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Google Hummingbird: New Directions for Search

Posted on October 1, 2013 in Uncategorized by cmblogger

Google just turned 15 last week, with 70% of the market share for search on desktops and a reputation as one of the world’s biggest brands. Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two PhD students, their idea turned out to be a necessary component of any business marketing plan in 2013. Along with a party, Google also introduced a new search algorithm a few days ago to further refine their ability to answer user queries effectively. What do you need to know?

Hummingbird Update

First, PageRank isn’t entirely dead-but now it is only one of about 200 factors the search engine considers before assigning a ranking. What else matters? As we’ve explained in other posts, Google now also notices things like plenty of good content, keywords, the frequency by which copy is updated, etc. as ways of deciding which results are most relevant to a particular query.

The term “conversational search” is going to be an important phrase for Google users in coming months with Hummingbird. It refers to the new emphasis Google is placing on the meaning behind search words, rather than just the way they are phrased. In the past, a user had to type in “cheese brands” to get a range of quality answers. With Hummingbird, a searcher can now even enter, “what are the best kinds of cheese?” into the search bar and get responses.

What this means for any business hoping for good SEO is again, the continued importance of quality content over simple keyword seeded copy. Web pages with lots of relevant, descriptive paragraphs will do far better with their rankings than sites who ignore the new algorithm. The best news about the new search? Stay engaging, and you’ll also stay well ahead of your competitors.

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When It Comes to A/B Testing, Identify Your Goals First

Posted on September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized by cmblogger

When it comes to designing the right website to get the customers you want, don’t take chances on gut feelings or worse, the personal preferences of your web designer. With A/B testing, you don’t have to. Test your site’s performance to optimize for success.

To evaluate your site effectively, however, you must identify the key goals that you’re trying to achieve. Without this information, you won’t be able to determine what works, what doesn’t, and how to make the changes necessary in getting you where you need to go.

First, who do you want as leads? Who are the site visitors you’re hoping to turn into customers? Remember, the more general your answer, the less likely you are to create a website that meets the specific wants of a particular demographic. Generic website designs designed to address everyone’s needs usually end up satisfying none.

Second, what do most of your consumers want when they get to your website-and what is the “essential” experience you would like them to have? For example, your company may sell more purple widgets off your site than anything else, and you may want them to buy blue widgets instead. Both these facts are critical pieces of information as you test.

Understanding the answers to these questions will allow you to effectively evaluate site content and refine for even more conversions. Evaluating what makes a good website isn’t just about looking at graphics or content. Base decisions on goals and hard data to ensure your success.

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Improve Your SEO with a Google+ Page

Posted on September 24, 2013 in Captain Marketing, SEO by cmblogger

Many of us are still resisting using Google+ socially. Most people barely have time for Facebook, let alone another social media platform. And when it comes to business, who cares, anyway? Aren’t Facebook and Twitter enough?

Quite frankly, no. Think of it as a “quid pro quo” situation. Google wants people to use its proprietary social media platform, so the popular search engine will reward those websites who do with better rankings, even if none of your customers or associates use it. It’s that simple. As e-learning consultant Steve Rayson puts it,  “Google Plus content stays around, gains page rank, gives page rank, and appears in search results over a long period. It appears Google Plus posts can retain ranking indefinitely with some posts over a year old still top of search result pages.”

Google+ posts also send valuable social signals to the indexing bots, another key element of today’s search engine optimization process. As you post images, blog links and text to your Google+ page, you’re letting the search engines know your relevance to the goods and services you sell. Testimonials and reviews posted on this social media platform will also help you gain traction.

Google+ is free, fast and easy, and it will help a lot. In the sometimes complicated world of digital marketing, there aren’t many strategies you can unequivocally describe in the same terms. Move ahead of your competitors and take advantage of Google+ benefits today. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find time to create your own personal Google+ page as well.

 

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Button Text and Conversions: A Table for Two

Posted on September 20, 2013 in Uncategorized by cmblogger

Captain Marketing Website Design

Photo Credit: fodor

 

In many ways, a website is like a blind date. You’re greeting many customers for the first time, and in doing so, need to make a great impression. Nevertheless, you’d be surprised how many websites are the equivalent of a nightmare first meeting, complete with an unattractive, less than hygienic appearance and rude table manners. Many sites also fail to communicate to consumers just what they’re looking for in a relationship as well-leaving visitors confused about what to do next or why they should bother.

