Social Media and effective SEO

For the first time in ages, I finally took myself out of the office yesterday and attended a workshop in Ilminster entitled “Master class for business: Social Media & Effective SEO.” Despite the weather conditions and the early drive, Bath Marketing Consultancy, along with 139 other people, arrived ready to spend the day soaking up (!) information about SEO and Social Media.

What was my objective for the day?
Networking – to a certain extent, but more importantly, I wanted to further my knowledge in 2 key areas of marketing so that my business can continue to advise and add value to its clients’ marketing activity.
Was this achieved?
Well, in a word, yes. The speakers were all experts in their fields and, although time was limited, they all presented well and were very informative. In particular the workshops delivered by Garry Ennis of NS Design and Jim Hardcastle of Viper Marketing were not only thought provoking but really well delivered.

One of the key areas for me to research was confirming the potential value of the work I do for my clients by hearing the views of other people within the “marketing” industry. Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media are very complex marketing initiatives and are key influencers in raising brand awareness, establishing the credibility and authority of a brand and for developing online relationships. Not only that but, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook really do make a difference to search engine results. Yes, social media is a wide topic and can be daunting to the layman, but, if embraced and planned strategically, it can become a key driver in the area of new client acquisition.

I do recall one question from the audience yesterday which went something along the lines of “when do you know that you have done enough social media.” When answered, I certainly agreed with what was said, namely that you shouldn’t ever really just stop. One of the speakers admitted that direct, paying work as a result of the activity they do on Twitter has only just materialized after nearly 2 years. Is this a good ROI? Well, on paper, probably not. After all a business shouldn’t continue with something like advertising if it takes 2 years to yield, but I feel that direct business shouldn’t necessarily be the only objective of SEO and Social Media. Bath Marketing has made over 1250 connections through Twitter, found new suppliers and (hopefully!) established itself as a key player in what is a very populated field – that of online marketing.

As a result of the work BMC does, if anyone is using Google to source a marketing consultancy, BMC now appears top of the organic positions out of over 8 million search results and top or second for the term marketing consultant out of 114 million. Not bad for a business that is not 3 years old yet!

Bath Marketing would also like to say a special hello to some new Twitter followers. So welcome to you all!

Search Engine Optimization; what you do

I wanted to put together a list of do’s and don’ts for you to read and, while I was writing my list, I came across a similar article from a chap called Kuldeep Singh that I have encoporated into Bath Marketing Consultancy’s list. 

1. Original content – Search engines love websites with original (and relevant) content, which will also naturally draw incoming links and visitors as well. “Original” content can be anything from product reviews to your own articles and/or news and Blogs. 

2. Add more content regularly – How often a website is updated can have a big impact on your search engine ranking. Most search engines prefer fresh content.

3. Research your keywords – You need to research which keywords you want to target before you even start making your website. These are the keywords that you will be targeting in backlinks when possible and your main page will revolve around these keywords. You can conduct your research using Google and the other search engines and then write your website content accordingly.

4. Create a sitemap – Sitemaps are a definitely plus (and can be created for free) as they help search engines walk your website as you have mapped everything out. It can also greatly help visitors find what they are looking for on your website. Be sure to link to your sitemap from your main page.

5. Use HTML – While this may sound obvious, there are sites out there created entirely in flash or javascript which is a definite no no for SEO. While some search engines can read part of javascript, by not using regular html link between pages, your site may not even get seen by search engines.

6. W3C compliant – Making your web pages complies with the World Wide Web Consortium’s standards is always a good idea. It is impossible to know exactly how the search engine spiders read a web page, so it is impossible to know how it will handle non-standard code. You can bet, though, that it has been tested to handle html code that follows the standard.

7. Webpage title tag – Be sure to put your target keywords in your title tag – the writing at the very top of your page.

8. Build backlinks at a normal pace – NEVER use one of those link farm programs where every member automatically shows links to all the other members. Search engines will see you one day literally showing thousands of backlinks instantly and this could get you penalized or banned which has actually happened to a client of mine before he came to Bath Marketing Consultancy.

If you are a regular reader of The Marketing Expert you will know that I have written many articles on SEO and how to get the best from your website, but, I think it is worth pointing out that I practice what i preach

Link exchanging, yes or no?

When looking to generate “inbound links” to your website, some of the easiest to get are ones where your website links to a website who is linking to you; a reciprocal link.  To do this generally requires some sort of communication between the website owners and then an agreement to link to one another.
Exchange links!
Since it is difficult to obtain most links from coveted and trustworthy sites, it is easy to get carried away exchanging links with other new or unestablished sites just because of the comparative ease of obtaining the links in link exchanges.

However, be warned, link exchanges are much less effective now than they used to be in the past and they have been known to cancel each other out. A savvy link-exchange campaign can give you one of the best boosts when your site is still new just because many of the other methods of obtaining links are just too tough for new sites to pull off.
If you do use link building as a way of boosting your websites’ SEO credibility, only do exchanges with websites in your market/sector that are reputable and trustworthy. Refrain from interlinking with other unestablished sites because more often than not you will just end up in bad link neighbourhoods which can actually cause you SEO damage instead of benefit.

Like any sort of online marketing activity involving links to your website, my advice is to seek help from someone professional who has experience of running these types of campaigns and use a combination of initiatives to give you the right balance.

Long-term authority is the name of the game!

