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Martina

Written by Martina

Martina

August 24th, 2011.

Why your website isn’t as fast as it should be…

Heavy wheelbarrow

400 Error!

Image source

Imagine…

…a wheelbarrow in an open field that you drag along every day filling it with this and that – each thing you add to it has some significance and some use.

Now imagine you never empty the wheelbarrow. Each day, not only do the things you found the week before now lie at the bottom covered by the newest additions, but the device also becomes increasingly heavy to pull until eventually, it becomes almost impossible.

Now think of the wheelbarrow as your website, and think of its contents as the factors affecting its speed – Let’s explore these factors…

Bad HTML:

Bad HTML example

Erm...does "b" stand for "big" or "bold"?

 

  • Empty spaces between code (This only adds to processing time)
  • Missing tags (Causing internal errors & bugs in the site)
  • Bulky HTML (such as using unnecessary tags where something more CSS compatible would work better e.g. using the tag “font-size” rather than just “small”)
  • Background colour being the same as text colour (making all text unreadable)
  • Hyperlinks that fail (Devaluing your site in terms of credibility, and possibly increasing bounce rates)
  • Missing images

An overload of HTTP requests:

An example of too many HTTP requests

Kabooooom!

Image source

 

Whenever your web browser fetches a file from a web server, for example when it loads a picture, it does this by using HTTP which stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”.

HTTP is an action whereby you’re computer requests for a particular file. One example is a request for ‘home.html‘ (the homepage of a particular website). The web server then sends a response to the computer that says something like: “Here’s the file you asked for” which is followed by the actual file itself.
Understandably, if your server is receiving a very high volume of requests for a range of different things, such as pictures, graphics, photographs, music players and video rendering, it can take its toll and end up really slowing your website down.

JavaScript/Flash overuse:

Glowing computer

Dude, too much flash!

Image source

 

JavaScript helps make things look nice. Lines of code enable things such as widgets, adverts, and analytics services to work successfully. The issue is that both kinds of software can be “heavyweight”. JavaScript performs ‘sequentially’ rather than ‘concurrently’ – this means that nothing else loads before JavaScript loads. Of course, this becomes an issue when you have tonnes of JavaScript code, each one longer than the last, preventing anything else from happening.

Too many cookies:

The Cookie Monster

Nom Nom Nom!

Image source

 

HTTP Cookies are used mainly for personalization and authentication purposes. A series of saved information is exchanged between the web server and the browser in order to remember things about how you are using the internet. For example if you are shopping online and exit the website returning at a later date, a cookie will enable the site to remember what you had in your shopping cart so you don’t have to spend time finding the same items again.

However, because saved information is being kept on the server, a build up of this can add to the process time on a website. In some cases, hackers even use cookies as an opportunity to track browsing activity; this is called spyware…so beware!

Bad hosting:

 Image of Robert-Kilroy-Silk

Erm...

Image source

 

Web hosting is the business of providing storage space and access for websites. Bad web hosting happens when said storage space is overloaded with many websites, yours is added to the list and so runs slow. Other issues caused by a bad web host include:

  • Search engines being unable to crawl your site resulting in a fall in Search Rank
  • Your website being “down” (not working, sending out 404-errors)
  •  Not being able to contact your web host to fix the issue (since the service is so bad the system has probably crashed)

Excess of external media:

Multiple Satellite Dishes

No signal...

Image source

Embedded YouTube videos, actually embedded anything that is coming from another website can potentially slow yours down. When you embed something from another site, you are relying on that sites web server, that sites speed, and that sites ability to ensure the embedded item is working properly there, so that it works properly on yours site. Often, even when it works just fine, it might add an extra few seconds to a certain page loading…a few seconds a potential customer may be unwilling to wait!

Spam:

A Can of Spam

Ew, gross!

Image source

Spam is so much more than just a bunch of annoying emails. It slows down the Internet and it increases consumer fees.

The internet is a network where spamming effects everyone that uses it. To push spam around the internet relies on a process; it begins with global networks that pass the spam along to their destination, and ends with the message being received by the recipient.

Simultaneously, time, money and resources are used trying to catch and prevent spammers from infiltrating mail servers resulting in higher costs to the consumer because providers are forced to add more security to their servers and hire more staff to manage and prevent the problem.

Be sure to spam proof all web forms by adding “captchas” or similar.

Favicon neglect:

Image Illustrating a Favicon

You need one of these!

