Is SEO Going The Way Of The Dodo Or Is It More Like The Phoenix?

If you are using the internet to search for information then you will probably use a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. The beauty of a search engine is that you can be as specific or vague about the information you Prasad Pillairequire and it will give you results. As a user this is very useful as it will give you hundreds of pages of potential sites. From a business point of view this is very bad. If, for example, you are running a small bicycle repair website, your website may be ranked 500th on a list. Most users only look at the first two or three pages of search results and you are probably on page 74.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is part of a set of tools grouped under the term Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM can help move your website up the page rankings, but an integral part of SEM is SEO and it is the future of this that we will be looking at here today.

There is talk that SEO is a dying methodology:

If you want to rank high on Google, build a good site and market it the best you know how. Just don’t expect SEO to be the answer to your traffic-related prayers because, increasingly, it won’t be.

But I would tend to disagree, the problem is that there are a lot of people out there who understand the principles of SEO but do not know how to deploy it in their website content. SEO can boost average content up the rankings by effective keyword density. But when people talk about Google being worried by users being ˜underwhelmed with their search results”, this is not Google acting in the best interest of a streamlined globally available knowledge base but Google trying to protect its self-image.

Old School SEO

To understand why this is happening, how this is happening and what we can do about it, we need to understand the origins of SEO. Early search engine algorithms indexed search results using a keyword principle. Going back to our previous example, in the early days of search engines your search for ‘bicycle repair’ would display webpages that have the word ‘bicycle’ and ‘repair’ in their webpage meta tags. Furthermore, it would rank the pages by the number of times those words appeared on that webpage.

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO

Like the hacker term, white hat means ethical. So a white hat search engine optimiser will populate their meta tags with enough keywords to give the page a decent ranking while still being true to the content.

Black Hat SEO

Inversely, a black hat optimiser will flood their meta tags and page with every keyword they can think of, even if it is unrelated to the theme of the site, in order to improve their rankings.

This is probably why people developed a bad taste for SEO. Because it is easy to manipulate, it has an underhanded hue about it.

Google

In 1998, Google appeared on the internet and was an instant success. Google is not a fan of having their search and indexing algorithms manipulated so employ other factors into their indexing. This countered some of the more aggressive SEO techniques and resulted in users having better access to more relevant content. Google also looks at links, the site map of the website, pictures and videos used etc. etc. Google also offer paid services to allow companies to advertise their site or push their site up the rankings.

The end of SEO?

With Google being the weapon of choice for more than half the web searches done, globally, and Google’s abhorrence to SEO, an opinion which they neatly double underlined in 2013, when they stopped publishing data on keyword popularity. After this, web marketing operators and analysts hinted that this may be the final nail in the coffin for keyword based optimisation. This, however, is simply not the case.

Content Is King

In the beginning, SEO was a way of increasing your page ranking by effective use of meta tags, and for a while this was good. Then Google threw a spanner in the works, introduced a whole new set of web marketing tools and began to beat SEO with the wet end.

Google’s defence is that users should be provided with quality content and not manipulated onto websites which are either poorly conceived but expertly marketed or purely exist for malicious purposes. So SEO needs to evolve, if Google wants content to be king, and let’s face it, if Google is God, then that is where SEO needs to go.

The SEO Phoenix

The current market for SEO related material is for short articles about specific content that has specific keywords in it, the same old SEO we know. But the focus has shifted from keyword stuffed titles and content to the production of actual articles. Instead of writing SEO off as extinct, we should be looking to the future.

Google has been pushing for this for a few years, that is why it surprised me when I came here in January to see that Etsy is using the “Search Engine Manipulation” model of SEO, which Google hates. That is why I am VERY Careful how I list, and title my items, I try to balance the two with leaning a bit more toward Google. (discussion board post: https://www.etsy.com/in-en/teams/7718/questions/discuss/14919048/page/2?post_id=232445881)

From the ashes of failed keyword stuffed articles comes an opportunity for SEO companies and writers to apply tried and tested SEO strategies to a client’s existing content. Keywords are always going to be used by search engines. Instead of employing black hat techniques like Etsy’s spamdexing to counter sophisticated algorithms, SEO needs to evolve into a highly specialised writing craft, a craft where informed creative writing, by quality writers who know how to research a topic, is used to enhance a website’s content and therefore page ranking. As long as the web, as we know it, exists, keywords will continue to be relevant. SEO isn’t going anywhere, it is us, the optimisers who need to adapt in our approach to SEO to make it work for both the companies that employ us and the search engines that scrutinise our content.

How to Measure ROI of Internet Marketing

How do you measure Return on Investment (ROI) of Internet Marketing? The web lends itself to be measured. After all every impression of a graphic being measurable, the path from which your visitor landed on your web page being traceable, the pages viewed, the likes and comments, the viral effect everything lending itself to being tracked.

However, just like you cannot trace a sale from a TV or Print ad to the actual sale, it is not possible to track the same from your digital campaign, unless you can link an online or mobile coupon at the point of sale.

