Here is a video from a colleague of mine in the UK, James Upjohn. In it, he goes through some very important factors that you can check and change on your website to help in rank in the search engines. Most people I talk to know about keywords on the page, but that’s about the extent of it in terms of what to do on your site. There is so much more to be covered, and even beyond these tips there are other steps you can take. But for most businesses this will be enough, because ranking in the search results is a lot like the “running from the bear” joke – you only have to outpace the person behind you. And they most likely aren’t doing all the things mentioned. So start here, and if you need more, please reach out.
UPDATE: as of November 23, 2015 the site has jumped 5 positions for it’s main target keyword. While I haven’t fully figured out why just yet, it appears that Fiverr did help. At least it hasn’t hurt the site…though I am watching just in case the other boot does drop.
Oct 28 – Day 1: I messaged a few sellers on different sites about the job, and the first one who replied to me was a guy on Fiverr. We discussed the project specs:
We talked back and forth a bit about what I required and settled on a custom gig order of $50 USD. Now, to point something out, the basic gig is $5, but for things like this you get what you pay for and I wanted things done right. So I ordered a few of his extras, making sure to remark that I was after quality over quantity. Over the course of the conversation (8 messages total, 3 of which are above) I mentioned my overall requirements. Also, as I had paid 10x the original gig price, I had higher expectations. Looking back, they were never all in one message, and the part about the citation links being URLs is kind of buried in message 5.
Anyway, the order came through (note the red):
It’s apparent that he thought the keyword would be used for link anchors, not just article content. But also, somehow I forgot the iframe code, which should have put a screeching halt to the whole thing. It was the first thing mentioned in both the initial message and the order details.
Oct 29 – Day 2: Even without the iframe code he went ahead and did the order.
Oct 30 – Day 3: I looked it over and was alarmed.
There were problems across the board: almost all links were keyword anchors, there was no iframe code, 2 of the links I checked had the keyword anchor “Outrank Media are the best SEO company in Barrie,” and finally the quality of the articles were as follows:
Companies that unwittingly employ a search engine optimization that utilizes consequences that are temporary may be seen by these methods until Google detects the footprints left behind by these techniques, at which point they are going to find an adverse impact on their search engine positions. The black hat search engine optimization is generally long gone via this stage and offers quick-fixes!
Now, that might be unique, but it’s also just this side of pure gibberish. Google doesn’t care about spam on Tier 2 these days does it? It was the type of content I wanted to avoid.
With all these red flags were going off I looked over things closely and realized the communication breakdown. The guy is from India so English is not his first language (probably) and it’s not like my instructions were crystal clear. It’s important to note that Fiverr doesn’t show you the order requirements message by default, so when you go to the order page you don’t see it displayed upon loading (I’ve emphasized the green “show requirements” link you have to click to see what you wrote in there in the pic below). Because of this, I wasn’t aware of the missing iframe code, which made job seem that much worse.
He mentioned at this point that I hadn’t supplied the iframe code, and so I finally sent the instructions that should have come initially:
That, to a native English speaker with some SEO knowledge, is pretty clear. But not to him. He kept pestering me for the iframe code, even though I had provided it already – you can see the time stamps on the images above and below in the bottom right hand corner of the message. This made it pretty clear he was not missing details (because you get a notification email from Fiverr every time there’s a new message or update to an order), he was missing large chunks. And then he said something that made me think he missed the concept entirely:
It seems that to him, a link must be a keyword phrase – there is no other way to link. Even though all I wanted, and asked for, was for the citations to be URL links…exactly the way they are listed in the message thread. And I did point that out. The cherry on top was arguing with me about the Outrank Media anchor term. The link text capitalized the name, and then described them as the best SEO company in Barrie. Incredible.
Oct 31 – Day 4: As I read his message I knew this wasn’t going to work out, so I sent in a support request to Fiverr. I sent him a message to let him know my position on the whole thing.
At this point I still didn’t know about the show/hide requirement link in the order page, but it was clear that Fiverr wasn’t stripping out the iframe code. I decided to see what support would say.
