SEO losing out to paid search budgets

September 17, 2008 - Leave a Response

British firms will spend a quarter more on search advertising this year than last, a new report released by E-consultancy predicts.

The online marketing maestros have published their Search Engine Marketing Buyer’s Guide, which forecasts search marketing spending will increase by 24% this year.

It asserts that, despite the possibility of a recession hitting ad spend, firms will keep upping their search marketing budgets.

This year, E-consultancy anticipates companies will dedicate £2.7 billion to search engine promotions.

Of that, it estimates £2.42 billion will go on paid tactics, while £330 million will be spent on search engine optimisation.

I do not find this surprising. Both tactics have pros and cons but search marketing is easily measurable and that is why it is so commonly used.

Obviously, firms like to be able to measure their return on investment – that is how marketers justify their spending and, to be frank, existence to their bosses.

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Getting Your SEO Education

September 15, 2008 - Leave a Response

Almost unequivocally, when I speak with someone about the search industry this question arises: “How did you get into search marketing in the first place?”

Normally this question isn’t asked of teachers or engineers or even traditional marketers. Why? Because all of those professions have recognized college and university degree programs to help people get into those lines of work. It’s pretty obvious how they got into it — they went to school!

But SEM (define)? Not a chance. I was lucky enough to find a mentor way back in my university days who showed me the ropes and helped me get started in this space. If it weren’t for Darlene Moore of DriveTraffic, who incidentally provides excellent training in search marketing, I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten into this industry. I might not even be in the online space.

Why is it so difficult to find solid SEM programs? This industry has been around long enough for some sort of training to surface, and there is definitely enough of a demand for skilled search marketers that training is desired.

Perhaps it’s due to the ever-changing nature of this environment. Imagine trying to write a text book on search. Next month, no wait, next week, half the information could be totally obsolete. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for a career in SEM, it can be very difficult to get the education you need to secure the knowledge and credibility to get clients to work with you.

Although there are no post-secondary studies to be had in this sector, there are some industry-recognized programs that seem to hold some clout. Because I’ve been asked more than once about how to get into search marketing, I’m offering a short list of programs to look into if you’re considering a career in this field. I scoured the Internet for more to suggest — and there are many out there — but these will lend a bit more clout to your résumé.

Here they are:

Google Advertising Professionals: paid search certification for Google’s AdWords program. If you’re already familiar with the interface, it’s not difficult to pass. Newbies should study and make use of the tutorials on the site. With exam being cheap to take, the key benefit is a neat logo you can put on your site that says you know your stuff. Note that Yahoo closed a similar program, called the Yahoo Search Marketing Ambassador, in May of this year … interesting.

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Firefox Suffers Chrome’s Bite

September 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

A comparison of the past two weeks of traffic on Tectonic.co.za – a period that covers Chrome’s launch – shows that in the week of September 1 to 8 Chrome jumped from 0 percent of browsers used to an above-average 2.98 percent.

Last week Internet analysts tracked a one percent market grab by the new browser. So a 2.98 percent share of the browsers visiting this site means that Tectonic readers are clearly extreme early adopters.

In the same period Firefox use among Tectonic readers dropped from 72.9 percent to 67.5 percent.

Opera also suffered – albeit in smaller shifts – in the past week, dropping from 3.51 percent of visitors to 3.47 percent.

The surprising change, however, is that Internet Explorer jumped from 18.18 percent to 20.08 percent in the same period. Some of this growth may be attributed, however, to the Internet Explorer 8 second beta which was released a week ago. Internet Explorer 8 users increased from 0.58 percent to 1.51 percent in the two-week comparison.

Of course, the shifts in browser preferences may well be temporary as users, keen on trying out something new, give Chrome and Internet Explorer 8 a spin. On the other hand it may not be temporary. Day-by-day comparisons of the past week show Chrome topping 5 percent of the browsers used towards the end of the week.

The flux in browser usage probably also reflects the nature of Tectonic readers who tend to be willing to try new software well ahead of the average user.

By way of comparison, our sister site, Treevolution has a different audience and there Chrome was used by just 0.43 percent of users in the past week.

The trend that ought to be worrying Firefox fans is that its base is built on early adopters and the Net-savvy crowd. Chrome is in exactly the same market and poses a bigger threat to Firefox than to Internet Explorer at this point.

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Who cares about Chrome? The SEO mindset.

September 9, 2008 - Leave a Response

How many browser wars are we on now? I make it at three and counting, each one won by achieving a different objective.

Browser war one, the war to control web standards, saw the massacre of Netscape by Internet Explorer in the late 1990s, followed by a strange lull in which Microsoft convinced itself it had won for good and scaled back development to a bunch of guys in thatched hut.

Skirmishes started again in 2002 with the rise of the intellectual’s favourite Firefox, and an Apple Mac propaganda tool called Safari. Microsoft rebuilt its team and spent more money, mostly on the new neurosis, security.

On February 1st this year, Netscape was officially made extinct, and that seemed to be that until, this week, a bunch of ex-Mozillers surprised everyone with something called Chrome.

