95% of websites are HURTING their Own Google Rankings

We have checked hundreds of websites over the years and the sad fact is that 95% of them are actually doing things that will make it harder (or impossible) to get rankings on Google.

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Is Your Site One of the 95%?

The question that you (as a business website owner) might well be asking is MY site one of the 95%?? Of course, you may not be bothered, thinking that your site’s ‘job’ is just to ‘be there’ when someone wants to check on you. But that is really a waste, your site could be doing so much more than just sitting back, waiting for the occasional visitor…

Brochure Sites

Brochure sites are sites that are just meant to act, well, as an online brochure, a means to impart information about a business to anyone who is interested. They are often just visited by people who having heard about a company (or maybe they met someone at a networking event?) want a bit more information before they contact them for a quote etc.

A Wasted Marketing Opportunity?

This is a good way of using the power of the Internet (saves on a lot of brochure printing for a start), BUT, is it also a wasted opportunity? The thing is here you have a website, full of (hopefully) interesting stuff about your business, the services that you offer and ‘what makes you special’ and yet no great efforts are being made to get more people to read it all. This must be a wasted opportunity, as any one of those visitors (that the site is not getting) could be a potential customer…

So What Are These Sites Doing Wrong?

The fact is that there are many ways that business sites are ‘getting it wrong’ when it comes to getting Google to ‘like’, and thus give their pages a prominent position for a given search term. Some of them are quite basic mistakes too and could easily be fixed with a few clicks (and a little bit of thought).

Some Examples of the Mistakes Sites Make

The Title Tag

You may not notice (although Google always does) this one, as it a bit hidden, but if you take a look at the top of your Internet Browser window, you will see the ‘Title’ information for the page you are looking at. In many cases you will see words like ‘Home’ or ‘About Us’. Whilst not being incorrect (as you would be looking at the Home or About us page), they are not really very informative to the very ‘person’ you really want to impress and that of course is Google.

Think about it, would not a phrase like ‘IT Support Services | Computer Repairs’ ‘tell’ Google a bit more than the word ‘Home’? It really is a no brainer and so very easy to fix….

The Meta Description

When you look at a page you don’t even see this (not even at the top of the Browser), it only being visible in Google’s search results, under the Title and the URL of a site. This might make you think that it is worthless from an SEO point of view, but you would be wrong. It is true that the words in the Description do not have a lot of clout SEOwise, but if you leave the field empty or use the same one on many pages, you run the risk of making the site appear to be ‘lazy’ as far as Google is concerned and that ‘black mark’ could make all the difference when Google has to decide what site to list for a phrase you want to be found for.

Again, a few clicks on the keyboard can make the problem go away.

The Elevator Speech

Another thing you should bear in mind is that a good Description can make all the difference when it comes to getting that all important click from the Google search results. Think of this 160 character text block as your ‘elevator’ speech and create one that would make someone just have to click through to your site, as it is only then that you get a chance to start that dialogue that could result in a sale or enquiry.

The Header Tags

This is another of those things that you will probably not have noticed (and yes you guessed it, Google is looking at this too), other that is that the text might look a bit bigger. But why is the correct use of Header tags important? To explain this I need to give you a bit of a history lesson, it all starting with the way that documents are constructed. This actually goes back to the time that newspapers were laid out using lead type as here the editors had to be able to let the people who were laying out the type which bits were the important, that is, what words (like the Headlines) needed to be big. This was all done using a ‘Header Tag Number ranging from 1 to 6 (or something similar).

This rule set was used when the code that describes how a page would be displayed on Wordprocessors and screens was written , it again being used to control how words would be displayed. This in turn fed through to the language that controls printers and also, most lately, how web pages are rendered by Browsers, this of course being HTML.

The Advent of CSS Styles

In the early days on the Internet there were in fact only a few ways you could control how big the words on a page were, these Header tags being one of them. Today of course you can control the font, size and colour of the text on your webpages using CSS Styles, but the importance of the Header tag lives on as Google still use these to work out which words on a web it should take more notice of, something that is vitally important when trying to get your page to the top of the results.

A Problem With Web Designers

It must be said that most sites use these Header tags, but the problem is they are often used incorrectly, the majority of web designers still using them to control the size of text, often compounding the issue by then using them for such terms as ‘Home’, ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Blog’. Highlighting words like these to Google is useless, far better to use them to point out to Google those words that you want to be found for like ‘IT Support Prices’ or ‘Best Anti Virus Software’.

Putting this right is a little harder than both of the above, but it is still not that big a job and makes your site that bit better in Google’s eyes and thus that bit more likely to get a good listing in their results.

