Marc Lyne – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 19 Aug 2016 07:13:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 9 SEO Realities For Small Businesses /9-seo-realities-47300 /9-seo-realities-47300#comments Thu, 12 Aug 2010 17:14:53 +0000 http:/?p=47300 David Ingram and I recently had the pleasure of sitting with Tom Critchlow from Distilled (SEO consultants) for a few hours to asses our local business directory, brownbook.net. A whole load of notes and actions flowed from the meeting — some of which may be very useful to others. Here are a few points to […]

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David Ingram and I recently had the pleasure of sitting with Tom Critchlow from Distilled (SEO consultants) for a few hours to asses our local business directory, brownbook.net. A whole load of notes and actions flowed from the meeting — some of which may be very useful to others.

Here are a few points to consider (any input, comments, tips, notes, thoughts… gratefully received):

1. Homepage footers are bad news and may even carry penalties – solution: integrate the footer navigation into the content on pages.

2. Information architecture is key to a well indexed site — how do the pages flow and can page rank easily flow throughout your site? Think of it as a pyramid of champagne glasses being fed by a bottle pouring into the glass at the top of the pyramid; can Google get to all the pages?

3. Add RSS feeds to regularly changing content to make doubly sure it gets indexed.

4. The concept of crawl allowance. When Google spiders your site, it will have a certain amount of time or an allowance of pages that it spend in your site. The allowance will be driven by many factors including the quality of content; the better the content, the more likely Google will spend more effort trying to index the whole of your site. You may be lucky and have your whole site spidered and indexed; on the other hand, you may have only a fraction of your site indexed. Because Brownbook.net has 34 million business details pages, our challenge is how do we get the highest value pages indexed, in preference to the lower quality pages and therefore encourage Google to dig deeper.

5. Google MayDay update reportedly de-valued pages with little unique content.

6. Sitemap. Pay little attention to ‘crawl rank’ within the sitemap, as Google does not seem to take it in to account. Do not have any re-directed pages in the site map.

7. Separate TLDs (top level domains eg .com, .uk) for each country. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is that if you have a separate marketing department in that country, then yes, separate the site with its own TLD for that country. If you don’t, then stick with the one TLD and use sub directories for each country (eg www.brownbook.net/UK/xxxx) and channel all your marketing effort in to the one TLD. This way all marketing effort is contributing page rank to one TLD and the efforts are not split in to multiple TLD’s. Use Google Webmaster Tools to tell Google which directory is for which country.

8. Microformats. Use wherever possible and then test using Google’s rich snippet tester.

9. Google Analytics. Use the new asynchronous Analytics code to increase page load speed.

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How Can SEM Affect The SMB Purchase Funnel? /how-can-sem-affect-the-smb-purchase-funnel-45834 /how-can-sem-affect-the-smb-purchase-funnel-45834#comments Thu, 08 Jul 2010 17:18:21 +0000 http:/?p=45834 Could Search Engine Marketing (SEM) companies offer more to small businesses? Are the current SEM services in the market just part of a whole suite of initiatives that a small to medium enterprise (SME) needs to grasp to be successful online? What are those extra pieces of the jigsaw and how do they fit in […]

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Could Search Engine Marketing (SEM) companies offer more to small businesses? Are the current SEM services in the market just part of a whole suite of initiatives that a small to medium enterprise (SME) needs to grasp to be successful online? What are those extra pieces of the jigsaw and how do they fit in to an online marketing strategy for SMEs?

My co-founder here at Brownbook.net, David Ingram recently created an initial ‘draft’ matrix of services and initiatives as part of our ongoing market evaluation (please do add comments below ie. general input, thoughts, links to relevant suppliers etc, all input gratefully received. I will collate your feedback in a follow-up article here on Search Engine Land.)

Here is the ‘draft’ thinking; a person making a purchase from an SMB goes through 8 steps:

  1. Discovery (including search)
  2. Choices
  3. Evaluation
  4. Decision
  5. Transaction
  6. Commitment
  7. Feedback
  8. Re-engagement (hopefully)

Then there is a plethora of online actions, relationships and initiatives that SMB’s can do to make a difference throughout these stages including (please feel free to add more via the comments section below):

