22 December 2011

Local Search Engine Optimization

1. Local Search Engine Optimization 

 

The first type is local SEO, which means getting listed in Google Places. We recommend small business owners start with local SEO, because it's the easiest and fastest to setup and start seeing results.
Recently, Google has made local business results much more prominent by displaying local business results at the top for millions of searches. For many searches, the local results are even more prominent than the regular "Top 10? results.
If you've been stuck on the sidelines and haven't been investing in SEO because you thought it was too complex or too expensive, you no longer have that excuse. It's much faster and easier to break onto the 1st page of Google with local SEO.
Here are the 3 main ingredients for a successful local SEO campaign are:
i. Demand
What keywords are your potential customers searching to find your type of business?
You don't need to guess. Google has a free keyword research tool, available here: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
ii. Relevance
You need to edit and optimize your Google Places page to make it relevant to these keywords, so Google knows to display your business listing when people are searching for your type of services.
C. Authority
You need to prove to Google that you're a credible, trusted business. And the 2 main authority ingredients are citations and reviews.

We created a step-by-step training program  that shows you exactly how to do all of this, so you rank at the top of Google's local results. Learn more about it here: SEO Courses

2. Traditional Search Engine Optimization ('Top 10? SEO)

The other type of SEO is the type you're probably already familiar with. We call it traditional SEO (or Top 10 SEO) because these are the techniques to get you listed in the regular (non-local) Top 10 results.
Traditional SEO is a little bit more complex than local SEO, but has the same 3 main ingredients:
i. Demand
You need to do keyword research to find what words your potential customers are using to search for your services. Same as with local SEO, use Google's keyword tool as the starting point.
ii. Relevance
You need to make your website relevant to your keywords. And specifically, you want to focus on 1 keyword per page. So, if you offer a bunch of different services, then you should have a page for each of those services.
iii. Authority
The main factor Google looks at when judging the trustworthiness of your site for the Top 10 results is your incoming links (or hyperlinks). Links are like positive votes in favor of your business.
If you include these 3 ingredients in your traditional SEO campaign (keyword research, content, and links) you will begin to rise in Google's Top 10 results and start getting more visitors to your website.

A Note About Building Links...

Most of the small business owners I've been speaking to have only been focused on getting reciprocal links by setting up link exchanges with other websites.
Reciprocal links can be OK, but in some instances they can actually be counter productive. Overall, link exchanges really aren't the best way to build links, so I don't recommend spending too much energy there.
You want to get a lot of different types of links to your website. And instead of focusing on link exchanges, you should focus more of your time on building one-way links to your website (where other website link to you, without you linking back to them). One-way links are much more helpful for building up your website's authority.
Why would another website link to you? Maybe it's because you are providing a helpful resource on your website. Or perhaps you write an online column for a local newspaper's website, and they let you place a byline link back to your website. There are many ways to build links, and that's outside of the scope of this post.

23 November 2011



What Is the Meta Description Tag?
It’s a snippet of HTML code that belongs inside the section of a web page. It is usually placed after the Title tag and before the Meta keywords tag (if you use one), although the order is not important.
The proper syntax for this HTML tag is:

If you’re using a content management system (CMS), look for a field to fill out that’s called Meta Description, or possibly just “Description.”

There are 3 important ways that Meta descriptions are being used today that make them an important part of your SEO and overall online marketing strategy:
1. They can be used as the description (or part of the description) of your page if it shows up in the search results.
2. They are often used as part of the descriptive information for your pages when Google shows “extended sitelinks” for your site.
3. They are often used as the default description in social media marketing links such as Facebook and Google+.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

1. Meta Descriptions in the Search Results
People often think that whatever they put in their Meta description tag will be the default description that the search engines use under the clickable link to their site in the search results. While this is sometimes true, it’s not always the case.
Currently, if you’re searching for a site by its URL (for example www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za) Google tends to use the first 20 to 25 words of your Meta description as the default description in the search engine result pages (SERP). However, if you have a listing at DMOZ, also known as the Open Directory Project (ODP) and are not using the “noodp” tag, they may default to that description instead. (Do a search at Google for www.amazon.com to see an example.)
Bing and Yahoo!, on the other hand, don’t always default to the Meta description tag for URL searches. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. A search for www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za   at Bing or Yahoo! shows content from my home page as the description rather than the contents of our Meta description tag.
Of course, real people aren’t typically searching for a site by URL, so what the search engines show for those types of search queries is not as important as a true keyword search. So don’t get hung up on what you see when you search for your site by its URL or if you’re doing a “site:command” search to see how they’re indexing your pages.
Instead, go to your favorite web analytics program and find the keyword phrases that are currently bringing you the most traffic. Then see what your description looks like at Google when you type in those keywords.
And surprise! What you’ll find is that your search results description will be different for every search query! You may see any combination of the following used:
* Your entire Meta description tag text as the complete description (typically if it’s highly relevant and contains no more than 25 words).
* A full sentence pulled from your Meta description tag, but not the entire Meta description (if it contains more than one sentence).
* Text from one part of your Meta description mashed together with text from another part of it (if it’s more than 25 words long).
* Some text from your Meta description mashed together with some text from the page.
* Some text from your page mashed together from some other text from your page (nothing from the Meta description).

Some of the circumstances that cause Google to not use text from your Meta description may include:
* The information in the Meta description tag was not specific to the page it was on.
* The search query used some words that were not in the Meta description, but those words (or some of them) were used in the page content.

My recommendation is to always use keywords on any pages where you get search engine visitors (or hope to get them). Make them very specific to the page they’re on by describing what someone will find when they click through to the page from the search results, while also using variations of your targeted keywords.
Because Google will show only show around 20 to 25 words as your description, many SEOs recommend that you limit this tag to a certain number of characters.

For instance, if you’re optimizing a page for 3 different keyword phrases, you could write a 3-sentence Meta description tag, with each sentence focusing on a different phrase. You could probably even insert more than 3 phrases in those sentences if you’re a good wordsmith. The idea, however, is not to stuff this tag full of keywords, but to write each sentence to be a compelling marketing statement – a statement that naturally uses the keywords people might be typing into Google to find your site.

Overall, the Meta description tag gives you a little bit more control over what people might see before they click over to your site. The more compelling it is, the more clickthroughs you should see. If your Meta description tags can help with that, then it’s certainly worth the few minutes of time it takes to create interesting, keyword-rich tags that sum up what users will find when they arrive!

21 November 2011

Using Facebook for business

1. Invite by welcoming
The Welcome-tab is an essential tool. Yes, big brands like Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Fretzie Bercede etc. use it. No, you are not imitating them; just making use of what is available to all. You can make your page look different and exciting. This would organically invite people to your page. The welcome page is the influencing page which can present a clear ‘call-to-action’ to your page visitors; if it’s good then your page would be liked by many automatically!
2. Coupons, offers availablecoupons_socialappshq
You can dole out “special discounts and offers” to your fans (only!). Also, the people who are not your fans can be enticed by showcasing your offers but not providing them. This would be a compelling tactic that would make them ‘like’ your page. Giving discounts and offers is an old marketing technique of course, but in social media it performs as a ‘likeable’ tool!

expectations_socialappshq
3. Learn more of their expectations
Your company is in the process of building up and formation. So it’s always better to learn what your consumers demand from you. You can create quizzes or polls for a particular query and know what your customers are looking for! The level of participation would also let you the number of people interested in your business.  Use the polls app on Facebook to know your customers best!               

