would not have been a waste of time.  If you tell others, share your knowledge in your online network then in turn those followers or friends will do the telling for you.

Google is a big popularity competition  I know, I’m back on the subject of Google, but it does tie in with what I have just covered:  Just think of Google as the year book and your website as the average Joe that wants to be one of the popular kids.  If Joe is spouting rubbish and sales spiel to all the other kids then chances are he’ll be left to do his own thing with no one paying attention (and after quite a bit of abuse).  If however Joe’s creating content that is engaging enough that people listen and interact with Joe and then go on and share Joe’s content with their friends, then Joe gets a good reputation for being an expert (“hey, my friend Joe told me about that”), Google will reward Joe for and his popularity stakes will go up higher.

Test your website Whichever stage you are at with your website, regular monitoring is just the reality check you need.  So take time out to analyse your website regularly using either your web analysis software or Google Analytics.

One area of testing that was mentioned more than once was A/B testing.  A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which version produces positive results.  A/B Testing can now be set up in Google Analytics but can also be used in email marketing campaigns

And I thought I’d save the best bit until last so here goes:

You can get on the first page of Google within 2 weeks  which was news to me because Google have always emphasised that it is a progressive thing,  but apparently if done correctly, and with a lot of hard work and strategy, it is possible.  But you will need £2500 and 3 days in Heathrow to find out how.

No more Games: Search Marketing without SEO

I got a call at the start of last week: A start-up business specialising in alternative health that wanted to get on the first page of Google for his chosen key term and the area. Not the 2nd page, you understand or the 3rd: The 1st! I gave him my suggestions and fair to say he probably had other appealing offers as I not heard since.

The problem is, everyone seems to have a portrayal of what SEO entails. In my experience over the years, a first page ranking (even a #1 ranking) has symbolised everything, from wealth and success to simply being able to rub a competitor’s nose in it at the next business breakfast meeting. It’s a great thought isn’t it to do nothing and still rest assured that your SEO ranking is bringing all the work in for you? But surely not so if it means getting in someone who can game the system.

Last year Google, fed up of the minority that constantly game the system (and succeed) came up with two major updates. Wikipedia briefly explains each update:

Google Panda “The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.”

Google Penguin “The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others.”

Every other week if Google weren’t running a Panda update, they were running a Penguin update. If they weren’t running either, they were running both! And after every update, the SEO forums that I regularly visit were chock full of confused web owners, both asking why, and asking what they should be doing next. I’d like to say they have stopped but the last Panda update was as recent as last month.

Forbes article last week With SEO Linking Strategies, Gaming the System is So Last Decade pretty much said it all: SEO has changed. There is no longer a mythical magic bullet that gets you to the top of Google: SEO nowadays is just another form of marketing.

Sadly, “SEO specialists” are still sending emails out to any web master promising top rankings, which to anyone who is desperate to get to the top is damn appealing. The reality is that they can’t promise a thing. But when you find that out , a few months have passed, their story has changed and your bank balance is considerably lighter. In most cases, the SEO is offshore so it’s hardly going to be a case of knocking on their door and demanding a refund!

If a website is that desperate to be on Google’s first page then CPC and Google Maps are the way to go. But how can you get to the top of Google’s normal (organic) rankings the genuine way?

Long tail key phrases: You can focus on say Acupuncture in Braintree or alternative health centres in Essex, but have you even considered the more niche keyphrases? This is where you need to analyse your business. For example, why are people likely to use your product or service? Do they need help giving up smoking or are they battling depression the natural way? Not everyone searches for the solution, a lot of visitors research the problem first. These keyphrases may not have the highest volume of search but they have a higher conversion rate.

Content: You may have heard the phrase “content is king”. It is. And it doesn’t stop at merely talking about the benefits of your business: If, say you have a men’s clothes shop. The average man isn’t a keen shopper, so any advice would benefit your market would work. For example, tips for dressing for an interview or for how to dress for a first date. This shows your knowledge off, which is great for potential customers and in turn the search engines love related content and will certainly recognise that you are a trusted resource and not just playing the system.

Inbound Links: If your content is unique and useful, then other resources will give you inbound linkage which search engines will love even more. Also as touched on by the the Forbes’ article: professional approvals, testimonials or case studies should also be considered. Only use directory links & reciprocal links if they are likely to benefit your website. For example if you’re a plumber then trusted trade websites would serve as good piece of mind to your clientele.

Social networking – There are a wide range of these: Twitter, Linkedin (B2B) Facebook (B2C), are great platforms for getting in touch with like-minded businesses or the general public. I will elaborate on this in a later article but a fixed amount of time per day and a good deal of social etiquette and social networking can pay dividends.

Constant analysis and recording success: Analysis software is available on every website hosting account, but if you have the know-how, get Google Analytics in place and monitor it either every month or after a main campaign. This keeps you informed of what is clearly working for you and where you may need to make changes.

Its no quick fix solution, but with these disciplines combined then over time your website should progress and then you will feel in a position the join the majority of us who file false promise emails into their rightful place: the Deleted Items folder.

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