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.

Ad Extensions in Google AdWords

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The 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. 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!

How Content Marketing and SEO Work

The internet has been seen as a great leveller in the world of business. In theory, and certainly in the early days, the playing field was fairly flat – if you had a website and someone who knew how to market it, you could take the fight to the bigger players. And with the rise in popularity of social media in the 2000s, the playing field levelled again – in theory, it might even be easier for a smaller business to start tweeting than a larger one: it doesn’t have to worry about complicated social media policies, tone of voice guidance and permissions, it can just get started.

Content has also been a great leveller. An excellent piece of content can be shared multiple times on social media and appear in a strong search engine page rank position. You don’t need huge budgets to make this happen, just excellent content marketing – and here is how.

How are they linked?

Content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are very closely linked – let me take you through why. Back in the early days of the internet, the need for content became very clear very quickly – we know that need to create web pages, but what the hell are we going to put on them?! Then social media arrives and now we really need to create some content – we can’t get away with tweeting about the weather again!

So, lots and lots of content is created. And a lot of it is really crappy. Most of it in fact. So, search engines work really hard to find out ways of quantifying the quality of the content – they start to move on from looking at the frequency of keywords and start trying to actually understand an article. Another metric that search engines start to use is social media shares: what better an endorsement of good quality content than sharing it? Hence, content marketing and SEO are inextricably linked.

What do I write about?

Successful content strategy has a clear link between your content with the needs of your audience. That doesn’t mean writing yet another boring product description for the golf clubs that you sell – it means answering questions that the audience has: how to hit a particularly tricky shot from the rough, how golf clubs are made, tips for golf etiquette, articles on golf’s more unusual rules.

Your content should be based on the keyword research that you have already carried out and then shaped around your audience:

  • What are their interests beyond your product? We know they are into golf, but what else are they into?
  • What are their hopes and aspirations? What else do they want from life?
  • What are their problems? Practical issues which are golf related, but also wider concerns and fears?

This is all great, but what about the payback, what’s in it for the content provider? Well, if someone has found your content but they are not yet a customer, when they come to buy a product similar to yours (they are finding your content so they may be close to buying a related product), your business will be at the top of their mind.

Isn’t content marketing about selling?

I appreciate that the last section may have made some people a little nervous. If this activity isn’t directly selling our product, what is the point in doing it? Well, selling has changed and subtlety is a very effective way of driving revenue – if someone has a question and they find your content and it answers that question, this is a means of not only getting your company name in front of that prospective customer, it has prevented them from seeing a competitor. It works, believe me!

Content marketing is here to stay. When done well, it is a great way of driving traffic to your website through social media referrals and SEO. It can get you in front of potential customers by helping them out or entertaining them, not just by shouting about your product. The sooner you start making content work for you, the sooner you will see the positive effect on your bottom line.

Do you use a content strategy? Is it working for you and do you have any tips that you would like to share? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

Maximising Social SEO

Social Media SEO

Social Media SEO

The link between social media and search engine optimisation has been growing for a number of years now.  For search engines, the millions of social media users help to validate the best content by engaging with it, so using this as a factor in search engine results makes a lot of sense.

It’s for this reason that you should spend some time making sure that your social profiles and content are optimised for search engines.  Here are some handy pointers for the major B2C social networks to make your profile work for people and algorithms:

Twitter

  • Background image – Opportunity to express your creative side, it appears behind your new feed.  Good chance to showcase your product or service
  • Profile image – This will appear next to your tweets, so it requires some thought.  It also appears very small on-screen, so a simple image or message is enough
  • Header image – This image appears on your ‘Me’ page and displays your bio behind it, so it should be as dark an image as possible (the text overlay is white)
  • Bio – Your bio can be used for search in Twitter and on Twitter related applications, so don’t be too salesy and use the limited space to say what is unique about your brand.  Use your full URL: bit.ly or other short URLs shouldn’t be used here

Facebook

  • Cover photo – This is a chance to reflect what is going on with your business right now.  It should be eye-catching and can be a collage of images, photos of your team, the change of seasons, etc.
  • Profile – This is normally a logo as it will appear alongside your posts
  • About section completed – An opportunity to use keywords in descriptions where you can.  There are long and short descriptions on Facebook, so make sure you use the words that your customers would use when searching for you and your competition
  • Photos into albums – On public pages (all business pages are public), these are searchable, so name, tag and organise your images correctly

