Local Search Engine Optimisation

Some small business owners are rather scathing of local search engine optimisation but, invariably, this is as a result of it not being done properly on their site.

There are people who will tell you that they rank #1 on Google but haven’t received any customers as a result.

Invariably, this is because their website has been optimised solely for the name of the company.

This is rather pointless because the people who will be searching Google for your company name will probably already be customers.

When selecting the metadata for your site, you need to work out what your potential customers are going to be typing into Google.

But, it’s a bit more complicated than that because, if you are a coffee shop and you just use the keyword ‘coffee’ on your site, you’re going to be in competition with an awful lot of other coffee shops around the world. You need to take geography into account and use local search engine optimisation

If, like Mike at The Ark, you are offering various types of massages in the Southend area, your future client base would be searching for ‘massage in Southend’. If his website did not show up on that search, then his business would not exist to those customers.

However, another reason for lack of customers could be as simple as there is no effective tracking system in place to check who’s visiting your website and where they came from.

If there is nothing on the site that requests prospective customers to let you know how they found out about your business or if no one asks them when they telephone/email, then they may not voluntarily tell you.

You have to set in place proper systems for tracking where your business is coming from – and that includes paid advertising because, without that, you don’t know how effective any campaign is. If it’s costing you money, it is vital that you have a way of working out the value of every customer that is achieved through that method to assess whether the financial outlay is worthwhile.

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Google Instant

Google Instant is the ‘predictive text’ equivalent of searching the internet. You type in a few letters and Google guesses what it is that you are looking for based on the most popular trends.

Just as I avoid predictive text wherever possible because a machine invariably cannot read my mind, it is the same with Google Instant. I do not want it second guessing me as a customer and, as a SEO (search engine optimisation) business, it’s a real pain in the bottom because it interferes with the natural thought processes and sends people where Google wants them to go rather than where their instincts would have sent them.

This makes optimising a website for the most human keywords a little more difficult.

For those of you who understand Search Engine Optimisation, this is an interesting look at the new search facility Google Instant and its effects on keyword optimisation.

Google Instant – Implications for SEO & Internet Marketing

By Titus Hoskins (c) 2010

While reading Harry McCracken’s rather insightful article on Google Instant in PCWorld , I was reminded once again, how narrowly focused my own thinking has become in regards to Google. I keep forgetting, not everybody is into SEO or Internet Marketing (lucky dogs), and that Google search has a function outside of SEO.

I keep forgetting that the general public actually uses Google for online search, there are millions of web users out there who have been using Google Instant to find out the weather, the latest Lady Gaga outfit or which flat-screen HDTV to purchase? Of course, I know this to be the real function of Google, but if you’re a full-time search engine marketer, your perspective is solidly aligned to all the SEO elements – keyword rankings, link building and content placemént in the most dominant search engine in the world.

Basically, you will be more concerned with how Google Instant will impact those top keyword rankings, your click-through rates and most importantly, what effect will it have on your conversion rates and sales? More specifically, how does this instant search impact the display of your listings in Google and what are the long-term ramifications this instant “real time” display will have on your marketing online?

There are even some so-called experts which say Google Instant will be the end of SEO. This is a rather foolish notion since the underlying structure of using optimized strategies to obtain top rankings in Google or any other search engine for that matter, has not changed. We still have the emphasis on quality content, high quality backlinks and on-page ranking factors.

In the background nothing has changed; in the foreground everything has changed. Well, somewhat.

Google Instant is a game changer for online marketers simply because it changes “How” your listings are displayed. Not only is the faster speed a factor, but Google is guessing or rather dictating what the web surfer is searching for so Google’s influence on what’s displayed has increased 10-fold. They are displaying results not only based on rankings BUT on what their data tells them you’re looking for? How big a role this other compiled data and web users’ histories plays in these suggestions only Google knows, but to the online marketer all this is somewhat worrisome.

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google has been quoted as saying, “Never underestimate the power of fast. Quick, quick, quick – we want to help you right now… we can understand things like what you really meant.”

Only time will tell what effect this “jumping the gun” or “making up your mind for you” will have on Internet marketing. The long-lasting effect of Google imposing its results on the web searcher will no doubt have some strong impacts on web marketing. Getting those first suggestions when a surfer types in just one or two letters… will become the real money-makers in terms of online traffic and sales.

Those companies and products which pop-up first will gain in market share and importance, but hasn’t this always been the case with getting those first place keyword rankings in Google? Yes, but now Google is giving the searcher options and planting seeds/suggestions, which Google has done in the past but not at this speed and to this extent. The implications for online marketing could be enormous, assuming of course, web surfers actually use this function. Google does give users the option of turning off Instant search. In our hurried fast-paced world, one would reason, web searchers would not turn off this function, although if your Internet connection is too slow, Google will automatically turn off Instant search for you.

From a marketing angle, webmasters must now note Google’s keyword suggestions which quickly pop-up and target them in their SEO efforts. Analyzing and targeting which keyword phrases Google is displaying in your niche market will be vital to capturing the majority of traffic. Surfers will click on Google’s suggestions to find what they’re looking for on the web. Getting top rankings for those 4 or 5 suggestions will become important if an online marketer or webmaster wants to cover/corner all the search territory in their niche. Whether you actually target these keywords would really be determined by their commercial intent probability which can be discovered by using Microsoft’s Adcenter Labs and of course, the amount of traffic each keyword gets each month.

