Tag Archives: SEO

Small Business SEO Advice

I recently contributed to a Business Essentials piece on the Guardian about advice on SEO for small businesses by Mark Smith, read the full article here.

Further to the comments by my industry colleagues, here is my more in-depth view with questions posed by Mark.

How would you characterise the changes to SEO, past, present and future?

SEO has changed a lot since I first entered the search marketing world in 2007, the past used to be more about a simple split of ensuring the site was optimised well from the on-page point of view and simply building links to the relevant pages to have a good impact, over time more factors have influenced SEO, algorithm changes have meant that we have had to adapt to what Google and other search engines see as the signals for improving rankings. Social media is playing a big part from around 2011 to present, not just for simple conversation but another tool on the marketing belt to help promote content as we entered into the content marketing world there are many factors to look at from now and in the future such as Content/Query Relationship, Off-Site (Backlinks), On-Site (Content Quality), Local Search, Secure / Non-Secure Sites, Mobile optimised / responsive sites.

Are business getting it wrong/right?

The majority of businesses that are working in-house or with agencies are being guided and are getting it right most of the time, I have experienced a number of employees attending training and taking advice from industry specialists, those that are getting it wrong seem to be ill-advised on the old school methods of SEO or simply haven’t evolved.

If they are getting it wrong, why is that?

Older SEO techniques are still being practised, examples of large-scale directory submissions, bulk article writing and paid for links are still very present and still being practised in the industry, this can lead to site problems with Google also a lack of current SEO knowledge can hinder, I mentioned not evolving and this is difficult if you have a small team that has other responsibilities other than working on the SEO of the site.

What are your personal experiences in relation to whether small businesses are struggling to keep apace of change?

Having worked within an agency for the past 7 years, small businesses can struggle to keep abreast of the ever-changing world of SEO as it’s hard enough to keep pace with algorithm changes, if the agency being used isn’t keeping up with what the industry is up to this will inevitably cause problems later down the line.

Is a lot of money/opportunity being missed?

Smaller businesses have a lot of opportunity to grow within specialist niches, the issue of if competing in a larger market, insurance is a big one as an example where high street brokers want to have an online presence, comparison engines dominate and brands with large budgets are competing also make it difficult. Looking at local based terms can help to drive business online where there is the opportunity to make more money online.

What can small business do to rectify this situation? Do they need a strategy? to employ their own staff to concentrate on content? Do they need to employ an agency? How do they discern between a good agency and a bad? Or are there any other measures they should be taking to ensure they don’t miss out on opportunities?

I believe there is a place for small businesses to compete in their own market, creating a strategy to grow with is important, things to consider like what is the business goal? How can they get there? also review the competition and look for the gaps in the market to compete. By having staff read and learn up to date information, attend training courses to improve knowledge will go a long way to help. Employing an agency will help depending on budgets, this can also help distinguish the good from the bad, what are you getting for your money is a big factor, small budgets can be used effectively other than just reporting or low-level link building.

matt-cutts

Unnatural Link Warnings – Ignore them if you want?!?

Ok did you just get the dreaded Google unnatural links warning message in Webmaster Tools?

Matt Cutts Drawing

Oh no is my site to be penalised? Usually this would be the way, but no, even more confusion and panic after the latest spam messages received as Google’s head of web spam Matt Cutts explained on G+:

If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.

If we’ve taken more severe action on your site, you’ll likely notice a drop in search traffic, which you can see in the “Search queries” feature Webmaster Tools for example. As always, if you believe you have been affected by a manual spam action and your site no longer violates the Webmaster Guidelines, go ahead and file a reconsideration request. It’ll take some time for us to process the request, but you will receive a followup message confirming when we’ve processed it.

This to me speaks of a load of cobblers, so what do we do next? Ignore the message?

Trawl through the thousands of back links to your site to find the rogue link?

If you’ve had the message what have you done about it?

There has now been an update from Mr Cutts, presumably from all the feedback negative sentiment:

Update: Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on this change. An engineer worked over the weekend based on the suggestions here, and starting on Sunday we made two changes so you can tell the “individual links aren’t trusted” messages from the “our opinion of your entire site is affected” messages.

First off, we changed the messages themselves that we’ll send out to make it clear that for a specific incident “we are taking very targeted action on the unnatural links instead of your site as a whole.” So anyone that gets a message going forward can tell what type of action has occurred.

The second change is that these messages won’t show the yellow caution sign in our webmaster console at http://google.com/webmasters/ like our other webspam notifications. This reflects the fact that these actions are much more targeted and don’t always require action by the site owner.

Thanks again for the feedback, and we’ll continue to work on ways to provide more useful and actionable information for site owners.

Hat tip for the Matt Cutts graphic by SEOBook.com

Google to Encrypt Search Data – Killing off Organic Data

So it begins, Google to kill off organic data to webmasters for logged in users, I won’t re-hash and rant as there are plenty of useful posts out there.

I will provide a quick summary though, the data is still there but Google only offering aggregated data through Webmaster Tools but as mentioned by Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable, it’s not that accurate. So begs the question is the data now being sent to webmasters useful?

So for more information on this topic here are a few useful posts:

 

SEO for SME's What You Need To Know

As a business owner with a website, one of the most important things to consider is visibility. SEO also known as search engine optimisation, is a daunting project if not approached correctly.

There are many ways to tackle SEO such as content creation, link building, keyword research and many more.

