Google cracks down on SEO tricks

23 February 2011 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

Google has recently announced that it is planning to crack down on certain traditional SEO methods that have in the distant past worked, but are now considered as spamming techniques.

These include:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Adding keywords to non-relevant pages
  • Hiding text or links on a page so only search engines can see them
  • Misspelling of popular or well-known websites in an attempt to get their traffic
  • Creating websites that are made solely for AdSense
  • Sending the Googlebot to a different location or page to a normal user (false re-directs)
  • Paying for links to your website
  • Selling links to other people
  • Link farms
  • Anything that is done to deliberately trick the search engines

Two prominent US companies (JC Penny and Forbes.com) have recently been penalised for buying and selling links, so this is an algorithmic update you do not want to ignore. Google have also set up a “report paid links” form, this means people can now report sites that are buying their links for PageRank transfer!

SEO Jargon Buster Part 2

3 September 2010 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

Continuing on from my original Jargon buster, I have had some requests to keep going and explain some more. So here we go:

PageRank

PageRank is a Google term, but all Search Engines use something similar.

The Official Google Definition:

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important”.

PageRank can fall between 0 and 10, with 10 being the best. Not even Google itself has a PR of 10 and each step up the scale is incrementally more difficult to achieve, so it is much harder to get from a PR of 4 to 5 than it is from 0 to 1 for example.

When calculating your PageRank other things can also be taken into consideration such as quality of your site, age of your site etc. You can find out your PageRank here: http://www.prchecker.info/

Alexa Rank

The Alexa Rank of a website is a calculation of how popular and important a site is on the web. The lower your Alexa Rank, the better. Broadly speaking, if your Alexa Rank is 10,000,000, then you are the 10,000,000th most popular website on the internet.

Link Building

In order to increase your website’s PageRank you will need to engage in some inbound link building. This means that you will have to get other websites to link to you. You can do this by submitting your site to relevant internet directories or by asking other webmasters in your “industry community” to link to your site from their site.

The trick with link building is to firstly ensure that the people linking to you are relevant to your industry so if you are in the bicycle business, you are not that bothered with getting book sellers to link to you, but to get a link from the Tour de France site would be brilliant! Secondly you want sites with a good PageRank to link to you (normally 4 or above) because you want them to pass on a little of their PR to you.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the text you use to make a link. Most people use the web address as the link e.g. www.kenthouse.com but if you are trying to optimise your website for a particular keyword you should use the keyword(s) as the anchor text so Web design Staffordshire would be a better way to link to our website than simply using the URL.

(Meta) Tags

Meta tags and tags are tags (or labels) used to describe the various parts of a web page. Meta data is the information contained within the tags. The tags most people in the SEO business are concerned with are:

  • The Title tag
  • The Keyword tag
  • The Description tag
  • Alt tags
  • Heading tags

Content

Content is the information on your website. It is most frequently used to refer to the words on your site. In SEO “content is king” – the more rich content your site has the better it should perform. Where content is concerned it is also important to constantly review and update it so that the search engine robots have something new to interest them each time they visit your site. The more new content you give them, the more likely they are to visit your website.

CMS        Content Management System

A CMS is a way of managing your website’s content from how the information is structured, to updating and adding pages, to inserting downloadable documents etc. If you are serious about doing your own SEO you need to be able to control your own content. That might mean having access to your FTP server and being able to edit the HTML or investing in an SEO friendly CMS.
As you get more and more into SEO you are going to be making changes to your site at least once a week and this could get pricey if you have to send every change to your web developers to make!

Number of pages indexed

This is the number of pages on your site that Google, Yahoo! and Bing can find and then display in their search results. You can find this out by typing ‘site:www.yourwebsiteaddress.com’ into the search box in each of the search engines. Your aim is to get all your webpages indexed and you can do this with the help of an xml sitemap.

The debate about optimising for the user experience

Currently there is a debate as to whether Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) should be guided by User Experience Optimisation (UXO). One of the leading supporters of the personalisation of search engine experience, Goggle’s Matt Cutts, believes that “instead of chasing after the search engines, chase after the user experience because the search engines are chasing after the user experience. By chasing after a good user experience, you help ensure that you and the search engines are both working in the same direction. That’s much better than you chasing the search engines, which are in turn chasing what we think is best for users“. Although Cutts’ quote sounds more like philosophy than implementation, there is some value to it. The ultimate goal of most search engines is to provide better results for users but often the reality is that competitive and time and money pressured web marketing consultants sacrifice user experience for short term gains in visibility. Cutts believes that by treating user experience as the main priority, most web marketing consultants will be able to align their  incentives with those of the search engines and get better long term ROI results.