4. Updating is crucial
updates_socialappshq
Your page needs to be updated regularly. Make activity on your page, keep it going! Update about the customer-friendly stuff your company just created, the deals happening etc. Share as much as possible! Let them know your company works just like the large busy industry. Make an impression.
answer_socialappshq
 
5. Yes, you’re answerable!
You owe responses to all the comments by your fans. If you are responding well, your customers would certainly feel they have a space in your business. Respond them positively and be transparent. Further, accept criticism since they’re the experiencers of your products. They know the faults best. Accept it and correct it abidingly. Respect the complaints by your ROIs.

05 November 2011

Mobile Website Design

Did you know that in the world today there are more than 2.4 billion mobile phone users, and a thousand more are added every minute!
About 30% of these mobile phone owners (more than 700 million and growing) have browsed the Internet through their mobile phones. This is the reason why mobile Web browsing is predicted to become the next predominant Internet platform.


The Basic Principles of Mobile Website Design

First, you have to know that the Web site design and construction generally used for computer browsers is not compatible with that of mobile phones. For your site to work well on a mobile handset, it must follow the accessibility design guidelines for building mobile Websites which are set by the W3C.
In mobile phones, the technology called the WAP is used for browsing. Because of the limitations of WAP browsers in terms of screen size and allowable download, you will need to strip down your current design.
The easiest way to build your mobile Website is to modify your existing Internet site to make it compatible for mobile handsets. If you decide to do so, expect that there will be big changes in terms of layout, design and construction.

Here are some principles about mobile Web design that you should take note of before proceeding to build one of your own:
  • Websites which make use of tables for the main layout will not look right on mobile phones.
  • Your site must use CSS for the layout to ensure maximum compatibility.
  • It is easiest if your site is coded using either XML or XHTML, with your character encoding set at UTF-8.
  • You have to consider that different mobile phones have different screen sizes. This can be a major headache if you want your mobile Web site design to run on all of them.
  • Remember to put all the most important information that you want mobile users to see on the top of the page. It can be time consuming to browse through a mobile site, not to mention tedious to read through. Make your mobile site design convenient for your consumers.
  • It is difficult to enter text in mobile Web sites. You may want to offer your user the convenience of radio buttons and lists, which they can choose from depending on what they need.
  • If you wish to put images on your mobile Website, it should be in jpeg or gif format.
  • A good mobile Web site design provides back buttons and links. Many phones are not equipped with back buttons, so try to provide one.
  • Keep in mind that the maximum page size for a mobile page is only 20 kilobytes. Make everything fit into that number.
  • Lastly, you should bear in mind that users are actually paying fees to access your mobile Website. Make sure that they are getting their money's worth!

Having a mobile friendly website is especially important for businesses who want to increase their exposure onto a fresh, up-and-coming platform ahead of their closest competitors. However, designing and optimising sites for various mobile platforms is very challenging due to the amount of smart phone platforms available .

 The fact is that people accessing the web via their phone are having to deal with smaller screen and slower connection times, meaning that a site that looks impressive on a PC may lose quality and functionality when accessed with a mobile.

There’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to this kind of specialist website design development. Sites need to be optimised for all of the latest browsing devices, such as iPhones, iPad, Blackberry and Android platforms (amongst others), which can be a time-consuming process.

 Scream Media is proud to offer affordable solutions when it comes to mobile web development and urges any company lacking a sound mobile presence to get in touch before they lose out on exposure and revenue generated from on-the-go web browsing.

12 October 2011

The not so humble Description Tag

Meta tags  are often very misunderstood, people often get confused with the different types of tags available. In short your meta description tag is often used as the snippet on the search results pages to describe your site. So apart from including keywords, it has to do the job of convincing people to click on it.

A nonsensical list of keywords is not going to convince people to click so you have to balance it out with an appealing sentence, preferably including a call-to-action or reason to click.


Yes, it’s important to put your keywords at the start of the tag if you can, but you have up to 160 characters in that tag indexed by search engines, so you should use the space to your advantage. Having a short, unimaginative meta description tag or simply copying your title tag is not going to make any difference to your overall rankings and is more likely to turn your potential visitors off.

Google admitted that it no longer considers the meta description tag in their ranking algorithm anyway, so, other search engines aside, the main job of the tag in Google SERPs is to convince people to click on the link and visit your site.

Put it this way: if you were in the market for an antique chair and you saw the following two listings in Google, which one would you click on?
  • Site1.com – “Antique Dining Chairs.”
  • Site2.com – “Antique Dining Chairs – over 500 chairs on display at the Glebe Antique Centre. Dining chairs to match your table, occasional chairs for that special place in your home.
I’m thinking Site2.com – am I right? And – oh look! The longer tag managed to include *dining chairs* twice and a whole bunch of other keyword phrases as well: *dining chairs Glebe*, *chairs Glebe*, *occasional chairs*, *Antique(s) Glebe*.

Got it? Why not let the experts help. Contact Scream Media today on 021 5590800

11 October 2011

SEO and Blogs

If you don't optimize your blog—or other online content—there's a good chance you're missing out on higher search-engine rankings that could extend your reach well beyond your site's current readership. But take heart: Sometimes all you need are a few tweaks here and there.

SEO Friendly Blogs help you get found on Google


Arrange your post's content in logical order. Think back to the essay format you learned in grade school: an introductory paragraph followed by supporting evidence and a conclusion. It improves readability for human visitors, and will earn a search engine's approval.

Pay attention to word count. According to Google an article should contain at least 200 words. (For eyeballing purposes, most Get to the Po!nt newsletters are between 250 and 300 words.) We recommend writing to a target length in the 400-to-500-word range.

Be sure to use local keywords. If your company offers products or services to a specific region, incorporate terms that local customers will likely use when searching for companies in your area.

Choose an image that complements your text. This provides visual interest for the reader, and you gain SEO points with a keyword in the photo description tag.

Don't duplicate and resubmit content. As with keyword stuffing, this raises major red flags for search engines—and they'll likely treat you like a spammer. "That could be the kiss of death for your site.

Remember to deep link back to your website.  In bound links are essential for SEO, with a Blog you have control over these ln bound links. Look at the heading of this paragraph and you will see exactly what I mean!.

Tweak it one more time. If your blog delivers valuable content, you're already winning most of your SEO battles

30 September 2011

The Importance of Anchor Text for SEO

Anchor text is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Search Engine Optimization but it is also one of the least talked about. Anchor text is the visible text of a hyperlink, for example the text link below links to our home page www.h2lonlinemarketing.co.za   with the anchor text -  h2lonlinemarketing.

This one element of SEO is important to understand because it can help your page get ranked for a target keyword and also help you evaluate your competition more precisely.
The latter is critical and, in fact, if you don’t take anchor text backlinks into proper consideration when looking at the competition for a keyword you could be missing out on some hidden gems that are easy to rank for.



What Is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the hyperlinked text you see on a webpage. It is the visible words that you can click to take you to another page. Anchor text html code looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com”>Your Anchor Text</a>
On most websites, you typically see this as blue text that is underlined and when you click on it with your mouse, you are taken to the corresponding url.


How Bloggers Use Anchor Text
Bloggers and website owners use anchor text naturally to point to other pages on their website as well as pages on other sites that they find relevant to what they are blogging about. You’ve probably even done this yourself when writing a post where you referenced another post on your site, an affiliate product or even a post on another site.
Usually a blogger will use a phrase that indicates what the page is about in the anchor text, as opposed to a url, so that the sentence reads correctly.
The anchor text in these links helps both the visitor and the search engine spiders figure out what the ‘linked to’ page is about.

