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Google Instant and What it Means for Search 

Posted 5:51 AM by
So, it has been about a week since Google Instant was debuted, which is about how long it took for me to write down my first impressions of it.  It has been an interesting week of reading blog articles and tweets, as there has been no shortage of content on both sides of the argument.  Here is a recap of the week and the things that I have learned.

1. Snap judgements around the web community initially said that "SEO IS DEAD!!!", while Google quickly refuted that point, saying that their algorithm hadn't changed.

Now I wouldn't say that SEO is dead, but it has definitely changed in my opinion.  While the most sought after keywords are still going to be the most sought after keywords, I think there will be an interesting shift away from long-tail searches that were easier rank on page one.  Since Google is constantly trying to interpret what you are searching for and suggesting your next word, unique searches will begin to taper off.  I'm not saying that Google Instant and the Google Suggest feature will turn us all into robots, there will still be unique searches, but I feel like in smaller numbers.  Only time will tell on this one.

2.  I Use Google Chrome, so I don't really interact with Google Instant

For many Google Chrome users like myself, Google Instant is only applicable if my first query doesn't return what I am looking for.  Since the URL Box doubles as a Google Search box in Google Chrome, I can type in my query and press enter without having to go to the Google Homepage.  Once I am on the results page, I can then refine my search using Google Instant, but not before.  I'm not sure if Google has plans to roll out the Google Instant feature to Google Chrome, we'll have to wait and see on that one.       

3. We've noticed a definite shift in the Organic Rankings "Screen Real Estate", especially on local searches

This was an interesting realization.  Now that Google Instant has the Google Suggest box underneath the search box itself, it pushes the organic rankings down to almost below the fold.  As you can see below, there are three Pay-Per-Click listings for this search, displayed first, then the Google Local map, and then at the very bottom of the image you can see the 1st organic listing (that is actually being cut in half horizontally).  Google didn't change the way that these three sections are displayed, but adding more content underneath the search box like they have done, definitely reduces the strength of a page one organic ranking for these local terms.  It will be interesting to see how the data shift of people clicking on paid advertisements changes over the next couple of months since they aren't immediately served up organic results.  

Google Instant Screen Capture

4. The overall strategy for ranking well hasn't changed.

Creating good, relevant content is still what makes a website an authority on any given topic.  Making sure that your site is searchable and incorporates search engine friendly title tags, URL's, and other on-page features is still at the foundation of Google, whether it is Instant or not.  Just because they have changed the way they are displaying information doesn't mean there is a drastic change in the information itself. 

As always, creating good content attracts links back to your website.  Attracting these high-quality (not quantity) links should be the goal of any content publishing.  

I'm sure that Google Instant will change some things in the search world, or even the world itself - as Google Instant would claim that at the time that I am writing this to have already saved about 1 million hours worldwide.  Ironically, only more time will tell us what the impact of Google Instant truly is.  

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Google Announces New Search Engine Index

Posted 2:32 PM by
Yesterday, June 8th, Google announced on their blog that they have completed "Caffeine", their newest search engine index.  This is a major step forward in providing searchers with the most timely and relevant results possible. 

To really understand the difference between the Google search we are all used to, and Caffeine, you have to understand how search originally worked.  Every time that you (or anyone) would search on Google, they would be provided back a list of websites that Google thought were most relevant.  Google would index these pages every few weeks to ensure that they are still relevant, but that isn't good enough in the Twittering, Facebooking, constantly updating world we live in today - and Google knew it.   

Google Caffeine - A CMS User's Best Friend

Enter Caffeine, the world's first continuously updating search index.  No longer do site administrators and authors have to wait days or weeks to get their content to update in Google's index.  This is great news for web authors that are using a content management system.  Simply adding keyword rich and relevant content to your site could possibly have a dramatic effect on your overall search engine ranking, giving you the power to market your site the way you know how.  Blogs will become an even more effective way to increase traffic organically.

It is difficult to say if anyone will notice a true difference in their search engine rankings - only time will tell.  While we are waiting though, you might as well get out there and keep creating that relevant content that matters so much.   

