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.
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.
As Jubilee-fever sweeps the nation are you doing your bit to make sure you capitalise on it this summer? Retail outlets are FULL of Union Jacks and little crown-shaped trinkets. There is a resurgence in teapot sales and macaroons are EVERYWHERE!
Whether or not you plan to wave a little flag of your own, there is definitely money to be made on the back of the Jubilee and for savvy business owners the opportunity is too good to miss. Here are our top tips:
- Run a Jubilee-inspired competition on your web site and spread the word using your Social Media links such as Twitter and Facebook.
- Turn your usual seasonal special offers into Jubilee special offers, decorating your site with red, white and blue to jolly it up.
- Give out Jubilee voucher codes at checkout to existing customers encouraging a return visit by offering a discount.
- If you’re in the market, stock a specific Jubilee range to entice buyers. Create packages or sell items on an individual basis.
- Get involved in community activities. Offer to sponsor a tea party in your local area and get the press involved.
However you choose to spend the Jubilee, don’t miss out on a chance to increase your sales opportunities. Boost British Business! Hoorah!
The old adage ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is particularly apt in the field of web design. In the fast-paced click on, click off world of the internet, your web site needs to have a certain something to attract and retain your customers’ attention.
As part of a successful web site build, we are often tasked with the sourcing of good, strong imagery. The use of photographs, line drawings and other visual design features can make the difference between a good site and a great site. The right imagery will help you to carry your message and to support your company branding much quicker than text (although that’s important too). Here are a few tips:
- Human beings are pre-programmed to look at the faces and bodies of other humans, and so if you want to connect to your customers you may need to look for images of people. Choose carefully, people like real-looking people and so perhaps that supermodel might not be quite the ticket.
- Striking colours within images will attract attention and may add more power to your site than coloured text or page backgrounds, but go for clear, strong images rather than fussy or busy ones.
- If you’re selling products MAKE SURE you have an image for EVERY PRODUCT. Missing or broken images create a really bad impression on the browser and if someone can’t see what you’re offering they are very unlikely to buy it.
- In the same vein, it is worth spending a little bit of money to have your products photographed professionally. Clear images are much more successful than blurry, old or dim ones.
- Make sure your images are cohesive. Decide on a style or a frame of reference and stick to it. Your eSterling design team will be able to help you with this. Tartan and leopard-skin may both be striking, but it’s unlikely that putting them together will do anything except give you a headache.
- Supplement your images with great text. The use of clever straplines alongside your images will double the effect. Make sure you use succinct and relevant straplines.
If you have any queries about freshening up your current web site or building a new one, please contact eSterling and we’d be pleased to help. Call us on 0121 766 8087 or email email@example.com
This is a question I’m asked quite a lot so I plan to shed some light on the best way of approaching your current web site.
If you are a business owner who hopes to generate some enquiries from your existing website, a redesign could seem tempting to reinvigorate interest – but as the old saying goes ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. That’s all good and well but potentially your website could be working harder for you. I won’t lie, it’s a tricky decision to make but more often than not I always say ‘Go for it’. This is because I believe that if a website is built correctly and is user friendly there is absolutely no reason not to strive for a better website.
There are some questions you need to know the answers to before deciding on what to do with your existing website, here’s a few for you to chew on:
- Do you feel your current website offers a good user experience?
- Can users navigate to the information they want easily?
- Does the design represent the company correctly?
- What end result(s) are you hoping the website will achieve? Is it achieving?
- What short comings does the site have?
- How does the website compare to your competition?
- Is the site contemporary and viewable on all platforms? (eg; smart phones, tablets etc)
Once you’ve answered the questions above you’ll have a good idea on what to do next. On average I would recommend that everyone should at least try and upgrade their website every 18 months / 2 years as the industry moves so fast that it’s so vital to be seen as up to speed with the latest technologies.
The final piece of the jigsaw should be whether to add elements of functionality to your site. If you want to generate customer enquiries, make it easier for them to do so by adding some call to action buttons. If you want people to buy products from your site, streamline the buying process – make it easy!
In regards to the website’s aesthetic, trust the designer you have hired. If they have a proven track record of delivering, trust their opinion and try and bounce idea’s around to see what your options are. The relationship you build up with your designer could last for years so it’s good to be able to tap into their knowledge and see what potential your website has.
