The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


What does it take for great SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Questions about SEO?Getting great results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is what everyone wants. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it used to be. I've been around long enough to remember the pre-Google days, when you could submit a site to Yahoo and it would be #1 for your keyword search in less than a week. <sigh>

The Google algorithm never stops evolving. That's good, because the internet is still a new medium and everyone is still scrambling to figure out how it works. Even the big players don't always get things right. Just look at Google's social media stumbles.

A few years ago, you used to be able to do a few things well and be rewarded in the search engines. Things like carefully matching the keywords on a webpage to the actual searches done by potential visitors. Having lots of inbound links used to be a hot ticket. Posting fresh content regularly was a great approach. Those things are still important, but now, there are more "hoops" to jump through.

I call them hoops, but they're just additional factors that Google and other search engines use to determine the overall quality of your website. Take all of the above and now add in things like topical authority, site usage characteristics, the user experience on your website, whether your site is secure (using https) or is mobile friendly - and more. When you look at the bigger picture, there's so much more than keyword matching involved.

Business knowledge is generally a few years behind when it comes to advances in technology and marketing. In this case though, it's not such a bad thing. For years, I have gently reminded people that although the tools are changing, the underlying fundamentals of online marketing haven't changed. If you've paid attention to your fundamentals, you're probably still doing just fine in search engine rankings.

One of the websites I manage has been sitting very comfortably in the top 10 websites for a relatively competitive keyword search for more than a decade. Let thank sink in for a moment. MORE THAN 10 YEARS. The work I do on it is comparatively little when looking at the competition. So why does this website still rank highly? Fundamentals.

Some might argue that it's because this site is old that it's ranking well. That's part of it, to be sure. The domain's been registered since 2001 and it's built up some authority over that time as a result. Truthfully though, you can start a website tomorrow and with some discipline, build a site that is just as authoritative in one year. What is it going to take? Focusing on fundamentals.

Start sharing your knowledge. Tell your story. Connect with prospects and clients using the old and new tools available. Be useful enough on a regular basis and believe it or not, that will make you special. Why? Because most people lack the discipline needed to do the work required. Be special enough that people believe in your ability to help them. When you're special, people will look for you, talk about you, and trust you to take care of them. At that point, you might have done really well in the SERPs, but you'll also probably not need to worry about that because you'll be busy enough with the work you have coming in.

By all means, adapt and adjust to changing search engine requirements. Make your site responsive. It'll be better for you anyway. But don't let the trends that come and go take your attention away from your fundamentals. Responsive website or not, your online presence will work better for you when you're focused on what's most important.

Mobilegeddon is Here

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mobile-f-ing-geddon!If you're like most people, you probably haven't heard of the so-called "Mobilegeddon" that's happening today. I'm not going to say it's a good or bad thing that you haven't. Just because Google says something in February doesn't mean that it makes the papers.

So, what's the big deal? Here's the story.

Google announced in February that sites that are not mobile-friendly will essentially be penalized in search results when a search is made from a smartphone. This does not affect searches made from tablets. Yes, I know, a tablet is a "mobile device", but Google treats tablets like desktops when it comes to searches.

What does "mobile friendly" mean? Fundamentally, Google's philosophy has now extended beyond getting people the best, most relevant search results. Now they want top ranking websites (on mobile) to have unique content, lots of social media and other relevance AS WELL AS a great user experience. These days, "great user experience" when viewing a website on a mobile phone means having a responsive website. The term "responsive" means your website has a layout that RESPONDS to fit various screens. Having a responsive website is now more important than before for many companies.

What this means for most businesses is . . . well, that depends.

If your business gets a significant portion of its web traffic from people using mobile devices, you could be in trouble. This depends largely on how people search for your business. If you run a coffee shop called "Higher Grounds Cafe" in Niagara Falls, for example, you may not be found as readily if someone does a search for "niagara falls coffee shop" or "niagara falls cafe". However, if people primarily search by your business name, you probably won't lose visitors searching on mobile devices.

Another perspective is that if your business operates in an industry where your clients aren't likely using mobile devices to search for a company like yours, you shouldn't be losing sleep over this change. Chances are that a person making a major purchasing decision will not be doing all of their research on a smartphone. If you sell office equipment or machinery or are generally a B2B type company, you may not notice any decline in your site visits.

