Google Adwords Extensions

adwords-2-1The days of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising being the reserve of specialist marketers are finished.  The barriers to entry and so low that anyone can simply create adverts and start generating targeted traffic within minutes.

All of this means that your adverts need to work harder than ever to stand out and attract that click. Within Google AdWords, you can select a number of enhancements to help your ad stand out and in my experience this really does have a positive impact on your click through rate. 

Here is a guide to each extension:

App Extension: Your app has probably cost a lot of money to develop and update – so you want as many people downloading it and using it as possible.  You can display a link to your app within Google play or the Apple App Store on your AdWords advert.  A nice way of directing traffic at a comparatively low cost.

Call Extension: Many industries prefer phone leads to online leads (e.g. via contact forms or live chat), so adding a ‘click to call’ button to your ads could be a winner.  If your purchase is high in convenience (e.g. restaurant or a fast food outlet), this is a great way for people to get in touch.

Location Extension: If local SEO is important to you, you should consider the location extension.  With more and more searches from mobile, having your address or a map pin on your ad is really powerful.  However, this extension can look out of place if address is your business is not location based.

Reviews Extension: Assuming that your reviews are something that you want to shout about, you can include these on your advert as well.  This is a great way of showing off your hard earned reputation.

Sitelinks Extension: If your business has some clear sections to it, e.g. a fashion retailer who would want to split out men’s, women’s and kids clothes, the sitelinks extension reduces the number of clicks that a visitor has to make.

Callout Extension: One of the challenges of PPC advertising is the number of characters you have to convey your message – it is very small.  The callout extension allows you to show off some of your company’s features under your advert, e.g. open 7 days a week or free delivery.

All of these extensions can be manually added to your adverts when you are setting them up within Google AdWords.  It is worth noting that not all extensions will appear all of the time.  There are a lot of variables in PPC advertising which will influence when they are shown such as keyword competitiveness, bid, advert relevance, etc.

Hope that these make your PPC advertising even more successful in the future!

What Should I Measure on Social Media

Apps WordPress

It wasn’t too long ago that social media analytics were very basic. Before the big networks felt the pressure to commercialise their product, information was short on the ground.

But when they wanted marketers to start advertising on their networks, the quality of analytics needed to improve. Today, they are (on the whole) pretty comprehensive – too much so in some cases.

So what are the top-line numbers that you should be following to give you an idea of how your social media is performing?

Audience: A lot of marketers will tell you that the number of likes or follows that you have is a vanity number…. and to a degree they are right. It is the first number that your CEO will ask you but don’t let that put you off! Steady audience growth is an indication that your content is engaging with your audience and so is a useful number to track.

Reach: Reach is the reason why a lot of marketers don’t like to track audience. You may have 1,000 Facebook likes to your page, but your posts are not going to reach 1,000 people (unless it is supported financially). So what number will you reach? This gives you an indication of how interested people are in your content: the more people who like / comment / share / watch your content, the more likely that Facebook will show your posts to them. It could be argues that reach is your true audience number.

Engagement: This is the big one. Putting out content that no-one engages with is a waste of time, so you should be tracking your engagement. Are people interacting with your content? If so, you can build on this relationship and inform and entertain the audience in the future. Benchmarking engagement rates is difficult, so start tracking on a month on month basis to see if your number is going in the right direction.

Post frequency: This can have a fundamental impact on the three measures above, so it should be tracked. Are people calling out for more of your content or are they becoming overwhelmed with it? Where is the sweet spot for the number of Instagram posts per day? Track post frequency against engagement and the answer will be in front of you.

Whatever your objective is: OK, so this one is a bit of a cop-out. But if you are active on social media, you will have some content which is business as usual and you will have some specific campaign content too. That campaign content deserves its own measurement against whatever its objective was: was it clicks to the website (check web analytics referrals and on-page engagement) or video views (number of views, average watch time)? If you have a clear objective, you should be able to measure your success on social media.

