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Written by Matt

Matt

July 19th, 2011.

Ecommerce website content for SEO – what is it and are you wasting your time?

A phrase that you often hear being thrown about by SEOs is “content is king”, Although this is (arguably) true, I think that in many cases this just leads to commercial webmasters blindly adding low-quality content to their websites for the sake of it without really considering if it is beneficial to them in any way.

It is incredibly important to understand that different kinds of content act in different ways and using different types of content in different areas of your website can drastically influence traffic, sales and conversion rates.

The table below outlines the typical types of content that commercial websites may use and the likely impact on rankings, conversions and links.

Filler Blog Posts

Description

What I would term as ‘filler’ blog posts are often the first thing many people produce when asked to provide ‘SEO content’.   Frequently outsourced they often ask their writers to write low-quality bulk copy based around their range of products and services and then dump it all onto a blog attached to their domain.

While this kind of content by virtue of its sheer volume can sometimes produce visitors, it really is the SEO equivalent of a numbers’ game, and webmasters have recently seen Google move to reduce the effectiveness of this kind of mass produced content with the Panda updates.

This type of filler content almost always converts very poorly, it is of low quality and therefore generally results in a high bounce rate, also because visitors end up on an article page rather than a  product or category page you are relying on them to navigate quite a few pages before they reach your products.

That’s not to say that keeping and writing a company blog or news pages is going to harm your site in any way, but there is a large distinction to be made between in-house staff adding knowledgeable and informed content and an external agency using it as a dumping ground for keyword stuffed articles.

Examples

Rather than picking out and linking to any sites in particular I found the example below on a paydays loans site. As you can see, it’s not particularly compelling to visitors, fairly keyword heavy along with a lack of images and calls to action. I would expect a page like this to suffer from a very high bounce rate and a minuscule sales conversion rate.

Resources, FAQs And How To Guides

Description

Resource guides, cheat sheets and how to articles are brilliant sources of great quality content if you are an expert on a topic. Even if you’re not a  fountain of knowledge you can easily research topics well enough to write an influential guide for others.

The great thing about this type of content is that it tends to attract topical links from closely related sites over a longer period of time, and because of it’s text heavy nature and the number of links that it attracts you will find that these type of articles frequently rank very well for a wide range of generic and long-tail key phrases.

However this type of content isn’t often going to convert into sales directly, but the branding a link benefits often result in secondary traffic from SEO, brand recognition or word of mouth.

Examples

Yoast – WordPress SEO

Yoast is a very well-known SEO who specialises in WordPress, he wrote the definitive guide to WordPress SEO which attracted hundreds of topical links and social shares.

The Mashable Twitter Guide Book

Social media website Mashable launched a Twitter guide book in both an online and downloadable pdf versions.With an impressive 16k Tweets and over 5,000 links to date.


Linkbait

Description

Linkbait covers a wide rage of content types, and really encompasses anything that is specifically designed to elicit a link from other websites or more recently, sharing on social media websites. Linkbait can range from anything from a funny image or video, controversial views or interesting top 10 type lists.

Again SEO behaviour is very similar to resources and how-to guides, linkbait won’t often result in direct sales, but will often attract links far better than other types of content.

Examples

Will It Blend? iPad

A really clever viral video linkbait from Blendtec piggybacking onto aspirational nature of the Apple iPad, while using the shock of destroying one to send it viral.

Berocca – Blogger Relief

Berocca used a free giveaway in conjunction with a blogger outreach programme in order to directly target the linkerati themselves. Using social media to promote the campaign and the the bloggers themselves to spread the word.

 

Infographics

Description

Strictly speaking inforgraphics would probably fall within the linkbait category, but I think their usage is now so widespread that they deserve a mention on their own.

Infographics are an attractive, visual presentation of statistics and data, however they are often criticised for over-simplifying data and not indicating facts are clearly as possible.

Scientific they are not, but they do tend to be viral magnets, people seem to be far more willing to link to or share data presented as an infographic that other forms of information.

Examples

Profile Of A Twitter User

Taking inspiration from a Guy Kawasaki tweet NG Online News put together this quirky infographic that spread like wildfire on Twitter.

