SEO: Search Engine Optimization

Social Media and Marketing Lessons From 10 Top Holiday Films

What a busy year it has been. Time at last for a bit of a break. Finding some relaxation in the year-end business ‘wind-down’ usually leads to some good family time, couch time and with any luck, a couple of good naps.  Year-end is also a good chance to depressurize and de-couple from the marketing world  – if only for a little while. But, even while watching the holiday shows and movies, it is all too easy to drift  back into the marketing world.

While cozying up with the fam around the fireplace and with that holiday classic “Christmas Vacation” on the wide screen, it suddenly dawned that holiday films have a great deal of advice and guidance for those of us in the social media and marketing world. Maybe it was the eggnog, but by thinking through some of the Christmas and holiday favorites, some deep philosophical musings and lessons can be pulled from the themes of the top Christmas and holiday programming.

social media lessons from Clark Griswold

Christmas Vacation “Drum Roll, Please.”
Sometimes, your best efforts produce unparalleled disaster.  If it does, own up to it and keep trying. You might burn down the house, but you’ll never hit the grand slam if you never step into the batter’s box. In the end, you’ve got to set your sights high if you are ever going to achieve great results. (Sorry for the metaphor-slew.)

Scrooged – “The b____h hit me with a toaster!”
Watch your social media content and be mindful of the reputation you are creating over the long term. The Ghost of Posts Past are never too far away and seem to come back from the dead to smack you with a kitchen appliance when you least expect it. Posts live forever.

Elf – “I know him!”
Endearing message delivery can attract attention – even if the message is unremarkable.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Always be positive. If “you’re a mean one,” there is always someone around who will remember and will be a pain forever. Be positive at all times and you’ll have a lot less work to do.

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown – “You need involvement”
We all need to be involved in our communities for support and inspiration. Without involvement, it is terribly difficult to grow and prosper. Rely on your friends and relationships in the social world. Even if you screw up entirely, continued effort and honesty will prevail.

Miracle on 54th Street – “Every time a bell rings,” a post goes viral.
Never underestimate your value. Everyone has a unique contribution but might need the courage to put thoughts and ideas out into the world. Take a shot…someone somewhere will appreciate it – even if they rarely mention it. And occasionally, you’ll hit a message that really resonates. Just keep trying.

Hallmark Channel  – No quote here!  Too much material!
These guys have been running Christmas films since Halloween. Steady effort, consistent content and outreach builds a solid reputation. Need something positive?  Just dial up the Hallmark network.

Christmas Marathons – “It wouldn’t be Christmas without  the James Bond Marathon.”
Weird associations can work. Even though 007 has little to do with the holiday season, creating a tradition associated with a certain time of year can build recognition and establish expectations for future years.

Home Alone – “Kevin!”
You’ll always forget things – even important things through the year. Stand in there when things get tough. Even if it feels that you are all alone, take on problems one at a time and eventually, support will arrive.

The Holiday – “Anything can happen.”
Before embarking on a new social media strategy that others have used successfully, make sure it works for you. Individuality is an asset. Trading places with another can mean acquiring her/his problems along with it. Still, it never hurts to explore new opportunities.

 

For some fresh ideas on managing your social media and for low cost internet marketing and SEO, contact Denver SEO Consultants. Email us at: matt@seo-consultants.denver.com

 

Ron Burgundy ‘s 10 Marketing Tips for 2014

Ron Burgundy’s Dodge Durango SUV promotion, as well as character appearances on ESPN and a North Dakota news station have proven wildly successful. Combining marketing messages for sponsored product lines as well as the upcoming film release of Anchorman 2 has been a unique and well-received effort. As reported in Advertising Age  “Dodge brand boss Tim Kuniskis said: ‘We’ve seen almost an 80 percent increase in Web traffic alone since the (Ron Burgundy Dodge) campaign launched.'”

Anchorman Ron Burgundy – even though fictional – provides several marketing insights and lessons for 2014. For those planning promotional outreach, advertising or marketing campaigns in the coming year, these  10 marketing insights inspired by the recent success of the fictional anchorperson, might just provide that cutting edge message creation your organization needs.