This third war has a number of fronts, but being Google its main battlefield is all about the commercial power of information. Having spent years worrying about the code security of IE and Firefox, we now have a legitimate new concern, that of privacy and user independence. Microsoft never managed anything as brilliant.

The cleverest thing about Chrome is the way it resolves the address bar (‘OmniBox’) to searches so that typing in a company name is enough to get you to the right website. People have wanted that for years but it does mean that Google can direct users to sites it thinks are the important ones. Crucially, it can also send this data back to Google (though that can be disabled).

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Do Search Engine Optimization Companies Pay Attention to Google

September 8, 2008 - One Response

Nope. It doesn’t look like it. While Google has openly talked against active link exchange solicitation, some SEO firms are not listening.

There was a day in yesteryear that you would install a link exchange partner page on your site as an SEO tool as necessary as a sitemap. You would solicit links to your web site and then, in return, link to somebody else.

I won’t deny participating in such an event myself. For years, this was sold as a beneficial way of building links. Such link exchange services like Linkmetro, BRL, Telalinks, and so on (all of which now useless in my opinion) popped up and started automating the link exchange process.

To those SEO companies that get their ethics and strategies from the tubes (GOP synonym for “interwebs”) I invite you to visit the law giver. The knower of all things in the search engine optimization “rightosphere”. I introduce you to Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Google Webmaster Guidelines is where you learn the rights and wrongs of search engine optimization. Don’t know where it is? Well, there is no easy way to get there except Googling “Google Webmaster Guidelines”. Once there, type in “links schemes”.

A couple bullet points down you will see on the list of do nots “Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)”. Whaaaaat? You mean my link partners page is useless? Those countless hours of spamming link exchange partners done in vein? Those beautiful two way links for nothing?

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Not ‘Cuil’ enough?

September 4, 2008 - Leave a Response

THE GOOGLE search engine is a simple, yet highly sophisticated tool that has revolutionized the way we retrieve information today. And of course, since it is the numero uno search engine, it has perhaps become a trend lately for newer search engines to be in the news by touting themselves as ’Google killers’. The latest in the bandwagon is Cuil, pronounced as ’cool’. Indeed it was different than Google and it did have some features that made one say ’wow!’

To start off, Cuil said it ranked pages based on content compared to Google which indexed pages on popularity. Secondly, it claimed to have indexed more pages than Google. Indeed, at time of writing this piece, the count of indexed pages on Cuil was 121,617,892,992 (that’s over 120 billion pages; about three times the count of pages indexed by any other engine). It also boasted of a sophisticated look with search results appearing something like a magazine pages. But unfortunately, none of this has quite helped Cuil, which reportedly raised over $30 million to start its venture, and had former-Googlers as its founders.

The engine fails heavily in its relevancy despite the huge number of pages. The results seem too random. Even the number of retrievals seems far less compared to what Google fetches. Features like image search are absent as of now. But maybe, the engine needs to be given its time to develop. As a start-up however, which went gaga around town calling itself the ’Google killer’ was a sure mistake.
Pertinent questions then rise – What are the applications that come up as ’Google killers’ or ’alternatives’ to Google? And despite Google’s might, why do they continue to mushroom? Most importantly, can Google ever be surpassed?
Why A ’New Google’?
This is an essential question that hounds most users who are introduced to users as alternatives to Google. Indeed, if relevancy results of Google are good, why should someone switch to another engine? Its results satisfy 90 percent of people’s search queries on the net. This very fact makes it tough to break the Google monopoly is and so just why would the user want to even think about another product even if, in the rarest of the cases, Google fails him/her?
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Fundamental SEO Pitfalls That Need To Be Corrected

September 3, 2008 - One Response

Optimizing your website in order to be crawled by search engines, to be duly indexed on the search engine result pages (SERPs), is most definitely the norm of the web world today.
This, however, doesn’t undermine the fact that SEO newbies and experts alike still get tricked to committing fundamental mistakes while in pursuit of driving desired traffic to their website and also get noticed simultaneously.

These SEO mistakes that plague the search engine optimized websites are often considered to be merely trivial. The truth though is that such fundamental SEO pitfalls cost websites heavily. This piece, thus, revolves around those fundamental SEO pitfalls that must be avoided at all costs if you don’t want your SEO efforts to end up working against you and want your website to rank well organically. Some of these common pitfalls that must be checked include:

  • When every page in your website has unique content, then why use the same title tag for all pages? This leads to the undermining of the value of the content and the website as a whole before the search engines. Page titles are accorded high priority by search engines and by entitling all pages the same, you will only minimize your scope of receiving positive results Each page must, thus, be optimized with appropriate Title and Meta tags reflecting keywords / key phrases that have been used on that particular page. This is because search engines are only interested in keywords and descriptions parts, especially when it comes to Meta tags.
  • Loading your website excessively with images, flash animation or graphics will work against your optimization efforts, as search engine spiders are more interested in the content of the website. Beware about building your website only based upon Flash as search engines are incapacitated to decipher the same. They will see your techy animation and graphics only as codes and will, thus, be unable to properly crawl and index your website. Search engines have always regarded unique and quality content as the parameter to measure the worth of a website, so pay more attention to the content aspect of your website. Also keep in mind that you will hinder major search engines access to your website if you incorporate frames in your website.

