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Trivera turns 21!

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Having been in business 21 years has allowed us to celebrate several birthdays with a look back at how far we've come. But 21 is symbolic of the entry into of adulthood and typically marks the beginning of a new level of maturity and accountability. And so, we're using this milestone to look forward.

The year ahead will be marked by the successful transformation of the ideal Trivera client relationships, as they evolve from exclusively website-based project work to deeper, more strategic ongoing digital marketing partnerships. That change began last year with the addition of new team members with skill sets in branding, integrated digital and inbound marketing strategies. It has continued with the development of a new, transformational 12 month process, one that begins with brand discovery and strategy development, and continues with tactical plans to strengthen every aspect of our clients' digital marketing efforts with constant monitoring, analysis and improvement. That new process is appropriately named "Evolve."

In addition to the new process, we've also deepened the strengths we've been known for for the past 21 years. Trivera's team now has greater depth in the areas of organic SEO, PPC and Social Media. We've also added Magento and Concrete5 certification to our credentials to back up our significant experience developing websites in both platforms.

While we're growing by addition, we are also maturing by subtraction. Over the next year, we'll be continuing our efforts to transition much of our hosting operation from our own data center to fully managed third party operations that specialize in Magento and Concrete5 hosting and 24/7 support. That effort will allow us to focus our own internal resources on the quality and management of the sites and applications we've developed, and less on the equipment, environment and security necessary for their operation.

Our client list will also continue its shift from smaller limited "website-only" engagements to one of fewer, but larger, deeper, long term ones that take advantage of all Trivera has to offer.

Watch for our own new trivera.com website to launch in February. The site will communicate our new direction and highlight more of our new client success stories while still preserving the archival information resources we've developed over decades of digital marketing leadership.

Over the past 21 years, how we've used the internet to support our businesses and organizations has evolved. What was once referred to as "Cyberspace," "the world wide web," the "CB radio of the 90's," the "information superhighway," the "dotcom boom"...and crash...the "new economy," have all evolved to become simply an integral part of every person's...and every business'...daily life. We're proud that we've been able to evolve with it and help hundreds of businesses leverage the power of digital marketing we knew existed when we opened for business on January 16, 1996.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 20 year old strategic digital marketing firm, with offices in suburban Milwaukee.  Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations re-inforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and Web technology as powerful tactics in their marketing and communications strategy.

 

How Much Should You Invest in Digital Marketing for 2015?

website-development-budget1.jpgAlthough most companies planned their 2015 marketing budgets in the last months of 2014, a new Gartner report will give you some guidance as to whether your planned investment will match that of your competitors.

According to the report, most companies plan to allocate a little more than 10% of their topline revenue for marketing in 2015, with 50% planning to increase their spend over 2014 levels.

Two thirds of companies these days still separate digital marketing as a separate category out of their overall marketing budget, with the average amount allocated to the digital efforts at a quarter of that budget.

Most companies plan to make Customer Experience their highest priority for the upcoming year, allocating 18% of their marketing budget on improving that.

The typical company will allocate 13% of their budget for Digital Advertising, with content marketing and website development just behind at 12% each.

The following chart shows how those numbers break out in dollars for various size companies:

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Those numbers may seem large to some. But there is plenty to spend it on. Our own observations confirm dozens of other studies that show how far many businesses have fallen behind in their digital marketing efforts. Few companies have responded to the shift in paradigm from desktop to mobile as the preferred customer experience. Most companies still fall behind when it comes to the latest best practices for SEO, PPC and content marketing. With email marketing and Social Media competing as the tool that creates greater results, and new transactional functionality emerging all the time, there is no shortage of digital initiatives to add to a company’s arsenal of marketing tools. 

Smart marketing decision-makers already know what they need to do to take full advantage of digital marketing to build their brand awareness, generate leads, and serve existing clients. But many have had difficulty convincing their CEOs, and CFOs to invest enough to drive efforts that will produce meaningful results.

These numbers will provide them with the evidence they need to argue their case and make sure they have the necessary dollars allocated to stay ahead of their competition.

 

Yikes! What's Up With Your Website?

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The amount of stuff wrong with the average company website is flabbergasting. And I'm not just talking about those free DIY websites. Or the ones designed by low cost, low talent developers. Or even the ones that some agencies pretending to understand digital best practices charged way too much for.