How Search Engines Use Anchor Text
Search engines use anchor text to help them figure out what the hyperlinked page is about. So, as you can see, getting anchor text backlinks with relevant phrases in the anchor text is pretty important if you want the search engines to rank you for a particular keyword phrase.
In fact, anchor text is such an important factor in ranking a page that pages can rank for a keyword phrase even when that phrase does not appear in the url on the page!
There are several cases where this has happened, but perhaps the most famous is where the Adobe Reader download page ranked number
1 for the search term ‘click here’ for many years even though those words were nowhere on the page. So many people had linked to that page using the anchor text ‘click here’ that it got to the number 1 spot without any on page SEO for the term.

Search engines place a large importance on external anchor text (links coming in from other sites) and some importance on internal anchor text (links from within your own site) when ranking a page so it stands to reason that you should make getting anchor text backlinks with your target keyword phrases a priority.
One important thing to note is that it is widely thought that if two links on the same page target the same url, that only the first link is counted by Google so you want to be sure that you use your desired anchor text in that first link.

How Anchor Text is Important When Judging Competition for a Keyword

If you think about how important anchor text is to the search engines when determining ranking for a keyword, then it’s easy to see why it is a critical component of analyzing the competition for a particular keyword phrase.

Allinanchor:”your keyword phrase”
This will return the pages which have anchor text pointing to it that contain the quoted keyword phrase.
I hope you can see how powerful this is – first of all, Google must think it is an important element of a page because it provides the allinanchor operator. Just the existence of the operator would seem to indicate that it uses the anchor text when deciding what a page is about and ranking it.

Secondly, using this operator will show you which pages are optimizing for your chosen keyword phrase!
It makes sense that only the pages that have anchor text backlinks with your phrase are the ones optimizing for it so you can forget about searching for your phrase in quotes or any of that nonsense.
Not only that but, you can take a look at the actual backlinks for each of your competitors and see how many of them have that anchor text and what the strength of those links are to make a more educated guess as to how difficult they will be to beat out for that top spot.

Anchor Text “Best Practices” For Your Website
Now that you know how important anchor text is to your rankings, I’m sure you will want to pay more attention to it in your SEO efforts but you don’t want to go hog wild and create tons of anchor text backlinks all with the same keyword phrase or you might find that your efforts don’t yield the results you want.
Here are some things to consider:
1. Vary Your Anchor Text – We all know that Google prefers it when people link to you naturally and when that is the case, they don’t all use the same anchor text. So, when you are linking to your site from your articles or web2.0 properties you want to
make sure you don’t always use the same phrase as well. Using your target phrase in about 50% – 60% of the links is probably a good idea.

2. Links From Relevant Pages – For the best results, you want your anchor text backlinks to come from pages that are related to your topic. This is what would happen naturally if people were linking to you and it would most likely be from a blog post on the same topic.

3. First Link On Page – Don’t forget that Google only counts the anchor text from the first link that it sees so if you have more than one link to the same url on a page, act accordingly.

4.Plan For Natural Linking – There’s nothing better than having people just naturally link to one of your posts but, of course, you can’t control the anchor text they use when they do. Since most people will naturally use your headline as anchor text, you want to be sure to consider that when coming up with the title for your blog posts.

Anchor text is crucial to both your SEO efforts as well as when analyzing the competition for a keyword phrase. Taking the time to use it properly can be the difference between ranking in the top 3 and not ranking at all so it’s in your best interest to start putting better anchor text practices to use in your business today!

12 September 2011

Facebook Myth's

Facebook promotions take many forms.

One brand will give away instant-print coupons behind a “like” gate. Another will reward random fans for posting on the brand’s wall. And still another will host a sweepstakes in a custom third-party application.
Can you guess which one of these is violating Facebook’s rules and is likely to see their page brought down?

Alas, Facebook resembles the wild west of social networking. And just as the lawless land of email marketing was tamed a decade ago, the ever-evolving Facebook platform is being settled by emerging best practices, updates to the user experience, and Facebook’s stringent promotion guidelines.

If an objective of your contest is to “go viral”, Facebook wants to stop you. Why? First, Facebook wants you to pay them to drive impressions and engagement through its advertising
platform. Additionally, thanks to game publishers like Zynga (the makers of Farmville and Mafia Wars), viral tactics are now widely considered annoying by Facebook users. Facebook’s desire to make money while delivering an uncluttered user experience means the virality you seek isn’t likely to happen.

MYTH: Clicks on your "Like" button = brand engagement.
REALITY: It's not that easy. Make your brand worth spending time with and you'll achieve real engagement: passion and loyalty. As social media blogger Jay Baer candidly quipped, "I have a deeper engagement with a can of beer than I do with the 'Like' button."

MYTH: Trolls will take over my contest and fan page. REALITY: A clear, thought-out social plan and solid promotions will keep trolls on a short leash. People are people, online as in life, and they'll share negative (and sometimes inappropriate) views as well as positive ones.

MYTH: Giving away an iPad is enough. REALITY: Making fans do stuff for prizes is ineffective; they know the odds of winning are low. Align prizing with your brand and ensure everyone walks away a true winner!

MYTH: I don't need rules for my Facebook contest. REALITY: The legal ramifications of running a contest on any medium are complicated, especially when you're doling out prizes. Seek legal counsel before your promotion, make the rules of the game very clear to players, and safeguard against abuse of those rules.


The Po!nt: Don't be fooled by Facebook's pretty face; it's a jungle in there. Thankfully, that jungle has safe pathways. Take time to learn them, and you'll produce a bunch of cool new inroads with happy, engaged fans. Scream Media has over 8 years experience navigating Facebook and other Social Media platforms. Contact us today on 021 5590800 for a free, no obligation quote.

31 August 2011

How can I get people to revisit my website?


To get people to keep coming back to your website, you need to give plenty of reasons why they should.  If you think about it, it's just common sense.  You wouldn't keep going to a shop every day if nothing had changed each time that you went.  You need to continually add to your site in a variety of different ways.  Add new blog posts/articles, tutorials, videos, pictures, interviews, competitions, news, events, etc.  Doing this regularly gives people an excuse to click on your site and catch up with what's new.  Not only that, but it shows to new visitors that your site is not dead, there is an active presence online. 

When just starting out with a brand new website, you should have an almost endless list of things that you need to add, so you have got more than enough to get you started.  A lot of people think that they need to add everything at once before publishing their site, when actually a single blog post is a great way of starting.  As long as you build upon that on a regular basis, then that is enough reason for people to revisit your website.

Techniques to bring traffic back to your website

Apart from regularly adding content, there are a number of other ways to encourage people to come back to your site.

Email Marketing!
 
This is a great way of getting people back to your website.  The key is to build a large email list of your customers/visitors.  When people register to become a member, you get their email address.  When people sign up to your weekly newsletter, you get their email address.  The more ways there are to get someone's email address the better.
With an email list, you can build a brand, recommend products, promote any events/workshops that you may be holding and more importantly to can encourage people to keep returning to your website. 

Just don't go overboard with emails so that they are viewed as spam!  Nobody likes spam! 

Newsletter!
 
These are a great way to encourage people to return to your website.  Within your newsletter you can keep referring people back to your website.  You can automate the whole process as well, letting it run on auto pilot. 
 
 
RSS Feeds!
 
