You know you’re an expert in your line of business or a great salesperson, but how do you portray that to the outside world and potential customers?
Sure, some companies give away free samples so you can see how great their product is, but in cyber world there is something more valuable and sought after by many: Free advice.
I’ll explain. Search engines are used to give advice, answer questions and to find information. the Google Hummingbird updates over the past year improve how Google handles conversational queries, for example, “Where is the nearest..?”, “how to…?”, and “where can I get…?”.
Therefore informative and compelling on your website is now key to the success of any online business.
For example an online boutique would maybe give advice on the ideal dress for a pear-shape. An Estate Agent, would review local towns and villages including local schools and facilities.
It does come down to time, but there are many ways you can deliver your content: A 10 minute video from your YouTube channel, a post (or a quick tip) on your blog or a comprehensive downloadable report from your website. But spare the time and post regularly because it is worth it. Your information will benefit your readers, demonstrate that you know your stuff and by doing so, Big G will recognise and reward you.
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One way links to your website are good. Very good.
But here’s the scoop: Getting your site listed in every online directory you can find no longer works. Google saw to that with their Panda updates. The old tricks of commenting on other peoples blogs and forums is no good anymore as most of these have a nofollow setup, meaning that Google won’t … You guessed it. So how can you get inbound links while Google make it so increasingly hard?
Google has and always will strive to become an resource and you should do the same, after all you are the expert in your field, right!
For example, If you’re a private tutor specialising in children taking their 11+, it would be good to write about the new changes to the exam. It would be even better to provide a few old test papers that children can complete and calculate their score.
You could also offer your expertise on other people’s websites. Approach them & courteously explain what you can offer them and why they would benefit from your expertise.
It would certainly be more beneficial to your website and more fun, than wasting your time submitting the same information to directories that don’t even work anymore.
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Google rules the roost, right? Their search share is around 88% in the UK and they also own YouTube, Google+ Google Maps to name a few tools making it easier to find your business online.
So when you disrespect big ‘G’, the rug is pulled from under your feet and your listings disappear pretty quickly.
How do you know whats right and wrong? Google tells you in their Webmaster Guidelines. It will take longer than 60 seconds but take the time to adhere to them.
Like reading instructions off a packet of seeds won’t make you a professional gardener, reading the Webmaster guidelines won’t turn you into an SEO expert, but it certainly tells you in black and white how to keep big ‘G’ happy and working for you.
This is one in a series of SEO Shorts. For more short-term tips. Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter or RSS Feed
Ok, this video is about a year old, but it is still a great guide to how to use Social Media to get some much needed link love.
Rand Fishkin is renowned for great SEO and his Whiteboard Friday videos are watched worldwide by the search industry.
So feet up and prepare to be educated.
From an SEO perspective, we all know that a good listing in the search engines can pay dividends to any business.
When I started back in web design 14 years ago, search engine optimisation wasn’t really an issue: There were a handful of businesses online and as a result if you said what your company name was and what you did, that pretty much was search engine optimisation for you. You could even get away with implying that you had an image of a naked Britney Spears on your pages just to get more people coming to your site!
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I realised that search marketing was going to be a separate industry in itself: It was 2004 and I had been on maternity leave for about 2 weeks when one of the clients that I’d recently designed a website for contacted me out of the blue to request the FTP information for their website. So I gave him the necessary info, didn’t really ask any more and got on with the rest of pre-baby time that I had left.
One of my first quests on my return back from maternity leave was why this client had gone elsewhere for web services and how I can learn from this experience. So we had a meeting and all seemed to be ok with the website – he was still happy with the work I’d done, but this other company had contacted him and promised that they could get his website a #1 ranking in Google and all he needed to do was allow them to make a few changes.
The site looked ok, but I could see the page title now didn’t just contain the company name and their main service: It just contained a barrage of keywords (using an example, car wash, car valeting, vehicle service, car valeting essex, car wash suffolk and vehicle service cambridge). There were clearly areas on the page where the collection of keyphrases was repeated. Also the dark navy background used to emphasise the white logo and slogan now looked dirty and I really couldn’t work out why.
