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On the subject of SEO

Martina Martina

November 2nd, 2010.

The importance of blogging regularly.

Blogging regularly is important for many reasons. The most obvious being that if your want to retain a degree of professionalism (assuming your blog is not a personal one) then it looks better if you are continuously finding new and interesting things for your audience to read.

Honestly, how eager are you to get involved with a company or a business through its website, when you visit its blog and see that the ‘most recent’ entry has a date stamp of 6 months ago…?

Besides, there are some little gems you may be sacrificing if you neglect your company’s blog – such as:

Being fresh and innovative!

A blog post is an article that varies in length, can be about anything you want and is usually beneficial to the target audience it was written for.  Through blogging, you can use it to encourage people, persuade them or simply to entertain them. Why lose out on something this beneficial? If you are a company or a business that has something you are trying to sell, your blog is the place to do this!

Being seen!

If you want to improve your chances of being visible in search engines (and you do) then well structured posts are essential. A great post can start to rank in search engines over time and could potentially bring in web traffic to your website. (For tips on how to write a great post you can read my earlier article titled ‘Successfully guest posting on A-list blogs’)

Being communicative & media savvy!

Simply because blogging and social media marketing must coexist when it comes to marketing a business, communication is essential.

Social communities, such as Twitter, Digg, and Facebook among others, can be used as a platform for your blog, and so being a consistent (but quality) blogger could create the opportunity for more traffic to find drive its way to your blog. Perhaps most importantly, through these social networks you could gather new business opportunities.

Being heard!

Blogging is a way to explain to your readers who you are as a company. Distancing yourself from the competition is what your brand and your website will attempt to do, but a blog can add that extra panache needed to make your business really stand out. Much like a chronicle, your blog can be how you document the goings on in your company – which will give allow it to develop a voice and a personality.

So blog & blog often!

Martina Martina

October 1st, 2010.

Successfully guest posting on A-list blogs.

You are probably already aware of the importance of guest posting to for the purposes of promotion in the world of SEO. The two work hand in hand. However, there is more to guest posting than simply getting your article uploaded to any random blog on the internet – if you want it to be seen and seen often, then you need to be featured on successful high powered blogs that get attention.

As somebody that is fairly new to SEO, I have learned that there are many ways to ‘get a link’, but perhaps more importantly, I have recognised the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to guest posting.

So what shouldn’t you do?

  • Aimlessly send out requests asking a multitude of questions regarding guidelines.

Why? – Because blogs like this usually have set guidelines that can be found on ‘guest posting’ sections of their site. Asking webmasters questions that they have already answered shows your lack of attention to detail. Not a good sign.

  • Ignore the target audience.

Figuring out the niche for that blog, or the readers interests from previous posts that they have on the site is helpful. Of course you may be working for clients or have your own ideas that are far away from the niche theme of the blog that you are approaching. One solution to this is to be creative and to try and marry the ideas that you have, to this niche. For example, I recently found a blog on video-gaming where I wanted to incorporate a client that supplies contemporary decorative art; I came up with ideas such as ‘concept art in video-games’ and even ‘tattoo art inspired by game characters’. These worked well.

  • Follow-suit.

Taking initiative is highly appreciated in the world of guest posting. Don’t be afraid to send some material to the blog owner, rather than simply asking to send some. If they are a successful blog, chances are they will be inundated with requests daily, many of which they turn down. Instead, sending some well written content with a good email explaining your intentions will be a breath of fresh air, will get you noticed and will heighten your chances of getting that post.

  • Be generic.

Go ‘gaga’ with the hyperbole, the numbered titles and the informative language used. If the blog owner wants changes to be made, you’ll be informed, but standing out is the key – a title can make the topic seem boring even if the content is great. Huge blogs of text with no photographs are a no-no. Avoid these.

  • Give up.

If your post was refused but you followed the above steps, chances are it’s going to have been a pretty well put together and thought out piece of work. A well constructed post is never a wasted effort, so don’t waste it – use it elsewhere or use it on your own blog if you can. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. :)

Martina Martina

September 14th, 2010.

About me…

Hi!

I’m new to the field of SEO and I came across it after graduating university with a degree in law. I enjoyed studying law but as far as the practise of it in the workplace, I felt as though it was a field that didn’t really leave room for me to utilise my creative abilities and imagination.

After getting some worthwhile careers advice, I decided that marketing was a field that I wanted to explore. I did some research on the different types of marketing and what these entail. I brainstormed, combining what I enjoyed doing, with the transferable skills that I already had, and figured that since I’m technology and Internet savvy (I like to think) and have an interest in how companies market themselves (perhaps sparked by my many years of experience in sales and retail as a student), I wanted to work somewhere that combined these skills and interests.