The Spread Of Starbucks

Princeton University in conjunction with Flaming Toast Productions created a really interesting infographic detailing the spread of Starbucks coffee shops worldwide.

Optimised Product Copy

Description

I think that well optimised product copy is one area where many eCommerce websites are really missing a trick. You see so many with short inadequate product and category descriptions, or sometimes missing altogether. It’s all very well adding 2-3 keywords to your title tags, meta descriptions and H1 titles, but given the opportunity there is a wealth of long-tail keywords that you could also have the opportunity of getting traffic from.

Of course there are often design and branding implications that often limit the copy available on a page, but it really is worth trying to work through these issues in order to try to offer more extensive page copy. Being able to answer sales queries before they arise will also improve conversion rates and reduce the time your staff spend answering telephone or email queries.

Taking a fictitious example of a website with a category page selling toasters. You may expect to have optimised the page for key phrases such as Toaster, Sandwich Toaster etc. But if you did a little keyword research around the topic you could probably pull in  a few hundred other phrases that were used in conjunction with “toaster” each month. In this example the full list is over 400 phrases long.

Passing this list onto your copywriter and asking them to include these secondary phrases in the body text on product and category pages will have a huge impact on relevant long-tail traffic and sales to the site.

In terms of a financial impact, for example a website that has a modest 200 products, even adding 5 extra visitors per day to each product page will result in an extra £164,250 in increased revenue assuming a £30 average sale and a 1.5% conversion rate.

Examples

Simply one of the best product pages that I have ever seen is at Firebox. Product pages are immensely detailed, well written and optimised so each one should receive a large amount of long-tail keyphrase traffic. They have also incorporated social media voting, comments, videos and user reviews and FAQs. This is almost perfect in terms of creating a huge amount of content on normally difficult to optimise product pages.

Breaking News

Description

Being first to breaking news is a great way of going viral without too much effort. Of course it’s not easy to be first to the punch, but if you have inside knowledge and the ability to publish before others you will often find that you get cited and referenced on other websites that write subsequent articles.

Examples

One of the best examples of the power of breaking news is Gizmodo managing to break details of the next Apple iPhone when a prototype was lost in a bar. The story received a massive 245,000 Facebook likes and almost 10,000 links.

UGC And Reviews

Description

UGC content for eCommerce sites is really a no brainer for most sites these days. Being relatively easy to implement on most eCommerce platforms and easy to promote using reminder and follow-up emails to recent customers.

Where UGC really comes into it’s own is in competing for long-tail search phrases. Often your customers may use non-industry terms and phrases that you haven’t included in your original page optimisation.

Examples

Argos along with most large online retailers have been encouraging user product reviews on their websites for some time. Users as well as being able to leave star ratings for products are encouraged to leave more detailed text descriptions and reviews.

Widgets and Badges

Description

Although widgets and badges tend to fall far more into the off-site SEO remit I think they’re an important enough part of a promotion stratgey that they can fall into both on and off page strategies.
Often these can be used in conjunction with other content strategies such as generating top 100 lists of industry sites and asking those in the list to link back, or producing infographics with easy embed codes.

Examples

AdAge Digital produce a “Power 150″ of the top 150 worldwide marketing blogs. Members of the list can of course download versions of the badge to use on their blogs and Facebook pages.

Link Acquisition Rates

The graph below shows the typical link acquisition rates that you would expect to see over time from different types of content. The vertical axis represents the level of activity (links and social shares) and the horizontal axis the phase in the content cycle.

Content types such as infographics tend to attract a lot of links very quickly as they usually perform well on social bookmarking sites and get embedded on related blogs. This activity usually tails-off over time.

Compare this to content such as resources and how-to articles, which if well written then often sharing activity increases over time, and in the long-term can be a stable source of good quality links.

Conclusions

The main takeaways are that although content is vital to eCommerce websites, it has to be the right kind of content used in the right way. The best content strategy is one that is diverse and encompasses many of the above methods rather than focusing on one particualar one.

Matt

July 12th, 2011.

Why Google Plus will fail

Google+ launched a couple of weeks ago, and now the dust has started to settle on what is Google’s most important project to date outside of search.

