Although Google+ may not yet have established its social networking credentials, or enjoy the traffic seen on other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s worth adding your business to it and including it in your social media strategy.
Google have recently launched Search, plus Your World, an update to their search algorithm which allows Google+ users to view personalised search results based on the recommendations (or +1s) of users from their circles. As more social media links start to appear at the top of these tailored search results, any business or organisation without a Google+ profile may see their web presence reduced. By creating a Google+ brand page for your business and getting as many +1s as possible, your page is more likely to be recommended in Google’s search results, making the SEO opportunity for your business immense. Google+ also enables you to see and track who is recommending your brand, as well as allowing you to interact with those followers on a more personal level.
5 steps for setting up a basic business page in Google+:
- Go to the Google+ Business Page and choose a category that best suits your business
- Fill out the details on the corresponding form and click ‘Create’
- Customise your page with a tagline and profile photo (you can skip this and do it later)
- Share your page with everyone in your circles (you can also skip this and do it later)
- Link your website, get the Google+ badge or post updates to your newly created Google+ page
It only takes a couple of minutes to set up a basic page. Not only will it help to enhance your current web presence, those few minutes may eventually be the difference between your business appearing at the top of search results, or not being seen at all.
Here at Kent House we try to provide a professional and intelligent approach to search engine optimisation (SEO). We aim to establish with prospective clients what the goals should be, and what will make money for them or otherwise help them achieve objectives. We review their competitors and the competitiveness of key words to find the most effective and best-value targets and strategies. We work up a plan with them to use the best mix of activity from the ones available: optimisation of your website and its pages; use of social media and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook; online and offline PR; link building; blogging; localisation; mobile; video; etc. Often we find ourselves advising clients that they can get better results for less money and that spending more isn’t going to improve return on investment. And we never work for our clients’ competitors.
Counter-intuitively, that kind of considered and ethical approach can often be a difficult sell. It’s perhaps not surprising given that many organisations are unsure about how SEO really works and what it can deliver, and that the SEO industry is still plagued by dubious outfits making wild promises but delivering little and frequently using dubious techniques. Here are some examples …
The “number one on Google” callers
The classic is the cold call from a salesperson promising you will be “number one on Google, guaranteed” in return for signing up to a direct debit. In the harsh light of day, the “number one” promise is, of course, meaningless. Even though the search engines are getting ever more sophisticated, any fool can get a website to top position on Google for searches on an obscure phrase. But is there any value to you in being number one for “Blackwoods Widget Manufacturers, Liverpool”? Will that generate any more leads for the company in question? Obviously not. It takes much more effort to work out what search terms your prospective customers are using and how to make sure you appear in the results for those terms above your competitors. The cold-calling salesperson won’t understand that or even care – they just need to get their quota of sign-ups. And yet, thousands of companies fall for this approach. Maybe they feel that they are at least doing something (however pointless), or maybe they are bullied by the sales pitch and then find it hard to get out of the long term contract.
Many firms employ agencies or casual staff to post hundreds of spam comments on popular blogs. The comment includes a link to the site they are trying to promote (their own or a client’s site). They hope to improve the ranking of their site in search engines by creating lots of links. Whilst the strategy really can improve your ranking (especially if you post on blogs covering relevant subjects), it comes at a price. The spam messages add nothing to the blog articles and discussions off which they leech, clog up the discussion with noise, and they risk annoying visitors and damaging the reputation of the site employing the tactic. It is very rare for an SEO firm to advise their client so they can make an informed choice about whether to use such tactics. Instead, they usually charge the client for skilled SEO input and then pay a cut-price agency to deploy this cheap spam approach without the client ever realising.
There’s an example of this in action here on our own blog. We normally delete such rubbish, but have left his one as an example. The offender in this case is a firm calling itself “InnnovativeSEO”. They’re at www.innovativeseo.co.uk. They describe themselves as “… committed to reaching new heights in marketing performance by providing creative and innovative solutions”. Really? How exactly is it creative and innovative to post a dumb, irrelevant spam comment on a competitor’s blog in the vain hope of improving SEO performance? Perhaps “plumbing new depths” would be a more appropriate slogan for this outfit. Feel free to visit their website for an example of SEO cowboys in action.
It is so much better to post useful comments onto relevant blog articles, making a contribution to knowledge sharing and to the quality of debate. Doing that still allows for the inclusion of a promotional link back to your site but also enhances your reputation and doesn’t make you look shabby. Doing that needs a more intelligent approach and is more time consuming than paying an agency in India to post 1,000 “nice article, thanks” comments on irrelevant blogs.
I’m amazed to see this still in operation, but lots of SEO firms still charge their hapless clients for “submitting your site to the search engines every month”. What nonsense. Submitting your site to a search engine is free and simple. And in any case, your site will be picked up automatically and listed much more quickly as the search engines follow links to it from other websites (if your site doesn’t have any links to it from other good quality sites, it is never going to rank well in the search engines anyway). And the idea that you need to resubmit regularly to stop from dropping out of the results is so wrong that it would be funny it it wasn’t being used as a way to trick clients out of their money. Here’s an example of a site that seems to promote monthly search engine submissions.
