Expanding your SEO strategy for 2013 and beyond.
2012 was a turbulent year for SEO and eMarketing professionals – amongst a slew of algorithm updates and tweaks from Google, we have seen several other game-changing factors that have really tested the adaptability of our dedicated SEO team here at eSterling.
Google have been working hard to negate any unscrupulous SEO activity, as well as reducing the effectiveness of scalable link building strategies such as mass directory submission or article spinning, giving many grey-hat SEO practitioners a major headache.
Google’s Penguin update, which was released in April 2012, focused on eliminating websites using webspam tactics such as spamdexing (squeezing a keyword into a site as many times as possible, often using nefarious tactics such as black-on-black text) and linkbombing (posting a link to the site using a keyword as anchor text in as many locations across the internet as possible) to artificially boost their search rankings, at the expense of website usability. The update penalised these sites by placing them lower in search engine results pages than they featured originally – or, in extreme cases, removing them from Google’s indexing entirely.
Exact match domains (URLs which directly match one of the site’s keywords, for example www.teethwhitening.com) have also felt the pressure, as Google introduced the imaginatively titled Low Quality Exact Match Domain Update. This update, whilst not sounding as cute or cuddly as either of the major updates Panda and Penguin, was no less important. It was an attempt to rid the SERPs of sites which are of low quality, but have used their exact match domain name to push their way to the top of the results pages.
So, if this is what Google has done in the last year to make our lives more difficult, where do we go next?
The good news for us is that this means it is now harder than ever to increase a website’s search visibility with these dubious tactics, leaving much more room for honest, user-friendly SEO strategies, and has shifted the emphasis from building as many links as possible to your site to being much more about the end user – the importance now lies with ease of navigation, increasing usability and offering informative, relevant and up-to-date content.
Google’s actions over the last 12 months could easily be misconstrued as disdain for the SEO profession – this is not the case. Rather, The Big G is trying to encourage webmasters and SEO professionals to remember that the content of their site, not where it appears in search engine results pages, are what is most important to the user – and, by extension of this, to the website owner.
This is not to say that search engine optimisation as a profession is on the way out – far from it, in fact. 6 out of 10 organizations expect to increase SEO headcount in the coming year. The industry is also becoming more widely understood – the same report details that 63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago.
The shift has been moved away from SEO as an independent discipline, and it is now becoming a more integral part of constructing an internet presence. For an SEO campaign to be truly effective it must be integrated with other aspects of the business – marketing, sales, design, and social media – must all become one holistic package in order to establish a brand online, as opposed to trying to “pull a fast one” on Google.
To quote Trond Lynbø on Edgyseo.com:
“Many site owners want to do the minimum possible, yet expect awesome results. But the days of ‘quick fix SEO’ are numbered, if not already over. It’s time to see SEO from a different angle, with broader, wider focus. To step back, rather than blindly rush to implement new tactics. To decide where you want to go, and act on a strategy-driven plan.”
Having a strategy for your SEO is becoming more and more important, as simply building up link equity is no longer enough to get by. Social media is becoming increasingly important to every business – more than 1 million websites have now introduced Facebook integration in various manners, and social media now accounts for 18% of all time spent online.
If 2012 has taught us one thing about what lies in store for 2013, it’s that we as SEO professionals need to stay on our toes – major algorithm updates are pretty much inevitable, and they could pop up at any time with little or no warning – but rest assured, the team here at eSterling are ready to rise to this challenge and continue to provide you with a solid internet marketing strategy to see you through the year and beyond.
For more information on our eMarketing and SEO services, click here.
Browsers are fickle. If you want to convert a visitor into a customer you need to instantly grab their attention. Beyond eye catching images, bullet points and benefits (not features!) you need to focus on your headlines.
In the world of content strategists and copywriters they call this microcontent and we’re going to show you how to improve yours.
You only get a sentence, that’s 40 to 60 letters, to work with. That’s a lot less that a tweet so every word counts. This kind of text is also displayed usually without context. Sure, it may be displayed with an image but often those are a little generic or abstract. Because of this you have to write a headline that stands on its own.
Here are a few hints on writing that perfect line of text.
