Top 10 search-and-sale tools and how to get on top of them

The web is constantly changing, and business owners with a web presence need to keep on top of every new improvement in how your customers can keep finding your website.

SmartCompany runs through the top 10 new search tools to help you get found and sell more.

1. Trademarks: The new black

As the battle for sales on the web grows, so too are competitors who try to use your brand to snare your potential customers.

Something that comes up again and again is the issue of trademark protection and Google AdWords. If someone is bidding on your brand or trademarked product name, it’s a real nuisance because competitors are leveraging search traffic intended for you.

Google’s quality score can make life expensive for people who bid on your trademark, but it doesn’t always stop competitors who have deep pockets.

Luckily, Google has a system where you can apply to have AdWords removed from the search results when they’re triggered by trademarked keywords.

So what are the steps to remove competitor’s ads when someone does a search on your trademark?

Obviously the very first thing to do is make sure you have a registered trademark. If you don’t, you can engage a trademark lawyer to act on your behalf (recommended) or if you’re feeling adventurous, go down the DIY path and head over to IP Australia.

If your trademark application is “accepted”, you’ll pay a fee and be assigned a trademark number.

The next step is to lodge the trademark. You’ll find more information from Google’s help section here. There’s also some good local (Australian) information from Google here. And don’t be confused. Even though it says “complaint” you can use it to lodge and protect your trademark as well (even if no-one is actually infringing at present). Visit this link to get the process under way.

Don’t be confused by Google’s trademark infringement process; they make out that you have to print and fill out a form before sending it off in the mail. There’s actually an online form which makes the process a lot quicker and a lot less painful!

Luckily, here in Australia Google is quite strict about trademark infringement in relation to keywords and Google ads. If you’re in the UK, Ireland, Canada or the US, Google is no longer offering protection against advertisers who use trademarks in keyword lists to trigger a Google AdWord. However, they will disapprove an ad with a trademark in the Google ad itself. I’m not sure how long Google will maintain the status quo locally.

When you fill out the form, make sure you don’t kill off your business partner’s Google ads (if you have them). Let’s say you are a large retailer and you have retail agreements with other e-commerce websites who are currently allowed to use your trademark in their Google ads and keyword lists. You will need to exempt them during the Google trademark complaint process so their Google ads still appear. Remember, the idea is to remove competitors, not your authorised partners.

Once you’ve lodged the form, the final step is patience. You just have to do a search on your trademark and wait for the magic to happen. It will take time, but you’ll suddenly find your Google ad is the only one on the page! It’s a long wait, but it is a “hallelujah moment” and it will certainly help your online sales!

2. Using analytics to make more revenue this year

Google’s Analytics is a brilliant way that you can maximise the revenue your website makes for your business. We know that Google Analytics is a great tool; it’s big on features, and really, really low on cost. That’s because it’s free. The only cost is the time it takes to set up an account and copy and paste the special Java script code into each page of your website.

Actually, when you think about what Google’s achieved with Google Analytics, it’s quite simply a stunning feat, especially when you consider the mind boggling amounts of data Google is collecting every second, and you put it together with an engine that processes it all for each customer.

What is the purpose of your website and how/where does it fit in with the rest of your business objectives?

Decide what it is you want to measure; set these as KPIs and keep them to a manageable number (say five to eight). Create realistic targets around your KPIs.

  • Regularly compare results against your targets.
  • Use the results to test and improve your website.
  • Don’t let absolute numbers influence everything you do. Focus and respond to trends.

Also set up a goal conversion funnel, so you can visualise where customers are dropping out of your shopping cart and where they go. You can use that information to help keep folks in your cart and on their way to the final checkout.

For instance, you might find that at the “add your delivery details” stage of the shopping cart process, people are dropping out to visit your “shipping options and costs page”. By knowing this, you might include important shipping information on the, “delivery details” page itself to prevent the click away.

Some e-commerce hints that may help:

  • Sending an email to customers who have saved carts but not checked out.
  • Adding security logos to increase trust and confidence.
  • Bundling products to encourage higher spend.
  • Daily competitor analysis.
  • Add to cart and product description buttons or links being more prominent.
  • Increase your Google AdWords spend!

