There's a new strategy in town. It's turning the SEO tables, causing established giants to fall by the wayside as smaller competitors make their mark in search rankings.
It's powerful; it promises to deliver sought-after SEO treasures, top spots on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), without any technical wizardry or dark magic required at all. How can this be done? How can such small rivals take on these seemingly impassable contenders - and win?
The truth is that the strategy behind these impressive feats does not involve anything mysterious or untoward. There are no short cuts; nothing clinging to a grey area, trying to escape the all-seeing eye of Google. The winning strategy is completely above board.
The great secret behind this success is actually disappointingly straight forward; it's about doing what you say you will and doing it well. The problem with so much SEO advice is that it simply over-complicates a field that is already littered with jargon.
Too many brands enter into some kind of bizarre battle with Google, believing there is no other way to compete than to use underhand tactics, trying to navigate the SERPs while skirting the threat of penalties.
This is not the way to win. The way to beat larger, more powerful rivals is to take them by surprise; by doing it honestly and transparently. It's about going back to basics.
What is a website for? Is to inform, entertain or persuade your customers into making a sale? If you can create a website that offers interesting, relevant, regularly updated content, it will become worth seeking out and the powers that be - aka search engines - will recognise it as such.
There is no need for dirty tactics. Sites are currently being compromised in this incessant race to get to the top, brands are receiving hefty penalties, all the while losing business.
This is all entirely unnecessary. The way to make your mark on SERPs is simply to maintain a website which does what it says on the tin and develop good quality, clean links from sources which you trust and build good relationships with.
If brands stopped cutting corners and using SEO "tricks" they would be in for a pleasant surprise. SEO is like anything else; if you do it well, you will be rewarded.
After some sites have been seeing ranking fluctuations, speculation is starting to build about a potential new Panda update from Google.
We're certainly intrigued as to what a new Panda update could mean for small businesses and content marketers. From what we have learned, it seems that the update will be less of a quality penalisation (which we have previously seen) and more of a quality assessment, where Google is re-assessing what it sees as good and bad ranking factors and encouraging sites to up the quality of the content on their site.
It is expected that Google will:
The new update highlights the need for truly valuable content; content that is useful, relevant and engaging for the target audience. Now is the time to really focus on and invest in creating high quality content.
There are two top-level actions you can take as the owner or manager of your business:
After speaking with a contact at Google, we've learned that Google wants online marketing to be an even more integrated part of a company's marketing function, where online marketers and SEO experts work together to devise strategies and produce content that is highly detailed and relevant to their audiences.
But Google is also aware that many digital marketers don't have long-term content plans and that one-hit-wonder content ideas don't build on a wider digital marketing strategy.
The Panda update will affect a wide range of business types, it's not just content aggregators that are going to be affected by the update.
Consider how the update may impact your business and industry. Are you selling a service? Ensure that all of your services are represented throughout your site with well-written service descriptions and structured supporting content.
Are you selling a product? Think about your product pages – are they well-written? Product descriptions should be unique to your site and have strong levels of information, if they don't, then you may see drops in rankings.
We believe that Google's strong focus on content is going to continue well into the future. If the search giant is going to retain their very large market share, then they need to continue to provide the highest quality search results. Meanwhile, business owners must invest in an effective online marketing strategy, regardless of algorithm updates.
Looking after and maintaining your company's website can be a difficult job, yet a third of small businesses still choose to do it themselves.
At first the process appears simple; hire the right designer, manage hosting prices and then maintain the site from there. However, there are several other factors that demand attention and that can be detrimental to your website if ignored.
Here are four website mistakes that are often made by small firms:
Like the fashion world, website trends are always changing and new designs are constantly emerging; what looked good a few years ago won't be reaching the standards expected by your customers today.
First impressions are important, so ask yourself: "what does my site say about my business?". That you don't care? That you're outdated? That you're disorganised? That you're not the best option available?
If you answered yes to any of these, then it is time to think about redesigning.
The content on your site should be created with two aims in mind: SEO gain and user engagement. Whilst you want to include keywords and longtail phrases specific to your business, you still need to focus on standing out against your competitors.
However, achieving the balance between content that is optimised for SEO performance and content that is written in the right tone of voice can be difficult.
By hiring a professional, you can publish unique content that will attract traffic, engage with visitors and tell the story of your business.
It is important that your site is built to be adaptable. If you're currently using a proprietary platform, move to an open source CMS system such as Magento and enjoy the lack of restrictions and advanced flexibility.
If a user can't find their way around your site easily, they are very likely to leave and seek out one of your competitors. This is known as a high bounce rate. Confusing navigation systems only add extra steps to the customer's buying journey and they can lose sales.
To improve, your website should be:
Address these issues on your website and you'll see a significant difference to your business.
Copyright © 2015 Nick Pinson, director at iWeb Solutions.
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.