Google recently announced that it would be slowly rolling out an improved Panda algorithm. As Google gets up to speed with its latest updates, so should you with your website.
Here are some things to consider:
One of the big changes Google has implemented with Google Panda 4.0 and 4.1 is its tracking down of poor-quality or "thin" content. If you publish short pieces of content with next to no useful information in them, the chances are that Google will not rank you very highly. So if your website is image-based and doesn’t share much in the way of useful, relevant content, now could be the right time to change that. What used to work for SEO may not work any longer.
Google says that it considers over 200 factors when ranking a website, and one of those that has become more influential recently is website and page loading times. Not only have people lost patience with slow-loading web pages, but they are also less like to convert if they visit a website that takes an age to get where they’re going.
It’s not just people you need to consider; Google’s spiders don’t appreciate the time it takes to crawl your pages. Use one of the many online tests to find out how fast your website pages load.
If your current website is a bit outdated or you’re starting from a blank canvas then it is a good idea to address the design of your site. It should be easy to navigate for both visitors and Google’s spiders. Try to include internal linking to speed up the customer journey and make navigation as clear as possible.
It is also important to test your website on a number of browsers (including Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer) to ensure it performs the same on each one. You can do this using BrowserStack.
Another thing Google considers is the amount of time each visitor spends on site, so although aesthetics can play a part in reducing Bounce Rate, the overall design and navigation is important.
An algorithm update might not always be a problem to some businesses, but for others, the changes will work against them. This recent update could have an impact on your visitor stats and if they have begun to decline or suffered a drop, then you know it’s time to make some changes.
Traffic to your website and pages is a good indicator of performance and by using analytics, you can usually see what has gone wrong. So keep a keen eye on your stats over the coming weeks to see if your website needs tweaking.
Copyright © 2014 Thomas Stocks, Varn Media.
Read Rory MccGwire’s blog on how Google is finally rewarding the right websites on the Atom Content Marketing website.
It’s an easy mistake to make.
You publish your shiny new website. You wait for the orders to flood in. Then… nothing happens.
It can be really frustrating, especially if you’re a new business.
But why is this? Your website looks great. Your friends and family all agree it looks amazing. But that doesn’t seem to cut any ice with the people who really matter — your customers.
So what is the solution? How do you turn things around without breaking the bank?
All you need to do is to focus on three basic functions: prospect, convert and grow.
It’s that simple. Let’s examine them in more detail.
All we mean here is that you can attract visitors to your website. Sure, you need to put in some effort, but it is not difficult.
I have analysed thousands of websites and I see the same mistakes. Fix these and you are halfway there.
The most common is the wrong choice of keywords. Once you’ve chosen the best keywords for your business, you need to include them in the metatags, in the URLs, in the text links between pages and in the text of your website itself.
Also, set up a blog. The evidence is overwhelming — websites with a blog do better than those that don’t. Why? Google loves content.
You’re getting a steady stream of visitors. But you’re not there to greet them.
The next best thing? Create trust. Here’s how…
Don’t say “welcome to our website”. Give them a promise. Think of your customer’s biggest need and tell them how you will address it.
But why should they believe your claims? Use customer testimonials to sell for you. If you ask for them you’ll be surprised.
Add live chat to your site and you’ll be amazed. It’s fast, it’s instant and it gets results.
Offer something for free. Remember your promise to solve the biggest need of your customers? Create a report that solves that issue. Offer it in return for their contact details and you can follow up with them. This can be automated very easily.
People rarely make their minds up instantly, but they now see you as an expert and you are pushing at an open door.
Now you either have a customer or someone who is on your emailing list. Now you can build that relationship with them.
Remember your blog? This is where you can develop that long-term relationship with them. Keep them up-to-date with developments by email and regular correspondence and you will reap the rewards.
Many people get disillusioned with online marketing but it is a vital part of being in business these days. The important point is to think about the purpose of your website and just repeat these three words to stay on track: Prospect, convert, grow.
