“Search marketing has grown in popularity as online search continues to evolve from a novelty to a standard feature in our everyday lives. Almost every business in the country, big or small and regardless of industry, has some kind of web presence, and everybody is competing for only a handful of positions at the top of search-engine results pages (SERPs).
Since larger companies — mega-corporations such as Walmart or Home Depot — already have millions of inbound links, decades of content, and a recurring base of online visitors, it’s no wonder why they generally appear in the top ranking positions when people search for commercial products. Regardless of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has tried harder than you have (allocated more budget and resources) to building their visibility on the web and in search engines.
So how can you, a small business with limited experience and resources, compete with that level of online domination?
Thankfully, search-engine optimization (SEO) is no longer about sheer volume. It’s not about who’s been on the web the longest, who has the most inbound links, or even who has the biggest library of great content. It’s about which page or website is the most relevant for the searcher. Knowing that, there are several strategies you can implement that can give you the edge over the bigger, badder competition.
1. Specialize in a niche.
One of the best things you can do as a small business is give yourself a niche focus. Instinctively, you might think that the better option for search visibility is to cover as many areas of expertise as possible. For example, if you work in heating, cooling, plumbing, roofing, construction and a dozen other home improvement topics, you’ll be able to appear in search engines for queries related to any of those keywords.
However, if you’re trying to take down your biggest competitors, it’s better to take more of a niche focus. Having several areas of specialization gives you relevance for a wide range of keywords, but your relevance for each of them is somewhat low. If you pour all your effort into one or a small handful of keywords, you’ll be able to achieve a much higher visibility.
For example, if you specialize in indoor plumbing, you might miss out on limited visibility for all those other home improvement keywords, but you’ll be the best in indoor plumbing.
2. Engage in a long-tail keyword strategy.
Long-tail keyword strategies try to accomplish a similar goal. In niche specialization, you sacrifice minimal relevance in a large volume of topics for maximum relevance in a much smaller volume of topics. With long-tail keywords, you’ll be sacrificing minimal ranking potential with highly popular keywords for maximum ranking potential with less popular keywords.
Long-tail keywords are extended phrases Google looks for, such as “tips for installing a toilet in an upstairs bathroom” instead of the much shorter, more popular “toilet installation.” Ranking highly for long-tail keywords is much easier than ranking high for shorter keywords, so even though they bring in less traffic, they’re still more valuable for small businesses to go after.
Another way to beat the competition is by targeting a much more local audience. Local search is becoming more relevant and more important, so in today’s context, being the best barber shop in Houston is far better than being an OK barber shop on a national scale.
Even if your business does operate on a national (or international) level, you can still capture a niche market share and edge out your competition in at least one key area by optimizing for a specific local area. In this section, I’ll introduce a handful of specific strategies you can use to build your reputation and relevance in your given city.
Event attendance and community building. Get your name out there by getting involved in the community. Attend major events whenever you can, such as fairs, festivals or community gatherings. This will give you two opportunities: First, you’ll immediately generate more business simply by being at the event and offering discounts or promotions to event attendees. Second, and more importantly for SEO, you’ll have the opportunity to brag about your attendance online.
Post excellent content on your website, using local-specific keywords, about your company’s attendance, and syndicate a press release about the opportunity for some high-authority and local-specific inbound links. This is one of the easiest ways to generate publicity and build some local-optimized content simultaneously.
Local reviews, on directory and aggregation sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, have become essential for local SEO. With Google’s Pigeon algorithm update earlier this year, Yelp and similar sites received a huge boost in priority. Now, sites with large volumes of positive reviews rank higher than similar sites with few or negative reviews. In fact, Yelp’s importance has increased so much that, in some cases, Yelp profiles are actually ranking higher than the official pages of the companies they represent.
What this means for small businesses is a new, key opportunity to jump in the rankings without worrying about producing content or building links. Instead, you can focus on cultivating strong, positive reviews from your customers. While Yelp explicitly forbids compensating your reviewers, or asking customers directly for reviews in any way, you can still encourage more reviews with Yelp stickers and occasional call-outs with a link on your social-media profiles.
Hyper-local content. Local search is getting more local, and taking advantage of that incoming trend could be the opportunity you need to crush a larger competitor — especially if that competitor operates in the same city as you.
Google is getting better at identifying and categorizing neighborhoods within a broader city, so you can take local search a step further by using neighborhood-specific keywords instead of just city and state names. Your potential success is determined by how Google views your neighborhood boundaries, so do some research before you begin.
