Are you making use of the free Google tools for your SEO?

Did you know that there numerous free tools that Google offer that you can use to improve your SEO? These tools are easy to use and can make a huge difference in helping you to increase traffic to your site and keep it on the right side of Panda and Penguin. There are tools that help you find keywords, analyze traffic, test your pages and to spot trends. By making use of some or all of these free tools, you have the opportunity to really boost your site and increase traffic, which of course can lead to more business. In the end, most website owners want more business and making use of the tools available to help you do that, particularly when they are free, is an opportunity not to be missed. So, here are some of the tools and how to use them.

Here is a list of free Google tools for your website’s SEO campaign. There are keyword and trend tools, website optimization tools, tools to increase your backlinks, and more. All of these tools are free.

Google Analytics

 

Google Analytics.Google Analytics.

 

Google Analytics lets you measure sales and conversions, and gives you access to your visitors’ behavior. Understand which parts of your website are performing well, measure the success of your social media programs, and create better-targeted ads. Price: Free for users with less than 5 million page views a month.

Google Webmaster Tools

 

Google Webmaster Tools.Google Webmaster Tools.

 

Google Webmaster Tools show you how Google crawls and indexes your site. Learn about any problems Google is having indexing your site’s URLs. Identify the top search queries that drive traffic to your site, as well as any links to your site. Share information, such as how often your important pages change, to improve your site’s visibility. Price: Free.

Google Insights for Search

 

Google Insights for Search.Google Insights for Search.

 

Google Insights for Search lets you compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames for any search term or phrase. Track search terms, and find potential customers based on their search volume. Price: Free. Click here for more

Further reading

How to use Google Webmaster tools to maximize your SEO

14 Google tools you didn’t know existed

 

Responsive web design and SEO

As a general rule, responsive web design means that a website has been developed so that it can be viewed on a number of devices and platforms. Websites that have been built only to be viewed from a computer may not be seen properly on say, a mobile phone because for one thing, the screen is much smaller and the resolution may not be so good. This is why it is important that if your site is to be accessed from a range of devices, it should have RWD, if you do not, you could be missing out on a considerable amount of traffic to your site. Using responsive web design does not mean that you have to lose out on your SEO, you do not, you can still optimize your site and develop your strategy so that you not only serve the PC based visitors but also the mobile device based visitors. Carefully planning your SEO strategy can in fact boost your traffic because you are more all-inclusive.

responsive-design-phone-desktop-tabletWhether you’ve already decided to go responsive or you’re still considering a responsive site redesign, there are some things you’ll need to look out for from an SEO standpoint.

Above the fold issues, content strategy, internal links, and mobile specifics can trip you up.

Before we begin, there’s an important distinction between cosmetic and full redesigns. This distinction primarily comes down to one thing: are URLs on your site changing? Changing URLs is a game changer and adds a number of steps that you need to take in order to have a successful transition from an old site to a shiny new one.

The following analysis focuses on common issues with cosmetic redesigns, moving from a non-responsive site to a responsive website design

1. Above the Fold Considerations

Homepage Above The Fold Area (Desktop)

This is where it starts to get awkward with the web designers. The thing to keep in mind as project owner broadly, and as a SEO specifically, is to make your wishes known to the designers early in the process, prior to and during the wireframe process.

Responsive design, kind of like the blow out, has it’s own style and look, which may at times conflict with some best practices for SEO. One area of conflict is use of above the fold real estate.

Responsive design is visually very much about whitespace and letting different elements breathe. However, elements that are critical to internal linking and user accessibility from the homepage tend to get pushed down under giant banners.

Large banners and sliders, which are so common on responsive sites that come back from web designers, often result in visitors having to scroll down to see links in menus that were easily crawlable before the redesign.

Make sure your main categories are somewhere above the fold on your homepage template. This is critical – especially for an ecommerce site going responsive.

One simple way to fix the issue: find savings to push linked content up. This can be done a number of ways, but some strategies include reducing the size of banners, reducing white space, and adjusting fonts. Click here to continue reading

Further information

What is responsive web design?

Why 2013 is the year of responsive web design

 

How to write marketing copy that gets noticed

Creating suitable marketing copy is essential if you want to get your site noticed these days and a lot of people find it really difficult to do.

How do you know if what you have written is going to be acceptable to the search engines?

Although the search engines are important, you should be writing for your human visitors, they are the ones who will be taking notice of what you are saying.

