The Web For Business.com Blog

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


The Simple SEO Success Formula

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Valuable Real EstateIf you want to achieve your SEO dreams, my advice to you is to stop dreaming and get a grip on the reality of what SEO entails.

Top rankings in Google don't just happen. If you get them, you got them for a reason. Let's look at some of those reasons.

Valuable Content On Site

It is "common knowledge" that Google's algorithm prefers pages that have at least 300 written words. If you are in a market where there is more than one company like yours that offers the products or services you do, you need to go beyond the minimum requirements if you want to achieve top rankings. You need to offer valuable content.

I define valuable content as content which meets or exceeds the informational needs of visitors to your webpage. That will often take more than 300 words, which is absolutely fine. You don't achieve maximum results with minimum effort when it comes to SEO except in a few special situations which I'll talk about later.

Case Study: A customer of mine sells telecommunications products. So do thousands of other companies. A search for one particular model of headset showed that it was sitting at the 135th position in Google's search results. As a test, I added some valuable content answering common questions about the headset. 514 words, to be exact. That page jumped to the 2nd page of search results within two weeks and it has held that ranking since April 2016. I should also mention, the site is not responsive, doesn't have SSL, and doesn't meet a whole bunch of Google "best practices". That's okay, because the content about that headset is more valuable than the content on other websites that sell the same headset.

MARKET YOUR CONTENT Off Site

"Content Marketing" is a phrase being used a lot by people like me to explain why blogging is so important. A lot of people distill the idea of content marketing down to the notion that if you create great content, search engines will notice and then people will take notice. This is true, but it's not the whole story.

You will get more results for your great content if you proactively market it rather than passively hope the search engines will take notice. Marketing your content can take many forms, but it's relatively easy to do. It just takes time. Send a link to your customers and ask them to post it on their blog or link to it from their Facebook page. Link it from your own social media platforms. Ask people to talk about it. If you don't, chances are they won't. These mentions on other sites are all examples of inbound links, which Google's algorithm analyzes for quality and quantity. If you pay for thousands of links from link farms to your great content, you won't get great results. However, a few links to great content from credible websites like your Chamber of Commerce or customers' sites will be more likely to give your content a ranking boost. If you do that regularly, you'll eventually build hundreds of quality links to your website which will in turn, be picked up by Google's algorithm and will likely result in better search engine rankings for your site overall.

The Special Situations

I alluded to some situations where you can get top rankings in Google with minimum effort. Here they are.

  1. People search directly for your business by name. If someone does a search for your business name, they'll probably find you. If they narrow it down by city, (i.e. Joline's Hairstyling Niagara Falls), they'll probably find you at the top or in the top 10. Why not #1? Sometimes the folks at the Yellow Pages or other directory sites have done a better job at SEO than you.
  2. People search for your brand. The good people at Despair.com have trademarked the term "Demotivators". If you forget their website but remember their brand name, you'll find them in the #1 spot for that term. If other folks are outdoing you in the SERPs for your own brand, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
  3. You build a better resource before anyone else. I have a website that has a list of Niagara wineries. It has consistently been ranked in the top 10 Google results for over a decade. The page does not follow Google's best practices guidelines for SEO, but it was one of the first listings of Niagara wineries and it has a good number of inbound links. It may not stay in the top 10 forever, but it's done well over the years, even being the #1 result for a few years. It was built first, it was marketed, and it has remained. You could do the same with your content.

Synopsis

Successful SEO involves creating valuable, user-focused content on a regular basis which is then marketed through blogging, social media and other outreach methods to build inbound links. In other words, it is work. It's not hard work, compared to digging a ditch, but it takes effort. The steps I've outlined above aren't rocket science. Lots of other people have talked about them for years, as have I. What I hope you'll take away is that if you want your site to have great SEO, you have to be better than the other websites in your market at providing and marketing your valuable content and creating a great user experience.

No Finish Line

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, November 09, 2016

There is no finish line in marketingMarketing is not a race. If you are in business, you should know and understand that marketing is a continuous process. If there is an end to marketing, there is also an end to revenue growth, new customer acquisition etc.

When it comes to marketing online, I've met a lot of business owners who have an online presence, but who aren't happy about it. They have "tried everything" from SEO to social media and nothing's worked, from their perspective. They're tired of the cost, and they're frustrated by the lack of results.

To be fair, that's a very reasonable outcome. If I asked you to spend $5000 and not have any measurable return on investment (ROI), you'd probably walk away. I would too.

The word "measurable" is important though, because you CAN measure many, many things when people are interacting with your online presence. On your website, you can use your analytics to see what people are clicking on and how they're coming to your site. You can use heat mapping to see where people are focusing their attention. Any reputable email marketing software will tell you your open rates and track what people click on in your messages. Social media tools give you metrics showing you what posts got the most attention.

Then the hard work begins. Analyze. Investigate. Uncover reasons. Ask questions. Tweak your site, your content, your next post, and then do it all over again. If you want better marketing, you need to have a better system.