Ron Burgundy Inspired Marketing Tips

Closing 2013 with such a fresh and successful communication strategy is a big win for Dodge, GM  and the other product sponsors that took a chance using the Ron Burgundy character. For others, the lessons we can carry forward into 2014 include the following 10 Marketing Strategy Tips:

10.  Release Your Inner Comedian
Okay… so not everyone is naturally funny. Still, attempts to lighten the emotional loads of others by providing some comic relief deserves respect. The ability to poke fun – particularly at one’s self – can be endearing and in subtle ways, build respect for the messenger. Reaching out via social channels using modest humor can be highly effective in building readership and inspiring return visitors.

9.  Introduce Humor – People Need It!
There is a lot of information in the news – most of it is bleak. Humor can help put some of this in perspective or at least point out some of life’s little absurdities. One has to be a bit careful using humor though, particularly around areas where people are highly sensitive; like politics, or religion, or.. pretty much everything … just do your best not to offend. And if you do, own up to it quickly and move on.

8.  Seek Laughter – It is Disarming
Seriously.. people that can make you laugh are easier to relate to. And those that are easily related to, find it easier to build relationships with others.  As relationship building is key to any marketing or communication effort, getting a laugh out of the audience can open the door to more serious interaction.

7.  Funny = Viral = Profitable
How do you reach more people with your message? Just make the message worth sharing! A meaningful message that has some entertainment value is much more likely to be re-shared over other’s networks. Developing content that fits other peoples social networks is the key to making content viral. And of course good viral content has the potential to attract large numbers of viewers and prospective customers.

6.  Event Association Works!
Associating the Anchorman 2 release with products and events (including actual newscasts) builds exposure and visibility for all participants. The news station in North Dakota that had the courage to put Ron Burgundy on in full character on a newscast succeeded in building a great deal of exposure. It also helped humanize its on-air personalities and make them easier to relate to.

5.  Promote Brand Association
Everyone can recognize a movie star – even a fictional one. Celebrity spokespersons are frequently used to promote specific brands by using their well known traits and characteristics. As Sam Elliot’s famous deep voice adds credibility to claims of truck ‘toughness,’  brand associations are particularly useful for generating visibility for lesser known product lines.  Associating humor with a brand is also highly effective. Just ask the Dodge SUV manager that agreed to do the Ron Burgundy ad.

4.  Expand the Brand
Supporting a good message using multi channel distribution is a great way to leverage exposure and increase visibility. More people may have watched Ron Burgundy deliver the news via YouTube recording than probably saw the event live. Leveraging social media to inspire conversation and build exposure about the brand expands its overall visibility and reach.

3.  Attention is the Objective
Don’t let dignity get in the way of a great message. Too often, image conscious marketers nix really great ideas because they don’t want to devalue their brand. Or, the risk of something going wrong convinces managers that the risk is not worth taking.

Even marketing and social media disasters can be made into assets though. Remember the Burger King Twitter campaign in February, 2013? The company released its Twitter campaign only to have it hijacked and replaced with promotions for rival McDonalds, accompanied by claims of drug abuse by employees. By the time BK regained control of the situation, their Twitter account had actually gained tens of thousands of followers.  Although the marketing and social media staff got a black eye on this one, Burger King may get the last laugh with its increased network reach.

2.  Exposure Doesn’t Have to be Great to Work
How is talking to a horse about SUV horsepower effective? Ron Burgundy illustrated the efficiency and high-horsepower of the Dodge SUV line by trying to discuss it with an actual horse.  The horse was simply an illustration and point of comparison. A real celebrity spokesperson probably couldn’t have made  the point having a conversation with a horse, but the Burgundy character pulled it off.  Many marketers get weighed down by quality requirements that strangles truly creative message creation.  Great messaging doesn’t have to be overly dignified or highly technical to work.

1.  Outside-the-Box Thinking Wins  in the Long Term
The ‘stick with things that work’ strategy can lead your messaging down a stale rabbit hole. Finding new message strategies that work is an ongoing, creative effort that has to be nurtured and undertaken with a fair degree of courage. Promotional events also need a fairly wide creative berth to compete for the attention of today’s overworked and over-communicated population.

Outside the box thinking for creative message development can pay great dividends. Some organizations separate the messaging from the risk analysis in order to generate the freshest possible ideas. When a new creative scheme is handed off to the risk assessment team, risk managers create contingency plans to handle any potential problems rather than try to throw a wrench back into the original idea.  Occasionally, sounder minds have to over-rule truly wild campaign or message ideas, but generating original, fresh and unique messaging is a process that should be nurtured, then vetted. Execution of these two tasks together dulls the creative processes , so they may be best performed separately.