Nov 1 – Day 5: With no word from support for about 34 hours, besides their ticket confirmation auto reply, I decided to try it one more time. I supplied excruciating detail in a text file that I attached to the order.
Nov 2 – Day 6: He came back with some questions:
Nov 3 – Day 7: Fiverr support replies, to let me know they’ve escalated the ticket (presumably to someone who can actually do something besides reply to email). They also mention that if the issue has magically resolved itself to go ahead and close the ticket. Mmmkay.
Seller delivered the order for the second time, and unsurprisingly had made a few errors. The first thing was that there were over 425 submissions, well above the limit of 75 discussed earlier. Because there were so many, none of the ten articles I checked were unique according to Copyscape. Also, despite the numerous explanations, no citations had links – they were just the URL in text. The quality was better, but still not anything a person familiar with spinning wouldn’t instantly recognize as mid-grade work. And there were still keyword links.
Nov 4 – Day 8: I had to wait a day to reply…sometimes you just have to step away for while.
I sent a message to support asking how to wrap this up, but letting them know I wanted to pay him something as I believed (and still do) that he was trying the best of his ability. They replied with this:
We have reviewed the order and at this time you can either continue working with the seller to have the order completed or you may request a cancellation of the order by mutual agreement. Doing so would refund the Gig cost to your Fiverr balance to be used on other Gigs. If you have any other questions pertaining to this order please contact us.
Mutually cancel? How likely is that? A guy in India probably won’t willingly cancel a $50 order, so what’s the use of that policy?
Nov 5 – Day 9: I sent him a message saying I’m done with this project, and can’t pay full price for it. Support replied that they are unable to issue partial refunds, though I was free to place another order. With the original still in limbo, I wasn’t about to hand over more money.
Nov 8 – Day 12: I sent him a note letting him know what support said, and that if he cancelled the order and resubmitted an invoice for half the original amount I would pay it. He replied with a smiley face emoticon. I relayed this response to support.
Nov 10 – Day 14: The third support tech to reply to me told me to tell the seller one more time to cancel and resubmit….it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day, because everything to do with this order had to be done at least twice.
Nov 11 – Day 15: The seller contacts me to say it’s not possible to cancel the order, which I relay to support. They reply that they are in the process of contacting the seller, and of the seller does not reply in 24-48 hours to get back to support.
Nov 13 – Day 17: I reply to support letting them know nothing has happened.
Nov 18 – Day 22 – Seller cancels gig and resubmits an invoice for $25 USD which I happily pay.
Conclusion: Some of you might wonder why I would pay for work that wasn’t up to snuff. Part of it was that I think he did do what he thought was best, and part of it was he is a guy in India with mass posting software that had a disagreement with me and knows a money site URL. It would be nothing for him to spam the living crap out of this site, so better safe than sorry. That said, I still set up a link alert for my domain anyway, which is not a bad idea regardless.
As for lessons…well, I’m not sure about this one. I think the language barrier was part of it, and my instructions should have been granular to the molecular level right off the get go, but that goes without saying. I was a little fast and loose with this one having just had a string of successes on Fiverr, including a custom order for a video that was delivered the day before I ordered this one. And that one was excellent. Also, at a certain price point you just expect people to “get it,” meaning they have the ability understand what you are after. I know going forward I will read descriptions closely and if the job I want done varies more than a little bit I’ll have to deal with a native English speaker first. That should at least minimize the miscommunication.
Fiverr’s support was a little slow too. Things worked out in the end, but it was 2.5 weeks after the first support request. None of that should take away from the service though, as there are a lot of great gigs on there (in fact, I’ll be ordering another one today). Just that problems like this one don’t resolve themselves, so the sooner it’s sorted out the better for everyone.
And as a final thought for those who want $300/month SEO packages…think about what you are getting. It’ll be gigs like this to your main site, except the person hiring the outsourcer (or firing up their own software) won’t care as much, and you probably won’t look over the work like I did. So when nothing happens (or your site drops in rankings) you’ll end up paying even more, because it’s not a blank canvas anymore. Automation can make things a lot easier, but it is imperative you know what you are doing, and know how to check the quality of the work.