  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • SMM (Social Media Marketing)
  • MLS (Multi-listing Services, eg: www.ubl.org)
  • Online Reputation Management (using tools like Google Alerts to see what people are saying about your business and responding if appropriate)
  • Website containing high value and relevant content
  • Short-form video on your own site and distributed to other sites like YouTube (using tools like www.trafficgeyser.com)
  • Testimonials / Reviews (managing one or many sites containing reviews of your business)
  • Prominent contact information eg. phone, email, address, etc (specifically when at the decision point)
  • Live help and other ‘instant / live’ methods like Skype, IM, etc
  • E-commerce site
  • Multiple merchant accounts (own card clearing as well as PayPal, Google Checkout)
  • Online availability and reservation systems
  • Online quotation engines
  • Easy to use contact information eg mapping / directions by car, truck, on foot!
  • Email follow-up
  • Email marketing services – eg: using services like Benchmark
  • Online customer satisfaction surveys
  • Pen and paper, just asking customers and then publishing feedback online
  • CRM systems (customer relationship management) to track and re-engage existing customers
  • Online coupons and special offers

The 8 steps are explained in more detail below and each line of the above list applies to one or more of the 8 steps. The rub for the small to medium business is that they need to be able to run their business, and whilst I could name quality suppliers of the above listed online services, I would not expect the average ‘tech aware’ SME to get close. Nor would I expect them to have time to engage with them all.

So where and when does FSOM emerge (full service online marketing solutions for SMEs)? Is it going to be the new offering from ‘old school’ advertising and marketing agencies or at the other end of the spectrum is it a case of using services like www.odesk.com to find cost effective support, or is it publishing companies that already have relationships with many SMEs that are perfectly placed to offer FSOM?

Discovery

The ‘buyer’ needs a product or service, doesn’t yet know where to get it, and so takes some action to uncover some possible options, where?

  • General search engines, Google
  • ‘Local review’ consumer websites
  • Local or vertical community websites
  • Directories and IYPs (like our very own www.brownbook.net)
  • Classifieds, eBay, Craigslist, Etsy…
  • Facebook, Twitter…
  • Group buying and other niche promotional websites
  • Membership groups (eg in LinkedIn)”

Choices

The buyer gets presented with some possible options, usually more than just one – for example: a list of search results, often with a local component. The list of choices might contain information about the businesses (including name, location, website, contact details, incentives like coupons or discounts, etc.) and possibly, reviews (passive/implied ‘referrals’) or a direct recommendation from someone in their network (active/explicit referrals.)

Evaluation

The buyer, if presented with more than one option, evaluates the options as best he can with the limited initial information available, resulting either in a final selection or in an elimination to short-list several possible selections. Initial sifting of options to short-list those for further contact, using factors like location, price, service details presented, further information from the website, reviews, incentives. This results in elimination of some of the choices based upon the information presented (thereby short-listing the options), ie – are they near by, how long have they been in business, does their website copy engender trust, etc

Decision

The buyer is at decision point and must make a choice of supplier if a transaction is to proceed. If he has not already reached a single choice in the previous step he will do so now, possibly aided by direct two-way contact with one or more of the short-listed businesses – to find more information, ask questions, or emotive affirmation of a decision that is in principle already made.

Transaction

The buyer has explicitly picked one choice, or eliminated all alternatives making it a decision ‘by default’, and has begun communication with the selection to start the transaction. For example,  the buyer visits the business’s website and begins an online transaction process, the buyer visits the business’s premises to make a purchase or place an order, or the business visits the buyer to provide quote or assessment. At this point, the buyer may still not progress with that selection if some obstacle arises, for example, his initial contact does not give him confidence.

Commitment

The buyer commits to a transaction with the chosen business, with an action such as checkout on a website, signing of a contract, booking of a pre-booked service, payment following provision of a walk-in service.

Feedback

Often a neglected step of the process, the buyer provides testimony of the good service received. This rarely happens unprompted, so the business must facilitate this. Collection and presentation of customer reviews/testimonials to aid in attracting the custom of future customers.

Re-engagement

Also often neglected. The buyer re-engages the business in a subsequent transaction causing a repeat transaction. Although this often happens unprompted, it can often be stimulated through subsequent action by the business.

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Doing All The Small Things Right For SEO /doing-all-the-small-things-right-34684 /doing-all-the-small-things-right-34684#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2010 13:50:32 +0000 http:/?p=34684 Many small businesses ask me, ‘how can I get found more online?’ Or, ‘I have a web site but I rank so low that I never get found so I get little traffic’. So you may expect me to answer:  “just list your business on Brownbook.net  (the global wiki style directory site that I founded with […]

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Many small businesses ask me, ‘how can I get found more online?’ Or, ‘I have a web site but I rank so low that I never get found so I get little traffic’.

So you may expect me to answer:  “just list your business on Brownbook.net  (the global wiki style directory site that I founded with @daveingram) and you will be fine,” but that’s NOT where I start.