Making the marketing message more enjoyable to consume makes the entire effort more successful. Creating great content that others want to share and talk about is a difficult undertaking, but it can be richly rewarding.  One may have to try multiple schemes and pilots to hit on something that works well, but in the end, creating a stronger company means taking reasonable risks at developing and deploying creative message strategies.

In the words of the Ron Burgundy himself…. “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”

 

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Google is Everywhere! Search Engines Know Your Preferences

Massive Database Allows the Search Engine Giant to Customize Information Distribution

One of our colleagues noticed over the weekend that her Google News Feed contained information that appeared to be very specific to her interests. She wondered if she had configured her news feed on Google News to prioritize information from a specific publisher or about particular topics. A little research turned up that she wasn’t connected to the publisher in question through any immediately evident network association. Trying to reverse-engineer the display algorithm quickly appeared to be a fruitless effort.  In the end though, some past association , contact or activity connected the two of them so that when she called up her Google News feed, this bit of content was prominently displayed.

Google news feeds

 

The Google Remembers!

Internet activity is becoming less and less anonymous as more data collection allows increasingly intelligent -or at least relevant – information display on Google News. Enabled by incredibly detailed data collection and storage, search engines like Google can now store off individual activity – particularly when a user is logged onto their Google account. Search, social activity and other interactions are not only visible, they are recorded and stored.

Marketing Implications:

What does this mean for those that market products and services? The clear implication is that social activity matters a great deal. Whether on Google News or on search engines, an organization’s ability to reach large numbers of other active information consumers and content producers is important. This requires an active effort not only in creating interesting content, but in promoting it, discussing it, reaching out to others about their content, and in general, becoming an active part of the information flow. As Google “sees all” the greater one’s level of engagement, the greater the chance that some connection will bring reader and content consumer together – even at unexpected times.

Level of Engagement

Elevating social engagement levels can be costly. (We have some ideas for you on creating Low Cost SEO Solutions and Social Media Management if you would like to read more.) Monitoring social activity – particularly social activity relative to a company’s brand presence – can be time consuming. Commenting and outreach are tasks that cannot be automated, so it requires a live human being with some level of industry expertise to manage the engagement. This is a unique role within most organizations. Some resources might be found in the sales and marketing departments, but organizations that have successful engagement programs utilize the entire company to generate unique perspectives and above all, unique and meaningful content.

Social Engagement and SEO

This discussion points out the interaction between social activity and search results. As Google News provides content that appears relevant to the reader’s interest, search algorithms also make use of this data to determine what content is more valuable or relevant to a reader’s search request. In past studies, we have determined that elevated Google+ engagement improves search page result placements – sometimes dramatically. So it follows that better social engagement ultimately improves search engine placement results.

Social Activity More Important than Ever

For those engaged in the internet marketing arena, this is old news. But…. social activity is now more important than ever. Building social channels, creating and promoting content over those channels and engaging with others in one’s industry or market niche improves internet visibility. It is through this improved visibility that new potential customers, contacts and clients can be reached.


Introducing an Old Brand to a New Generation of Buyers

Old Company Reaches Younger Generation of Enthusiasts

Lionel Trains, manufacturers of the famous model railroads that chug around Christmas trees each holiday season, rolled out a social media campaign this season designed to introduce model trains to a new generation of buyers. The general idea for the train campaign was to associate its products with a popular children’s story – Polar Express. The film version of the Polar Express was released 10 years ago this season, providing just the right opportunity to connect a favorite story with a product line.

Lionel reported that a train set giveaway contest, featuring its Polar Express themed line of model trains, and outreach through its Facebook network, email campaign and other social channels generated significant numbers of new ‘likes’ as well as drove over 25,000 new visitors to its website. In an age of high-tech gifts, a model train set may not be at the top of every child’s wish list. But by using contemporary communication, and by reaching out to fans of the Polar Express story to increase visibility, the company enjoyed a nice increase in visibility.

Small Business Implications:

Merging marketing messages with well known themes or stories can work very well in building visibility. Online social networks provide unique forums to tell readers about upcoming events, invite them to read content and provide information about contests and other areas of interest.  Lionel leveraged the followers it had on its Facebook profile to reach out to new readers, who then responded by ‘Liking’ the Lionel page.  This added to the company’s visibility and reach into younger age groups.