All in all, you should always be striving for a better website, it’s an on-going process which should always be monitored. No other asset your company has can be reachable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s one of the most important parts of your business so why not make it your business to have the best website you possibly can.
While big in America, start-up culture doesn’t seem to have quite as much traction in the UK. Sure Dragon’s Den gets the viewing figures but it is little more than reality TV panhandling and doesn’t offer any insights into how to get the next Facebook beater off the ground. Here then is a quick guide to how to build your empire from scratch.
First up. What is the problem you are trying to solve? What possible solutions are there? What key metrics do you need to measure to see if what you are doing is a success? What is your unique value proposition? What advantage do you have that cannot easily be replicated? Who are you targeting? What will it cost? How are you going to make money from it?
Solve genuine problems. Don’t just come up with a list of features and don’t just offer a workaround to common problems offer a complete solution. Interview potential customers and find out what their problems are? What would be your solution? Everyone has that one great idea but it’s execution that counts.
Minimize your total time in getting something in front of potential customers. Launch as quickly as possible in fact you need to be even quicker than that. Your first step is your Minimum viable product, MVP in start-up lingo. This is always less than you think. It could be just a one pager with a sign-up form or a blog outlining your big plans. But you need to get something, anything, out there in front of your potential customer base.
Waiting until something is perfect is a recipe for failure. Things will never be just right and you’ll tinker forever over things that are just not important at all. You ain’t gonna need it is a mantra programmers follow and you should too when cutting features from your product. That’s right, you should always be thinking about what to get rid of next rather than what your next great feature is. Less is more. Keep it simple stupid. You need to find the one feature that customers LOVE. You’ll know you’ve found it when they complain that you’ve taken it away.
Iterate rapidly. Launch your MVP. Measure the analytics. Test your assumptions and trust in the data. Make the changes you need, optimise your product and launch again. Rinse. Repeat.
Fail Fast. You need to know if your product is succeeding or failing. This is why it’s essential to iterate and not go with the big up front product that is perfect. If you do and it fails you’ve thrown away months of work. Get the MVP out there and measure. If it fails start over again with the data you’ve got in hand.
Don’t feel guilty about making your product pay to play. It can be a big mistake to offer up all your work for free in the hope that someone might pay for it down the road. By charging money you’re telling people you think it’s worth something. By giving it away you’re telling them it’s not worth anything yet. Maximise your user acquisition, make your current customers happy and they’ll work as your viral marketers. You also did remember to set up your Twitter and Facebook accounts right ?
Don’t let customers get away. If you’ve converted someone through a signup you have their details. Follow up. Send them a personal email asking why your product didn’t meet their needs, what problems they encountered. If it’s viable then consider it for the next iteration.
Once you have found a fit between your product and customers you need to transition to growth and riches! Possibly. If you do make it to be the next Mark Zuckerberg just remember who gave you the advice…
They say that ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ and if this is true, it’s crucial that you get the imagery on your website right. Potential customers will judge your business based on the photographs or graphics that they find on your website, so any images must be professionally presented and appropriate to your company.
It’s worth spending some time carefully editing the images that you use on your website, starting with the home page. This is the most likely entrance for potential customers and the images need to encourage them to stay on your site and convert to a paying customer.
Your homepage needs to be eye catching and include welcoming images that are relevant to your sector. Always make sure that your imagery suits your company ethos – whether your company is strictly corporate, or relaxed and friendly.
You don’t need to stick to the obvious when it comes to imagery. Photographs can be used to suggest the things that you offer, which is particularly important if you are selling a service or idea, rather than a product. For example, a company offering loans might show a picture of a happy couple with a new house, rather than documents or a pile of money. You can buy these types of lifestyle photos from picture libraries such as iStock.
Once a customer has been convinced that your message is relevant, they will hopefully move on to your products and services. If you have an e-commerce site, you need to make sure that product photos are well presented. If a customer can’t see your product because the photograph is blurred or too dark, it’s unlikely that they will have the confidence to buy it online. It’s therefore worth investing in professional product photography, or alternatively source images from your suppliers.
The about page is another place where you should consider placing images. This gives a personal view of your company and is a space where you can introduce yourself and your team. Head shots or a group photo are perfect for this. You could also consider adding a photo of your premises.
