Google announced late Wednesday afternoon that some formulaic changes are looming. In an attempt to better protect Internet users, Google will begin to include secure, encrypted HTTPS connections in their list of factors which determine search engine results. The news comes as little surprise as the Internet’s most powerful search engine has a history of altering their algorithms in efforts to stay current.

When conversational search through mobile devices became more prevalent, Google changed the landscape with their Hummingbird update.  By updating what results would display for particular searches based on factors like responsive design, immediacy and unique value, Google reinforced the idea that relevancy is essential.  The next logical thing for Google to respond to was clearly Internet security. Data security and privacy concerns are at an all-time high amongst Web browsers as the Snowden leaks and stories of Russian hackers have dominated the headlines.

Google webmaster trends analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes explained the focus on security in a blog post saying, “Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

Google EncryptionThe blog goes on to explain that encryption is still miniscule when it comes to all of the factors that impact rankings. Quality websites that feature a responsive design, engaging content, compelling blog posts, and a presence on social media will all still rank well without encryption – for now. Like most Google updates it’s important for your business to understand that they are much more likely to grow in strength than deteriorate.  If Google is putting more of an emphasis on security, it’s a safe bet that encrypted websites will have a better chance of rising up the rankings. However, there is a cost involved.

The cost of encryption in the past was pretty prohibitive for the bottom line of a business. The monthly spend involved with a HTTPS address seemed futile when it often slowed down site response time. But technology has evolved over time and while encryption will still cost a site more on a monthly basis, response times should no longer be a factor.

Businesses must determine if paying the monthly bill for a secure, encrypted HTTPS connection will be worth the investment.  Like most things in the world of online marketing, the answer isn’t absolute. WebiMax believes that protecting your customers through a secured website is obviously a wise move. However, when it comes to rankings, companies can’t stop there. The secure website will only produce a return on investment if all other Internet marketing efforts are working in unison.

If you don’t have a secure, encrypted HTTPS connection, your rankings aren’t doomed. In fact, there are many things a marketing campaign should focus on first.  However, the message remains the same. A well-balanced website will always be in a better position to rank than its competitors. Encrypted connections are just another piece to an ever evolving puzzle.

SEO 101 - Bringing It All Back Home

A common concern (or more accurately, misconception) amongst business owners is that Internet marketing is an unquantifiable or even abstract enterprise.  Although any SEO would vehemently disagree and offer up a plethora of resources which serve to disprove such claims; there are still doubters.

So, how exactly does one measure the ROI of search engine optimization, social media marketing, public relations or any other aspect of online marketing?  It all comes back to where SEO began – Google.

Thinking Analytically
Before Google Analytics was first unveiled in 2005, there were only a handful of third-party traffic and conversion statistics reporting tools available on the Web.  While some of these proved to be fairly effective, none have quite lived up to Google’s proprietary service.  In fact, Google Analytics remains the most widely-used application of its kind to this day.

WebiMax - Google AnalyticsAn SEO’s Best Friend: The Google Analytics Dashboard

Not only does Analytics provide advanced functionality for experts, but it delivers viable real-time data that business owners can understand and use to get more from their site and improve their bottom line.  By tracking traffic sources, gathering visitor data and learning which pages on your site are receiving the most views, you’re able to not only improve conversion rates, but easily re-strategize your entire online marketing plan with relative ease, as well.

The Winds of Change
Traditional marketing and advertising initiatives are still effective for many businesses; however, determining the cost-benefit of these efforts is still a difficult process.  Today, even some of the world’s largest and most recognized companies have turned to the Internet to increase their sales and utilize Analytics to boost their lead generation and conversion optimization efforts.

As more brands begin to hop on the digital marketing bandwagon, traffic and conversion reporting has become an even more valuable asset.  With Google firmly maintaining its position at the forefront of the analytics game, the search engine that started it all is bringing it all back home by offering one of the single most useful tools for businesses.

Thanks to resources such as Google Analytics, much of the skepticism surrounding Search Engine Optimization is beginning to dwindle.  With statistics reporting and tracking tools providing solid facts and definitive data to back the claims of marketers, one thing is evident – a strong online marketing plan is a necessity for virtually every business.

Think of the world of content marketing like an aisle in a grocery store. Google is in charge of stocking the shelves, and they place the best products right where the shopper can see them. In the world of supermarkets, companies pay for that prime space. In the world of organic SEO, Google chooses the products that offer their “shoppers” the best value.

So, the question is, how do you offer the most value in a competitive environment? You present your products in a unique and engaging way. By being unique, your website can enjoy the equivalent of a showcase display at the front of the aisle.

Help your visitors find what they need quickly with great content. Help visitors find what they need quickly with great content.

Our marketing experts need the answer to two simple questions to get the ball rolling on an exciting and unique content marketing strategy:

1. Who is your target consumer base?

2. What do you offer your customers?

After these questions are answered, your onsite content needs to be reviewed to ensure you are at least providing the essential message your visitors are looking for. Your pages should be set up to offer the maximum convenience to your guest. Keywords and links will naturally find their way into the copy when written with this strategy in mind.
When users are unable to scan your website and determine if you have the information they are looking for within seconds, they are gone. And, if it is clear what you offer, your content better keep their attention with a great hook.

Hook ‘em with Humor

In organic SEO, there is no better bait than engaging content.

While there are several ways to hook your audience, one of the most overlooked avenues is humor. The Internet is about connectivity–people love to share something interesting or humorous with their friends and family. When your content has your customers saying, “You have to read this!” Google will recognize the value you offer searchers.

Of course, before you ever add humor to your webpages or daily blogs, you need to realize that humor is the seasoning to the informational steak. It’s okay to be funny when your core message is clear. When the two merge, your website can start turning readers into buyers.