Building relationships and expanding the reach of the social network can help in all manner of branding and sales initiatives. Building company social networks is essentially constructing your own communication channel that can be turned to any use you develop.Investing in social media development, search engine optimization (SEO) and in developing good quality and valuable content gets your message out into the wide world.

Our consultants can help build and manage social networks as well as develop the content to promote on them so that your business organization can grow. Contact us today for more information on helping to construct and manage your social media channels or about our low cost SEO solutions!

Facebook, Relationships and the Hummingbird Algorithm

Last week, we found an interesting bit of research that determined it possible to project a couple’s chances at building a successful romance by looking at the Facebook friend profiles of the two involved in the relationship. The studyby Lars Backstrom of Facebook and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University   concluded that  the more diverse the two sets of friend groups was from one another, the better the chance of the relationship lasting beyond a two-month period.

This conclusion runs against the commonly held misunderstanding that the more friends two people have in common, the better their chances at romantic “success.” A two-month time frame might not qualify as a successful long term relationship, but it is very significant that the relationship among friend groups may be a signal about the couple’s chances of going into the next change of seasons with the same romantic interest.

The roots of this study are also significant. The practitioners used billions of records and huge sets of data to reach their conclusions. It is in looking at how these conclusions were arrived at that provides some insight into search engine algorithms – particularly in the latest “Hummingbird” update.

Facebook Relationship Study - Plot Graph

Facebook Profiles Comparing Two Relationship Partners

Hummingbird

The recent Google algorithm update, commonly referred to as “Hummingbird” arrived with little fanfare outside of SEO circles late last summer. Although the immediate impact of the change was minor – impacting a fairly low percentage of existing queries, the future impact could be much more significant.

Good Quality Results

The one thing all search engines compete for is of course, users. The only real competitive point then is which search engine has the best quality results for each query. Google dominates search owing to its ability to understand and deliver the most relevant results for each user search. The more relevant the results, the more likely the user is to utilize that search engine for subsequent search activity.

How do Search Engines Tell if they Got it Right?

This is where it gets interesting. The search engines understand which links and results they present to each search request. They can also monitor user behavior once the reader leaves the search engine results page and opens a page referred by the search engine.  If the reader opens a referred page and then hits the return button to try a different result, the search engines capture this bit of behavior and make the judgment that their referral may not have been what the reader actually wanted. If on the other hand the reader stays on the page, consumes the content and perhaps clicks deeper into the site for more information, the search engines judge this to be a successful referral as validated by the reader.

Like the Facebook and relationship study, these analysis tools require understanding huge volumes of user history and data. However, the ability to analyze large data sets is much more possible than ever before, using powerful data sorting systems and technologies.

Hummingbird’s Purpose

In order to continue providing the highest quality search results, Google launched Hummingbird to provide better and more relevant results to questions and queries that users are now submitting. Google has seen growth in the types of search requests that use longer, more conversational questions. Understanding what the user really wants is key to delivering great results. Distinguishing between what the user asks for and what the user wants is a tricky game, but Google has determined that it is one worth winning.

Longer, more conversational queries are not necessarily the only types of results that the search engine giant is trying to handle better. Readers using search terms like “animal rescue information” might also find results valuable that include “dog rescue” or “cat rescue information.” Returning the dog and cat oriented rescue websites might actually be more relevant than a result for a company specializing in getting squirrels out of chimneys.  A user asking for animal rescue results may be looking for cat or dog rescue sites.

Using history and readership statistics to determine that a “cat” is actually an “animal” when used in the context of “animal rescue” seems to be a main thrust of the Hummingbird update.  Understanding the actual meaning of the user query is key to delivering the best quality results.

In light of the revelations about Facebook and successful romantic relationships, it is possible to gather huge amounts of information and build models that can reasonably predict value or behavior and to understand much more about what search engine users really want.

Christmas and Holiday Marketing Strategies

Quick Tips, Timing and Communication Strategies for Holiday Businesses

Holiday sales account for a great percentage of annual revenue for many small businesses. For some, such as those that sell ugly Christmas sweaters – silly clothing that caters to a peculiar need, holiday sales make up nearly all annual sales. This type of business focuses on the curious trend that provides social reward for appearing at holiday gatherings or during the holiday season in tacky or silly sweaters.  Some even have parties and events to reward the ugliest or tackiest Christmas sweater.  For these types of businesses, pushing sales into a couple months of the year creates unique timing challenges. Any mis-steps can severely impact revenue for the entire year.