(If you haven't done it already, read their blog post as there are some seriously amazing statistics that put this new Google endeavor into perspective)

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A View From the Top...of a Google Results Page

Posted 9:06 PM by
I recently had a beer with Andrew Gouty and Aaron Douglas of Deep Ripples.  For those of you who haven't heard of Deep Ripples, they specialize in organic search engine optimization.  It became apparent that we all share a very interesting viewpoint on Google rankings:  If you are already at the top, you realize how your business can't live without it...if you're not, you know that it COULD be valuable, but you don't truly understand how it can impact your bottom line.  

Now, if you do the research you'll notice that all sites that win (competitive) search engine rankings share a few (definitely an understatement) common things.  First off, their internal search engine optimization is up to par.  Think of this as the foundation of a house...if the foundation is poor, your house, or site in this case, will crumble.  You, as a site owner, should be able to control this internal search engine optimization with a good content management system and a little guidance. 

The second thing that you'll notice is that these sites have lots and lots of links pointing to them.  The natural way to build links is to create informative, useful content on a regular basis that people will want to share and link to.  If you are managing your site with a CMS, you are probably already doing this.  However, this takes time and resources.  If you are impatient, which you might be if you're not at the top, you might want to consider calling in some hired guns, like Andrew and Aaron.  You can't afford not to. 
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Using Google Analytics to Your Advantage

Posted 9:41 PM by
As I was having coffee this morning with a friend and client of Marketpath's, it became apparent that using Google Analytics effectively might be more difficult than I thought.  This particular client owns a website that sells both indoor and outdoor water features.  While we were discussing his website traffic, I asked him if he knew the search terms that were driving the most traffic to his site.  He was unaware that the Google Analytics account that he used would tell him that information, so I explained to him where to find it and why.

You can find that info within the lower lefthand box on the front page of your Google Analytics account.  Simply click on the title and open up a more in depth look at your traffic sources.

Here are the reasons why it is important to know:

1.  If the top keyword that people are typing in to get to your site is a specific product or service that you offer, you need to make sure that that specifc page relating to that keyword (or product page) is as appealing as possible (especially if you have a high bounce rate).  
2.  Knowing your top keywords gives you an accurate view of what your customers are specifically looking for.  You can then tailor fit your website's message to that search term. 
3.  Finally, this gives you the ability to add more content based on your high traffic search terms.  You can easily craft blog posts about these topics and raise your visibility.

Google Analytics gives the majority of site owners more information than they can handle.  I urge you to explore the data and become familiar with the tool.  It can be an extremely beneficial, as long as you give it a shot.
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Improving Your Google Local Search Ranking

Posted 3:59 PM by

Recently, in an effort to combat spam and false listings, Google modified the way they are ranking sites within the Google Local results pages.  Many of our local customers ask us "How do I get my website to show up on the map?  Well, here are a few easy tips that will help increase the chances of being indexed.

1.  Submit your site to the Google Local Business Center.  This is a profile that allows you to fill out, among other things, the name, address, hours of operation, billing options, and categories (catering, doctor, dentist, etc) of your company.  Google will verify the information you provide, so be thorough, yet truthful.  Also, don't create your own categories for your company.  Custom categories can be viewed in a negative light by Google, so stick to their suggestions.  

2.  Submit your site to FREE local directories:
               - InfoUSA - submit site here
               - Insiderpages - submit site here
               - SuperMedia - submit site here

Each of these directories help Google index their local listings, each one is free, so there is no reason to skip out on any one of the services.

There is one important note to keep in mind, do NOT add keywords to your business name in any of these sites.  What I mean by this is if your official company name is ACME, Inc., then use that as your name.  Do not add keywords to the end of this.  For instance, if you sold pet rocks, do not make the business name ACME Pet Rocks, Inc.

All of these steps take only a few minutes and can be very important in the overall visibility of your site.  Take advantage today!   

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Basic Search Engine Optimization Terminology

Posted 9:08 PM by

Lately, everyone that Marketpath has developed a website for has requested some sort of search engine optimization.  Some of these cutsomers know quite a bit about SEO, while others are simply requesting the service because someone told them they needed it.  Since there is such a discrepancy in SEO knowledge for our end users, I decided I would list out some of the terminology that is used and describe each part in simple terms.

Title Tag - The most important area on a page that keywords can be placed.  Each page has its own title and it should be unique to each page.  The title tag can be seen at the top of the browser window and is also the physical link that is displayed by search engines.

Meta Description Tag - This is a great place to describe (with keywords, of course) exactly what each page is about in more of a conversational manner (what services do you provide? What makes you unique?, etc).  This text is displayed by search engines underneath the blue link.  That is the only time this text can be seen by your website visitors. 