Sometimes standing out from the crowd takes courage. Many businesses shy away from humor at the risk of being offensive. This is certainly understandable, but not all humor has to be so blue. For instance, think of Google. They once debuted Gmail Motion on April Fool’s Day. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for Google to bring the funny. Think of all the different Google Doodles on their homepage that always provide sharable, buzz-worthy content. As long as humor is geared toward your user base and is sprinkled in with plenty of high-quality and informative copy, it can be a great way to separate your company from your competitors.

Utilizing humor through infographics or instructrographics is another great way to provide fun, sharable content for your social media campaigns. When you create something funny, promote it through your Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets. It will humanize your business and help potential customers build up some trust in your brand.

If humor isn’t an outlet your business can work with, don’t worry. When you inform, instruct, or relate to your audience in creative and valuable ways, it produces a relationship with your customers, and that’s the hook you need. Then, when SEO techniques bring in more traffic, your content can help reel in the sales.

Over the last few months, an interesting trend has occurred on the world’s largest video sharing network and Google subsidiary, YouTube.  While the primary ranking factor for YouTube search results used to be video view count, audience retention is now the most important component in determining a video’s position in the YouTube SERPs.

 Building Better Content: Quantity vs. Quality

Why the Change?
Lately, Google’s been emphasizing quality and relevancy over quantity and this goes beyond universal search results.  Major algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda affected more than 3% of all search queries and were intended to improve the accuracy of results by delivering pages which were designed for the reader, not the robots.

Now, this focus on quality has made its way to YouTube and taken precedence over video views, which are counted regardless of the bounce rate from the page and content itself.  Until recently, if a user watched less than ten seconds of a five minute-long video, that view (or lack thereof) was still counted and influenced its ranking.  The move toward audience retention as a primary ranking factor helps to ensure that the video is more engaging and relevant, as the viewer is staying on the page for a majority of the video’s duration.

Creating Content with Audience Retention in Mind
Today, multimedia plays an integral role in a majority of successful marketing and advertising campaigns.  With many businesses utilizing video as a promotional tool and YouTube as their primary (or only) hosting platform, it is important to understand how to get the most from that content.

When developing your own video content, ask yourself:

-   “Would I want to watch this video?”
-   “Do the titles/keyword/description accurately define the content itself?”
-   “What can I do to improve this video?”

All content, whether it is text, video or otherwise, must be designed with quality in mind.  In marketing, it is essential to not only raise awareness about your brand and increase its visibility, but to captivate your audience and motivate them to take a genuine interest in your products or service offerings.

While video content is a useful resource within marketing and advertising campaigns, it must be developed with a strong emphasis on quality in order to be truly effective.

 

What are you doing to get more value from your YouTube videos?  Share your thoughts with me at brymshaw@webimax.com or leave a comment below!

Each year, more businesses are adopting social media marketing strategies to enhance their traditional, offline marketing efforts.  The overall reach of social networks is impressive, with the combined user base of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounting for about 1/7 of the world’s entire population.  However, the vast scope of social media has left some business owners concerned about being “lost in the shuffle” and struggling to attain discernable visibility.

One important element to gaining recognition and visibility in the social space and within the SERPs is relevance.  The term “relevance” goes beyond merely generating on-page content and keywords that are in line with a page’s general theme or context.  Researching trends in social media and discovering ways to relate those trends to a brand’s offerings is one of the most effective ways to maximize the value of social media marketing and enhance brand awareness online.

Last week, fellow WebiMax.com Blog contributor and VP of Marketing & Digital Strategy, Todd Bailey, appeared on FOX News to discuss the hot topic of Penn State and how the university can repair its online reputation.  Additionally, he wrote a follow-up blog post and hosted a video News Update further detailing the situation and possible long-term reputation management solutions for PSU.  By relating a trending news topic to one of his areas of expertise, Todd was able to gain considerable visibility for his knowledge of reputation management and its application to a widely known issue.

Creating pertinent content not only positively affects organic search rankings and social engagement, but it is a crucial component of building brand awareness and establishing brand personality.  With the roles of P.R., rich content and social media becoming substantially larger in online marketing initiatives, businesses should expect to see significantly increased value in generating high-quality, original content from trending topics.

What are your thoughts on the role of social trends in Internet marketing?  Let me know!  Email me at brymshaw@webimax.com or follow me on Twitter: @brwebimax.

In recent months, Yahoo has endured major financial struggles and the company is currently undergoing restructuring efforts to streamline their business and return to profitability.  While many experts have offered their opinions on Yahoo’s recovery attempts, the brand has yet to see any substantial improvement.  Of course, re-inventing the business model of an international, multi-million dollar corporation is not a rapid process.

Although Yahoo understands that an enhanced focus on their core brands and features and the shedding of unnecessary offerings is now integral to their survival; there are challenges in doing so.  Yahoo must monetize its most popular features while limiting the scope of their business.  While it is certainly possible for the company to achieve this without losing its valuable user base, quality content will be a crucial element of the company’s future success.

Maximize Quality to Maximize Success
Yahoo’s top priority going forward should be delivering quality content while reducing expenditures on its lesser-known or utilized features.  By increasing their focus on quality, rather than quantity, Yahoo may very well be able to re-establish itself as a brand that only does a few things, but does them particularly well.  Yahoo’s initial rise to prominence in the 1990s was based on this strategy and revisiting it is likely to be a viable solution for renewed success.

Going Beyond Yahoo
Developing high-quality content and minimizing excessive functionality is a wise move for many other online businesses, as well.  Companies should consider targeted marketing campaigns geared toward specific audiences in order to better establish their identity as a brand and build a more efficient, smarter business.