4. Personalize your social engagement.
Aside from local search optimization, you can also increase your chances of overcoming steep competition by stepping up the “personal” factor in your brand strategy. Large businesses tend to lose a portion of their personalities once they hit a certain point in their growth, but being small and nimble gives you the advantage of giving each follower a more personal, humanized experience.
Nurture your following on social media, and you’ll attract more posts and followers, and the bigger and more active your social-media presence is, the higher you’ll rank in Google.
5. Become a recognized, authoritative content publisher.
Building brand awareness, loyalty, trust and credibility requires frequent and quality content publication. Most companies utilize an on-site blog to publish content, while others produce and distribute ebooks, webinars, podcasts, videos and other forms of content through various other channels.
There’s no shortcut to rise to the top of the search engine rankings, especially when there’s a massive competitor lingering on the scene. But with a strategy that leverages your geographic location and your agility, you can selectively overcome your competitors in specific key areas.
Give yourself the best odds by narrowing your topic and keyword focus and increasing your location-specific relevance. You might not rank for as many keywords as the bigger players, but you will be able to surpass them in relevance for your chosen focal points.”
Over the years, credit cards have become one of the most common forms of payment for e-commerce transactions. In North America almost 90% of online B2C transactions were made with this payment type. Turban et al. goes on to explain that it would be difficult for an online retailer to operate without supporting credit and debit cards due to their widespread use. Increased security measures include use of the card verification number (CVN) which detects fraud by comparing the verification number printed on the signature strip on the back of the card with the information on file with the cardholder’s issuing bank. Also online merchants have to comply with stringent rules stipulated by the credit and debit card issuers (Visa and MasterCard) this means that merchants must have security protocol and procedures in place to ensure transactions are more secure. This can also include having a certificate from an authorized certification authority (CA) who provides PKI(Public-Key infrastructure) for securing credit and debit card transactions.
Despite widespread use in North America, there are still a large number of countries such as China, India and Pakistan that have some problems to overcome in regard to credit card security. In the meantime, the use of smartcards has become extremely popular. A Smartcard is similar to a credit card; however it contains an embedded 8-bit microprocessor and uses electronic cash which transfers from the consumers’ card to the sellers’ device. A popular smartcard initiative is the VISA Smartcard. Using the VISA Smartcard you can transfer electronic cash to your card from your bank account, and you can then use your card at various retailers and on the internet.
There are companies that enable financial transactions to transpire over the internet, such as PayPal. Many of the mediaries permit consumers to establish an account quickly, and to transfer funds into their on-line accounts from a traditional bank account (typically via ACH transactions), and vice versa, after verification of the consumer’s identity and authority to access such bank accounts. Also, the larger mediaries further allow transactions to and from credit card accounts, although such credit card transactions are usually assessed a fee (either to the recipient or the sender) to recoup the transaction fees charged to the mediary.
The speed and simplicity with which cyber-mediary accounts can be established and used have contributed to their widespread use, although the risk of abuse, theft and other problems—with disgruntled users frequently accusing the mediaries themselves of wrongful behavior—is associated with them.
Although credit cards are most popular in the US and some other countries, there are a few alternative systems.
This is a system, well known in India, that does not involve any sort of physical card. It is used by customers who have accounts enabled with Internet Banking. Instead of entering card details on the purchaser’s site, in this system the payment gateway allows one to specify which bank they wish to pay from. Then the user is redirected to the bank’s website, where one can authenticate oneself and then approve the payment. Typically there will also be some form of two-factor authentication.
It is typically seen as being safer than using credit cards, with the result that nearly all merchant accounts in India offer it as an option.
A very similar system, known as iDEAL, is popular in the Netherlands.
PayPal is a global e-commerce business allowing payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet. Online money transfers serve as electronic alternatives to paying with traditional paper methods, such as cheque’s and money orders. It is subject to the US economic sanction list and other rules and interventions required by US laws or government. PayPal is an acquirer, a performing payment processing for online vendors, auction sites, and other commercial users, for which it charges a fee. It may also charge a fee for receiving money, proportional to the amount received. The fees depend on the currency used, the payment option used, the country of the sender, the country of the recipient, the amount sent and the recipient’s account type. In addition, eBay purchases made by credit card through PayPal may incur extra fees if the buyer and seller use different currencies. On October 3, 2002, PayPal became a wholly owned subsidiary of eBay. Its corporate headquarters are in San Jose, California, United States at eBay’s North First Street satellite office campus. The company also has significant operations in Omaha, Scottsdale, Charlotte and Austin in the United States; Chennai in India; Dublin in Ireland; Berlin in Germany; and Tel Aviv in Israel. From July 2007, PayPal has operated across the European Union as a Luxembourg-based bank
Google Wallet was launched in 2011, serving a similar function as PayPal to facilitate payments and transfer money online. It also features a security that has not been cracked to date, and the ability to send payments as attachments via email.