These are great for informing people about your latest updates.  Feeds update themselves automatically when you add to your blog.  People that have chosen to subscribe to your RSS Feed are automatically told about your new content, giving them incentive to check it out. 
 
These are so easy to set up and do everything automatically for you.  Google Feedburner is a great tool to use to do this.  This is something that you should definitely include on your website.
 
 
Be Friendly!
 
If someone takes the time to email you with a question, then put the effort into replying.  Even if you don't know the answer to the question asked, perhaps you could refer them to somebody that does, or be honest and say I don't know!  The fact that you have shown to actively respond to a visitors question can go along way.
If you are getting lots of emails about the same question, then that might be a good subject to write about in an upcoming blog post.  You could send emails back thanking the individual for the question and stating that you will be writing an in depth post outlining the answer for him.

Post comments on your own posts answering peoples questions, refer to people that have asked questions in videos, etc.  This all helps to build a community around your website.  Doing this sort of thing shows to your visitors that you aren't a faceless website that doesn't interact with its viewers, that you are willing to help if you can.

Network!
 
Get in contact with other people that are involved in your field of interest.  You may not get too many replies if you still have a small reputation, but that will change as you grow your online status.  You could offer to link to their website in return that they similarly link back to you. This can help your credibility and increase your reputation.
As the saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know that matters!" 

Homework!!!

These are just some ways to get people to come back to your website.  Again, this is something that you have to continually work on, it won't just happen over night.  Get in the habit of adding articles/blog posts every few days, regularly tweeting, posting things on your social media sites, running competitions, making videos, etc. If you continually produce reasons for people to return to your site, then they will.



23 August 2011

When algorithms control the world


Globe with binary code Algorithms are spreading their influence around the globe

If you were expecting some kind warning when computers finally get smarter than us, then think again.

There will be no soothing HAL 9000-type voice informing us that our human services are now surplus to requirements.



In reality, our electronic overlords are already taking control, and they are doing it in a far more subtle way than science fiction would have us believe.

Their weapon of choice - the algorithm.

Behind every smart web service is some even smarter web code. From the web retailers - calculating what books and films we might be interested in, to Facebook's friend finding and imaging tagging services, to the search engines that guide us around the net.

It is these invisible computations that increasingly control how we interact with our electronic world.

At last month's TEDGlobal conference, algorithm expert Kevin Slavin delivered one of the tech show's most "sit up and take notice" speeches where he warned that the "maths that computers use to decide stuff" was infiltrating every aspect of our lives.

Among the examples he cited were a robo-cleaner that maps out the best way to do housework, and the online trading algorithms that are increasingly controlling Wall Street.

"We are writing these things that we can no longer read," warned Mr Slavin.

"We've rendered something illegible. And we've lost the sense of what's actually happening in this world we've made."
Million-dollar book
Cover of the Making of a Fly The book was briefly one of the world's most expensive

Algorithms may be cleverer than humans but they don't necessarily have our sense of perspective - a failing that became evident when Amazon's price-setting code went to war with itself earlier this year.

"The Making of a Fly" - a book about the molecular biology of a fly from egg to fully-fledged insect - may have been a riveting read but it almost certainly didn't deserve a price tag of $23.6m (£14.3m).

It hit that figure briefly on the site after the algorithms used by Amazon to set and update prices started outbidding each other.

It is a small taste of the chaos that can be caused when code gets smart enough to operate without human intervention, thinks Mr Slavin.

"This is algorithms in conflict without any adult supervision," he said.

As code gets ever more sophisticated it is reaching its tentacles into all aspects of our lives, including our cultural preferences.

The algorithms used by movie rental site Netflix are now responsible for 60% of rentals from the site, as we rely less and less on our own critical faculties and word of mouth and more on what Mr Slavin calls the "physics of culture".
Leading role
Hollywood sign Code is playing its own lead role in Hollywood

British firm Epagogix is taking this concept to its logical conclusion, using algorithms to predict what makes a hit movie.

It takes a bunch of metrics - the script, plot, stars, location - and crunches them all together with the box office takings of similar films to work out how much money it will make.

The system has, according to chief executive Nick Meaney, "helped studios to make decisions about whether to make a movie or not".

In the case of one project - which had been assigned a £180m production cost - the algorithm worked out that it would only take £30m at the box office, meaning it simply wasn't worth making.

For another movie, it worked out that the expensive female lead the studio had earmarked for a film would not yield any more of a return than using a less expensive star.

This rather clinical approach to film-making has irked some who believe it to be at odds with a more creative, organic way that they assume their favourite movies were made.

Mr Meaney is keen to play down the role of algorithms in Hollywood.

"Movies get made for many reasons and it credits us with more influence than we have to say we dictate what films are made.


"We don't tell them what the plot should be. The studio uses this as valuable business information. We help people make tough decisions, and why not?" he said.

Despite this, the studio Epagogix has worked with for the last five years does not want to be named. It is, says Mr Meaney, a "sensitive" subject.


If algorithms had a Hollywood-style walk of fame, the first star would have to go to Google.

Its famously secret code has propelled the search giant to its current position as one of the most powerful companies in the world.

No-one would doubt that its system has made searching a whole lot easier, but critics have long asked at what price?

In his book, The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser questions how far Google's data-crunching algorithm go in harvesting our personal data and shaping the web we see accordingly.

Meanwhile, a recent study by psychologists at Columbia University found that reliance on search engines for answers is actually changing the way humans think.

"Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganising the way we remember things. Our brains rely on the internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker," said report author Betsy Sparrow.

Increasingly, she argues, we are knowing where information can be found rather than retaining knowledge itself.


Flash crash
Traders at the New York stock exchange Move over traders, there's a new code in town

In the financial markets, code is increasingly becoming king as complex number-crunching algorithms work out what to buy and what to sell.

Up to 70% of Wall Street trading is now run by so-called black box or algo-trading.

That means, along with the wise guy city traders, banks and brokers now employ thousands of smart guy physicists and mathematicians.

But even machine precision, supported by the human code wizards, doesn't guarantee things will run smoothly.

In the so-called Flash Crash of 2.45 on May 6 2010, a five minute dip in the markets caused momentary chaos.


    "We are running through the United States with dynamite and rocksaws so an algorithm can close the deal three microseconds faster.”

Kevin Slavin Algorithm expert

A rogue trader was blamed for the 10% Dow Jones index fall but in reality, it was the computer program that the unnamed trader was using that was really to blame.

The algorithm sold 75,000 stocks with a value of £2.6bn in just 20 minutes, causing other super-fast trading algorithms to follow suit.

Just as a bionic limb can extend a human's capability for strength and stamina, the electronic market showed its capacity to exaggerate and accelerate minor blips.

No-one has ever managed to pinpoint exactly what happened, and the market recovered minutes later.

The chaos forced regulators to introduce circuit breakers to halt trades if the machines start misbehaving.

The algorithms of Wall Street may be the cyber-equivalent of the 80s yuppie, but unlike their human counterparts, they don't demand red braces, cigars and champagne. What they want is fast pipes.

Spread Networks has been building one such fibre-optic connection, shaving three microseconds off the 825-mile (1327km) trading journey between Chicago and New York.

Meanwhile, a transatlantic fibre optic link between Nova Scotia in Canada and Somerset in the UK is being built primarily to serve the needs of algorithmic traders and will send shares from London to New York and back in 60 milliseconds.

"We are running through the United States with dynamite and rock saws so an algorithm can close the deal three microseconds faster, all for a communications system that no humans will ever see," said Mr Slavin.