What about keywords and how do I choose them?

Keyword research is very important as it will give you an idea of what people are searching for and you can find keywords that are popular.

What else do you need to know?

Look at what you have written and make sure it has been spell checked and has correct grammar and punctuation. Also, make sure that what you have written makes sense and is relevant. You can use pictures or video really effectively and make your site more interesting for visitors.

 

Do you ever feel swamped by all the marketing channels now available? Should you be tweeting, setting up a Facebook page, managing your Adwords account, utilising log ins on Foursquare, Google+? I could go on.

This “busy-ness” is happening but has communication itself has really changed?

Here are a load of tips:

1. Use words, images and “tone” to get our messages across.

Think about engaging the senses – visual, auditory and emotional as well.

Notice the initial response when someone sees your material; watch when someone reads you postings. Do they have the desired affect?

If not, change one of those three:

Visual – add more colour, larger images, some friendly faces

Audiory – the words, are they working hard for you to get your message across? (see below for more on this)

Emotional – are you be audacious, vibrant, subtle or enthused when you write?!

This is all about the psychology of engagement.

 

2. Be good at talking about ourselves.

“It’s good to talk” and “bringing people together” are examples how cleverly written slogans can work for your product and/or service and help build your brand in modern business. In BT’s case ( and it was 20 years ago when it hit our screens and still a classic!) people know that they are being sold the benefit of being able to stay in touch via a product/service whilst reminding you, the customer, that they care – leaving a favourable impression from a few simple, clearly written and well-chosen words.

With a deluge of advertising bombarding you 24 hours a day – and an ever-decreasing attention span from a cynical public – how do you make your message stand out?

The answer is to analyse some of the key factors which distinguish those businesses whose products are perceived as being merely ‘OK’, from those which have a reputation for excellence.

3. Getting the message across.

Your business success depends on:

– How effectively you convey the salient points of your business proposition.

– Building relationships with existing clients.

– Positively influencing prospective customers without them filtering you out and discarding you on the ‘has-been heap’.

But how do you get your core target audiences buying into what you are selling? How do you distinguish your Unique Selling Point (USP) from those of your competitors?

– See more at: http://www.martinshervington.com/how-to-write-awesome-marketing-copy/#sthash.fGmLtTbC.dpuf

Further information

How to create marketing copy without actually writing

Making your marketing copy a hype free zone

Do not neglect your local audience when doing your SEO

Many small to medium sized businesses rely on local trade and as such, it is so very important not to neglect marketing to the local audience. Obviously, there will be businesses that can only service locals and those will almost exclusively spend their marketing budget on the local area. Others however, are able to offer services to a wider audience and whilst this may be an essential part of the long term strategy, ensuring the locally based clientele are kept informed of goods and services offered by the firm can be key to securing a sound foundation for the business. Ensuring that there has been sufficient SEO done on the site that includes the local area is a must and making use of all the search engine tools can really help promote your business as well. Much depends upon the type of business you are operating but making the most of the technology and the opportunities that it can give rise to, can give you a real boost particularly for those using mobile searches.

The vast majority of local businesses out there – even those heavily invested in digital and mobile marketing – are constantly looking for insights on how they can improve their placements in Google’s search engine results.

While there’s plenty of advice available on specific tactics ranging from leveraging keywords and linking to boosting reviews and Facebook likes, most business owners struggle with how to prioritize their local marketing budgets to improve their rankings, while avoiding unintentional negative hits to their search visibility.

David Mihm at Moz, a marketing analytics firm, pulls together the valuable “Local Search Ranking Factors” survey each year to help to demystify local SEO rankings by honing in on the insights of 35 local marketing experts. Participants evaluate the influence of key ranking factors and prioritize specific ones that they believe contribute to local SEO rankings.

Released earlier this month, this year’s results provide a strong blueprint for businesses – both new entrants and those already established in the local search space – on how to allocate their limited marketing budgets to generate greater visibility for their brand and one-up their competitors.

Where To Prioritize Local Marketing Efforts

The first section of the survey asked participants to identify the importance of eight thematic clusters of ranking factors across three primary types of local search results – localized organic search, pack/carousel search and maps search – for both desktop and mobile searches.

Participants were asked to assign a percentage of influence to all eight clusters, adding up to 100%, to measure those areas with the greatest impact for local businesses planning their digital and mobile efforts.