Anyway, at least I got a blog post out of this. The thought of which was about the only thing that kept me sane throughout the process. Well, that, and the sheer absurdity of it all.
Recently, a former Google employee managed to buy the Google.com domain name briefly, through Google’s Domain service. While it looks like it was internal glitch in their system, it highlights the sometimes confusing nature of renewing domains. I’ve had 2 clients recently ripped off by an outfit called internet Domain Name Services, so this post is a warning to anyone who gets their “invoice.”
For a website to be visible on the internet it must have a registered domain name. these names have to be renewed every 1 to 10 years depending on the interval you choose when renewing. Once you have purchased that domain name there are some settings you have to adjust – the big ones being the name servers (which link your domain name to the server that hosts the files for your website) and your contact records. The contact records consist of 4 parts – the registrant (owner), the admin, the tech contact, and the auxiliary billing contact. All have their reasons to exist – a company (the admin) can manage a domain for a client (the registrant), and have one of their employees (the tech) take care of it. In that regard, the registrant, admin, and tech contacts would be different, and perhaps the auxiliary billing would be two if it was added in the first place.
These records are publicly available information that can be searching using something called whois records. Just search the phrase “whois” and a list of sites shows up, and all you have to do is put the domain name into their search field to get a bunch of info. You can see where that domain is registered, who hosts the site, when it was created and when it expires, and the contact details for the different contacts we talked about above (long pic, contact details at bottom):
Now it’s important to note that only a person who has access to the account in which a domain is registered can renew it. Which brings us the shady firm Internet Domain Name Services. They will send you a notice like this:
It looks like they are billing you. But they aren’t, and can’t. Remember, your domain is already in a different account that they do not have access to, and therefore they can’t renew your domain. They pull public info, dress it up to look legitimate, charge 4x the going rate for a domain renewal, and stone cold scam people. I don’t know of anyone who has had success getting their money back either, due to the wording of the document.
Recently a good friend of mine was talking about online advertising. She has been in business since the 80s and since that time has relied almost exclusively on advertising the Yellow Pages to attract new customers. And back then it worked. But times have since changed. From May 2014 to May 2015 she had a contract that was just over $800 per month, amounting to just under $10,000 over the duration of the contract. This was justified by the amount of service she was getting – priority placement in the print directory, priority placement in the Yellow Pages website, and a Google Adwords campaign. We talked just prior to her meeting her YP rep in early May, 2015. I advised her not to renew the contract, for the reasons outlined below. I will now handle each of these point in turn.
Priority placement in the print directory. This means absolutely nothing. For a lot of markets they don’t even distribute these anymore. And even if they do, can you find one in the home? I tried, and after about 15 minutes found one…but it was from 2011. Compare that to the amount of time it takes to find your phone and then search for what you are looking for. It becomes even more pronounced when you realize a fairly large proportion of searches happen outside of the home. This is one “benefit” that is actually not a benefit at all. I am embarrassed for them that they bring it up at all.
Priority Placement in the Yellow Pages website. This is better, and arguably of some benefit as I’m sure it does drive some customer inquiries. But not a lot: by YP’s own tracking system that contract generated 3 calls over the course of the year. $3300 per call. The reason is fairly simple. The YellowPages.ca is one site, and for many markets, not a highly ranked one (though to be fair, it does rank well for certain terms). If someone has done a search and visited 2 or 3 sites already, are they likely to click into another site just to view a list that is very similar to the one they are already looking at? It is better to be highly ranked in Google than the YellowPages because it is one step up the ladder in terms of actions the user has to take. A click is not a lot of effort, but it is a large barrier to overcome in terms of psychology. You have to give the user a reason to click, and if all you offer is more of the same, why bother? More on this next.