However, the opposing camp, which has only one goal in mind and that is to earn higher rankings, argues that SEO is not and should not be UXO because the job of an SEO professional is to build and target ranking authority off-site and use that authority on-site and there is just no space in that job for prioritising user experience. The foremost priority of the ‘against camp’ is to know the search ranking factors and to effectively use that knowledge to boost rankings. For example, these people believe that ranking authority comes from other websites in the form of external links and it doesn’t matter how good, relevant or usable a website’s content is as long as it is link-worthy and a link to this website is included on other websites. Furthermore, the ‘against camp’ argues that SEO and UXO are not the same and sometimes it is necessary to chose between the two.

I support the ideas proposed by the “for camp” and believe that optimising for the user experience is definitely a way forward. As a search engine user I am always more satisfied with sites which manage to achieve the best of both worlds – be number one in Google and be number one in terms of usability, accessibility and desirability. A site optimised for the user experience also gives credence to the professionalism and forward thinking of the web marketing consultant.

Google University at E-commerce Expo North

After reading through the show preview for the E-commerce Expo North 2010 (27th May 2010), I had decided that the two talks by Google speakers were going to be my top priority to attend that day. Not only was this a chance to be one of the lucky few to attend a lecture by ‘celebrities’ of the SEO world, but the things I learnt would benefit me in my work placement and help me to understand the importance in what Kent House does.

At E-commerce Expo North, Google University were holding two sessions;

Google University AdWords – This session’s aim was to layout the groundwork for a successful AdWords campaign. It was aimed at people who wanted to get started with AdWords, or just simply wanted a refresher in the basics of online advertising.

The session aims to teach you;

  • How the AdWords system works
  • How campaigns should be structured
  • How keyword lists and ads are developed
  • How to optimise campaign for maximum performance
  • Q&A with Google AdWords experts

Google University Analytics – This session’s aims are to give you an overview of how Google Analytics can help your business. As well as learning where your site visitors come from and how they interact with your site, Analytics will also give you information to write better ads and strengthen your marketing initiatives.

The session aims to teach you;

  • How to set up an Analytics account
  • The various different report types
  • How the data shown can influence your business decisions
  • Q&A with Google Analytics experts

Due to the nature of my work placement and having already being involved with using Google AdWords, I had initially planned to attend both of the talks during the E-commerce expo – with the talk on AdWords being slightly higher in my priority list. However, after the successful 1st talk on AdWords proving to be very popular, I was unable to attend the 2nd talk on Analytics due to the large amount of people queuing.

Regardless of not being able to see the session about Analytics, I thoroughly enjoyed the talk on AdWords and found it extremely useful. I met people who had only just heard about this type of marketing campaign, and like myself, were there to simply learn the basics. It was explained very well and useful examples were given to help the audience relate AdWords to their business.

What SEO cannot do

A carefully thought through SEO campaign can get you to the top of the search engine rankings, but it cannot encourage customers to buy your products or services where there is little demand for them. Equally, you may be listed high up in the search engines, but for search terms that no one uses.

Unfortunately there is very little you can do about creating demand where none exists. But you can work to ensure that you are targeting your optimum keywords. To do this we advise you to perform a thorough keyword research first before embarking on your SEO strategy. Remember that a successful SEO strategy is not necessarily about targeting the broadest, most popular search terms, but more importantly it is about identifying keywords that people actually use, and can potentially lead to a business deal.

When working on your SEO campaign, try to avoid such unethical techniques as:

  • Keyword stuffing (excessive repetition of your keywords in the text or meta tags in order to influence ranking).
  • Use of keywords in the meta tags that are not reflected in the page content.
  • Creating multiple pages with virtually identical content.
  • Automatically generated doorway pages which contain little user oriented content.

When the campaign ends…paragraph and section headers for SEO

16 October 2009 by Yvonne Conway  
Filed under Search Engine Optimisation

Continuing on from my earlier article the next item down on the list of things to pay attention to was paragraph and section headers. These are a very simple and effective way of letting the Search Engines know what words they should pay attention to and to give your keywords additional weighting on the page.

Traditionally when writing a document, you would put paragraph or table headings in bold and maybe increase the font size to show your readers that the title of the paragraph or table was “Racing Bikes” for example. However, for SEO you should always ensure that it is set as a header. Headers look like the below in their rawest forms:
<h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6>

Most good Content Management Systems will give you the option of making a piece of text into a header rated 1 – 6 within the actual text editor. These should normally be set and styled by your web designers so that they are in keeping with your site’s look and feel. Generally speaking page titles are set as H1’s with every sub-category underneath that being a H2 and so on down to H6. I must admit though that I have never used a H6, at that stage you might want to come up with a different way of structuring your information!