 

A ‘favicon’ is an image (as shown above) that stays in the root of your server. It’s definitely needed because even if you don’t care about them, the browser still requests one. If there isn’t one, it will respond with a 404 error (meaning not found). Any error message, such as a 404 or 301, is an extra message sent that adds time to the processing of a site.

This image or lack thereof, interferes with the processing sequence by requesting extra components in the load, and since the favicon is the first thing that is downloaded before these extra components, if there isn’t one, the first thing downloaded will be an error.

Too many advertisements:

Too many Ads

Hmm...where to start?

Image source

Any time a site uses advertisements, you are adding to other processes a site goes through in order to function correctly. Programmes like Google Adsense and Microsoft adcenter are external, and reputable, however it is logical to practice the same rules as with external media; everything in moderation – besides, sites with too many ads look un”site”ly! :-P

 

If any of these apply to you, take active steps to protect your website against sloth! Speed be with you!

Martina

August 11th, 2011.

[Infographic] – Which search engine holds the most weight?

Google, Google, Google…it’s all we talk about, it’s (possibly) all we care about in terms of SEO ranking and PPC ads, and some might say they even live in fear of it (you know, since the big bad Panda updates).

One thing we can’t argue with however, is its resourcefulness; it has “everything” one could need, making it so much more than just a search engine. It’s a machine.

Now that isn’t to say that Google can’t be annoying sometimes (infact an earlier post of mine focuses on just that *shakes fist* :x ) and familiarity breeds contempt after all, right?

Perhaps it’s because of its ‘one size fits all’ approach or perhaps it’s because of it’s dominance of the entire internet that causes people to look elsewhere for a search engine that fits their particular needs and that feels slightly more personal…in any case, I came up with this helpful infographic to help you decide:

Click image for the full HQ infographic

Use the following code to post the full infographic to your blog:
<a href=”http://picturepush.com/public/6293344″><img src=”http://www1.picturepush.com/photo/a/6293344/img/6293344.jpg” border=”0″ alt=”Image Hosted by PicturePush – Photo Sharing” /></a>

Martina

July 25th, 2011.

How to create the perfect return-customer!

If you take a look at what you eat, where you shop or even what you wear, you’ll discover that the most effective brands and businesses in your life are successful because of their ability to keep you trapped in their rotating doors. You’ll buy that same beverage maybe twice a week, and go to that same supermarket at the end of each month- all because you’ve convinced yourself you like the design on the plastic bags, and the staff are friendly. Actually, there’s more to it and I’m about to tell you exactly what that is…

Brand evolution…

You frequent a brand because it grows with you and becomes something that understands you. For example, after McDonalds understood the issue the population began to have with societal obesity, they reduced portion size (although I blame inflation) and boosted the nutritional value of the food through the choice of ingredients used. This became acceptable to parents, who then were more inclined eat there with their families.

An example of an industry that arguably did not readily embrace evolution and suffered greatly as a result, is the music industry. After the birth of the digital age of music, illegal downloading and iTunes, the archaic business model of selling CD’s showed a huge decline in sales. Failing to catch on quickly enough meant that some artists suffered (and the customary private jet was downsized to a regular limousine).

Whatever your line of business, you need to understand the importance of evolving with the customer, if you sell tube-socks and make a great profit in winter, introducing a pop-sock range for the warmer months would mean that you have something to offer customers all year round. Alternatively, if your business is to provide SEO services (and you are doing this well) – then perhaps you could suggest Pay Per Click (PPC) services too.

Integrating, and actually wanting customers’ opinions…

When listening to a friend or colleague talk about something they care about, you always feel that little bit of gratification when they ask you your view on the subject and genuinely care about your answer. Imagine this never happened – if people talked at you, telling you their views and never asking about yours…you would get tired of listening to them, and they would eventually emigrate to a world of bias where only their opinion matters.

Feedback is a wonderful thing, and to guarantee any kind of success you need to be engaging the people whom that success relies upon. There are many ways this can be done such as market research, comments sections and incentives.

Personally, I dislike the emails I receive asking me to ‘spend 2 minutes’ of my time filling out a feedback form, but interestingly, when shopping online – the reviews section about the product I am interested in, is the first place I look before pressing the ‘checkout’ button. If you struggle to get feedback, try using incentives in exchange for it, offering a discount or a token for free software after a few important questions are answered, is a ‘quid-pro-quo’ way to dig out helpful information that could help you better your business.