VTC Pay is E- Commerce payment system, very well known in Vietnam. A moderate connector among Buyers, Sellers and Banks. It is on behalf of customers who have bank accounts to conduct receipt and payment transactions. Own the largest payment network in Vietnam with 29 domestic banks and 02 International Card Manufacturers Associations. In addition, VTC Pay Wallet is an electronic money storage service . It is used to conduct online payment such as e-commerce and electronic bill payment.
It includes Google’s popular web applications including Gmail, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. While these products are available to consumers free of charge, Google Apps for Work adds business-specific features such as custom email addresses at your domain (@yourcompany.com), at least 30GB of storage for documents and email, and 24/7 phone and email support. As a cloud computing solution, it takes a different approach from off-the-shelf office productivity software by hosting customer information in Google’s network of secure data centers, rather than on traditional in-house servers that are located within companies.
According to Google, more than 5 million organizations around the world use Google Apps, including 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
February 10, 2006 – Google launched a Gmail for Your Domain test at San Jose City College, hosting Gmail accounts with SJCC domain addresses and admin tools for account management.
August 28, 2006 – Google launched Google Apps for Your Domain, a set of apps for organizations. Available for free as a beta product, it included Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and the Google Page Creator which was replaced with Google Sites. Dave Girouard, then Google’s vice president and general manager for enterprise, outlined its benefits for business customers: “Organizations can let Google be the experts in delivering high quality email, messaging, and other web-based services while they focus on the needs of their users and their day-to-day business.”
October 10, 2006 – An edition for schools, known as Google Apps for Education, was announced.
February 22, 2007 – Google introduced Google Apps Premier Edition, which differed from the free version by offering more storage (10GB per account), APIs for business integration, and a 99.9% uptime service-level agreement. It cost $50 per user account per year. According to Google, early adopters of Google Apps Premier Edition included Procter & Gamble, San Francisco Bay Pediatrics, and Salesforce.com.
June 25, 2007 – Google added a number of features to Google Apps, including mail migration, which allows customers to transfer existing email data from an IMAP server. A ZDNet article noted that Google Apps now offered a tool for switching from the popular Exchange Server and Lotus Notes, positioning Google as an alternative to Microsoft and IBM.
October 3, 2007 – A month after acquiring Postini, Google announced that the startup’s email security and compliance options had been added to Google Apps Premier Edition. Customers now had the ability to better configure their spam and virus filtering, implement retention policies, restore deleted messages, and give administrators access to all emails.
February 26, 2008 – Google introduced Google Sites, a simple new Google Apps tool for creating intranets and team websites.
June 9, 2010 – Google launched Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, a plugin that allows customers to synchronize their email, calendar, and contacts data between Outlook and Google Apps.
July 7, 2010 – Google announced that the services included in Google Apps—Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Talk—were no longer in beta.
March 9, 2010 – Google opened the Google Apps Marketplace, an online store for third-party business applications that integrate with Google Apps, to make it easier for users and software to do business in the cloud. Participating vendors included Intuit, Appirio, and Atlassian.
July 26, 2010 – Google introduced Google Apps for Government, an edition of Google Apps designed to meet the public sector’s unique policy and security needs. It was also announced that Google Apps had become the first suite of cloud applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation.
April 26, 2011 – Nearly five years after the launch of Google Apps, Google announced that organizations with more than 10 users were no longer eligible for the free edition of Google Apps. They would have to sign up for the paid version, now known as Google Apps for Business. A flexible billing plan was also introduced, giving customers the option of paying $5 per user per month with no contractual commitment.
March 28, 2012 – Google launched Google Apps Vault, an optional Electronic discovery and archiving service for Google Apps for Business customers.
April 24, 2012 – Google introduced Google Drive, a platform for storing and sharing files. Each Google Apps for Business user was given 5GB of Drive storage, with the option to purchase more. Observers noted that Google had now entered the cloud storage market, competing with players like Dropbox and Box.
December 6, 2012 – Google announced that the free version of Google Apps would no longer be available to new customers.
May 13, 2013 – Google increased the Drive storage quota for Google Apps customers. Google combined the 25GB on Gmail and 5GB on Drive, increasing it to 30GB total per user that can be used across all Apps products including Gmail and Google Drive.
March 10, 2014 – Google launched the Google Apps Referral Program, which offers participating individuals a $15 referral bonus for each new Google Apps user they refer.
June 25, 2014 – Google announced Drive for Work, a new Google Apps offering featuring unlimited file storage, advanced audit reporting, and new security controls for $10 per user per month.