6 Ways to be Better at Social Media

Social Media Better RS

A lot of the blogs that I write are about very specific areas of digital marketing which is (extremely!) useful if that particular issue is on your radar. But sometimes the question that you have on your mind is a bit broader – how can I be better at something? With this in mind, this week’s blog is about how to be better at social media, no more specific than that!

Know the nuances: Increasingly, each social network has its own characteristics. People’s mind-set changes depending on the network that they are checking in on: you probably wouldn’t share that snap on your LinkedIn network. The differences however can be more subtle than that. Spend time looking at how other organisations similar to yours treat the network and what success they are having.

Quality not quantity: The number of social media posts made per day is staggering (500m posts per day on Twitter alone). This can be interpreted in one of two days: we need to increase our number of posts per day to increase our share of voice; we need to focus on more quality content to rise about the noise. Which one do you want to choose?

Automate where you can: If you think that marketing automation is cheating or anti-social media, you haven’t been following it recently. When well implemented, markweting automation will allow you to spend some time off the treadmill of social media management and on the helicopter view of social media strategy.

Listen more: It is called social for a reason. I think that 99% of social media accounts would be better if they just did this one thing better. Look down your social media feed, check out the use of keywords by people who you are not connected with and get a feel for what is happening. And of course, contribute where you can add some value.

Have an objective: This is a really basic one, but you would be surprised how many people don’t have one on social media. If you don’t have one, how can you get a view on whether your activity is a success or whether you are missing the mark by a mile?

Regularly measure and learn: Social media metrics are a great way of finding out what content engages your audience and what doesn’t. You should regularly track your key metrics (engagement, impressions, frequency, etc.) to see what trajectory your social media is heading in.

10 SEO Practices to Stop

2016-04-18-1460992862-2887201-iStock_000022162723_Small

Often in life, doing something is better than doing nothing at all – even small steps are a contribution to a journey. But this assumes that the small steps are in the right direction.
In the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), if your steps are in the wrong direction, you are doing more harm than good: you would be better off doing nothing at all.

All very wise, but in the world of SEO, how do you know what direction is the wrong direction? Well, we are here to help and here are 10 SEO practices that will lead you the completely wrong way in 2015. You need to stop doing these ten…..like now!

Keyword Stuffing

Yes, people are still doing this. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t too long ago when trying to cram as many keywords onto one page was seen as a great way to get to the top of Google’s page one. But in the SEO scheme of things, this is very old practice – and it’s not difficult to see why. If you have tried to read a passage that has been keyword stuffed, it is incredibly difficult to understand and is a terrible user experience. And if Google keeps sending you to pages that are like this, it won’t be too long before you start looking (presumably not on Google?!) for a new search engine. Avoid this, the search engines and more importantly users, hate it.

Buying Links

Link building is not an easy process for the enthusiastic SEO amateur – you probably know that you need to be careful but of what exactly? Well, be careful of anyone who is selling links! The purpose of link building is for a search engine to understand your site’s authority: in other words, if a great website (like ours!) links to your website, then a search engine will think ‘well, if these guys will link to that site, the other site must be pretty good’. The search engine doesn’t think ‘this site has 10,000 links so it must be better than a website with 9,000 links’. Unless you are dealing with SEO specialists, be incredibly careful, you could do more harm than good.

Duplicate Content

There is a lot of duplicate content out there, but if you were to talk to the website owners, they will often say something along the lines of ‘it’s because of our company’s structure – we need to include the same text on this part of the website as we do on a different part, it’s an internal politics thing, nothing we can do’. And we hear that answer a lot! But the end user probably doesn’t care about your internal structure, and a search engine certainly doesn’t because your structure is causing it a problem. After all, what page should rank number one? Search engines will try to find out which page came first and which page was copied. The punishment for copying? A penalty…..ouch.

Attack Your Competitors

In some very competitive markets, there is more than just a friendly rivalry between companies – the competition is fierce. And where it gets fierce, it can get nasty. There are ways that companies can attack one another with SEO (just check out our article on negative SEO, don’t worry, you shouldn’t have nightmares!) such as getting very dodgy links to point to your competitors site, but this is not the way to work on SEO. You should focus all of your efforts on optimising your website, not attacking a competitor – not cool and the blackest of black hat SEO.