Along with a clean design and well chosen images, a website and its home page need to have a strong call to action. Many businesses interpret this as simply a phrase that says, “buy now!” or “sign up!” included in the copy. Some take it one step further with a call to action button at the top of the page, something that lets the customer click immediately to a “contact us” or “order now” form. As you might imagine, this is a good thing.

However, many call to action buttons, despite their format, are still too weak. Like a limp handshake or limited eye contact upon meeting someone for the first time, they’re not conveying the energy necessary to inspire a consumer to take action. As an example, consider two call to action buttons from a PR company that were recently A/B tested for conversion rates associated with their use. One read, “Click here to read more.” The other was “Make me famous!”

Would you believe there was more than an 8% difference in number of conversions for a single month using the second call to action button? Good copy makes a difference. And like a great first date, they could lead to a lifetime of fantastic results!

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Testing: Knowing How to Evaluate Your Design

Posted on September 13, 2013 in Web Design by cmblogger

Everyone agrees that A/B testing is useful when it comes to determining what variable works and what doesn’t for a website design. In fact, one company recently demonstrated that this kind of evaluation can lead to an increase in sales of more than 35%. However, when you are getting ready to create your test, make sure you understand how and when to utilize this helpful tool. The wrong kind of testing can lead to faulty information and a design that spells disaster for your customers.

The A/B test is used exclusively to evaluate two different versions of one element of your web page. For example, you would use this test to evaluate whether you received more calls from a phone number printed in yellow at the top of your homepage, or if one printed in black was more successful.

However, when it comes to testing for several different issues, multivariate testing may be a better choice. With multivariate testing of your phone number color, font and placement, for example, you’ll create 8 different versions of the same page, assuming you’re choosing from only two options for each variable. Equal numbers of site visitors should be directed to visit each page in order to get the data you need to make a decision.

Consult your web designer to make sure your testing will answer the questions you’re asking. Armed with the right information, you’ll have a great website, with design choices based on hard data instead of guesswork.

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Essential SEO: Know the Basics

Posted on September 10, 2013 in SEO, SEO marketing by cmblogger

Especially for a new company, SEO can present complicated challenges when it comes to creating the right program to get ranked with the search engines. With just a few tips, however, even a fledgling small business can lay the groundwork for an effective organic search campaign.

Have you installed Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools? If not, you should. Then connect them so you’ll be able to get more information on how consumers find your website on the web. Next, take a look at the possible keywords your project manager has researched for your linking program.

Which among these phrases best capture what you sell? And even more importantly, which terms are ones that you use in the existing content on your website? Don’t pick keywords that aren’t words or phrases you want to emphasize. Remember, every page of your website needs to have at least 200-300 words of copy per page utilizing these terms. If you talk about handsewn leather loafers on your website, don’t pick the keyword “clogs” unless you’re willing to create content that describes them in detail.

Once you’ve selected the right keywords, your Captain Marketing project manager will help with a sitemap, title tags, link building and more. Consider adding a blog, a social media presence and even a paid ad campaign to facilitate your progress with the search engines. It may seem daunting, but with the right tools, even a tiny company can attract the consumers they need for success.

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Web Design Disaster: Lurking Technical Problems That Can Derail SEO

Posted on September 6, 2013 in Web Design by cmblogger

Think of your website as a beautiful looking dinner. Prepared with the right ingredients, what looks great can also be good for you too. But like unrefrigerated chicken, a few technical mistakes can end up making everyone sick.

For example, are you cloaking? As a black hat technique, this term refers to showing the search engines different content than what you’re presenting to your site visitors. It ‘s a way to trick the search engines into giving you a higher site ranking than what you deserve, and naturally, Google doesn’t like it. Unfortunately, quite inadvertently, sometimes coding issues can create exact match anchor text links that don’t show up on a mouseover-and give the appearance of cloaking as well. Have your developers routinely check for any of these technical errors that may end up hiding content from users, while still having it appear for the search engines.