As someone whose job it is to stay on top of current industry best practices, I can tell you that the rate at which the criteria changes is often overwhelming. And so, I'm even talking about the sites that solid firms like Trivera may have built for you a year or two ago.

Thus the need for regular, in depth site audits. If done correctly, those audits take a look at the following barometers of website health:

1.) SEO. The algorithms that search engines use to determine whether a site comes up on page 1, 10, or not at all, change weekly. While Google uses dozens of specific criteria to determine where your site comes up in searches, the overarching consideration that it uses now is whether or not people "like" your site. A significant number of people who come to your website may not.

A professional site audit will help identify the things that may be preventing you from getting the SEO rank you deserve. Correcting those issues will be the key to appearing above the fold on page one, the only place where meaningful click-throughs happen.

2.) Content. Your website communicates specific things to specific site visitors. To human visitors, it provides the necessary information to reinforce your brand's value proposition, spoken in a voice that reflects your brand personality. To the indexing spiders the search engines send to your site, it gives them information they need to determine whether or not your site will come up when certain keywords are searched for. The trick is crafting content that will do both.

A professional site audit will evaluate the effectiveness, readability, clarity, necessity, depth and formatting of all your content (text, graphics, tags, video, and supporting files).

3.) Page Design and Layout. People have conscious and subconscious expectations of what every website needs to have, and where...and how...it needs to be displayed. If it’s not right, they won't like it. It's bad enough that Google will penalize you for that, but even worse, if people do find your website, they'll be less likely to do business with you.

A professional site audit will help identify whether your site measures up and what needs to be done to build and strengthen your brand relationships.

4.) Device-Dependent User Experience. With mobile device web usage predicted to surpass desktop/laptop usage, it's critical to have a user experience that is equally rewarding and easy to use for all your visitors regardless of device. Just scaling your desktop site to display on a smartphone with navigation too small to read on tiny displays and buttons designed for mouse clicks, not fat fingers, drives mobile visitors away.

A professional site audit will tell you if you're getting, and capitalizing on, the amount of mobile traffic that you should be.

5.) Conversions. The goal of your website is to attract and convince potential customers to do business with you, and if possible even facilitate the transaction. A website that makes your brand hard to identify, your message unclear and transactions hard to execute prevents that.

A professional site audit identifies those barriers and obstacles so they can be removed, allowing your website to be a revenue generator, and not just an expense.

6.) Security Vulnerabilities. The web is teaming with hackers and crackers who find their identities (and their fortunes) in locating and taking advantage of websites they can exploit. Their methods include creating fake login screens to steal credit card, bank and personal info, and even using those hijacked sites to send the thousands of spam emails that send the unwitting there to be fooled

A professional site audit will be able to gauge how likely your site is to be used to trick people into using your site to give their money to crooks.

These are just some of the items that a professional site audit does for your digital presence. Just like it's impossible to effectively proof-read your own copy, it's also impossible to perform a complete and effective audit on your own site. Site audits are one of Trivera's core competencies. Virtually every site can use a talented set of eyes like ours to take a look at it through the above lenses, say "yikes," and get it on the road to success.

Let us know when we can take a peek at yours.

Trivera Turns 18!

happy18thbirthday.jpgRegardless of our age, we all celebrate our birthdays every year. But, there are a few birthdays that mark milestones.  Sweet 16 marks a passage to the age where one can drive a car. 21 is when one is legally allowed to consume alcohol. 30, 40 and 50 are often marked with black balloons and taunts of being over the hill. I'm facing...gasp...my big 6-0 in February (or as I've chosen to call it, my second 30th birthday), but I digress.

One of the most special birthdays is the 18th. It marks the passage from youth to adulthood. You're reckoned by society as wise and mature enough to vote, get married without parental consent, and serve your country in the military. 

Today, Trivera celebrates our 18th birthday.  Back on January 16th, 1996, we became one of the very first...and one of only a handful of...web design and development agencies in Wisconsin.

At the time, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari didn't exist, just Mosaic and Firefox's predecessor Netscape. There was neither a Google nor a Bing  - the top search engines were Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, Webcrawler and Infoseek. There was no eBay, Netflix or Wikipedia.  Joomla!, Drupal, Wordpress and Concrete5 were all years from being born. Email marketing and Social Media didn't exist. Nor did Digg, Tumblr or even RSS. Smartphones, mobile devices, tablets, iPhones and iPads hadn't been invented. Pinterest, Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or even MySpace? Not even on the drawing board! There was no broadband or wifi - internet connections came via a slow dial-up modem.  And 87% of all businesses polled in a survey said that the web was a fad, and they would never have a need for it. Ever. 