Writing for Search Engines

Digital marketing and SEO have both made content marketing very important in the 21st Century. Engaging content is one thing, but what about content that search engines love too? Surely that is just as important? Well, they are the same thing. The best advice that we can offer is to produce your content with your user in mind. The more natural that your style is, the more interesting and engaging it will be for the user, and for the search engine too. The algorithms are very sophisticated and are looking for great content from the user’s perspective (don’t forget that’s who they are sending to your site) – focus on the user with your content, not search engines, and you won’t go far wrong in SEO.

Not Checking the News

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, here is a newsflash – SEO is a fast moving environment! SEO is not always black and white: in fact, there are various shades of grey and some SEO practices are keenly debated among specialists. It is not always easy to keep up, and the bad news is this – unless you are prepared to invest the money in hiring a professional or invest the time in keeping up with the latest developments in the world of SEO, your SEO will not work in the long-term.

Guessing Your Keywords

If you have ever asked the question ‘how do I get my website onto page one of Google’ to an SEO specialist, they will probably answer ‘for what keyword?’ This will have a big impact on what happens next! You should absolutely stop guessing your keywords – do some research and find out what the words are that people will search for to find companies, products and services like yours. This can be a long process and you will probably end up with more than one keyword to optimise against, but it is well worth investing the time to make sure that you optimise against the right keywords.

Ignore Search Console

If there was a tool which was able to tell you what links were pointing to your website, what the latest updates in SEO are (for the world’s largest search engine), how to improve your SEO and notification if something is wrong, would you ignore it? Thought not. Now, are you set up in Google Search Console? Thought not! Get your website set up, it is a very valuable resource that you will get for free, so stop ignoring it.

Not Sorting that Slow Page

There are a lot of pressures on the speed of your web pages – social sharing buttons, analytics code, sloppy HTML and images which haven’t been optimised (it’s all about visual content, right?). All of these things will slow down the time that it takes for someone to view your web page. This is also a common issue for mobile webpages which are visited more and more all the time. Search engines do not want to send their searchers to sites with a slow page load because it’s such a miserable user experience. Get it fixed now, you know its time.

Perceiving Social as ‘Nice to do’

If you work in digital, you will not be surprised to know that there are many people who don’t think that social media is essential to their digital marketing strategy – social is all a bit fluffy and unnecessary, right? Wrong! For 99.9% of businesses, your customers are hanging out on social media – you might not know where, but they are definitely there. Being able to engage with them should be a key marketing objective. Search engines are noticing this engagement more and more: indeed Google has agreed with Twitter to show tweets in its search results. Social media is essential now.

Have you stopped doing something in SEO which has helped your website? Or is there one SEO practice that you see all the time that you would like people to stop doing? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Site Structure and SEO

Site Structure and SEO

Is it important?

Site structure is one of the most important and overlooked areas of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). While it is impossible to understand precisely how much of an impact site structure has on search engine results, we can assume that it is significant – it relates to links and if you have followed our blog (and you most definitely should!), links are a consistent SEO theme.

But why is site structure overlooked? If you have ever been involved in a site redesign, or a new website, then you will know that a lot of time is spent on the following items: font, colour, tone of voice, where the ‘buy now’ button should be, etc. Now, this is not to say that all of these areas are not important – they are. But it tends to fall to the web designer or web developer to work out the site structure….and they don’t always know how best to structure the site from a user or search engine perspective.  (Apologies to any SEO expert web designers and web developers – we weren’t referring to you guys here!)

The role of site structure

Site structure has an important job from the two important perspectives in SEO: the user and the search engine.

The user: The best website navigation is one that you never even notice – everything is laid out in the way that you would expect; you find where you want to go quickly; you can work out what you want to do next and actually do it. A good site structure will help users find their way round your website and this will improve your website revenue – fact!