YouTube

  • Profile Info – In your profile information, use the keywords which you want to be associated with
  • Social channels – You can display links to your other social networks on your profile page, so make sure you add them all on
  • Video tags – So many excellent videos don’t have the right tags – this will make your video searchable in YouTube and on its bigger cousin Google
  • Playlists to increase engagement – Even though this won’t necessarily help from an SEO perspective, organising your videos into playlists is likely to increase user engagement on your channel

Pinterest

  • Complete your profile – The keywords that your customers use should be included here.  It forms part of the search function in Pinterest, so important to mention the industry you operate within
  • Name images – You should always change the name of your images instead of using the default name (e.g. IMG_1234) – it helps with search
  • Use Captions – Instead of just posting the image, add a caption that is another searchable piece of text associated with the image
  • Back-links – While their SEO value is debatable, adding a link to your Pinterest pins will ensure that people who see the image have the opportunity to visit your website

Instagram

  • Brand Profile – As with other social networks, make this section snappy, explaining what your brand is all about and include those all important keywords
  • Embed Instagram photos and videos – You can use the smart and very recognisable design of Instagram and put it onto your website: as with all embedding, it’s very easy to do
  • Link other social media accounts – Give people who are engaged with you on Instagram to engage with you elsewhere on social media
  • Use hashtags – They are an easy way to engage with new audiences by taking the conversation to them
Image via thenextweb.com

How to Manage a PPC Campaign

PPC Management

PPC Management

I read earlier this week that spend on Pay Per Click (PPC) search engine advertising is set to continue to grow in 2015, and this isn’t too surprising.  The quest to get onto page one of Google’s results page for your most important keywords is a difficult and time-consuming one if you go down the Search Engine Optimisation route – PPC will get you to the very top of that page in no time at all.

Not only that, but one of the criticisms of traditional advertising is that it doesn’t segment the audience – PPC audiences segment themselves through their search terms, so you know the audience is showing interest.

But effective PPC is more than just setting up your account, hitting ‘go’ and sitting back waiting for the cash to roll in: this method will result in a lot of money being wasted very quickly.  So, how do you manage a PPC campaign?  Here is my six step process:

1) Set-up Multiple Campaigns
Campaigns are an important part of the structure of PPC campaigns – within these you can select different groups of keywords, and try different types of creative.  Campaign-level is a good way of looking at your top-line results, so make sure that the campaigns are easily distinguishable.

2) Choose the URL
You need to choose the URL which the advert will send people to, but the landing page is often forgotten as part of the PPC campaign process.  The landing page should give the viewer the option (or options) to do what most people do on your website – whether that is a buy-now button or a contact form.  You can track the success of your landing page through your analytics package.  In terms of the URL itself, you should make it trackable so that you can tell the keyword which has referred it – I find Google’s URL builder really easy to use and it ties in with Google Analytics.  You should also test different landing pages to optimise the advert’s effectiveness once they arrive on your site.

3) Select Keywords
Selecting keywords is not as easy as you would think!  If you know the business that you are working for, you should have an idea of where to start: asking some customers what terms they would use is also a good starting point.  You should also use Google’s Keyword Tool for some inspiration, but don’t get too carried away – if your landing page does not relate to the search term, this will count against you.

4) Write the Advert
You are limited by the number of characters in your advert, so all you budding Don Drapers may already start feeling a little restricted.  Your title should be punchy and to the point, with the rest of the advert explaining why your advert is the one that the customer should click on – what is different about your business?   The domain is also restricted to just 35 characters, so it is unlikely that you will be able to use the actual destination URL: your domain needs to be the same as the destination URL, but you can release some (short) creativity with the page name.