You can wring the most from your website when you really take the time to analyse how visitors interact with it.

3. Can I outsmart Google?

So you worked hard to get on the top ranking of Google only to mysteriously return to the bottom of the page. What has happened? There are three parts to a search engine; the robots, the index and the algorithm. I’ll do a very simple re-cap to put it into context.

Remember, the “bots” go out over the internet and find and collect web pages. When they find a page, they scurry back and plonk it into Google’s massive storage system, the index.

The third part of the “engine” is the algorithm, which effectively analyses each page for relevance. When someone performs a search, it tries its best to sort all pages in the index, ranking the most relevant result highest, then the second most relevant page… well, second, and the third and so on.

The problem for you and I is that Google doesn’t tell us exactly how the algorithm works. It can’t really, because for starters, if Google did “give it all away” competitors would no-doubt copy it, and there’d be an optimisation free-for-all by every website owner out there.

It’s Google’s own “11 secret herbs and spices” recipe.

I read recently that in 2007 Google changed or tweaked the algorithm around 450 times. That’s more than once a day! Talk about a moving target! That’s the main reason no-one can ever guarantee a number one position at Google.

I think the most important thing to remember about the algorithm is that while it’s been written and updated by humans, there is no human involvement in a website’s ranking position.

It’s best summed up by Ubi Manber, Google vice president who oversees search quality. “If we find, for a particular query, that result No. 4 should be result No. 1, we do not have the capability to manually change it. We have to find what weakness in the algorithm caused that result and find a general solution to that, evaluate whether a general solution really works and if it’s better, and then launch a general solution.”

While Google might be constantly fiddling around the edges, there are things about the algorithm that tend to remain fairly constant. Over at SeoMoz (effectively the SEO industry’s version of SmartCompany), the world’s top SEO industry experts were invited to vote on what they believed were most important factors to influence Google’s algorithm.

The title tag came in first, followed by body text and headings etc. Certainly, links are also a play a huge factor, and the anchor text of in-bound-links to a site was of “exceptional importance” to all respondents.

Even so, the algorithm doesn’t always get it spot on. So, there’s still some work left for Google to do!

4. Local search

If you haven’t noticed already, Google has made some major changes to its rankings. If you run a local business with a website, this could present you with an opportunity to get to the top of Google without having to do any serious SEO at all!

Google has thrust local search to the forefront of its new universal search results platform by squeezing 10 local results into (what’s been coined) a “local box”.

Local search results used to look like this:

google search results 1

So as you can see, there were three results next to the map. The three local box results were part of the top 10 at Google.

After Google’s algorithm change, here’s what we’re seeing now…

google search results 2

Essentially there are now 20 results on a Google page – 10 local results run alongside the local box and 10 run beneath (as standard results). If you used to rank first, you now rank 11th.

This change has propelled some businesses from “nowhere” into the top 10, and relegated others (who may have invested in SEO) to the bottom 10 results.

Life’s not fair is it?

So how do you give your website a chance at the top 10 with local results?

First off, you’ll need to create a Google account. That will allow you to create a free “local business listing” which allows you to enter all the information about your business. You can also move the map marker!

It certainly doesn’t hurt to think about keyword optimisation while you’re entering your information.

For example, if your business is a local florist in Leichhardt, you should enter “Joes Flowers – Leichhardt Florist”. Try and get important keywords alongside your business name – you won’t get in trouble if you keep it reasonable!

The next tip is to register your business with TrueLocal. Google and NewsCorp have a commercial relationship (hard to believe I know), where TrueLocal results help to power Google’s own local business results. It really helps if you’re included in both Google and TrueLocal.

I have it on good authority from an expert in local search, that at present there is no relationship between a premium listing at TrueLocal and Google rank. I guess that makes sense. If it were true, it would set a worrying precedent. You might at last be able to buy your way to the top of Google! At $900, that’d be pretty cheap in my book.

Finally, optimise your site as best you can. Spend a few dollars and obtain some strong authority links; get included in the Yahoo directory. I’ve seen websites gain dramatic ranking improvements at Google once their Yahoo directory listing was approved (with no other changes).

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