So what are some of the unique marketing challenges faced by holiday businesses?  Many of these surround communication strategies and timing and tend to fall into a couple major areas including:

  • Communication Composition
  • SEO and Internet Strategies
  • Social Media Outreach

Communication Composition:

Understanding consumer stress during the holiday shopping season is important to creating memorable messaging. The most obvious but underused cure for this is inserting a bit of humor into the message. Using humor doesn’t require a great effort, but may involve simply re-sharing good content from other sources and then applying one’s own message to create either a social media update or discussion via a blog post. Blog posts, social media interaction and quick page inclusions that lighten the holiday mood can create memorable messaging as well as sharable content.

SEO and Internet Strategies:

Generating website traffic can help an organization increase sales – sometimes dramatically. The challenge to holiday businesses is that link building and social outreach that impacts search engine placement is a long term effort. So coming up with creative strategies to achieve good placement by the time the holiday shopping season rolls around can present some real challenges. Unfortunately, just going dormant over the non-holiday season will only get the website banished to relative obscurity on the search results. Search engine placement strategies have to pre-date the holiday shopping season significantly so that when h0liday shopping traffic does appear, the organization will be in a position to capture it.

Building search engine strength during the holiday rush is very difficult. Cracking the top tier is made even more difficult by the fact that top sites on the results pages become more entrenched as the holiday search traffic ramps up. Additional visitors to a site creates a stronger search engine ranking. The search engines observe that the traffic going to these sites is increasing, and are likely to conclude that those sites are appropriately placed in their rankings. For the challenger site, getting an opportunity to prove that they have a better product and a more functional website just won’t happen if they can’t crack the top tier before the annual increase in holiday traffic appears.

Of course the organization can engage in other types of marketing strategies if they are not well placed on the search engine rankings.  SEM, paid search and social media marketing can help the challenger business generate the traffic its needs to generate revenues.

Social Media Outreach:

One of the ways to overcome poor search engine placement during the holiday traffic season is to reach out via social media. Innovative and humorous messaging can drive visitors to the website and create that traffic buzz needed to improve poor ranking placement. Regular posting of good, valuable and hopefully compelling or humorous material can get content reshared. In this fashion, the organization can use the personal social networks managed by others to help distribute its messaging.

Timing is particularly important in this type of outreach. Just like SEO strategies, a social media outreach strategy should be an ongoing effort throughout the year. Building one’s social networks via Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can attract the traffic needed to prove to the search engines that the company’s website content is worthy of top placement.

An Ongoing Effort:

In the end, Holiday or Christmas marketing is a year-round effort. Building the communication networks necessary to distribute marketing information and content has to be an ongoing effort. After all, competitors are probably doing this as well, so in order to capture traffic when the holiday season rolls around, the networks have to be in place by which messaging may be distributed.  Arranging a good messaging strategy for use during the holiday traffic season can be made much more effective through ongoing message channel development through SEO and social media engagement.

 

 

Google+ Used in Apparent Black Hat SEO Scam

Colorado Attorney General now Involved

Competition is tough! All manner of businesses are forced to compete with one another for the attention and good placement on the internet search engines. When prominent placement is achieved, revenue frequently follows.  The intensity of local competition though has caused some businesses to take chances with so called “Black Hat” schemes to get them this good search engine placement. At the core of this scheme seems to be a campaign for online reviews. Online reviews are validations for the goods and services that a company provides. The more positive reviews, the better the placement for the company on the search engines when users seek information about a particular product or service.

Getting positive reviews for one’s business can be difficult though. Not only does the consumer have to be satisfied with the service or product, he/she has to write a review on the right social media platform.  Enter Google+…    Google+ and Google local provide a powerful platform where positive reviews impact the way a local result is displayed. Get good reviews here and your search engine results should improve.

A Denver roofing company was recently featured in a local CBS news station story about how Google+ pages were apparently set up under the names of customers for the purpose of providing positive reviews. Positive reviews for the company did appear under the names of these customers. Interestingly though, the customers that supposedly provided the reviews may have never actually created the accounts or written the reviews. The customers were apparently all satisfied with the work performed, but the Google+ pages that bore their names didn’t seem to belong to at least some of them.