Offering alternatives…

Nestle’s chocolaty awesomeness is far from limited. Nestle offer a range of sweets and treats making them one of the most popular and wealthy brands in the world. If Nestle was limited to just one chocolate bar, sure that bar of chocolate would taste good to those that enjoy it, but after years of just a milk chocolate bar, people would stray – they’d try praline, white chocolate, plain chocolate – and so on. If Nestle weren’t the ones to provide these different types, they’d be losing out on possible revenue and brand awareness.

The power of a brand comes from its ability to churn out good ideas and give people choice. This isn’t limited to types of product or service offered, your business alternatives should extend to forms of payment, methods of contact and more. Yes this is 2011, but believe it or not, some people prefer to send a postal-order or a cheque rather than use their credit or debit card online. Similarly, some people like to mail a letter to you rather than send you an email – and some people like to call you on the phone, instead of using Skype.

Being savvy is important, but it is important to remember that you could alienate a whole market simply by not catering for it. If you sell online, offer WorldPay, PayPal and the ability to pay by card – by doing so, shows customer consideration which is exactly what you need to do!

Avoiding over-saturation…

An unexpected text message from an old friend, is often the perfect segue for reconnecting, because sometimes it’s the subtleties in life that we enjoy the most. However ‘broadcast-message’ after Facebook invite from that annoying person you’d probably cross the street to avoid, will never get the attention they want. This is because there is an important difference between the two – in the first example, you feel as though that person put thought and care into the message and in the second, you feel undervalued, someone just making up the numbers.

Your business works the exact same way, its quality over quantity. Flooding prospective customers with emails about what their missing might cause them to report you as spam, and maybe even tell others to do the same. However, providing them with worthwhile information they may not already have gathered, might prompt them to subscribe to your blog, or enquire about your business.

Acknowledging loyalty…

Many businesses have cottoned onto the positive effects of personalisation, sending out post with only your first name as the title as if they’re your buddy, addressing you with “hi” rather than the traditional “Dear” and sending out seasonal gifts and confectionary. Even if it’s slightly corny and obviously not based on some fantastic rapport you have with them, they do it in hopes that you’ll feel appreciated causing them to stand out.

Even if a thousand others receive the exact same gift, unlike the Facebook invite example above and more like the Google+ invite in its beta stages – it makes you feel all special.  Using this method is an added charm, especially if the customer is new to you; it works almost as a reminder to them of their importance to you. Consistent use of this technique might eventually convince that customer that you are important to them, because you obviously ‘care’ about them enough to remember them personally.

Customers will keep coming back if they are fully catered to. Whilst I am not suggesting that if you are not doing all of the above perfectly, you will fail – including these tips into your already operating mode of business, will help boost ROI and customer satisfaction. A ‘win-win’ outcome! :-)

Martina

July 8th, 2011.

5 reasons to blame yourself for a bad SEO experience…

1. You didn’t explain exactly what it was that you wanted…

Did the SEO agency you chose actually understand what it is you do? Did you assume they would? I bet you did! Well that was a rookie error – just because they know SEO, it doesn’t mean that automatically they’ll know all of your business goals and aspirations. It certainly doesn’t mean that through SEO, all of your dreams will come-true overnight. Covering things such as budget and goals are essential in order for us to devise the appropriate strategy for you.

 

2. The SEO’s weren’t told what already worked (or didn’t work) for you…

Were you clear about what the best features of your online endeavours are so far? Did you talk about what proved successful, or things you  tried and that were unsuccessful?
All conversions can be tracked which shows any progress SEO’s have (or haven’t) made. However, if you don’t inform the SEO’s of what already works or doesn’t then you can’t argue if there are repeat mistakes.

 

3. You didn’t indicate the importance of having one main person oversee the account…

Because any reputable SEO agency isn’t made up of just one person behind a desk and computer handling every enquiry made, but is rather formed of a team of people ranging in size (the team not the people, although this applies to both :-) ) that help manage your account – it is likely that,  much like a ‘Chinese-whisper’, your goals, aims and dreams are somewhat diluted to anyone that didn’t speak to you directly.
For example, when person 1, explained the information to person 2, who made brief notes and handed those to person 3, person 3 wasn’t following your direct instructions. They might not have fully understood the notes…however, you don’t have to accept this. If you only feel comfortable with one person in particular handling your account, request that only that person have access to it. This way, any changes made by you won’t come as a surprise to the SEO.