I checked out the page code and almost choked on the coffee I was drinking at the time: The same collection of keyphrases had been stuffed in every available space in the page. The meta tags (both description and keywords), the text description on images. They were even contained within the comment tag! But mainly, they were listed as links and repeated excessively about 5 times. That is when I twigged that was the commotion on the navy background. I had heard the term used a couple of times before, but this was clearly the work of a black hat SEO.
Naturally I mentioned all my findings, beginning with the hidden links to my client. I could tell that he had been speaking to whoever his “SEO guy”, because he told me it was perfectly ok because the links weren’t exactly the same colour as the background “so Google wouldn’t penalise us”. The conversation went this way for about 5 minutes and consisted of me pretty much explaining everything they had done, until the client put his hands up and basically said “It’s my site and not really any of your business”.
For the next year or so, I was expecting a call at any minute from the same client either wising up to what was going on and asking me to remove the carnage or in a blind panic as Google had banned the site, but that call didn’t come. In fact nothing happened for about 2 years. It may have worked and he may have got top rankings for all of the keyphrases, but I didn’t get to hear about it. The few times I did check, he was on that first page. It was only when we came to redevelop the website did he mention that we could “discard all that old rubbish.”
I wouldn’t say that my experience with this client was my sole reason for what I did next, but I was determined that there was not going to be a repeat performance: During that two years, I took the time to re-educate myself on how to optimise a website without the need for trickery (White Hat SEO). I read books, websites, went through the training guides for SEO software, joined SEO forums, subscribed to SEO newsletters and even got the chance to attend SES London one year free of charge in exchange for a few articles.
In the early days of SEO, where both black hat and white hat seemed to work, it could be quite discouraging: One week you could be in the top 10 of Google for your main keyphrase, only to lose places the following week when a new site would pop up on the top spot, using every dirty trick in the book, and created by a kid contactable only via his Xbox (I’m not joking). But I am glad that I stuck to genuine SEO as things have certainly changed for the better.
Black Hat SEO companies sadly do still exist and still make false promises to anyone gullible enough to believe them (not many thankfully). They also still find new ways to trick the system. Luckily the search engines are quick to find and penalise them.
The client that I am referring to shall remain anonymous and has since retired. Sadly I never got to thank him for the whole experience.
Every year, roughly around the last week of July, Harrods, open up their Seasonal department selling hampers and goods ready for Christmas. The unveiling of the Christmas shopfront gets a mention as well if it’s a particularly good one.
It does seem peculiar that while we are basking in the soaring temperatures, and looking forward to the Summer holidays, the Marketing Department at Harrods are deciding on the best champagne to offer the super-rich in their £20,000 Christmas hamper (yes you did read that figure correctly!).
On writing this article, we are just approaching the end of September and just like every other year: daytime TV commercials are mainly for toys and most of the supermarkets and stores have a small seasonal department that will only get larger from now until December. The websites of the popular High Street stores haven’t got their Christmas decorations up on or offline yet. But give it another month and each one will have a prominent Christmas section in place.
As with every year, DVH Design, is currently working on a couple of ecommerce websites that have a deadline to be up and running to take Christmas orders, but they should already be online taking orders by then.
Let me give you an example: Tracey, one of my Facebook friends, boldly announced on 11 September that she has already got her presents wrapped up and ready for Christmas and was just about to start writing her Christmas cards.
I don’t even consider any preparations for Christmas until after my birthday (which is exactly 5 weeks before Christmas). But I guarantee almost everyone knows one person who leaves their Christmas shopping until the last minute.
So judging from general feedback, the average shopper does their Christmas shopping around mid-November. But your online shop needs to be ready before September. This way you not only get the Deb’s, Vicky’s and Andy’s, but also the Tracey’s and Michelle’s.
But it doesn’t stop there: Just like Christmas itself, you need to prepare at least a month or so before anyone arrives at your shop. After all, how do they find your store in the first place?