So how will + be received and what are the chances of long-term success? Launching a social network is always going to be tough, even tougher when your aim is to replace Facebook, however Google have done themselves no favours with their launch strategy.

The invites scheme sucks

While an invite scheme works really well at generating launch buzz around non-social products such as GMail for instance, for social networks restrictions on sign ups can be a major contribution to their failure. Exclusivity obviously restricts the number of people that are able to sign up in the early stages. When Google+ was first announced they benefited from a tremendous amount of mainstream media coverage, since then while industry chatter has grown, the mainstream coverage has tailed-off. This may be have been an unmissable opportunity to get mainstream sign ups on the site.

Google are terrible at social

Google actually have a terrible record of ‘doing’ social media, a long list of failures lie in their wake – Google Wave, Buzz, Voice, Orkut, etc. Getting people to talk about Google products has never been an issue, getting them to use them has.

Critical mass

For a social network to succeed in the long-term they have to reach a critical mass of users. It’s not easy to persuade people to join a social network, and it’s even less easy to persuade them to move networks. People aren’t likely to move over to Google+ while their friends are still on Facebook.

Wrong choice of early adopters

When MySpace launched it did so with a sprinkling of cool bands and music promos. Facebook grew exclusively off of the back of college students in the US. Who did Google choose to be their path-finding early adopters? Geekerati and Internet marketers. Hmmm

Too easy for Facebook to counter?

While the Google+ circles are a great idea and is touted as being Googles game-changer, I love the concept of being able to share certain content with certain groups of users, but plus is not exactly groundbreaking elsewhere in terms of features and functionality, I was actually pretty disappointed at the lack of new ideas and features when I first signed-up. Facebook lists already exist, and I’m fairly sure that Facebook are already looking at extending the sharing functionality around these.

Matt

April 13th, 2011.

Special characters In meta descriptions – the beboisation Of Google?

Using non-standard characters in the page title and meta description tag seems to be a growing trend in many industries. The idea is that by using eye-catching non-standard characters readers attention is drawn to their result first, even in preference to results that may be above them.

The practice of optimising search results to maximise click-through-rate is not a new one and has been used in PPC advertising to good effect for years, but where PPC ads have to go through an approval process (where many techniques are outlawed) meta descriptions and organic results do not, so boundaries can be pushed much further.

Who Is Doing It?

Thanks to @SEO_Doctor @tomsmith1984 @KevStrong @martokus for examples

 

How Do I Use Special Characters In My Title And Description?

Use of many characters seem to be by trial and error. John Campbell is a man with far more patience than I, and he has tested the indexing of many special characters.

Special characters can be created using Unicode such as,

© is created with:©

® is created with:®

™ is created with:™

A full list of Unicode characters can be found on Wikipedia

What Are The Effects?

Currently there is largely anecdotal evidence for the benefits of an increase in click through rate. It would be difficult to test definitively as there are several other variables to factor-in.

Shaun Anderson at Hobo is well respected within the industry for running extensive tests on theories rather than relying on guesswork, he is running one the tests shown above,

It’s incredibly hard to test the impact of this on SERPS in an accurate manner. I am currently running some tests on pages on my site. You need a page with stable rankings, and a stable flow of traffic to get exact results, and that’s kind of difficult with the ever-fluctuation of Google SERPS and how changes to the UI (based on query or geo-location – for instance) impact your rankings and clicks on a daily basis – over time – in a natural way. Special characters in snippets certainly get noticed and commented upon, that’s for sure. Once you rank, GETTING CLICKED is what it is all about – every little thing that might help, should be tested on for size. You can get a way with a lot in terms of getting special characters in your snippet DESCRIPTION – but not so much in your TITLE link description (Google strips out some special characters from this element if you try it).

I was also lucky enough to hear from Craig Parker at Soula.com who has conducted some tests of his own.

In a short test I ran on a UK based e-commerce site I found implementing special characters in title tags had a small positive effect on click-through but this was not statistically significant, after around a week it caused a small negative change in [Google] rankings.

Implementing special characters in the meta was difficult to get indexed/displayed on the SERPs and provided a very minimal increase, again not statically significant.