 

4. You didn’t understand the amount of work needed and so were surprised when costs were higher than expected…

Good Search Engine Optimization will get your site discovered in online search results. There is however, more to it than that. Many people in an SEO agency work to get your site to its optimum, and you need to be aware of just how much work goes into this.

SEO :
This team will mainly be in charge of making sure that SEO is being carried out for all your online needs
Online Marketing:

This team works alongside the SEOs to help get you publicity online.
Usability & Design:

This team will have the job of creating a smooth user experience for all users that come across your website.
Web Developers:

This team will develop, build and ensure things work – such as buttons on your site, conversion tracking and more.
Providers of Content:

This team will ensure that good content is maintained, and optimised so that people can find it.

 

5. You didn’t maintain a good relationship with the agency…

Chances are, you started off all guns blazing, before slowly falling into a pattern of laziness, assuming the agency would take care of everything the way you wanted – meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Further, you were unavailable for meetings, you didn’t specify what kinds of reports you wanted, and changes were (or were not) made that you caused dissaproval.  When (on your say-so) these changes were reversed, rankings and conversions fell and this caused (even more) tension between you and the agency.

Remember, rankings and conversion rates can see-saw and any changes made to your site can take time to show the positive affect they are having. You should try not to ignore advice about possible re-designs or new pages that should be added to your site. Other things to consider are using services to monitor your online reputation and  testing better versions of your website to get the best results.

Good luck! ;-)

 

Martina

May 13th, 2011.

Does anyone else find Google this annoying?

Did you mean…/search instead for…?

YES, of course I meant that! – And If I left a vowel or a connective out because unlike you I am not a robot & I like to use computer-speak, then so be it. The bottom line is you knew what I meant – so did you have to be as condescending as that and point out the mistake I made?

 

Google Instant


Really Google? Finishing the search before I have written it? I mean c’mon – it’s one thing that you’re arrogant enough that you feel you need to tell me the speed in which you gathered my results, now you’re finishing my sentences for me like we’re in a marriage?

 

Personalised results


I’m at work, I’m signed into Google. I search a keyword phrase I’m using in Google Adwords & bingo – I’m ranking number 3 on the 1st page! That’s weird, yesterday I was on the 5th page, I haven’t upped the bids in-fact – I haven’t made any changes, but I’m not complaining at all, instead I sit & wait for the money to roll in. I get home from work and quickly carry out a query and sit back waiting to see my site turn up on the first page for that particular keyword and… hold on, it’s not there? I click to the next page and nothing. I carry on until get to page 5 and there my ad is. I find and ask an SEO expert why this has happened & I’m told that when I’m signed into Google, the results differ from when I am signed out. I feel as though I’ve been living in the Matrix. *sigh*

 

Google seasonal/holiday/anniversary/event themes


I know its Christmas when the streets are paved with sleet and debris and every shop I go into leaves me that little less well off than I was before I walked in. I know its May-Day when I get that extra day off of work, I know its election day when people lie to me about which policy I ought to be interested in because the amount of tax I pay will go down. Nevertheless, Google wants in on the reminders too. I guess its okay, but sometimes I just don’t want to care. I’m sorry.

 

Google Chrome’s Sloth


Look. I want a *extremely mild expletive* homepage button on the interface without having to go into the settings and put one there! Is that too much to ask? – Surely not if Firefox and IE understood it.

 

Sorry, we own YouTube so you can’t sign in without us knowing


Now, they may say a change is as good as a rest but I beg to differ. I’ve been signing in with the same username & password since I opened a YouTube account but Google wants more of a direct approach. Now you cannot access your settings unless you sign in via your Gmail account, which is reasonable enough – but what if you have multiple Gmail accounts? I don’t really have a problem with this one, but imagine if Google started buying up everything on the internet enforcing this same sign in rule or else no access. While it may not be that bad, it’s the principle…

…Oh well, as Google grows stronger by the query, I’m sure there will be more to add to this list soon!

Martina

May 10th, 2011.

How to turn bounces to boomerangs!

Are your bounce rates extremely high? Does Google Analytic’s show that people are only spending a very short time on your site before leaving? Loyalty rates low?  As a web-master if you face any of these issues, read on for some tips on how to overcome them:

Have some “me” time



Link to your site – on your site. The more links your website includes to the pages on your site the better. The simple logic behind it is this, when these links are clicked, they lead to another area of your site. This means people will be hanging around longer, seeing what else there is to see rather than being lead off to other places online or simply leaving altogether.