I start like a teacher in a classroom, ‘have you read the Google webmaster guidelines?’ Even as a person fearful of technology, the basics are listed, they clearly explain many areas that are blown out of proportion by some developers and SEO experts. Sitting down with your webmaster and going through them one by one would be time very well spent, it prevents you from making elementary mistakes and highlights areas that you will need to make a decision on, or test out to see which works best.

And there is more; do you subscribe to the Youtube Webmaster Help channel? You may not hear anything for weeks, but then there will be one question that Matt Cutts (from Google) answers that either saves you a fortune in development time or highlights something you are doing that may adversely affect your site.

On the same channel, you also get Matt elaborating on developments or changes and videos like this one covering last year and giving a few hints of what may be happening this year. If you watch this video, you can start at the web developers part, at 8:36 into the video. In this video, he mentions that speed may factor in search for 2010… my betting is that’s a subtle hint saying ‘we are coding speed in to the algorithms right now, so it is coming and will be a factor some time in 2010’…

Then there are posts like this one from Adam Ostrow, Editor-in-Chief at Mashable that keep reminding me that rather than running around trying to find the pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow, the SEO golden nugget, or the one thing that will catapult your online business presence, doing the small things well will pay dividends time and time again,

With the experience that I have; taking an honest ‘white hat’ approach to SEO and doing all the small things right will make the biggest difference. Having a strategy that you can fit in to your schedule, one that you can keep on-top of, keep active and maintain over time will pay dividends.

Your strategy will certainly include good SEO, it may include elements of social networking like Facebook, but it may not as this takes time to upkeep and the question you really have to ask yourself is; ‘is it really giving value to you customers and potential customers, are you using it well so that your investment of time is being rewarded?’. Listing on business directories may or may not be part of your strategy, but especially with directories, you need to set time aside to upkeep and improve your listing so the search engines get to see that its being updated.

So in summary, don’t lose sight of the basics, set the strategy, have a plan, assign the time, follow the plan and then evaluate the results quarterly or half yearly. Don’t spend all your time looking for the quick fix (the SEO golden nugget), or adopt magpie tendencies where you go for everything new and shiny. Having said that, my next article will be on the impending mobile tidal-wave that is about to hit us. If we thought the web evolved and re-shaped industry quickly in the past 12 years, we haven’t seen anything yet…

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What Is A QR Code And Why Do You Need One? /what-is-a-qr-code-and-why-do-you-need-one-27588 /what-is-a-qr-code-and-why-do-you-need-one-27588#comments Thu, 15 Oct 2009 18:07:07 +0000 http:/?p=27588 We all know that one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated, new and fresh. Whether you do this with a blog, or you change your homepage with new offers, coupons or new products, it serves to show Google that your site is “alive.” For many small businesses […]

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We all know that one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated, new and fresh. Whether you do this with a blog, or you change your homepage with new offers, coupons or new products, it serves to show Google that your site is “alive.” For many small businesses in particular, this is a real challenge.

So you already have great, fresh content on your site—what’s next? Do you know what is coming that may benefit your small business?

Have you heard of QR codes yet? Here is a quick introduction:

What Are QR codes?

They look like this:

qr code

They come to us from Japan where they are very common. QR is short for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone). They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone. You may soon see QR Codes in a magazine advert, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

The reason why they are more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including url links, geo coordinates, and text. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan them, many modern cell phones can scan them. The full Wikipedia description is here.

How does the cell phone read the code?

The cell phone needs a QR code reader, like this one from Kaywa. It takes literally 1 minute for someone with an iPhone or Android phone to find and install the reader.

How do you generate a code?

You can easily generate a QR code using a site like Kaywa.com or you can use the Open Source code to generate codes for you if you have a smart developer on hand. Google also has a tool — see our separate article about that:Close-Up With Google’s New QR Code Generator.

How can you use QR codes to benefit search marketing?

We are only just scratching the surface of how they will be used. We have added one to every business listing in our directory. Here are a few examples of how others are using them.

A business card company showing how they are using them for businesses:


In print that links the user straight to a web site:

Skip to half way in this video to see some examples:

You can also watch this BBC Click interview on YouTube.

How will Google see them?

If you add them to your website, the search engines will see that your pages have changed, and that you are updating pages. The search engine will see a new image and index it accordingly. At some point soon, the search engines will likely recognize QR codes and possibly index the content in them.

Will your customers use them?

Today, few may use them, but those that do will certainly appreciate your tech knowledge, and those that don’t will certainly be inquisitive, which may open the door for conversation and a potential sale. Those that do use QR codes will definitely have a high tech know-how and may be more receptive to your presence on the web, your Twitter presence, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube etc.