I agree that "Mobilegeddon" may have a significant impact on many business' rankings in mobile search results. On the other hand, it's also true that MANY businesses already have poor rankings with their websites and are not getting great amounts of search engine traffic from non-brand (i.e. company name) searches. If a website is already ranked #25 for a search and it ranks #35 after Mobilegeddon, will it truly make any difference?

My suggestions for dealing with Mobilegeddon:

  1. Don't Panic. It was good advice when The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy came out and it's just as relevant today.

  2. Look at your website. Is it responsive already? If so, relax.
  3. Check your search engine rankings. Do you rank highly for a number of relevant searches? You might want to preserve that. Don't rank well at all? Well then, you might as well skip to #4.
  4. Check your website statistics. Do you have Google Analytics? Good. You can see how many searches came from mobile.
  5. Create a responsive website. I know - this is definitely easier said than done. I can help, so contact me.
  6. Act. The majority of business owners and entrepreneurs truly care about their search engine positioning. Most do nothing about it. If you're one of the ones who acts, you'll have an advantage over those who don't.

Another important point to consider is that according to Forrester research, between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of consumers who cited "search engines" as the way the found websites declined from 83% to 61%. One can see that while search is important, it's not the only factor involved in how you can draw attention to your brand and your website. Maybe your website is not mobile friendly. Perhaps you might be better off strengthening your brand on social media to get more visitors rather than investing in a mobile friendly website.

In short, Mobilegeddon may be a huge thing or nothing for your business to consider. If you want some advice, please contact me and I'll answer any question you may have about this topic.

 

New Website Launch for Joan Worthington, RSW

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Having been through counseling, I can attest to how valuable it can be. That's why when Joan Worthington, RSW, a gifted counsellor with decades of experience contacted us to update her website, we were happy to jump in.

Joan's original website was on an older hosted Content Management System (CMS). We developed her new website on the WordPress platform so she could retain her ability to update the website as needed on her own. WordPress is a very common platform for website development. Millions of websites have been developed using WordPress. An no, we're not exaggerating.

Another reason we chose to go with WordPress is because of the availability of responsive templates. With the upcoming change to Google's algorithm to focus more on mobile, having a responsive website is becoming a competitive advantage. Not all WordPress templates are responsive, so watch for that if you're thinking WordPress is the answer to your responsive website prayers.

With the new website, Joan took the opportunity to expand the content she has provided about the areas she counsels people in. There are many people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress, or dealing with loss or grief, relationship and parenting issues. Of course, there are many other areas that Joan can provide counselling in, so it's good that the WordPress system can accommodate future expansions of content.

When it comes to managing her own updates, we created a custom video tutorial to help Joan work with some of the more advanced features available to her in WordPress. This is something we do for many of our WordPress clients. We have also created tutorial videos for other features like how to use our webmail system.

Joan provides counselling services in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. If you know people who could use counselling, please refer them to Joan's website at http://www.consultworth.com.

 

Coming Back to Life

Mark Kawabe - Friday, April 17, 2015

Mark KawabeIt's a hard thing to admit, but sometimes life takes one on detours. I've been on one for the past several months, exploring new areas of society and parts of myself that I have rarely seen. It's been a good detour in many ways and I'm a better person for it.

My detour has meant I have not been as available to meet the many demands of my business. Some of my clients have been impacted by delays. I regret these impacts on my clients and am working to clear the backlog. I thank those most impacted for their patience and understanding.

I am honoured to work with really great people, which is why I wanted to write this post. You're great, and I thank you for your business and humanness. I'm great too, and now I'm back, with all the energy and vigour of spring.

Happy Friday!

Focus on the Fundamentals

Mark Kawabe - Monday, April 13, 2015

Your stories are the foundation of your online marketing program.The more I speak to people, the more I realize that in the past decade of helping clients market themselves online, much has stayed the same. Admittedly, the tools are different. Facebook launched in February 2004. YouTube started one year after that. Can you imagine the online world without social media?

Sure you can. It was dominated by search engines, portals and directories like Google, Yahoo and MSN. Blogging was also a relatively recent phenomenon. WordPress launched in May 2003. The tools and technology has changed but the stuff that matters hasn't.