Opt for quality over quantity


What would you rather:
(a) thousands of visitors daily who stumble onto your site & realise they have been duped by your misleading ad causing them to instantly leave and grumble about wasted online browsing (which would result in high CTRs, virtually no conversions and an extremely high bounce rate).
OR
(b) a consistent amount of daily visitors who spend a little longer on your site browsing and hopefully converting?

The point of this rhetorical question is relevance. A person wanting to buy household goods for interior design, finding your site through an ad suggesting household goods for interior design before discovering what you actually sell are gardening products, will leave. You may be happy about a high CTR but remember, you are paying for every click in a CPC campaign and every thousand impressions in a CPM one; be specific.

Avoid mazes, nobody likes those


The origins of the internet arguably date back to the 19th century, yet 2 centuries later people still create websites with awful navigability leaving the average web surfer frustrated enough to give up searching for whatever it is they wanted on that particular site and going elsewhere. If you want people to stay, you must make each section of your site clear and easy to get to, it wouldn’t matter if you had the most wonderful web content available if people didn’t know it was there.

Get the right look


Using Google Adsense is one great way to bring some extra revenue. When people come to your site and you have too many ads, links to here & there, misspellings, dodgy looking logo’s/pictures, flashing animations and the like…they leave. These things are annoying and really count towards (or in this case against) customer confidence. Try Google’s ’website optimiser’ – a tool that allows you to test different versions of your site to help decide what the best version is.

Incentives and interaction


Incorporate things into your site that people want to spend time doing, this could include anything from quizzes, polls, questions, comments areas, forums, things to rate, games etc (I could keep listing things but I think you get the point).

Good luck! :-)

Martina

April 15th, 2011.

Fantastic ways to fail miserably in your Adwords PPC campaigns!

PPC is a complex system of bidding on low cost, undiscovered but really high traffic keywords in attempt to rank as high up in Google’s SERP’s for your brand as possible.

Often underestimated, users create campaigns which run okay. Maybe they break even, perhaps their site is getting more exposure and if they are lucky, they might even get some conversions. One quick search, and the internet overflows with hints, tips and tricks on how to effectively create PPC campaigns to maximise your ROI, and everyone lives happily ever after…

Unfortunately this isn’t the reality for everyone. Sometimes campaigns can take an awful turn for the worst and instead of those fluffy guides that explain how to be a PPC mastermind, I often wonder if those company owners and PPC newbie’s who suffer have done so because they read a different, slightly darker guide that mislead them. This is how I imagine such a guide would read:

 

Spend wisely and try to set a reasonable budget that you will be able to pay.

Invest copious amounts of money into every campaign almost breaking the bank. It doesn’t matter if you have other bills to pay or budgets to keep to, now that you’ve read a little here and there, it’s guaranteed that this will pay off – the more money invested the better!

!

Avoid the main keywords for your brand, there is likely to be high competetion for these which will result in high CPC rates!

Try your very best to beat-out the competition by going head to head for the most competitive keywords for your brand. Be generic and avoid specific. For example, if you’re selling sportswear, bid on “shoe”, “trainer” and “clothing” so that when somebody searches for those terms, your ad will appear somewhere in the results as long as you followed that first rule about money!

Try to use long-tail keyword prhases that have lower search volumes but also lower CPC rates. Using a variety of broad and “phrase” match terms can help with this too.

Be extremely precise by using [exact match] for everything. Long keywords are for suckers, get to the point with one word terms, be honest who has the time to think up long-tail keywords anyway? Instead, spend the time you have saved and go shopping or catch up with an old friend!

Carry out keyword research so you can get an idea of the kinds of things people are searching for. This might also help you to think of alternate keyword variations that people might not have thought up, but will get the desired result.

Do everything as quickly as possible! You don’t have the time to hang around when people are selling the same product as you! Use your intuition and instinct, the first words that pop into your head when you think of your product are the ones you should go for. Get them in and bid ASAP!

Monitor your ads throughout the day, this will help you to discover what is getting clicks and impressions and what isn’t. If something isn’t working, change it.

Time is money. Once you have quickly set up one campaign leave it to simmer and create the next one. If you have followed this guide so far then everything should be a-okay!

Don’t worry if you aren’t getting a good enough ROI to begin with. Use whatever results you have as a learning curve and improve what you need to. Use helpful features like the opportunities tab, or the many reporting tools to make a difference.

