Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can SEO Exist Beyond Google Personalization?

For the past few years, Google has been monitoring what you search for when logged into your Google account and in particular, what sites you click on in the SERPs. If you favor particular sites, Google takes note and customizes future searches to show you more results featuring your favorite sites, more often and in higher positions.

For example, if you like t-shirt shopping online and are a regular visitor to Thread less as a result of logged in Google searches, Google would feature pages from Threadless more in the SERPs you see for t-shirt related search queries than would normally be featured in SERPs shown to others for the same search queries. Likewise, pages from Threadless would be pushed higher up the search results than they would normally be.

Why Personalization DOES Impact SEO:

• If everybody sees different SERPs based on their searching patterns, how can you measure a consistent ranking? How can you reach an audience if their search queries are already *rigged* to show your competitor's brand?

• On page optimization and link building will no longer have as much influence on your site's rank for competitive search queries.

• Clients who opt-ín to personalization and visit their own sites may have a false impression that their sites are ranking well in the SERPs and cease or refuse SEO services.

• Clients who opt-ín to personalization and visit their competitor's sites may have a false impression that their sites AREN'T ranking well in the SERPs and blame their SEO.

• Companies / brands with greater traffic have a better chance to gain new business because searchers will see more impressions of snippets to their sites. This creates branding opportunities via snippets.
• Webmasters will start optimizing more for other search engines like Bing where they can have more of an impact on organic results.

• It will become even more difficult to rank for generic keywords and search phrases (as larger brands will tend to dominate based on market search share), meaning long tail search queries will become much more important in an SEO campaign.

• Search spam should start to be filtered out as very few people will be revisiting spammy pages. That should eventually push more relevant, naturally optimized pages higher up the SERPs, particularly those in competitive industries.

• Fresh content will give sites an advantage because new pages are more likely to stand out to searchers in personalized SERPs. Same goes for real-time content generated by Twitter, Facebook etc. Static sites are going to fall to oblivion.

• Audience targeting and snippet relevancy will become more important when optimizing web pages.

• PPC ads will have to try harder to compete with increasingly brand-biased SERPs.

• PPC will become more popular as people find organic SEO too complex and abandon it.

• Personalization should help normally lower ranked sites to get to the top a little faster via loyal customers and visitors.

• Titles, META descriptions and text snippet optimization will become SEO priorities.
• Top SERP performers will fall down the ranks if their snippets and offerings are not competitive enough, allowing lower ranked sites to take over.
• Manually checking your site rankings, or those of your clients with personalization switched on will result in skewed, inaccurate SERPs.

• Rank checking tools like WebPosition will no longer be accurate. Clients will stop asking for ranking reports (hooray!).

• Some think that Google could be using personalization to monitor user-driven search in order to tweak the PageRank algorithm based on what users actually search for.

• Brand new sites targeting competitive search queries have very little chance of appearing in SERPs customized by personalization, even with SEO.
• If you don't rank well now for your target search queries, you might slip further and further off the radar as searchers refine their SERPs by clicking on the higher ranked sites.

• If clicking on SERPs begins to impact what users see, hackers may develop malware etc. that automates SERP clicking.
Convinced that SEO is dead yet? Hold your horses. Let's aim for some perspective here.

Why Personalization DOESN'T Impact SEO:
• Personalization has been in place for some time already - since 2005 in fact.

• The main Google PageRank algorithm still applies, it's just the delivery of the results that has changed.

• Any SERP emphasis is user-driven rather than algorithm driven and personalization changes only relate to search queries closely aligned to your web history.

• Most non-personalized SERPs are not identical these days anyway. There is evidence of changes even based on the same search query on same PC in the same location a few minutes apart. Different datacenters and Everflux between them mean consistently shifting SERPs.

• SEO isn't just about SERP ranking. Think usability, keyword selection, conversion design, branding, social media, online reputation management etc.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Managed Email Marketing including writing and design consultation of emails

Don't know where to begin with an email marketing campaign? Portal Technologies Park can advise you on best practice. We can also offer as much technical, editorial or marketing help as you require.

Email and the Internet have opened the floodgates for direct marketing. Although we're all sick and tired of deleting hundreds of 'junk' or 'spam' emails that fill up our in-boxes, a carefully targeted and designed email marketing campaign is totally different.