Our name back then was Websight Solutions, and our tagline was "web sites with vision." Fitting because back then, anyone who was doing anything on the web had to be visionary. Jeff Bezos had just started Amazon.com. Jerry Yang and David Filo had just incorporated Yahoo!. Craig Newmark had just launched Craig's List.

And there was us.

But we convinced Usinger's, Mitchell Airport, and FrankMayer and Associates to take their first leap onto the web. In those early years, our other early adopters inlcuded Aurora and Ministry Health Care, Holy Hill, the Marcus Center, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson and Mustela. Since then, we've been proud to have also helped other noteworthy locally-based brands like Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Strattec Security Corporation, Simplicity, Perlick and Dental Associates, as well as national brands like Motorola, Lotus, Frabill, and Panasonic.  We just started working on Frank Mayer and Associates' 43rd project, and are just wrapping up Mitchell Airport's 30th. In a few weeks, InvestorsBank becomes the most recent member of the Trivera story with the launch of their new site

Despite the fact that over 18 years we've seen the web go from infancy to youthful exuberance and on to a mature and necessary component of every business' marketing arsenal, for most marketers, how to make it work is still is a mystery. So we've been honored to have hundreds of other clients ask us to help them figure it out. Some big,  some small, some household names, others obscure to all but their niche customers.  But the one thing they all have in common is that they needed someone to help them navigate through the rapidly evolving, and quite confusing world of digital marketing, web design, e-commerce, email marketing, search engine marketing, Social Media and mobile, and they chose to trust us, originally as Websight Solutions, then as wirestone, and now for the last dozen years as Trivera.  

2014 will be a year of bold new plans: new customers, new partners, continued expansion, and the 5 year reunion edition of 2009's Social Media University. So Happy Birthday to us! Thanks to our awesome clients for their years of support, and our awesome team members who helped us earn that support. As we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, our wish is for another 18 years of success for us, but more importantly for all our clients because they've given us the opportunity to help them succeed.

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5 Visitor Groups Your Website Needs To Be Ready For

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Your presence on the web has never been more important to the success of your brand.  It's also never been subject to more circumstances, elements and efforts that can damage it. And the only thing necessary for every bad thing imaginable to happen to it, is for you to do nothing and think your site is doing fine. So it just boggles my mind that so many marketers and business owners choose to sit back and let failure happen.

Website success has always been about who will be coming to your site, how they will access the site, what they're hoping to accomplish, and what will..or won't...happen when they get there.  While everyone hopes that it will simply be customers who will come and engage in a business transaction, it's a lot more complicated than that.  There are actually 5 easily identifiable groups of visitors who require strategic efforts that you'd better be prepared for.

Because, ready or not, here they come:

1.) Hackers, Crackers and Internet Miscreants  

Unless it's more than a few years old, your website is likely built on a Content Management System (CMS). Just like any other software product,  that system has likely had improvements made to it over time. In addition to feature improvements, every upgrade since it was first built also contains critical security enhancements. Legions of hackers are scouring the web every minute of every day trying to find old and vulnerable installations of Joomla!, Drupal, Wordpress and Concrete5 and using them to execute mass identity theft. I don't know if it's a fear of change or just a reluctance to spend the money on repairs should a CMS upgrade "break" the site. Regardless, the thousands of out of date websites are a jackpot for hackers.  Unless you have an upgrade plan in place, there's a good chance that someday thousands of people will be getting a fake email that looks like it came from their bank, but actually came from your site. Not only that, but then they'll click a link to log into a fake bank login page on your site and give identity theives the info they need to drain their real bank account. Because this activity leads to blacklisting, site shutdowns, and even potnetial legal consequences it's not the kind of traffic you want. But if you're not regulalry upgrading your CMS, it's the easiest and mosty likely traffic you'll get.

2.) People With Browsers Newer Than Your Site 

Every time a new version of a web browser is released, design and functional elements on your website that may have worked before  potentially malfunction or totally fail on the new one. If your website was built in 2009, it was tested to work on Firefox version 3. The current release is version 24.  Internet Explorer was on version 8. They've just released version 11. Safari 4 was the current version, but has now been replaced by version 7. Unless you've upgraded your site, or conducted ongoing browser compatibility testing, you have had people coming to your website to do business with you, but either can not or choose not to because the site doesn't work for them. And while that number has grown every month, that's a growth metric you don't want. 