The search engine: Search engines will use the links to understand the site structure and they love links. Not only do search engines use them to understand site authority, they use it to understand how an individual website works, e.g. they will assume that pages which are buried deep within a site structure are less important than those that are close to the home page. In addition, your site structure will take the crawlers (don’t be alarmed, scary name but they are the friendly creatures which look over your site and record all of the SEO goodness!) on the journey to make sure that every page on your website has been indexed, i.e. seen by the search engine and potentially included in their search engine results.

Before you get started….

If you have had that intuitive site structure experience on a different website, bear that in mind when you are thinking about this section.

Before you start the process, you’ve got some homework to do (sorry!): do you really understand how your customers search for your product? This is a more complicated question than it sounds. For this example, we are going to pretend that we own a musical instrument website. If someone is going to buy a guitar (something I would like to spend a lot of my time doing), what are the criteria they go through – it is manufacturer, type of guitar, colour, age, price, etc. And in what order do they make these decisions? Investing time here is crucial – to correct a site structure is a long and complicated process, so try to get it right first time: ask customers, look at the competition, and be confident before the site structure is finalised. A mixture of science, common sense and most importantly simplicity are key. Someone has to navigate this website, so don’t try to be too clever!

What a great site structure looks like (and what it doesn’t)

Using our example of a musical instrument website, let’s take a look at the structure after we have done all of our homework:

  • Home Page – hey, we sell musical instruments!
  • Category – split by the instrument that we sell – so, pianos, guitars, drums, recording equipment, etc.
  • Sub-category – split by the type of instrument – e.g. within guitars: electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, etc.
  • Manufacturer – who makes the instrument – e.g. Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, etc.
  • Age of guitar – vintage, nearly new or new
  • Time period – more accurate category of age
  • Product pages – individual product pages

Now, this structure may not be right guitar fans, but we are proving a different point here: this is what the URL looks like for one of our individual product pages (where people are excited to look):

examplemusic.com/guitars/electric-guitars/gibson-usa/vintage-guitars/1950s-guitars/les-paul-59-reissue

This is a long URL – do we really need all of these different categories? What if we were to minimise that structure to the following:

  • Home Page – hey, we are still selling musical instruments here!
  • Category – split by the instrument that we sell – so, pianos, guitars, drums, amplifiers, etc.
  • Sub-category – split by the type of instrument – e.g. electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, etc.
  • Product pages – individual product pages

So, if someone was to take a look at one of our individual product pages with this new site structure, the URL would look like this:

examplemusic.com/guitars/electric/les-paul-59-reissue

A much simpler URL to look at, but that is only one benefit. It is likely that our individual product pages are those which we think are most important – they are the ones where our customers actually buy the guitars! But in the first structure, the product page is a long way away from the home page – and a search engine will assume that the page is not important as the user needs to click six times to get to it. And every time you ask the user to click on a link to get somewhere, some users will drop out – who will be left after 6 clicks?!

This is a deliberately exaggerated example, but helps to prove the point that just trying a little too hard can make for a site structure that doesn’t work from either the search engine’s perspective or the user’s.

Site structure and SEO guidelines:

Shallow structures work best: there are so many benefits:

  • It is easier for users to get to the pages which (presumably) you want them to see
  • Your key pages are closer to the home page so search engines will see them as important
  • For social sharing people won’t need to use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl which in the wrong context can make clicking on one of these links a journey into the unknown!

Use keywords in your URL: the SEO value in itself is debatable but it does make your URL more attractive to click on – not just from the perspective of your links appearing on other sites, but also crucially on search engine results from Google. And a better click through rate to a great site will definitely improve SEO value. Be careful not to stuff your URL with keywords though, it’s as clunky-looking as it is in website copy

Utilise tools: If your website structure isn’t as simple as the example, you can use the following tools to try to minimise the distance between the home page and your individual products

  • Sophisticated menu systems which can bypass the site structure itself and help users jump a number of sub-categories at once
  • Selectors – these are used by online vacation websites: you can select continent, country, city and even destination all from the home page. A much better user experience and easier for search engines to know where the key pages are

Have a good internal link structure: You should allow the user to be able to find a page on your website and then find another page after that – this ensures that users stay on your website and don’t end up in a digital dead end. Also, it’s a great way to get all of your pages indexed by a search engine.