Google Adwords Campaign. First, some background. I am certified in Adwords from Google, which means nothing. It’s an online exam that you take and can cheat a great deal on. But it does at least familiarize you with the platform, the methods and the terminology. The real value is I supported myself on Adwords for a good portion of 2009, which means everything. It takes a certain level of knowledge to be able to make one of those campaigns profitable. What the Yellow Pages does with this amounts to negligence at best, and here’s why:
1. Bidding on broad matched terms. Adwords has 3 keyword match categories: broad, phrase and exact. Broad match gives the largest volume of searches because you are bidding on phrases that contain any of the terms. So if you bid on the broad match term “barrie divorce lawyer” if any of the words shows up in a search, like say “barrie chamber of commerce” your ad will appear. That’s a big deal because your CPC (cost per click) is inversely related to your CTR (Click Through Rate), meaning the higher your CTR, the lower your CPC. CTR is defined as the number of clicks divided by the number of times the ad was shown (impressions) times 100. If your ad has *nothing to do* with a user’s search it will lower you CTR, obviously. Or, to put it another way, you can never start a campaign on broad matched terms. You have to start on phrase matched (or exact if you’d like) to be able to determine the searcher’s intent, and then see if you can match your offer to their search. Only after you have a proven funnel can you start bidding on broad matched terms – and then only to find new keywords you can take into the phrase or exact matching groups for profitability. For my friend, I confirmed they had broad matched terms by using 1 or 2 word terms and seeing if they showed up.
2. Sending traffic to the homepage. Inexcusable. To make a profit on Adwords there has to be a clear linear progression from search to ad to landing page (the page they go to after clicking on the ad). This has to be extremely find grained, so much so that a winning campaign will typically have a 1:1:1 ratio – both the ad and landing page are specifically crafted for the keyword, because that’s what it takes. Sending traffic to a homepage creates a disconnect as you go from a specific inquiry to a general page. While this may convert some of the time, most of the time it won’t. For my friend, it didn’t convert at all.
3. Poorly written ads. Just look at others to see the quality. Would you click it?
4. Their stats. They come at you with things like “your ads get a ton of clicks” and “that’s a very high volume search term” among others. It sounds impressive, but have you ever paid a bill in clicks or searches? They are metrics to consider, but they are not even top level ones. The only numbers that matter are conversions and revenue, which I’m not sure YP provides. And if you use their landing pages (discussed next) that means the only metric they can’t manipulate is revenue. Everything else can be tampered with as long as you have everything through them. Which is probably why the rep said that my friend was getting “lots of clicks” that somehow didn’t translate into customers. Funny that.
5. Their hosted landing pages. After I pointed out the homepage issue, she brought it up to her YP rep who mentioned they have the ability to have landing pages made for the keywords being bid on, which sounds great, but it’s not. That’s because the people setting it up still have no idea how to make it convert. It’s one thing to have the technical know how to set a campaign up; it’s another to have enough direct marketing experience to be able to make it convert. And its the techie side that’s easiest to learn- you can have that down in a week. But it gets worse. Those pages that they so poorly make are not even on you domain – they are on a YP owned domain. Which means if you stop paying rent, it’s gone.
That dovetails into perhaps the biggest issue here. To have any staying power or control over your fate you need to own your patch of the internet, which is why domain names are known as VRE – Virtual Real Estate. With YP everything is under their roof, so you are a renter, with few rights and little control. And if you stop paying, you have nothing to show for it, even if you’ve been a client for years. Proper internet marketing would be to have you own domain and site, with all the Adwords landing pages on your site. And then using Google Analytics hooked up to you own site, and Adwords campaign. That way, you have accurate data about a property you control. But more importantly, you are building an asset you control. Do you know how much more attractive a business is that comes with a top ranked site?
Anyway, more to follow as this develops, as she did renew the contract, for $100 less a month. I was surprised, but happy to have a case study about what exactly you get for that money in this day and age. Also, I tried my best to explain concepts here that have a lot of meat to them; feel free to ask questions if you need clarification. I will post updates as they come.
Being an internet marketing agency, we are keenly aware that sometimes you have to change with the times. That message can get lost in municipalities, and from Tisdale, Saskatchewan we have this beauty:
Just so you know, rape is from rapeseed, which today is referred to as canola. The oil makers made the switch in the early 70s. It might be time for the town to follow, because for most people the term “rape” doesn’t equate to “agricultural crop.” But they’re still deciding, because you don’t want to rush things. Thanks for this gem in the meantime.