Links – The Popularity Voting System of the Internet

Whilst the majority of the power that links bestow come from links to a site from other sites (so called ‘backlinks’ as they link back to you), the links FROM a webpage to other sites and the INTERNAL links in a site are also important. The first tells Google that you are a part of the community that makes up your market place (as well as pointing them at some other valuable resources, which Google likes to see), whilst the second type helps Google understand what each of your pages is about as well as helping people move about your site. As Google rates sites that offer the best ‘user experience’ higher than others, such internal links can only help.

Incoming Links

Whilst the links to a site cannot be put right by making changes to the site, they are a vital part of the ‘battle’ to get a site listed on Google, accounting for about 40% of the marks that Google allocate when deciding what site to list for what term. However, the fact is that the majority of sites either don’t have the any (or enough) links or have the wrong sort. Both of these can really hinder a sites chances of getting a first page (or any) ranking. Fixing them can take a long time and a lot of work though and has to be done very CAREFULLY.

 

SEMANTIC SEO and the Words on the Page

Semantic SEO is all about making sure that Google understand what a site is all about, thereby ensuring that it’s ‘meaning’ is fully comprehended. This is easier to do than you might think, the major thing to get right being to make sure you use the right words on the page. The right words of course are the words that Google wants to see. The good news is that Google will tell you what these words are, all you have to do is to ask in the right way, this being done by ‘Reverse Engineering‘ the top pages on Google …

Writing the Right Copy

Armed with these words and phrases, and a good understanding of the subject (it helps if you are a genuine expert) you can then write the right copy, adding some images, and if you can audio and video components as you go. Sprinkle some internal and external links at the same time and you have gone a long, long way of cracking this particular nut.

 

Polishing the Spitfire

You may not believe it, but it is said that back in World War 2 they used to polish the photo reconnaissance Spitfires (as well as painting them pink so that they were harder to spot in the dawn or dusk skies) just so that they could gain a few mph, something could make all the difference, life or death in this instance, when being chased by enemy fighters.

If you follow the guidance above and fix any of the items mentioned in the above information, it will in effect polish your website a little, perhaps gaining just enough extra speed to get your site onto Page 1 of Google and thus get the extra traffic that could make all the difference to your business.

 

Need Help With the Polishing?

However, if you need help with the polishing, even if it’s just some assistance in finding out what bits to polish the hardest, please do give us a call. We are here to help and offer a lot of free advice and assistance.

WHAT IS SCIENTIFIC SEO?

First a bit of history about Search Engine Optimisation

SEO can trace its history way back to 1994 when the early pioneers discovered that they could use the Internet to drive traffic to their sites and hence sell their goods. As this idea became more accepted, people started competing with each other for traffic and that meant that they had to ‘convince’ the Search Engine of the day to list their site for appropriate terms.

The Search Engine of the Day has changed over the years, Alta Vista, Ask Jeaves and Yahoo all being the top dog at some time. However, today, the big player is Google and thus that is the engine everyone wants to get listings on, and that of course means you have to understand the rules.

 

The Rules of The Old SEO

The rules that the Search Engines use have altered drastically over the years, as they have become more and more sophisticated. At the start, it was easy to ‘trick’ the Engines, all you needed to do was to stuff the pages with your keywords and get some links to the site (Google’s first stab at SEO was based on something called PageRank which basically is all about the number of links to  a site – and not much else).

These ‘old’ rules however had one big problem, in that the SEO professionals of the day kept finding ways around them and thus the Engines had to keep taking steps to close these ‘holes’ in their rule sets.

This process escalated over the years, especially since 2010, and basically Google decided that enough was enough and decided on a whole new approach, one that could not be
tricked and relied on one thing, perceived quality.

 

The New SEO and Perceived Quality

Today, with the advent of something called ‘SEMANTIC SEO’ (the meaning of a site, what it is really all about), things are a lot different, it being all about the quality of the content of a site.

But Why use the term Perceived Quality?

I use this term as I believe that there are limits to what Google can do, in that its computer algorithms cannot ‘really’ decide on what is real ‘quality’ content and what is not. Also, as mentioned above, links had, and still have a vital role to play in how Google decides what site to list for what.  But it cannot always tell if these links are ‘real’ or have been created, thus in all cases Google looks at a page/site and decides (using it’s rule sets) if it is quality or not.

This is why I say it is the quality that Google perceives in a site that is important. So how can you convince Google that your content is good enough to get a top ranking??

The Rules of the NEW SEO in Detail

Despite all the changes that have taken place in the world of SEO since 1994, but all of them are based on four things, one of these only recently coming to the fore.