Investigating who created these accounts in the names of customers is an ongoing process extending up to the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Whether this tactic constitutes a form of identity theft or false advertising is a central question.  According to the Colorado Attorney General, the practice may also be a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.  In the end, whoever created these accounts may wind up in much more trouble than they wanted. In any case, this type of “Black-Hat” SEO or internet marketing tactic will surely place the business and the marketer in a very negative light.

Vince Lombardi – famed Green Bay Packers Head Football Coach – was once reported to state that “winning isn’t everything – it is the only thing.” Winning in the SEO and internet marketing area does have some common sense rules and those that stretch the guidelines are likely to get themselves into trouble and significantly damage  their and their client’s reputation. Stay tuned to this story!

Here is the link to the local news story. Take a moment and watch the video as well.

 

 

 

 

Website Satisfaction Improves Search Engine Rankings

Web search guru Cyrus Shepard posted earlier this week on MOZ, some great insight into how search engines evaluate and use ‘satisfaction’ in the algorithms that produce the order in which search engine results are placed. With all the attention given to external linking, social media activity and other interactions that can also influence SERP placement, Shepherd really got back to basics. In discussing the fundamentals of user satisfaction he brought up the simple fact that user behavior once on a Web page probably influences future search engine placement – perhaps very significantly.

Understanding that all search engines endeavor to deliver exactly the information the user has requested, it only follows that they will evaluate the activity that takes place immediately following a search engine referral to see if they got it right. Does the user immediately hit the back button and try a different result? Does the reader stay on the page and consume the content and then venture onto other pages within that Website?

The Google sees all!  All this activity is tremendously important to understand. The ultimate Big Data collector, Google captures an incredible volume of search engine activity and interaction from which they can build finely tuned measurement systems to evaluate how readers interact with a given Web page.  The longer readers stay on a page or site after a search engine referral, the more confidence the search engine has that they have properly ranked their results properly.

This brings up multiple areas to look at when trying to improve your Web page and its search engine placement.  Among the considerations for improving ‘satisfaction’ and thus improving SERP placement then include:

  • Rapid page load speed
  • Easy to understand navigation
  • Easy access to content and page value
  • Good quality content (of course!)
  • Depth of content (to keep readers on the page)

This last point – depth of content may indicate a need to redesign or restructure some of the more important web pages on your site to provide more value and give readers a reason to stay engaged.  Landing page development should of course provide reasons to stay on the page, but they should also be easy to use and not inhibit one’s interest in consuming the content (such as an annoying pop up or request for more information).

With so much of the focus of SEO being on attracting natural links, this is a refreshing way to look at the SEO function. After all, what good is it to optimize a site and attract readers only to have them drop off.

In the end building a Website that gives readers what they are searching for is just good business. And… it keeps your site in good position on the search engine results.

 

Image Optimization in SEO – Attracting Traffic With Pictures

One of the interesting observations following the roll out of Penguin 2.0 were the number of clients that now have their images appear as search results! This development isn’t necessarily the result of changes in the Google algorithm, but may be related to some of the things we (SEO Consultants in Denver ) did to prepare for it.

As rumors of a new Penguin update grew louder, we recommended to several clients that we again review their on page optimization and update any page assets to make sure we were clearly communicating to the search engines the unique content of each page. Included in this effort was attention given to image descriptions. This is a process that had occasionally been overlooked in previous reviews, but with the looming threat of a new algorithm update, we thought it best to give extra effort to all page assets.

Optimizing images for search is nothing new. Properly set and descriptive alt tags make the page more readable and searchable. However, prior to Penguin 2.0, we encouraged clients to give a little extra effort to making sure that image files and alt tag descriptions were consistent with the keyword and term strategy for each page. Renaming a few image files as well as resetting the alt tags for some of our client images didn’t take long and was something done almost as an afterthought to the entire Penguin preparation effort. In the end, there were some very positive results. Several clients now have their images appearing in non-branded searches.

Product Image Optimization

Organizations that have unique product images on their website can use these images to compete for more search engine traffic. In addition to the website appearing as an organic search result, images that match search terms may appear as separate search engine results. The image is clickable to a larger version on Google, beneath which is a link to the website from which the image was pulled. In a sense, this is an additional opportunity to compete for reader attention and to display any visual product advantages to potential buyers.

Inspiring the search engines to display images then seems to require a simple, two-fold strategy:

  • strong on page optimization
  • image optimization consistent with on page term strategy

On Page Optimization is essentially the same methodology of identifying keyword terms and installing descriptive title, description and even keyword terms. Making these consistent across all meta data types has proven important in building each page to attract traffic.

