Columnists Brad Simon Internet Marketing Strategies: Mayday Alert - Do you have a quality website?

Internet Marketing Strategies: Mayday Alert - Do you have a quality website?

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Internet Marketing is constantly changing. To be successful when marketing online you need to keep informed and make improvements in your marketing plan when those changes affect you. Google typically makes 400 to 600 changes a year in their algorithms, effecting how they rank websites in their searches.  Many of these frequent updates have little affect on the typical website.  However, sometimes a Google algorithm change is substantial enough that it not only affects a majority of websites, but also signals a change to the future of search engine rankings.

This seems to be the case with what is being called the Google Mayday Update. The name is in part because of the timing of the change around May 1st, and also because of the Mayday Distress Signal many webmasters put out due to their website sinking in the rankings.

Google, who typically remains tight lipped about such changes, has now officially announced that they made some algorithmic changes between April 28th and May 3rd.  These changes center on Page Quality.  Long Tail Keywords (phrases of three or more words) are the most affected.  Google’s Matt Cutts stated: “This is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”

Ranking pages based on page quality has been rumored about for some time and marks a major shift in SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing).  Before looking at this change and what you need to be doing with your website, let’s take a brief look at the history of search engine rankings.

Late 1990s to Early 2000s - Relevancy

From the late 1990s until the early 2000s AltaVista was the major search engine.  It used a website’s relevancy to the search, to base its rankings.  A website that was found to be more relevant to the keyword searched for would receive a higher ranking.

Keywords became the driving force to any SEO/SEM activity.  Finding the right keywords and placing them strategically on the webpage was the primary focus.

Early 2000s to 2009 – Relevancy + Authority

In the early 2000s Google became the major search engine.  It added a website authority status to it’s relevancy to the search, to base its rankings.  Google measures a website’s authority by the number of links it receives from other websites.  It reasoned that if more websites are linked to this website it must therefore be a better website.

Link Building became a driving force and was added to keywords in the Internet Marketer’s toolbox. Building links from other authority websites to your website became just as important as the right keyword placement.

2010 and Beyond –

Relevancy + Authority + Quality

Like any successful business, Google’s sole concern is for its customers.  As a search engine their customer is the person who types in a word or phrase on their website looking for websites related to their query.  Google wants to give their customers the best possible experience by providing the best possible websites in their searches.

In late 2009 Google started adding Quality Scores to websites in their AdWord campaigns.  Advertisers with higher Quality Scores receive higher placements on their ads and lower cost per clicks.  While online forums are filled with marketers complaining about these changes and marketing e-mails abound on methods to get even with Google, Google sees this change as being highly successful.  Customers are now directed to better websites of higher quality when they click on a Google AdWord advertisement.

Due to this success, it was only a matter of time before we would see these changes to natural search results.  Now, in addition to being Keyword Relevant and having an Authority Status based on Incoming Links, your website needs to be seen as a Quality Website in order to gain top rankings in Google searches.

What Constitutes a Quality Webpage?

There are no definitive guidelines as to what constitutes a quality website. The reality is that only the people who work at Google truly know the secret combination of various ingredients that make up Google’s ranking algorithms. (And does any one person there really understand it all?)

The rest of us only know what we gather from occasional Google announcements, anecdotal observation, professional testing, and conclusions based on reports from colleagues. We are forced to work with a patchwork image of Google’s mindset.  However, that patchwork image is getting pretty good.

The following is my list of items that will help your website rank higher now as well as in the future.  As you go through this list keep in mind that Google does NOT rank websites.  They rank Web PAGES!  Each page on your website can rank for a specific keyword or phrase.  You need to optimize every page on your website, not just the home page.

The Need for Speed

Faster loading webpages increase user satisfaction. Nothing is more annoying than having to wait for a slow loading page to appear in your browser.  This is one of the top reasons for visitors to hit the back button and leave your website altogether.

