That Users Will Probably Love, and Some Businesses May Absolutely Hate

New Google Algorithm

If your business lives and dies by Google search engine results -- if you at least in part make money based on Google search results -- this news is for you.

Google just announced it is in the process of implementing a major change to its core search algorithm that could change results rankings for up to one in 10 queries.

Yep: one in 10.

Which might not sound like much--unless your inbound traffic, and resulting sales and revenue, dips by 10 percent. 

The change is based on a simple premise. In the past, Google's algorithm treated a search sentence as a "bag of words." It picked out what it considered to be the important words--in "who is a great keynote speaker," clearly "keynote" and "speaker" are more important than "is" and "a." 

But doing so eliminates context from a search sentence's intent. 

One example from Google's announcement: Say you enter the search sentence "can you get medicine for someone pharmacy?"

The old algorithm picked out "medicine" and "pharmacy" and returned local results under the assumption you are looking for a nearby drugstore.

Google's new algorithm notices "for someone" and determines you're looking for information about whether you're allowed to pick up someone else's prescription for them.

Same search query. Very different results.

The new algorithm is based on something called BERT, or "bidirectional encoder representations from transformers." (Yep: BERT is a lot better.) In the simplest terms I can come up with, BERT is a tool that helps optimize natural language processing by using A.I. and a massive data set to deliver better contextual results.

Or in even simpler terms, it better understands what you're actually looking for when you enter a search query.

Another example Google shared: "Parking on a hill with no curb." The old algorithm reached into the bag of words and discarded "no," delivering a top result that referenced how to park on a hill with curbs. The new algorithm realizes "no" matters and delivers a top result showing how to park uphill or downhill with no curb.

And one more example: "2019 brazil traveler to USA need a visa." In the past, Google ignored "to" and returned results on U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. But "to" clearly matters, and BERT picks up the difference, returning results for Brazilian travelers to the U.S.

Keep in mind only some search queries will be affected by the algorithm changes. And that determines

how the algorithm works is still something of a mystery even to the most dedicated SEO professionals. 

So if your site suddenly ranks lower for certain search terms, BERT might be to blame. Or maybe not.

Either way, according to Pandu Nayak, Google VP of research, "This is the single biggest ... most positive change we've had in the last five years and perhaps one of the biggest since the beginning."

Reason enough to watch closely for any changes to your search rankings and to spend more time analyzing keyword context, especially if you try to rank well for longer-tail keyword strings. And if your search traffic remains stable but conversion rates dip, that's obviously a sign at least portion of the traffic you receive isn't interested in what you provide.

And since it's likely to be impossible to truly optimize for BERT, make sure you create content for people, not search engines.

BERT is just another step in Google's effort to understand what people want when they search. The more you deliver what people want, the more likely you are to rank high in search results.

Because trying to "game" a system never works for long.

But providing genuine value does.

Inc. Magazine - By Jeff HadenContributing editor, Inc.@jeff_haden

One of the challenges of creating websites is how much to charge. And for clients, how much should they pay.

The range for website design is all over the place with some designers charging $150 and others charging many thousands. Of course, much of the pricing depends on what type of business it is, what the scope of the business is and how complicated the site will be. Is it a custom site or template based? Does code need to be implemented? Is it an eCommerce site? Is the client providing content or does it need to be written? Not all websites are created equally!

These are all questions that need to be asked when determining the cost of a website.

When clients hear how much it is, they are often taken aback. Most businesses are spending money on traditional advertising such as print ads which can be very expensive, often costing thousands of dollars a year for local advertiser.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself so you can see the value of your site.

· What are you selling and what is your average transaction?

· Will the website help increase sales?

· How much is your advertising budget?

· Can the website bring more added value to the business than other advertising expenditures

· If you use print advertising, how much are you spending?

When you can answer some of these basic questions, justifying the cost of a website is much easier. And you will see the value of your web designer.

For the past several years, branding has been a major buzzword, but what is branding? It is often confused with marketing and although they are closely related, branding has its own niche. It can be vague and confusing but doesn’t have to be.

Branding is everything that differentiates you or identifies you with your customer or audience. It is your promise to them of what to expect from you. It is who you are, who you want to be, and how you want to be perceived. The goal of branding is to attract and keep loyal customers by aligning your product with your promise and what the customer wants.

Do you want to be seen as a luxury product? Are you the go-to agency for reliable service? Are you the bargain basement for web design? Whatever it is that you are trying to promote is your brand and many factors go into building your brand.

Branding goes way beyond just the name, design or symbol and should not be confused with a logo. Logos are certainly an integral part of branding, but it is so much more.

The foundation of your brand is your logo that establishes the tone of your business. I will talk more about the importance of a good logo design in future posts, but for now, let’s just say it is the basis of your brand.

Here are two examples of logos, each with a very different feel and tone:

Your website, packaging, promotional materials, social media and all of your communications should integrate with your logo and be consistent in presenting your business. The tone of your written communications is also part of establishing your brand. If you have a store, your brand should be present here as well, aligning the look and feel of the store with the rest of your marketing.

Whether working on starting a business or an established business, defining your brand is essential.

You need to ask a few basic questions:

• What is the company’s mission?

• What are the benefits or features of the products or services?

• How does the company or business want to be perceived?

• Who are you targeting and what do they want?

Once you answer these questions you can start developing and promoting your brand. Create an amazing logo that tells a story of who you are. Be consistent. Create templates for your ads, social media, and promotional pieces. Create style sheets for your brand colors and fonts. Establish your voice. Is it casual or formal? Serious or fun?

This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive, but it does take some thought and in the long run will be well worth the effort.

I will be posting more information on creating a logo and developing your brand.