 

Image courtesy of Moz.com used with permission

Image courtesy of Moz.com used with permission

Click here to read on

Further information

Why Google+ and Google Local are important to your local SEO

5 step checklist for reviewing your local SEO campaign

 

What’s new in SEO then?

Keeping up with all the changes in SEO and getting it to work for you can be all consuming. Making sure that you keep your site fresh and interesting is only one part to the many facets of SEO but it is an important one. When a website is left without fresh content and is not updated, it not only becomes uninteresting to visitors but also to the search engine spiders and that is not good because it means that the site will slip down the rankings which of course means fewer hits. As well as freshening up the content, there are other things you can do to enhance it and keep it optimized. Keeping up to date with all the latest innovations and how to avoid the pitfalls in SEO is important as this will enable you to make the best of your site and keep you on the right side of the search engines. And, keeping on the right side of the search engines is vital as some of the high profile sites that have been penalised by Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms can attest.

The rules of search engine optimization are always changing, and old techniques quickly become outdated with the development of new search technologies. This is a point that Google has been driving home lately with its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates (most recently, Penguin 2.0). These algorithm changes are aimed at weeding out spammy, irrelevant websites while shining a spotlight on websites that actually offer value to their visitors.

The frequent sharing of content across social media has also changed the rules of SEO. Likes, retweets, and shares are natural, human indicators of quality for search engines to go on. Without a doubt, high quality content and social media are the driving forces of SEO in 2013.

Increased Mobile Usage

Mobile internet usage has increased significantly in the past five years, and experts expect this trend to continue in the years to come. A survey conducted by Accenture found that the majority of internet users used a mobile device to connect in 2012, and a good number of those users do so regularly.

Mobile internet users use their devices to perform a variety of tasks, including banking, accessing social media, doing product research, and shopping online. Take advantage of this new flood of mobile traffic by optimizing your website for mobile users. A few ways to do this include:

  • Using responsive design to design your website
  • Creating mobile apps to appeal to consumers
  • Optimize your email communications for mobile use

The New Rules of Linking

Gone are the days of link farms and link trading to improve search rankings. The quality of the backlink now matters more than the quantity, which means that backlinks from respected websites will do your website the most good.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need links from sites like USA Today or The New York Times to succeed. Links from smaller, yet more relevant websites are also good for SEO.  Guest blogging for established websites is a great way to accomplish this. Click here to continue

Further information

Matt Cutts on what’s needed for SEO success in 2013 & beyond

Social media optimization (SMO) is the new SEO

Google is not the only one, search engine that is

When one talks about search engines, Google is the one that generally springs to mind, however, there are many other reliable search engines that people use regularly such as Bing, Ask, Yahoo!, Dogpile and DuckDuckGo, so it is important not to focus all your efforts on just being listed on Google. Whilst it is commendable that Google are trying to eliminate spam from search results, their systems are not infallable and some genuine sites have been penalised during the processes. Having a presence on other popular or niche search engines can really help promote your website and increase traffic to your site. It is still important to ensure that your website is geared to attract search engines and that you stick to the rules. By structuring your site so that the search engines will recognise it and that their spiders can find their way around it in order to map and index it. This is why your content must be relevant and unique whilst containing a smattering of pertinent keywords. So, how do you know if your site is search engine friendly? Take a look at this article to help you decide.

In order to add your pages to its database, a search engine (such as Google) will send out so-called crawlers, spiders or bots to harvest the text on your site. These bots cannot harvest things that are created by Javascript, or ‘see’ images (though they do check alt tags) and the don’t play well with Flash files if at all.

While all these things may make the site look better, they do little to nothing in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) without adding descriptive information about those resources which are visible to a search engine (but not necessarily visible to your site visitors).

It is important that your website can be found by people who are looking for its content, therefore you must serve content to search engine ‘bots’ in a way that they can interpret, analyse and identify how relevant it is to the search query.

For this to happen, you need to bring to the attention of the ‘bots’ important information about the page using various techniques detailed below – almost like a ‘signpost’ telling the ‘bot’ what the page contains. It will then compare what you tell it the page is about, with what it finds by itself, and run various algorithms to check if the page is in fact relevant. It also runs other checks to make sure that you are not trying to cheat the system using ‘black hat’ or ‘grey hat’ tactics to make your page rank higher.