How could you use a QR code?

Your business, no matter how small or large, could use QR codes in a number of ways. You might auto generate one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, the number to call and the URL link to the page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so its easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print advertising, flyers, posters, invites, TV ads etc containing:

  • Product details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • A coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, MySpace IDs
  • A link to your YouTube video

Want to know more about QR codes? Check out these articles:

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You Don’t Own Your Own Business Details Anymore /you-don%e2%80%99t-own-your-own-business-details-anymore-23020 /you-don%e2%80%99t-own-your-own-business-details-anymore-23020#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2009 10:45:08 +0000 http:/?p=23020 Who owns your business details – your phone number, address, company name? As the owner of a business, do you have the right to choose where your details are listed online in search engines, directory sites, blogs, forums, social networks, and, do you have the right to force such sites to remove your details? What […]

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Who owns your business details – your phone number, address, company name? As the owner of a business, do you have the right to choose where your details are listed online in search engines, directory sites, blogs, forums, social networks, and, do you have the right to force such sites to remove your details?

What are the rights and wrongs of this issue? A quick look back in time will shed some light on the matter.

Business listings first went public in the form of the printed Yellow Pages directory in 1886 thanks to Reuben H. Donnelley. The listings were, however, only accessible by geographical area and the contents of the directories fully controlled by the publishing company. This is how things remained, pretty much, for over 100 years until the advent of the Internet which has seen an explosion in the number of places a business finds its details displayed.

For the first time, business details became accessible outside of their specific geographical area; and now, with the development of search engines and social media in general, everyone, effectively, is a potential publisher and there are many many places people may choose to publish a businesses details. With data being aggregated from one site to another and then magnified by search engines, one harmless name and phone number on one site can quickly find itself on many sites.

Some business owners, for whatever reason, want to have control of their details, and spend time requesting they are removed from search engines and online business directories etc, stating that it is their right, to not have their details appear. The fact is that such people are possibly confused with issues surrounding Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and even copyright law.

Iin general, business directories do not list personal information – only business details, and this has nothing to do with copyright as business details are not, by definition, ‘original work’. A businesses address, telephone number, e-mail address and web address is no secret – it is in the public domain. From the moment the shop owner puts his company name and telephone number above his front door, the genie is out of the bottle.

Some businesses that don’t want to be listed feel that this issue should be controlled by legislation. But if their information is publicly available anyway, there’s nothing to legislate, and now that we have entered the age of social media, it would be impossible to control anyway.

Would it not be far better for business owners to accept that, if their business is in the public domain, it will be listed in many places so, rather than fight against it, to embrace it by simply ensuring their company’s details are listed correctly and so protect their business identity – and hopefully instantly, and all for free.

So what happens when the business moves premises or changes phone number? The business owner is faced with a potentially huge task of trying to get their details changed on many many sites. This is not a problem that will go away, its going to get even worse as technology and the Internet continue to gather pace. Putting in a request to Google or Bing, Yahoo, Facebook – asking them to remove or change your old business details seems like a potentially futile task.

So what is the strategy to combat this, what are the words of wisdom that I can offer? We all have to face up to the fact that the world is changing – we live in a connected world, we are seeing an ever faster rate of change, paradigms that we have grown up with and accepted are being changed at an ever increasing rate.

My advice: the business owner should put the effort in to updating their details on sites that can be easily contacted (e.g. with a one line email,) or sites where they can ‘self serve’ to make changes instantly. Then they should use the strengths of the Internet to spread their updated details far and wide, so that there are more of them and by virtue of a business’ new details being changed more recently, they will surface to the top. Don’t get hung up on old details still being listed in many places, over time they will get found less and less.

At www.brownbook.net, we have made the site ‘self serve’ so businesses can instantly update their details, and we add priority to those changes so that the search engines re-index the page as soon as possible. We also answer every sensible / polite email from concerned business owners, but I would say we are an exception. We had the benefit of using modern technology and proven Internet industry processes to build our systems.

The older, established directories are steeped in legacy systems and processes that make it very difficult for them to offer market leading online functionality to enable instant change. The goliath Internet businesses including search engines, blogging platforms and social media sites cater for so many users that it is simply unreasonable for business owners to think they will be heard when making a request.

So in summary, who owns your business details? Not you. Engage and use the new ways to benefit your business online, don’t waste your time trying to make it the way it was 20 years ago, its like swimming upstream in a fast, flowing river that’s going to flow even faster.

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