Money is everything. If you check and your campaigns aren’t doing well, you’re doomed and should probably give up. Shame on you!

Follow this guide and be a professional failure now!

Good luck!  :-D

Martina

March 25th, 2011.

What colour hat matches your shoes?

Ok, this isn’t a post about fashion.

If you are familiar with the various SEO techniques that exist, then you might already be familiar with the infamous ‘hats’ and what they all stand for. If you have no idea what I am talking about – you should definitely read on.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO is the nice clean cut, ethical and moral way to practice SEO. This hat represents by-the-book SEO that doesn’t cause harm or upset to anyone because every success is the result of hard work and quick thinking.

Black Hat SEO

This is known as SEO from the dark-side. Bending search engine rules, adopting various naughty techniques and deceiving Google to achieve a quick result in a short space of time. Techniques include things like putting invisible hidden text on web-pages, cloaking – whereby a web user is redirected to a different webpage than they initially searched for, keyword flooding – using hundreds of paragraphs on any one page including every keyword you are bidding for…the list goes on…

Grey Hat SEO

In a palette, black mixed with white = grey, well the same thing counts here.
Tactics used that cannot be clearly described either as ethical or unethical but sit in the middle of the two, are ‘grey hat’. While grey hat SEO is often frowned upon, it is unlikely to cause a site to be banned or shut down…take from that what you will…

Green Hat SEO

New to the collection of hats, green hat SEO represents a less tactical approach and a more procedural one with the main aim of increasing the amount of visitors to a website. Focus is placed on creating brand awareness, becoming trustworthy and gaining customer loyalty as opposed to targeting keywords that will increase impressions and click-through rates only for the user to find that the pages on your website are not relevant to them anyway. It seems the ‘green’ element relates to being friendly (think eco)…the customer is the focus, and the aim is to make them happy.

Blue Hat SEO

This one isn’t “official” just yet and many SEO’s may refuse to accept it. Others however, will understand this hat as one that relates to what is essentially advanced white hat practices. In plain terms, these are advanced internet marketing and SEO techniques that get the results you want in the best way possible without annoying or upsetting anyone. This is not to say that blue hatters are not aware of black hat practices, in-fact it is quite the opposite, blue hatters have an advanced knowledge of both hats, and use this knowledge in a creative way enabling them to manipulate search engines in a way that benefits their site.

So choose your hats wisely and happy SEO-ing :-)

Martina

March 11th, 2011.

Slightly immoral and unethical ways companies might use Google Adwords to generate business…

In July 2010, ‘Goldtrail holidays‘ a British tour operator, collapsed leaving thousands of holidaymakers abroad when it went into administration.

It took no time at all for fellow tour operators to see this as a great way to generate business. ‘EasyJet’, ‘Fly Thomas Cook’ and ‘Sunwings’ were but some of a few who cottoned onto this and broke a fundamental rule – bidding on a brand-name term that isn’t your own.

Nevertheless, a search query using the term “Goldtrail” or “Goldtrail holidays” returned adverts for cheap holidays abroad and the like. Of course Google would have had to allow this, and probably didn’t act on it because at that point, technically, Goldtrail was no longer an actual legal entity.

The recent Earthquake disaster in Japan, hitting 8.9 on the Richter-scale and sparking off several Tsunamis’, is all over the news and the internet today. It isn’t a brand name, but could this idea be adapted and used as a possible gateway for business? For example, charities pushing sponsorship in the third-world for instance, might post adverts asking for financial help in countries where natural disasters are common by using the words “Japan disaster” “Japan” “Tsunami” “Japan earthquake” “Japan Tsunami” etc, as a broad match – or any keywords that are relevant to this recent tragic disaster.

Click the thumbnails below to see some search terms that are fairly popular at the moment due to current events, and have little competition:


If ads are tactically written so that technically they are not breaching any rules or regulations – like the Goldtrail example above – and instead are tugging at peoples heart strings, this might work.

It seems fine until you consider how this could be misused, for example by charities who take most of what is donated to them and use it to pay “administration fees” and “business costs” before any of it makes it overseas to those in actual need.

You never know…

Martina

March 10th, 2011.

A few things companies should know about their website… ‘meta-speak’

The Meta Description Tag

The Meta-description tag is a excerpt of HTML code that belongs inside the ‘ <meta name=”Description” content=” description goes here /> section of a web page.

