Wednesday, 13 February 2013

How many links to use in articles…

One question that gets asked a lot by people starting out in the world of blogging is how many links they should embed in the content? This then broadens out to other facets of SEO like guest-blogging, article writing and internal link building.

It’s important to realise that when it comes to link building, less is more. People have fallen down the trap of including too many links in their content thinking it will help boost rankings across a range of pages. This is a blanket method that just doesn’t work and with all things to do with SEO, you need finesse rather than a shotgun.

If you must include a link in your copy, then use them sparingly. At the most, all you need is one. This is because you want to pass all the link juice into a specific page. If you think about the backlink starting off with a certain authority, you don’t want to divide this up.

Not like this!
Like this!

However, sometimes you might not want to include a link at all and just let the search engines crawl your content. If Google finds that most of your pages a linking to one specific page, it’s going to think something fishy is going on. Remember, content should be natural and linking every page to your target page isn’t going to look natural.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Giving Your Website a Work-Out

When I’m not sitting at my desk and optimising web sites, I’m down the gym working out. I love it. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the day’s events and plan out my actions for the rest of the week. It’s me-time. 

Of course, it also keeps me fit and last night I had a bit of an epiphany; websites are like people. They have their own tone of voice and can be seen as useful, functional or just plain annoying. They can also be seen as unfit or unhealthy. A website which hasn’t been optimised for search engines will fall into this category. Google is a websites gym; the fitter a website is, the more often it appears in the SERPs.

This is the best analogy I can think of when describing how SEO benefits websites.  What’s more, we can also segment each SEO task into a type of exercise or work out.

Link building is your websites cardio
For long term goals, link building will secure your website for the future. By keeping the steady flow of inbound links coming into your website, you will be giving more content for Google to crawl.

The trick is to link build constantly instead of doing it all in one day. Google wants to see naturally gained links and will get suspicious when it sees you received 1,000’s of domain backlinks in one month when the rest of the month’s you received next to nothing. A single day of intense cardio won’t offer any benefits. It should be an ongoing process.

Onsite optimisation is your website’s weight lifting
To make your website as strong as possible, giving it a good platform to build on, you need to make sure your onsite content is optimised. The better optimised the content is the more chance it has of ranking, but you don’t want to go over board. Keyword stuffing can make your website look freaky and Google will not like it.

It’s good to occasionally review you onsite optimisation and keyword densities and find new ways to improve it.

Fresh content is your website’s nutrition
Going to the gym isn’t enough. 80% of keeping fit is what you eat and it’s the same with your website. Using a blog will make sure your website gets all the fresh content it needs to keep it fighting fit.

A nice healthy meal would be a comprehensive, thoughtful and well-written blog post. A short, spammy post would be considered as junk food.

So next time you look at your website, don’t just see a load of html. See it as a person who wants to get fit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What’s a good SEO Conversion Rate?

It’s important to understand what your KPIs are when starting an SEO campaign. Just like with any investment, you want to make sure that you are getting your return. This is why conversion rates are so important to consider, especially for e-commerce websites.

It’s a possibility that when you attract more visitors to your website, the lower the conversion rate could potentially be. This is why getting more traffic shouldn’t be the end goal, but rather maintaining high conversions rates.

Ensuring you keep your conversion rates consistently high is down to attracting the correct audience. Keyword research is vital for any SEO campaign and understanding how users navigate your website. Is it functional? Is it easy to transact? Audiences are fickle, so making the conversion process easy as possible should be a priority.

So what makes a good conversion rate? How do you know you are receiving the best conversion rate possible?

With any business, you should know what your average order value (AOV) is. Let’s say a business’s AOV is £200. In the world of SEO, my benchmark for the minimum conversion rate for these kinds of returns would be 2%. This means out of 1,000 visitors, 20 will convert which will produce £4,000. This washes the face of the budget of a typical SEO campaign.

But what if the AOV is lower? Let’s say an online business sells something of a lower value, such as clothing. The AOV would be around £20. This would mean that we would need 200 conversions to match a ROI of £4,000. That’s a 20% conversion rate, which is considerably higher.

We also have to understand that conversion rates can change with different values of transactions. Lower costing items can typically convert higher.

When understanding what your conversion rate should be, you should always consider the AOV, traffic volume and number of conversions needed, to reach the target.

So before starting an SEO campaign, you should begin with two constant figures, which will help you understand what traffic volume and number of conversions are needed.

