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I hear the train a-comin'

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I’ve spent this last week in Dallas with some of my coworkers from other parts of our company and I just wanted to share a little bit of what we got to learn about.

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It was a real eye-opener. Anyone who has been aware of some of the changes that have taken place within Facebook or search engine algorithms have probably experienced them first hand but for those of us that don’t follow the updates this will catch you up a bit.

Since their inception, search engines have had one goal: to help answer your queries accurately and quickly. I’m sure everyone can appreciate the improvements that have taken place in the past decade. Remember when you could start your search, go make a snack and still get back before the page loaded? Now search result pages (SERPS) load in lightning fast times, often under one second. So how do you improve on that?

It’s all about the algorithm. Algorithms are the formulas and processes that search engines use to determine the quality of the results for your query. For example, if you are looking for a place to eat, you might search for “dining in Brainerd, MN” which in turn would prompt the search engine to look for pages that tag themselves as dining related, with geographic locations in or near Brainerd. Another tricky part to the algorithm is that it also accounts for use of slang or current phrases. This means that the algorithm is constantly changing its terms and updating a database of information. The search engines also have expansive measure of quality control to make sure that when a new website is created, it is properly added to the database and catalogued.

Just as consumers rely on the algorithms to give proper results, businesses and companies have used search engine technology and marketing techniques to promote their business and products. If the algorithm is off, the results are skewed and the business might not be found in relevant searches. Similarly, it used to be very easy to “stuff” keywords into your pages to force the page to show up in results, both relevant and not. The major search engines have done much to put a stop to stuffing like this and the converse of that means that for those businesses that wish to improve their “searchability” the qualifying process is much more exact.

Commonly known as Pay-Per-Click, these forms of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can increase the visibility of a business on the web. If you combine a strong SEM program with a quality Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program, it’s a one two punch that helps your business gain visibility in relevant searches.

The “science” of this is so exacting Google actually has a certification program that ensures that the people who go through the certification know how to properly set up SEO and SEM campaigns and that a business can set reasonable, trackable, measurements for how effective the marketing is. I was one of two people that completed the Google AdWords certification from The Brainerd Dispatch and Echo Publishing, so this means we are now more than qualified to help any business explore SEO, SEM and a host of other digital services. Stay tuned for more information about what new options we will be able to offer you.

Ultimately, to the end user (you, the consumer), all of these changes are just a reflection of how the online and digital world is continuing to evolve. In a world where smartphones, tablets and other high tech devices are the new normal, it will become increasingly vital to stay on top of these changes because they will directly affect our lives, our internet experience and how we learn.

I’d love to hear about how some of these changes have affected you already, or if you have questions about some of these changes, shoot me an email or send me a tweet!

IMHO

I saw an interesting ad on TV while I was here in Dallas. It was for CNN, they just created a new app for Windows Smartphones. It was surprising to me because they are one of the first ads I’ve really seen to promote a singular app in the Windows App Store. It got me wondering ... they have put a lot of effort into promoting the human side of the Windows Phones (celebrity endorsements, etc) and now they are promoting development, but what shocks me is that they haven’t really had a push to promote the OS itself. I’ve seen many emails just from the column on the confusion of the desktop version and certainly anyone who transplants from an Android or iOS device will have lots of questions. In a world of tweets, viral video campaigns and information at your fingertips, I would have thought Microsoft would have put together more along the lines of promoting the actual use, not just how celebrities say they like it.

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