When creating your paragraph headers, ensure you use keyword rich, descriptive text. So if I wanted to create a page on the types of services offered by Kent House with a specific focus on Staffordshire, I would structure the page a little like this:

Kent House, Staffordshire based online marketing agency – our services

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for Staffordshire based companies

We have a great SEO track record for clients, helping them to achieve much improved rankings in Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
Work directly with our Internet Marketing Manager Yvonne Conway to improve your company’s search engine results.

Website design for local Staffordshire companies

Kent House have been designing websites for big and small companies across Staffordshire since 2001. Give us a call today to see what we can do for you!

And so on through each of our services…So remember when you are creating your pages, ensure you use set headers for paragraph and section headings rather than simply using basic formatting.

When the campaign ends…page titles

There is always a worry that after spending thousands of pounds on an SEO campaign with an agency, your site will lose its positioning in the SERPs once the campaign is over and you begin to add new content yourself.  Therefore I have come up with a guide on adding content to your site to help you overcome this worry and to continue the work where your search engine optimisation agency left off.

When adding new content there are 6 key areas you need to be aware of.

  • Page Titles
  • Paragraph or Section Headers
  • Words in bold and italics
  • Internal links
  • Images and Alt Tags
  • Keyword selection

For the purpose of this first article I will focus on Page Titles and how they can be “optimised” for search. Before I do that a quick explanation of page titles is probably in order. The page title is what you can see in the top bar of your web browser – it generally shows the website’s name and some blurb about the business or the site. It is prime SEO real estate and a very quick and easy way to improve your on page optimisation.

For a number of reasons page titles are one of the most important aspects of search engine optimisation. Firstly, because they are the first thing that is displayed when a search engine shows your page, so they should always be relevant, concise, descriptive and encourage people to click on your result. Secondly because they are the first thing a robot will see when it comes to your site and thirdly because they are a great way to get some more keywords onto the page and make your site relevant to the crawler for a search term.

When coming up with page titles there are several schools of thought on how to structure them. The two predominant theories go:

(A)    Company Name |Section | Product or Service
e.g.
ABC Ltd | Mountain Bikes | The Brilliant Mountain Bike 2.1

(B)    Company Name | Brief description of what is on the page
e.g.
ABC Ltd | Specialists in mountain bikes such as The Brilliant Mountain Bike 2.1

I personally prefer the second variant as it gives a description of your business which then appears in the SERPs, giving your company a more human face and encouraging people to click on the result. However, when done well either option will help your positioning and continue your site on its way to a page 1 result.

Managing your website’s content

More and more people are coming to see us about wanting to manage their site’s content. This struck me as very surprising the first time I came across it as I had always had access to my own websites when I worked within organisations. The thought of having to pay someone every time I wanted to make a change or add a new page would have sent a shudder down my spine! Who has the budget for that?!

There are only two instances where this kind of thing is acceptable for me. Firstly, if there is a phased project where you need a site RIGHT NOW and the only way to get that done is to let your website developers do it and get it live within the limited time available. At that point, sure you are going to be charged when you want to make a change because there is not enough time to get the site live, to train you and for you to work with the developers. Phase 2 or 3 of your project will then see you being armed with all the tools you need to manage the new site.

The second instance where I can understand people not wanting a content management system is if you truly are on a limited budget and only need a small brochure style site. At that point, yes pay the upfront fee for a limited number of pages and hope that in 3 months you will not want to make any changes to your site. If you do, keep your fingers crossed that you have the budget to pay your developers again to make said changes.

Get a website for £599!

In the world of SEO, content has always been king and getting new, keyword rich pages onto your site is a great way to help your organic search results. Therefore why would web development companies make it so difficult and expensive for you to do this?

The answer lies in the fact that they offer “5 page websites from £599” or “8 page websites from £899”. Using this pricing strategy for web design is a great way to lure people in and then start charging them any time they want to make a change, add a news story or add new pages. From a client point of view, you may have no other choice as you cannot afford to pay anymore than the upfront fee of £599 but, over the life of your affordable new website you would have paid for a well designed, well structured content management system 5 times over and made all the changes you wanted!