Image optimization requires the Web operator to make sure the file name from which the image is pulled, is somewhat descriptive of the type of image displayed. File names such as “snowthrowerimages” instead of “images1” work well. Setting alt tag content to a more descriptive level is a simple matter of describing the product, preferably utilizing a keyword term. Alt tag descriptions such as “Red Snow Thrower” then describes the image further.  When the search engines crawl the page, they will note that the images come from a file named “Show Thrower Images” and one of the actual pictures is of a “Red Snow Thrower.” If the page is optimized using the term “Snow Thrower,” these images would then appear to be more likely to be picked up and displayed as a search result.

In the end, thinking of image display as part of the meta data exercise may be beneficial. Whenever meta data is modified or updated, including the image file name and alt tags in the modification process enables the search engines to more clearly understand what each page contains. And when some of the expected search terms are used, the search engines may be more likely to grab an image from the website to use in their results display.

Much of this is not news to experienced SEOs, but we’ve seen a number of Webmasters forget to include image optimization in their page maintenance programs. And after the latest Penguin update, we are seeing more client product images appear on search results pages.

Service Businesses and Image Optimization

What does this mean for service oriented business?  Images can be developed for any line of work. Services that develop images or info-graphics that describe improved performance or better user experience may also offer some opportunity for image result display. Google in particular though, seems to be able to sniff out non-product images fairly easily, so image display for non-product business Websites may be a bit more challenging. Optimizing these images may require talking more about results, achievements and relationships and then describing them in a fashion consistent with other page meta data.

We are working a couple trials using descriptive service images, so we will keep everyone updated in this blog space.

 

 

Google Algorithm Update – Importance of On Page Optimization

After working through some search results following the latest Google algorithm update, we were able to isolate some additional characteristics of websites that ranked better after last week’s Penguin 2.0 launch. In reviewing results from multiple pages, sites and comparing rankings from before and after the 2.0 push, we have concluded that two areas seem to make the difference in performing well on the search engines. These are:

  • Good Quality “On-Page” Optimization, and
  • Natural Links

Good Quality On Page Optimization

Google in particular has really pushed the need for good quality content, but there seems now to be an extension into good quality optimization.  As part of ‘Good Quality’ optimization, the pages we’ve noted as being more successful after Penguin 2.0 have been optimized around well-researched keyword terms. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, these sites have good quality internal linking strategies that utilize these keyword terms in naturally appearing language.

Sites that did well after the latest Penguin roll-out managed to fit the keyword strategies into the recommended character limits for title and description tags. We could not tell that style of title tags made much difference.  Titles that included the keyword terms in a more natural sentence structure did just as well as those that were ‘pipe-separated.’

Sites that did well also contained the keyword terms towards the leading portion of the meta description.  Although it isn’t anything new that more important keywords should be placed at the beginning of title and description tags, it was at least interesting to see that sites that endeavored to structure the tags in this fashion now seem to be rewarded.

We didn’t see any changes or ranking improvements for sites that provided a great deal of additional mark-up. One of our sites that did well had invested some time in providing additional mark up content through things like abstract tags. However the improvements in this site’s rankings may have more to do with the ‘spammy’ link profile of its competitors which may have caused them to drop down in search engine placement. This will require a bit more research, but looking at the importance of additional markup may be worth future effort.

Natural Links:

Google has been harping for some time about the ‘natural link’ methodology for building web page strength. Links inspired due to good quality content is ideal, but other methodologies, such as guest blogging are a popular – if time consuming – way of building external links.  However, we discovered that client sites that placed well after Penguin 2.0 were ones that didn’t invest a great deal in guest blogging.  Several did invest in press release efforts for event and milestone announcements, but guest blogging didn’t seem to be an important part of the link building strategy.  Note:  can we conclude then that guest blogging is not important?  Well.. no… but.. we just didn’t see any examples where a guest blogging strategy produced improved results over the past week.

Natural links still seem to be the main difference between sites that place well on the search engines and sites that struggle for attention. And in the end, good quality content promoted through press release and social media seem to inspire the link strength necessary to rank well. The slow-growth method of building link strength through quality content seems to – at least at first glance – pay off.

We will have more observations throughout the upcoming weeks on what Penguin 2.0 might mean for other types of link building and optimization.