Be clear in what your message is.
Your headline has to be appealing. What are you offering? Why does this benefit the customer?
It has to be relevant to both the site and to the reader. Match the headline to the content.
Be credible. Don’t over exaggerate or make claims that simply are not true.
Be sure to “front-load” your headline. That is, putting the most valuable phrase at the beginning.
Use numbers. “10 reasons good headlines improve online sales!”
Use powerful words like “free” and “imagine”.
Try phrasing your headline as a question. “Want to get more business by writing the perfect headline?”
Be succinct. Remove
Focus on what the customer will find desirable.
“We promise you this: you are now ready to write great headlines”
In the past two years Google cracked open it’s dictionary of animals at page ‘P’ and named the biggest updates to their super-secret search algorithm Panda and Penguin. These two on-going changes fundamentally changed how SEO works by cracking down on any sites that used low quality techniques to gain rankings. While this still effects websites that are not prepared to offer good value to potential customers it leaves others in potential good stead for the future. Achieving the best for your website is now about providing engaging content and high quality links that have been genuinely earned, as it always should have been.
What then should the focus be 2013?
Good SEO is about providing a compelling experience for users of your website. This encapsulates everything from User Experience, having good and relevant content, and well defined navigation and structure. It is no longer possible to do a bare minimum and expect to hit the top of the search engine results. The best search engine optimisation will not help if you have a bad product.
Provide a website that meets people’s needs through researching who your customer base are and what you can offer them above your competition. Your website should be working to your business strategy to provide a service of value to potential customers.
A new year means a fresh start. Talk to eSterling now for a new website that can work for you.
While Search engine optimisation and Conversion rate optimisation are certainly the two best, and well known techniques for increasing return on investment from your ecommerce site one often overlooked method of maximising revenue is increasing the average value of the orders customers place through your website. By increasing your average order value you can quickly increase your revenue streams without a reliance on the time investments required by traffic generation and improved conversions.
Here are a few ideas you can use on your website.
Conversion rate experts agree that free delivery is a great method of turning browsers of your ecommerce store into buyers but you don’t have to offer that as an option from the get go. One technique you can employ is to add a free delivery threshold and advertise that fact on your basket and checkout. By using this method you can encourage customers to add more items to their basket in order to “save” money on the delivery. Please don’t see this and other techniques as underhanded or tricking customers. This is simply a way of giving them extra value while encouraging additional purchases.
You might also think about offering free delivery on certain products. This is an especially good idea for seasonal or time limited products.
If you have the ability to cross sell items on your website you should use this opportunity to target higher-end products. Related items are often selected when you add your products for the first time and are rarely updated. While you should review and refresh these cross selling items as often as possible there is an opportunity here to use Google Analytics to your advantage. By looking at the various paths take through the website and which categories and products they view most often you can tie products which customers do look at in concert together. Say for example you sell clothing and accessories, through Google Analytics you notice that customers who purchase a certain dress then quite frequently look at shoes. Here is an opportunity to tie those items together as you know they are actually related. This helps customers by giving them genuine items they might want to purchase together without requiring them to browse about the site and not getting the sale.
Instead of selling single items you might try to offer product bundles instead. By creating a product that is actually a set of complimentary items you can offer your customers a bargain when they purchase these multiple items together. By bundling items that total £100 for £90 you can increase your average order value where a customer might previously have bought one of the items in the pack for say £30. You might want to label these items “Gift Packs” especially during a seasonal period.
The same idea can be used for multi-packs whereby you offer several of the same product for a reduced price. This might be an easier method to call upon when your ecommerce software does not actively support volume discounts.
Clearly some of these techniques are dependent upon what your ecommerce software can provide but if you need help with expanding upon those facilities or if you are even thinking of updating to a new package eSterling is here to help.
While we have been running the eSterling website and blog for some time we thought it would be handy for new readers and anyone looking at the services we offer to have a short overview of the company.
eSterling is a Birmingham web design agency made up of a team of 20 people covering all aspects of development, support and SEO. We operate as a full service web agency offering web design, web development and search engine optimisation.