The Four Things SEO is and was Based Upon

 Site Construction

The way a site is built is important as if it is constructed in the wrong way then Google cannot (or may just not want to be bothered to) find all the pages in a site. Also if the site is built in such a way that it is very slow, or is not mobile friendly, then too Google will downgrade the site in various ways.

One thing that does not cause so much of a problem today is that of the ‘Code to Text’ ratio (the amount of code that is used to build a site versus the number of words visible to the visitor). In the old days, too much ‘construction code’ was an issue, but today, with the advent of WordPress and the like, Google has been ‘forced’ to ignore this area, virtually all sites being very code heavy.

You MUST however ensure that the site can easily be navigated, a failure in that department being very serious indeed. Plus you should also use a fair number of internal links (not just the navigation) to highlight to Google what each page is about.

Words, Pictures and Videos

This is the area most affected by the new SEMANTIC SEO, it being vitally important to use all the ‘right’ words in a page. Gone are the days of just stuffing a page with the words you want to be found for. Today you need to understand what words Google wants to see and then make sure you include them in the copy, also making sure that you include pictures and where possible audio and video content on the page.

Reverse Engineering is the Key

This is where reverse engineering can help, the idea being that if you know what words are being used on the top pages (for a given term) then by including them (using correct grammar of course, as this is also checked) you must be getting closer to the perfect page.

Links

In the early days of SEO Links were vitally important, in fact they could, all by themselves get a page listed. However, today things have changed a lot. Links are still important counting for some 40% of the reason for a site getting a rank, but they are not as all powerful as they used to be.

Google is Watching You

Besides not being as important as they used to be, the links to a site are now carefully checked by Google. Their aim?, to make sure that the links to a site are ‘natural’ and not all built by an SEO company (although they know of course that the practice goes on all the time).

This checking is carried out by Google, the process being labelled as ‘Penguin’. Basically this checks a sites linking structure to see if it complies with the ‘rules’ and is hence seen to be natural. Here the number of links using the domain or URL of the site as the anchor text (the bit we humans click on) are checked, as are the number of links using ‘money words’ (the terms that a site wants to be found for) and those ‘noise’ links, like ‘see this site’, or ‘click here’. If the balance is not right, or they seem to have been created too fast, then a site can be heavily penalised.

This means that a site’s links have to be built very carefully over time and not all in a rush.

Social Media

This is very new in SEO terms and the amount of ‘power’ that social media chit chat, comments on Facebook and Twitter provide is not fully understood. In my view, the importance of Social Media is more to do with other marketing channels, but nevertheless, obtaining links via things like ‘Social Bookmarks’ can be useful.

Putting it All Together – Scientific SEO

So, what does all this mean?? Basically, it means that you must

 

  1. Find the words you want your site to be found for – KEYWORD RESEARCH
  2. Find the words you need to include in the copy of the page(s) using Reverse Engineering – CONTENT RESEARCH
  3. Build the links to the site, CAREFULLY
  4. If you can get some Social Media comments going (more important for sites selling direct to the public than B2B sites)
  5. Monitor the progress and make changes to improve matters further

 

 

I hope this helps you understand how the matter of SEO has to be approached today.

Is Your Online Presence Failing to Sell?: Here Are 4 Reasons Why

There is an old saying in that ‘you can bring the horse to water but you cannot make them drink’ and never has one been so accurate when talking about web traffic…

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From an SEO or Social Media point of view, getting traffic to a site is the first big goal, but it has to be the right sort of traffic and then the site must do its job and get them to engage, taking a ‘sip’ if not a big gulp.

The Engagement Process

A part of this ‘engagement process’ is of course down to design, it has to appeal (very quickly) to the browser, or risk loosing them in those vital first seconds.

The next thing of course is the content of the page. Is it what the customer wants?, your Bounce Rates will tell you (and Google too if they come from a search) so need to be constantly rewiewed, just in case you are not doing things the way that your customers want, these after all being the final arbiter…

The site’s content and the way it approaches it’s customers is therefore key. It does not matter how many potential customers (horses) you deliver to a site if the ‘water’ does not look good and tasty.

Getting on the Customers Shortlist

But what is ‘tasty?’ A very good question and one that will change depending on what the site is about and where in the buying cycle your customer is. The article below covers this in one of it’s points saying in effect that those who are just starting in their quest are looking for very general data and thus don’t want the full nine words on your product / service, but just an initial description. If you get on their shortllist they will be back..

Besides the issue of good ‘useful’ content, there is the matter of Re-Engagement. This is another topic and one that we will come back too in the future, but it is important as just because the visitor does not buy today, does not mean that they might not buy tomorrow, so keeping in contact and reminding them that you are there waiting to serve them, is a good idea.

For the full article on Why your site is not converting, please click the link.

