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.

5 Tips to boost Quality Score

Google Adwords

Google Adwords

Last week I wrote about the components of Pay per Click Quality Score.

Quality Score is an amalgamation of a number of factors which Google see as important for an advert on its network.  Essentially, it takes into account two broad areas, the landing page and the relevance of the advert.  That is all well and good, but how can you actually drive your Quality Score upwards and, at least theoretically, drive down your cost per click?  Here are five tips which I hope will help, split by the two important elements of your PPC campaign – the landing page and the advert itself:

Landing Page:

Specific Landing Pages: This is a pretty obvious one, but you would be surprised at the amount of adverts which direct people to the home page.  Where the search is not broad enough to justify this, create a specific landing page for each group of keywords, and where possible reflect the ad copy in the copy on the page.  This will decrease your bounce rate for people who click on your ad and visit the page, thus improving your Quality Score.

Landing page load time: We have all been here – click on a link…..and wait.  With high speed internet access becoming more and more the norm, people are becoming less patient when it comes to page load speed.  So, have a look at your CSS, reduce unnecessary scripts and compress your page as much as you can (there are lots of tips around for this – just search Google it and click on the best looking ad!).

Advert:

Use Ad Extensions: One of the factors of Quality Score is the click through rate of your advert – i.e. the number of times that it is clicked compared to the number of times the advert is displayed.  Using Google’s Ad Extensions (e.g. adding reviews for your product or service; offering a call-back facility; adding your address or phone number to your advert) will not only ensure your advert takes up more real estate on the page, it will also drive up your click through rate.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion: Dynamic keyword insertion is not brand new technology, but it is an interesting tool.  It takes the words that the user has typed into Google and inserts those words into your advert.  When this is done well, it is fantastic, but all too often a poorly targeted advert looks almost spam-like.  I have used this before a number of times: sometimes it has worked really well, other times, it has not worked at all – so test and see how you get on.

Ad Copy: One of the factors that makes digital marketing so powerful is the possibility of being able to test and get results back quickly.  And this is one of those occasions where you should!  Your ad copy can make or break your advert’s effectiveness and there is no substitution for a structured test – re-word the call to action, change its position and check the results.

Quality Score is an important measure and to understand it is to understand how you can make your adverts more effective.  But you should not lose focus of the fact that your advert should be measured against the number of sales / enquiries / whatever that your website is tasked with delivering.  Quality Score is a means to improving your adverts, just don’t lose sight of the person who is looking on Google and giving away the clicks.

Paid Search Campaign Tips

Paid Search Marketing

Paid Search Marketing

If you are looking to capture new visitors to your website in the short- term then paid search advertising might well be the tactic you are looking for. It is a great way to get your company in front of people who are searching for your product or service – and a handy short-cut to a good position on a search engines ranking!

I am going to focus on Google here because it is so dominant here in the UK. It might be that Google is not the most popular search engine where you are, but hopefully these principles will help you with your search engine of choice.

So, you have decided to launch a paid search advertising campaign, but what are the ingredients of a great PPC (pay per click) campaign?

Good Targeting – Before you start unleashing your creativity on ad copy, you need to work out what keywords to target. This can be done by spending time on Google looking at what your competitors are bidding on (and using Google AdWord’s keyword tools), but you should also consult some customers or prospects. How do they describe your product; do they search for the problem that they have (e.g. searching for ‘cash flow issues’ instead of a ‘business loan’). Understanding this may help unlock some keyword gems – keywords which don’t receive a lot of bids meaning that their cost per click is low but are being searched for by your audience.

Stand Out (it’s tough!) – The click through rate (i.e. the number of times your ad is clicked divided by the number of times your ad appears) of PPC ads is notoriously poor – the low single figure percentages are not uncommon. But smart ad copy will help you stand out – just by addressing your credibility (the searcher may not have heard of you before) or answering the issue that the searcher has, when accompanied by a call to action, will put you ahead of most PPC ads – most ads don’t contain these!

Utilise the Tools – there are a number of advert extensions that can enhance your PPC advert. Enhanced site links offer a number of paid links to your site, it’s like having multiple adverts in one, and this will definitely help your click through rate. Or, if you are trying to build credibility, why not add reviews onto your advert? Or if you are advertising on mobile, maybe you should add a ‘call’ button to your advert? The tools are available, so you should be using them to drive more traffic to your website.

Test, Test, Test – one of the great elements of PPC advertising is how quickly you can measure the ad’s performance. You will be able to check your click through rate (i.e. how good is your ad at standing out), number of clicks to your website and your average advert position (if this is low, you should probably increase your bid). Amend your advert following this feedback and check the results again – get into the habit of continual improvement.

Joined-Up Thinking – don’t lose sight of what role you want PPC to play. It is a channel for driving traffic to your website, and it’s the website where the campaign can succeed or fail. Your landing page should be directly related to your advert – don’t direct people to your home page, it’s not specific enough, direct them to a specific landing page that contains a call to action. And when someone is on your site, monitor what they are doing. Are they bouncing right out of the site because your landing page isn’t effective? Your analytics tool will help with this, and investigate linking AdWords to your analytics for the ultimate in joined-up thinking.

This is a deliberately quick tour of PPC advertising – there are a number of issues raised here which justify a better explanation that can’t be covered in a short blog. But, if you follow the above principles, your should start to see paid search becoming an important part of your digital marketing strategy.

Is My PPC Working Well?

PPC

PPC

This week, I was asked a question by my boss who is not a marketer – is our PPC working well?  Hmmm – that is a tricky question, because it is such a vague question.  However, I needed to think of a better answer than that for my boss, so I quickly ran through four areas to give him a feel for how things are going.

I thought I would share these in case you get cornered too with a vague, albeit very valid question!

Click Through Rate – How is your advert performing against the competition?  CTR will help you see!  It will show you how effectively the advert is attracting people’s attention.  So, if you are running different combinations of keywords and product benefits, you should be able to see what turns your target audience on fairly quickly.  When you combine this with clicks, then you will be able to get a view of how popular the search terms that you are bidding on are.

Quality Score – A great overview metric.  The Quality Score is a combination of a number of factors which includes your budget, your advert relevance and your landing page relevance. You should be tracking your quality score month on month, because if you are forever tinkering with your PPC campaigns (and you should be!), then you will be able to track any improvements through a rise in your quality score.

Landing Pages – You should use your analytics package to understand what the bounce rate is of your landing pages, i.e. the page that you are sending the PPC traffic to.  You should compare bounce rate and pages per visit to organic search and all of your different referral traffic.  For example, if the bounce rate is high, then spending more on PPC means you will be wasting more and more money.  There are two halves to PPC – the advert and the landing page, so don’t forget to give both regular TLC!

Linking PPC to CRM – If you don’t have this yet, then this should definitely be on your agenda for 2014.  Being able to link these two elements will mean that you have an understanding of which PPC keywords deliver the most leads / sales / profitability into your business.  This is super powerful data, and will allow you to truly optimise your PPC campaigns.

Image via bubble-jobs.co.uk