Let’s be honest, running your own business can be a nightmare sometimes and, inevitably, the biggest challenge is prioritising what’s important and what can wait.
When the inbox starts to overflow, it can be easy to simply set aside tasks that are deemed non-urgent for a later date and, for many, online marketing fall into this category.
But I’ll let you into a secret: clients (along with service providers, staff, suppliers, and so on) will never stop throwing curveballs. You will, however, learn to manage them with greater efficiency.
But the fact is that organic online marketing can’t wait — it takes time and the later you start, the later you’ll see results. Online sales are now forecast to make up 21.5% of the retail market by 2018, a rise of 8.8% from 2012. Without a hard-working online presence, you could be missing out on a substantial amount of potential business.
If you have set up a new online business then you’ve undoubtedly prepared an online marketing plan already. And you’ve probably also had lots of calls offering services that will guarantee your website a top five organic placement on Google within six months. Trust your instincts on these and steer clear of quick wins — as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Online marketing is about earning trust and it will take time — that’s why it is prudent to start early and focus on the long term. While there are numerous resources available to support beginners with SEO (such as moz.com and our own Donut guides), the greatest challenge for small business owners is time.
Opting to work with a respected search agency can provide a more holistic approach — using their resources to manage multiple elements concurrently rather than jumping from task to task. Alternatively, many search companies will be open to completing certain elements of your own strategy such as social media management or content provision and dovetailing this with your own activity.
While this work continues in the long-term, an effective way to make more money and drive traffic to your website in the short term is to use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) such as Google AdWords.
In short, you create adverts to be placed on relevant results pages of Google. To do this you need to create adverts that Google deems good quality “answers” to search “questions”. PPC offers flexibility both in terms of advert content but also in terms of spend as you will need to ensure that you are targeting relevant phrases and bidding effectively to get a decent return on your investment.
As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay every time your advert is clicked on but if you choose the wrong terms and the wrong bids, your budget can disappear pretty quickly and with little to show for it.
Like SEO, PPC is a task that can be done by your team but, again, it can be time-consuming. And conquering Click through Rate and Cost per Acquisition through trial and error can be expensive. Many search marketing companies offer campaign start-up packages and monthly management plans, enabling you to get a strong presence in search results.
Copyright © 2014 Hannah Jackson, managing director of Search Marketing Group.
The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) has changed. Websites that tried to trick Google are now reaping what they have sown, with disastrous results. Instead of getting lots of traffic and making lots of sales, their SEO tactics have led to the exact opposite result. No traffic and no sales.
The sad thing is that the owners of these websites often had no idea what their SEO agency was up to. The owners were offered “No.1 ranking” in return for cash, and simply handed the money over.
Typically that cash was used to pay ‘link farms’, based abroad. These are the bad boys of the SEO world. Many of them use automated systems to ‘scrape’ content from respectable sites such as the Marketing Donut and upload it onto a series of new sites. They then sell links from these new sites, to boost the ranking of whichever web pages those links go to.
But Google algorithms are always getting smarter. And Google also has a small army of humans who search out and penalise such ‘black hat’ SEO practices. Well known websites such as Interflora and Halifax — and more recently the law firm Irwin Mitchell — have found themselves removed from the Google rankings. In 2013 Interflora only reappeared in the rankings once the company had already missed out on millions of pounds worth of flower sales over the crucial Mother’s Day period.
Noisy Little Monkey has been brought in to sort out several such messes and in one case we found no fewer than three million spammy links in place — none of which the website owners knew about, as they had simply trusted the SEO agency to get on with improving the rankings.
Google eventually has to reinstate big brands such as Interflora, as so many people search specifically for the brand name and Google has to serve its users. But the same is not true of a small business. In some cases you cannot even re-use your old content on a completely new website, as Google treats it as the same website that was given the penalty previously. At this point businesses are better off jettisoning their website and starting afresh with a new URL and new content.
All of which is irrelevant if you have always followed the guidelines that Google publishes. These guidelines can be summarised in two words: Don’t cheat. If you do anything that is not ‘natural’, it is probably cheating. Paid-for advertorial that has a link back to your website is cheating, as that link would not be there unless you had paid for it. So if you want to do advertorials, make sure that any links in the content are ‘no-follow’ links.