At every stage, the quality of the images you use should be your top priority. Pixellated, distorted, dark or blurry images are a big no-no. You need to make sure that all of your pictures are taken with a good quality digital camera. If you’re not confident taking the pictures yourself, consider hiring a professional photographer.
If you’re still not sure which images would be best for you – talk to your web designer. They will have worked with similar websites before and will understand what does (and most importantly doesn’t) work!
In recent days there have been grumblings of disquiet over a few vocal bloggers decrying an apparent rampant overuse of Twitter Bootstrap – a toolkit of simple but elegant HTML and CSS conventions used for building web apps. While this nerd backlash may seem to some to be a storm in a teacup, it’s raised a few heckles with developers who find the convenience of the library to be a good thing.
The issue appears to be the “samey-ness” of websites using the framework. Sites such as the Built With Bootstrap Tumblr feed showcase the variety of websites built with the toolkit. When flicking through the galleries a certain style does leap out and, admittedly, some even use the library “as is”. The result though is not entirely unpleasant, and as one wily commentator pointed out it is better than the ‘Geocities look’ that developers would routinely come up with on their own.
Still, there are others fighting in its corner. Dave Winer has run to its defence and compares Bootstrap to the legendary Apple Macintosh, arguing that the standardisation and ease of use it offers allows people to focus on what’s important with a web application. The negativity he believes comes from people worrying that such frameworks commoditise user experience, will block development of alternatives or even somehow remove creativity from web design. Winer believes that the benefits of adapting to resources like Bootstrap allow developers to build ever better software on these foundations rather than wasting time on the basics over and over again.
I heartily concur with his opinion. From my own perspective I have found working with Bootstrap to be a great experience allowing me to concentrate on the nuts ands bolts, nitty gritty of development without having to worry about how form controls look by default. Bootstrap offers a standardised and useful set of defaults that allow the developer to focus on content and usability rather than wrestling with getting the same appearance with a dozen different browsers. All that and it doesn’t look half bad either.
One of the cornerstones of development is to not repeat yourself. Using third party frameworks or developing your own saves wasted time and allows us to focus on the needs of the customer. Bootstrap is the beginning. The rapid take up and support it has generated shows there is a need for such frameworks. Eventually there will be replacements and soon thereafter Bloggers complaining that everything looks the same. Again.
Last week a few of the web industry’s movers and shakers got together at a quickly arranged meet-up under the rather grandiose title of the Responsive Summit. They talked about how, in the post-PC world, web agencies can deliver websites for the reality of a multitude of web enabled devices. Aside from minor moaning on Twitter about the perceived elitism of the internet Illuminanti deciding upon the direction we all need to take, the response to the Summit has been positive. And the information I have taken from it is proving very interesting.
The hard truth that agencies like ours are facing is that mobile is not only on the rise, but will become the primary internet platform. This was recognised years ago and people boarded the responsive bandwagon thanks to such now legendary articles as Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design. In tandem with this a small number of people started doing all web design in the browser. The latest movement to pick up steam is Mobile First, whereby sites are designed for phones first and desktops second.
The Responsive Summit was an attempt to view all these developments in light of business realities and offer ideas of how agencies should move forward. So far, one of the major issues discussed is the applicability of the old print design method that has been passed down to the web. In this set-up Photoshop ‘proofs’ are produced for sign-off by clients before being constructed into a website, pixel for pixel. The argument is that this is ridiculous in light of the fact that these sites will now be viewed on screens of massively varying dimensions and resolutions.
Is the answer to produce proofs for a variety of screen widths? This would prove to be exhaustive and expensive work. The suggestion then is to follow what at first glance appears to be a process more in line with that old favourite of developers: agile. This brings the new philosophies together within an iterative development framework with designers working closely with developers to produce working responsive mock-ups for delivery to the client. Using a mobile first mindset and developing primarily in the browser the hope is that we can deliver sites that meet the clients requirements that are workable across the vast swathe of devices on the market.
This would be a large change to the established waterfall development pattern that agencies and clients are used to. Can agencies change their methods so completely? And will the client buy into this?
More information is still coming out of the Responsive Summit and there is a lot to digest, but this is the start of the conversation we all need to have. The future is both exciting and daunting for web developers…