July 13th, 2010.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
April 12th, 2010.
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.
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?
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
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?
Search 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.
- Optimise for local search. Figure out who are the authoritative citations within your city – ie touchnottingham.com via @APSG
- 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
- Be active online. Forge relationships with blog owners, find journalists on Twitter. These contacts will be invaluable when it comes to getting coverage.
- Write content that’s relevant to your business and your customers & keep it up to date. via @picseli
- 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.
- Utilise your current relationships – reciprocal linking is not perfect, but still has a good effect on local search (imo) via @CMaddison
- Brand yourself as an expert. Write informative articles about your industry. Post them on your site, ask to have your work published on others.
- 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
- At the very least ensure your page titles are unique and relevant to the content on them.
- 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.
- Build your list – capture customer data, segment it, test it and contact them regularly (not too regularly) with useful information, articles, links and offers.
- Consider using Adwords for initial data collection / keyword selection – find your best converting/most profitable keywords for under £100 via @CMaddison
- 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.
- Find out who your competition is, then find out who links to them using Open Site Explorer – get those sites to link to you.
- 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.
December 22nd, 2009.
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.
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…..
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
“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.
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.
For Web managers, brand managers and website owners. In fact for anyone who is in charge of driving business through their website then you need to make sure that your website is fit for purpose and that means making sure that it is search engine friendly.
To help you along we have created a simple Cheat Sheet to put in front of your programmers to make sure that they are on the ball.Â If they look at you all confused then you can give us a call.Â Please click on the image to download the .pdf