Another area of concern has to do with the ever decreasing space for organic listings on the new Google Instant interface. With the drop-down menu and depending upon how many paid listings are shown, there may only be room for 3 listings instead of five or more above the fold. Keep in mind, we are mainly talking about lucrative keyword phrases which will also usually have three Adwords paid listings in the spots where organic search results were formerly displayed. Searchers are lazy, they will probably not scroll down, especially if they see different listings popping up as they narrow they search. So your SEO has probably gotten much harder since you will now have to aim for the top 3 spots – thanks Google.

Of course, savvy online marketers know the real gold is in the long-tail keyword phrases which surfers use to find what they’re looking for on the web. Google Instant could possibly play havoc on this whole process because before the searcher finishes typing in the long 4 or even 5 word phrases, they would be exposed to maybe 4 or 5 pages of Google listings… chances are great that searchers will click on one of these listings before they finish typing, especially if the listing contains a part of the searched for phrase.

Marketers will have to closely analyze their own web stats and conversion rates in regards to Google Instant. I am seeing little change in my own marketing… traffic has dropped on some sites and risen on others, subscription rates are up and sales are steady. What really concerns me is the fact that Google may not only be pre-judging their rankings but also your mind. They are playing a much bigger role in how you decide which listing you click. Granted, this is probably drawn from unbiased data but will the influence of top-brand companies be more dominant in Google’s Instant results?

Another general concern – will the display of so many listings make it harder for your site or page to be clicked? Will giving the searcher so many options so quickly, lower your chances of getting that click-thru, even if you have the top spot in Google? The laws of probability and human nature say your chances have diminished somewhat in this new instant search environment. Not good news if your livelihood depends upon getting that click.

However, many of these changes (and no matter how fast Google gives you their search results) will not change the fundamental principles of good SEO practices. Keyword positioning will still get you to the number one spot in Google for your chosen phrase if you have the time and resources to create quality content, build quality one-way backlinks and use good on-page optimization. Besides the smaller emphasis on organic traffic, the only other real concern is the degree to which Google will use their suggestions and how much those suggestions are based not on SEO ranking factors but on users’ histories and compiled data. Even with this concern, Google Instant, even at warp speed, does not negate the importance of getting those top rankings. For many search engine marketers, like myself, it’s business as usual. Full speed ahead.

About The Author
All opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author who has been following Google since it was a mere BackRub. He is also a full time search engine marketer who operates numerous niche sites, as well as two sites on Internet Marketing, where you can get valuable marketing tips for free: internet marketing tools or try here internet marketing. Titus Hoskins Copyright 2010. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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Affordable Small Business Website Design

For the second time in less than a week I have had a very frustrated client on the telephone asking me to help with their professionally built website.

I don’t know quite what’s going on in the world of website design, but I repeatedly hear about two problems.

The first is that the designer is too busy to accommodate the ongoing needs of their client. This means that said client has a number of small changes to make to their website that will keep it current but, despite repeated phone calls, nothing happens. Frustrating and limiting.

The second is that the designer charges a lot of money to make any changes. I came across one recently who wanted the equivalent of what I would charge for an entire website just to upload some new photos and change a few headings.

My goal is to provide affordable small business website design that the client can alter for him/herself without continually having to bring me in. Things like changes in members of staff or products for sale online – this sort of small alteration shouldn’t require the services of a skilled coder and the requisite high charges. This is what makes the internet frightening for small businesses – unforeseen costs that escalate beyond all reason and where the owner is completely in the hands of the professional.

I now realise that I’m going to have to become familiar with platforms other than WordPress.

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My first Affordable Small Business Website Design

Well, my plan for world domination has got off to a cracking start.

A few weeks in and my first client is already ranked Number One on Yahoo for his two chosen keywords.

For Google, we have achieved a good slot in Places with a position in the top four on the map for both keywords and second in the organic rankings for a non-directory listing. Not bad for a site that is only a few weeks old.

And this is now starting to translate into telephone and email enquiries.

A good way to achieve this position in the rankings is to use your keyword in the url. So many people want to use the name of their business but, if no one knows who you are, they don’t know who or what to look for.

It’s far better to identify a good search term and try to rank for that. By all means buy your business name as a domain too – you can always forward it to the main site to ensure that you don’t lose any traffic once you become more established.

Working on the basis that Google is a logical machine, if you type in a search term and the spiders have crawled a url which matches that search term, chances are it’s going to be pointing traffic in your direction eventually. However, you can also give those spiders a few clues by raising your hand and calling them over. Giving yourself a ping is always a good idea. As is making sure that you start to get a good selection of backlinks on trusted sites by submitting your site to the local listings.

Even more important is to have a strategy for ensuring that your website contains unique content which is informative, regularly updated and pulls in visitors. Making a blog part of your template is a great way to achieve this. It’s simple to use and very effective.

So, remember the Google Caffeine Algorithm? If your site has good, often changing content, a few back links to show that content is appreciated by other people and some comments to demonstrate that people are connecting with you on the site, then you have the Holy Trinity.

Content. Backlinks. Activity.

And Google will start to notice you.

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