So lets say our target (Ta) is £10,000 and our AOV is high value at £800. We can determine the number of conversions (C) needed with simple maths:

Ta / AOV = C

10,000 / 800 = 12.5

Of course, we can’t have half a conversion, so let’s round 12.5 up to 13 and look at the next step of achieving our target. We can take the conversion rate (CR) as a variable and see what different values will return. So let’s say our conversion rate target is 2%. We can determine what the traffic volumes (Tr) need to be with the following:

(C / CR) x 100 =  Tr

(13 / 2) x 100 = 650

As we’ve raised the number of conversions from 12.5 to round off the figure, we can predict that our return will be £10,400.

But what if we changed the conversion rate? What if it was lower at 1.2%?

(13 / 1.2) x 100 = 1,083

Looks like more traffic is needed to achieve the targets.

Conversion rates aren’t always as clear-cut as this though. Some conversion goals might be measured as enquires or leads rather than transactional values. It’s important to know what your lead to sale rate is when considering this as well.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Questionable Week for Online PR

It has come into light this week that even the most reputable PR services aren’t safe from fake news. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land pointed this out recently, slating PRWeb. It’s nothing new though. Getting high authority content published is easy as long as you have the budget. The reason why this has surfaced is because it’s fraudulent news directly related to Google.

The thing is, it’s tricky to moderate user generated content for any platform, but the fact is, this involved one of the biggest PR suppliers out there, or at least, the most popular.

This is particularly interesting news for SEO, albeit a little worrying. It’s no secret that press releases can hold a lot of value for link building. PRWeb has a large circle of influence on Google News, so if you submit to them, you can almost be certain it will get picked up. This will then encourage other news sites and blogs to pick up the release and publish it. A lot of these methods are automated, so the content can be questionable at times.

What could this mean for the future of Online PR?

Google could easily flick the off switch for questionable PR distribution services. It’s taken a hard stance against online content this year with Panda, so this could be next on the to-do list.

But let’s not get too hasty. There are plenty of legitimate PR services out there and PRWeb isn’t all that bad. It’s still a respectable service but unfortunately, like with most things in human nature, you’re always going to get a few people trying to spoil the party.

Press releases will still be a big part of an SEO campaign and are still viable news sources. My usual approach is to work with a clients PR agency, as they are more stringent on the content, making the news more reliable.

It will definitely shake things up though. It’s been an embarrassment for both parties with false content slipping through PRWebs fingers and Google ultimately putting it on display.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Retaining Clients is the Key to Success

I’ve seen many businesses fall out with their SEO and PPC suppliers on my travels. It astounds me that a lot of agencies out there are willing to let their old clients fall into neglect while they search for more business. I’ve been a victim to this myself during my in-house days.

The thing is, these agencies are missing a trick. They are failing to see the potential from retaining loyal clients and using it to their benefit. Subsequently I have seen a much better success rate from these clients referring our services to other businesses.

This makes sense when we release that dissatisfied customers will tell more people of a poor service than if they received a good service. That’s just human nature, so we need to make the most of it.

It’s clear to see why this is an easy way to get new clients because you have a foot in the door already. Testimonials from the horse’s mouth are a lot more valuable than cold calls. It reduces the time needed for proposals and negotiation with the trust already there.

My steps are always to prioritise my current clients and improve their website. This means getting them the rankings they expect, pulling in additional and relevant traffic and improving conversion rates. Maintaining a good relationship with them will pay off in the end. Soon enough, news of your good deeds will spread.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Top 5 Questions Clients ask about SEO

Working in SEO for a number of years now, I hear a lot of questions about what it is I do and how it can benefit websites. I eventually hear the same questions asked over and again, which can often lead rehearsed answers. Here are some of the most popular questions asked and how to answer them.

1. What is SEO?
Let’s start with the most difficult question. Why is it so difficult? Because SEO is a huge thing to explain to someone who doesn’t know what it is and we can assume that anyone who asks this questions doesn’t have the foggiest. This is the sort of question I get asked by people I have just met when inquiring about my profession.

So how do we explain how search engines work? How do we explain the processes we go through to achieve the results? How do we explain that we don’t just “call Google and ask to put us at the top”? We have to put things in its simplest terms.

Answer: “SEO means search engine optimisaiton. We make sure a website is dedicated to a particular search term which you use to find a service or product. We can do this by mentioning your word on the website at specific points, like the title or in a sentence of the copy. The more relevant a web page is to a certain search term, the better chance it has of ranking highly in search engine. Hence optimising for search engines.”