As algorithms spread their influence beyond machines to shape the raw landscape around them, it might be time to work out exactly how much they know and whether we still have time to tame them.

Exerts for the BBC

15 August 2011

Social Media - New Age Marketing

In the good old days customers would communicate with you via letter, phone or in person. Today things are very different. Now they can send you a tweet, post a comment on your blog or leave you a message on Facebook.

In the past if someone was unhappy with your service the 'bad press' was usually limited to a few of their friends and family (unless it was seriously bad service and the wrote to the Editor of your local paper). Now a single tweet or Facebook message could potentially be seen by millions.

Now, more than ever, you must have procedures in place to deal with social media communications. You have to think about how you will monitor them, how you will respond to both positive and negative comments and how you'll interact with your audience.

Enhancing your online reputation is essential in todays transparent culture. Here are 3 easy things you can do to make sure your company holds its head up high and shines.

1. Thank you

Manners cost nothing and a simple 'thank you' can be a very powerful tool.

When a follower retweets you, leaves a comment on your blog or sends a referral to you, thank them. It doesn't take a lot of effort and shows that you are listening and that you care about your customers. And in the eyes of your customers, that translates into the image of a company they want to do business with.

But you don't just have to keep an eye on your social media platforms. There are many other ways you can be talked about online so it's important to monitor the internet to find out what's being said. There are a number of tools out there such as Google Alerts which will email Google results based on your query or topic:

googlealerts


Using these tools will help you keep track of what people are saying about you online so you can see how your brand is perceived and, as a customer service tool, enables you to solve issues quickly before they get out of hand.

2. Blogging

Loads of people blog so that should tell you its a valuable tool to use within your business.

Not only does it allow you to own more of the web, it also is a great way to add value to your customer relationships because you can offer them tips and advice that will make their lives easier. Plus it will help position you as an expert in your field which is always good.

But the trick is to ensure you write stuff your readers want to learn about. If you are a building firm and blog about holidays, you're not going to be adding value. But if you wrote about important issues in your trade, design ideas etc., you would create a connection with your readers and inspire them to make the most of their homes.

Take this blog for example, as an online marketing manager I not only write about marketing but also general marketing issues, social media, seo etc., which are all topics business owners find useful. Therefore not only do I get traffic to my website, the people that come also find the experience useful.

3. Focus on benefits

Whenever you write about your products or services, always focus on your customer; why they will benefit from it. By writing for them you are showing that you understand what's important to them and want to help them achieve that.

Showing that kind of connection will identify you as a company that cares about its customers and not just its profits. And let's face it, you tend to buy from people you like and trust. So if you come across as arrogant people aren't going to buy from you.

When marketing your business it's all too easy to get wrapped up in it and lose sight of what's really important – your customers.

Make sure they are at the forefront of everything you do because without them you don't have a business.

Interact with them, thank them and go out of your way to make sure they are happy. Use social media to your advantage.

02 August 2011

The importance of website loading times

You always hear webmasters talking about how fast their site is and how they can speed it up even more. But why is that so important?
Why Speed Matters
If you've ever visited a website that takes forever to load, you know the answer to this. Visitors leave before you've even had a chance to convince them you have what they're looking for. Google has taken this one step further by including it in their list of ranking factors.

So, how fast a page loads does really sort of matter. Not that 1/100ths of a second will make that big of a deal, but if you can improve your load time and your code, there's no reason not to spend some time on it.

Tricks for Speeding Up Load Times


You can do tons of little things to speed up a page's load time:

Caching -- Plugins and tools such as WP Super Cache turn PHP into quick HTML, to ease the burden of heavy files and display pages faster. It's effortless and only takes a few seconds to set up.

CSS Sprites -- If you're a little more familiar with code, or have someone available to help tweak your code, you can consider using CSS sprites. Basically, this trick combines all of your graphics into one file and positions them correctly using CSS. You can find out more about CSS sprites on Spiced2.

JavaScript -- While pretty, JavaScript can eat a lot of resources and require a lot of time to load. By eliminating as much of it as you can, and minimizing the scripts on the page, you can quickly cut down load times. Also, because CSS can load at the same time as the rest of your site, move your JavaScript files after your CSS files. Rusty Brick also suggests delaying the loading of resources until after the visitor mouses over them. You can find out more at BetterExplained and JavaScript Guides Advanced.

Redirects -- While often necessary, redirects can really inflate page load times. Save yourself and the visitors the time by eliminating them where possible. As an added benefit, you'll also find you can deter people from linking to the wrong URL.

Images and Videos -- These things can eat up a lot of resources too. Get rid of any that aren't necessary (If your site is slow, a ton of ads in the sidebar is often the culprit). Then, compress and shrink them to the right size.

Analytics Programs -- While extremely helpful and useful, analytics can take a long time to load up. Save yourself some headaches by eliminating the code for any analytics programs you're not using. You also may want to switch to an asynchronous tracking code to speed things up.

Hardcode -- While all the gidgets, widgets, and doodads can be really nice, they can also require a fair bit of time to load. By hardcoding things like the header, footer, and sidebars, you can eliminate this time by causing it to load with the rest of your site.

Databases -- Just like trying to find something in a messy room, a messy database takes a lot of extra time to use. Clean it up, fix it, and optimize it regularly. You'll find plugins that do this, as well as an option to do this in phpMyAdmin.

Hosting -- If your host is slow, optimizing your website isn't going to help you any. And chances are if you went cheap on your hosting, it's slow. You may even consider setting up and using a proxy server to act as a go between your host server and your site visitors.


For a FREE SEO scan of you website, including speed test, contact Scream Media today on 021 559 0800 or sue@scream-media.co.za

01 August 2011

The importance of recruiting the right person

The direct and indirect costs associated with hiring the wrong employee is seldom calculated, yet severely felt by organisations, says Jenny Venter, an Organisational Development Specialist at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc. “A growing trend in the industry sees both large organisations and SME’s, placing proper job profiles and performance practices in place in an effort to attract the correct candidate in addition to retaining and developing the talent once the person is employed,” says Venter.

Recruitment practices are influenced by the supply and demand of the labour market, economic conditions, competitor practices and technology. It is a dynamic process that differs from industry to industry. This has never been more relevant then in the space which Scream Media occupies

The urgency to recruit more cost effectively and more accurately measure the output of employees after appointment can, in part, be attributed to the economic downturn. “Although South Africa was somewhat shielded from the global economic crisis, the SA National Treasury reported that near to a million jobs were lost as a result of the economic downturn. Despite the over-supply of applicants in the job market, talent remains limited and many industries still experience skills shortages,” explains Venter.

A survival syndrome has however become evident amongst the labour workforce. “Most employees are less likely to job hop and many retrenched employees are willing to accept positions where they earn less than in their previous position. Due to a need for security and a decrease in vacancies, employees are willing to put up with more frustration depending on the scarcity of their skills. Organisations should however still endeavour to be an employer of choice and actively engage employees, or they may find their top talent exiting as job recovery starts to set in,” Venter warns.

Another trend that is prevailing in the Recruitment industry is the increasing number of organisations that have taken their recruitment function in-house. “The majority of recruitment policies adopted by organisations state that they must first recruit using internal resources. This does not only refer to sourcing talented employees within the organisation, but also extends to using formal and informal professional networks, employee referral programs and social media such as Facebook to source skilled employees. Some larger organisations are headhunting recruitment consultants from agencies that allowed them to secure specialised in-house recruitment expertise,” says Venter.