This "stuff" is what I call "fundamentals". No matter the tools or tech, these fundamentals form the basis of successful marketing online. If you have it, you're starting from the right place. If you don't, you're starting off on the wrong foot. You might make a lot of noise, but you won't realize the success you want.

What are these mystery fundamentals? They're the stories you, your employees, your suppliers and your customers tell others about your business. Some people call it your "brand". Whatever you call it, these stories are the foundation for any online marketing campaign.

When talking to business owners, I find they have plenty of stories. There is always something going on in a business and in the industry and community the business operates in. In my opinion, there's always a story, but I often find people don't feel they have anything unique to talk about. That's a shame.

From my perspective, it is the stuff that happens "day in and day out" that is the foundation of a successful online marketing campaign for any business. The minutiae of one's work is interesting to people who don't do that work. Whether you make sausage or weld wind turbine blades, what you do is interesting and there are going to be people who want to know about it.

If you want to be successful online, you need to figure out what your stories are and then share them with the people who care. Who are those people? They're the ones who visit your website, sign up to your email newsletter, check out your social media profiles, belong to your networking groups. The people who celebrate your existence by paying attention to what you have to say are the people you need to connect with. They will, in turn, reward your efforts with more attention, in the form of comments, likes, shares, links, pins, retweets and more. Additional attention can in turn be rewarded with more opportunities to tell your story to people who make inquiries about your company, products and services.

Humans have always been storytellers. Giving us new tools to tell those stories is nice, but technology alone will never be the answer to your marketing challenges. Focus on sharing the stories in your business that reveal to the world your talents and your unique approach to solving their problems.

 

Home Office Router Security

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 17, 2015

If your home-based business uses a router on the network, you may have security issues. You can thank the folks at Sophos for bringing this to everyone's attention. Here's the original article: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2015/01/15/ouch-home-router-security-bypass-actually-means-no-security-at-all/

So, now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Normally I'd be calling my computer guy. (Sorry, Glen. I'm costing you business.) Serendipitously, I found that my anti-virus software also scans for network vulnerabilities.

If you're using Avast free anti-virus, this is now part of the latest upgrade. If you're not using Avast, get it here.

The Dangers of Free

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 16, 2015

It's a trap! Bear trap with FREE!There is a cost to things that are free. If you're addicted to free, have you considered the potential downsides? Here are a few Friday thoughts about the dangers and costs of "free".

Free Software

Anyone remember Google Reader? It was widely loved. Now it's gone with nothing with the same functionality replacing it. Why? Because despite their love, Reader users probably wouldn't have paid for it.

When you use free software, you're taking a chance it won't be around later. This is true for paid software as well, but the free stuff's more likely to disappear.

Free IT Support

In truth, nothing of the sort exists. However, it's what most small businesses and entrepreneurs use. It's the DIY approach - and it largely sucks. Most people have no idea how their computers work, how to properly back up their stuff, or what to do when it all falls apart. When the illusion of saving money on IT support is shattered when your heart sinks to the floor as you realize you may have just lost everything you've ever worked on, your family photos, videos etc., it's too late.

Free Websites

I know there are hundreds of free website builders. That's great, if you just want a website. However, nobody wants a website. They want leads from their website. The days of launching a site and having people flock to it are a fading memory to those of us who have been around since the early days of the world wide web. If you want leads, it's going to take effort, measured in either time or money. Just because it's free to put your site up doesn't mean there's no cost involved.

Free Email

Do you think the people who work at Google have their Gmail accounts on their business cards? If you're a long-time Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo user, you can check your own domain.com email through those services. If you're in business and if you have a website, your email domain should match that of your website. This approach separates business from personal email, creates a more professional image and frankly, is so basic that we shouldn't even be talking about this in 2015.

Free Marketing

Yes, social media's wonderful and it's free. I question the ROI for most small businesses on social media. For every post they've made, there's probably another 15 minutes of wasted time. That adds up over the course of a week, month, year. Yes, it's free, but social media can also be largely ineffective and a huge waste of time if you're not using it effectively.

Freedom doesn't come cheaply.