What about 301 redirects? If you’ve recently migrated your website or gone through a redesign, even the most functional 301 redirect plan can sometimes fail. Whether from a coding problem, a faulty database table or other issues, a faulty 301 redirect can send your SEO strategy off a cliff in a hurry. Make sure to to evaluate any old URLs regularly to stay safe.

Whether it’s a dirty sitemap or problematic code, technical problems are never fun. Evaluate your website regularly to ensure you’re not sending the wrong messages to the search engines, and instead are delivering up fresh, healthy signals for the best results.

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Essential SEO for Any Small Business

Posted on September 3, 2013 in Local SEO, SEO by cmblogger

In years past, smaller companies only selling through a brick and mortar location didn’t need to worry too much about the Internet. Only with the proliferation of mobile devices and the departure of the Yellow Pages for the land of 8 track players and the wooly mammoth did the web really start to matter. Is your small business showing up on the search engines for your customers? Consider these basics as a way to get started.

First, consider reviews. Look for relevant websites where your customers might post positive testimonials about your business. The idea is to garner authentic positive feedback-not to simply create multiple five star reviews and upload them within the hour. Encourage and reward your clients for their comments. Their reviews will help not only your SEO, but generate positive buzz among consumers as well.

Second, don’t ignore social media. Regular updates to your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages will help the search engines not only find but assess you as relevant to the products and services you’re trying to sell.

Finally, update your content regularly. When you’re looking for good SEO rankings, there’s no replacement for interesting, relevant copy that’s delivered regularly to your website.  Frequent updates of industry news, product information, or even just plain old friendly communication with your consumers makes a difference to the search engines.

An effective SEO strategy for your small brick and mortar company doesn’t have to be complicated. But if you’re hoping for customers even just offline, it’s a necessary part of doing business in 2013.

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Web Design That Works: Simple Gifts Are Best

Posted on August 23, 2013 in Uncategorized by cmblogger

So it turns out that the Shakers, an eighteenth century religious sect known for making simple but beautiful furniture along with writing a popular hymn, were right when it comes to web design. While they may not have been thinking about the Internet when coming up with the idea, they were definitely on to something. Simple gifts, in fact, are better when it comes to a website that not only works- but works with Google too.

The reality is that Google doesn’t handle a quirky website well. Apple found that out recently when the search engine reportedly had trouble crawling their website, resulting in problems linking to the company’s iTunes preview pages. After much publicity, changes were made on both sides, but unless you’re based in Cupertino, California, it’s unlikely Google will accommodate your company website’s uniqueness in quite the same way.

As a best practice, stick to the simple and straightforward instead. The product pages and eCommerce shopping elements of your website need to be especially easy to navigate. Avoid the unusual design choices that make it harder for Google to “read” them.

In return, you’ll gain better rankings and as a bonus, more conversions from people who otherwise might walk away from a website that necessitated a PhD to sort through. Remember, the average consumer spends 4-6 seconds on your homepage before deciding whether to continue or click away. Capture them with an intuitive, uncomplicated design, and you’ll reap the benefits with Google as well.

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Social Media and SEO: A Classic Pairing

Posted on August 20, 2013 in SEO by cmblogger

Some things just go together. A set of pearls and a little black dress… summertime and baseball…movies and popcorn. Think of SEO and social media in the same way. Whether you’re talking about what makes for effective branding or in terms of how Google has defined the search ranking algorithm, what your company does on these social media platforms is now a critical part of not just your SEO campaign, but any successful online marketing strategy.

It’s all about engagement as a measure of relevance. The search engines want to rank companies with content that attracts attention and participation from consumers on the web. Google is continually trying to improve its results by answering your search request with the most relevant answers possible. That’s why it looks for goods and services that demonstrate that people care about them, as measured by participation with that brand on social media, or by how often consumers share a particular website’s content. If you have something that no one is reading about, commenting on, or sharing, you’re not showing Google you matter when it comes to your particular products and services.

The other caveat, however? Unfortunately, the process takes awhile. A viable social media strategy won’t happen overnight, but instead requires interesting, varied content over time. Mix it up. Use videos. Photographs. Informational posts. Answer questions-and interact with your users. Google will note these social connections and reflect it within the SERPs. While it remains a complicated trial and error process, an enduring social SEO campaign will pay off. Stick with the basics, and watch your star rise along with your rankings.

Tag Archives: Captain Marketing