 

The Bigger Picture…

The largest problem with this technique is that the more people use it the less effective it becomes.  how long until our search results pages look like this and nobody derives any benefit from it?

The new and improved version

What are your thoughts on this?

Matt

February 24th, 2011.

How does a paywall change your link acquisition rate?

The current trend of Newspaper sites to publish their content behind paywalls seems to be gathering speed. The recent Google announcement of its OnePass payment system can only increase the process by making payment technology available to a wider audience.

I thought it would be interesting to look to see how the move to paywalls has affected the news sites backlink acquisition rates.

So far the main newspapers that have added Paywalls have been,

  • The Financial Times – 2002
  • Moneyweek – 2005
  • The Times and The Sunday Times – April 2010
  • The News Of The World – November 2010
  • The Telegraph is set to add a paywall in September 2011

Taking the two most recent examples of The Time and The News Of The World, and using the excellent Majestic SEO graph functionality we are able to see changes on their backlink acquisition rates.

We can see clearly from the graph above that following the addition of the paywall in November 2010 over the next two months inbound links to The News Of The World fell by more than 50%


Similar, but less dramatic results for The Times. This is slightly more confusing as the paywall coincided with a domain change from timesonline.co.uk to thetimes.co.uk. We can see clearly that link gains to the old URL start to decline without the new domain ever really gaining links as a comparative rate.

Where I see some really interesting data is in the rate of acquisition for competitors sites who chose not to implement a paywall. A close online and offline competitor to both The Times and NOTW is The Daily Mail.

Their acquisition rate starts to climb sharply from the date The Times paywall goes live, and their highest ever month coincides with the NOTW adding their paywall. It’ll be interesting to see if the following two low months, December and January are a result of incomplete link data or some other trend.

It’s an interesting theory to see of the final few content producers within a market start to perform far better in terms of finance and popularity than those that eventually choose to follow the paywall route.

Matt

October 28th, 2010.

Optimising Social Media Landing Pages

Maximising the benefit of social and viral traffic is frequently a concept that is misunderstood by site owners looking at huge traffic spikes in their analytics accounts.

Great, 50k visits, how many sales?

None? What a waste of time!

Many years ago when I used to work in sales a key to a successful appointment was sticking to the habit of asking yourself,

What is the minimum I’m going to expect from this call or meeting?

For many salespeople its the sale, which in most cases just isn’t realistic. The minimum an intelligent salesperson expects from a contact is an invite to get in-touch again. Its building on this relationship that creates long-lasting rewarding partnerships.

I have always approached social media with the same kind of mindset. For the vast majority of people that land on your pages, particularly on viral and linkbait type content its the first time that they have had any contact with your brand. – What is the minimum you’ll expect? A sale, or an invite to get in contact again?

I have mocked-up below a before and after of a typical blog landing page.

Before (click for a larger version)

blog landing page

After (click for a larger version)

The key changes to the page include,

  • Adding easily visible subscribe options to a prominent area of the page, including the ability to subscribe by RSS or email.
  • Prominent social media voting buttons at both the top and bottom of a post. Many social media users are members of multiple sites. Many may arrive from Twitter for example and then wish to Digg a story. Make it as easy as possible for them to do this.
  • Twitter followers and Facebook fan pages can be as effective as email newsletter sign ups – make the most out of these if you use them and encourage people to sign up.
  • Experiment with adding related posts to the bottom of your articles, this can help with how ‘sticky’ your site is.
  • Encourage people to comment on your posts. Moderate spam and try to reply to people asking for help or advice.

Remember, its not always about converting a visitor into a sale, converting them into a user, reader, commenter, voter, advocate or sharer can be far more effective in the long-run.

Matt

August 3rd, 2010.

How Digg Got Pwned By Infographics [INFOGRAPHIC]

Digg Infographics
Click on the image to expand to full-size

Matt

July 13th, 2010.

Maximising offline activity to get the most out of your SEO campaign

It often seems to be normal practice to treat SEO campaigns as a stand-alone form of marketing.  Groups of shadowy geeks perform magic in the room at the end of the corridor, with sales and marketing teams avoiding them as much as possible at the water cooler.