Analytics Aren't the Whole Story

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of the strengths of online marketing is the ability to analyze what works and what doesn't. You can see how many people visited your website from Google, from other websites, from social media etc. One problem though: analytics don't capture everything, and some of the things they don't capture can be your biggest sources of leads.

Take word of mouth marketing. You don't know if it works unless you ask each and every lead how they found out about you. Sometimes that doesn't work either because they'll say they were reading about you online but they won't say their friend told them about you first - unless you ask the right question.

That's great if you have the kind of business that still operates in a face-to-face fashion. It's more difficult if you're running an online business, or if your leads come in through a call centre or via head office. Then you may never know.

For those who aren't old enough to remember the time when word of mouth marketing was the "in" thing, here's the modern terminology: social media.

This is the fly in the social media ointment.

As a digital marketer who believes in the power of social media, this is vexing. Customers expect results from their online marketing, and they expect that those results will be able to be measured against some definable number. The numbers available will never fully capture the benefit social media brings to your business.

Keep that in mind when you put forth your next social media campaign. The whole point of social media is to leverage people's inherent desire to communicate. Your challenge is to give them something worth talking about.

Your Plan is Meaningless

Mark Kawabe - Monday, December 15, 2014

Measure to reach your destinationMost travelers have a destination in mind. There are few who set out from their homes with no particular idea where they're going. When there's a destination, there's usually a plan on how to get there.

From my perspective, the majority of companies have no plan when it comes to their online marketing efforts.

Everyone starts with good intent. They want to get MORE of something. Usually clients. Then they sit back and wait for the clients to come.

In 2014, what I'm about to say shouldn't be news to anyone, so my apologies in advance if what I say is revelatory: For at least 99% of businesses, investing in a website to gain new customers is meaningless without investing in serious marketing.

I use the word "serious" because there are a lot of people investing in marketing. Whether their efforts are serious depends on one thing: measurement. If you are not measuring, you are not serious.

Not being serious can take many forms. Posting on social media without regard for the reach of your posts. Not having analytics installed on your website. Or, having analytics installed but never looking at the results.

When I get in the car with the intent to get somewhere, I don't sit in the driveway spinning my wheels. My odometer and the scenery whizzing by tell me I'm getting somewhere. My GPS shows me I'm making progress toward my destination.

Measurement shows how effective online marketing efforts are yet most businesses don't even have the basics in place. Without measurement you don't know if your efforts are effective. Without measurement, your plans and efforts are meaningless.

If you don't know how to measure, there's no longer any excuse. Thousands of companies offer analytical services. Some are free. All you have to do is decide to learn how to measure, or hire someone to do the measuring for you.

If you're truly interested in getting somewhere, measure your progress. Measure the effectiveness of your activities. Find out what works and do more of it.

A journey of 1000 kilometers begins with one step. Measurement means you know the steps you're taking are moving you in the right direction. Stop meandering. Start measuring. Do that and you'll get where you want to go.

Photo credit to Balkanbrid.

Now is the time to start video marketing

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Video marketing is huge.

Let me say that again.

Video marketing is HUGE!

The statistics on this are pretty clear. Some of the statistics are shocking, but they demonstrate the online appeal of videos and make a clear case that all businesses should be using video marketing as a part of their online marketing mix.

  1. YouTube is the world's #2 search engine
  2. 1/3 of all online activity is watching videos
  3. 100 million internet users watch an online video every day
  4. 50% of users watch business related videos on YouTube at least once a week

What does this mean for you? Lots. Here's how videos affect visitor behaviour to your website:

  1. Watching a video can increase a visitor's understanding of your product or service by 74%
  2. A visitor to a retail website is 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video
  3. A real estate listing with a video gets 403% more inquiries compared to listings without
  4. Videos in email increase click-through rates 2~3 times compared to regular messages
  5. 20% of your site visitors will read all the content you provide: 80% will watch a video
  6. Websites are 50x more likely to show up on the first page of search engine results page if it includes a video

The barriers to entry for video marketing are much easier to hurdle than they used to be. Depending on a video's production value, it can be very inexpensive to create a video for marketing purposes. Best of all, they can be put on YouTube, your own website, Facebook and most other social media marketing platforms to get you more exposure.

Do your customers and your business a favour: incorporate video marketing into your online marketing mix.