September 2, 2014 – Google Enterprise, the company’s business product division, was officially renamed Google for Work. “We never set out to create a traditional ‘enterprise’ business—we wanted to create a new way of doing work,” explained Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. “So the time has come for our name to catch up with our ambition.” To reflect this larger change, Google Apps for Business was renamed Google Apps for Work.
November 14, 2014 – In the free edition of Google Apps secondary domains are not supported. The free edition of Google Apps only supports domain aliases.
Launched in a limited rollout on April 1, 2004, Gmail is now the most popular web email service in the world. It became open to all consumers in 2007. As of June 2012, 425 million people use Gmail, according to Google.
The free consumer version of Gmail is supported by text ads related to the contents of people’s email messages. Popular features include 15GB of free storage, threaded conversations, robust search capabilities, and an app-like interface.
While similar to the free version, Gmail in Google Apps for Work adds a number of features designed for business users.
Custom email including the customer’s domain name (@yourcompany.com)
99.9% guaranteed uptime with zero scheduled downtime for maintenance
Either 30GB or unlimited storage shared with Google Drive, depending on the plan
Google’s file storage and synchronization service was released on April 24, 2012, at least six years after rumors about the product first began circulating. Google’s official announcement described Google Drive as “a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff.”
With Google Drive, users can upload any type of files to the cloud, share them with others, and access them from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Users can easily sync files between their computer and the cloud with a desktop application for Mac and PC. This app puts a special folder on their computer and all changes made to files sync across Drive, on the web and across devices. The consumer version of Google Drive includes 15GB of storage shared across Gmail, Drive and Google+ Photos.
When offered as part of Google Apps for Work, Google Drive comes with additional features designed for business use. These include:
Either 30GB or unlimited storage shared with Gmail, depending on the plan
24/7 customer support
Sharing controls that keep files private until customers decide to share them
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms work within any web browser or on any web-enabled mobile devices. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and surveys can be shared, commented on, and co-edited in real time. Additional features include unlimited revision history that keep all changes safe in one place and offline access that lets people work on their documents without internet connection.
On June 25, 2014, Google introduced native editing for Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Echoing similar remarks in other articles, a Mashable journalist wrote, “Google is clearly positioning its apps as a more affordable solution for companies that need to occasionally edit Office files.”
Introduced on February 28, 2008, Google Sites allows people to create and edit web pages even if they are not familiar with HTML or web design. People can build sites from scratch or with templates, upload content such as photos and videos, and control access permissions by choosing who can view and edit each page.
Google Sites launched as part of the paid Google Apps suite but soon became available to consumers as well. Business customers use Google Sites to build project sites, company intranets, and public-facing sites.
Designed to integrate with Gmail, Google’s online calendar service launched to consumers on April 13, 2006. It uses the iCal standard to work with other calendar applications.
Google’s online calendar is an integrated online, shareable calendar designed for teams. Businesses can create specific team calendars and share them company wide. Calendars can be delegated to another person to manage a specific calendar and events. People can also use Google Calendar to see if meeting rooms or shared resources are free, and add them to events.
Helpful features of Google Calendar include:
Share calendars with teammates and others to check availability
Overlay teammates’ calendars into a single view to find a time when everyone is available
Use the mobile app or synchronize with the built-in calendar on mobile devices
Publishing of calendars to the web, and integration into Google Sites
Simple migration from Exchange, Outlook, or iCal, or from .ics and .csv files
On May 15, 2013, Google announced that a new text, voice, and video chat tool would replace its Google Talk, Google Voice, and Google+ Hangouts services. Known as Google Hangouts, it allows up to 10 people for the consumer version and up to 15 people for the work version to join conversations from their computer or mobile device. Participants can share their screens, and view and work on things together. The Hangouts On Air service lets people stream live broadcasts to Google+, YouTube, and their websites.
The version of Hangouts included with Google Apps for Work supports up to 15 participants, and administrators can choose to restrict Hangouts to only people on the same domain, limiting the access of external participants.
The Hangouts app keeps messages stored online in Google’s cloud, and offers an option to toggle off history if people want to go off the record. And the Google+ integration saves every photo people share with each other in a private, shared album on Google+.
On July 30, 2014, Google announced that all Google Apps customers will have access to Hangouts, including those without a Google+ profile. Google also partnered to integrate with other video chat providers – likeBlue Jeans Network and Intercall. Google also announced that Hangouts is covered under the same Terms of Service as other Google Apps for Work products like Gmail and Drive. Apps for Work customers also get 24/7 phone support for Hangouts, 99.9% guaranteed uptime, and ISO27001 and SOC 2 certification.