HR Information Systems have also become increasingly sophisticated, says Venter. “It enables recruiters to process large amounts of applications by using HR technology to screen candidates that do not comply with the minimum job requirements. It also manages the different phases during the recruitment process and provides valuable recruitment metrics.”

Does that spell doom for the formal recruitment industry? “External recruitment services are still utilised, but we do find that more and more organisations are using this avenue as a last resort. For this reason many recruitment agencies have begun to diversify their service offerings to include other HR Services. External recruitment agencies that specialise in sourcing scarce skills, especially in the finance, engineering and building and construction industry still remain popular,” concludes Venter. - Curtsey of Gauteng Business News

Scream Media is currently looking for an intern to join our marketing department,  contact us on 021 559 0800 for more details.

12 July 2011

Social Media and SEO

SEO experts have spent the last decade preaching a gospel of optimized page-level elements and inbound links. Those things are still important today,but getting real SEO results these days requires not only a technically optimized website and relevant inbound links but also a strong, vibrant Web presence that supports your overall brand. Which is where social media comes in.

Promote your content at sites like Facebook and Twitter. Search engines use shares and tweets as a factor when ranking content—so be sure to publish your most recent how-to articles and blog posts where readers can express their approval.
Interact with your fans and followers. You can't just dump content in social networks and expect it to go anywhere. If you don't have many engaged followers on these social media sites,there won't be anyone to help promote your content via shares and re-tweets.
He also suggests driving engagement with tactics like these:
Use keyword research to drive content development. The keywords that visitors use to find your site provide a good indication of the content they want to read. "Look for areas of high search volume, and develop content around those subjects,"
Use historical keyword data to exploit seasonal trends. For example a client's traffic spiked on the term "motorcycle safety" in May. After discovering May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, we prepared content ahead of time so it would rank well during that period.

The Po!nt: Socialize to optimize. Social media matters to search engines—and that means it matters to you.

15 June 2011

Improve your sales online with SEO

Search engine optimisation is something that a lot of small, medium and large businesses will already be familiar with. The idea behind the discipline is to tailor business marketing strategies to the online world and this is a positive move for a number of different reasons.
Clearly there must be some clear motivation for the worldwide increase in internet marketing. The simplest explanation for the rise is that businesses are working hard to keep in step with the attitudes and behaviour of their customers. The internet has become more and more of a domestic resource in the last few years and thanks to social media, email and internet search, the general public now has a plethora of reasons to get online.
Businesses that ignore these trends are likely to miss out on a huge amount of potential traffic. However, it is important to note that having an online presence is not all it takes in order to profit from public fondness for the internet.
Without an effective search engine optimisation strategy, businesses often find that they don’t get the results they expect from their websites. This is particularly the case for enterprises that are just starting out, but it is also relevant for established businesses, because other companies that are especially adept at SEO have every chance of getting ahead of the competition.
The clear business value of using an SEO company is they constantly keep a track on the trends and changes in the search market to help maximise ROI. An example of the scale of these changes known as the “the Google Dance” can be seen by Google announcing it plans to make around 500 tweaks to the algorithm that it uses to rank web sites in 2011. Some of these may be small with little affect but others can dramatically change your web sites rankings.

Contact us today on 021 5590800
It is possible to put a certain level of SEO into practice without professional help, but if you want to muscle in on the major players in your area, then it makes sense to involve SEO experts in your campaign. Professionals can lend their own expertise to your company website in order to snare more traffic and secure greater prominence on globally recognised search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!.
Obtaining a higher ranking from these search facilities is an excellent way of making sure you reach a wider audience – especially in the mobile age where prospective customers have uninterrupted access to the internet.

14 June 2011

Guaranted Google Rankings

Many SEO companies entice new potential clients with the allure of guaranteed Google rankings. This type of guarantee seems attractive to the client because it appears to decrease the client’s risk. However, we believe guaranteed rankings are actually a very risky bet

 3 reasons why guaranteed SEO services are a red flag:

1) Worthless Rankings
Most of the time when an SEO company guarantees rankings, they’ll rank the client’s website for random keywords nobody is searching with any frequency. That means there’s no real competition for the rankings, so it’s pretty easy to gain exposure. But the reality is that, because very few people are searching these keywords, these types of rankings are virtually worthless for the client
The "worthless rankings" scheme is the most common SEO scam. The unsuspecting business owner is proud to have gained some rankings in Google, but isn’t attracting any new customers as a result. Instead, the client is only lining the pockets of the SEO company.

2) Promises They Can’t Keep
It’s unethical for SEO companies to promise that they can rank a particular website #1 in Google.
He explains, At the end of the day, SEO firms don’t decide – Google decides who is going to be on top. Of course at Scream Media we’re usually able to secure very profitable rankings for our clients. But we can’t predict or guarantee that Google will rank our client’s website on top

In fact in our experience, no serious SEO professional would guarantee rankings. "If you’re speaking with a SEO consultant who is offering guaranteed rankings, there’s a good chance that person doesn’t really understand how search engine optimization works. The fact is that there are no guarantees when it comes to Google’s current or future search engine ranking algorithms"

3) A Sign of Desperation
The third reason clients should avoid "guaranteed SEO" is because this offer may be a sign of desperation on the part of the SEO company.
"Whenever we see an SEO company offering ’guaranteed rankings,’ we assume it’s because they’re simply desperate to take on new clients. I imagine they’re doing whatever it takes to sign up a new client – and that would be a big red flag for me, if I were a prospective client"

Are All SEO Guarantees A Bad Idea?
There are certain guarantees an SEO company can make to its clients without being deceptive or creating conflicts of interest.

Scream Media provides the following guarantees to its SEO clients.

1. Timely. "We’ll get the work done on time and according to the specifications in our proposal"
2. Transparent. "We’ll be up-front and transparent with you about what we’re doing to help improve your website’s ranking in the search engines"
3. Accountable. "We’ll provide detailed reporting to show you what progress we’re making and to keep us accountable"
4. Reachable. "We’ll make ourselves personally available for a conference call every month to discuss your SEO campaign and answer any questions you have"

 "We believe this approach to ‘guaranteed SEO’ is professional, ethical, and much more effective for reducing risk for the client guaranteeing specific search engine rankings"

03 June 2011

Twitter versus Facebook

Twitter Aggressively Expands Strategy, Should Facebook Be Worried?


Let me preface this by saying that in the end, this is not just about Facebook and Twitter. Both companies provide services and features that overlap with plenty of other players out there - companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and others. We tend to think about Facebook and Twitter, however, as the frontrunners when it comes to social networking.

Can Twitter give Facebook a run for its money? Tell us what you think.

It would appear that Twitter is getting more serious about competing with Facebook. Obviously there has been a lot of overlap between the two social networks (though neither actually likes to be called "social network"), but Twitter is getting a lot more aggressive in its strategy.

Facebook has certainly become a lot more Twitter-like over the years, particularly with its news feed feature, but Twitter has done little to become more Facebook-like. However, this week alone, Twitter has launched the new "follow" button which can already be seen right alongside the Facebook "like" button on many sites. It has also announced a new photo upload feature and search revamp to make results more relevant - both things Facebook offers.