And we can all recognise a spammy link when we see one. For example, those annoying website comments: Great post! Paul Paul’s Office Furniture [with an optimised link to a page on Paul’s furniture website]. Unless the comment and the link are contributing to the discussion, the purpose of such comments is as obvious to Google as it is to the rest of us. ‘Low value’ links like this will not help your website’s rankings at all.
Proper SEO in has always been about optimising each page. The easy wins are the same as they have always been. Choose one or two key phrases that you want a page to rank for. Mark up the HTML carefully. Optimise the page title of each page. Make full use of high quality online directories such as Google+ Local, Yell and maybe your local chamber of commerce (ie those directories that people use to find things) and make sure that your contact details are identical, including even the spaces in your phone number — which ideally should have a local code and not an 0845 code.
Above all, you need to have high quality content, because that is what Google and the other search engines are all about. Put yourself in Google’s shoes. If someone searches for ‘Solicitor in Bristol’, there may be 50 firms to choose from. Which one would you rank at the top? It would be the site that has traffic, that visitors spend time on, and that people link to and mention in blogs and in social media — all of which adds up to a winning digital footprint. It would not be a site that people arrive at and then quickly leave.
Finally, if you are using an SEO agency, make sure you know what they are doing. Google Webmaster Tools is free and is easy to use. If nothing else, just look in the messages section. Any really bad news from Google about your website will be in there.
Listen to this cry of anguish. It came from someone commenting at the end of a blog post about Penguin 2.0, which (as I will explain) was an update that Google made to its search ranking algorithm.
To paraphrase: "For eight years I have been trying to follow the twists and turns of what Google wants websites to do. Every time I finish making changes, Google changes the rules again. I am trying to make my ecommerce site successful, but I cannot. I have lost my life savings on this business. I am not going to bother changing after this. If Google moves the goalposts again after Penguin 2.0 they can go **** themselves."
That was in May. Later in the summer Google released the Hummingbird update, a change to the algorithm that was an absolute whopper.
While I completely sympathise with the person whose savings had run out, there is a positive aspect to the changes that Google endlessly makes.
Consider these changes over the last ten years, each one given a name rather like the way hurricanes are named:
2003: Florida update penalised websites that were stuffed with spammy key words.
2004: Brandy update penalised too many synonyms (eg wealthy is a synonym of rich).
2005: Bourbon update hit duplicate content; Big Daddy update hit low quality reciprocal links.
2009: Vince update rewarded news authorities and recognised brands.
2010: Mayday update rewarded specialised niche websites.
2011: Panda update tackled “content farm” websites full of SEO-based content. And as well as algorithms, Google used human testers to identify low quality content.
2012: Penguin update further penalised spammy links.
2013: Penguin 2.0 hit spammy links and other SEO deception activities even harder.
Yes, put simply, Google is trying to penalise the tricksters and reward those of us that provide good, honest, high quality content.
Now Hummingbird moves beyond looking at the mere words in a search; it attempts to understand the full meaning of the query, so it can then deliver search results to match. So you can expect websites that answer lots of questions to do well.
The poor guy who spent eight years losing his life savings on an ecommerce website will have known all along that Google would gradually improve its search techniques, but meanwhile he had to compete using the techniques that were delivering the best results that month. Alas there was no easy option for him, even with the benefit of hindsight.
We are now getting to a point where all of us can focus on content that meets the needs of the website user. The Donut websites have done this all along — because our revenue is not advertising-based and so we do not rely on high traffic figures. So ironically we have ended up with better traffic than sites that may have invested huge sums in SEO.
Rory MccGwire is the chief executive of Atom Content Publishing, publishers of the Donut websites.
Confused by social media? Check out this brilliant infographic based on the iconic tube map:
Click on the infographic to enlarge.
Supplied by Laura Hampton, the digital marketing manager at Hallam Internet.