Google has released some new guidelines that are aimed directly at bloggers who review items they received for free from companies, a growing form of native advertising for sure. Google has already grappled with this issue on YouTube with the army of Vloggers that have been endorsing products. So I very much agree with the need to disclose the relationship. Where I tend not to agree is with the classification of these blog articles and the links are non-orgnanic and thus should carry nofollow tags.
Investing time and effort into Search Engine Optimisation(SEO) should be high on the lists of priorities for any brand. It’s not just something for dedicated SEOs or the IT team, nearly every line of business has a role to play from Marketing copy writers to Product owners.
The good news is that SEO is not complicated or black magic, with a bit of knowledge content generators and owners can create and fine tune strong search engine friendly content which is also great for the user – The ultimate goal.
Winter is coming! Well actually change is coming but it will be no less dramatic than an episode of Game of Thrones. On April 21st Google will be rolling out a major new update to its mobile search algorithm. This change is going to have a major impact of the displayed ranking of sites when users search via a mobile device like phone or tablet.
Recently Google rolled out its latest iteration of its Penguin algorithm bringing the world of search version 3.
What is Penguin Algorithm?
Google has a bit of an animal theme to its search algorithms, but unlike large versions like Panda (currently on version 4.1) Penguin has since April 2012 been aimed solely at taking the fight to webspam in the search results. It does this by cracking down on sites that use ‘Black Hat’ SEO techniques or are just plain spammy. The kind of things it looks at are paid links, keyword stuffing and anything that contravenes the Google Webmaster Guidelines. In previous updates Google has added any tricks it missed the previous times.
As this update is yearly at present this has meant a site affected in one version has had to wait until the next version to be re-assessed, so a year possibly of being unlisted. Obviously as a business this can be catastrophic if you are affected especially if it’s down to poor SEO rather than any spammy or nefarious intent.
How do I avoid Penguin?
So you’ve invested time in the basics of SEO as described in my previous article about Simple Search Engine Optimisation – SEO and now want to take the next step to really ramp up your blog or website SEO?
You’re on the right page, in the following article I’m going to go over some more advanced SEO techniques that will really help boost your ranking and more importantly your CTR.
First off lets have a look at the bridge between basic SEO and Advanced SEO with maybe what we should call Medium SEO. One of the most important actions we can take as marketers is
Focus on Customer experience and engagement.
Search engines are continually changing the way they rank sites, and one of the most recent trends has been to look at engagement and branding signals. What this basically means is does the page the Search Engine links to in the search results provide engaging and useful content for the user. Having inbound links to your web pages used to be a strong indicator for Search Engines but this time is now more. Yes inbound links still are factors, but nowhere near as strong as they used to be.
Relevance is till a strong factor and this has now been built our to include the relevance and quality of a web page or piece of content therefore we need to think about this more then we do about link building. To rank strongly you need to start providing genuinely useful content that engages with your target audience. I touch on this a bit in my article on creating an effective website.
For SEO purposes (and of course in view of turning users into customers) I have 4 points that you need to avoid and should form the bases of assessing your sites effectiveness:
- Avoid low quality content.
- Avoid having unclear or no calls to action.
- Avoid having poor navigation (this includes via mobile device).
- Avoid content that does not serve the user.
To help you avoid these common obstacles it is worth taking time to fully asses your site and to keep assessing it moving forwards. long gone are the days when you launched a website and just left it untended. You need to really get into your analytics and start to understand your customers. What interests them? what Social Media do they use, What demographics or segments are there?
Once you know your audience then you can start to look at how they use your site, and develop effective navigation, remembering the F-pattern and prominent CTAs! Use your analytics and tools like Google Webmaster Tools to identify search terms that are driving users to specific content. Check Page views, unique views, time on site and bounce rate to identify not just your best and most engaging content but also the low quality content. If its not performing then don’t be scared of removing it. Also if something is performing poorly then its a good indicator not to continue with content of that type. Conversely if you have something that is performing well, then it gives you a bases to build out more quality content on a theme that interests your audience.
The move into semantic search
As Search Engines like Google get more advanced, so to do their methods. You may have heard about Google’s Hummingbird update, basically this is semantic search. It uses artificial intelligence in order to understand the search intent and the meaning of the search query rather than just parsing through keywords – a bit like a dictionary. With semantic search when you search, Google returns your results based solely on the text and the keywords that you put in that search.