This led me to Datadial where I am currently an SEO Intern. So far, I have enjoyed coming up with ideas that really make a difference to the success of our clients.

In my spare time I love to write music, and I love to read. I also really enjoy going out & socialising with friends…and I like to cook. :)

Rob

September 9th, 2010.

Essential viewing for tips on keeping product pages fresh

Following Caffeine and Mayday updates to Google’s algorithm it is more essential than ever that internal pages on websites are kept as fresh as possible with new content.  It is no longer enough just to have an exciting homepage with frequently refreshed content: this now needs to be replicated throughout your site.

Google will reward fresh content

This video from our friends at SEOmoz shows you ways that you might keep your product pages more interesting to users and more “appealing” to Google through the addition of fresh updated content.

SEOmoz – SEO Software

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

Rob

June 14th, 2010.

Presentation on building a successful search engine friendly website

Many thanks to the Biblical Suppliers Association for listening to my talk on:

How to build a Successful Search Engine Friendly Website.

You can download the presentation here.

Seminar-powerpoint – 20 minute version -Biblical

I have also added some extra slides on attitudes to Social Media at boardroom level.

Also there is a slide of Resources slide for links to keyword tools, Datadial’s Reputation Management tool and a few other links worth looking at.

Thanks

Rob

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.

Rob

April 12th, 2010.

Comparative charity advertising – the new online battleground?

I read an article on Marketing Week “Advertising industry and green charities welcome code changes“.

The story reports on some changes in the codes guiding TV and radio advertising, and one significant change will be that charities will be allowed to run adverts comparing themselves against another charity.

The new advertising code takes effect from September 2010.

Image from Charity Muggers by Ross McCulloch

Image from Charity Muggers by Ross McCulloch http://blogs.sundaymail.co.uk/thirdsectorlab/2008/11/charity-muggers.html

I believe it is unlikely that this kind of advertising will go out during prime time TV, or drive time radio; it is too expensive and finger pointing in the middle of Coronation Street isn’t the best way to open up the nation’s purses and wallets.

I do think though that the temptation to run comparative adverts during day time TV will be  irresistible to some young up and coming marketing manager.  The cheaper costs would be quite a lure, and let’s face it, day time advertising is really boring.

Where I see the some real change happening is in the search market, and given that Google has relaxed its stance on bidding for brand names, we can expect to see a whole raft of guerrilla style PPC campaigns such as “Donations to us go to good causes, not to fund new offices” or “We’re better as we don’t use chuggers” triggered by searches for charity names.

The meta description section of HTML code will become the marketing manager’s secret weapon, and will be “optimised” to within an inch of its life with remarks the activities of other charities alongside traditional calls to action.

The meta description content does not appear on the pages visitors browse, and is only ever seen as a summary of the page in natural search results.  Where better to put some unsettling comments and inconvenient truths about charities competing for the hearts and minds of the donating public?

Any bets on which charity will be the first to step up?

Rob

March 26th, 2010.

Write a blog to help your business

It is a difficult thing running an online business.

The number and variety of companies offering comparable products and services can make it difficult to stand out in a crowd.  Your site has to look the part and match the expectations of your target audience. 

Your offering has to be priced on a par with your competitors, or the premium justified by quality, environmental friendliness, scarcity, or some other characteristic that matters to your customer.

And then on top of all that, the customer has got to trust you enough to hand over their hard earned cash.

How is a blog going to help?

Within most B2B and B2C websites, there are only so many opportunities to talk about your organisation. You have the product/services pages, the FAQs, press releases and so on, but there comes a point where it looks like you are creating pages just for the sake of it

Blogs have become mainstream due to their personal feel, and writing without a corporate angle means that the content will not appear awkward or contrived.

Yes they require effort and time to maintain. Agreed – you have to think of interesting things to say. OK maybe your competitors don’t blog and they seem to do all right without it.

Here’s why we blog

  • it adds extra unique pages to the website
  • our blog posts allow us to explore topics at length that don’t necessarily “fit”   within the core pages
  • well written content attracts links to the site which improves rankings in search results

Still not convinced?  Try searching in Google for Twitter small business guide , or emailing cold contacts.

Getting started

There are a number of choices out there when it comes to blogging, and your web developer may even have their own bespoke software.

