Building Blocks

Regardless of your expertise in social media marketing, it’s always helpful to go back and review the basics from time to time and compare your company’s campaigns and strategies to these building blocks. Have you set a secure, stable foundation? Are you working efficiently to save time and money?

Leiden Johnson, of Business2Community, has a few of these social media marketing basics for you to keep in mind. Make sure you haven’t strayed too far from the path in your own campaigns.

On Friday, Google launched “How Search Works” in an effort to inform the public exactly what Google does. The centerpiece of it all was a large infographic filled with broad information about how the search engine crawls and indexes the web, how their algorithms work, and how Google fights spam. With the infographic, Google also released tons of resources that SEOs will find of interest.

One of those resources was the official release of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines for the first time ever. Many have already seen a version of this document, as an older, edited version was leaked and circulated quietly already. What is interesting is how different the new version is from the one passed around in the past. The non-public version of the document clocked in at 161 pages, which makes the new 43 page version feel slim.

It is possible Google chopped down the version they actually use for public release in order to maintain a small amount of secrecy as to how Google’s human search quality raters grade results, but it is also possible the company has been steadily revising and streamlining their guidelines over time.

To understand which document you should put more weight in, you need to compare what has been changed, and what has been left in. For example, the third and fourth parts of the document have been completely cut, removing detailed guidelines on how to rate pages, how to gauge the reputation of a website, and even specific examples of public webpages with example ratings. Matt McGee took the time to document every change to the guidelines before their public release. It is up to you to decide which version you should favor.

Pay-per-click advertising, such as Google AdWords, can offer a variety of benefits for your company, but you should also be aware of the things it cannot do. Unfortunately, there is a lot of chatter that creates myths about the capabilities of PPC advertising. Lisa Raehsler of Clickz recently set out to debunk some of these myths.

1. PPC and Instant Sales

Don’t expect to start your AdWords account, then kick back and watch your sales numbers soar. You’ll need time to tweak your campaigns and hone in on your target audience. This is especially true for niche markets.

2. PPC Isn’t A Cure All

There are times when pausing your PPC campaigns is actually the best option. Don’t rely on them to help sales rebound in all situations.

3. Consider More Than Conversions

Just because an ad doesn’t directly lead to a conversion doesn’t mean it isn’t doing its job. Many consumers need multiple interactions before they will turn into a conversion. Your ad may have just opened the door for a future conversion.

4. PPC and SEO

There are plenty of people who have pushed the rumor that companies who advertise with AdWords receive better position in Google search. It’s simply not true.

5. The Top Spot Isn’t Tops

Many times, the top spot will perform best in sales, but you’ll also be paying for that position. The conversion rate for lower positions can sometimes beat that number 1 spot and you’ll pay a much lower premium.

If your company is trying to establish itself on the internet, a low quality site isn’t an option any more. If you want your business to stand a chance online, you must have a quality design that is as professional as it is memorable.

But, as a business owner that doesn’t focus on web design, getting a great looking professional website can be hard. A lot of startups, hoping to save by not hiring a professional, push a non-designer into the role of developer. Others settle for a shoddy website or no site at all, hoping to have the extra resources to do it properly. Neither works well.

There are ways for startups to get the professional website they want, however there isn’t a magic formula. Getting a great website that will draw in customers takes a lot of hard work and time, but it pays off well. To help get you started, Lior Levin gives some tips on how to work towards the design you want and save a little time and money while you’re doing it. With his tips, all you will need is a competent designer and the drive to create a webpage people will want to visit.

Anytime a new website owner starts looking for an SEO, they always want to get to that precious number one spot for searches on Google. It’s hard not to want it, especially when quite a few people don’t even scroll down the page when they search for something. However, you shouldn’t be measuring SEO success by rankings.

There are plenty of SEO metrics to measure site success with, and rank isn’t near as important as you might think. Nick Stamoulis pinpointed three reasons you shouldn’t be focused on rank when you start using an SEO service.

Search is Personalized – Search engines are getting more advanced with their searches, and Google has a huge amount of user data they can take advantage of to craft search results that are personalized for every user. If you manage to show up in the number one spot for one searcher, you likely won’t for another. Rankings aren’t a concrete list of sites anymore, but a fluid collection of sites based on what you have shown interest in before.

Rankings Fluctuate – Aside from the differences in search results from user to user, Google is constantly updated their algorithms and finding new content. The web is in a continuous state of change, and the rankings evolve to match this. While Google’s big algorithm changes may make drastic differences to results, the smaller continuous updates going on can change a couple rankings for any keyword every day. Search engines also favor brand new content, so sites that have slacked off start to fall down the rankings.

Ranking for the Wrong Term is Useless – No honest SEO company will promise to get you a specific ranking. Some markets are more competitive than others, and you can’t control what Google does. That doesn’t stop some less reputable SEO services out there from promising they can get you the number one rank. The problem is, they will get you the number one rank for a keyword no one is searching for. If no one is searching for it, no one will notice that your page is the first result.