The cheese moved. The buying process has changed. Technology to support and further that change continues to grow and evolve. Communicating through the vast array of digital channels (website, SEM, social, email) is no longer an option. It is a must-do.

The online presence of your business must attract and convert prospects. It must engage with leads through a variety of channels as users travel through a longer and more complex buying cycle.

How we market and communicate online has come a long way from static, brochure-like internet pages and “spray-and-pray” email blasts. Unfortunately, for many, online marketing is still failing to reach its full potential.

Pointing a finger at the underlying technology would be easy, e.g., marketing automation, content management systems or any of the tools and solutions laid out in Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Super Graphic.

It’s easy to say the technology is failing, so the marketing effort is failing. But the reality is more complex. Here are four of the biggest reasons why your online presence is failing to drive sales.

Engagement For The Wrong Reasons

Using engagement tactics that are not aligned with business goals is a huge waste of time and money. Too often, I see engagement for engagement’s sake. This results in leads stagnated in the buying cycle and low-volume sales funnels.

Having a high number of Twitter followers or a successful content syndication program is great, but that is not success.

CMOs are being judged on sales. And following your brand or downloading an asset is not a sale.

Social followers matter. They are your advocates. They can extend your message.

But focusing on the number of followers and not their engagement and conversion ratios results in negative ROI for the money spent to generate them. It also takes the marketing eye off the important goal of a sale.

Weak Commitment To Prospects

Generating new leads through content syndication or SEM is the start of the buyer’s journey. Most leads are not ready to buy at that point.

So not using retargeting or nurture programs to bring them back for further communication is a waste of the money spent to find them to begin with.

When they fail to travel along the pipeline because they are left to rot somewhere between the marketing and sales organization, it reflects negatively on the organization.

Lack Of Good Content

Everywhere I look, the numbers show an increase in content marketing spend and usage. Businesses are spending millions to have content developed — to tell their story, engage with their prospects, and help convert their leads through the buying cycle.

And yet much of what is used to attract and engage leads is sales enablement content. It’s all about features and functions. Or it’s focused on selling something, rather than trying to educate.

Take, for example, the content used in top-of-funnel nurture programs. More times than I care to remember, I’ve seen programs use 45-minute product webinars or 20-page product briefs.

Breakdown happens when leads don’t engage, and the prospects in the funnel dry up. This is because leads in the early buying cycle don’t want to know everything about the product, and they don’t want to be sold to. Rather, they want to know what the options are and what to consider as they do their research.

Marketing Teams Are Not Living In The Now

Stagnating means not going to where your customers are by using better ways and different channels to communicate with them online. It results in low communication. And poor communication results in low sales.

Semantic SEO and Google, the (not so) Blind Man

In some of my previous posts, and when discussing SEO with my clients, I’ve often alluded to Google being like a blind man in a department store. I used this analogy as, without some help, both the man and Google could easily get lost and not be sure that they were in the right place.

In the case of the blind man, this would result in him leaving the store without making a purchase (perhaps never to return); in Google’s case it could mean that they will not understand what the site is really all about. This could be catastrophic as far as getting rankings for just about anything is concerned.

Leaving signposts on your web pages

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Of course, in a store you have Braille signs, but what is the equivalent on a website? The answer is of course the Meta Title, Description and Header tags of the pages. Using these to inform Google about the content of the pages is a great first step; even though it’s very much part of the ‘Old SEO’ it’s still vital today.

Google ‘the not so blind man’ and old and new SEO

Even with all of its power and the new SEO practices that it’s forcing us all to follow, Google is still like a blind man in that it needs help to ensure that it gets the right end of the proverbial stick. There is however a huge difference between Google of old and the one that is evolving before our eyes.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the TV series Kung Fu. In it, David Carradine stared as a Shaolin monk (Kwai Chang Caine) who, through the training he received, became a martial arts expert. However, it’s not David that’s interesting here, but his mentor, Master Po. Po was totally blind, yet he could ‘see’ everything, pointing out the grasshopper at the feet of the young Kwai Chang – something the latter, even with his perfect vision, had missed.

Today, Google is like Master Po: it can’t see everything, but it can see a lot and all that it does see is taken into account when considering what site to rank for what. But it’s vitally important to understand how it is planning (and to some degree already is) to use this enormous amount of data. That’s because this is the big difference between old and new SEO.

Old SEO equals keyword matching

To be fair, old SEO was more than simply matching a keyword phrase to the ‘best’ sites for that term; even the old systems had 200 or so ‘factors’ that were taken into account. But in the end, it was mostly to do with how well the ‘signposts’ you placed on a site (be they in the Titles, Headers or copy, not to mention all those links) matched the keyword phrase; that’s what really counted.