On December 19, 2014, Google announced via Google+ post that they brought back one of the most requested features for Hangouts in Gmail. The Apps admins have control to keep status messages to be only visible internally.
Google’s social networking service, Google+, launched on June 28, 2011, in an invitation-only field trial. Observers declared it Google’s latest attempt to challenge social giant Facebook. While Google+ has since overtaken Twitter to become the world’s second largest social network after Facebook, it has been criticized for disappointing users and failing to generate referral traffic.
On October 27, 2011, Google announced that Google+ was available for people who use Google Apps at college, work and home.
On August 29, 2012, Google announced that after receiving feedback from business customers that participated in a pilot program, they tailored Google+ features for organizations. These features include private sharing within organizations and administrative controls that restrict the visibility of profiles and posts.
On November 5, 2013, Google added an extra layer of security for restricted communities that could only be joined by people in an organization. Administrators have the option to set restricted communities by default and choose when people outside of the organization can join.
Google+ as a business network received mixed reviews from having features that help small businesses get noticed online to confusing people over its branding to being an important player in social marketing strategy for businesses. Many online articles emphasize that having a Google+ presence helps businesses with their Google search result rankings since Google+ posts and shares are immediately indexed by Google.
Google Apps Vault
Google Apps Vault, an archiving and eDiscovery service exclusively available to Google Apps customers, was announced on March 28, 2012. Vault allows customers to find and preserve email messages that may be relevant to litigation. It also helps them manage business data for continuity, compliance, and regulatory purposes. As of June 25, 2014, Vault customers can also search, preview, and export Google Drive files.
Google Apps Vault is included as part of Drive for Work with unlimited storage, available for $10 per user per month.
When prospective customers sign up for Google Apps for Work, they get a free 30-day trial for up to 10 users. After the trial, they may choose either an annual plan at $50 per user per year or a flexible plan at $5 per user per month or $60/year. Both plans are billed on a monthly basis.
With the flexible plan, customers have the option of adding unlimited storage and Google Apps Vault for a total monthly cost of $10 per user. For organizations with fewer than five users, storage is capped to 1TB per user with this option.
Google has stated that they do not own the customer’s data. The data is stored in Google’s data centers, and access is limited to select employees and personnel. They do not share data with others, will only keep data as long as required by the customer, and customers can take the data if they migrate off Google Apps.
Google Apps offers enterprise-grade security and compliance, including a SSAE 16 / ISAE 3402 Type II, SOC 2-audit, ISO 27001 certification, adherence to the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles, and can support industry-specific requirements like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Google claims that spam blockers are integrated into Google Apps with built-in virus checking and checking of documents before allowing users to download any message.
Google ensures that all files uploaded to Google Drive are encrypted, and that every email people send or receives are encrypted while moving internally between data centers. In a blog post, Google for Work stated that they offer strong contractual commitments to protect customer’s information and does not show advertisements or scan customer information for advertising.
Google Apps claims that over 5M businesses are using their tools, either the free or the paid version. According to Google for Work President Amit Singh, 60% of Fortune 500 companies are using Google for Work services. Customers range across industries around the globe including Uber,AllSaints,Buzzfeed, Design Within Reach, Virgin, PwC and more. Many of the customers using Apps are featured on the Apps customer page.
Google Resellers and Referrers
Google has an ecosystem of resellers that help prospects get up and running on Apps. The Partner directory helps people find partners. On March 10, 2014, Google launched a referral program, that gives referrers $15 for every person who signs up. This program initially debuted for anyone based in the US and Canada. The fine print of the referral program shows that people can refer an unlimited number of customers, but they’re rewarded for each referral customer’s first 100 users.
On December 4, 2014, Google introduced the Google for Work and Education Partner Program which helps partners sell, service and innovate across Google for Work and Education suite of products and platforms.
Google Apps Marketplace
The Google Apps Marketplace launched in 2010 is an online store with business-oriented cloud applications that augment Google Apps functionality. The Marketplace lets administrators browse for, purchase, and deploy integrated business-oriented cloud applications. It is available for Google Apps, Google Apps for Work, and Google Apps for Education.
Developers can also develop apps on the Marketplace, and sell apps and services in the Marketplace. On March 6, 2014, Google shared that Google Apps customers have added over 200M installs from the marketplace since the launch of the Marketplace in 2010.
On September 17, 2014, Google released a blog post that employees can install third-party apps from the Marketplace without involving administrators.
Google Apps has received many positive reviews online with an average of 4-5 stars on a 5 star scale. Reviews praise Google Apps for its competitive pricing, all-inclusive suite offering, easy setup, and working well across devices. Some negative reviews point out that Google Apps, Google Presentations and Google Documents lack the same level of features that provide professional-looking documents made in Powerpoint and Microsoft Word.