We use WordPress  for our blog – the software is free (a perfectly sound reason in itself), it can be configured to behave exactly as you want, and WordPress posts get picked up very very quickly by search engines.

Plan your first posts

List some topics that you are knowledgeable about and feel confident enough to write on.  You may even find that some areas need a separate piece in their own right.

Don’t force a style

After you have written a couple of pieces, the articles develop a rhythm of their own. The content will influence the tone and certain topics will lend themselves to humour, sarcasm and so on.

Set a schedule you are comfortable with

You don’t need to publish a new post with clockwork like regularity, and inevitably there will be other things during the working week that require your attention. The more frequently you post the better of course, but keep an eye of the quality of the article.  Ask yourself “Is this interesting / useful / important information that my customers should know?”

Have a point of view

You are not the only operator in your market, but your (well presented) opinion is valid. Stay on top of goings on within the industry and have an eye on events at the periphery. In doing so you’ll start to garner the trust and respect of your audience, and they will have confidence in what you say.

Your blog is not a direct sales tool

It is all to easy to list your latest product, special offer and so on in the blog. Don’t. Your blog is an indirect marketing channel and you are writing content that is supposed to get them interested in you, and your ideas. Keep it interesting, resist the  urge to sell directly, and your audience will engage with you over time.

If you use the above ideas as a springboard you’ll have the beginnings of a great blog.

Now isn’t there something you want to say to your potential customers?

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.

Rob

December 22nd, 2009.

So you think you’ve got a search engine friendly website?

One of the first tasks we perform when working with a new client on search promotion is a health check of the website.  The idea is to make sure that the way the site is built does not hamper its performance in search engines.

Business owners and managers don’t have time to learn technical jargon, so if their web developer puts keywords in the URL then the “search engine friendly website” box is ticked.  There’s a bit more to it of course, and here are some pointers…….

First things first – hosting

Is your website a .com address? Which company is hosting the site, and where are their servers located?

.com / .net / .org and similar domains are glamorous for businesses as they don’t “belong” to a country like a .co.uk web address does. When confronted with a .com (and other non-country specific domains) search engines look at where the server is geographically located to determine which country the website is intended for. If your website is aimed at a British audience, has a .com address and is hosted on a server in Germany, then your website will tend to perform better in natural search results done by people on German soil.  You need to host your website with a company that has servers in the same place as the majority of your customers.

Put your web address in http://whois.domaintools.com to find out more.

If you’ve got a .co.uk or a country specific domain, then you don’t need to take any action.

How much Flash on my site?

Sites built completely in flash don’t always do well in search engines, and tend to be used as a marketing tool or a campaign site. http://www.speakvisual.com is a good example of a brand using flash as a showcase site.

speak-visual

If you go to Google and search for something competitive that people want to buy e.g. consumer goods, clothing, specialist equipment etc, the sites that feature at the top of the natural listings make limited use of flash and concentrate on providing text that search engine spiders can crawl.

Want to see your site like a search engine does? Go to http://www.seo-browser.com and enter your URL.

If you see some text and blue underlined hyperlinks, then what you see is what a search engine knows about your site. If you can click your way through to all your pages then a search engine can do the same.  Try getting to Colin Smiths’ page on Speak Visual using SEO-Browser…..

Canonicalization

There are a number of different definitions of this word. Google them at your leisure.  For this tutorial its the process of choosing between http://www.example.com and http://example.com versions of pages.

Try this simple test go to your website and type in one of your deeper pages without the “www” part e.g.  http://example.com/page

  • if the website automatically adds the “www” to the URL and you see the page you expect then you’ve got nothing to worry about
  • if the website shows both http://example.com/page and http://www.example.com/page then you’ve got duplicate content that needs to be fixed

Duplicate content

“If I’ve got more than one version of the same page on my site then its all good! It means there’s a greater chance of search engines finding it right?”

Search engines take the view that information on a website should not be repeated, and generally adds one version of a page to their records, and ignores other versions.

http://www.webconfs.com/similar-page-checker.php have a good tool for checking duplicate content.

Canonicalization is one instance where duplicate content may happen.  For ecommerce sites a particular problem is where a product may “live” permanently in the brands category, and the lifestyle section, and therefore will have two (or more) web addresses for the same item.

The content management system can be configured to create only one version of a page, and its worth talking to your team about their proposed way of addressing this.