This of course led to gaming of the system. SEO companies would alter the pages of a site to SHOUT the target keywords to Google. And to reinforce the message they’d create thousands of links to reinforce the message. Pages without any real merit reached the top of the listings and Google came out with more and more rules to try to combat the situation. It was a time of new trick after new trick, with each one being found out and the gains it had brought removed. But it worked, and to some degree still does.

The days of Old SEO are numbered

Google, it seems, concluded that it wasn’t going to continue with this ‘arms race’. Instead, it would change the game entirely. In my view, it didn’t do this out of spite; I believe Google just wanted to ensure that it would always be able to pick the best sites for any phrase and never be tricked again.

This was no mean task, but Google has a plan based on the fact that, instead of just matching keywords to sites, they will (try to) look beyond the words to the meaning of the search phrase – in other words, what you or I, as searchers, are really looking for.

This was one of the reasons for the introduction of the Hummingbird update (technically this was more like changing the engine than replacing a part of it, but let’s call it an update for simplicity). In doing so, Google wanted to be better able to understand what people wanted when they used the new Voice Search feature on smartphones. (By the way, according to the experts, the reason for this is that people express things differently when speaking, compared to when they write them down.)

The reason it’s called Semantic SEO

This leads nicely to the reason this whole process is called Semantic SEO. Semantic is a Greek word that means ‘meaning’. As Google is trying to work out what the intent (and what it really means) behind a search phrase is, this has led to the whole process being called Semantic SEO.

Google does more than just try to work out what the real user intent behind a search phrase is. In order to come up with matches in its database of sites, it must also understand the real meaning of any page. To do this, it must work out what the content is trying to say; that is, how it can help, inform and entertain.

It is thus vital to understand what message you are trying to put across with any content. You can read more advice on this in the next post.

But how does Semantic SEO work?

This is the big question for anyone who wants the best rankings possible for any relevant search phrases. But it’s here that we hit the first real change. You see, even though keywords still have their importance, they’re not the be-all and end-all that they used to be. That’s because Google no longer relies on simple keyword matching.

So, if Google isn’t using the words on pages to decide what it should list, what is it using? This is where it gets tricky to explain; basically, Google will look at the information, the real meaning of a page and the site it is part of, and the purpose behind its creation. It will also look at what others say about it (and on it in the case of comments) before deciding if this matches the meaning behind the search phrase.

Being found when you’re not even being searched for

This is what Serendipitous Search is all about. It’s another another huge change to the old SEO because Google is now more of an ‘answer engine’ that provides suggestions for sites it thinks might be useful – even though they don’t include the keywords being searched for.

The more you make your site answer the questions and needs of your potential customers, the more Google traffic you will give you.

 

Semantic SEO and the feedback loop

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This is another very interesting (and potentially scary) thing about the new Google. Not only does it look at the words on pages, their meaning, links to and from a page, and social media comments (as well as who made them). Google also looks at the data it has gleaned from the billions of searches it makes every day and sees how each one went.

This means that every time a site is listed, Google can tell how popular that site was from the CTR (click-through rate) to the site. It has been using this methodology for years with Pay per click (AdWords); adverts getting the best CTR are charged less than those with low CTR. With organic listings there is of course no payment. But if a site’s Title and Description don’t get people to click on the link, Google will eventually notice and simply stop giving that page a listing for that term. You can imagine that, if this happens too often, a whole site could just disappear from the rankings. So beware and do check the CTR in your Webmaster Tools.

There’s more too. You see, a site could well have a really great Title and wonderful descriptive text causing all who see it to click through. You might think that’s good news, but if the site doesn’t live up to the visitor’s expectations and they click back to Google to try again, Google will notice this – and conclude that, for that term at least, the site doesn’t deliver the goods. As with poor CTR, this could eventually lead to the site not being listed at all.

Google will also use the feedback process to ‘learn’ what people want to see in the first place, which helps it understand what the meaning of the search was really likely to be about. This allows Google to make its best guess about what sites it should list for any term, and then just sit back and wait to see how people react. If they click on a site and don’t bounce, then they’ve got it right. But if they bounce they haven’t, so Google ‘learns’ with every decision searchers make. What’s more, it will never forget and will keep updating its knowledge all the time. Spooky, eh?

There’s more too. You see, a site could well have a really great Title and wonderful descriptive text causing all who see it to click through. You might think that’s good news, but if the site doesn’t live up to the visitor’s expectations and they click back to Google to try again, Google will notice this – and conclude that, for that term at least, the site doesn’t deliver the goods. As with poor CTR, this could eventually lead to the site not being listed at all.

