10 SEO Practices to Stop

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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.

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YouTube’s Advertising Problems

YouTube controversy

Google-owned YouTube has had a pretty busy couple of weeks. And it’s all about advertising and just how tricky it can be.

The first issue that they faced was over a newspaper investigation which found that UK government paid advertising was being run alongside extremist content. Very embarrassing at best and at worst a very expensive mistake: some big hitters (Verizon, AT&T) have suspended their YouTube advertising spend at least for the time being. And these budgets are in the hundreds of millions of dollars – enough to impact the Google share price by $25bn in less than a week.

The second issue that YouTube faced was some controversy around its relatively new ‘restricted mode’. Restricted mode is a filter which can be turned on within YouTube to filter out potentially mature content that you may not wish someone in your family to see. Sounds like a reasonable idea – but how does it work? How can YouTube tell what content is offensive and what isn’t? It is very difficult, even for the big brains over at Google. When the panic was reaching its peak over the first issue mentioned in this blog, restricted mode seemed like a great idea. But it soon started adding a lot of LGBTQ into restricted content, for which it rightly attracted a lot of criticism.

How can YouTube / Google start to get control of the situation and move forward in light of this very difficult period? I think there are four areas to consider:

  • More control over the type of content on YouTube: This is a really difficult one, but one that YouTube needs to step up to. It needs to either define what content is inappropriate (where is the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?) or flag content very clearly that should be restricted – for users as well as advertisers
  • Balance between meeting the needs of content creators and advertisers: YouTube is stuck in the middle but needs to listen to the needs of both – without either, the website will face even more troubles ahead
  • The Google Display Network needs to be tightened up: Advertisers need to be able to clearly define who they are looking to engage with and YouTube needs to be able to deliver against that brief. There will always be a bit of a leap of faith for an advertiser, but running the risk of having your advert appear before an extremist video is a leap to far
  • YouTube needs to clarify what Restricted Mode is all about. It came to prominence as a knee-jerk reaction to the advertising controversy and what they saved in time, they paid for in good-will from viewers and content creators. Clearly explaining what is being hidden and why would go a long way to resolving this.

What do you think that YouTube and Google should do to resolve these pressing issues?

Image via the fantastic howstuffworks.com

What’s in a URL?

Whats in a URL WordPress

The URL or Uniform Resource Locator is better known as the web address – every page on the web has one and that’s about as much attention as they normally get.

However, there is more to URLs than meets the eye. They influence user behaviour as well as holding one of the keys to effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you own a website or work on one, here are five things which you should know about URLs:

Search Engine Optimisation: The world of SEO is packed with speculation, but it is widely recognised that the URL plays an important role in SEO rankings. As a general rule, the closer that the keyword is to the protocol (see below), the better that URL will perform. Of course, if the keyword is in the domain name, great.

anatomy-of-a-url

Users: The most important person on the web is the person who you are trying to attract to your website. Simple URLs are the ones which are easy to read for the user – if they look at the URL and they guess what they are going to see, you are doing this bit right. Remember, the URL will show in organic search results so you can influence click through rate by making it simple (and yes, that normally means short-ish too, see below).

Track Results: One of the great things about digital marketing is how measurable everything is. You can tag a URL so that it can feed information into your Google Analytics explain which campaign has delivered the click, really useful when evaluating your activity. Just head over to Google’s URL builder page to find out more: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/ (not a very pretty URL is it?!)

Short is Best? If you start adding parameters to a URL, it can become very long. So a lot of marketers will choose to shorten the URL because shorter is better right? That’s not necessarily true. Short URLs (e.g. http://bit.ly/IqT6zt) don’t give anything away: they could be a link to malware (don’t worry, this one isn’t) or something else that you weren’t expecting, so they are sometimes a bit of a risk to the user. Customise shortened URLs do build up some trust though, e.g. http://bit.ly/whatisinaurl

Don’t Overdo It: Like all principles of SEO, taking URL optimisation too far can do as much damage as not taking it far enough. If you have the keyword in your meta title, meta description and in your URL a couple of times, it all gets a bit much. So try to limit keyword mentions in your URL to one unless you can do it and it doesn’t feel forced.

Digital Marketing Predictions for 2016

2016 WordPress

As 2015 is drawing to a close, it is time to start looking into 2016 and thinking about what it has in store for us. Your 2016 marketing plans and budgets are probably already signed off (well, you’ve made a start writing them anyway), but what are the trends that will shape your plan over the next 12 months?