Page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, and headings

Search engines scan the HTML code on websites for clues as to what the site is about.  Its easy to get carried away here so in order to keep it simple….

page title <TITLE>

Each page on your website should have a unique title with the most important word starting on the left….

description <meta name=”Description” content=”…..>

The information that appears here is not visible to customers looking at your pages, however search engines sometimes use this text as a summary of the page when it lists natural search results.  This should include calls to action to encourage people to click on your entry rather than others listed on the page…..

headings <h1> – <h6>

<h1> is the most important heading <h2> less so, and so on. So keywords important to your business (and appropriate to the content on the page) should be organised accordingly…..

Most content management administration systems give you the ability to manually edit page titles, and meta descriptions.

Take action

Hopefully this article has explained what some of the jargon in SEO-world means, and you now know what impact it can have on your business.  Have the conversation with your people, and if any of the above need attention, ask them to fix it.

Rob

July 6th, 2009.

Just how social was Compare the Market campaign

meerkat

I attended the Online Marketing show at Olympia on Tuesday and listened to “How to implement a social media campaign” By Amelia Torcode, Partner and Head of Digital Strategy, VCCP.

VCCP and Amelia are now the darlings of the social media world following their successful Compare the Market/ Compare the Meerkat campaign.  Anna picked up an NMA award last week for the campaign.

I’ve got to say that I was a little disappointed by the presentation, especially on behalf of the delegates who had actually gone along in order to learn about Social Media Marketing.  All they got was a self indulgent “aren’t we wonderful” lecture on the Meerkat experience, along with a repeat of some of the adverts just in case you hadn’t quite got the message yet.  The talk cost £40 to attend so you would hope to learn something in return apart from how wonderful VCCP are.

But my main beef with the whole thing was actually the question of whether this was in fact a successful Social Media Campaign at all.  At its simplest VCCP came up with a cute idea, paid a huge amount to advertise it, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page and then encouraged the banter on these and other sites.  This has created incredible awareness and has kept a lot of people happy.  Site traffic has gone up 80%,  but still way below Confused.com. Succesful quotes have gone up 20%.

But was this really a social media campaign in its truest sense?  Could they have achieved a better result at a fraction of the price? Did they essentially miss the point of social marketing?

Social media is a method of generating discussion about your product or service within social network platforms seemingly without any effort being made by yourself.  In short you start a story, others pick it up and pass it around because its either funny, interesting or useful  If you get the story right you don’t need to spend any money because the “network” does the work for you. In VCCP’s case they (must have) spent a fortune on the development of a separate www.comparethemeerkat.com website and on the TV campaign, and in the process killing the average cost per conversion, although Anna claimed that this had come down by 21% but it was not clear that this took into account VCCP cost.

The point and beauty of social media is that you don’t need a TV campaign, the network does the work for you.  The message is passed on because people feel the need to.  And the number of people who link to your site ultimately help the Google rankings.  The actual spike in traffic is an irrelevance compared to the long term effect on Google rankings

On the point of search engine rankings, in her talk Anna started off by saying that Google was the benchmark around which the whole campaign was based but then did not mention Google from that moment in.  When I questioned her about the traffic from Google she was unable to answer as she had no stats and there was a separate agency altogether dealing with natural SEO. In fact any discussion about Google rankings or PPC had her flummoxed. I found this astounding.

I don’t want to knock Anna or the the meerkat campaign but it’s really interesting seeing the different approach that an Advertising agency can have to Social Media compared to a proper Online Marketing company. Advertising is all about brand awareness.  SEO is all about driving sales via the website.  As an SEO consultant myself I could not imagine implementing a campaign without keeping Google and other search stats at the forefront of any analysis of the campaign’s success.

Also I would have questioned a totally separate site, comparethemeerkat.com to be the backbone of the campaign.  Any self respecting SEO will tell you that for a social media campaign to be successful is to get people to link to your client site voluntarily which in turns helps rankings and therefore sales.  In this campaign as the majority of the new links will be pointed at the stand-alone Meerkat website.  In my opinion this is a huge miss of the campaign.  1000’s of lovely links all going to the wrong website – how depressing!

The only solution would be to 301 the meerkat website one day when no one is looking, though this is a huge social media faux-pas and could potentially lose them a lot of trust and goodwill.  Undoubtedly VCCP have been successful in raising awareness of CompareTheMarket but I am unconvinced about the benefits of the long term online presence.

If I was new to social media I would certainly have left none the wiser after this talk.  If I had been giving the talk I would have attempted to reveal the theory behind succesful social media marketing, explained how stories got picked up and spun about the web, how a traffic spike in itself is not important but the links that it brings, how the ultimate prize is rankings.  In short I would  have talked less about myself and more about how to help others, especially if I was charging £40!

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