Google will also use the feedback process to ‘learn’ what people want to see in the first place, which helps it understand what the meaning of the search was really likely to be about. This allows Google to make its best guess about what sites it should list for any term, and then just sit back and wait to see how people react. If they click on a site and don’t bounce, then they’ve got it right. But if they bounce they haven’t, so Google ‘learns’ with every decision searchers make. What’s more, it will never forget and will keep updating its knowledge all the time. Spooky, eh?

The above process is made even more powerful by the fact that, just as Google can deduce what a page or a site is about (and therefore what answers and information it gives), when it really does satisfy a user it can then deduce the original intent. This is yet another part of the great feedback loop.

Semantic SEO and gaming the system

As we’ve seen, it’s the copy and how well the message and meaning of a site is put across to Google and any visitor, that really counts in the end. The former to get a listing in the first place; the latter, in effect, to keep it.

There is, of course, more to convincing Google than the copy, though I think this will take the lion’s share. Inbound and outbound linking, the social media signal and the level of interaction (including sharing) are also major factors.

Although it may be possible to game the system by creating a bigger social signal than the site really deserves, the experts’ view is that this will be more and more difficult, with Google looking at each person who comments or Likes, then deciding if they’re real or not. If they are one of the millions of fake profiles set up in the past, they will count for nothing, and may even damage a site.

Thus under the intense scrutiny of Google, it may be as hard and unproductive to create huge amounts of social signal as the process of creating thousands of worthless links…

This doesn’t mean that a small quantity of such links and signal are useless. Both can ‘prime the pump’ a little so the real power of the site is allowed to shine through. If this is the case, a small level of gaming (or old-fashioned SEO work) still looks as if it will be worthwhile.

However, if the page or site in question doesn’t really deserve a high ranking, it will eventually be denied one when people tell Google that it’s no good via low CTR’s and high bounce rates. Therefore, the whole process depends on having a site that answers visitors’ needs. And that means high quality, useful content delivered via words, pictures and video.

The new Semantic SEO

So what will the new SEO process look like? In my view it will still start with the keyword phrase. After all, this is the start of the process and can’t be ignored. The next stage is to try to work out which words are likely to be used by someone who has the intent to react with your site in the way you’d want. This could be to buy something, or simply to understand that you could help them with their problem or needs.

Once you’ve decided on these words, you can reverse engineer the Google results to see what sorts of words it likes to see.

Combine this data with the questions that are being asked, and the problems that your site solves, and you have the recipe for a perfect page that answers people’s needs and uses the words Google expects to see. Interestingly, the latter neatly covers the area of LSI (Latent Sematic Indexing) – without all the effort.

Once this page is created, and you’ve placed all the standard ‘blind man signposts’ on it, you can proceed to getting it noticed via old-fashioned links and social media.

As you can see, the above includes some old SEO practices, this being for the simple reason that they’re still as relevant and required as they were several years ago.

The biggest change and the greatest challenges are to understand what you should write about and post on a site, and how you can generate the necessary signal on Social Media. I’ll cover this in my next post.

30% of retailers see SEO agencies as “expensive” and unable to deliver

It’s always interesting to see what comments make about SEO, it is after all a difficult task and one where you just cannot promise good results. Any SEO company will try their best of course (within the budget they are allowed), but with Google ‘making things up as they go along’ (or at least that is what it often feels like) it can be very very difficult to get the results the customer wants.

That said, there is also the issue of what the customer does want and the question ‘Can the website deliver’, even when traffic is delivered. This is a point taken up by some of the people commenting on the blog below, as they point out that some companies simply believe that they deserve a first page position and to ‘sell’ whilst not really understanding what Google and their customers want.

The former point is one that really demands understanding, as a good site in Google’s eyes is one that does not just ‘sell’, but provides good and useful content to visitors. It is also worth pointing out that it is indeed foolish to openly trick Google, but that does not mean that some fancy SEO footwork cannot bring some good results…

Please read the item below and if you want to see the full article on SEO Agencies and Results click on the link:-

Nearly a third (32 per cent) of UK retailers see organic search (SEO) agencies as “expensive” and unable to offer them clear results while 15 per cent find them disappointing, according to research from OneHydra.

Of the 200 retail e-commerce managers and marketing directors questioned the majority (82 per cent) said search marketing is an integral part of their business model but on average less than 20 per cent of their SEO requirements were met in the last 12 months.
It was found that most work with an agency in some capacity, either in partnership with their own in-house team (37 per cent) or exclusively (37 per cent). Only a quarter handle SEO in-house.