This probably won’t matter to basically anyone who isn’t a marketer or techie, but Google has finally announced they are doing away with Google Plus. The writing has been on the wall for years really, but picked up steam with the departure of Vic Gundotra, who left just about a year ago right now.
So what happened? Well, it never reached critical mass. Not that many people outside of SEOs (I mean, which SEO company doesn’t want a link from a DA 100 site) and certain groups ever really used it. And as someone who spent time in the trenches, I have a pretty strong feeling as to why it fizzled.
First, it never really differentiated itself. Facebook is for socializing, Twitter is direct messaging and broadcasting, LinkedIn is professional, Tumblr is for entertainment, and the list goes on. The difference is that each successful social network has its own niche, a way that’s different from all the others. Google Plus had a wall, like Facebook, had circles (which I compare to being a contact in LinkedIn)….and that was about. With no niche defined it was kind of like Facebook 2.0, but not an advancement. It was just another property to update, with far less people and interaction. Because it didn’t stand out, no one went over to it. Why build something that is already built somewhere else?
Also, there was the complexity. You obviously had to have a Google account, and I guess if all you wanted was Google Plus it might not have been a big deal. But the fact is that no one joins Google for that – it’s usually for another service like Youtube or Gmail. And therein lies a problem, which is probably best told with a story.
Here’s what happened to me. I had a Gmail account, and then set up a Google Plus account. Of course I added some content and got it verified. Then I decided to use Gmail for my domain email via Google Apps for Business (I didn’t know at that time there is a free option to import domain email accounts via POP). No big deal. Except I had to create a whole new Google account.
Everything business related should be tied to same account, and so I transferred ownership of the established Google Plus page to my new account…but I had already used that account to set up a Youtube channel, and of course that creates a Google Plus account that cannot be deleted (warning: link contains coarse language) This little detail of course only comes to light after the fact. So now I have 2 Gmail accounts, 2 Google Plus accounts…and my YouTube channel is linked to the wrong Google Plus page.
It’s not that big of a deal, but it is irritating. And I’ll fix it for the links, but what do you think the average person would do? Yup – never come back. Contrast that to joining Twitter…you sign up, follow a few people, tweet a few things and you’re done. Simple.
Which brings us to the caveat of sites like these. Web 2.0 or social sites come and go, so it’s best not to have your business using ones of these for its primary web presence. Remember MySpace? How about Flickr? While the latter is still around, it is nowhere near what it once was, or could have been. But that’s a whole other story.
I think social accounts should be used to broaden a brands reach, and give customers a platform through which they can communicate with the business. In return, the business has an established communication route should PR crisis unfold. It comes across as a little disingenuous building them out after the #$%^ hits the fan.
Anyway, good riddance Google Plus. I can’t say you’ll be missed.
On our web design page we list the factors we go through when designing a page/site for clients. Those factors affect the “look and feel” of the site, but but those there are also things to think about for search engine optimization.
The very first step in SEO for websites is choosing what keywords you want the site to rank for, as this affects the URLs that will be built out for the content. So we come up with a short list, for example, for a florist here in Barrie we’d have something like “barrie flower shop”, “wedding flowers barrie”, “barrie florist”, etc…What we are looking for here is the largest volume keyword that also has some indication of intent of the searcher. This is key, as a term like “barrie flowers” most likely has a greater search volume than any of the ones we chose, but you don’t know what they are looking for. They may be after a list of local wildflowers.
Once keywords are chosen we set up the site architecture – a silo, as the term is know. This just means breaking up the site into its respective categories – wedding flowers, sympathy flowers, custom arrangements, etc… And each category page will have sub-categories under it. On those pages the keyword has to be present in certain locations – the title, meta description, h1 and so on. This is just letting the search engines know without a shadow of a doubt that this term is what this page is about. It might seem obvious, but this step gets skipped/messed up a shocking amount of times. It’s actually incredible.