The danger of doing SEO without any prior knowledge can be detrimental to your website as many tactics that can be used may end up getting your site penalised.

Building Blocks

When beginning any search marketing campaign there are processes to address, firstly keyword research.

Without in depth keyword research a campaign can fall at the first step as identifying the correct keywords/phrases is vital to any success.

Once a defined list has been agreed the next phase is to then look at the website from an on-page and technical perspective.

This can identify any structural issues with the website as well identifying areas to improve.

Content is also a vital part of on page work to undertake, make sure your content is unique, not to keyword heavy, a reasonable amount of keywords to mention is perhaps 1-2 per 200 words, make the content useful for the user as conversion is the main goal for any website.

Patience

Once the website has then been ‘optimised’ for the SERPs (search engine results pages), patience is the next important part of SEO as it’s not a quick fix.

It can take the search engine’s time to re-crawl your updated site so a handy tip is submitting an updated sitemap.xml file to the Google Webmaster Tools console (account setup and verification needed). This can help inform Google of changes and new pages to crawl.

Now a little bit of time has passed and your newly optimise site is appearing for your researched terms in the SERP’s what next?

Links

Link building is an important part of SEO as links to your site count as a ‘vote’ but be careful when trying to attract links to your site as there are key factors involved to ensure a link to your site will be beneficial.

Relevancy is key, if your site is about and a site about laptops links to yours there is no relevancy between the 2 and therefore could be viewed as spamming which if this technique is adopted can lead to poor results.

Quality Over Quantity

Ensuring that the quality of a link is relevant to your site topic can lead to greater results 1 link from a highly related website will have more benefits than having 10’s to hundreds of unrelated links which could lead to a penalty.

End Results

SEO is a steady progression and making the wrong choices on a small budget can cost SME’s a lot more in terms of money if the wring strategy is adopted.

UPDATE

As SEO Account Director at MEC Manchester SEO Operations manager for Latitude Digital Marketing‘s I have seen businesses that use ‘black hat seo’ techniques as well as poorly planned strategies come a cropper compared to a professional and well planned campaign that reaps rewards.

New Google Algo Update

Quick post, it has been announced that a Google algorithm update is to happen in the US only for now but the recent Chrome block sites extension has helped identify 84% of blocked sites match in the algo.

What does this mean?

Potentially for UK SERPS in the future sites that may be marked as link selling or spam sites may have their external links discounted further and pass no weight.

No indication of the release in UK yet but keep an eye on your site or clients rankings as if the drop a cleanse if backlinks will be required.

Why SME's Should Employ Agencies for SEO

As the Operations Manager for the SME division of one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies i thought i would share my thoughts of why outsourcing SEO as a small business is key.

You can find my blog post on small business seo over at the Latitude blog.

Key points I covered off include:

1 Price
2 Resource
3 Contracts
4 Specialist Teams
5 Accreditations
6 Tools

Hope you fond my info if use.

Ciao for now.

Google May Day Update Affects Long Tail Search Queries

A new algorithmic change has been implemented by Google, affectionately know as the May Day update as it happened around 1st May 2010. Matt Cutts explains that the change is not temporary and the update is looking to improve the quality of the SERP’s that is effecting long tail terms opposed to the head of searches.

Cutts explains that this update is independent to Google Caffeine which is preceding at pace. The update is assessing which sites are the best match for long tail queries. No human involvement in this update and it is purely algorithmic.

Is your SEO affected?

Think about your site, do you have a high quality site, good content and make sure that your site can be viewed as an authority for the search query so not matching off topic queries.

Watch the full video below:

Google Product Search – Testing Links again?

Has anyone noticed that the product results in Google have been showing images and not directly linkg through to the site?

A post from the Head of SEO  at Latitude, Andy Heaps posted back in December about how Latitude joke about Google’s money making levers – “if profits are down or shareholders unhappy they pick a money generating lever and pull it” highlighted this, and now seems that the same is going on again.

Only today have Google displayed both links and none in their product listings here is the latest of my searches:

Google Products - No links

Google Products - No links

So does this mean that Google are “pulling the levers” again or trying to improve the users exprerience?

Canonical URL – A possible solution to duplicate content

Duplicate Content Issues

The 3 major search engines, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, have just announced a new tag that can tell the search engines which URL it should have for the current page.

The issue websites have is duplicate content, the same content is indexed under different URL’s.  This is an issue SEO’s have been trying to solve for a long time.

New canonical URL tag

To help solve this problem, the 3 major engines have declared that it will recognise a new HTML tag, which, if inserted into your web page, will allow you to specify which URL you want to be the “official”, URL for the content.

The tag needs to be inserted into the HEAD section of your web page:

HTML:  <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.yourwebsite.co.uk/correct-page.html">

XHTML: <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.yourwebsite.co.uk/correct-page.html" />

This code needs to be placed in the HEAD section not in the BODY section.

Google will now count the links it has seen to that campaign tagged URL, towards the canonical URL, and not index the campaign tagged URL.

In summary, may be to early to tell if this will help webmasters as it was only announced on the 12th February 2009, but in my opinion this is handing back a little bit of control to the webmaster instead of letting the search engine’s figure out the correct URL.

Disclaimer:  The tag is aonly a suggestion to the search engine. It will probably be used 99% of the time, but they have the right to handle things their way.

Canonical URL plugin for WordPress users now available from Joost de Valk.