Category Archives: search engine optimisation

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Is this the ‘right’ move from Google?

The PPC community has been out in full force in recent days after Google stopped serving paid text ads on the right hand side of its results page.

Product listing ads (PLAs) still appear and a fourth ad has been included at the top of the page for premium phrases, pushing the organic rankings further down the page and giving the SEO community plenty to think about in the process.

Why has Google made this change?

The most likely reason Google has made this decision is for economic gains – with CPCs forecasted to rise given that the top positions will become more desirable – and a push to make the desktop and mobile/tablet experience more seamless, which potentially coincides with the other big announcement that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for HTML is now available.

What does this mean for webmasters and agencies?

The PPC landscape will likely become more competitive with a reduced amount of paid ads now showing in the prime real estate at the top of the page, and campaigns that have relied on the regular and cheaper traffic driven from positions 4-10 may start to see a drop off in click-through-rates, forcing a push into the more expensive premium positions.

For websites that rely more on organic traffic there is the concern that the fourth paid ad position may eat into their share, while only the top three local positions now show by default, down from five previously, which could have an impact on smaller businesses.

What to do

It may take a little time to notice any big changes, but In the short term you’ll need to keep a close eye on Google AdWords and analytics to assess the impacts and adjust bids of your top performing PPC keywords if conversion rates start to drop off. If increasing your bids to maintain the same conversion rate increases your cost-per-sale or cost-per-lead it might be time to weigh up putting more time, effort and money into obtaining a higher organic ranking.


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Tips for Better Page Optimisation

Content writing

Keyword research and placement continue to be hugely important in ranking success. But web writing that is engaging and search engine friendly isn’t always easy.

Google and other search engines are becoming more sophisticated in their indexing content and there are a number of simple steps we can take when creating optimised content that is SEO friendly:

  1. Keyword research – everything begins with good keyword research. Know what terms you are targeting and their popularity. Connect your content with the keywords people type into a search engine.
  2. Research related topics and themes  examine the keywords related to the main target keyword. Use these related keyword phrases to build content around your main theme.
  3. Answer questions with your content – good content answers questions. As you structure your content around topics and themes, try asking and answering questions to provide a user experience better than the competition.
  4. Use natural language – during your keyword research identify other ways visitors refer to your topic, and include these in your content.
  5. Place important content in the most important sections – the most important content should be where it is most visible and accessible to readers. Avoid footers and sidebars and don’t try to fool search engines with clever CSS or JavaScript.
  6. Structure your content – headers, paragraphs, lists, and tables all provide structure to content so that search engines understand your topic. A clear webpage contains structure similar to a good article or academic paper. Use concise introductions and conclusions, organise topics into paragraphs with good spelling and grammar

We don’t need a computer to make our content better or easier to understand. If we write content that is engaging for humans it will go a long way in being optimised for search engines.


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Add a Review to your Adwords Advert

Customers like to see other people’s reviews for a product or service when searching online and Google have been adding reviews from third party sources for some time.

Google Adwords

However, now on Google Adwords it’s now possible to add a review extension to your advert and share positive write-ups, awards or third-party rankings with potential customers. This is in an additional line of text beneath your ads on Google Search and you can choose and enter your own quoted review.

You can use a paraphrased or exact quote, as long as it’s attributed and linked to the published source.

According to Google:

“Reviews should focus on your business as a whole, as opposed to a review about a specific product or service. This makes the reviews relevant to just about all of your ads.”

So your extra line might look something like this:

“Really impressed with the excellent service” – websiteblog.com

However Google also point out that it is your responsibility to make sure you’re allowed to use a third-party review for your ads, so you would need the publisher’s permission.


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Google Panda Update

Google has announced a major ranking algorithm update – Panda 4.0. 

A number of websites have lost their rankings after the update and it’s possible your website may be affected. The update was announced by Google’s Matt Cutts on Twitter:

MattCuttsPandaUpdateonTwitter

The Panda algorithm targets websites with poor quality content and means that Google has probably changed how they identify low quality content.

According to a number of reports on the web, major sites like ebay.com, ask.com, and biography.com have lost up to 70% of their Google rankings. It would seem that the content of these web pages (which is often automatically created) is not good enough for Google’s new ranking algorithm.

Will this affect your website?

If your website has a lot of very similar pages, it’s likely that it will be affected by this new algorithm. The same applies if the content of your pages has been created automatically.

But if your site has good original content this update won’t do anything to your rankings.  The basic rule applies, if you do not spam, you have nothing to fear.


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Google’s Hummingbird Update

Google celebrated their 15th birthday recently with a press conference at the garage where the company was created. During the conference they explained that a month or so ago they switched their algorithm to handle “complex questions” even better. This new update is called ‘hummingbird’.

Hummingbird’s primary focus is to boost the knowledge panel’s usefulness and answer ‘complex questions’. Because of this, it seems to have rolled out without much notice or fuss from website owners.

What does Google mean by ‘complex questions’?
A complex question means thinking less like a computer and lot more like a human and interacting with you on dynamically mobile devices that provide the ability for verbal search. The motivation behind this update is the same one that motivates most of Google’s updates – to answer the questions users are asking and maintain their top spot as the search engine of choice.