The key competitor to the Google Apps suite is Microsoft Office 365—Microsoft’s cloud-based offering for businesses that includes similar products. Online reviewers vary as to which is the better offering. Reviews note that Google Apps and Microsoft 365 are similar in ratings but very different in features.
The key differences are in the pricing plans, storage space and number of features. Microsoft 365 tends to have a greater number of features than Google Apps, but many of them often go unused. Google does not release revenue or user figures, making it hard for reviewers to compare Google Apps success to that of Microsoft Office. As of October 2014, Microsoft has 7M customers for the Office 365 product and grew by 25% in the last quarter. Microsoft also announced that it is giving away unlimited storage to customers who buy the cloud version of Microsoft Office 365.
There are currently no startups competing with Google Apps suite because the cost to compete on one product, like email, is too high and the revenue opportunity is hard.
With Google Apps’ new SKU, Apps with Unlimited Storage and Vault, Google Apps has attracted new competitors – Box, Dropbox and OneDrive.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.
As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.
The plural of the abbreviation SEO can also refer to “search engine optimizers,” those who provide SEO services.
Webmasters and content providers began optimizing sites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. Initially, all webmasters needed to do was to submit the address of a page, or URL, to the various engines which would send a “spider” to “crawl” that page, extract links to other pages from it, and return information found on the page to be indexed. The process involves a search engine spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine’s own server, where a second program, known as an indexer, extracts various information about the page, such as the words it contains and where these are located, as well as any weight for specific words, and all links the page contains, which are then placed into a scheduler for crawling at a later date.
Site owners started to recognize the value of having their sites highly ranked and visible in search engine results, creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase “search engine optimization” probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as being one of the first people to popularize the term. On May 2, 2007, Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona that SEO is a “process” involving manipulation of keywords, and not a “marketing service.” The reviewing attorney basically bought his incoherent argument that while “SEO” can’t be trademarked when it refers to a generic process of manipulated keywords, it can be a service mark for providing “marketing services…in the field of computers.”
Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag, or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page’s content. Using meta data to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster’s choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site’s actual content. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags could and did cause pages to rank for irrelevant searches. Web content providers also manipulated a number of attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.
By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster’s control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. Graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed “Backrub,” a search engine that relied on a mathematical algorithm to rate the prominence of web pages. The number calculated by the algorithm, PageRank, is a function of the quantity and strength of inbound links.PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfs the web, and follows links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are stronger than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random surfer.
Page and Brin founded Google in 1998. Google attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users, who liked its simple design. Off-page factors (such as PageRank and hyperlink analysis) were considered as well as on-page factors (such as keyword frequency, meta tags, headings, links and site structure) to enable Google to avoid the kind of manipulation seen in search engines that only considered on-page factors for their rankings. Although PageRank was more difficult to game, webmasters had already developed link building tools and schemes to influence the Inktomi search engine, and these methods proved similarly applicable to gaming PageRank. Many sites focused on exchanging, buying, and selling links, often on a massive scale. Some of these schemes, or link farms, involved the creation of thousands of sites for the sole purpose of link spamming.
By 2004, search engines had incorporated a wide range of undisclosed factors in their ranking algorithms to reduce the impact of link manipulation. In June 2007, The New York Times’ Saul Hansell stated Google ranks sites using more than 200 different signals. The leading search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo, do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages. Some SEO practitioners have studied different approaches to search engine optimization, and have shared their personal opinions. Patents related to search engines can provide information to better understand search engines.
In 2005, Google began personalizing search results for each user. Depending on their history of previous searches, Google crafted results for logged in users. In 2008, Bruce Clay said that “ranking is dead” because ofpersonalized search. He opined that it would become meaningless to discuss how a website ranked, because its rank would potentially be different for each user and each search.
In December 2009, Google announced it would be using the web search history of all its users in order to populate search results.
On June 8, 2010 a new web indexing system called Google Caffeine was announced. Designed to allow users to find news results, forum posts and other content much sooner after publishing than before, Google caffeine was a change to the way Google updated its index in order to make things show up quicker on Google than before. According to Carrie Grimes, the software engineer who announced Caffeine for Google, “Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index…”
Google Instant, real-time-search, was introduced in late 2010 in an attempt to make search results more timely and relevant. Historically site administrators have spent months or even years optimizing a website to increase search rankings. With the growth in popularity of social media sites and blogs the leading engines made changes to their algorithms to allow fresh content to rank quickly within the search results.