With semantic search, Google will look into the relationship between the words you type in the search box, how they work together. In fact Google moves away from keywords and starts to look at entities. In Googles terms an entity is any real world item, concept or fact that has a number of pages related to it. An entity can be either businesses, products, movies, authors, people, places, events and many more. Google uses these entities to better understand a users intended search. Let me give you an example of how this works in search. If I’m planning a weekend sightseeing trip to Paris I might want to find out more information about Notre Dame Cathedral, if we approach the search in a structured way that hit all the SEO markers I would probably search “Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris” now what if I had just heard about a famous Cathedral in Paris that should be on my sightseeing list and didn’t know its name? Well this is were semantic search helps now a search for “that famous cathedral in paris” will also work pretty well. That big clock in London? yep that returns Big Ben pages.
Semantic search essentially makes it easier for Google to return relevant pages for even ambiguous search requests.
When you are creating content you really need to think about how your content answers a specific search question. Its no longer about using specific keyword from a list in your content, but much more about answering these specific questions. For example lets take ‘Scuba Diving’ as our keyword group, it is very unlikely users with just ask Google about ‘Scuba Diving’ so as a content writer you will need to ask yourself with every sentence you write, what questions does this answer. You will need to focus strongly on natural language use. The Keywords ‘Scuba Diving’ can make up many questions.
- Where to learn Scuba Diving
- Where to go Scuba Diving
- How much does Scuba Diving cost
- Is Scuba Diving safe
- etc etc
Which one do you want your page to answer?
Advanced SEO – Rich Snippets and Schema markup
One of the ways to take full advantage of semantic search, and old search also is using structured data or rich snippets in your code. What do rich snippets do? Well they help provide more indepth information about a page and its content and how its entities are related. What are rich snippets? Rich snippets are a form of on page mark up that displays extra information on a search result. Check out this infographic that gives you all the important information about rich snippets in a clear and understandable way, and saves me some typing!
Tweak, improve and measure for success
As I’ve mentioned before SEO is not a destination but a journey that continually evolves and needs working on. So once you have completed your review, don’t let it drop, keep checking the analytics, keep reassessing your site and working on enhancing it. Keep checking your website regularly for the following
- HTML/XHTML errors
- CSS errors or problems
- Dead links, page not found 404 error
- Check on Multiple browsers
- Check on Multiple devices
If your business has a website then I’m sure one of the major goals of your marketing is to drive more traffic to your website. More traffic means more opportunity to convert visitors into customers. Below I’ve put together 6 simple tips to increase your website visitors and best of all they are totally free ways to do this, without the need to spend money on Adverts. In fact I would recommend that you follow these tips first before spending any of your probably tight budget on Ads.
Increase your Web Traffic
1. Setup Mailing lists and send Emails.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways of driving visitors to your website. It can be used in a number of ways by you to either build Brand recognition, acquire new customers, build relationships, customer services and product support. For many customers email is still the preferred option for communications, with over 91% of consumers accessing email daily. With the advent of Smartphones a consumer is never far from his email, and more likely to read an email then answer a cold call. Anyone else check their smartphone within minutes of getting up?
Make sure you are trying to capture email addresses at every opportunity, add the option to your website and blog so people can sign up.
Many small business owners I have spoken too often feel that using email to much is the same as spamming. Simple solution. Offer more then one email list for sign up. Give consumers the choice! For example have 3 lists: Newsletter, Sales Offers, New Products. Allow the consumer to sign up to one, all or some. This way you know that people signing up to the Sales Offers list can be approached with far more sale oriented emails then say the Newsletter group. The subscribers to that list will also be more open to purchases then the Newsletter one.
With separate lists in place you can start to broadcast regular emails to drive visitors to your site. You can also use these lists to simply increase your Facebook Page likes.
2.Optimise your site for mobile.
Following on from the above, if a user opens an email via their smartphone then you can certainly guarantee they will click on any links via their phone also. If you site is not optimised you will lose visitors. Make it easier for users to navigate your site and reduce the amount of scrolling and clicking mobile users have to do to really benefit. Try accessing your website via mobile and see how easy it is to use.
3.Use Social Media
We already know that Social Media is a great tool for connecting with our current and future customers, but its also a great tool for driving visitors back to your website. Always try and include a link back to you website on any social media post. No matter what platform you are posting on be it Facebook, Google+, Twitter or Pinterest adding a relevant link back to your site will mean you fans or followers not just see the content you post, but also hopefully click the link back to your site and start their journey to becoming a customer.
Not only that but its also great for your Search Engine optimisation!
Here are a few examples of how it can be done
In this Tweet you can also see another trick thats worth using, instead of linking directly to the Youtube video I have created an article on my site and link to that.