We mainly build websites for companies based in the West Midlands. We pride ourselves on producing a bespoke solution that meets the needs of businesses rather than foist a website template solution on them. We won’t hand you a basic template website or an older design with a new logo placed on top. Our team carefully researches your brief, requirements and market you are in and from that creates a tailored web solution just for you. We have over 14 years of experience in the web development industry and guarantee a fresh, jargon free and professional approach to developing your website.
We have provided many hundreds of companies in the Midlands with various categories of web solutions from brochure websites to ecommerce websites. If you are looking to sell products online eSterling have many years of experiencing producing bespoke ecommerce sites. We can provide you with a secure platform with easy to use CMS software that puts you in control of selling goods through your website. Integration with payment services such as SagePay, Worldpay, PayPoint and Worldpay is no issue and we’ll even advise on ways we can help with building support for CRM or Sage accounts into your website.
For a free, no obligation meeting and quote contact eSterling on 0121 766 8087 today.
Penguin is the latest algorithm update from Google designed to eradicate spammy websites from appearing in the search results. Essentially another step forward from 2011’s Panda, Penguin’s main targets are out-of-date content and backlinks from bad neighbourhoods.
In the past, a website could get good rankings from using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques, such as spammy content, keyword stuffing and buying poor quality links from questionable sources. This resulted in a bad experience for Google users, who often found that sites using unreasonable SEO techniques were filling up the search engine results pages with nothing but spam.
Since these early days subsequent algorithm updates such asFloridaand Panda have attempted to root out these bad practices. The changes in Penguin aim to penalise any remaining offenders that are still lurking in web space.
In my previous blog post; ‘Why does Google update its algorithm?’ I discussed how Google updates are ‘for the greater good’ when it comes to improving the quality of search engine results. Penguin isn’t anything to fear as long as you are prepared to make any necessary changes.
No update is perfect and like its predecessor Panda, Penguin has had its fair share of criticism over the last few weeks. The teething problems have included complaints from legitimate companies that had been removed from search rankings. However, these issues have already been addressed by Google and the majority of eSterling clients have had no major problems with Penguin.
So what can you do to avoid your search engine results dropping as a result of Penguin?
- Update your content. Re-write old or keyword-stuffed content on as many pages as possible. You can read some guidelines for this here.
- Get a blog. This really is the easiest method to add fresh content to your site on a regular basis and is also a great way for your visitors to find out more about you.
- Source links from reputable websites. Build your own links by submitting to online directories, or signing up for quality online advertising. Link building services from eSterling have shown no adverse reaction from Penguin as we source only quality links.
- Remove anything that could be regarded as spammy – invisible text or keywords stuffing has been a huge no-no for a while now.
These points will come as no surprise to regular readers of the eSterling blog. A successful website is about providing fresh, relevant content to the user and adhering to Google’s guidelines on links. As long as you focus your attention on this, you will survive the Penguin update and many more to come. Who knows, you may even benefit from the next update…
‘It’s not fair!’ is a familiar phrase that many people utter when Google dares to update its algorithm. Their website had been ranking well and has now suddenly disappeared after the unleashing of the Google update. But is it really so unfair?
Chances are, if a website is penalised it’s for a good reason. The latest cutely named Google update is Penguin and it has been designed to root out bad SEO practices such as spammy content and poor quality links. In punishing one set of sites that have gotten seriously out-of-date or have flouted Google guidelines, Penguin rewards another set of sites that have been providing a good experience to the user and sticking to the rules.
The only reason Google updates their algorithm is to bring benefit to the billions of people that search every day. Remember the days when searches brought you irrelevant websites that used ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques such as invisible text and keyword stuffing? This has largely gone away as search has got better – and that’s thanks to Google continuously updating its algorithms to root out bad practice. So has Penguin achieved this? In the words of Google’s Matt Cutts; “It’s been a success from our standpoint”.
