Odyssey bloghelping you leverage the potential of the internet

What are SEM and SEO and do I need them?


15. June 2009 15:04

In the screenshot below is a results page from a Google search, often referred to in the industry as a SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  The blue highlighted region indicates the “natural” or “organic” search results, whereas the red highlighted area refers to the sponsored adverts.

PPC stands for Pay per click, which is another name for the sponsored adverts which appear on the search results page. As the term suggests you pay only when a user clicks on your advert.

To get your website featured in the sponsored adverts region, you will need to sign-up for Google Adwords and start a PPC campaign.  In as little as 15 minutes your adverts will go live on Google and you will start attracting visitors to your website!

 

Google SERPS - indicating PPC and Organic listings

To get your website featured in the organic listings Google will need to find your website and index it in its database. Your website’s ranking in a search engine will be based on many factors too complicated to cover here, but in order to improve your organic ranking it helps to have a search engine friendly or optimised website and promote your website using recognised SEO techniques.

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimisation the activities carried out to generate qualified traffic to a website in order to appear in the “organic” or “natural” results.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

The term SEM refers to Search Engine Marketing and is used to describe all the activities that encompass the promotion of a website using search engines.  SEM can mean either SEO and PPC combined or one or the other.

How to get your Website in the Search Engines


25. May 2009 14:43

Search engines are a popular method of finding websites on the internet.  They DO NOT search the whole internet contrary to popular belief, instead they keep a very very large database of websites (known as the index) which they know about and search those, when you perform a text search.

Search engines such as Google have special programs called robots which continuously scour the internet.  These robots are used to retrieve information from websites on the internet.  This information is fed back to the search engine for processing and the output of this process is added to the search engine’s index.

Getting your website indexed

As such there are no guarantees your website will appear in search engines, the search engine must become aware of your website before it can be found in the search engine index.
There are a couple of ways of achieving this.  You can submit your site to a search engine and wait until it gets indexed, or you can wait until the search engine discovers your site by itself, which is the preferred method.
Either way you may have to wait up to 6 weeks for your website to be added to the index.

As long as your website is linked to from at least one other (indexed) website then your website will be found by the major search engines without you having to do any work whatsoever.

No need to submit to hundreds of search engines

In the UK, Google has almost a 90% share of the search market, the other major search engines are Live Search, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves.  So its best to avoid SEO companies or SEO computer programs that claim to submit your site to 500+ search engines.  Even if they do submit your site to that many search engines, what good will it do you if 98% of internet users use Google, Yahoo, Ask or Live Search?

Determine Your Long-Term Website Total Cost of Ownership


5. May 2009 15:02

Your website is a shop window for your business, which will need to grow and change with your business and be able to inform your customers of your latest products or services, news, awards etc.

A common pitfall sometimes overlooked by new website owners is the on-going cost of ownership. There are very few website owners who will be happy leaving their website unchanged since the day it went live, but they don’t often factor in the cost of maintaining and keeping the website up-to-date. 
Likewise many people forget that a website will not magically sell itself.  Time and money will need to be invested in search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) in order to bring new customers in.  The same can be said for retaining existing customers, where keeping a database of names and addresses can be very beneficial to communicate with your existing client base.

If you are looking to get a website built or re-designed it makes a lot of sense to spend a few minutes thinking about the total cost of ownership (TCO).  How much will your website actually cost beyond the initial design and build stage?

You should consider the following: 

  • Website design & build
  • Search engine optimisation (on-page and off-page) – Off-page SEO is an on-going specialist task which will help your site in Google’s “organic” listings
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) – Pay per click advertising e.g. Google Adwords
  • Website maintenance – Updating the site text, adding new sections etc
  • Content management systems – Enabling you to update the website yourself
  • HTML newsletters design, build and broadcast costs

Some web design companies will offer all of these services, whereas some agencies will specialise in only certain areas. 
It makes sense to look at the track record of companies you hire in order to make sure not only you can work with them, but that they can work with other agencies you hire to deliver the type of service you require, in the time-frames your business demands.

Domain Name Registration Length Can Impact Google Ranking


24. April 2009 14:35

Whether you’ve just bought a domain name for your website or its up for renewal, you may wish to consider the fact that Google and potentially other search engines take into consideration the length of time you’ve purchased the domain for during their ranking algorithms.

They do this and other domain related checks to try and determine whether the domain is potentially a throwaway or spam domain, rather than a quality website they wish to place in their index and send visitors to. 

So it is always wise to spend a little extra and renew a domain for longer than the minimal renewal length, which is normal between 1 and 2 years.  After all domain name purchases aren’t very expensive, and the benefits are clear.

Even if your domain is not up for renewal in the foreseeable future, most Domain Name Registrars will allow you to extend the domain registration period.

Introduction to Content Management Solutions


23. April 2009 14:38

The idea behind a content management system or CMS is to enable websites to be updated easily without the need to have any knowledge of how to write and update web pages using HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Unlike HTML which is a standard as defined by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), content management systems are not, and because of this they vary a lot. Some are open-source and are free to download, install and use, whereas some are bespoke implementations created for especially for specific websites or organisations. None are created the same and all have strengths and weaknesses.

Basic Elements of a CMS

A content management system usually has a log-in area, usually a web interface where you log-in to modify the website content or upload documents/images to the website. When you save your pages they normally get saved into a database, which will store a lot, if not all, of your websites’ content.

The actual web-facing part of your site, that visitors see when they type a domain name into their web browser, “looks” at the database of content, and gets the content for each particular page when it is requested by a visitor.

Most pages on your website will probably use a common CMS template; this template features all the elements of your site that don’t change from page to page. The template also features empty slots for your page text and images etc. These slots are filled from the content in the database depending which page you request.

Content management systems are really good if you want to be able to modify your website content on your own, and you don’t have any web page authoring experience. However the amount of work required building a CMS onto your site is quite substantial and therefore expensive, and as such you should have a good think about how often you will actually make changes to your site and therefore benefit from a content managed web solution.

Downsides of CMS

Because of the complexity of CMS however, you might find that you aren’t able to change absolutely everything on your website through the content management interface. So it’s important to define your requirements prior to CMS development, as such modifications may be costly and time-consuming once the development has begun.

Content management systems can be written in different programming languages and because of this most are restricted to a specific type of web server/web hosting platform, they will probably have been built for one flavour of database too, so if you plan on using your existing web hosting you may find you need to upgrade or change hosting arrangements, or host your website with the company who is building it for you.

Search Engine Marketing and CMS

A lot of content management systems while enabling you to edit your own website weren’t designed to allow search engines to easily index your website. In a competitive market place, where most people use search to find everything, it is paramount that your website, content managed or not, doesn’t hinder search engines like Google, Yahoo and Live from indexing your web pages and getting your products and services found.

There are lots of techniques for helping a search engine to index your site, and these go far beyond meta tags, which are considered obsolete by most modern search engines, so make sure you ask the right questions before you choose a content managed solution.