Nobody can say for certain that creating and implementing a robust inbound marketing plan is going to be a goldmine of lead generation. However, it is true that not doing anything will very likely be worse for your business' lead acquisition. Even if you put together a plan and start implementing slowly, you'll be better positioned a few years from now.

Convincing People to Change

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Change is difficult. Just ask the Goldfish.Change is often needed, but feared at the same time. Change involves risk, and humans are naturally risk-averse. Marketing involves convincing prospects that a change of behaviour is beneficial and as risk-free as possible.

This is the challenge, whether you're operating a bed and breakfast, a restaurant, a retail store, a factory or a consulting firm. Potential customers want to be assured their needs will be met if they choose you. Fortunately, despite the challenges, there are opportunities, especially when marketing online.

One of the best things about marketing online is that you're not limited by space or time. If you have the time, you can write an essay about anything related to your business. As for space, how long is a webpage? Exactly. You can write for hours about the thread count of the sheets on your beds or the uniqueness of your family's secret souvlaki recipe. If you meet a prospect's needs by doing so, then you're on your way to gaining a customer.

This is why you've heard the phrase "content is king" since the dawn of the world wide web. Content is indeed king, and it's fundamental to your ability to market your business online. Feel free to write about anything that's related to your business. Moreover, do it often. If you can be creative about it, even better. 

Content is really important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I always remind customers that if they're not going to hire an SEO specialist, then they have to write content that addresses the needs and queries of their prospects. Creating content for your website gives you a new page for search engines to spider, something new to share on social media and more opportunities to get noticed. You can't expect Google or other search engines to send your small, static website loads of prospects, even if you're exceptionally well-known for something.

Part of the strategy involved in content marketing is to write about a broad range of topics related to your business so you demonstrate your expertise, knowledge and personality to your target audience. I think one's personality is just as important as one's expertise. By sharing your unique perspectives and insights with customers and prospects you educate, create rapport, and build trust. After all, people are going to have to deal with you - so giving them an idea what you are like to work with is important!

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that often, there is no "one thing" that will convince someone to change. You need to provide lots of reasons for people to change their existing behaviours, whether it's staying in hotels versus bed and breakfasts or buying from another supplier instead of you. Building a library of content on your website that is shared on your social media platforms is an approach that can help convince prospects to choose you the next time the opportunity arises. Without that content, you stand to miss a lot of opportunities for getting noticed and getting new customers through the door.

Stuff About SERPs

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

3D MazeIf you haven't come across the acronym SERP before, don't worry. It likely means you're not a geek, or not heavily invested in your website. If you're the former, feel free to celebrate. For those who fall into the latter category, let's talk.

SERP stands for "Search Engine Results Page". When you are talking about your site showing up in the top 10 listed sites in Google, you're talking about how well your site shows up in the SERPs. You'll notice I started right away with Google when talking about SERPs. Despite other search engines claiming to be more accurate, Google is still the "go-to" search engine for most people. So, I'd like to discuss a peculiar characteristic of Google's SERPs.

You may be surprised to learn that multiple searches for the same keywords may differ when using Google. There are several reasons this can occur.

Personalization

Google wants to provide you with the most relevant information it can. There is a difference between "relevant" and "accurate". What you consider relevant is unique to you, so your Google search may turn up different results than someone else.

If you are signed into any Google service (like Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Maps, Google News, Calendar, Google+ etc.), Google knows it's you doing the search. The results you get will reflect your preferences. More accurately, it will reflect what Google thinks your preferences are. If you exit all Google services, your search results may change.

Your IP Address

If you use Google from the same computer, chances are you IP address is the same most of the time. Google tracks queries made from each IP address, so unless yours changes, Google probably knows it's you and your SERP results will be presented accordingly.

Data Center Differences

Google has over three dozen publicly-reported data centers. There are probably more. Depending on which data center you connect with for your search, you could get different results. Different updates to Google's algorithms (the "secret formula" they use to determine which pages are most relevant for a search) can be in effect at different data centers.

What Can You Do?

If you're the kind of person who wants results that aren't personalized to you, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign out of all Google services.
  2. Clear your search history.
  3. Use Incognito (or Private) browsing mode.
  4. Use a VPN to disguise your true whereabouts.
  5. Add "&pws=0" to the end of the search results page you're presented with and refresh the page.

I hope this glimpse into the world of Google's SERPs has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I welcome your feedback.

Does Your CMS Affect Your Site's SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, July 09, 2015

There are many people who swear that WordPress is the best content management system (CMS) when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

I disagree. When it comes to SEO, the difference doesn't come from the CMS platform you choose. The difference comes from how you use the tools available.

There are many elements that factor into how a site shows up in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Some of those factors are within your control because they're things you can modify within your website. Things like having good page titles, solid content, good internal linking strategies etc. Those are under your control, so in theory, your CMS could make a difference.

Does WordPress do those things better than any other CMS? No. In fact, WordPress in its default setup (as of today's writing) doesn't even allow you to specifically define a page title and meta description for SEO purposes.

