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On the subject of content

sofa

Matt

October 8th, 2014.

Great Content Used on eCommerce Product Pages

Creating a high quality product page requires a combination of many different elements. From the content to the layout, a good product page must combine functionality, optimisation and high quality copy.

Presenting your product pages in a way that is useful for both search engines and customers is incredibly important. Many different elements are involved in creating a website that prompts customer action and increases conversion rates.

Cross-Selling

newlookCross selling is a technique that involves suggesting or recommending products that are similar to the one that the customer is already viewing. For example, when a customer on a furniture website is looking at a sofa, the website may recommend an ottoman, by placing a link to that product somewhere on the same page.

Statistics show that cross-selling increases conversion rates by 3%. It also improves the overall ease-of-use of your site, increases the average value of each order, and provides more visibility to your website’s overall range of products.

Example: New Look

Click on any product on fashion retailer New Look’s website and you’ll not only be presented with great high quality imagery for that product, but also other complimentary items. New Look gets cross-selling right in their “You May Like” sidebar. The complimentary products are prominent, but small enough for the main product to still be the primary focus.

Effective Copy

Effective content is, arguably, one of the most important aspects of creating a high quality eCommerce site. In fact, 60% of consumers buy a product after they’ve read content about it.

panGood copy cannot only increase your conversion rate, but it can also help your site’s search engine ranking. If you want to increase conversion rates, you must have an engaging product description written for every product on your site.

It should not only include the dimensions and specifications of a product, but it should also tell the reader why they should make a purchase. It should let them know what makes this product unique.

Example: William Sonoma Steel Grill Fry Pan

When it comes to product descriptions, William Sonoma gets it right. The product description for their Steel Grill Fry Pan combines all the elements of a good product description. It uses adjectives carefully, and cleverly, and provides the reader with information about the product in an interesting and engaging way.

Subtle Use of Keywords

Search engine optimisation is as important as ever for online businesses. B2B statistics show that SEO leads have a close rate of 14.6%, while traditional leads, such as print advertising, only have a close rate of 1.7%

johnlewisImplementing effective SEO on-page elements can drive traffic to your website, and place it at the top of the search engine results. Search engine rankings are important for your site. According to statistics, 75% of consumers never scroll past the first page of search engine results. If you can get your site higher up in the search engine results, using SEO, it can have a massive effect on your conversion rates.

Example: John Lewis

Using both generic and brand phrases such as Adidas and football trainers, as well as longer tail descriptive keywords like black, white and mens in a way that reads naturally, and actually adds value to the copy and covers longer tail search phrases, John Lewis is a prime example of how SEO can be used effectively. There is also a good amount of descriptive text on the product page that will help the product rank for a wider range of long-tail phrases.

Customer Reviews

bootsProduct copy is one of the most important aspects of a good eCommerce website, but potential customers often want the opinions of “real” people. Allowing customers to leave reviews on your site can increase your conversion rate. Statistics show that 70% of consumers check with reviews before making a purchase.

Example: Boots

Pharmacy, and cosmetic company, Boots allow their customers to leave reviews on products. You can even sort products by customer rating, using the “Top Rated” search criteria.

High Quality Imagery

sofaPhotographs are a huge selling point for eCommerce sites. High quality imagery makes the shopping experience for your customers better overall. It gives the customer more information about the product, which words simply can’t convey.

To increase your conversion rate, offer controllable 360 degree views, photos with products on their own and in use, close-ups and views from multiple angles and perspectives. It’s also ideal to use images that are on the larger scale, rather than small images, as these can increase conversion rates by 9%, according to statistics.

Example: Sofa.com

Sofa.com is a fantastic example of how high quality imagery can be used to enhance customer experience. Large, high quality photos, and 360 degree product views, make the viewing experience a delight for the consumer.

Utilise Extras Like Video

Video offers a number of benefits. It increases overall user experience, and provides a fresh insight into the product. Most, importantly, however, videos can increase your conversion rate. Statistics show that consumers that watch a video about a product are 64% more likely to make a purchase.

Clear CTA

While cross-selling, email capture forms, copy, high quality imagery, and videos are all important for increasing your conversion rates, you don’t want to overcrowd your product pages. You want the focus of each page to be on the product, and on purchasing the said product. So make sure that you have a clear call to action on your site.

Responsive Optimized Web Design

Nowadays, consumers not only shop for goods on a PC, but they also use laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Providing your consumers with a high quality experience on your sites, across multiple devices can improve conversion rates and ROI.

A consumer shopping from their phone doesn’t want to have to scroll across the page. A responsive web design makes a website viewable from multiple devices, without the consumer having to resize the page or scroll across.

Example: Cotswold Outdoor

Whether you are shopping from your laptop, or your phone, the Cotswold Outdoor looks great. A fantastic example of a responsive optimized site, you can view this website on any device, without having to scroll, scale or zoom.

Matt

October 24th, 2011.

The Importance Of The Long Tail – 16% Of Searches Have NEVER been Typed-In Before

Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first.  450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?