David Freeman, head of SEO at Havas Media, said he often hears businesses and marketing teams discuss the difficulties of getting SEO projects implemented.
“However, we must consider that development teams normally have a continuous stream of work to implement and changes for the greater good of SEO performance won’t get implemented by default,” he said.

“SEO teams need to understand the way their clients/internal teams operate and accompany SEO recommendations with a clear commercial case.”
Freeman explained this commercial case should allow work to be prioritised accordingly and alleviate some of this wastage. However, he added that it is “vital” that SEO teams understand the capabilities and limitations of the content management systems to ensure that the recommended changes are feasible to start with.

Meanwhile 17 per cent of respondents stated that the lack of a “strong business case” was the key reason for being unable to implement changes, but by far the biggest barrier for companies was “technological resource and capacity”, a problem which 71 per cent of respondents cited.
Andrew Girdwood, head of media innovation at DigitasLBi, said it is a shame that so many sites are still built without SEO in mind.
“An approach that blends media savvy, like SEO, with brilliant design and build capabilities should not be seen as a luxury but as a necessity for brands. The approach helps save money in the long term.”

Regarding spend, the research found that a quarter of retailers could be wasting more that £100,000 a year on failed SEO procedures, of which many don’t even make it through the IT Department.

However, Oscar Romero, head of search strategy and product at Starcom MediaVest, said this figure is difficult to quantify due to changes implemented by Google.

“Since Google began restricting visibility of keyword data in 2011 under the (not provided) label, businesses have been denied fundamental information about how their sites were performing in organic search. As Google further increases online security measures, the proportion of keyword data being labelled as (not provided) is reaching close to 100 per cent. With this lack of visibility on keyword-level performance, businesses are faced with the significant challenge of how to assess ROI and justify future investment in SEO.

“Over time the industry has developed a variety of alternative methods to define SEO metrics and targets, including analysis of rankings and landing page performance.

“However this is not able to replace the level of data previously available to search marketers and renders the ability to assess the performance of SEO in isolation very challenging.”

Making SEO work with responsive design

With the rise in mobile devices being used to browse and access the internet, website owners have had to make changes to their sites so that visitors can view their site regardless of the device they are using. The most common method of adapting websites is to use responsive web design. This means that the site can be viewed on virtually any size of screen without losing scale or clarity, so is a huge advantage for site owners whose sites are being accessed from mobile phones. Responsive sites still need to be properly optimized and have the same high quality content, keywords and links so that they are placed well on the search engine rankings and do not fall foul of the Google algorithms. Keeping up with all the changes can be difficult, as there seem to be changes every other week these days. Here are some tips on SEO for responsive web design:

Responsive design is obviously a big deal; such a big deal that Mashable has hailed 2013 as “the year of responsive design.” Most web professionals understand this — responsive design is changing the way that the Internet looks, feels, and works.

There’s something less obvious going on, though. Responsive design also changes SEO. When we look beyond the CSS of responsive design, we see a major shift in search practices that is exerting an impact on both mobile and desktop searches.

What are the SEO issues brought about by the advent of responsive design? Here are five.

1.    Google likes responsive design, meaning that search results will likely favor sites that employ responsive best practices.

While we hesitate to declare baldly that Google is in love with RWD, we can identify a strong affinity for RWD best practices. After Google’s blog post about Responsive Design, SEO Round Table published an article outlining the reasons why Google likes responsive design. The three reasons — non-duplicated content, no canonical URL issues, and no redirect problems — are all part of a strong SEO arsenal.

When Google flinches, everyone jumps. So it is with responsive design. Since Google actually wrote the Mobile Playbook, it only makes sense to give them due respect for their mobile and responsive proclivities. As algorithms continue to be tweaked throughout 2013 and beyond, we will probably see more and more nods to sites that successfully employ responsive design.

If Google prefers responsive design, that’s a huge game changer for search.

2.    Mobile users crave a good experience, and responsive sites deliver optimal site quality for mobile users.

That point above is a bit convoluted. Nonetheless, it’s an important point for SEO. Here’s how it works.

More and more users are mobile. Your website is now receiving more mobile visitors than ever before. Trust me; check the analytics. All those mobile users need a good experience. The better their experience, the better your SEO

Further information

Why responsive web design matters for your SEO

Matt Cutts talks responsive design impact on SEO

How common are SEO problems with responsive web design?

Landing Pages and your website..

One aspect of websites that should not be neglected is the importance of the landing page. Landing pages are what your visitor sees and is their first impression of you, your website and your business, get it right and you could be onto a winner. But, get it wrong and you will drive visitors away faster than picnickers caught in a rainstorm. So, what makes a good landing page? The landing page must be relevant, engaging and what the visitor is expecting. There needs to be a purpose to the landing page so that it gives both the visitor and the site owner what they want. Landing pages need to have a good layout and depending upon what the purpose is, they should resemble the main site. Website design is important and having a landing page that converts visitors is key.