What WordPress offers is the potential to simplify your SEO efforts. Add a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast or the All In One SEO Pack and you'll suddenly have more options available to you. These aren't native to WordPress. They have to be added in. If you assumed that WordPress was simply better for SEO right out of the box, you'd be disappointed in your results.

A SEO specialist can do SEO on any website. It doesn't matter if it's a static HTML website, a WordPress site, or a site done on any other CMS. I have a static HTML website that's been in the top 10 for a popular search term for over a decade. I have clients with sites built on Adobe's Business Catalyst CMS who have good results in the SERPs.

No CMS offers an inherent advantage over another when it comes to SEO. The difference comes from the human being who manages the site. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the whole truth.

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.

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.

Posting is Like Flossing

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 04, 2014

Floss - I mean post - for the long-term health of your businessThe quest to create new and unique content is a challenge for most people who have a website. We're all knowledgeable people, but sometimes knowing what to write about is confusing. My suggestion: read the news.

Every day, there is likely something in the news that you can share your perspective on. Why you agree or disagree. Share your knowledge and expertise. Let people know where you stand.

People do business with people who they trust. That trust is developed online one post at a time. Those pieces of information tell the story about who you are and what you stand for.

Working in the marketing field, there are always plenty of things to comment on. Sometimes I come across items through the mainstream media that are worth discussing. Other times an interesting article will be making the rounds on social media. If I'm really strapped, I look at what other marketers are talking about and share my own perspective on the topic.

I think of posting as something akin to flossing. It's beneficial to do, but because the benefits come over the long-term, most people don't do it. Regularly posting meaningful, self-generated content is a good practice. It shows people who you are, demonstrates your expertise and builds credibility. It can also benefit your search engine positioning, especially in long-tail search terms.

As with flossing, the payoff for posting is likely in the future. It's the kind of thing you would benefit from starting now if you want to realize the benefits down the road. An added bonus: if you post AND floss, you'll have a great smile to show your new clients.

Better Rankings in Google because of HTTPS/SSL - What You Need to Know

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

A lockAn announcement from Google about issues that can affect search engine rankings has the power to keep people awake at night.

Google announced that they now include whether a site uses HTTPS/SSL in their ranking algorithm. There are probably thousands of webmasters scurrying to purchase SSL certificates for their clients' websites. In the near future, I expect a lot of spammy messages from domain registrars suggesting that their clients purchase SSL certificates so they can improve their rankings in Google.

This announcement means little to the vast majority of website owners.

Here's why:

  1. It will have low impact. Google said it is "only a very lightweight signal". There are more important things you can do to boost your search engine positioning than purchasing an SSL certificate for your site.

  2. It has a narrow focus. Google also says this change will have an impact on "fewer than 1% of global queries".

  3. Improper SSL application can hurt your site. Properly implementing HTTPS on your whole site will require testing, testing and more testing to get it right. Images, videos and content hosted by other sites may be blocked or will otherwise trigger a security warning to be displayed to your site visitors.

In my opinion, the vast majority of website owners do little to get better rankings in Google on a regular basis. The fact that Google is now factoring in HTTPS/SSL in their algorithm is interesting, but not interesting enough that I think site owners should be investing in security certificates in droves. There are many more important and effective things site owners could be doing to get more traffic to their websites.

For those wondering what some of those things are, here's a short list of items webmasters should be doing regularly if they care about their search engine rankings and/or getting more traffic to their websites.

  1. Add quality content to your website.
  2. Attract quality inbound links.
  3. Marketing the heck out of the content you've worked so hard to create.

If you're not doing at least one of those three things regularly, you don't need to worry about this latest change at Google. Simply put, you have more pressing things to concern yourself with. Covering the basics well before worrying about the more esoteric changes at Google will bring you more results than rushing out and installing an SSL certificate tomorrow.

How's that strategy working out for you?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chess - all about strategyStrategy can be defined as "a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim."

How is your online marketing strategy doing for you? This is a question you should ask yourself regularly. Things change quickly online and what may have been a great idea a year ago may not be so hot now.

Four points to consider:

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not dead. Doing it well can take time, especially if you are trying to achieve top rankings for a competitive term (think "Niagara Falls"). However, if you've determined what the appropriate keywords are for your business to target, it can be well worth the effort.

  2. Email marketing is still effective. For those of you who do not regularly put out an email communication to your clients and prospects, this may be an area you want to reconsider.

  3. Social media is not a replacement for SEO, nor does it particularly help your SEO efforts in and of itself. Social media is about engaging with people. It requires as much time (or more) as SEO but it can also work well when done properly.

  4. Whatever you're doing with SEO, email marketing or social media, remember to track your website's performance. If the site has a high bounce rate or does not convert visitors to inquiries or sales very well, you're ultimately wasting your marketing efforts. If you don't know how to measure your bounce rate or your conversion rate, take the time to learn or seek professional help.

Our business slogan used to be "Making the internet WORK for business". That can be read two ways - to make it more effective or to make it more work. It reflected the reality that to get results there is an investment required. Either you invest your time or your money, but if you do nothing, that's generally what you'll get.