However, it’s important to remember that SEO is just another form of marketing – and as such planning and integrating your search engine optimisation with your other marketing channels will mean far more coherent and effective campaigns.

Advertising

All advertising campaigns should have SEO and the company website in-mind. Is it easier for rushed commuters to remember an often random telephone number or a website address?

Do you now see more and more TV and poster campaigns telling people to ‘Google’ or ‘search’ them?   With the growing bias towards the personalisation of Google search results, having users Google and click-through to your brand is likely to mean you’re then likely to appear more favourably for them in subsequent searches.

Any increase in brand searches on Google will also (arguably) benefit your site with increased brand visibility after the UK brand update back in March.

  • Feature your website address prominently
  • Consider asking people to Google/search you – make sure you’re ranking for the term though!
  • Maybe target your SEO towards a memorable phrase you can ask people to search for – “army jobs” is a good current example.

PR Campaigns

Leveraging offline PR campaigns is a great way of getting added value out of both. I’m often surprised how many SEOs haven’t even asked if a client has a PR campaign in place, think of all of those link opportunities that have been missed and all of the great web content that is going to waste.

  • Ensure you have spoken to the PR campaign account manager so they know the importance of asking for their editorial to be placed online and understand the impact of links from their content.
  • Make use of the content the PR is generating. Ask to get cc’d in on their releases and discuss the scope for them to help distributing your linkbait to their journalists and their media contacts.
  • Between you draw up a list of the online properties you want to see your client featured on. Many blogs now have larger readerships than national newspapers – they make-up an important part of both PR and SEO campaigns, you need to make sure you approach these sites correctly with a strong proposition.

Content

Publishing good content is often the stumbling-block that holds-up many good SEO campaigns. The first port of call should be the client, asking the right questions about what’s on their shelves gathering dust can save thousands in content writers fees.

  • Encourage staff at the company to make public the results of any research or industry analysis that they have performed.
  • Ensure your entire product catalogue or list of services is published on your site. The more you can break this down into component products and services and publish these on their own individual pages the better.
  • Consider making any stats facts and figures that you have into an infographic. You’ll find presenting data in a graphical format gets a lot more attention than a simple table of figures.
  • Get the entire company blogging. If you can get everyone enthusiastic about publishing great content it takes a lot of the time pressure away from the SEO and marketing teams. Often the real industry experts in the company lie outside of these departments anyway.
  • Are there already any user guides, FAQs, or client literature already in existence that can easily be published online?

Sales Teams

Keep in regular contact with your sales teams about client feedback. make sure you gather data as much as possible from phone conversations.

  • Find out from your sales teams how customers refer to your products and services. Often it’s different to how you refer to them – the keywords that you’re targeting should reflect this.
  • Get feedback from your sales teams about questions and objections that frequently crop-up. The chances are that if people are asking questions they’ll also be Googling them too so make sure you add these to the FAQ section of your site.

Existing Contacts

In any linkbuilding campaign your existing contacts should be your first port of call. High-quality, on-topic links from relevant sites, as easily obtainable as a quick email or phone call.

  • Partner companies and suppliers and distributors sites are always worth leveraging for links.
  • Encourage your staff to blog if not doing-so already. Either on your own corporate blog or on their own sites. Branding your staff as experts can be as effective as branding your company.
  • Check to see if industry association or corporate qualifications sites offer links back to their members
  • Make sure you put your company forward for corporate awards, usually even the nominations receive links back to their site.

Image credit – Rachel Creative

Matt

April 30th, 2010.

7 Things I Wish PR Agencies Would Understand About Social Media

With the growth of digital marketing and social media participation we’re now starting to see more and more PR agencies looking to online communities as a way of increasing their clients influence.
In my opinion a more organised and structured approach to social media can only be a good thing, used in the right way it can be a very powerful tool, however far too many companies are either not using it to its full advantage, or doing things badly and damaging their brand while isolating themselves from other social media users.

However that’s not to say that every PR agency jumping headfirst into Twitter and Facebook is doing a great job. I still see many agencies that don’t really have a full understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Many cases tend to be client-led, with questions and requests for a social media strategy leading to hasty moves in order to win business and prevent existing clients from potentially looking elsewhere.