There is no point in talking about keywords or meta tags or even link building at this stage because people will just glaze over. Keep things simple and if they are still interested they might ask some other questions which may lead onto…

2. How does link building help a website’s search engine ranking?
So you’ve explained how onsite content will help, albeit in a very elementary way while explain SEO, but if the person is still interested the conversation may lead to link building.

We could go off on one and start talking about anchor text and page rank, but our conversation partner might doze off. Unless this is you aim, there is a way you can explain it by creating visualisations.

Answer:”Imagine a website is a town with roads pointing to it. These are the websites links from other websites. Roads from other towns, if you like. The more roads the town has going to it, the more popular it is. Now let’s imagine Google is constantly doing town surveys and sends it’s agents out on these roads to review them. If the agents find more roads leading to the town, it will report back to Google and say that this town is very popular. Then Google will promote this town, letting people know that it is a great place to visit.”

Ok, so that answer was a bit convoluted, but it helped someone visualise the importance of links in a human way. Alternately, we could say, “Links to a website show that it is trustworthy and Google likes this. If Google trusts a website it will rank it highly. It’s all about trust”.

This answer is a little more to the point, but a little less exciting perhaps.

3. How fast can you get me on page 1?
This question is a tough one and is very open-ended. First we need to know what keyword we are targeting, what the competition is like and whether the keyword is worth pursuing in the first place.

You can only really answer this question from experience and there is no definitive response. Working as an SEO for a few years, you will know what works and what doesn’t. You will also come to realise that no two keywords are the same. Ultimately you will need time to gauge the volumes of the keyword and the competition. Long tail keywords will rank faster than short tail.

I usually wait for the keyword to hit the radar before I make any predictions, but when I do I always say it will take a bit longer than I actually think. This goes back to my days working as a waiter in restaurants. When a customer asked how long their food would take when they ordered it, I always said it would take 5 to 10 minutes longer than it actually would. This meant that when the food arrived before the customer’s expectations, they were happy.

If you are ever asked this question it’s good to explain your situation, “We won’t be able to gauge how long this will take before we understand the keyword competition and how much time we can allocate to activities. It could be anywhere between 1 to 6 months”.

If you’re already on the radar on page 3 or 2, I always say it will take another month or so before achieving a page 1 ranking. Then the real work to get into first position begins.

4. Can you remove my competitors from the rankings?
Yes, I have been asked this a few times. The answer is always no. We have no control of a competitors website. We keep things white hat here.

5. What is Page Rank?
This usually comes from clients who have read about it in an article and latched onto the fact that it is a good thing and should be a KPI for their website. I agree to an extent. Page rank isn’t a bad thing and should be analysed from time to time to check the authority of a website. It’s also an indication of some good link building.

“Page rank is a sort of richter scale for a web page. The more high authority links you get into that page the bigger it gets. It will benefit your website, but doesn’t have a direct correlation to rankings or traffic”.

There are many more questions that get thrown my way from time to time, but I would say that these are the most frequent. Do you have any frequent questions asked by clients? Leave them in the comments below!

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Top Resources for SEO Self-Training

The thing about SEO is that there is no set procedure. There are no official guidelines. It’s not in the curriculum for education. There are no official exams that qualify you as an SEO expert. This makes SEO a huge open playing field for people to explore, discover and analyse and the community is buzzing with chat about it. You just need to know where to look.

A lot of what you will learn about SEO will come from your own experiences of trial and error. This is the biggest thing to understand when considering SEO and people shouldn’t be afraid to fail once in a while to learn from mistakes. This is just the nature of the beast.

You can get a head start by learning from other people however and luckily, there are loads of resources you can use for this.

Google Support

Once I have heard about something in the news about Google, whether it’s an algorithm update or a fancy new API, I immediately read about it on the Google support pages or the Google blog. It pays to stay up to date with the ever-changing world of SEO and this stuff is hot off the press.

SEOmoz blog

One of the biggest communities of SEOs with regular posts to the blog by contributers. There are some high-profile SEO experts who share their thoughts on the latest experiment or analytical insight they have discovered. It’s worth checking in every couple of days to see what the latest revelation is. The quality of content can vary from day to day, but is generally of a high grade.

Search Engine Land

Perhaps one of the most respected and most reliable SEO blogs out there. Sometimes you might stumble across Google news before Google has even published it. This is a great place to keep ahead of the curve and knowing what the search engines are going to do next.

UK Business Forums

There are loads of forums out there for SEO, but this is my favourite. The regulars will help out with any questions and will also post about any relevant news, which sparks insightful discussion.

Have any SEO training resources you use? Add them to the comments below!

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