3.) Mobile Device Users

Smartphones and tablets are no longer just for "people on the go." For millions of people, they are the preferred method of acessing the web. If your website isn't formatted to provide a visitor an optimal visual and navigational experience regardless of the device they'e using, you've essentially told half your potential customers that you're really not interested in their business.  And they are happily taking that business to sites that are. 

4.) Social Media Enthusiasts

Word of mouth has always been one of the most effective forms of marketing. Social Media takes that power to a new level.   Does your site have a blog? A pressroom? Videos? Do your pages have Facebook "Like," Twitter "Tweet This," Pinterest "Pin it," and Google "Plus 1" icons?  The jury may still be out on the extent that your execution of a Social Media plan will create meaningful inbound traffic. However, your site still needs to be updated to include the kinds of content that is easily shared in Social Media channels, and the tools that make it easy to do so. If it doesn't, you are missing the opportunity to take advantage of the viral referral power of your visitors' social savvy and their inclination to share your brand with their professional and social networks.

5.) Search Engine Traffic

The sad fact is that, unless you've been keeping up with the major changes in the way Google produces results to search queries and making sure your site has been adapting to accommodate those changes, the number of qualified customers coming to your site as a result is steadily declining. If you think that Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird are zoo animals, and an algorithm is a catchy tune about a former vice-president, your share of the 125 billion searches per month is pretty close to zero, and getting closer every day. Those are the people who aren't coming. But if your site isn't set up to show up on page one with meaningful and accurate search results and instead send unqualified visitors to your site, the ones who do come will leave your site as quickly as they came. Those are called bounces, and the more of those you get, the lower Google will rank you in their searches.  A strategic Search Engine Optimization plan is the only way to get meaningful numbers of qualified visitors to come to your site. 

 

While there are other elements that will contribute to a successful web strategy (email, direct and traditional marketing), this list represents the minimum effort necessary to just avoid failure.  With a new year beginning in just a few months, now is the time to plan your budget for setting up and executing a strategic plan that systematically optimizes your site to create the right outcome for every one of these groups and help your web presence reinforce, and not erode your brand, and more importantly, contribute to your bottom line.

 

About Trivera:

Your growing business is faced with more challenges than ever before. Managing your online presence in the face of tightening budgets and steadily increasing customer expectations can be a difficult and complex task.

Trivera’s proven approach to web design and development builds your online brand with smart design and creative technology. We’ve been helping companies like yours since 1996, growing our capabilities along with the web to serve the needs of our diverse mix of clients.

For most compnaies, the web is a cloud of confusion. Our experienced team excels in managing your projects for the greatest return on your investment using a proven, collaborative process that delivers results on time, on budget and on target. Our mission is to provide you with the knowledge, service, products and ROI that will make you a hero.

10 Steps to Digital Marketing Success

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In our last blog, we listed the 6 ways your neglected website is costing you money. If you are one of the rare businesses whose website is producing piles of revenue even though you haven't updated it in years, this isn't for you.

But, if you can use additional sales revenue from your digital channels, read on.

Our mantra has always been that a web site is not an event, it's a process. That process requires ongoing effort, attention and investment to maximize revenue and value.

As a digital marketing firm, having clients who hire us to build a website, only to let it languish in neglect and produce mediocre results does neither us nor the client any good. So here at Trivera, our focus is taking responsibility for our clients' total online success by having all new clients sign annual contracts, where the website development is only the fourth element in a ten point plan for success.

Here are the steps that we believe are necessary for success, and the reasons we include each:

1.) Discovery

Your success begins with defining your goals. What specific results do you expect your digital marketing efforts to produce? If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Whether it's increased sales for an e-commerce site, new leads for your sales staff to cultivate, heightened awareness for your brand or more traffic to improve ad revenue, it's only by setting specific goals that will give yourself a target to hit. And as your partner, we need to make sure we're all on the same page.

2.) Development of a Marketing Strategy and Tactical Recommendations

Even thinking about tactics before you develop your strategy is a waste of time. Things like "Getting on Twitter" are just tactics. Achieving the goals you defined in step one requires a broad and deep plan. Understanding your brand in a way to be able to communicate your value proposition and personality to your current and future fans well enough to determine is what helps you decide if ANY Social Media is an effective vehicle. That's your strategy. It's your guide to determine what tactics will be appropriate and effective in helping you achieve your goals.

