the internet ideas blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Does SEO = SCAM?

Interesting discussion this morning in the Manta Community that got me to thinking (and responding).  Apparently there is a section of the population that thinks search engine optimization (SEO) is a scam.  Is it? Well I guess it depends on who's doing it and what the expectations are.  I mean yes, there are people who say they optimize for search engines and they really don't have a clue but there are just as many who do a very nice job of search optimization.

Then you have to consider that the expectations of the website owner may be far beyond what they should be as far as search engine optimization.  They want to be number one for a search term or rank on the first page for just about every term they can think of. These aren't totally realistic.

Consider the purpose of search engines - first and foremost it's to serve the people who are using them to find something.  They aren't there for the sake of business competition, but they serve that goal to - in fact that's why search engines got into the business of selling ads, and it's nice bonus that the ads cover the expenses of running the search engine.

The web is in constant evolution.  Today search engines are not the end all / be all of marketing online, they are just part of an overall big picture.  So it's unrealistic to put "all the eggs" in one basket.  That's like having one big customer with nothing else to sustain you if the one customer goes out of business. You'll be left with nothing.

So in response to the comments I wrote this article based on my own experience, research over time and another article I read recently:   The Way Search Engine Optimization Should Work

While I don't think this will put an end to the debate over whether or not SEO is dead, or social replaces search or all SEO is a scam it may just give a new way to look at the overall process and get the ideas going on how you can use search engines to your advantage.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Will, Won't & Can't

I've been doing this web thing for nearly 14 years and there is one thing that I've found true.  There are 3 types of websites: Those that will, those that won't and those that can't.

Those that will:
These websites are well thought out, well put together and have clear path and direction to the goals. These are the websites that perform well in search but more importantly are gaining in sales revenue either through quality lead generation or direct sales.  Here are is an example:

This site will because it's got several ways for people to find products - images & product list. It is quick to get from the home page to check out and it doesn't overwhelm visitors with a lot of information on the front page that isn't necessary to get people to what they want - products.

Those that won't:
Websites that won't are those that have the ability to convert but in their current state they are not working. It doesn't mean they can't be improved, they just won't be producing sales currently.  Websites that are heavy with flash, completely ignoring the growing mobile web market are perfect examples.  Another example is this one that I was asked to evaluate this morning:

Set aside the fact that the owners of this site managed to take a very exciting sport and make it blah, but the design doesn't do anything to make me want to purchase tickets from them. No trust, unprofessional, etc. But some changes and this website could do a much better job of converting.

Those that can't:
Maybe it's better said as "never will." There are many websites that are put out by multi-level marketing companies, affiliate generated websites or franchisors who won't let their franchisees make improvements.  If you've got a website that was provide for you by a parent company that was designed to promote the parent company (not you as a rep of that company) then let me just state it plainly - it won't happen. Those companies (top level affiliates, marketers etc) have no interest in your online success other than you giving them money monthly.  They aren't providing you with the opportunity to optimize for conversions, search friendliness or anything else.  And I'm sure, if you're in this boat, you've already figured that out.

Okay so this post ends on a sour note, maybe it should have been written upside down.  That being said I hope that you, dear reader, will get some gems you can use.  If you have questions please post them below or email me personally - I'm happy to help!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Take advantage of the traffic you have . . .

The following question was posted on Manta community (you can find me there answering questions if you're too shy to ask them here) and I thought it might be helpful to post the answer here as well:

How can I get more people to notice my website?

I've put samples of my products on websites like slideshare and docstoc to try to bring traffic to my website, but it's not working.

This is the website as it appears currently:

My background is in Human Factors psychology so I look at things from the stand point of how people would interact with your website - taking advantage of the traffic you do have will be more cost effective and help with search rankings. I also used to have a child care about 25 years ago so I am familiar with NAEYC and your subject matter. Taking things from a "so what?" point of view here are my recommendations.

  • The layout is a bit confusing, it's hard to tell where you want me, as a novice visitor to your website, to look. We've all been trained to read left to right, top to bottom and we look at websites in a type of "F" pattern. If you reorganize to fit this pattern and eliminate the confusion you'll get a better flow through.
  • The call to action conversion (free give away) is lost in the mix. It needs to be more clear what I am getting and why it's important.
  • Curriculum is an important part of quality child care but what sets your company apart from others? You need a unique value proposition and clear benefits. Changing the focus from the company to the visitor will have a positive impact on your bottom line.
  • Why is your contact information hidden below the fold? Make it super easy for people to contact you by putting your phone number in the 'golden triangle.

These are just a few of my immediate thoughts.

I've taken the liberty of "reworking" your front page - feel free to use the changes to your advantage if you feel they are appropriate.

Remember, it's easier to double your conversions than to double your web traffic. Hope this helps!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My pet peeve . . .

Ever since I got into designing websites (1996) I have had this pet peeve.  And I keep thinking that as time progresses people would realize how easy it is to fix and how odd it looks when it's not fixed. Are you wondering what it is? Promise not to laugh and think I'm too picky?

Here's one screen shot - see if you can guess:

Don't know yet? Try looking at this one:

Still don't know? Both websites are ALIGNED TO THE LEFT! This is a default in web design and I get that but when you have a site that is smaller than the existing average screen size (1280 px wide) it leaves a whole heap of white space on the right. And the thing that really bothers me about it - It's so very easy to fix!!

I simply don't understand why a web designer would want to leave a site aligned to the left when you can center it and have a much more professional (IMHO) look. 

That's it, my pet peeve.  And if your website is suffering in this way please call me, I'll be happy to fix it.  Better yet, how about ditching the circa 1999 design altogether and let's start fresh with a new, more professional looking website that better fits today's screen resolutions. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What if Google, Bing didn't exist?

Have you ever stopped to think what would happen if Google or Bing didn't exist? How would you go about getting traffic to your website? How would you promote your products and services?

This question was included in a recent article in Website Magazine by Peter Prespitino, he made an interesting point and it really shows how the internet has evolved from one of "build it and they will come" to "show them the way" to "OMG how do I get people to buy from me!!!"

If there were no Google or Bing here's what I would be advising my clients to do:
  • Get email addresses from all your current customers and market to them monthly. Pareto's principle is still valid and I see it each time I send out an email.  If you aren't using email to market to your customers it's not too late to start.
  • Give people a reason to visit your website beyond just your sales hype.  If you haven't started adding informational or educational content to your website - do it! Do it today! Set up a schedule to add more information to your website on a regular basis.  Be the reporter in reverse and tell people how, what, why, where and who (that would be you!).  When you have something good on your website your website becomes a resource and reference to others.
  • Social media. It doesn't matter if you don't like it, don't understand it, don't care at all - nothing matters except that you have to do it. Eat the frog, take the plunge. And if any of those statements apply to you find and hire someone who "gets it." Because without search engines the only way to reach out is through social media.  So get good at it or find someone who already is.
  • Did I mention email? Yeah well here it is again - take that great content you've been creating and use it to market to prospects who've contacted you within the last 18 months.  Get their email addresses from your sales people, from your front line, from your email inbox and start using them! Email at least once every month.
  • Instead of optimizing for search engines and their unknown, ever changing, standards, optimize for conversions and focus on getting more of your current visitors to engage with your website. When you can get more customers with your current traffic it costs less!
Why is this important - because search engine optimization as we know it is fading. There are so many websites on the internet competing for the same words that it's virtually impossible to get the top ranking for anything that will matter to you in the long run. And anyone who tells you different should be highly suspect.  I'm not saying you should give up all optimization efforts but I am saying not to put all your eggs in that one basket. It's simply not smart.

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