To start with, you should only send emails to people who've expressed an interest in receiving them from you. So you can send potential clients more information, offer existing clients a great new service or special offer, or simply keep them up to date, thereby reinforcing their trust in a tried and tested partner.

Email marketing involves sending targeted messages directly into someone's email inbox. Proper email marketing involves only sending messages to customers or potential customers who have asked to receive news, information, special offers and so on. It never involves sending out unsolicited emails or 'spam'.

Email marketing is undeniably a cost-effective strategy. According to the DMA's Power of Direct economic-impact study released in October 2006, email returned the equivalent of £32 for every pound spent on it in 2005. And don't forget that email is also environmentally friendly, so is a good 'responsible business' practice!

Here we can advise you on all aspects of email marketing, including writing and designing the emails. In addition, we provide a cost-effective browser-based email marketing system that's much more powerful, flexible and measurable than ordinary emailing.

Social media maths: is time spent online a net gain or a loss?

A recent interesting article in Management Today mentioned the research we conducted on how many small businesses in the world have websites (answer: fewer than ought).
This was as part of a wider response to a recent report about how much time is wasted on social networking sites, and particularly by those who are purportedly at work.
It’s a difficult truth that, even while we evangelize about their transformative effect on businesses, such sites can easily be time-sinks even for the most diligent workers. Even the best of us cannot deny the temptation to take a quick peek at our Twitter stream, only to emerge twenty minutes later having been sucked into a debate about who would win a fight, Superman or Spiderman… or some equally unimportant subject.
The problem is that we can’t expect our employees to be using social networking sites effectively unless they are enthusiastic tweeters, Facebookers or bloggers themselves. As we’ve said a thousand times before, you really can’t understand these sites or what they do, until you have become fully immersed yourself. Undeniably, though, by their very nature, social media sites do suck people in and it’s a strong person indeed who can resist their lure.
What is the answer? Well, one solution is to do the tweeting and blogging yourself. Most people who own businesses are so wrapped up in them that their personal lives can barely be distinguished from their working ones. In no time, you’ll have gathered around you a social circle of people in the same field, and, as is the nature of these arena, you may find that such alliances are incredibly useful, in ways you never could have foreseen.
If that doesn’t appeal, you may find that the nature of your business allows you to give the job of social media marketing to someone who is mainly stuck behind a counter, with long periods of idleness: think garage attendant on a night-shift, art gallery attendant during the quiet hours, or cinema usher after the lights have dimmed.
What if your business simply doesn’t include such job descriptions? Well, you may just have to consider that 40 minutes of wasted time each week to be part of the cost of employing someone who is truly a social media specialist.

Managed link development campaigns as part of your SEO

Boost your website's rankings with a systematic programme of courting inbound links - the hard currency of search engine rankings.
Link development is now commonly referred to as the currency of the Internet. To simplify this to an extreme, if you have more links coming in to your website than going out, you will be seen as 'richer' - and your ranking upgraded accordingly. However, the links must be relevant otherwise the search engines will penalize the site. Therefore good quality links will benefit your site more than a large quantity of low quantity ones.

We will find and contact sites that are relevant to your field, but not in direct competition to you, and encourage them to link to you without having to give a link back to them. This is an ongoing process and we envisage the initial campaign should be for at least 12 months.

With a successful optimization and link development campaign, more and more websites will seek to be your link partners. We will monitor and vet all link enquiries, recommending and responding to favorable link partners, as certain links could be detrimental to your popularity ranking.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Managed Internet Marketing with one way link campaigns

What is it and why is it important to SEO?
One way links are one way inbound links that are pointing to your website. Good quality, relevant, one way links help to achieve a high position in search engine results.

The quantity, quality and relevance of the anchor text of inbound links to your site is extremely important to Google. Anchor text is the visible text of a link to another site. Therefore, having a large number of these links is vital to any online business.
But how many should I have?
The only way to answer this is to find out how many inbound links your competitors have pointing to their website. The higher the number of inbound links they have means you need to aim to have more.

However, we have to stress the word 'relevant'. If an inbound link is relevant to your website, then the search engines will consider it a quality link and will take notice of it. Search engines include link popularity in the way they evaluate the web pages they include in the search engine databases. These inbound links are seen as a positive vote indicating the quality of the web page the link is pointing to.