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Google takes aim at Microsoft with new Web browser

September 2, 2008 - Leave a Response

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Inc. is releasing its own Web browser in a long-anticipated move aimed at countering the dominance of Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer and ensuring easy access to its market-leading search engine.

The Mountain View-based company took the unusual step of announcing its latest product on the Labor Day holiday after it prematurely sent out a comic book drawn up to herald the new browser’s arrival.

The free browser, called “Chrome,” is supposed to be available for downloading Tuesday in more than 100 countries for computers running on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Google said it’s still working on versions compatible with Apple Inc.’s Mac computer and the Linux operating system.

Google’s browser is expected to hit the market a week after Microsoft’s unveiling of a test version of its latest browser update, Internet Explorer 8. The tweaks include more tools for Web surfers to cloak their online preferences, creating a shield that could make it more difficult for Google and other marketing networks to figure out which ads are most likely to appeal to which individuals.

Although Google is using a cartoonish approach to promote Chrome, the new browser underscores the gravity of Google’s rivalry with Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer is used by about 75 percent of Web surfers.

Google’s lead in the lucrative Internet search market is nearly as commanding, with its engine processing nearly two-thirds of the Web’s queries.

For the past few years, Google has been trying to take advantage of its search engine’s popularity to loosen Microsoft’s grip on how most people interact with personal computers.

The assault so far has been focused on a bundle of computer programs, including word processing and spreadsheet applications, that Google offers as an alternative to one of Microsoft’s biggest money makers, its Office suite of products.

Google has tried to make its alternatives more appealing and accessible by hosting them for free over Internet connections instead of requiring users to pay a licensing fee to install them on individual computers, as Microsoft typically does.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has tried to thwart Google by investing billions in the development of its own search engine and making an unsuccessful attempt to buy Yahoo Inc. for $47.5 billion.

The tensions between Microsoft and Google now seem likely to escalate with Google’s foray into Web browsing.

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10 reasons why Twitter is great for the search industry

September 1, 2008 - 2 Responses

Twitter was launched back in July 2006, and many people wouldn’t have expected to remember it even a few weeks later.

But two years on, writes Kevin Gibbons, it’s still going from strength-to-strength and continuing to prove many of its early doubters wrong.

In-fact, in the search industry Twitter has established itself as one of the strongest and most useful tools available, with many SEOs now frequently active in the micro-blogging community.

Below are10 reasons why Twitter is great for the search industry:

1) A large majority of the search industry actively use Twitter. Even those people, myself included, who originally thought Twitter was a five minute wonder have eaten their words and signed up.

2) Communicate with fellow search industry “competitors”. Twitter can be great for networking with like-minded “tweeple” within the search industry from around the world. This can be an excellent way of networking with not just fellow search professionals but also journalists who may become useful contacts.

3) Instant feedback on ideas. Twitter users can provide extremely valuable feedback to bounce ideas around with, such as new blog posts or SEO techniques. The Twitter applications available mean that Twitter has become very similar to an instant messaging client so a quick response is normally received too.

4) Followers are the new RSS subscribers. Blog subscribers are valued very highly and having a Twitter follower is very similar in many ways, as it allows people to subscribe to learn more about a business and website’s latest content.

5) Add a personal touch to a profile. Many celebrities such as Kanye West, John Cleese and Andy Murray have taken-up using Twitter to help communicate with fans and show a different side to their personality. A similar scenario could be true for well-known bloggers, where communicating via blog comments isn’t always the same as a direct tweet.

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Google Search Ranking Feature Threatens Wikia

August 29, 2008 - Leave a Response

It’s no secret that Google has been working on a Digg-like feature that lets users vote searches higher or lower, make comments, and alter the search results. Screenshots of the feature at work have been popping up in the wild for a year now. Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz noted it in 2007. Google confirmed that it is testing the feature as part of its experimental search efforts.

Earlier this week, Ben Gomes, distinguished engineer at Google, alluded to the experiment in a blog post Aug. 26 and provided this screenshot of what users could do with such a feature. The buttons next to the results let users bump the results up or down.

Gomes offered the information with this caveat: “At this point, I can’t say what we expect from this feature; we’re just curious to see how it will be used.”

My first thought after reading the post is that sounds a lot like what Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is doing with his Wikia Search, which launched in January and lets users edit data about search engine results and rank them for relevancy.

I spoke to Wales today, Aug. 28, and he didn’t seem too concerned, acknowledging that while he was aware Google was testing such a feature, he hadn’t read the Gomes blog post, but pointed out that the experiment appears random.

Random is interesting. If it’s random it’s difficult for a community to form. I always draw a distinction between things that I would consider to be crowdsourcing—and I consider that to be a very negative term—that aren’t really thinking about a community of people getting together to discuss thoughtfully and work together to build something, but rather it’s atomistic. They show it randomly to individuals and they may do something useful or not. That’s not to say that it’s impossible for that to be valuable, it’s just that it’s very different from what we’re doing, which is trying to build all of the tools for a community to come together and take editorial control of the search engine altogether. That’s very different from some kind of user feedback feature.

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