Think long term

If you are interested in doing well in the search engines, becoming an authority in your industry or just regularly updating your site to add new images, stories, products and pages you need to invest upfront in a content management system (CMS) or go back to night school to learn how to edit your site in flat HTML. The cost of a CMS may seem big initially but think about the huge benefits to you and your organisation. Do you want to find yourself in a position where you would like to add a new page or fix spelling mistakes on your site, but the cost to do so is not quite in the budget that month?

The Kent House Design and Technology Seminar

Throughout the year Kent House run a series of events on various topics including SEO, Design, Website Development and Internet Marketing. On 22 June we will be holding a free seminar on Design and Technology and how getting the balance right can improve your online presence. The event will take place at Keele Hall, Staffordshire.

Download the PDF Invitation for more information.

For this upcoming event we have secured the services of Julius Wiedemann – author of Guidelines for Online Success and one of the World’s leading experts on design and marketing. Julius will be giving the keynote presentation and plans to focus on the evolution of design online and take a look at how design has changed how we do business from branding to emails to mobile marketing.

Our very own Kevin Holdridge, will discuss ways in which design, technology, and marketing can work harmoniously together online. He will show examples of how many companies get this badly wrong, thus wasting their money and damaging their market position.

The seminar aims to help local businesses and organisations understand how to get the best return from investment in online channels such as the Web and email. It will do this by focusing on how to get the relationship right between the technology, design and marketing of a site.

The event would be suited to anyone with an interest in marketing, design and websites and more critically people interested in making their website work harder for them by achieving better results in the Search Engines. I have included the event program below.

If you are interested in attending, please register online or alternatively send me an email with all of your details.

Event Program

Session 1
How we got here – A brief on the evolution of media, communication and design.

Session 2
Your site – Design and Usability – How to integrate great design into your site without compromising on usability.

Session 3
Return on Investment – How to maximise your investment in the online world.

Session 4
Design, usability and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – How to design an effective, easily navigated site yet still do well in Google.

6 Tips to help you get the best return on your investment

22 May 2009 by Kevin Holdridge  
Filed under News and views

You did it. You got yourself a website because prospects and customers kept asking for your web address. And you’d heard how much business small companies could generate from a website. So, you paid a Web developer handsomely for a beautiful site with the latest Flash animations, or had your brother-in-law build it on the cheap.

But your site’s been up for a while and it hasn’t brought you any business. What’s gone wrong? Here are the six things you can do for maximum results.

1 Make it part of your marketing strategy

Be clear what you want the website to do for you and then make sure it’s designed to do that well, whether reaching new customers, providing new services to improve customer relationships or improve cross-selling and repeat orders.

As with any marketing medium, your site must focus on your customers’ interests – not yours. Your site should be easy to use and tell customers exactly what they need to know.

2 Promote a positive image and user experience

Get the basics right so you don’t alienate users. Ensure the site looks professional, works properly, doesn’t oblige the user to install extra software and is user friendly. Websites that are too slow, crash in the middle of the transaction or ask for unnecessary information will alienate users.

3 Embrace Internet marketing

Google currently indexes billions of web pages. For your site to be found by customers and prospects you need to get your Internet marketing right.

The site itself should be optimised to get the best possible results in the search engines for your target keywords. A competent web developer can make sure the site is designed and built optimally. But, you also need to make sure that the text is well written for optimisation and is regularly updated. Use a web-savvy copywriter for best effect.

Get links to your website included on other relevant sites. Done correctly, this will improve your results in the search engines. You might even consider temporarily buying links on premium sites to get a quick initial boost.

Done properly, pay-per-click advertising is easily the most focused, cost-effective, and measurable marketing tool in history. You can easily dip a toe in the water through a small-budget Google AdWords campaign.

4 Reach out – use email

Websites only work when a user goes to them (the ‘pull’ effect). Get better results by combining the ‘push’ approach of using email to reach out to customers and prospects. It’s easy and cheap to reach people through email, and especially email newsletters.

5 Be sticky

'Stickiness’ is a measure of how well a website encourages users to keep coming back. There are some tried-and-tested ways of building stickiness:

  • Regularly give things for free (maybe a downloadable briefing paper or promotional offer). The cost to you can be small with online delivery.
  • Provide an online customer helpdesk
  • Build an area for customers only where they can get access to premium resources
  • Add new and relevant information

6 Stay fresh

Make sure you have good content management facilities so it is quick and easy to update the content and structure of your site without having to pay – and wait for – your web developer to do it for you. Then have a plan to ensure you make at least monthly updates.

Kent House offers a free no-strings appraisal of your site with recommendations for improvement. If you’d like some advice on how to get more from your web investment, give us a call on 0845 638 0700 or drop us an email at info@kenthouse.com.

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