In February 2011, Google announced the Panda update, which penalizes websites containing content duplicated from other websites and sources. Historically websites have copied content from one another and benefited in search engine rankings by engaging in this practice, however Google implemented a new system which punishes sites whose content is not unique.
In April 2012, Google launched the Google Penguin update the goal of which was to penalize websites that used manipulative techniques to improve their rankings on the search engine.
In September 2013, Google released the Google Hummingbird update, an algorithm change designed to improve Google’s natural language processing and semantic understanding of web pages.
Relationship with search engines
By 1997, search engine designers recognized that webmasters were making efforts to rank well in their search engines, and that some webmasters were even manipulating their rankings in search results by stuffing pages with excessive or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Altavista and Infoseek, adjusted their algorithms in an effort to prevent webmasters from manipulating rankings.
In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb, Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimisation and related topics.
Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients.Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban. Google’s Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, chats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with site optimization. Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website.Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the crawl rate, and track the web pages index status.
Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to guess which websites a user seeks. In this diagram, if each bubble represents a web site, programs sometimes calledspiders examine which sites link to which other sites, with arrows representing these links. Websites getting more inbound links, or stronger links, are presumed to be more important and what the user is searching for. In this example, since website B is the recipient of numerous inbound links, it ranks more highly in a web search. And the links “carry through,” such that website C, even though it only has one inbound link, has an inbound link from a highly popular site (B) while site E does not. Note: percentages are rounded.
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and DMOZ both require manual submission and human editorial review. Google offers Google Webmaster Tools, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links. Yahoo! formerly operated a paid submission service that guaranteed crawling for a cost per click; this was discontinued in 2009.
Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site. Not every page is indexed by the search engines. Distance of pages from the root directory of a site may also be a factor in whether or not pages get crawled.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine’s database by using a meta tag specific to robots. When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed, and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.
A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results. Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to important pages may improve its visibility. Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic. Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. Adding relevant keywords to a web page’s meta data, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site’s search listings, thus increasing traffic. URL normalization of web pages accessible via multiple urls, using the canonical link element or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the url all count towards the page’s link popularity score.
White hat versus black hat techniques
SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories: techniques that search engines recommend as part of good design, and those techniques of which search engines do not approve. The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the latter, among them spamdexing. Industry commentators have classified these methods, and the practitioners who employ them, as either white hat SEO, or black hat SEO. White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.
An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines’ guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines, but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the spiders, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking.
Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO. This is in between black hat and white hat approaches where the methods employed avoid the site being penalised however do not act in producing the best content for users, rather entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines’ algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices. Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google’s list.
As a marketing strategy
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective like paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator’s goals. A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site’sconversion rate.
SEO may generate an adequate return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. Search engines can change their algorithms, impacting a website’s placement, possibly resulting in a serious loss of traffic. According to Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. It is considered wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic.
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines’ market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches. In markets outside the United States, Google’s share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007. As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany. While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany. As of June 2008, the marketshare of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise. That market share is achieved in a number of countries.
As of 2009, there are only a few large markets where Google is not the leading search engine. In most cases, when Google is not leading in a given market, it is lagging behind a local player. The most notable example markets are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the Czech Republic where respectively Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, Naver, Yandex and Seznam are market leaders.
Successful search optimization for international markets may require professional translation of web pages, registration of a domain name with a top level domain in the target market, and web hosting that provides a localIP address. Otherwise, the fundamental elements of search optimization are essentially the same, regardless of language.
On October 17, 2002, SearchKing filed suit in the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, against the search engine Google. SearchKing’s claim was that Google’s tactics to prevent spamdexingconstituted a tortious interference with contractual relations. On May 27, 2003, the court granted Google’s motion to dismiss the complaint because SearchKing “failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”
In March 2006, KinderStart filed a lawsuit against Google over search engine rankings. Kinderstart’s website was removed from Google’s index prior to the lawsuit and the amount of traffic to the site dropped by 70%. On March 16, 2007 the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division) dismissed KinderStart’s complaint without leave to amend, and partially granted Google’s motion for Rule 11sanctions against KinderStart’s attorney, requiring him to pay part of Google’s legal expenses.
Google Analytics is a freemiumweb analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google launched the service in November 2005 after acquiring Urchin. Google Analytics is now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet.
Google acquired Urchin Software Corp. in April 2005. Google’s service was developed from Urchin on Demand. The system also brings ideas from Adaptive Path, whose product, Measure Map, was acquired and used in the redesign of Google Analytics in 2006. Google continued to sell the standalone, installable Urchin WebAnalytics Software through a network of value-added resellers until discontinuation on March 28, 2012.