3.) Search Engine Optimization Plan

Guessing at a few keywords and trying get on page one of Google for those keywords is the recipe for SEO failure. Unfortunately, it is the "plan" most businesses and organizations are using. Is your target audience even searching for what you offer with those keywords? Do you know which keyword phrases will produce results, and which will bounce people back to Google to find another result (something actually causes search engine rankings to decrease)? Do you know the difference between branded and non-branded traffic and why it's important? Do you know how to uncover which keyword phrases will produce the number of non-bouncing visitors you'll need to achieve your specific success goals? If you don't know the answers to these (and a half dozen other basic questions most SEO specialists understand instinctively), Google will be nothing but a constant frustration and financial albatross.

4.) Creation of a fully optimized website

The creation of a website is the sum total of what many web design/development firms do. But optimization is the necessary ingredient to a successful digital strategy that many of them miss. Turning visitors into customers requires an understanding of conversion rates and what affects them. Will your site create sales or discourage them? Will people coming on tablets and smartphones be comfortable or frustrated? Will the transactional goal of the site be easy to find regardless of how, when and where visitors enter the site, or will they get lost in a maze of unnecessary information, steps, clicks and questions?

Within a fraction of a second, most visitors have judged you and made up their mind about your brand. Virtually every element of the site... the choice of content management systems, home page layout, order and depth of the navigational choices, words per page and whether they are paragraphs or bullet points, size, position and quality of images, color choices...impact the visitor's opinion of you. Unless your approach is strategic, and your developer understands how all of this impacts your visitors' perceptions and decisions, you won't get a successful digital marketing tool, you'll get a website. Nothing more. Certainly not success.

Here's where many people stop, thinking they are now done and success will just happen. Actually, this is where the real work begins.

5.) Execution of website content marketing efforts.

Your site is tested and launched, but almost immediately your blog, press room, content, product details, demonstration videos and other content will require ongoing effort to maintain their freshness. Keeping the site updated is only a part. Keeping the rest of the places out on the web that drive traffic to your site updated is even more important. That means email newsletters and promotions, outbound PR, commenting on other sites' blogs, and legitimate link building.

6.) Execution of ongoing SEO and SEM tactics

Just as your website is not an event, neither is your SEO. The algorithms that determine who makes it to page one of a search change frequently. What worked last month probably doesn't work this month. Knowing what has changed and what you need to do to take advantage of those changes requires effort and expertise. And it never ends.

7.) Execution of Social Media tactics

Here's where agencies and gurus who only do Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, fail. Sun Tzu said "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." I've dealt with this topic enough that it doesn't need to be repeated here other than to say this step will only help your digital marketing plan become successful if the tactics are being used as part of a larger strategy.

8.) Execution of traditional marketing tactics

Just because this is a digital marketing plan it doesn't mean you need to stop doing traditional marketing. If your strategic target can be effectively reached via direct mail, print and traditional electronic media, you hurt yourself by regarding them as obsolete or irrelevant. You'll just want to make sure you're tracking your efforts to make sure you only continue the ones that result in demonstrable results.

9.) Monthly measurement of key performance indicators

Remember those goals you outlined 7 or 8 steps ago? How are you doing? Tools exist to measure site traffic, bounce rate, conversion rates, popular navigational paths, transaction values, SEO ranking, social media sentiment. You don't have to be using them daily. Weekly or monthly may be adequate.

10.) Adjustment of efforts to continue to produce maximum ROI

Because targets and goals are part of your strategy, and you're measuring your results, you know what you need to do more of, and what to do less of to produce the results you're striving for. And you're in the zone of increasing your results, and reducing your costs.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. If success was easy, everyone would be successful. Whether you hire a firm like Trivera, or handle it internally, the steps to success are still the same. How many of them are you neglecting?

Frank Mayer & Associates Launch New Web Site

Since 1931, Frank Mayer & Associates has always led the pack. An award-winning Midwest-based in-store merchandising solutions provider, they were one of the first in their space to leverage the power of the Web to re-enforce their brand, and shortly after began to help their customers do the same. For over a decade, Trivera Interactive has been honored to be called their partner.

With an amazing fourth generation Web presence already in place, Search Engine dominance in their keywords and a well-conceived, superbly executed Web strategy, developing a new Web site that improved on all that is no small task.