In our various dealings with agencies these are the topics that repeatedly seem to reappear…..

Content really does matter – Most Of Your Ideas Will Fail

  • The quality of the content is the key to any social media strategy
  • You can’t rely on contacts for success. There are no friendly journalists or editors that can swing a campaign with a well placed piece
  • Okay, good and great don’t cut it, if you’re relying on people to see your content and pass it on then it needs to be amazing, fantastic or brilliant
  • Let go of the brand – in many cases overuse of the client brand will turn a successful viral into blatant advertising that people have no inclination to pass-on.
  • The trickle-down effect is key to a successful campaign, brilliant content seeded onto key blogs, Twitter accounts and other social news sites will explode onto other social sites, smaller blogs and media outlets without you having to do anything.
  • Having said all of that, most of your great ideas will fail. There really is an element of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of any good fortune that comes your way.

It Isn’t ALL about Twitter

  • Twitter at the moment tends to be used as a buzz-word for social media, desire to participate can often be driven by a CEOs 14 your-old daughter.
  • There are other social sites that are just AS important
  • Sites like Digg can potentially send far more traffic and is monitored constantly by journalists and influencers
  • A well seeded and targeted story on a sites like Digg and Reddit can translate into national and international press

Understand Your Audience

  • You need to understand not just who you’re talking to but why
  • Is your or your clients Twitter account supposed to be speaking to potential clients, existing customers or journalists, bloggers and the media?
  • Is Twitter and Facebook or Digg and Reddit the best way to connect with your linkerati?
  • Spend some time understanding where your targets are communicating with each other. Any time spent on competitor intelligence is worthwhile, but bear in mind they might not have got things right themselves.

Don’t Use Channels In Isolation, Look At The Bigger Picture

  • If you’re just using one social media network in isolation then you’re almost certainly underperforming
  • It’s usually a good idea to create a blog or news section on your client site and then use this as a ‘hub’ for all of their social media activity
  • Cross-promote your different networks, you’ll find that users will sign-up for other networks as well as the one they arrived from

It’s Not Just About What You Say But How You Say It

  • Syndicating content isn’t just about pushing a release through a network like PRWeb, if only things were that easy!
  • Draw up a list of targets for each release – blogs, news sites, media outlets, find their contact details and contact them directly as you would with any offline story.
  • Have some idea of the potential ‘influence’ of each target, record metrics such as domain authority, Compete rank, Technorati ranking, and look at the number of comments each article receives. The idea being you can then identify the top sites in a given vertical and prioritise where you focus your efforts. Remember if you can gain coverage on the larger sites the smaller ones tend to follow.

It’s All About Measurement And Metrics

  • The real advantage of being online is that everything is trackable. You can gain insight into where visitors arrived from, how long they spend on the site and where they move onto.
  • Use this data to understand which elements of your activity work and which ones don’t
  • Sign-up to a reputation monitoring service to track brand mentions online, you’ll almost certainly miss posts, mentions and articles if you don’t.
  • Have a clear plan as to which metrics are important and make sure you track them – visits, views, contacts, sales, comments, signups, links gained, search engine rankings can all be influenced by your activity – track it and report it.

Remember You Have No Control

  • Always remember you have no control over how things are passed-on and how they’re being received
  • Things aren’t always ‘on-brand’ – remember people pass things on because they like them, not because they help you or your clients
  • Be ready to react and respond directly to questions, be honest and professional at all times

Matt

April 13th, 2010.

SEO In Pictures – Our SEO Infographic

Images are a fantastic way to present data and abstract concepts, they’re a much clearer way of getting information across and more people take the time to digest it. I thought it would be a good idea to try to present solutions and explanations to the more common SEO questions that we hear from our clients.

Click here for the full sized version….

SEO Infographic

The image covers everything from basic keyword research concepts, through site architecture, page optimisation, link building, SEO tactics, social media, and some basic SEO and PPC clickthrough stats and explantions.

Big thanks to SEOMoz, Loch Duart and Social Refection [1] for their inspiration on the SEO tactics and social media sections.