Credit SeoMoz

Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.

It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.

Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.

Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.

Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.

Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.

Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.

It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.

To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.

As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!

Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.

 

Matt

July 19th, 2011.

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

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

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

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

Filler Blog Posts

Description

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

Resources, FAQs And How To Guides

Description

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

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

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

Examples

Yoast – WordPress SEO

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

The Mashable Twitter Guide Book

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


Linkbait

Description

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

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

Examples

Will It Blend? iPad

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

Berocca – Blogger Relief

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

 

Infographics

Description

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

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

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

Examples

Profile Of A Twitter User

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

The Spread Of Starbucks

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

Optimised Product Copy

Description

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

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

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

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

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

Examples

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

Breaking News

Description

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

Examples

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

UGC And Reviews

Description

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

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

Examples

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

Widgets and Badges

Description

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

Examples

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

Link Acquisition Rates

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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?

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.

Matt

December 16th, 2009.

The Biggest (But Lesser Known) Online Marketing Myths

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

Content is king

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

Build Multiple Sites

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

E-Mail Marketing Is Spam

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

All Sites Are Equal

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

Social Media Is A Fad

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

Rankings And Traffic Are Your Most Important Metrics

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

Search Engine Submission

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

Magic Page Keyword Density

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

Flash Sites

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

Matt

October 20th, 2008.

Your Content Development Strategy

Websites have come a long way, not just in terms of design and technology, but also in their intention. A few short years ago your website was just an extension of your offline promotional material. You had a bit of an introduction, a few pages about your services and contact page, and you were ready to go. That would do for a few years, after all, your services don’t change that often right?

These days you really can’t get away with that kind of static approach to web publishing. Websites aren’t brochures anymore. They are resources, communities and communications channels that are updated on a regular basis.

Why is content important?

Website content is important for several reasons.

It drives visitors – Search engines love text content, the more good, unique and relevant content that you have on your site, generally the more visitors you can expect search engines to be sending you.

It encourages links – Great content encourages people to link to it. Try to develop your site as a ‘resource’ offer free information, stats and tables, guides and tutorials. The more useful content that you have the more sites that you will find will be happy to link to you – it is these links that send traffic and will also increase search engine rankings.

It ensures return – Better quality content encourages return visitors, the more people return to your site, the more likely they are to buy from you.

It strengthens branding – Great content will help to strengthen your brand and brand recognition. Not just through search engine rankings, but also through word of mouth and referrals. People are not only going to be talking about how great your products and services are, but also how useful your site is and how their friends and colleagues must go and take a look at it.

It creates trust – Writing on your area of expertise is a great way to demonstrate how much you know your topic. You’re more likely to buy from someone that is knowledgeable and generous with their expertise right?

How can I develop content on my own site?

Okay, now we’ve established that content is important and vital for commercial sites, but how do we go about creating a content development strategy of our own?

Below we have put together a list of tips on how to go about developing a content strategy for your own commercial website.

  1. Leverage your people. The more people you have helping to create website content, the more ideas, variation and knowledge that you have. It’s also far less of a workload to have 8 members of staff generating one article each per month, rather than one person having to write a couple of pieces every few days. Set out a timetable that people are encouraged and rewarded for adhering to.
  2. Consider your platform. It’s imperative that your have an easy publishing platform that your staff members can use and you don’t have to wait for developers or designers to get involved. Using a blog platform like WordPress will mean even your less tech-savvy staff will be able to publish their own content in a matter of minutes.
  3. Pitch it right. Make sure your content isn’t overtly promotional. Sales pitches don’t generally interest people, neither does it tend to encourage people to link to it. However nobody expects you not to link to or mention your commercial activities. Finding a happy medium that works for your site can sometimes take a little time.
  4. Brainstorm – Involve others in coming up with article titles and ideas. A monthly meeting should be sufficient for coming up with a few weeks of article titles and content ideas. You’ll find that some of the more wacky and off the wall ideas work the best.
  5. Get involved. Make sure you get involved with your industries online community. Don’t be scared to link out to other industry sites. Comment on their blogs, offer to write for industry journals, invite industry figures to write for you. All of these activities will help to develop your online brand and increase the number of websites that are linking to your own.
  6. Keep abreast of industry news. I recommend subscribing to as many industry newsfeeds as possible using an RSS reader. Not only does this easily keep me up-to-date with what’s happening in my industry, but also it gives me lots of topical subject ideas for relevant industry comment.
  7. Look at sites within your own industry. What kind of content do they provide. Do they do anything that you’re not doing? Can what they’re doing be improved upon?
  8. Look at sites in other industries. Are other sites doing anything that may be reworked to crossover into your industry? Can you apply things like video, community, social media, images or widgets to stay one step ahead of your competitors?
  9. Demonstrate your knowledge. Consider adding content that displays your knowledge of your topic. Ideas like FAQs, guides, how-tos, client Q&As and critiques are great ways of demonstrating the experts at your company.
  10. Be keyword conscious. Know which keywords people use when searching for products and services in your industry. Bear these in mind when developing your content writing timetable and article text.
  11. Content isn’t just writing. Although you’ll find the bulk of your website content will be text based, don’t ignore the benefits of image and video content. Some of the best corporate linkbait is image based.