4.Search Engine Optimisation
Making sure your website appears in search results is one of the most fundamental ways of gaining more traffic to your website. If pages on your website are optimised for users search requests then you will get more people clicking through to your website. For instance if you have a page offering beginner dive courses in Zurich, does this page actually mention Zurich at all? For a local business not having your location in the SEO markers on page is a sure fire way of losing potential traffic.
Read my simple Search Engine Optimisation guide to learn exactly what you need to be doing.
5.Image search optimisation
Okay so this should be covered in tip number 4, but I thought it better to have it as a separate item. Why? Well all the search engines have an image search option and a lot of users do image searches, maybe to see what an item looks like that they are considering buying. If you optimise your images the chances are they will appear higher in the results, and if a user is looking for pictures of a new product sees an image from your site they might click through.
Here is an example from Google Images, notice how it has a Visit page button.
If you read my SEO optimisation guide then you will see that you can optimise the ALT text and image file name to benefit you ranking. Also make sure you optimise images for size and quality as well, large file sizes are a no-no which leads me directly on to my final tip.
6.Make sure you site is fast
We all hate it when a website takes for ever to load, don’t we? In fact studies have found that over half of users think that for ever means as little as 3 seconds. Thats right 3 seconds and users leave your site. With the under 24s this goes down to 2 seconds. Not only users hate slow sites, but so do Search Engines, and a slow site can affect your ranking even if you are doing all the optimisation well.
The easiest way to improve site speed is to keep the design simple, not too many images and the images you do have should be optimised to have a small file size. Never use a large image and then use HTML or CSS to adjust the size as a browser will still load the full image first then resize it. Try to keep menus simple, and don’t use Flash or have lots of widgets running.
You can check you page speed using the handy Google Page Speed insights tool
Blogging is an important Business Tool and can help you with your Search Engine Optimisation(SEO) as well. Its a perfect way to generate fresh content regularly and add value to your website. Not only that it helps feed your Social Media and can be used to drive customers back to your website. Setting up a new blog though requires some thought and planning and there are some pitfalls that lay open to the new blogger that can be easily avoided.
In this article I’m going to concentrate on WordPress as I find this the best solution and also one that I know many Businesses use.
1. WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
What a lot of beginners don’t know is that there are actually 2 versions of WordPress that you can use; WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Without going into too much detail WordPress.com is website where you can host a blog, though it is limited and to overcome these limitations you need to pay for upgrades such as having your own domain name, the basic version will give you a URL of https://thedigitaldiver.wordpress.com/ where as an upgrade will give you https://thedigitaldiver.com/
WordPress.org on the other hand is opensource software that you can install on your own server and it has tons of support, help pages and plenty of great plugins that really improve your Blog or even use it to build a website. The advantage here is if you already have a website you can integrate the blog for maximum SEO benefit – https://thedigitaldiver.com/blog for example.
So its worth taking a moment to decide which is best suited for you. Check out this helpful article about WordPress.com vs WordPress.org if you require more information.
2. Choosing the wrong design
Design is not just important ascetically, but also will impact on readers spending time on your blog. So make sure you select the correct theme for your blog, I prefer to limit design to only a few colours that make it easy to read. Also its important to make sure the theme you decide on works on Mobile platforms as well. Then also try not to clutter up the sidebar with too many widgets and badges and information as this can not only slow your blogs loading time, but also it might not be the most effective way of driving readers to where you want them to be.
Have a play around with a few themes and take a look through the extensive library of Free and Paid themes before making your final choice.
3. Having the wrong Permalink structure
If you are using WordPress.org then its important that you change the Permalink structure. Permalinks are the permanent URL that your article will be found under. The default is http://www.thedigitaldiver.com/?p=1 for example, not only is this bad to read but also has very bad SEO value so make sure you go in and change this via your settings > Permalinks
Post Name is the best option for SEO.
4. Not using Gravatar and Google Authorhsip
Gravatar short for Globally Recognised Avatar is the picture that represents you throughout the internet. Its an important way to start branding yourself. You can set one up on the Gravatar website.
Following on from that is Google Authorship which is a great tool for showing you have credibility as a blogger and for me also important as a great tool for getting your link clicked on Google Search Results. It puts your picture next to the Google Search Results and is a great way to draw more clicks to your article.
5. Using Click Here and Read Me
Especially if you are then linking back to your website. To get maximum SEO benefit you want to use descriptive keyword linking. Just have a think, would you ever search Google for the phrase Click here or Read Me?
Find out how you can make effective link text and get some simple SEO tips
To find out about effective link Text and SEO tips click here
Which do you think is better?