What to do?

  • understand the needs of your audience, how they are likely to communicate and the questions they might ask.
  • include more question specific queries in your site content with natural language matches.
  • re-write or expand detailed FAQs on your site.
  • with mobile visitors set to outnumber desktop visitors, make sure your site is mobile friendly and  responsive.
  • add informative video content to your pages as a way to increase site traffic and insulate against the possible affects of Hummingbird.

However, having said all this, if you’ve been regularly writing high-quality content and have a responsive site that is easy for mobile users to navigate then it’s unlikely you have much to worry about . .  at present. As Ken Wisnefski states in his very informative blog:

“The Hummingbird update is the logical next step towards separating the best material from the riffraff of the Internet.”


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Google Caffine

Google is in the process of changing it’s search algorithm. This will potentially effect every website listed on the search engine.

This latest update, called Caffine, was announced in August last year, but when the switch will come is not certain, although the general precdiction is that sometime around now is probable.

So what changes will Google make in the way it sorts it’s results?

Google focuses on the end user, and their experience surfing the web so:

Speed – we want faster results and we don’t want to wait an age for a site to download. Slow loading sites could find themselves drifting down the rankings. Want to check the spped of your site? Try this nifty free tool – www.tools.pingdom.com/fpt/

Content – site content and its relevance to the search terms will probably gain more weight.

Mixed Formats – results from Social Media sites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook will almost certainly be included in the mix, promoting active sites while also giving ‘real time’ popularity to site rankings.

Domain – the links to the domain, domain age and the keywords contained in it will probably become more important.

So do you need to panic that your site will shortly disappear from Google’s searches? Well, no, not if your site is well designed and ethically optimised. But slow loading sites need to look at methods to speed up. There are plenty of ways that this can be achieved by using CSS, minimising Scripts and optimising images.

And if you aren’t aware of Social Media Marketing then you need to start paying attention and grasp the basics. This is often more difficult for smaller businesses with fewer resources but it may be necessary to get that Facebook page working and start Tweeting to stay ahead of the pack.


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5 reasons to build a relationship with an SEO specialist

The best results of any SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) campaign are usually achieved where the SEO consultant and business director/manager/department head work together. This sounds obvious but doesn’t always happen. The pressures of running a business often impact on communication and the SEO can be treated as a ‘bolt-on’ rather than a part of the marketing process. But there are 5 basic reasons why it’s worthwhile developing good communication with an SEO specialist.

1. You know your business

You know your business, probably better than anyone else and all that information you have about your customers, the competition, sales and your product or service can’t be communicated to an SEO specialist in a brief meeting. Regular communication provides the time to get the basics and the subtlies of the business across.

2. He/She knows SEO

You know your business but you may not know much about Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing a website. Regular communication with your SEO specialst will soon change that and as the relationship builds you will gain a greater understanding and gain your own insights into the type of marketing that will work for your business.

3. Exchange ideas

Exchanging ideas on how to tackle a campaign or a problem can be beneficial for both parties. Sometimes something that seems obvious to one will be a moment of enlightenment for the other.

4. Look Long Term

SEO is more a marathon than a sprint so take time to allow campaigns develop. Develop short term targets but don’t loose sight of the long term aims.

5. Be realistic

Working with an SEO specialist will give you a better insight on what can be achieved. It may be more than you thought possible and will help you to move beyond the ‘We will get you to number 1 on Google’ sales patter so liked by many companies who promise an instant fix for your website’s marketing woes . . . but rarely deliver.


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Flash on the Web

Flash has made a big impact on the web and is a great tool with many applications but creating a website with Flash can create a barrier to people accessing your website.

What is Flash?

Flash is a type of animation software, originally designed to create animations for display on web pages. A good example of Flash appears on Adobe’s UK homepage www.adobe.com/uk/ (the makers the Flash software). But Flash is also used for putting video onto websites, creating navigation systems and dynamic content – so it’s a powerful application.

The first problem with Flash is the time it can take to load. Depending on your connection speed this can be anything from a few seconds to minutes. But as most surveys indicate that the average person spends less than 2 seconds deciding whether a page is worth looking at, a page that takes 30 seconds to load is regularly going to be dumped before it’s seen. And some visitors to your Flash site will have to download a plug-in before they start, or they won’t see anything.

But the problem as far as SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is concerned is that search engines don’t see Flash as we see it. In fact for a search engine, a Flash page is often just a blank with little or no content to index. Search engines love content, it tells them what the site is about and how it should be categorised and ranked. So a Flash page can create major problems in gaining a decent ranking in Google, Yahoo, etc.

Having said all that Flash is an excellent piece of software which, if used with thought can make a website something special. Navigation rollovers using images and text can really lift a website. Flash banners that load quickly can even liven up the pages of an estate agent – www.seafieldsproperty.co.uk. It can enhance static images and create movement as on www.solentribcharter.co.uk. It can be an excellent way of demonstrating a product – www.vision-environmental.co.uk

So before you go down the Flash route with your web designer ask a few questions like, ‘Is it essential to the site?’, ‘What does it provide?’, ‘Can we do without it?’ and the most important question, ‘Will it benefit the end user in any way?’