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.
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.
Choosing a search engine optimisation service provider isn’t an easy task. It’s difficult to evaluate what is essentially an intangible service that can take time to see any evidence of improvement. This business isn’t made any easier by the marketplace being full of people that are quite happy to take your money and run.
The internet is full of tales of woe from clients that used companies that either promised results that they couldn’t deliver, or simply used scams to take their clients money and run. The process can be made easier by knowing what the most common scams are, knowing which questions to ask, what answers you should receive and the warning signs that should make you run a mile.Let’s first start with the scams – these usually involve charging over the odds for services that either won’t help you get ranked in the search engines, or may even damage any existing rankings that you have.
- The guaranteed #1 listing in Google using PPC. A company approaches you promising to get you ranked at #1 in Google for whatever keywords you want. Sounds great right? The problem being is that these people then use a small proportion of the money that you’ve paid them to get you to the #1 position in the sponsored listings rather than the natural results. Of course once they stop paying for your listing then your website is back where it began and the ‘SEO’ company is walking away with a tidy profit.
- Search Engine Submission Services. You’ll probably see a lot of people offering to submit your site to 25,000 search engines. While this isn’t strictly a scam, it’s not really a service that you need. You can submit to search engines, though usually they’ll find you though links to your site. You certainly don’t need to submit to 25,000, there are really only three main search engines, and less than 10 worth worrying about. Paying for a submission service is a waste of money – and besides, if you must do it then you can do it for free here, or create a Google sitemap to submit. This format is now recognised and used by all of the major search engines.
The guaranteed listing, but they won’t let you choose your own keywords. Many companies that guarantee top 10 or #1 rankings do so while not letting you choose which keywords you’d like to be ranked on. Many companies that ‘guarantee’ rankings apply this to keywords that nobody ever searches for, so while you may want to be found for search phrases such as ‘Estate Agents’ or ‘London Estate Agents’ you actually find that you’re #1 for ‘London Property Estate Agents And Homes’. Of course very few people, if any search for this, so the ranking is worthless. The lesson here is to ensure that you have full control over which search phrases the SEO is targeting.
- Creating offsite pages or ‘doorway pages’ not on your own site. Many companies offer to create pages that aren’t on your own site to capture and direct traffic to your site. In some instances this can be against search engines terms of service and can result in penalties or bans. Of course when you stop using the company you find out that you don’t retain ownership of these pages and in the worst case scenario you find that they’re sold your your competitor.
Okay, so now you know the scams that you should be looking out for, how do you sort out the companies that know the basics from those that will actually do a good job?Google themselves actually offer some good advice on choosing a search engine optimisation company to work with.
- Be wary of companies that contact you out of the blue or through spam emails.
- No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google – be wary of those that do.
- Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t explain their methods.
- You should never have to link to an SEO’s own website.
So what questions should you ask a potential SEO when you’re deciding who to work with?
- The first thing that I’d ask is for some examples of current work; ask for the sites URL and the keywords that the site is ranking for. By doing this you should narrow the field down to the people who are actually able to get sites ranking well. Check that the keywords that they have the client ranking for are competitive and people would actually search for them.
- It also doesn’t do any harm to ask for a telephone number of some existing clients to talk to. Not only does this ensure that the rankings that they’re providing are genuinely sites that they’re working on, but you’ll also get some idea of what the company is like to work with from another clientâ€™s point of view.
- Check that the optimisation process involves three clearly defined stages. 1) Keyword research, 2) On Page Optimisation 3) Off Page Optimisation (LinkBuilding)
- Keyword research – check that you as the client as the final say in which keywords should be targeted.
- On-Page optimisation – check that the SEO will change the pages titles, meta-tags and where appropriate alt and titles tags. Make sure that they confirm that they are familiar in working in you site’s technology – HTML/ASP/PHP
- Off-Page optimisation – Ensure that your strategy includes a link building campaign. Links are vital in the ranking process, a strategy that doesn’t involve some form of linkbuilding campaign will most likely fail.
- Ensure that you are the copyright holder of any work that is completed.
- Ask the company to confirm that they stick to search engine guidelines and avoid any unethical practices that may get your website banned or penalised.
- Find out what kind of timescale they expect to start seeing results. Changes can take between 6 and 12 months. Answers of days or weeks should set alarm bells ringing.
- Check to see how they will update you of any progress. I’d suggest that you should at least receive a monthly rankings and traffic report from them.
- Ask what you can do to help your SEO along. It’ll probably be the case where offline promotional activities can be synergised with your online efforts in many cases.
Making sure that you ask the questions above and are aware of the common scams should help to minimise the risk when hiring an SEO. Above all make sure that you’re comfortable with the person that you’ve hired and where possible have some face to face meetings to discuss your strategy.
How much should I pay?There are several different pricing models that SEO’s use, including hourly consulting, pricing per project, or on a monthly ongoing basis.Pricing between companies can vary wildly, with the general rule of thumb being that you get what you pay for. If you’re quoted Â£50 per month for an SEO service you have to ask yourself how much that company values it’s time, and how much your you expect to get done on your site for the price of a half decent pair of trousers?
You probably don’t need me to tell you that ads like the one above end up with disappointed customers rather than #1 results. If it was that cheap and easy wouldn’t everyone be ranking in the top 10?Generally pricing is dependant on factors such as the competitive nature of the keywords and the industry, the age and existing rankings of the website, the size and structure of the website along with any potential problems that that the site structure causes.This table shows the general industry prices for different levels of SEO services at the moment,
Usually, as with anything, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.