Next comes thing that most people don’t think about. The first one is site performance, which basically means how fast a site loads. Google has a test for this: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ where you can test the homepage of your site, which is the most important. They will give you ways help improve the load time, but it basically comes down to 2 things; compressing your data (which you control) and server response time (which you don’t control). For example, for this site we have a server response time of about 1.1-1.5 seconds depending on the day, which is kind of slow. But to upgrade the server account we have to spend about 20x the amount we are now, so that’ll just have to wait.
Next comes mobile-friendliness. This means having either a fully responsive site or a mobile version of the site, as the majority of the traffic out there these days is mobile. This was covered in the previous blog post, so if you can read about it there if interested. The bottom line is sites have to be mobile friendly these days; it’s not an add-on anymore.
Next comes security. Sites get hacked all the time, and this can have a variety of consequences. Sometimes it’s just a link to another site, but other times it can be more serious. Whatever the case, it is the responsibility of the webmaster to make sure the sites they administer are secure.
After these considerations comes design, though the process isn’t linear. A final note on client input into site design. many times the people that are involved in making a site or really anything come from such a fundamentally different perspective than someone who has never seen it before that they are blind to the shortcomings. Navigating around a site you’ve been on a hundred times over the last 2 months as it evolves seems simple to you, but may not be so easy to you average visitor. And of they can’t/don’t figure it out quickly they are gone. For an example, if you have a Paypal account, go in and try to change your business name. It’s easy – once you know how, but poking around on your own quickly gets frustrating. This is why we place conversion/layout factors ahead of personal tastes, because in the end, every good site is about the visitors; not the owner.
For those not in the online marketing world this might not seem like a big deal. For those of us in it, it surely is. Though most of us already have mobile friendly sites, the business owners on the web are who will see a shake-up, and the issue will be the rush to convert their sites (or add a new one) before the deadline passes.
For background info, Google constantly rolls out updates updates to its ranking algorithm to better filter results, or penalize those who have found a loophole and are exploiting it. It’s a never ending cycle; updates come, webmasters react, trends are discovered, become popular, and then the next update comes and the process repeats itself. You can read about some updates here.
This latest one is a bit different though, in that they are announcing it ahead of time and that a lot of the damage will be sites that just don’t know about it, ie. sites that have done nothing wrong. Which is probably why it’s being warned about in the first place. But it has been a long time coming. Anyone who tracks analytics has seen mobile visitors outnumber traditional desktop computer visitors for a few years now, and Google’s own data shows that mobile searches are now the biggest source of search queries. That seems obvious, because unless you work on a computer your phone most likely functions as your computer (at least for browsing). The problem is a lot of sites only have traditional desktop-friendly versions, and this is not great for the mobile browsing experience. It’s this poor user experience that has prompted Google to use mobile friendliness as a ranking factor, so as of April 21, sites that aren’t mobile friendly will see a drop in rankings.
For people in the web-design/online marketing world this is a great opportunity, as many searched for competitive terms still have traditional websites ranked on the first page, and if those webmasters want to keep their rankings they will have to comply by April 21. To test if your site is mobile friendly in Google’s eye, simply submit it’s URL here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Here is the same site. The current version is on the left; a mobile verison is on the right. Contact details have been hidden.
If it passes great, but if not, what’s the next step? There are 2 ways to convert a site to make it mobile friendly. The first is to make it fully responsive. The second is to have a mobile version of the site. Personal preference will vary, but for a quick conversion I opt for the latter for a few reasons;
1. They are faster make. A mobile version takes elements of the original site and makes a new mobile version. This is faster than trying to recreate a site on a responsive platform.
2. They have known mobile conversion factors. Functions like “click to call” or “click to locate” generally don’t come with responsive sites, but they are almost always present and prominent on mobile version sties. It’s long been known that the more people have to look around the more likely they are to leave, and just making a site responsive doesn’t make it more likely to convert.
We are currently offering a special to get a mobile site up and running for business owners who are ready to tackle this. Please call us at (705)315-0305 for your site before it’s too late!