Matt

March 22nd, 2010.

The Social Media Penetration Of The Major UK Political Parties [INFOGRAPHIC]

With the UK elections fast approaching I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how well the major UK political parties were using social media to connect with voters.

With Barack Obama famously using social media to court the youth vote in the US elections, social media is now a viable  platform for politicians to connect with people on a large scale.

All of the UK parties are maintaining a social media presence, with Facebook pages, Twitter and YouTube accounts prominently linked from their respective websites. To take a snapshot of activity and a gauge of its success I recorded the following metrics,

  • Facebook page friends
  • Twitter followers
  • Twitter tweets
  • Twitter reach
  • Klout score – a measure of Twitter influence
  • Compete score – a measure of website traffic

While all parties get points for maintaining a social presence on the major social sites The Conservatives are way ahead of their competition when it comes to the number of raw followers and the reach of their campaign. The Green Party received the highest Klout score, a measure of their influence and interaction on Twitter.

Interestingly enough the extremist BNP received by far the largest level of traffic to their website, but were one of the lowest scorers when it came to followers and interaction levels – perhaps an indication of voters researching their headline grabbing policies, but a degree of unwillingness to follow and interact with them, will this translate into a lack of votes?

On the whole though the UK parties are doing a fairly poor job of leveraging and interacting with social media users. Compare the Conservatives 23,000 Facebook page friends with Obama’s profile currently over the 7.5 million mark. Even allowing for a smaller population and  lower levels of social media engagement it’s clear that campaigns are failing to achieve what they should be doing. It’s difficult to tell if this is due to campaign mis-management, or simply voter apathy after recent political events.

Matt

January 27th, 2010.

Small Business SEO & SEM

lemonadeSearch engine optimisation and digital marketing for small business isn’t easy. For big-brands people love linking to them without them having to ask, even without them deserving it in many cases.

Small business don’t have that luxury, that’s not to say that the smaller guys can’t compete, they just have to work harder and smarter to get their share of attention online.

Some of my favourite small business SEO tips are below, some are mine, others are from people who volunteered their own ideas on Twitter.

  1. Optimise for local search. Figure out who are the authoritative citations within your city – ie touchnottingham.com via @APSG
  2. Concentrate on local search and longer search terms as these give more of a chance with a smaller budget. Google Maps add is a must in your town! via @StuartFlatt
  3. Be active online. Forge relationships with blog owners, find journalists on Twitter. These contacts will be invaluable when it comes to getting coverage.
  4. Write content that’s relevant to your business and your customers & keep it up to date. via @picseli
  5. Get your analytics package in place as early as possible. The more data you have the more you’ll be able to analyse your marketing decisions.
  6. Utilise your current relationships – reciprocal linking is not perfect, but still has a good effect on local search (imo) via @CMaddison
  7. Brand yourself as an expert. Write informative articles about your industry. Post them on your site, ask to have your work published on others.
  8. Try to focus on conversions rather than rankings. Too many small business owners are obsessed with being first, rather than focusing on profits. via @CMaddison
  9. At the very least ensure your page titles are unique and relevant to the content on them.
  10. Don’t scrimp on your website, a less than satisfactory site may save cash in the short term, but it’ll cost you in conversions.
  11. Build your list – capture customer data, segment it, test it and contact them regularly (not too regularly) with useful information, articles, links and offers.
  12. Consider using Adwords for initial data collection / keyword selection – find your best converting/most profitable keywords for under £100 via @CMaddison
  13. Build trust – make sure you’re easily contactable, make sure your site has a prominent address and telephone number on each page, explain why your buying process is secure.
  14. Find out who your competition is, then find out who links to them using Open Site Explorer – get those sites to link to you.
  15. Setup Google alerts for your business name. Make sure you monitor these, it’s a great opportunity to ask for links when people forget, or to network with people who are already talking about you.

Matt

December 16th, 2009.

The Biggest (But Lesser Known) Online Marketing Myths

Recently I seem to be coming across a lot of popular misconceptions being churned out, both by business owners who have unfortunately been told or have read incorrect information, or even, and more worryingly; people who write about digital marketing or SEO in the mainstream or industry press. Below is a collection of my favourite online marketing myths, feel free to add your own in the comments.