There are way more people using Facebook than Twitter, but Twitter use is growing. A new report from Pew Internet finds that 13% of adult Internet users have used Twitter (up from 8% in November 2010), and that Twitter use is spreading to a wider range of ages. Those between the ages of 25 and 44 have experienced notable adoption growth since late 2010, though the younger the generation, it appears, the greater the adoption.
Facebook and Twitter both serve as online IDs, providing log-in integration on numerous web properties, and ID is really what it's all about. Google wants to be the ID too, and former CEO Eric Schmidt has been talking about the company's shortcomings in this department this week.

Watch to see how the online ID and mobile payments elements of our lives merge in the future (an area where Google is making bold moves with Google Wallet). This is another potential area where Facebook and Twitter could clash down the line (again, putting aside the rest of the players for a minute). Facebook already has its Facebook Credits. But Twitter for payments? Well, there's already TwitPay (which Eric Schmidt has reportedly invested in). And let's not forget that the recently returned co-founder Jack Dorsey does also run Square (which recently unveiled a very interesting way of paying with its card case). Things are moving much quicker and more aggressively at Twitter since his return. They've already got the ID part. It doesn't sound out of the realm of possibility for Twitter to get into payments does it?

Facebook wants to be considered more of a journalist tool and resource for news in general. It certainly can be both, but the mainstream news media is sure all over Twitter (and Twitter is all over the mainstream media). Twitter, and its more public nature simply seems to attract more of the breaking news - not only from actual journalists, but from citizens. This is nothing new, but it's one area where Twitter has an edge over Facebook.

Twitter is also making more moves in the monetization area. In fact, just this week, the company acquired two thirds of the AdGrok team to add to its revenue engineering team. Ironically, the other third went to Facebook.

11 May 2011

Alt Tag Those Images...

Ever wonder how much meaningful traffic or links could come your way if you search-optimized your images? The answer might be, More than you'd expect.



Thanks to Google's universal search results, images can help you show up on the first page—or, in some cases, even at the top—of results lists. In the process, you can increase click-throughs, ad views, and AdSense impressions. Best of all, optimizing images could help you complete more leads.







Here are five ways to get your images to rank like a star:

Filenames. Use "jpg" or "gif" files, and include keywords in the image file names.

ALT Text. Use ALT Text for its intended purpose; but wherever appropriate, also incorporate keywords as signals for the search engines.

Headings and Bold Text. Optimize important images by using boldface or a heading tag with your targeted keyword, in the text immediately preceding the image.

Image Captions. When possible, place the search term at the front of the caption.

Image Size. For best results, use images that are larger than 100 x 100 and smaller than 1200 x 1200. Linking to a larger picture with thumbnails can also be helpful.


The Po!nt: Don't overlook image optimization. By applying a few SEO tactics, you can actually make a picture worth a thousand words!

03 May 2011

XML Sitemaps

A sitemap (or site map) is a tool to help search engines crawl and index pages on a website more effectively. That can mean search engines will index more of the pages on your site, more quickly than without a sitemap. That in turn makes it easier for people to find your website.


Google and other search engines will spend only a limited amount of time crawling your site. A complete XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemap can direct search engines to your most important pages, increasing the likelihood that these pages will be indexed and then discovered by the people you want to attract. This is called "crawl efficiency," and an XML sitemap can improve yours.
Most websites need only a simple HTML sitemap, which has the benefit of helping people, as well as search engines, find individual web pages. If a site is large or complex, or if you want to add more information to a web page listing, Google recommends having both an HTML sitemap and an XML sitemap following the sitemap protocol that major search engines adhere to.

28 April 2011

Google Places - Free Ads if done right!

Google Places - Every business should take the opportunity to register for this free advert. But like every search based service offered on the internet, there are certain factors that decide how each of the local listings rank. In short, you can optimise your Google Places entry to maximise its impact.
There are a lot of people talking about just which of these factors have the most impact? What we have decided to do is to create a simple set of tips so that people can get the biggest bang-for-their-buck without diving into the technicalities.
One point to keep in mind is that you don’t actually need a website to rank in local listings – some industry watchers seem to be of the opinion that site-based changes have only limited effect on local listings. Though making changes to your site to increase its relevance to your operating area is a positive move irrespective of its eventual effect on local listings.

Some of you may be thinking: “I’m not sure all of these techniques apply to me”, well you know your business better than anyone. I would just suggest that you do as much as you can!
So let’s dive in…

Age Of Listing

OK, it may seem strange to start with something that you can’t actually optimise, but think of it as something to spur you into action if you don’t currently have a Google Places listing. It seems the longer the listing has been in place the more weight it carries. So register your Places listing today!

Categories

This is a big one. You can select up to 5 categories for your listing and its worth spending a little time thinking about the best choices for this section. You may have a mobile car washing firm that keeps your customers’ cars looking sparkling, but putting your listing as ‘sparkling cars’ is probably not a great choice! What do you expect your customers to type? That is a good place to start.
For people who already have an SEO campaign it is also worth looking at the keywords for which you are currently optimising.

Claimed Listing

So what is a claimed listing? A claimed listing are listings that have been verified by the company themselves (which can be done by phone / SMS / mail). Greater weight is placed on listings that have been authenticated, so be sure to claim your listing.

Citations

Citations are basically references to your company being located in a particular area. These can be achieved by submitting your site to directories (especially local ones) and by setting your location to the specified area.

Distance to Centroid

This is the distance of your address to what Google sees as the centre of the specified location: e.g. if someone searches for ‘London Bakery’ and your address is in outer London then this will hurt your rankings. Obviously this a little difficult to optimise. Some people have talked about setting up a post box in a central location, however I’m a bit wary of this. Especially as…

Match your Contact page address with Google Places address

Simply keep your address standard across where you use it. This strengthens your claim to be located in that area.

Include References to Region in Page Title + Description

This is a fairly easy on-page change that anyone can make to their site, just include references to your particular location in the meta title and meta description tags for the pages on your site. I know that sometimes it feels like there is a lot of information to pack into these restricted spaces, but with some clever writing it is almost always possible. This is one site-based change I would recommend performing.

Photos

Yes, actually getting some decent pictures taken of your business. If you aren’t a shop location then still get some decent pictures of the van or transport you use. This not only adds more weight to your Places listing but serves to reassure potential customers that you are a legitimate business.

Videos

Similar to Photos, upload a video to YouTube to advertise your business. Not sure what your video should be of? It can be anything, an interview with yourself or others in the company, shots of people working, maybe even a little humour if applicable.

Coupons

Your Google Places listing has the facility to offer coupons for prospective customers to redeem at your store. This is good for attracting customers but there seems to be a spread of opinion whether this actually increases the strength of your Places Listing.

Local Phone Number

This may seem a little obscure, but if you are offering a localised service then using a phone number with a local area code can be an advantage. After all, a rival with a 0800 number could be anywhere, a local number ties you to that area.

HCard

HCards are basically a way of including contact information in existing files such as HTML pages. Google has been looking at this data for a while now: for example they made reference to these ‘microformats’ when they introduced their Rich Snippets for some search results.

Customer Reviews

Positive customer reviews are your friend here, and although generating these is not always the easiest thing in the world. Their existence can not only help your word-of-mouth traffic and Google Places listing but can even help with your online advertising. Finding ways to incentivise happy customers to write online reviews is definitely time well spent.