Some examples of corporate content ideas in action

Best Western – The On The Go With Amy travel blog.

Dell – A good example of FAQ pages

HSBC – The HSBC business network connecting businessmen using blogs and forums.

Nike – The Loop’d community connects extreme sports fans.

Office Furniture Express – The 6 coolest offices.

OfficeMax – Elf Yourself

Phillips – Shave Everywhere

Shock Absorber – The Shock Absorber sports bra. A product aimed at women with linkbait aimed at men!

Matt

October 14th, 2008.

Small Business SEO

Although Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a skill that takes time and effort to master, there is no reason why a small business can’t give themselves an edge over their competitors by putting in place some of the framework that a professional SEO consultant would expect to cover.

In this article I’m going to look at why you, a small business owner needs to consider SEO for their website and some steps that you, or your web developer can put into place that will help ensure your site is performing as well as possible in the search engines.

Why do small business need SEO?
If you have a website then you should at some point have considered how people are finding you online. Relying on ‘push’ marketing factors such as brochures, business cards and flyers is all very well, but you already have had some contact with these targets – it’s not really using your website to its full potential to draw in a previously untapped market.

Over 70% of online sales start with a user conducting a search. If you sell or gather leads online, that’s a huge slice of your potential market that you’re missing out on. Good search engine rankings for relevant and often used search terms will drive qualified leads to your site at a fraction of the price of other marketing methods.

When To Keep Things In-House
Given the skills and the time it’s perfectly possible to conduct a reasonable SEO campaign in-house. If you or your web developer are happy to edit your website, and you and your staff have some time to devote to the campaign, then there’s no reason why you can’t make a success out of things without getting some experts in.

When To Outsource
If your website is (or has the potential to be) one of your major revenue streams, and a budget is available, then you should consider getting some experts in to run the campaign for you. Take care when hiring, make sure you ask the correct questions and ask for references. Our free SEO Buyers Guide should help you out here.
Essentially when hiring an SEO consultant, you’re not just paying for their time and knowledge, but also their experience and industry contacts – it is this that will give you a real edge over your competitors.

Some SEO Tips For Small Business’

Know Your Market
Firstly, before you go any further, you need to ensure you’re targeting the correct people. Is your market geographically based in one country? If so try to ensure that you’re using the correct top level domain for that country, for example a .co.uk domain in the UK, or a .fr in France. Failing that, if you have a more generic .com or .net domain then make sure that your website is hosted in the correct country. This will help to ensure that the traffic that search engines send will be from the market that you’re targeting.

Understand Your Keywords
One of the most important stages for any SEO is understanding which keywords are being used by people to find your products. Start off by brainstorming a list of keywords that you think people may use to find your products and services. Then use a keyword research tool to expand and develop your list beyond those that you have already thought of.

Page Titles/Descriptions
Ensure that each page on your site has a unique page title and meta description. If you’re comfortable editing web pages yourself then it’s not terribly complicated. Otherwise you may want to ask your web developer to do it. The titles and description tags should always be unique and reflect the content of each individual page. Here it’s best use your keyword list in order to understand which terms are most frequently searched for.
Other areas of the page to use your keywords are places like headings, image ‘alt’ text, bold text and the page content. First and formost ensure the pages read well to visitors, avoid stuffing as many keywords onto the page as you can – that doesn’t work anymore!

Use Analytics
You’ll be able to make far better decisions regarding the marketing of your site if you have a solid understanding of how people are finding your site, which keywords and sites are driving visitors, and which visitors convert into sales. Signup for a free service like Google Analytics which will give you all of this information and more.

Consider Your Content
Great content can make it far easier to get a website ranking well. Look at the kind of information that your competitors are offering and improve on it. Try to ensure your site is a resource for everything that someone in your industry will need. Resource sites tend to rank a lot better as people are compelled to link to the information contained on them. Consider adding a blog your website that you can publish and archive regular posts on.

Think Links
Up until now everything that you have done has helped a search engine to understand what your pages are about. The page optimisation and content creation all help a search engine to decide which subjects your pages cover.
However it’s the links that point to your pages that let search engines know how important your pages are, and therefore how highly they should rank on the results pages.
Look for opportunities to get other webmasters to link to you. You may have suppliers or clients that you can ask. You may have industry bodies that link to members. You can consider writing articles on other industry websites or adding your site to relevant directories. The list of linking opportunities is endless.

Local SEO
Add your business to the local search services that the main search engines now offer. This will help return your business when people perform geographic queries such as “London accountant” Go to Google, Yahoo or Live to add your business.

Above all SEO takes time and patience. It’s not something that happens overnight. Over time you will find your efforts are rewarded with high quality relevant website visitors that convert into sales.

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