A one way link building programme is extremely time consuming and requires continuous work - which is why we offer it as one of our managed services. We do the work, while you concentrate on your business.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A small change to Google

It’s a small change – but Google’s making a big thing out of it.
You may have noticed, last time you visited Google, that the size of the search box has increased. There again, you may not have noticed: it’s quite a subliminal tweak, and, as search is, by its very nature, a means to an end, you may have had something else on your mind.
There was never any limit to how many words you could fit into that little Google search box, but it’s longer now, so you can see more at once.
So what is the point? Well, Google is trying to sell it as a way of emphasising that Search is their primary and most important product, despite their diversification into so many other areas.
Champions of accessibility and usability might hail it as a welcome step too: larger fields and larger buttons are easier to see, locate, and use.
Ultimately, I suppose, it’s a design tweak, and one we’ll all get used to. Where Google leads, others often follow, so watch this space for larger search fields across the other major search engines – and other websites.

Google domestic trends

If you’re in the selling business, Google’s Domestic Trends reports should interest you.
They are based on the idea that search data can inform us about the purchasing intentions of the populace. If people are searching for terms like ‘jewellery’, ‘perfume’ or ‘Tiffanys’, then we may assume that the luxury goods market is buoyant, the economy on the up. It’s much the same train of thought that led Google to claim it might predict a flu epidemic by aggregating the number of searches for ‘flu symptoms’ and similar.
On the other hand, if searches for ‘do it yourself’, ‘jobs’ or ‘unsecured loans’ are on the up, then we may all be in trouble – except, of course, for DIY stores, employment agencies and loan firms.
At the moment, the data refers to searches on, and primarily reflects habits in the USA – but we’ve seen most other Google services unroll to other countries, so I’d think we can expect a UK version in the near future. This free tool might just become one of the strongest at your disposal.

Educate yourself with Google’s Internet Stats

Have you ever needed to convince stakeholders of the value of your website?
Possibly you’re not even 100% convinced yourself. In either case, Google’s Internet Stats page is the place to visit for nifty soundbites. Next time you have to present to your investors, get colleagues “on side”, or even explain to Auntie Majore why you’re putting money into your online presence, you’ll be able to pull out facts like these:
· Online spending in the UK grew 25% to £18.4 bn in 2008, outperforming the 2.1% increase in total retail.
· Over half (51.0%) of consumers are using the Internet before making a purchase in shops, educating themselves on the best deals available.
· Social networks have a penetration of nearly 75% among European Internet users.
Each of these little nuggets of insight speaks volumes, and should provoke useful debate in your own workplace. If you prefer a surprise, just hit the ‘random statistic’ button, and see what you learn.

Brand names: fair game?

Suppose you went shopping for a designer bag on the High Street one day. You head towards the Louis Vuitton shop, but before you go in, you see another bag shop next door. Something catches your eye, and you go home not with the Vuitton bag you had planned to, but with a cheaper alternative.
There’s not much Louise Vuitton can complain about there – you would have exercised your consumer choice as you saw fit. This is the analogy I keep coming back to when I consider the current legal tussle between Louis Vuitton and Google.
Briefly put, Louis Vuitton want Google to stop returning sponsored AdWords from other companies when users search for their brand name. We’ve all been there, if not when designer bag shopping, then in similar situations: you search for ‘Fox & Sons’, and a number of other estate agents’ ads appear. Search for ‘Interflora’ and the price-undercutting M&S flower service is offered (and that’s another case that has been taken to the courts, as well).
I try to look at every online situation from the user’s point of view, and here is where I think we see the kernel of the issue. If I am looking for, let’s say, Nike shoes, there is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a sponsored link that promises them at greatly reduced prices, only to find myself on a website with no Nike on offer.
For me, the real key is the wording. Offer the consumer some choice, sure – but make it clear exactly what is available, be it bags similar to Louis Vuitton’s ones, or shoes that are nothing like Nike’s, but which I might like anyway. If I click on a Google Adword and leave the site with no purchase, Google’s PPC model means that the site loses financially, and I lose my time. The only winner is Google.
That’s why, in my opinion, Google needs to refine its rules a little: not to crack down on bids for trademark keywords, but to insist on precise descriptions of what the user will find when they click through. Not easy in the small space available, but surely the way forward.
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