Negative Google Places Ranking Factors

Using Keywords Name + Description

I’ve mentioned this negative factor as it seems like something of a contentious issue. For many it’s a great way to boost the relevance of your listing for a particular keyphrase, for others it’s a good way to get your listing penalised.
Some suggest just adding words to the business title if they seem applicable – e.g. ‘Mc Millans’ might enter ‘Mc Millans Bakery’ – but Google’s guidelines specifically rule this tactic out.
“Do not attempt to manipulate search results by adding extraneous keywords or a description of your business into the business name.”
This is not a complete list of factors but an amalgam of the cacophony of opinions available on the web. Keep an eye on the Google Places guidelines to make sure you aren’t being pulled astray, but know that time spent making the most of your Places listing is a great free way to boost your Google Profile.

Too much info? Contact Scream Media today and let us do the hard work.

27 April 2011

Google's new +1 Button and how it will effect SEO

Do people care about search like they care about friends?

Last month Google unveiled its new +1 button, which the company came right out and said would contribute as a ranking signal for its search engine. While it has yet to roll out to everyone (you can opt-in for it), the button has the potential to either be a huge win for Google (and search in general) or a huge bust.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the button, and the impact it will actually have.

Do you think the Google +1 Button will succeed or will it be another flop?

1. Will publishers adopt the button?

One of the reasons Facebook's "like" button is so popular is because publishers all over the web post it on all of their content. It helps drive engagement among readers, and potential traffic as users share that content with their friends.

Google already offers the Buzz button, and it does appear on many content sites. It stands to reason that any site currently using the Buzz button will adopt the +1 button, as it should do essentially the same thing, while also contributing to search rankings. Why not use it? that leads us to the second question, but before we get to that, it's also worth noting that the Buzz button is not nearly as omnipresent as the Facebook Like button. Again, the search implications may still encourage sites like these to adopt the +1 button.

The +1 button is shorthand for "this is pretty cool" or "you should check this out."
Click +1 to publicly give something your stamp of approval. Your +1's can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search.

23 April 2011

Tiny URLs - are they killing your SEO?

With Google looking more at social media these days, in terms of ranking signals, a lot of webmasters continue to wonder how Google treats URL-shorteners in terms of SEO.
Which URL-shorteners do you use to promote your content? Let us know.
This isn’t completely new information, but it still seems to be a topic that continues to come up fairly regularly. Google’s Matt Cutts addressed the issue in a video posted to Google’s Webmaster Help YouTube channel.
“Custom URL shorteners are essentially just like any other redirects,” he explains. “If we try to crawl a page, and we see a 301 or permanent redirect, which pretty much all well-behaved URL shorteners (like bit.ly or goo.gl) will do, if we see that 301 then that will pass PageRank to the final destination.”
“So in general, there really shouldn’t be any harm to using custom URL shorteners in your SEO,” he continues. “The PageRank will flow through. The anchor text will flow through, and so I wouldn’t necessarily worry about that at all.”
“Now, just to let you know, if you look at, for example, Twitter’s web pages, many of those links have a nofollow link,” he adds. “So those links that are on the webpage, may not necessarily flow PageRank, but we might be able to find out about those links through some other way – maybe a data feed or something like that. But just URL shorteners, as far as how they relate to SEO, are not necessarily a problem at all.”
When we spoke with Gil Reich of Answers.com at SMX Advanced last summer, he suggested using shorteners that let you get keywords in the URLs.

16 April 2011

Googles "Kung Fu" Panda puts the squeeze on Microsoft

However, the update benefited many other media sites including Tech Radar rival Tech Crunch, owned by AOL, which saw visibility increase by 41%. Mirror.co.uk, ITV.com and Metro.co.uk all saw visibility boosted by about 20%.


The search visibility data was compiled by Berlin-based search analytics company Search Metrics that looked at how sites’ visibility fared before and after Google’s Panda update against popular keywords.

SearchMetrics CTO Marcus Tober says the brands affected by the Panda update can still turnaround their search visibility.

He says: “One of the important things to remember is that you must make your site useful to your visitors first - by putting information up there that is truly valuable and different.”

Tober adds that it is likely Google will fine tune its algorithm update in the coming weeks so that some sites will not take such a “painful hit”.

Top 20 ’losers’ from Google’s Panda UK update (Source: Search Metrics)

Domain    New visbility    Old visibility    Change    %

moneypage.com        25    39231    -39206    -99.94
pricedash.com        127    55141    -55014    -99.77
njobs.org.uk        92    30693    -30601    -99.7
voucherstar.co.uk    126    38748    -38622    -99.67
osoyou.com        96    26668    -26572    -99.64
zath.co.uk        161    39768    -39607    -99.6
shoppingvouchers.co.uk    134    30056    -29922    -99.55
discountshoppinguk.co.uk491    66270    -65779    -99.26
just-food.com        293    39282    -38989    -99.25
webdevelopersnotes.com    583    54948    -54365    -98.94
netvouchercodes.co.uk    1935    152376    -150441    -98.73
pocket-lint.com    2128    165956    -163828    -98.72
killerstartups.com    869    52717    -51848    -98.35
wakoopa.com    1334    71525    -70191    -98.13
aceshowbiz.com    907    46188    -45281    -98.04
everydaysale.co.uk    3822    175800    -171978    -97.83
hotfrog.co.uk    1124    44863    -43739    -97.49
phonesreview.co.uk    864    33418    -32554    -97.41
electricpig.co.uk    1678    60882    -59204    -97.24
kgbanswers.co.uk    1009    31427    -30418    -96.79


Top 20 Winners from Google’s ’Panda’ UK update (Source: Search Metrics)
Domain    New visibility     Old visibility     Change    %

ebay.co.uk        1469346    1034302    435044    42.1
techcrunch.com        174797    124220    50577    40.7
national-lottery.co.uk    292053    209357    82696    39.5
econsultancy.com    186175    135804    50371    37.1
thisismoney.co.uk    234717    180377    54340    30.1
siteslike.com        175869    140279    35590    25.4
mirror.co.uk        275876    220937    54939    24.9
blogspot.com        1006719    819832    186887    22.8
mashable.com        295137    240714    54423    22.6
itv.com            345470    282300    63170    22.4
metro.co.uk        181507    149271    32236    21.6
independent.co.uk    471896    388280    83616    21.5
mozilla.org        146282    122471    23811    19.4
youtube.com        8856696    7446902    1409794    18.9
vimeo.com        168979    142182    26797    18.9
wordpress.com        331836    279738    52098    18.6
laterooms.com        150533    127297    23236    18.3
dailymotion.com        577590    490328    87262    17.8
soundcloud.com        150998    128569    22429    17.5
 

08 April 2011

Quick fix for SEO

Just as fixing technical issues at your website is an important part of search engine optimization, so, too is optimizing your site's overall structure.

Site structure helps search engines understand your site's "topic" and more easily find and index relevant content. "By creating a good structure, you can use the content you've written that has attracted links from others, and ... spread some of that 'linkjuice' to the other pages on your site,"

Visualize the overall map. Using tools like Visio or Excel, map all the pages and sections in your site as a tree. Make your site structure look like a reasonably balanced pyramid, with 2-7 main sections, No section should be more than twice as large as any other section.

Name your sections with targeted keywords. Use Google Trends, the Google AdWords Keyword tool, and Microsoft's Keyword Group Detection to make sure your section names include the keywords for which people are most likely searching.

Connect the sections of your site. Increase your site's rank-ability by building a fluid internal link structure. Keep links between pages relevant to each page.

Create URLs from your new site structure. Each URL should describe the content of that page, yet it should be as short as possible. Always include the most important keywords in your URLs.
Well-defined categories, balanced content development, internal links between relevant pages, and URLs that make sense for your site are the secrets to search-optimized site structure