The Google-branded version was rolled out in November 2005 to anyone who wished to sign up. However due to extremely high demand for the service, new sign-ups were suspended only a week later. As capacity was added to the system, Google began using a lottery-type invitation-code model. Prior to August 2006 Google was sending out batches of invitation codes as server availability permitted; since mid-August 2006 the service has been fully available to all users – whether they use Google for advertising or not.
The latest version of Google Analytics tracking code is known as the asynchronous tracking code, which Google claims, is significantly more sensitive and accurate, and is able to track even very short activities on the website. The previous version delayed page loading and so, for performance reasons, it was generally placed just before the </body> body close HTML tag. The new code can be placed between the <head>...</head>HTML head tags because, once triggered, it runs in parallel with page loading.
In April 2011, Google announced the availability of a new version of Google Analytics, featuring multiple dashboards, more options of custom reports and a new interface design. This version was later updated with some other features such as real-time analytics and goal flow charts.
Integrated with AdWords, users can now review online campaigns by tracking landing page quality and conversions (goals). Goals might include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file.
Google Analytics’ approach is to show high-level, dashboard-type data for the casual user, and more in-depth data further into the report set. Google Analytics analysis can identify poorly performing pages with techniques such as funnel visualization, where visitors came from (referrers), how long they stayed and their geographical position. It also provides more advanced features, including custom visitor segmentation.
Google Analytics e-commerce reporting can track sales activity and performance. The e-commerce reports shows a site’s transactions, revenue, and many other commerce-related metrics.
On September 29, 2011, Google Analytics launched Real Time analytics.
A user can have 50 site profiles. Each profile generally corresponds to one website. It is limited to sites which have a traffic of fewer than 5 million pageviews per month (roughly 2 pageviews per second), unless the site is linked to an AdWords campaign.
Google Analytics Cohort analysis feature helps understand the behavior of component groups of users apart from your user population. It is very much beneficial to marketers and analysts for successful implementation of Marketing Strategy
In addition to transmitting information to a Google server, the tracking code sets first party cookies (If cookies are enabled in the browser) on each visitor’s computer. These cookies store anonymous information such as whether the visitor has been to the site before (new or returning visitor), the timestamp of the current visit, and the referrer site or campaign that directed the visitor to the page (e.g., search engine, keywords, banner, or email).
If the visitor arrived at the site by clicking on a link tagged with Urchin Traffic Monitor (UTM) codes such as:
the tag values are passed to the database too.
In addition, Google Analytics for Mobile Package allows Google Analytics to be applied to mobile websites. The Mobile Package contains server-side tracking codes that use PHP, JavaServer Pages, ASP.NET, or Perl for its server-side language.
Another limitation of Google Analytics for large websites is the use of sampling in the generation of many of its reports. To reduce the load on their servers and to provide users with a relatively quick response for their query, Google Analytics limits reports to 500,000 randomly sampled visits at the profile level for its calculations. While margins of error are indicated for the visits metric, margins of error are not provided for any other metrics in the Google Analytics reports. For small segments of data, the margin of error can be very large.
Google has also released a browser plugin that turns off data about a page visit being sent to Google. Since this plug-in is produced and distributed by Google itself, it has met much discussion and criticism. Furthermore, the realisation of Google scripts tracking user behaviours has spawned the production of multiple, often open-source, browser plug-ins to reject tracking cookies. These plug-ins offer the user a choice, whether to allow Google Analytics (for example) to track his/her activities. However, partially because of new European privacy laws, most modern browsers allow users to reject tracking cookies, though Flash cookiescan be a separate problem again.
It has been anecdotally reported that behind proxy servers and multiple firewalls that errors can occur changing time stamps and registering invalid searches.
On Jan. 20, 2015, the Associated Press reported in an article titled: “Government health care website quietly sharing personal data” that HealthCare.gov is providing access to enrollees personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising. Google Analytics was mentioned in that article.
The Google Analytics API is used by third parties to build custom applications such as reporting tools. Many such applications exist. One was built to run on iOS (Apple) devices and is featured in Apple’s app store. There are some third party products that also provide Google Analytic based tracking.
Google Analytics is the most widely used website statistics service, currently in use on around 55% of the 10,000 most popular websites. Another market share analysis claims that Google Analytics is used at around 49.95% of the top 1,000,000 websites (as currently ranked by Alexa).
Google Analytics is used by 66.2% of the 10,000 most popular websites ordered by popularity, as reported by BuiltWith in August, 2013. In May 2008, Pingdom released a survey stating that 161 (or 32%) out of 500 biggest sites globally according to their Alexa rank were using Google Analytics.