It is also possible to add contextual information to your website which helps the ‘bot’ to understand the context of the information it is indexing, ultimately resulting in more appropriate search results pages when people are searching for topics.

Using a Sitemap

While search engines can usually find your pages by the way they are linked from other places on the internet, it is good practice to create a Sitemap which gives search engine ‘bots’ a list of the pages on your website – think of it as a map to find all the content on your site.
Sitemaps are not only important for search engines, they are also very helpful for people with disabilities who may need a simple interface to view your site structure and navigate around the site without using your menu structures. W3C Working Group Note on Sitemaps

A sitemap serves several purposes:

  • Provides a structured list showing an overview of all content on your website
  • Allows a visitor to quickly get an overview of your site structure
  • Provides an alternative way of navigating your website, without the need for complex menu structures
  • Provides search engines with a means of finding content which might not be available through your menu structures (e.g. landing pages)

Types of Sitemap

It is possible to provide sitemaps for specific types of information, including:

These specialist sitemaps allow you to provide information relating to the specific media type – for example with a video sitemap you can provide information about the running time, category and family friendly status; with image sitemaps you can specify the subject of the image, its license for use, and type of image.  Click here to continue reading

 

Further reading

The 10 best search engines of 2013

When not to Google, searches you’re better off making elsewhere

 

Has your website been affected by the Phantom?

Most of us have read about Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms and whether we understand them or not, we know that we must abide by Google’s rules if we want our websites to remain in the organic rankings. In the past there were announcements regarding updates to said algorithms but these days, this no longer happens and it is only when site owners find themselves off the listings do they realise that another update has been initiated and their site has been affected. It would appear that in May 2013, such an update was released but this time it was neither Penguin nor Panda and many in the industry have dubbed this one ‘Google Phantom’. This update has affected sites with not very good content or content that is scraped, repeated or not optimized well. It also affected those with links that go to or from one or two sources repeatedly. So, as with all these algorithms, content and linking must be pertinent to your business and observing the guidelines set out by Google, should help to keep you in the organic rankings.

In early May there was a lot of chatter in the webmaster forums about a major Google update.  Google wouldn’t confirm that it occurred (big shock), but the level of chatter was significant.  Not long after that, Matt Cutts announced that Penguin 2.0 would be rolling out within the next few weeks, and that it would be big.  All signs point to a major update that will be larger and nastier than Penguin 1.0.  Now, I’ve done a lot of Penguin work since April 24, 2012 when Penguin 1.0 rolled out, and I can’t imagine a larger, nastier Penguin.  But that’s exactly what’s coming.

So what was this “phantom update” that occurred on May 8th?  Was it a Panda update, some other type of targeted action, or was it actually Penguin 2.0 being tested in the wild?  I’m a firm believer that Google rolls out major updates to a subset of websites prior to the full rollout in order to gauge its impact.  If Penguin 2.0 is rolling out soon, then what we just saw (the phantom update) could very well be our new, cute black and white friend.  I guess we’ll all know soon enough.

Google Phantom Update Trending Graph

 

*Update: Penguin 2.0 Launched on 5/22*
Penguin 2.0 launched on May 22nd and I have analyzed a number of sites hit by latest algorithm update. I published a post containing my findings, based on analyzing 13 sites hit by Penguin 2.0.  You should check out that post to learn more about our new, icy friend. 

The First Emails From Webmasters Arrived on May 9th
The first webmasters to contact me about this phantom update were confused, nervous and seeking help and guidance.  They noticed a significant drop in Google organic search traffic starting on the prior day (May 8th), and wanted to find out what was going on.  Four websites in particular saw large drops in traffic and were worried that they got hit by another serious Google algorithm update.

So, I began to heavily analyze the sites in question to determine the keywords that dropped, the content that was hit, the possible causes of the drop, etc.  I wanted to know more about this phantom update, especially if this could be the beginnings of Penguin 2.0.

Phantom Update Findings
After digging into each of the four sites since 5/9, I have some information that I would like to share about what this phantom update was targeting.  Since Penguin 1.0 heavily targeted unnatural links, I wanted to know if this update followed the same pattern, or if there were other webspam factors involved (and being targeted).   Now, my analysis covers four sites, and not hundreds (yet), but there were some interesting findings that stood out. Click here to continue

Further reading

Google Panda, Penguin & Phantom: 3 recovery examples

 Google Phantom update proves value of good content – and lots of it