To avoid slow loading pages keep picture files small, and your backgrounds and graphics clean and simple.  Text loads faster, so include text in html format rather than in jpg or other picture files.  Avoid Flash, Java Scripts, and other bulky codes on your page that take time to load.

While Google has not officially made the connection between page speed and their new update, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the relevance.  Google has been harping on this issue since the first of the year on their blog and YouTube channel.  In Google’s webmasters tools they provide a Site Performance test that tells you how long it takes for your website to load and compares it to other websites on the Internet.

Don’t Flash Your Customers

Don’t use Flash, Java Scripts or other codes to produce moving graphics on your website. Google has warned us since at least 2007 that this will hinder your rankings.  They cannot read the content of Flash files on your website and therefore cannot index the content of the page. Plus as mentioned above it increases your page load times, which don’t really increase user satisfaction.

Using Flash to make your site seem more professional can just as easily make it look tacky.  The motion graphics may look cool the first time a visitor sees them, but they can be annoying on return visits and most people cannot find the Skip Intro button fast enough.

Speak Up

Who ever said that a picture is worth a thousand words did not build websites!  You need to include text on all your pages.  At a minimum you need 200 words on each page, around 500 words is considered ideal.  Search engines only index the first 700 to 800 words on a page so it is better to have two pages with 500 words each instead of one page with 1,000 words.

Size Matters

A one or two page website is not a quality website in anyone’s book.  Six pages is considered a minimum, and the more the better, provided that each page on your website offers quality content.

Be Original

Quality websites need to have unique original content.  Don’t copy content from other websites.  Create unique product descriptions for items you display, simply using a manufacturer’s generic description could be cause to lower your quality rating and affect your rank status.

While you do need to cover the basic topics related to your keywords to help establish your authority and show you do know what you are about, do so in your own words and style.  For example, any quality website about diamonds would include information on the 4Cs.  Just don’t copy your information straight from GIA.  Rewrite it in your own words.

It’s Better to be Single

It is best to use one single main topic or keyword for each page on your website.  Avoid having multiple topics on your pages.  For example don’t have one page on your website listing your services such as appraisals, jewelry repair, and custom design.  Make each of those topics a separate page.

Index pages are still acceptable.  Having one index page for your services with a short description of each of the services you offer is fine provided that each description links to a separate page on your website that provides more in-depth content on that service.

Keep them Hanging Around

Websites where the majority of people visiting leave shortly after arriving are not quality websites.  The longer the average person stays on your website the better off you are.  Having informative text for your visitors to read, interesting pictures to look at, and short videos for them to play are all ways to get people to stay on your website longer.

If you include a video on your website, be sure to have it in a separate player called a skin.  The skin should have at least a play, pause and a stop button, as these increase user satisfaction.  Experiment with different compression settings to achieve a small file size while still rendering quality video.  Do not have your video start when the page loads as this only increases the page load time and annoys some visitors, especially on repeat visits.  Let the video load in the skin as a still picture.  It will load quickly and visitors who choose to can press the play button to watch the video.

Be Social

It’s no surprise to anyone that there is a Social Revolution taking place on the Internet.  From Social Media websites such as YouTube, and Flicker, to Social Networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, to Social Bookmarking websites like Digg, and Faves.  Quality websites are talked about on all of these Social Platforms.

If your business is not being talked about, get the conversations started.  Create videos and upload them to YouTube and other video hosting websites.  Build a Facebook Business Page, Tweet about your accomplishments.  Bookmark everything!

Many of these Social Platforms will give you quality links to your website which are extremely helpful.  What they all provide you is Citations.  Citations are mentions of your business or website on the Internet even though there is no link pointing to your website. These citations are becoming more and more important.  After all, if your business and website is not being talked about, it is reasoned, can there be anything useful there?

Brad and Debbie Simon have been involved in the retail jewelry industry since 1977 and have been marketing On-Line since 1999.  Their company Internet 4 Jewelers provides Local Search Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Website Development exclusively for retail jewelry stores.  For more information log on to www.Internet4Jewelers.com.

 
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