What is critical however is the difference between a visitor viewing a TV ad or a print ad and the one who is online. The Web or Mobile surfer has clicked on to your website, social content or search listing is that the online customer has proactively chosen to engage with your brand. This is already a plus compared to the audience who is viewing your content as it passes by. The web visitor is very likely to be a customer or a brand ambassador.

So with all the numbers that are indeed measurable, how can you map your ROI? Here is a list of simplified solutions on how you can do that just that.

Setting Goals and Objectives

To map ROI from Internet Marketing it is very critical that you have set your expectations at the onset and also shared it with the agencies who are delivering the solution. Often enough clients / brand managers are not sure of what the end result should be. For example, if you are looking at the website to deliver key product information, the agency will build one that does that. However designing the site alone will not bring in the traffic. The consumer should be informed about this url, or should be able to easily find it. Doing display ads, search marketing, direct mailers, adding the url on your packs, emails, TV and print ads can do that.

If you want the visitors to specifically know more about any one product or service, and fill in an enquiry form and that is the primary action you expect then this goal should be written and shared with all stakeholders in the project.

Traffic To The Website:

With free tools like Google Analytics or try this list of 50 + Tools, you can get a fair idea on the number of visitors who came once, those who visited again, keywords that they used to visit your website, and finally the quantum and quality of time they spent on your website. What all did they view on your website, did they visit the sections you wanted them to, or did they exit from the homepage.

Say your website achieved 5000 unique visitors and each spent 3 minutes on the site on an average. Look also at maximum time spent by any visitor and least time spent. While an uninterested customer would have exited your site quickly, your most interested and likely customer might have spent 10 minutes, making him or her a very likely potential customer who is all set to buy your product.

Review what it would cost you to do a one to one sale with this customer, or measure it against any other campaign you would have done. How much would it have cost you to get 5000 customers in any other form and engage them for 3 minutes. Or how much it would have cost you to reach 500 customers and engage them 10 minutes with each. If there is a better cost online, or if the cost per customer engagement justifies the average value of sale per customer, you know your ROI is positive. Or otherwise!


Social Media Likes & Followers

It is great to have a large fan following, the ROI can however be measured only if this traffic is engaging with your brand. Again, set your expectations right, and have clear objectives of social presence.

a. Your website traffic analytics can show you how much of the traffic you got came form Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc.

b. The engagement, how many people are talking about your brand, liking and commenting on posts, asking questions, retweeting, recommending, sharing, etc. Essentially the quality of engagement is something that you should monitor and have grip on. This will also help you to sift the wheat from the chaff, essentially genuine and real followers from fake profiles used to like your page or follow you.

Similar engagement costs comparisons as for a website visitor can be applied to the social media consumers who engaged with your brand. Social media analytics is still a nascent product market, so you do rely on insights provided by the social platforms themselves such as Facebook Insights, or the WordPress Dashboard. You can find recommendations on a few tools on Mashable.com but we recommend relying on the available insights as these third party tools do need to be tinkered and tested with still.

Search Marketing

It is very easy to track traffic that comes to your webpage from the organic as well as inorganic listings or Paid listings (pay per click ‘PPC’ campaigns) on search. While keyword ranking is a starting point to see if you have started listing on keywords that you have identified as important in your context. However the increase in ranking just establishes that the SEO process followed by your agency is apt. The measure of success would be traffic and engagement. The increase in traffic post your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a definite indication that the SEO is working. Like wise the traffic that is coming from your PPC campaigns, here’s a post that gives your 5 Key Metrics To Measure Success of Paid Search Campaigns.

The measure of real success then comes from what did this increase in eyeballs result in. Whether the right profiles of visitors are being attracted can be measured by what they are viewing on your site, actions they are taking, the engagement with these users.

Display Advertising

Goal setting is critical here and expectations have to be realistic. Multiple objectives should be avoided, and if unavoidable, at lease prioritize on the expectations. You cannot expect brand and performance to weigh equally.

This is true for PPC search campaigns as well as Display advertising, either you focus on branding, brand awareness, or on performance, the number of leads, sign ups or sales your generate. While it is totally understandable that both are critical for you, a campaign has to be designed giving higher weightage to either or. For brand awareness – check the impressions and clicks to the landing page. For Performance based – check (quality) number of people signing up forms or buying products online.

So measure and analyse. Results depends on various factors – your brand equity where it stands vis a vis competition, consumer perception, consumer need; the positioning; communication message; creative impact; media plan; media outlay. Based on your analysis fine-tune your communication techniques to capitalize and convert the customer who is at your doorstep.

What Do You Need To Start An E-commerce Business: A Checklist

bcwebwise ecommerceIt is time to get online and create a cost effective sales channel, after all consumers are researching your products online and reading peer recommendations. It just makes sense to get online and enable the target customers to buy your product with a click of the mouse. So just what do you need to start an Ecommerce business. We have tried to simplify it for you here:

1. Choose a Ecommerce System/ Shopping Cart Platform:

Foremost, you need to select a technology platform for the Ecommerce to run on. You may not understand the nitty gritties of this, but an online research on the subject, reviews and recommendations will help. If you can speak to a successful Ecommerce business and get their recommendation, even better.