Seasonal Keyphrases: Just like with any other time of the year, you should compile a list of keyphrases that your target market audience is likely to be searching for. For example, a dressmaker may rely on a phrase such as christmas party dresses whereas a store specialising in onesies would adopt a more problem/solution apparoach eg christmas gifts for teenage boys. A good tool for this, is Google Trends or if you have a Google Account, try the Adwords Keyword Planner tool (you don’t have to sign up for a CPC account).
Content: Having a good idea of which keyphrases to use is a good start. but you really need to include Christmas categories in your shop, indicate that you’re now taking orders for Christmas. Maybe later on around October/November, take this up a notch and emphasise Christmas more on your home page and include information such as the latest day/time for orders to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve. This not only gives the search engines time to crawl your site and list your seasonal changes but also indicates to your visitors that they have come to the right place and their search hasn’t been in vain.
Advertising campaigns: Cost-per-click or paid advertising campaigns should also reflect the holiday season early on. You should also set up a separate seasonal advertising campaign to run simultaneously with your everyday one.
In my humble opinion, it is bizarre to begin thinking about Christmas during a heatwave (even a bit depressing), but then again Harrods are a very successful brand and a source of inspiration amongst retailers. Where they set the initial benchmark, other stores follow. So what are you waiting for?
I really hope that by now I have demonstrated that I am an web design and search marketing expert. But now and then, even the experts need to take time out and gear up on what like-minded and other experts are telling the world.
So last Friday I attended the Great British Business Show at ExCeL London. Despite it actually being Summer outside, I sat through about 4 hour’s worth of seminars, a networking board (the busy person’s way of networking) and obtained a stash of pens and a couple of toy freebies to keep the kids happy.
The seminars were the most valuable of all: I sat through the seminars of Simon Coulson, http://simon-coulson.com/, Kimberly Davis http://www.sarsaparillamarketing.com/ to name a couple. There were a few more, but these three were the most inspirational. I apologise for not remembering the others, and for not being able to hear James Caan properly, but the live feed room had the sound quality of bees playing comb and paper.
So here it is the best snippets from what I learned last Friday:
90% of UK Search is from Google. Yes you read that right. Google is definitely gospel in this country. If you’re operating in the UK and not ranking in Google, then if I were you, I would work on reversing this! In America this figure is about 67% with Bing progressively rising to 17%. If however, you are covering China, then don’t bother: Google has only 15.6% of the market share http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/1972/china-search-engine-market-share-in-2012
YouTube is the 2nd most popular resource for search. YouTube isn’t just a resource for watching Susan Boyle’s first audition or the cat that can say “No”: It has become a resource for step by step advice, to find out more about a company or product, breaking news or a simple behind the scenes. A lot of companies and brands have even set up their own channels on YouTube. Jamie Oliver’s Food tube is a prime example https://www.youtube.com/user/JamieOliver. A more recent channel that caught the news was the McDonalds behind the scenes photoshoot by McDonalds Canada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSd0keSj2W8
94% of websites don’t work. Now I am sketchy on this particular snippet. I don’t think that 94% of websites have an online form that doesn’t work or their Twitter button directs to the wrong page: More likely, its a case of 94% of websites are not getting their message across. This particular conversation stemmed from site owners that decided 2 weeks before launching their business that they should really have a website. So cue either stressed business owner trying to put together a few hurried pages with no clear message or purpose or cue stressed web designer putting pages together for stressed business owner. This is why I always stress that it is so important to plan what message you are going to portray on your website as soon as you’re thinking on setting up a business. And for the “don’t work” reason, this is why constantly monitoring your website is vital.
Google has the reading age of a 14 year old Have you ever been onto a website where you could read about 3 pages and still not understand what the company is about or even trying to promote? People at different levels are going to visit your site from beginner to expert: if they’re new to your sector, why scare them off with technical jargon? And referring to my first snippet, why would you want to scare off Google?