This practice is another regrettable example of less reputable SEO firms using low-cost automated and simplistic techniques, regardless of the consequences or effectiveness, whilst presenting themselves as experts and professionals to naive paying clients.
There are many SEO techniques that cross the line from “gaming” the system to cheating it. These are referred to as “black hat” techniques. Whilst they can get very good results, they can carry the risk of reputational damage and/or the client’s site being penalised in (or even dropped from) the search engines.
At Kent House, we pride ourselves on our ethical and professional approach. But, we don’t subscribe to the sometimes hysterical and self-righteous school that says that using any “black hat” technique must be condemned. Google does not make the law or dictate ethical codes of human conduct (not yet, at least!). So, although Google’s guidelines say that you shouldn’t do something, that doesn’t make it unlawful or even necessarily unethical to do so. What is unethical is not to have advised the client of the issues and potential consequences of deploying such techniques and to have obtained informed consent. We still see plenty of SEO competitors charge top dollar to get good rankings for the client by using very cheap and easy black hat techniques with the client not realising how it was done and being unaware of the potentially disastrous consequences. Google isn’t yet God, but they are perfectly entitled within their own system to drop or penalise sites that don’t follow their rules. And there have been plenty of examples of that happening, even to powerful corporations such as JC Penney and BMW (see this article for more information).
SEO is a very easy industry to get into. You just need a computer and an internet connection. A search for “seo company” on Google’s UK site returns 74 million results. Because of the low barriers to entry and because most clients struggle to know how to measure whether they are getting value, the industry is full of cowboys and outfits making questionable promises and delivering dubious services. In my next article on this subject, I’ll post a checklist that you can use to help judge the quality of SEO firms and to choose the one that’s right for you.
Well, at Kent House we’re as cynical as you about the robustness of surveys. But, regardless of the true numbers, this survey published on 19 March 2011 on DMI Online makes a valid point. The survey claims to have analysed 10,000 UK websites and to have found that 40% of them got no traffic from search engines or from pay-per-click advertising. As they put it succintly: “It means the only people visiting these websites will be family, friends or those who know the actual website address.”
I suspect that the survey included a lot of “dead” or inactive and “amateur” sites which will have skewed the numbers. Even so, we find that many of the businesses coming to us because they are dissatisfied with the performance of their website need some help to understand where its all going wrong. This is usually just down to unfamiliarity with the model for online marketing. For instance, we met with a very experienced sales manager only yesterday who was frustrated with the level of traffic to his company’s website. After just a few minutes of discussion, we could almost see the light bulb switching on in his head as he “got it”. There’s no stopping him now – frustration has turned to optimism and an action plan.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC – such as Google Adwords) can become enormously powerful and hugely cost-effective tools once you make the link (no pun intended) between patterns of user behaviour online and the way that search engines work.
Get better results from SEO
One of our messages is “Don’t waste your money on a website”. That may seem a peculiar thing for a web developer and online agency to say. However, we still see too many unhappy people who have spent lost of money on a website and – with charming naivety – waited in vain for a torrent of vistors and customers. As evidenced by the survey above, the principle of “build it and they will come” just doesn’t work online. With billions of web pages out there, you need to be assertive in attracting visitors to your website and then in converting them efficiently into paying customers or at least into beginning a relationship with you. If you don’t get the marketing right (including SEO, social media, and maybe pay-per-click advertising), you’ve wasted your money on a website that is little more than vanity project generating a return only for the web designer.
We know that different clients have different attitudes and capacities. Some want to be very hands on with their SEO, others are happy to agree a strategy and then to oustource the donkey work. On the principle that our job is to help our clients to meet their goals rather than to make them fit into our processes, we provide a range of support offerings so you can choose something that is just right for you. Here are some of the ways in which we can help you with your SEO and online marketing:
- Follow this blog for news and tips covering SEO and online marketing
- You can sign up to our free email newsletter which includes regular features on internet marketing and online trends
- Ask us for a free review of your website and SEO
- Take one of our SEO support packages - they range from a one day small-group SEO workshop, through the SEO – Getting Started Package, to the Advanced Tailored SEO Package
- Get results from social networking by signing up to Simple Steps to Success, a 3-month 10-point social media action plan managed by email
- Take the Social Media Mastery programme to squeeze the maximum possible opportunity for your organisation from social networks
Alternatively, just give us a call or drop us an email so we can talk about what you need to get the best return on your investment? We’re on 0845 638 0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- 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!
Continuing on from my original Jargon buster, I have had some requests to keep going and explain some more. So here we go:
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/
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
ABC Ltd | Mountain Bikes | The Brilliant Mountain Bike 2.1
(B) Company Name | Brief description of what is on the page
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.