As promised, today we’re going to dig deeper into creating effective landing pages, but only for you Internet Marketing for Smart People subscribers. I’ll also give you a few hints about our upcoming landing page software for WordPress called Premise.

Before we get into making landing pages better, let’s make sure we’re using landing pages in the first place, and understand why they’re so important.

Why use landing pages?

“Landing pages are the new direct marketing, and everyone with a website is a direct marketer.” ~Seth Godin

A lot of people don’t realize that before all of his fantastic books about online marketing, Seth Godin founded an online email marketing firm called Yoyodyne in the 90s, and sold it to Yahoo for a bundle. He then wrote Permission Marketing, the most important book on marketing for me when getting started back then.

A huge part of email marketing is where you send traffic, also known as a landing page. In 2006, Seth named the 5 total purposes of a landing page, and they still hold true today:

  1. Get a visitor to click to go to another page
  2. Get a visitor to buy
  3. Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up by email, phone, etc.
  4. Get a visitor to tell a friend
  5. Get a visitor to comment or give you some sort of feedback

You’re probably already using online content marketing in your blog posts and articles, to get people to comment, tell a friend, or subscribe (hopefully all three).

But you can take it much further. The next step is to use specifically-designed pages that focus on clicks (for affiliate marketers), buying (for people with products or services), or permission (to get leads and build your email list).

It’s all about action from traffic, not traffic for its own sake. Click here for more

Further information

Understanding landing page experience

How to make a landing page that converts

Hummingbird May Just Give Google The Teeth It Has Always Wanted?

The Biggest Change May Not Be The One You Thought

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Hummingbird update is not the change from keyword matching to conversational / problem solving matching, but the fact that it is also increasingly going to be looking at user behaviour on Google, i.e what they did before and after finding a site in the SERPS.

Sites Rated for Usefulness (for a given search term)

I believe that they are doing this so that they can ‘rate’ a site for ‘usefulness’ i.e is it a good site in the view of the user (sites that are visited, with the user quickly returning to Google being given low scores and those where the user stays on the site / does not return given higher I presume). By the way, in case you did not know, Google get a LOT of data like this from Chrome users.

If the above is true (and I like most can only read what Google and other pundits are saying) then this also leads to another important area, one that is close to Google’s heart, that of site quality. Their ‘holy grail’ (so they say) is to make sure that the sites they list first are the best available, but they have struggled with finding a rule set that makes this happen, using the measurements above, together with improved Social Signal measurement may just bring them closer to their target.

Site Quality Will Become More Important

Again, IF the above is true, this means that site designers and owners (and SEO professionals) will be having to look far more closely at site quality in the future. This is not a new message of course, Google having been saying that content is far more important than the latest SEO trick, but now perhaps, they will be able to put some teeth behind their words. We will see.

For more info on this topic please see this interesting hummingbird article

It certainly makes interesting reading.

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

 

Having a really good business website is vital

Although we at Serendipity Online Marketing do not build websites, we do work very closely with web designers and we understand what makes a really great business website and how to market it. A business could have the best website in the world but if nobody knows it is there, they might as well not bother. By the same token, there is no point in marketing a website that does not do the job or is not up to a professional standard. Having a really good website is the starting point. So what makes a good business website?

So your business has a website — or you’re in need of one for your brand new venture. Web design can be an overwhelming process, so we’ve spoken to a few web designers who told us what you need to have on your site … and what you can probably do without (like crazy Flash animation).

The first thing you must do is secure a good, catchy URL. Make sure it makes sense for your business, doesn’t have quirky spelling and is available on social platforms, too. Panabee can help you get creative if your business name is taken, and Name Vine is a great resource for seeing what’s available.

Once you’ve set up your domain, it’s time to build out the site and make some big decisions. Here are 10 must-haves for your website that will ensure your customers have a positive experience on the site, improve your company’s digital footprint and increase engagement with your brand.

1. A Logical Roadmap

 

Sure, a website should be aesthetically pleasing, but it’s more important for it to be useful. Before you even pick a server or type an HTML tag, you should map out how you’d like the website to work. This is important both for user experience and for SEO, since Google considers the content and structure of a site when it ranks for search. So, map out and mock up a design for the site — what designers call “wireframing” — and run it by a few friends to make sure it makes sense and is intuitive. “If they can understand the logic, so will the people visiting your website … and Google bots when ranking it!” says Pete Mills Click here to continue

Further reading

6 things consumers hate about ecommerce sites

What makes a good business website?