Are you hoping to grow your business through Facebook? Chances are, if you’re here, you are trying to do exactly that. It seems like everywhere you turn there are articles dispensing advice about what you should and should not be doing to gain a fantastic ROI from your company’s Facebook page. Many of those articles give you fairly similar advice about engaging with your audience and posting interesting, engaging content. While those are certainly great ideas to get the ball rolling, it’s refreshing when you read an article that has something different to say.

Such is the case with the article posted on the unofficial Facebook blog, AllFacebook. Head over and check it out to get a rare perspective about how Facebook apps can help your business grow from an employee of an app company. There are some other tips as well, which, while useful, are mostly things you’ve heard many times before. Concentrate on the advice concerning apps. It’s a unique perspective you won’t find many other places.

Google has been fighting spam with algorithms and manual penalties, but the best tool this whole time may have been information. Google has offered Webmaster Guidelines for ages now, but there has still been quite a bit of misinformation as to how exactly search works. Those who don’t spend their time reading tech and internet books, blogs, and websites probably don’t have any idea how search works.

As Search Engine Journal pointed out on Friday, Google has heightened their resolution towards open information with an infographic entitled How Search Works. The infographic is broad and won’t give a lot of new information towards exactly what search signals are being favored or what the best methods are (that’s what the Webmaster Guidelines are for after all) but the infographic will be very helpful to those who may not understand how Google handles indexing the entire internet.

What may be of some interest to SEOs and other internet professionals is the additional information Google released along with the unveil of How Search Works, including Search Quality Rating Guidelines, charts of what type of spam they have been removing, and how often Google gets Reconsideration Requests. Even when they don’t give a lot of specifics, any information directly from Google is always great for those of us trying to make our websites fit their requirements as well as possible.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s March! It’s too late to be making predictions for 2013!” You’re right, and I normally write off any list coming out at this point, but a full ebook analyzing what is coming up in web design trends should perk the ears of any web designer trying to stay up to date.

The team at Awwwards released an ebook called Web Design and Mobile Trends for 2013 in mid February with some analysis, but they weren’t done there. They took the feedback they received on their opinions, created a new list with ten key trends web designers should be aware of and re-released the ebook with corrections last week.

Their list doesn’t reinvent the wheel. I’ve already written about a fair number of their trends such as flat design supposedly usurping skeuomorphism, device or technology agnostic designs, and content first approaches. What the list does is show what the public is talking about, and what web designers are doing.

For example, I scarcely believe that any style of design like flat design or skeuomorphism will ever be monolithic on the web, but there are a few aesthetic and technical reasons to believe flat designs will continue to become more prominent. First, web design is refining itself towards a more minimalistic layout as designers are learning that clutter is an enemy. Secondly, The wide variety and quality of devices connecting to the internet creates a need for designs that will look and perform great on fancy new retina displays as well as on mobiles in the non-western market with likely slower internet connections and eReaders.

Meanwhile, predictions like going content first on your website seem like they should always have been common sense, but less advanced algorithms couldn’t favor in the past. As Google has improved their spam fighting campaign, questionable backdoor habits have been thrown out in favor of creating websites people will want to see.

It is always best to let the people making their predictions qualify them, and Awwwards is a great source of intelligent conversation on web design, so I highly advise reading their ebook and checking out their list.

TypelateWeb designers can never have enough tools and kits for making their websites look great quickly. With the rise of typography, there are numerous kits coming out that help designers catch up to the huge advances in a robust area of design. In the past, designers were limited to a select few fonts, so extensive knowledge of typography wasn’t necessary. Now, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to using text to enhance your design.

Smashing Magazine just released a new free-range and open-source typographic starter kit to help designers do just that. The goal of the framework, called Typeplate is to assist designers without forcing them into any sort of mold. Pattern libraries quickly make a design look good, but they tend to have generic results, and normal web frameworks force you to code “their way.”

Instead, this “starter kit” helps give your project a jump start, but making no assumptions about how you write code. Typelate lets you set base styles with conventional typographic features, created with solid markup and extra flexible styling. It isn’t meant to be a framework you add a little information to and expect a finished product. Instead, it is meant to be extended and customized while allowing designers to make the process of instituting typography onto their page a little faster.

Trash BasketTwo years ago Google unleashed Panda onto the world, and SEO hasn’t been the same since, especially when it comes to link building. Hundreds of thousands of sites have been penalized and some have made their way back to where they were, but countless others have perished or are still trudging along trying to recover.

Some of those sites were mostly innocent and got in trouble for just being a little too unscrupulous or not quite knowing what they were doing with link building, but the wide majority of these sites hit by penalties were flagrantly engaging in cheating trying to get their site’s traffic up by gaining a massive quantity of low quality links instead of a respectable number of solid links.

Still, those penalized have had to try to find a way to get their site restored to its former traffic rates and search rankings, and after two years of toiling away, the question eventually arises: “Should I just give up and start over?” Well, Eric Ward gives a simple question to that. “Are you going to do things differently with the new site than you did with the old site? If not, then it really doesn’t matter.”

Most of the websites unable to reclaim their former “glory” are still struggling because they haven’t wised up. The only way to be able to consistently rank highly on Google and Bing is to run a quality site people will want to visit. You can use SEO to get you there, but you can’t fake a good site.