Meta Keyword Tag -  The importance of this tag has diminished drastically over the past few years.  It is a common agreement within the industry that the Meta Keyword Tag is completley ignorned by search engines and therefore a waste of time to create. 

Alt Image Tag - These tags can be used to describe what a picture is about, since search engines can't gather information visually.  A simple 2 to 3 word phrase that describes the image can go a long way.

H1 Tag - The H1 tag stands for "Heading 1".  Each page should have an H1 tag that best describes the overall topic of that page.  Each page should only have one H1 tag. 

There are other factors that go into ranking highly on search engines of course, but the foundational elements listed above can go a long way.

For more information about keyword placement and to see a great example of an optimized page, check out this article

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Software as a Service - The perfect ally in a tough economy?

Posted 9:01 PM by
Although companies continue to cut expenses and scale back during this tough economy, they all know very well that some sort of business must go on.  All marketing professionals know (hopefully) that abandoning a marketing campaign completely, due to lack of funds, will spell certain death for a company.  However, they must be creative in how they are spending their budgets.  Gone are the days of huge upfront fees for websites.  Spending tens of thousands of dollars for a site during this economic climate is usually not possible.  That's where Software-as-a-Service or (SaaS) comes in...

For those of you who are not familiar, SaaS allows companies to subscribe, whether annually or monthly, to a software service that allows them to streamline some process.  In Marketpath's case, our software (as a service) makes it easier for marketing professionals to utilize their website in a more cost effective manner.  The best part is, the starting cost's for SaaS models is usually much more manageable for a company.  By spreading out the payments into a monthly or annual contract, costs are known and upfront and can be accounted for in advance.  This is why the SaaS model works very well for Content Management Systems, with a relatively small amount to start and a small monthly or annual fee; your website can become a true marketing tool in a down economy - something we all need. 
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Everything in one place

Posted 6:57 PM by

I just read a blog post on CMSwire that outlined a few of the trends that are going to really drive content management in 2009.  Two of these three trends were about Web 2.0 integration and e-commerce integration and how each piece will become an extremely important part of each and every website over the next year.  Almost every content management system out there today can help someone effectively manage landing pages, text, pictures, and menu structure (to name a few things), but not every one can help with the two things mentioned above. 

Having your website, blog, and shopping cart all managed by the same system helps keep things organized and streamlined.  Managing products, content, blog posts and comments all from the same interface can help you and your staff save time and money.  It is all possible with the right, easy CMS.  Be ahead of the curve in 2009, be a trend setter.  Make your website work for you.    

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A More Effective Website

Posted 3:27 PM by

What have you done for your website lately?  Or perhaps I should ask a better question, what has your website done for you lately? In these times of a rough economy, hopefully the answer isn't "nothing."  An underutilized, non-producing website is simply a wasted opportunity, and the worst part is, it's a cheap and easy opportunity.  Sure, you could dump ten thousand dollars into a beautiful new website, and it might yield some quantifiable results, but what is going to keep people coming back?  A fresh message, that's what.

Without a simple and cost effective way to keep your website up to date and current, all that money that was spent on your website was, in essence, thrown away.  With the right tool, a good content management system, you can turn your website into a wealth of knowledge for your customers and potential clients.  No longer do you have to worry about being charged for each and every update.  With Marketpath CMS, you have the freedom and the ability to change your site anytime you wish from any PC with internet access.  What would you do with all of that power?  Hopefully, the answer to that question is "make my website work for me!"     

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How Recent and How Often Does Matter   

Posted 3:18 PM by

One of the things that can help distinguish your website from your competitors is how often you update your content. We all know this, but yet some of us still find it difficult to make changes.  This might be the rationale behind Google putting stock into how recently and how frequently a site is updated.  Google prides itself on giving searchers the most relevant information available, which a lot of times will translate into the freshest information available.  Google will rank sites that administrators care enough to make changes to higher than their stale counterparts. 

Now obviously, Google isn't ranking sites soley based on frequency of updates, however it is one piece of the overall equation.  In my opinion, it is the easiest piece of the overall SEO equation to put into action.  Invest in a good content management system and swap out a picture or two every once in a while, blog about news worthy events, add a landing page that correlates to a new ad campaign.  Make your website work for you.  It's easy with the right tool.

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