Get the subject of SEO raised early: If you are lucky enough to be building a brand new website, you cannot introduce the subject of SEO early enough – if you mention it after the site is built, you are looking down the barrel of a site restructure which is a very messy exercise.

Summary

As with most things in SEO, you should have the user at the front of your mind when you are working on your site structure. If it works for the user, i.e. is intuitive, short, logical, then it will work for the search engines too.

What are your thoughts on site structure and SEO? How important do you think it is? Have you got any examples of when site structure has been right (or wrong!)?

Managing Negative SEO

negative-seo

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a great tool for digital marketers – if done well, it can deliver highly targeted traffic directly to the best page on your website.

But imagine that for one of your key search terms, there is a web page in the results which is negative: an unhappy customer review, a derogatory post, etc.  This has the potential to put a prospective customer off before you have even had the chance to engage with them.  Here are my steps to taking care of such a problem:

Where are you right now?  The first step is to work out what company you keep on the first page of your search results.  To do this, you should work out which keywords which you would like to rank highly for.  Start here to see if you have a problem.

Other domains?  Wait, you’ve already got one domain and that’s enough to keep you busy, right?  Well, it might just be worth your while.  If you can get a different domain to rank for your keywords, then this should push your negative results further down the search results.  So, get a domain whose name is similar to the keywords which you are looking to work on, and start writing a blog (where you can, you should include content which contains any negative keywords) – and make sure that you write regularly.

Your feedback?  You should encourage reviews for your product or service.  Not only the right thing to do, but can also work from an SEO perspective.  Another option you should investigate is to give the customer an option to feed-back to you on your own website.

Can Social Help?  Google has a very complex algorithm which no-one outside Google fully understands, but we do know that the major social networks rank well on Google and other search engines.  So get your social networks set-up, posted on regularly and linking back to your site.  Every social network has a different way of optimising for search results, so make sure that you are set-up correctly.

Can Google Help?  Well, yes they can, but only as a last resort.  Requesting a removal from Google is a complex process, and in some occasions, Google will require a legal judgement in your favour before they can act.  Very messy and only to be tried if all else fails (it won’t!).

Have you ever experienced negative search results?  Did you use one of these tactics or did you take a different approach?

Image via SEOPressor.com

What is the Perfect Tweet?

Twitter Advertising

Twitter Advertising

With 6,000 tweets sent every second, there are lots of different types of tweets around. If you are starting a conversation from a business Twitter account, there are a number of different elements which get you closer and closer to the perfect tweet:

Snappy Headline: It needs to be quick, eye-catching and enticing enough for the reader to perform the call to action that you are asking them to perform. Not an easy brief, but there are some great examples out there.

Image: Images and gifs are a great way of getting your tweet to stand out. They can paint a thousand words, handy when you are limited to 140 characters. Also, adding an image or a gif will not use up any of your precious characters, so there is nothing stopping you.

Link: If your tweet is going to include a link to a website, you should make sure that it is clear where you are sending them. Using URL shortening can make a URL look more attractive (particularly if it has a number of tags added to it), but it is not always obvious to which site you are sending people.

Call to Action: You should include what you want the reader to do next in your tweet – is it to visit a website, share the tweet, reply?

Hashtag: I almost didn’t include this element! Hashtags are a great way of piggy backing onto popular search queries from other Twitter users, or specific terms that your audience are searching for. For that reason, if you are going to start your own, you need to be very influential or have enough money to share your message through paid distribution. And make sure you only pick one hashtag per tweet!

Part of a Plan: The best tweets are always the ones which have been well planned or at least thought through and definitely contribute towards a wider content plan. This ensures that the timing, frequency, imagery and everything else is all aligned.

It Works: Every tweet deserves to be measured. The only way to tell if you have achieved the perfect tweet is whether your audience think you have and that answer can only be found in analytics. Getting into the habit of regularly checking your numbers will definitely help.