Write well-written content that’s engaging. Other adjectives were used here: topical, human, relevant. This snippet isn’t just for web pages, it also applies for social media and blogs. If you’re wanting to engage with others, and gain their trust give them something to engage with. What does everyone think about a latest development in the news? Note that on Social media, keep it short and snappy, on Twitter you only have 140 characters!
On social media its tell, tell, tell not sell, sell, sell As said before, you want to engage with people and gain their trust. As soon as you launch into a sales pitch, the trust is broken, they drop you like a hot potato and others will certainly follow. So share things that are topical. Connect with like-minded people, share your content, like and share other companies’ content (Tip: if you’re promoting your company page, like and share and contribute under your Company name)
So at this point, I bet you’re asking yourself, so why use social media to promote my business, sounds like a waste of time. But its not all for this little snippet: 85% of people rely on online people to make buying decisions. Just last week I had a friend on Facebook asking her friends if she should buy the new iPhone 5 or the Blackberry Z10. I myself have asked advice about what the best family car is to buy or asked advice on getting the back off a watch. In every case, someone gave me their recommendation or pointed me in the direction of a handy YouTube step by step guide. Now if any of those friends mentioned that they followed a local jeweller that supplies the tiny flathead screwdrivers needed for getting the back off a watch then definitely would not have been a waste of time. If you tell others, share your knowledge in your online network then in turn those followers or friends will do the telling for you.
Google is a big popularity competition I know, I’m back on the subject of Google, but it does tie in with what I have just covered: Just think of Google as the year book and your website as the average Joe that wants to be one of the popular kids. If Joe is spouting rubbish and sales spiel to all the other kids then chances are he’ll be left to do his own thing with no one paying attention (and after quite a bit of abuse). If however Joe’s creating content that is engaging enough that people listen and interact with Joe and then go on and share Joe’s content with their friends, then Joe gets a good reputation for being an expert (“hey, my friend Joe told me about that”), Google will reward Joe for and his popularity stakes will go up higher.
Test your website Whichever stage you are at with your website, regular monitoring is just the reality check you need. So take time out to analyse your website regularly using either your web analysis software or Google Analytics.
One area of testing that was mentioned more than once was A/B testing. A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which version produces positive results. A/B Testing can now be set up in Google Analytics but can also be used in email marketing campaigns
And I thought I’d save the best bit until last so here goes:
You can get on the first page of Google within 2 weeks which was news to me because Google have always emphasised that it is a progressive thing, but apparently if done correctly, and with a lot of hard work and strategy, it is possible. But you will need £2500 and 3 days in Heathrow to find out how.
I originally wrote this article intending it to be a comprehensive guide to Google Analytics. But as various aspects of Analytics has already taken me about 3 weeks to write, I think it makes better sense to focus on this one part at a time. So I have no idea how many parts this is going to come in, but let’s start from the beginning:
One of the key factors behind the success of any website should be regular analysis of the behaviour of the visitors to your website to see if where they are finding your website, what they are doing on your website and more importantly, are they converting to paying customers.
Every hosting company offers a web analysis software to their customers. This can give you a basic idea, of the origin of visits to your website (what country) what the most popular pages are and how long they spend on your website. Which is a good start. But to get a better idea of what’s happening on your website and how you can improve your visitors’ experience, then enter Google Analytics.
It is reported that Google Analytics is used by over 10 million websites http://marketingland.com/google-analytics-is-installed-on-more-than-10-million-websites-9935 and for the time it takes to register with Google (if you haven’t already) and add a couple of lines of script to every page in your website, its worth the while (and I should also point out that its free).
Before doing any analysis, the first thing to do is to set up your goals: What is it you want to monitor on your website? Let’s say for example say you wanted to monitor how many sales you were making on your website, you would now need to add every single page in your checkout process and of you merely wanted someone to register for your newsletter or send an enquiry form, again what path would they take?
First of all, just go through the how process of a goal on your web page: Make a note of every page you visit, or if more applicable, how long are you on that page for?