The Penguin update is just another step along the road to more accurate, relevant search results. There will be many more updates along the way, so how do you avoid getting penalised? The answer is simple. Ask yourself ‘Does my site provide fresh, relevant content to the user and stick to the rules?’ If you can answer positively, I’m sure you will survive a good few updates to come…
For more details on the Penguin algorithm update, see ‘How does Google Penguin affect my website?‘
Optimising the images on your website helps the tiny robots crawling your site to understand what an image is about, as obviously they are unable to ‘see’ it. Properly labelling your images can help to improve your rankings as the pictures can be indexed and added to Google Images, which can bring more traffic to your site.
One of our most successful SEO clients gets a lot of traffic through Google Images because they have successfully labelled each image on their site and these regularly appear in searches. Optimising images is especially effective for websites selling visual products or services, for example furniture stores (our client mentioned above), clothes stores or photography or art websites.
Using proper alternative text tags on your images will also make your site user friendly. If your image doesn’t appear for whatever reason (for example if a user is using an unsupported browser), the alternative text for the image will also show visitors to your site what the picture is about. In short, optimising your images is best practice for improving your rankings and making your site more user friendly.
It’s relatively easy to optimise your images for SEO purposes and therefore there’s no excuse not to do it! Here are some top tips for getting those photos in order…
- Save your images in the correct format. Most browsers support JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP image formats.
- Never save images as numbers e.g ‘Image_001.jpg’.
- On your product pages, save your pictures as the product name or description – e.g ‘Beaded-Green-Maxi-Dress.jpg’. Think about what a user would type into Google to find your product and use that phrase.
- If your website is service based, save your pictures as your keywords. For example, if you’ve got a picture of your equipment on your homepage, don’t save the file as ‘Our-CNC-milling-machine.jpg’ – call it ‘CNC-milling-Birmingham’.
- Use ‘alt’ tags (alternative text tags) where possible. If you have a CMS for your website, you may be able to do this yourself. Simply use the same keyword/description as the filename for your alternative text.
- If you’re unsure where to begin with re-naming your images, start with your homepage. Choose the first picture at the top of your site – which will normally be your logo and rename this as your top keyword as this is the first image the Google robots will find.
Many people forget about images when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Don’t be one of them – get the edge over your competition and start optimising your pictures! You could find that it really helps your rankings and brings more traffic to your site.
eSterling have a full-time vacancy for an SEO Administrator to support the provision of service to our large customer base. Based in Digbeth, the company is well-established within the Web Design and Development industry and looking for the right person to join our team.
We are looking for a friendly and motivated person who wants to carve out a career in this fast-paced industry. The right candidate will be ready and willing to learn, with a good aptitude for administration and customer service and will be punctual and smart in appearance.
We welcome applications from those with or without relevant experience, but do require a good standard of written and spoken English and a basic knowledge of HTML.
The role will include:
- Basic HTML work
- Onsite and offsite search engine optimisation
- Customer service and support
- General and technical administration
- Email support
Candidates will attend an initial interview and will be required to undertake a basic HTML test. Second interviews may be required.
Monday to Friday, 37.5 hours per week and flexible working hours.
Salary range: £12,000-£15,000.
To be considered for this role please email your CV to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sorry to sound bossy, but if the content hasn’t been updated on your website for a while, make sure you do it now!
The reason for my urgency is the latest update from Google. This mini amendment to the search engine’s algorithm is rooting out out-of date or spammy content. This means that if you haven’t updated the content on your website for a long time, you may see your keyword rankings drop, or even disappear altogether.
Before you panic at this news, it’s important to remember that Google (usually) makes updates that benefit the user – i.e your customers. No customer wants to read outdated content on your site, so why should Google rate your site if your copy is old?
The most successful websites add fresh content regularly, so you should therefore get into the habit of updating your content often. The easiest way to do this is to start a blog and write posts regularly. This doesn’t have to be a huge job – just a couple of paragraphs weekly would be a good place to start. You can talk about anything you like – industry opinions, company news, new orders, business trips etc – just make sure it’s relevant and well written.
As part of your content overhaul you should also re-write the text on your homepage and about page (plus any other pages that have text present). I have lost count of the number of websites I have seen that display the names of long-gone members of staff, old addresses; or information about an event that happened years ago! Make sure you amend these details as soon as they happen to keep your website fresh and relevant for your customers – and Google will be happy too.