This tag can definitely come in handy in your overall SEO campaign but the keywords and phrases you use in your Meta description tag actually have no effect on your page’s ranking in search engine results.

What does this mean?

Well you might have thought that these tags help your pages rank highly for the words you use within them, or spruce up the description a little bit in terms of what is shown in the search engines when they are typed – well if you did – you were wrong. In actual fact, similar to the Meta keywords tag, the information you place in this tag really isn’t given any weight in Google’s ranking algorithms.

In other words, whether or not you use your most important keywords in your Meta description tag, it simply won’t affect the position of your page in the results. So essentially, you could leave a description out altogether!

It almost sounds like you don’t need these tags at all, should you bother with them then?

Well, if you’re already happy with the excerpts of text that the search engines post from your page in any given search query, then there’s no reason to have a Meta description tag on your page(s). You might want to remember though, that the excerpt the engines use varies depending on what the searcher types into the engine.

Okay, so…?

In Google, if you search for a site by URL, the excerpts you see in the lists results returned are the first instance of text on that page. However on some pages an ‘image-alt’ tag that looks like this: <img> (the code that embeds an image in an HTML page), is the first instance of words on a page. In these cases, that is what would show up as part of the “excerpt” for your search.

For the most part the people searching with URLs are site owners checking whether or not their pages are indexed. So generally, you don’t need to worry about this.

What does this mean in layman’s terms?

Okay so a normal search wouldn’t usually involve a full URL. You would probably put in 3 or 4 (or 5 or 6) keywords describing what it is you were looking for (known as a long-tail keyword) – In this example let’s say you searched for “pink ballet shoes” – however if none of these keywords are used in the Meta description tags on any site that is returned in the search results or/and they aren’t on the landing page as a complete phrase in that order, then Google will simply gather a list of pages that contain any of the words ‘pink + ballet + shoes’ near each other and it will use any words surrounding these ones as the excerpts for those pages.

If “pink ballet shoes” were a product you were selling, then a great idea would be to adjust the page to include these words in the Meta description tags and also somewhere in the body of text on your page(s). Remember however, this isn’t in attempt to rank any higher but would simply be a way to make your site more search friendly when the user types these keywords into a search engine.

The Meta Title Tag

Completely unlike the description tag, the title tag will is and always will be one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.

Put simply – ensuring you have strong title tags on each of your pages can generate significant differences to your rankings. This is because the words in the title tag are what appear in the links on the results pages returned after a query is put in (the bold, blue underlined text on Google when you put in a query and press ‘enter’) – therefore these are this is your first chance to impress the user.
They can’t be THAT important, can they?

Yes they can! Title tags are one of the main elements given algorithmic weight by search engines – in fact, if not more so, they are equally as important as the visible text highlighting your pages.
So what information should go in the title tag?

The name of your business should be the main thing here. Whatever else you add is entirely up to you, this can range from taglines, to descriptions of what your business does, to location details (so using the example from before you might add something like “Smiths’ Ballet Retailers – Middlesbrough”).

So the main thing was…?

This is the first thing users will see! Don’t miss out on a huge opportunity by not including the name of your business here.

To Surmise…

  • Meta keyword tags/description tags are not related to how you are ranked in a search engine, but it would be silly to leave them out.
  • The Meta description tag summarises what’s on your page and the keyword tag supplies a summary list of the important words on your page. Both types of tag make the page more search engine friendly.

Good luck!

Martina

February 23rd, 2011.

Why it is now impossible to rank as #1 in search engines…

The evolution of the Internet shows the constant change in the way search engines fetch you the information you want when you put in a query. Gone are the days, when a uniform set of results would pop up irrespective of who you are, where, when and how you searched a particular term.

One such example was just 2 years ago in the huge viral campaign for the blockbuster movie ‘2012’. The online marketing behind this movie was so clever that consumers were told to “just search 2012” in a search engine, as part of the teaser. Indeed if they did, a quick search in Google would return about 1, 000 websites and over 150 books based on the idea that 2012 marked – the end. Scary!

Localised and Personalised results.

Two years later, things have changed. With Google collecting just about every smidgen of information available to them from the online user, they have found away to return results that are ultra personalised all depending on the users’ settings. This is great in terms of relevance. For example, a Londoner living in Chelsea putting in a search for “local plumbers” or even just “plumbers” would be in for a treat. Google would collect her I.P. address which would determine roughly which area the search has come from, her domain name, (which in this case would be ‘.co.uk’), and even the similar searches that have been carried out in the past, to finally come up with some options that would best relate to that user.