To set up a goal, give your Goal a name and give the destination URL: basically the final page of the path you would like your visitor to take. Of course, this could just be one page.
If its more than one page, then you would beed to add to the goal funnel all the other pages in the process (as illustrated). When you’re done click Save.
A recent feature was added to Google Analytics where Interaction can also be recorded. Not all goals on your site include paths through your site, such as:
As I said this is a new development that I may have to cover in the future, but to get you started https://www.blastam.com/blog/index.php/2011/03/how-to-use-events-goals-google-analytics/ is a good place to start.
Now you have set up the goals to your website, you need some good statistics to be able to analyse. So go and get a nice cup of tea, and wait for at least a week or so. Hopefully just enough time for me to write the second part.
I got a call at the start of last week: A start-up business specialising in alternative health that wanted to get on the first page of Google for his chosen key term and the area. Not the 2nd page, you understand or the 3rd: The 1st! I gave him my suggestions and fair to say he probably had other appealing offers as I not heard since.
The problem is, everyone seems to have a portrayal of what SEO entails. In my experience over the years, a first page ranking (even a #1 ranking) has symbolised everything, from wealth and success to simply being able to rub a competitor’s nose in it at the next business breakfast meeting. It’s a great thought isn’t it to do nothing and still rest assured that your SEO ranking is bringing all the work in for you? But surely not so if it means getting in someone who can game the system.
Last year Google, fed up of the minority that constantly game the system (and succeed) came up with two major updates. Wikipedia briefly explains each update:
Google Panda “The change aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.”
Google Penguin “The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others.”
Every other week if Google weren’t running a Panda update, they were running a Penguin update. If they weren’t running either, they were running both! And after every update, the SEO forums that I regularly visit were chock full of confused web owners, both asking why, and asking what they should be doing next. I’d like to say they have stopped but the last Panda update was as recent as last month.
Forbes article last week With SEO Linking Strategies, Gaming the System is So Last Decade pretty much said it all: SEO has changed. There is no longer a mythical magic bullet that gets you to the top of Google: SEO nowadays is just another form of marketing.
Sadly, “SEO specialists” are still sending emails out to any web master promising top rankings, which to anyone who is desperate to get to the top is damn appealing. The reality is that they can’t promise a thing. But when you find that out , a few months have passed, their story has changed and your bank balance is considerably lighter. In most cases, the SEO is offshore so it’s hardly going to be a case of knocking on their door and demanding a refund!
If a website is that desperate to be on Google’s first page then CPC and Google Maps are the way to go. But how can you get to the top of Google’s normal (organic) rankings the genuine way?
Long tail key phrases: You can focus on say Acupuncture in Braintree or alternative health centres in Essex, but have you even considered the more niche keyphrases? This is where you need to analyse your business. For example, why are people likely to use your product or service? Do they need help giving up smoking or are they battling depression the natural way? Not everyone searches for the solution, a lot of visitors research the problem first. These keyphrases may not have the highest volume of search but they have a higher conversion rate.
Content: You may have heard the phrase “content is king”. It is. And it doesn’t stop at merely talking about the benefits of your business: If, say you have a men’s clothes shop. The average man isn’t a keen shopper, so any advice would benefit your market would work. For example, tips for dressing for an interview or for how to dress for a first date. This shows your knowledge off, which is great for potential customers and in turn the search engines love related content and will certainly recognise that you are a trusted resource and not just playing the system.
Inbound Links: If your content is unique and useful, then other resources will give you inbound linkage which search engines will love even more. Also as touched on by the the Forbes’ article: professional approvals, testimonials or case studies should also be considered. Only use directory links & reciprocal links if they are likely to benefit your website. For example if you’re a plumber then trusted trade websites would serve as good piece of mind to your clientele.
Social networking – There are a wide range of these: Twitter, Linkedin (B2B) Facebook (B2C), are great platforms for getting in touch with like-minded businesses or the general public. I will elaborate on this in a later article but a fixed amount of time per day and a good deal of social etiquette and social networking can pay dividends.