We highly reccomend using the Magento e-commerce system. . Magento is extremely scalable, open source, easy to use and quickly becoming the most popular shopping cart system around.

You may also want to explore being available on other popular online stores and weigh the options of your exclusive store plus being present on other online shopping networks such as: India Times Shop, Rediff Shopping, Ebay, Flipkart, etc.

2. Domain Name Registration and Web Hosting

You need to plan and book a domain name for your ecommerce site and get this registered. If you are starting a serious e-commerce business, start with the right web host to ensure that your website will be fast and reliable. The data centre that will provide you with the servers for hosting your website should be able to provide you with 24/7 support. The data centre should also have the necessary firewalls and security in place.

3. Product List/Catalogue

Identify list of products that you want to sell online. Research on products or information related to your products that are currently searched by the target customers will help in finalizing the product list. Check if competing products are currently sold online and if yes, look for information on how they are currently being sold, and how has the online sales of these products been, how are they being promoted, what is right and not about the ecommerce for these products.

4. Product Images

Having your products shown clearly on your website is extremely important to the overall look of the site as well as the conversion rate of the site. It might cost a bit more than you expect to have professional photos of your products taken it can really separate the websites that get sales from those that do not. Whether it is a fashion garment or an OTC drug, seeing the product image gives consumer’s confidence to click the buy button.

5. Product Titles & Descriptions

Appropriate titles and descriptions for your products is necessary. Copy should inform plus do the selling. Attention to doing this for each product in your catalogue is a must, as this can make or break your sale. Also from a search engine view point, this descriptive information will help in optimization of the pages for search engines helping in the product being found when someone is searching for it.

Do a competitive search of other successful ecommerce sites to study how they do it.

6. Shipping Account

When someone buys something, you have to send it to them. Make sure that you sign up for a reliable delivery service such as Fedex or DHL.

7. Packing/ Shipping Products

How you will pack the products for delivery, labeling, etc. also need to be looked into and should be the starting point. Work out the logistics and if that is not in place no matter what you do with your e-shop, it is bound to fail.

8. Security (SSL)

Your website is going to need an SSL certificate to encrypt credit card transactions. All modern web browsers will warn users that they are about to enter a site that does not follow necessary security protocols, in other words it is unlikely the customer is going to proceed visiting your page.

9. Helpline Number – Preferably Toll Free and 24/7

A toll free phone number for your customers to call if they have a problem. A 24/7 online chat system will also help.

10. Newsletter Management System

Your customer list will need to be sent regular emails relating to their transaction plus to promote other related products, seasonal/festive offers etc.

11. Establish Ecommerce Policies

Your ecommerce store should include a policies section that covers all of your policies for shipping costs, returns, exchanges and customer service inquiries. A frequently asked questions section can be implemented based on the email questions you receive most often through your toll-free number or through your customer service email. In the end, this can save time and money and also help in closing a sale online.

12. Ecommerce Team

Managing your online presence is an important task that should have dedicated staff, just as you would have for your brick and mortar store. In addition to processing orders, the website needs to be continually updated with new product offerings and inventory status of available stock. Customer service inquiries should be handled promptly and customers should be kept in the loop about the status of their order. This staff can also handle the marketing of your ecommerce site.

13. Payment Options

When the planning of ecommerce is done, simultaneously one needs to select the payment gateway that will be used. How are you geographically targeting your audience can help to address this. Ideally prefer the gateway that supports most of currency.

14. Getting Verisign

Vulnerability and Malware scan is a must on the website. Ideally go with a Verisign trusted seal, it also gives consumer confidence to see this seal on your e-commerce pages and the final transaction pages.

15. Integration with third-party software

Normally all ecommerce product section is integrated with POS or some ERP system that is used to also manage the offline sales. While designing ecommerce sections it is important to be clear about the modules from the ERP system that need to be integrated with the online database. Further how this database (particularly for product stocks) will be updated and in what frequency needs to be defined.

16. Explore Enabling Shopping On Mobile Phones

Where and when is your customer likely to look for you? If your target audience is on the go, and in India we all know that just about everyone carries a phone today, it may be wise to build a mobile friendly shopping site. Today’s digital consumer expects a seamless, personalized, online shopping experience via whatever device they choose.

17. Increasing Your Site’s accessibility

You may want to explore the option of building separate sites, or building just one site that Is device friendly by opting for a responsive design. Read more about it in our previous post. http://blog.bcwebwise.com/2012/04/19/responsive-design/

18. Market Your Site & Driving Sales

Finally, it would take investment in online marketing to create awareness about your e-store and drive the footfalls. Explore SEO, plus PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, network advertising, etc.

To finally convert the visitors to buyers, ensure that the online shopping experience is visually appealing, is seamless and smooth, friendly and usability driven at every step. So do dry runs of the page designs and flows with User-testing before you finalize the wireframe, design and the flow of the pages.

So get ready to do some real business online!