Here are seven trends to look out for.

Story Telling: With so many different organisations releasing content onto their web and social platforms, standing out is difficult – but content that tells stories in digital are the most successful campaigns. Not easy depending on your industry, but this is the challenge.

Content ROI: Story telling is not the only challenge of content marketing. Content marketing has had a lot of support over the last couple of years and 2016 is the year that CEOs are going to be asking what do we actually get for all of this investment? Better get your story straight (pun intended).

Video in Social: First it was images that were powerful in social media, but now consumers have moved onto video. The old barriers of needing expensive equipment, a film crew, director, etc. are over – all you need is a mobile phone. And the rise of live streaming which started in earnest in 2015 offers a good opportunity to engage with a younger demographic.

Social Is Not Free: I know a lot of you will have used social media for free this year, but it is going to become increasingly difficult to have a social media marketing plan without a budget attached to it. Standout of messages is so tough on the major networks now that paid is almost becoming a default – achieving your social objectives without budget may already be a thing of the past.

Mobile and Local Combine: Google has been spending a lot of time thinking about local SEO and mobile SEO over the last year or two. And while this doesn’t always work (Google Glass anyone?), where they are spending their time should be where you are focusing. For the right businesses, local and mobile are key and will become more important in 2016.

A Big Year for Apps: 2016 is going to be a big year for apps. Are they really there to take over from mobile websites, and in an age where storage on a mobile device is limited, is the battleground moving from the web to your phone? Do you need an app anyway? Find out in this shameless promotion of my own blog.

Internet of Things: 2015 saw the biggest contribution towards the Internet of Things with the launch of the Apple Watch. The Internet of Things is where ordinary household objects have connectivity and are able to send and receive data. While the Apple Watch didn’t have the impact that Tim Cook would have liked, it is still a big step forward. Expect more developments, and as such opportunities, to materialise in 2016.

What are your predictions for 2016?  Are yours on this list?  Leave a comment and let me know.

10 Top Tips for Webinars

10 Top Tip Webinar Tips WordPress

As content marketing becomes ever more competitive, the fight for people’s attention is forcing we marketers to be more creative.  Not only in the content that we create, but the format that it is created within and how the content is distributed.

One of the more interesting formats is webinars.  Webinars are a great way of engaging an audience, demonstrating your capability and engaging your audience, particularly for Business to Business marketers.  You might even start achieving the cliché ‘thought leadership’!

To help you in your webinar journey, here are ten top tips:

Be careful who is presenting… – The selection of who presents or hosts the webinar is a tough one: they need to be an expert in their field as well as being very comfortable in front of the camera or microphone.  It might be that this needs to be more than person.

Be careful what they are presenting… – You would think that this is obvious, but if you have attended some webinars, you will realise that this is not always at the top of people’s minds. Remember that the subject should not be want you want to talk about necessarily – it should be all about what your audience want to see and questions that they want the answers to.  Do some research to find out what this is.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – It was the legendary golfer Gary Player who said ‘the harder I practice, the luckier I get’.  There is no substitution for a good rehearsal to make sure that your timings are accurate (people won’t hang around if you run over so have a script and stick to it), you are comfortable with the content, there are no technical issues.  Your audience will thank you.

Promote your event – This is such a crucial part of your webinar: how are you going to let people know that it exists?  You should use a range of digital marketing tools to promote including email, social media, your website, any partnering organisations, etc.  Getting things wrong at this stage means that the time your webinar is taking is being wasted.  Start at least 2 weeks out, but the earlier you start the better.

How will someone register for your event – This should be a very simple and singular process and all of your promotional efforts should point towards the same place (it makes evaluation much easier!).  Many webinar systems have their own system for registration management, so why not use that and send automated emails to people who have registered?

Invest in a microphone – If you don’t want your webinar to sound like you are talking to your audience through a 1980s phone line, invest in a microphone – PC microphones are just not up to the job.

Interactivity is important – One of the elements that makes a webinar boring is the lack of interaction.  You are staring at your screen for 45 mins or so and the temptation to check your emails is becoming overwhelming.  Polls are a great way of increasing interaction as well as gathering data.

Have your say – You should give the audience the opportunity to ask questions, it is an important part of the engagement process.  This could be in the form of a Q&A session at the end or several small ones throughout your content to keep people listening.  Either way, make sure you have one and have an expert on hand to answer the questions of course!