Constant analysis and recording success: Analysis software is available on every website hosting account, but if you have the know-how, get Google Analytics in place and monitor it either every month or after a main campaign. This keeps you informed of what is clearly working for you and where you may need to make changes.
Its no quick fix solution, but with these disciplines combined then over time your website should progress and then you will feel in a position the join the majority of us who file false promise emails into their rightful place: the Deleted Items folder.
When it comes to checking out the best keyphrases for your website, there are a few effective ways to research which ones would be best for your website. Having a good idea on what your website is a good start! Another good tip is looking on your competitor’s websites and seeing what keyphrases they use. This is clear by looking at the page title (1), heading (2) and general text content (3).
Now you’re armed with a list of keyphrases, how can you now check what will be the most effective keyphrases to use for your website, or get better suggestions?
Enter Google Trends. Launched in 2008, under the name Google Insight for Search, this was renamed Google Trends in September 2012. Its a powerful and useful tool to research and compare keyphrases, but there is much more to it than that, as I will now demonstrate.
First of all, I’ll give a very contrasting example: Searching for Paracetamol, Google Trends show the name is popular across Europe, Central America, South America and Asia.
But if I compare it to Acetaminophen, its American name you can see that although the name isn’t as popular, if you were marketing your website to Americans, this well known painkiller would have to be referred to as Acetaminophen.
Ok we’re not all drug stores, so let’s use an example that from one of my recent clients: a worldwide resource marketing horse saddles. Not everyone is into horses but for the minority that keep and ride horses, a saddle is a necessity.
A search on Dressage saddles show that Australia use this search term the most. Followed by the UK. From researching economic climates, Australia has a strong economy at present and the UK is going through a slow recovery, however Canada and the USA are not.
Before we proceed, I will emphasise a point made in Google’s support page:
“Google Trends are normalized. So just because a particular region doesn’t appear on the top Regional interest list or isn’t highlighted on the geographic heat map, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the search term isn’t popular at all – it just means that the term is more popular in other regions.”
In comparison to used Dressage saddles, a majority of the USA is using this search to keep costs down. So at this current moment, this website would be better off promoting their used saddle pages for the American audience and their new saddle pages to Australia.
There is a natty widget at the bottom of the map highlighting the country most using the search term over the selected period of time.
Google Trends also list the top searches that for a specific keyphrase. Going back to the dressage saddle example, we can see that top searches list a few more niche keyphrases (saddles for sale), branded saddles and 4 out of the 10 refer to used saddles.
To get a clearer picture, several filters can be used either by themselves or simultaneously:
Using category as an example. by selecting animal products and services, give you the top searches for saddles in that specific category. But it can also show you the search terms that have shown an increase in popularity in your given timescale. NB: The term breakout indicates that this particular term has seen growth greater than 5000%.
With these filters you can get a pretty clear idea of when to market your website as well. This time I shall use a seasonal example: Lets say I was researching fireworks.
A starting point would be a web search for fireworks. I shall stick to Worldwide for the time being. At the time of writing this, its March and there’s snow on the ground so chances are no one’s really put the effort into having a fire display just recently so let’s select the last full year. I shall leave categories to all as there’s about 3 recommended categories.
Now the statistics ebb off after the new year period and then keep consistently low until that very large spike in July.
Using the filter to include only USA results, proves that if you are a firework supplier operating in North America, your site would need to include keyphrases focused around Independence Day and your marketing/advertising need to be begging in the 1st week of May rather than the 3 July! Also the closer you are to Maine the better.
Compare this to the UK filter and the sharp spike changes to the beginning of November. This is down to Fireworks Night on 5 November (more traditionally known as Guy Fawkes night). The rise for this begins about mid-September in this case and may slow down for the rest of November but increases again in the week before Christmas in preparation for the New Year.
I could show you search terms all day, but hopefully I have at least given you some insight on the capabilities of this tool. So what are you waiting for?
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