So it is with great pride that we announce the launch of the new FrankMayer.com.  With improved customer interface and enhanced marketing-at-retail programs, the site has been redesigned offering the latest in-store merchandising, interactive kiosk solutions and promotional marketing programs.

Frank Mayer's VP of Marketing Dave Zoerb says, “In today’s competitive market customers are looking for a company that offers a comprehensive marketing program.  As a result , the redesigned Web site expresses  the custom solutions offered by FMA and expands on exclusive trends and looks of the most current successful retail and interactive programs.”

Trivera President Tom Snyder elaborates, " Frank Mayer and Associates is the best in their business. Our relationship with them has been great because they know that, unless their Web strategy re-enforces that fact in every aspect, their message will be lost. We share their passion for excellence."

The launch caps off a four month collaborative process between the Frank Mayer staff and the team at Trivera. Moving ahead, Trivera will continue to administer their Search Engine Optimization strategy, assist the Frank Mayer internal team in maintaining fresh and up to date content, and map out their Web2.0 strategy.

Search Engine Optimization Unmasked - Pt 2

It's Saturday. Fox Business Network. The show is called The Fox Docs. Biz Whiz Dr. Dani Babb is talking to a caller who's not getting the results from his Web site that he should. She tells him to optimize his site to come up in the search engines. Suddenly, as the theme music comes up to go into a hard commercial break, the host asks "so how do you do that?" With six seconds to explain, she said what most people who know a little bit about SEO believe: "Meta data!" Make sure your Meta data is correct." Cut to commercial.

Knowing there was so much more to SEO, I used Twitter to get in touch with Dr. Babb and offer her some of what we've learned (and continue to learn) over our years. After several subsequent emails this week, she was armed with lots of new-found knowledge. So on this week's show, the very first caller was rewarded as she used my bullet points (and credited Trivera) to explain how to get his site to come to the top, avoid the expense of a Paid Placement option for his keywords and just augment organic placement with Pay Per Click. And the host responded, "Brilliant!" (see video below)

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But as I watched, it became obvious that SEO is one of those "rocket science" things that will make most peoples' eyes start to glaze over. As much as you wish getting a site to come up Page 1, Position 1 in the search engines was as simple as watching a business show and getting tidbits of information, it's unrealistic, unlikely and probably impossible.

The Internet, and the billions and billions of pages on the Web continue to grow by the second. And the search engines need to get better and better at determining which of those pages deserves to come up at the top of searches. So they constantly spider and index every site, every page and every link, compare each to all the other information they gather about every other site on the Web and use complex algorithms to determine how high or even if a site should come up for keyword searches.

Unfortunately, those algorithms are kept more secret than the recipe for KFC. That means that even *I* can't give you a definitive answer... nobody can. Especially not in 6 or 60 seconds on a business show. But those of us who have been doing this for a awhile take the broad guidelines that Google and the others do give us, combine that with a lot of detective work, much trial and error and networking with others in our field and use it all to come up with strategies and tactics that work..realizing also that what works today may not when Google changes their algorithms.. which they do all the time.

But here are the general tips I gave Dani:

There are some that claim that Google doesn't even index Meta Data at all for their search results. I was trying to figure out why a particular site was beating one of our clients in ranking at Google, and checked out their "Keyword" Meta Data. The ONLY thing in it was: "Keyword Meta tags are totally useless." I don't completely buy that, but rather I'm convinced that Google checks the meta data on a page, and then compares it to the visible text on the page. If they jibe, the site moves up for the words and phrases that, together, describe what that page is about.

But there are a lot of other factors, way too numerous to mention. Here are just a few:

  • Page titles (what shows up a the top of your browser when you're viewing a page)
  • Actual file name of the page (what shows up in your URL bar),
  • File names of embedded images (and the alt tags for those images),
  • Text links to other pages within the site (and whether the words that are clickable actually send you to page that are about that specific text - Google is smart enough to figure that out),
  • How many outside sites link to yours,
  • How long your domain name has been registered, and how many years in the future it is currently registered for,
  • How frequently the content of the site is updated
  • Whether or not your webmaster appears to be trying to jack the system to get the site to show up higher than it should.

That last one is critically important, because while all the other ones help you move up, that last one can force you down, or even get a site de-listed altogether.

Bottom line is that it's not easy...virtually impossible to do yourself. It's also not an event... it's an ongoing strategic process. And most entrepreneurs are too busy running the other aspects of their business to spend the necessary time to learn this and do it right. If showing up in the engines is critical to people finding you, the only silver bullet is finding someone really good to do it for you. It's like a good accountant, a good banker or a good lawyer... your SEO person is worth their weight in gold.