Offer your contact details – Once you have amazed people with your webinar (we can hope, right?!), now is the time to allow them to get in touch, so let them know your email address and social media handles.  It might be a follow-up to a point that they didn’t mention at the time of the webinar, or even a lead.

Don’t forget to follow up – You should circulate your presentation and any other materials within 24 hours of the end of your webinar.  It is also a chance to answer any outstanding questions and let the audience know when you will be running your next webinar and why they should attend that too.  Strike while the iron is hot.

Have you tried using webinars in your content marketing?  Do you have any tips that you would like to share?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Image via vizexplorer.com

Marketing: The Price of a Free Internet?

The Price of a Free Internet WordPress

The last month has seen a lot of controversy with regard to a free internet.  This is not referring to freedom of information, a whole other minefield, but the cost of visiting the vast majority of websites.

The recently released iOS 9 allowed advert blocking software to be integrated with Safari for the first time, a significant development.  With around 500 million iPhones having been sold, quite apart from the millions of iPads, being able to block ads on Safari is a marketer’s nightmare – it is another reason why marketers may move away from display advertising.

Like them or not, display adverts are often the difference between a website being a paid for subscription-style service or a free to visit website – certainly the case with YouTube.  And ad blocking software is a threat to marketers spending their budget in this way.

So, is the issue that people just need to accept advertising and (dare I say) be grateful that the marketing community is keeping the internet (relatively) free of charge?

No.

One of the issues that has not been addressed is why ad blocking software exists in the first place. Users of the web feel that the majority of online adverts are:

  • Intrusive – you are quite happily browsing before an advert APPEARS AND STARTS SHOUTING AT YOU
  • Irritating – visiting one website does not give that website the right to chase you round the internet for a month still talking about the same page that you visited
  • Poorly targeted – products are at best irrelevant or at worst inappropriate to the target audience

So it’s no surprise that people are trying to block this content, is it?

We in the marketing community needs to accept responsibility for ad blocking software – to a large degree it is a tool of our own making because of the terrible adverts that are run.  And I see it as our issue to sort out.

Marketers need to focus on using display advertising as an inbound marketing tool: well designed, well targeted, complimentary to the environment where the advert is being placed and relevant – is advertising the right tool to use for this objective?  Not all of these are easy to do, but this is the challenge facing marketers.

Unless this issue is rectified primarily by those working in marketing, the internet will become more and more hidden behind paywalls, a threat to the very freedom of information on the web.

Why You Need Marketing Automation

Why Do I Need Marketing Automation

Why Do I Need Marketing Automation

The internet has transformed the world of marketing: digital marketing is more measurable, dynamic and personalised, making traditional outbound marketing look clunky and ineffective.

However, for all of the opportunities that digital offers, there is an important impact on the resource of marketing teams. More opportunities not only mean more financial resource, but also more time being spent on marketing.

That is why you need marketing automation. Not only is it an opportunity to save time, but you can also step-change your marketing, making it more effective. Here is why you need it:

Consistency – One of the pitfalls of increasing the number of marketing tools you use is that your consistency can suffer. This is a challenge being faced by millions of organisations every day with social media. But with marketing automation, you can control the tone of voice to a large number of communications at once.

Finds your audience – For most companies, your target audience will spend at least some of their time online: the difficulty is finding where they hang out and where they would be receptive to your message. Finding your audience on social media, by using a tool such as Socedo, and managing the interaction that you have with them (automated of course) will help to move people from prospects to customers more efficiently than ever.

Customer management – Ensuring that new customers get all of the right communications at the right time can be difficult to manage. But marketing automation can deal with that for you. For example, you can send a welcome email, confirmation of order and any series of marketing messages direct to that customer dependent on their behaviour. And if you do it well, it will feel personalised and not automated at all.

Makes money – We are not talking about automation making a saving to your headcount budget: automation should be viewed as an opportunity to embrace new marketing ideas. If you are choosing the right ones, then this will have a positive effect on your revenue growth while keeping your headcount the same. And for the best automation tools, you don’t need to be technically gifted to work it, they are simple and intuitive.

Better results – Well, I can’t actually promise better results, but what marketing automation does offer is better reporting and if this is analysed well, then the actions taken will result in better results. A lot of marketing automation tools are able to integrate with the most popular CRM systems (MS Dynamics, HubSpot, Marketo, etc.) meaning that joined up reporting is a possibility at last.

What is your experience of marketing automation? After adopting it, what changes did you note within your team? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.