5) Time for Extensions?
On top of a standard PPC advert, there are a number of extensions that you can add to make your advert more eye-catching, and some great ways of honing your advert.  But I recommend that you don’t start looking at this until your feel comfortable with the basics of PPC management.  You can tailor your advert in the following ways:

  • Bidding by day of week
  • Bidding by time of day
  • Click to call (i.e. your phone number on your advert)
  • Seller ratings (useful for building trust)
  • Site links (showing a range of pages which should help to entice people to click on your advert)

6) Keep Reviewing:
PPC campaign management is not just a one-off task – the campaigns with the best ROI are monitored and tweaked on a continual basis.  So, you should become very familiar with the PPC metrics:

  • Impressions – the number of times that your ad has been shown
  • Clicks – the number of times that your advert has been clicked on (you can calculate your Click Through Rate [CTR] by dividing clicks by impressions)
  • Average Position – where your advert is shown on page, so the lower the better
  • Cost Per Click – self-explanatory!
  • Quality Score – this has a blog all of its own!
  • Conversions / Cost per Conversion – use conversion tracking codes when linking through to your site to be able to track the consumer through to conversion

Do you manage your PPC campaigns, or is it managed by an agency?  Do you have any top tips?

Negative Search Results

Negative Search Results

Negative Search Results

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 (according to the user’s search term): a marketer’s dream.

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.  A nightmare and one which 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 the best keywords for your company – this used to be very easy before the rise of ‘(not provided)’, but regardless, you will still have in your mind the keywords which you would like to rank highly for.  Start here to see if you have a problem.

Other domains?  But 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 regularly write on the blog.  There is nothing worse than an abandoned blog.

Your feedback?  You should encourage reviews for your product or service.  This is best practice anyway, but can also work from an SEO perspective.  There are a lot of sites for the customer to pick from, and results from Google’s reviews can even show in your SEO and PPC results.  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’t Google Help?  Well, yes they can, but they should only be used as a last resort.  The good people of Google are very busy (changing the algorithm?!) and they do not take kindly to too many requests for removal of websites.  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?

5 SEO Myths

SEO Myths

SEO Myths

One of the reasons why I love digital is because the landscape changes so quickly – there are always new tools, new techniques and new best practices emerging which you can use on your digital proposition.  Keeping up to date with all of these changes is not easy, but offer new opportunities on almost a daily basis.

If you fail to keep up to date with the latest trends, then there is a chance that your understanding of a subject area will become out of date – and never has this been more applicable than to Search Engine Optimisation.  It is a fast-moving area which is driven by virtually constant changes from (on the whole) one organisation who has a secret formula which you are trying to crack!  This means that there are a lot of SEO myths which need to be addressed.

Let the de-bunking begin:

SEO Keyword Stuffing: In the old days of SEO, there were a lot of people who thought that the more mentions of a particular keyword on a page, the higher this is likely to rank against a search query.  This doesn’t work now!  If you check out a page which is written in this style, it is terrible to read and that’s the problem.  Search engines want to refer pages which are relevant to the search that you make – not to a page which is artificially stuffed with keywords.  Search engines are getting smarter, your content needs to do the same.

Just Focus on Google: Google is not the only website that you need to worry about.  Other search engines are available, like Bing, but check your country’s search engine shares – for the UK, Google represents 89% of search engine use, but in China it is just 3%.  And you should not just focus on search engines.  Social networks are important to SEO and it’s easy to understand why – if people like a company or post on social media, then this is an endorsement of the company which search engines can include.  Indeed, Bing has started trialling the number of Twitter followers for companies which appear in its search results.

Links = Rankings: If your strategy for link-building is centred on the quantity of links, you are about to get bad news!  There are still a lot of companies which offer to sell links, but signing up for this means that your site is going to get links pointing at it from all sorts of websites, the vast majority of which are not relevant for your site.  Such links are simple for search engines to spot, and if they think you are trying to game their algorithm, they may well drop you from their results.  Instead, focus on quality of your links, not quantity.

It’s All About Content: Writing good quality content is really important to every website – if you can entertain, inform or help out your visitors, then it is likely that they will be engaged when on your site, so Google will like this, right?  Yes, but only if it can see the content!  There are a number of steps which you can take to make your website visible and accessible for search engines, so take these steps as well as creating great content.

SEO is King: SEO is important, but it should not operate in isolation.  It should be part of a wider Search Engine Marketing strategy which will include social media and paid advertising.  SEO is a useful tool and should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools to drive good quality traffic.

Has this list included your favourite SEO myth?

Image via giveagradago.com