(By the way, if you are a business owner, and haven't caught the The Fox Docs show yet, you need to. Dani Babb and John Rutledge are amazing, and you'll find yourself waiting for every episode for the great information you'll learn).

Search Engine Optimization Unmasked - Pt 1

A week doesn't go by without someone asking us "How do I get my site to the top of the search engines?" The answer is a simple one:

1.) You and your site first need to DESERVE to be at the top 2.) Then you need every single element in your site that the search engine spiders use to determine that you deserve to be at the top absolutely correct.

That, of course is in a perfect world. But we all know that the world of search engine placement is far from perfect. But that basic premise can help your site place well in that imperfect world of Search Engines.

The primary goal of a search engine's organic listings is to produce the best possible results to a visitor search. That means when someone searches for a company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that sells sausage, the very first position on page 1 of Google should be occupied by a company located in the city of Milwaukee that actually sells sausage. And if there are several, the one that the most likely to sell the best sausage in Milwaukee would come up first. Using common sense, one could assume that would mean the company that has been in business the longest, has had a Web site for the longest period of time, has a great reputation and so has lots of other Websites linking to it.

So it's no surprise that a Google search for "sausage milwaukee" has Trivera client Usinger's as the #1 result. Not only that, but the actual shopping cart where you can purchase Usinger's bulk sausage products also comes up in on the first page as a separate entry, and little further down, Usinger's Gift Boxes come up as well. When Google lists local businesses on a map, Usinger's comes up in first place there as well. Additionally, and probably contributing to Usinger's success, is the fact there are also a bunch of other sites in the first few pages that refer to Usinger's. Klement's, another Milwaukee sausage company that hasn't been in business as long as Usinger's comes up #2. A few other local sausage companies also show up further down the list, and as you get deeper into the 435,000 results for that search, they get less relevant and less helpful to actually helping one find a Milwaukee sausage company.

And that is an example of exactly how every search should be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of searches produce results that are just the opposite. Incorrect, frustrating, useless and in some cases dishonest results often make searching an exercise in futility. And while that's bad for searchers, it's good news for Web site owners.

Going back to my original hypothesis, oftentimes, the sites that deserve to be on the top aren't built in a way for the search engines to determine that they should be at the top. But SOMEONE needs to be #1. So the resulting vacuum fills the first page with junk... that is until someone whose rightful position may be on the second or third pages of results finds an SEO specialist that help them move up and become the leader by default.

A prime example is the Varicose Vein Treatment market here in Milwaukee. 2 years ago, a search for that produced a list of directories, non-targeted medical information sites, and news links. What wasn't there were listings for any of the vein clinics in the Milwaukee area, even though there were over a dozen. All of them had Web sites, but there wasn't a single one that was built in a way that the Search Engines felt they should occupy the top spot. Great Lakes Radiologists was one of them.

In an effort to get serious about capturing a larger market share they contacted Trivera. Re-branding and repositioning themselves as the Women's Vein Clinics of Greater Milwaukee, gave us the opportunity to register a domain name with "vein" and "clinic" right in it. Even though they didn't have any actual clinics in the city of Milwaukee, "Greater Milwaukee" in their name gave us that legitimate entre into the search engines. The site was optimized using all the techniques and tools that Trivera has mastered throughout a history of SEO services that began before Google even existed.

The site immediately began to get traction in Yahoo, MSN and AOL. Because the domain name was brand new, Google kept the site in its "sand box" for a few months. But after that short period of typical probationary exile, the site skyrocketed to page 1 positions in every one of the 23 keyword phrases we optimized it for. Within 6 months there wasn't single targeted keyword phrase that didn't have them come up in position 1,2 or 3. Traffic to their site continued to increase, and two years later, the site still owns top organic positions. A plethora of Paid Placement ads now peppers the first page to try to undermine that succcess. But when you take the fact that people are 3 times more likely to click on the top organic result than any of the paid listings and combine that with the cost for those paid ads, our client has come out the obvious victor.

Two different cases, but a common moral. Whether you deserve to be #1 or not, you have little chance of getting there unless your site has been properly optimized. When the Search Engines determine who wins and who loses, you need to have your site built to let them know you belong at the top.

More on that in my next article.

-Tom Snyder