This seems great for the person wanting a local plumber. But is it great? The answer is yes…and no – and here’s why:

  • It causes some businesses or products to not be shown, limiting the users opportunity to try something new/go somewhere else.
  • Other businesses might not draw customers from certain locations because they are not being shown in results.
  • Most importantly: nobody ranks number one!

Blended results

Blended results further add to this difficulty of ranking at the very top of your field. These are integrated in the results that are returned when you search any particular term. For example we already know that a search for “local plumbers” combines a series of data to produce personalised results. Blended results are the effect of vertical search engines gathering information. For example in Google, there are additional tabs you can click to get certain results: (images, news, books, blogs etc.) These are placed adjacently between organic results. So you might search “plumber” and return: 1. A Google page listing of a local plumber, 2. The Wikipedia definition for the word, 3. A directory result and 4. An image of a plumber (just kidding on this one :-) but you get the idea.)

Therefore ranking at number one is not really generic. This doesn’t mean however, that you can’t rank at the top for your field if you utilise tools such as Google AdWords and create a very powerful and successful campaign with all the right keywords. After all, you only need to appeal to the intended audience, and this is exactly what Google assists in doing!

Happy Searching.

Martina

February 2nd, 2011.

What to do with organic search results

Firstly, what are ‘organic’ search results?

Organic search results found in search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, are those that are not strictly altered by anyone and are not paid for. They are results that appear centre-left on the screen after you put in a search term.

Doesn’t organic mean ‘pure’?

Yes, it does. This term is ideal because unlike the many paid/sponsored results, the purity of the organic result means that they are free from blatant advertisements pushing a product or service.

Search engines such as Google are great at separating the two. The paid adverts are usually columned off to the right.

So just how important are organic search results?

Very important! In fact 83% of commercial purchases come from them in comparison to paid results. So that’s 5/6’s of all potential business. Whilst PPC is a competitive and additionally important SEO element, if it only accounts for 1/6 of your overall success then organic results must be made priority.

Okay, so now I know about organic results and PPC results – but I’ve heard about sponsored or ‘paid inclusion’ results – what are those?

Paid inclusion is a search engine marketing tool where search engine companies charges fees for the inclusion of particular websites in their search index. These websites are then known as sponsored listings.

This sounds surprisingly similar to PPC…isn’t it the same thing?

Well, the line between PPC and paid inclusion is a thin one. Some believe that any paid listings are advertisements (which is essentially what PPC is), while others insist they are not because unlike ads, webmasters do not control the listings content, it’s ranking, or even whether it is shown to any users.

Okay to sum this all up, what are the differences between all three?

1. Organic traffic: includes the free-of charge results off to the left side of the page.

2. PPC listings: are the ads typically at the right side of the page. Occasionally they will appear at the top & bottom of pages too. When PPC ads appear above or below organic results in most search engines, they are in a coloured box which helps make it that little bit clearer.

3. Paid inclusion results: are mixed in with regular organic listings however paid inclusion is known to have no effect on relevancy. They are simply blended into the search results anywhere and cannot be easily distinguished from the other search results.
However, some search engines such as Google, feel as though paid inclusion is a conflict of interest with relevancy, this is why they have never had a paid inclusion program.

Okay so back to organic results…how do I improve them?

  • Be an expert on your site. Literally know everything you need to know about it – it is extremely likely there will be competition, so that little bit of extra information is what will help you to stand out.
  • Research the competition to see how competitive the keywords you are using are.
  • After you have found the most effective and unique keywords make sure you include them in your meta-tags, your page title and everywhere you can on the page.
  • Submit your site to as many directories as you can find (that are relevant your location) If your services go as far as the South East of London and you are submitting to American directories, you may be found in the USA – but then ignored.
  • Each page should have a specific focus – whatever you mention on one page should stay there, no need to keep backtracking, it’s repetitive and ideally you want to be found for different things in search engines rather than just the one service/product.
  • Search for spam in your keywords and report any you find – you may be able to them removed.
  • Build links. This is the most effective element of SEO that exists. If you aren’t building links, start!
  • Remember that content quality matters much more than quantity. Don’t waste any time putting a site together  with tonnes of useless or badly planned out information when you haven’t got any strategy on what to do with it.

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