Content is king

Yes, it is correct that all websites need good content, and ideally need good content being added on a regular basis. However the “content is king” mantra seems to have misled people into thinking that ALL you need to do for your marketing effort is to add what you consider to be good content. Content needs to be optimised, content needs to be linkable, content needs to be publicised, content needs to be linked to. Lots of great content remains ignored and unranked as it is passed over for more mediocre but better publicised and linked-to alternatives.

Build Multiple Sites

You have one website that’s doing very well, if you add another you’ll double that success. Add 10 new sites and you’ll be retiring in the next 12 months right? Wrong. Ten more sites will mean 10 times the marketing effort and budget, and ten times the cost. Having one site with 1000 pages of content on it with 1000 links will perform far better than the same content and links divided between two sites.
By consolidating content and links onto one domain you will increase that domains trust and authority, which will mean it’ll rank far higher than it would if the resources were split across two properties.
The only time I would advocate building more than one site is for strategic business reasons such as a planned sell-off. If you are running several sites for no particular reason, other than it seemed like a good idea I would certainly look at consolodating them.

E-Mail Marketing Is Spam

Spam is bad mmmkay? Don’t do it. EMail Marketing to an opt-in list that you have built as part of your brand will deliver a massive return on investment. Every company should be building, collating, segmenting and marketing to your customer data, it is a tremendously valuable resource. Avoid emailing people too often, and for heavens sake keep it interesting, useful and punchy.

All Sites Are Equal

Certainly in an SEO sense this isn’t the case. You’ll find that bigger brands can get away with a lot more than tiny start-ups. Older, more trusted domains with a higher authority can get away with using far more spammy tactics that would get smaller sites penalised. Google hasn’t exactly levelled the playing field with the Google brand update, which is rumoured to give big brands a rankings boost for certain commercial keywords.

Social Media Is A Fad

The rocket-like growth of social media sites has taken many people by surprise, online marketers, brands and PR agencies included. People react to change in different ways, some labelling the growth as a fad, something to be ignored. Others learn and adapt and have made millions in the process.
Social media is a fundamental shift in the way people communicate, used correctly it is a cost effective way of reaching brand advocates, consumers and influencers. Just because you haven’t worked out the best way of using, tracking, measuring and monetising social media for your brand doesn’t mean it’s not worth the time.

Rankings And Traffic Are Your Most Important Metrics

Checking your sites rankings is fine, and it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your traffic numbers, but are these your most important metrics? Probably not. SEOs and online marketers in my opinion spend far too long obsessing over rankings and traffic numbers, and less time learning about conversion rates, segmenting visitor sources, looking at link acquisition rates, keyword £ values and ultimately sales volumes. Not many clients will tell you they value visitor numbers over money in their pocket.

Search Engine Submission

No, just no. If anyone tells you that you need to submit your site to a search engine give them a sharp poke in the eye. Search engines have gone far beyond having to be told where sites are located and are quite capable of finding them themselves through links. It’s been this way since the 1990’s but the myth just won’t go away.

Magic Page Keyword Density

I keep hearing the same question asked time and time again about what the optimum page keyword density is. There certainly isn’t a magic mathematical formula for keyword % that will give you any kind of boost over your competitors.
It’s far more important to write for your visitors and intelligently use your keywords in certain places on the page – sure it’s logical that they should be present in the body text, but search engines will attribute a far higher weight to words mentioned in places like the page titles, image alt tags, headings, bold and italic text etc.

Flash Sites

There are a huge number of misconceptions about flash websites. Can search engines read them or not? On the whole, now yes they can, text and links can be read, with the exception of some JavaScript links. Until 2008 this wasn’t always the case, with most flash sites being all but invisible to search engines.
So is now the time to rush-off and convert your site to flash because it looks so lovely? Probably not. There are still many fundamental reasons why flash sites don’t perform as well in search engines as their HTML cousins. Problems with page mark-up, content not being on unique URLs, and doubts over crawlability all don’t lend flash sites to ranking well in search engines.

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