Once launched, a new website is unlikely to see much SEO traffic to start with, so Bath Marketing Consultancy’s suggestion is to focus on making long-term plans to get your website onto the radars that you want to be on. I have identified the need for your website to build “trust” and to ensure that your expectations of organic dominance be realistic, so below is an idea about the long term strategies you could consider.


I know I am in charge

One great strategy is to become an authority in some niche area. If you do this, you will earn links when other webmasters will need to link to credible sources and they will quite possibly link to you. When search engines see many consistent, new (quality) links into a website, the search engines begin to think that this site has authority and having authority is one of the biggest single determining factors in the rankings of pages within search results.


Unfortunately, if you are like a lot of websites, you don’t and won’t have real authority so it is up to you to make this into a non-problem. It is possible to mimic authority by providing a widget or an embed tag that lives on other sites. Since every time someone uses your widget that is hosted on your site, it also creates a link to your site, over time this will create an appearance of authority when many sites link to you just by using your widget.

However, a widget is not an easy thing to do so another way is to position your site as an expert in its field thus encouraging sites to link to you for reference purposes. For example, I have a client who operates in a very niche market and I suggested he get in touch with other (more established) site owners within his sector asking them to link to his site as the content he had written would support their site. In addition, I encouraged him to leave comments wherever possible on relevant Blogs and/or sites demonstrating his credibility within the sector. 


Sure enough, this process resulted in his website becoming more and more credible in its field and hence its position within Google has started to increase.


My next post will be on creating content for your website…..



Lower Your Expectations



Organic SEO

In order for your website to be successful as a marketing tool it needs to attract traffic.This traffic usually arrives from one of three sources, namely –

1 – by typing your address directly into the browser
2 – from a link on another site another
3 – via a search engine

The latter is one of the most important aspects of online marketing and it is the new website that I am going to address for this. 

In a nutshell, new websites have very little trust, no authority, usually only a few pages and therefore, very little unique content. If need be, see this site to check where your site is – http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/

In my experience, expectation from clients are always high as they invest in a new website and immediately want to see it perform in Google and hence offer a potential for a return on the investment.

Fact – there is absolutely no way that new sites can get high levels of traffic from SEO or rank in the top10 for high-volume and competitive searches.

Once your website is “trusted” by search engines, you can produce relevant and SEO friendly content and see your new pages in the top-10 or top-20 of Google. Unfortunately for new sites, it takes much longer to achieve high rankings in search engines. New and untrusted sites without much authority must take to heart the old “it takes six months for SEO to work” approach.
Instead of hoping for immediate results, new sites must instead focus on making long-terms plans. There must be a plan to build trust and authority in their niche, consistently create optimized content, and a great overall product to which people will find it natural and helpful to link.If you expect strong SEO traffic in the first 6 months of your site’s existence, it is not going to be easy to accomplish.

You may want to rethink your initial goals and lower the expectations from SEO until your site is trusted and has built up some authority.

The next article will focus on Trust.

The Christmas period and how it impacts on the Small Business

After one of the most hectic ends to one month/start to another I have ever experienced on both the professional and personal front with some large projects coming to fruition, a number of new client wins and a new baby, I am back on the blog trail and have decided to write about………this time of year and 2011 as I am very interested in hearing any thoughts on the below….

Christmas Party

Traditionally the Christmas and New Year period become labelled the “silly season” where people in business let off steam after a hard 12 months and generally work a 2 or possibly 3 week month before taking time off to recharge for the next working year.
This was very much my experience of corporate life; an easy month for the same disposable income as the busy months with the possibility of a bonus and always a very good pi** up at the end. In addition, being senior management for a long period of time, I knew that any Christmas/New Year work wouldn’t fall onto my lap as I was off from Christmas eve until Jan 2nd at the earliest!!


However, is this really the case for the small business owner? Do we also see December as a time to take it easy (…sorry, easier) or do we see December as a nightmare month where time available to do things is dramatically reduced, income potential is reduced, bills take longer to be paid, the people we need to get hold of are very rarely available and the chance to have an office party is non existent?

The Grinch

Well, I am afraid that after 16 years of corporate life, for the last 2 years I now fall into the category of December being a very hard month as the person who owns and runs Bath Marketing Consultancy. That is not to say that I am a “Grinch” when it comes to the Christmas period! No. What I am saying is that when a working month is dramatically reduced and the workload stays the same or actually increases, it makes it very hard to let off steam in the traditional way!

When it comes to the industry I operate in – Marketing – I am already seeing a trend towards some businesses taking a serious look at their Christmas marketing with email marketing, Christmas cards, gifts,  new initiatives etc and some of my clients are looking at 2011 in terms of putting together a strategic plan focusing more of SEO or Social Media.

Unlike the vast majority of my blog posts, I am not going to give advice on what to do. What I am interested in however, is your experience of December. Are you taking the foot off the pedal or are you furiously working at home late into the night?!

p.s. don’t feel too sorry for me as I am going to the Sole Traders Christmas lunch at Babington House on Friday and will not have my phone on…….purely to support my clients of course!!
     

What are links?

(If you are reading this from my Twitter post, well done, this is what link building is all about!)

Basically, a link is a word, phrase or image that people can click on in order to be taken to your website. The more genuine links you have coming into your site, the better, especially if they are one way links. But why should other sites link to you? Perhaps you have great content that their visitors would find of interest or you host a great  video, you are offering some sort of give away or even a free report. Either way, the people most likely to link to you will not be competitors, but more likely businesses that compliment your business in some way. For example, a site about fitness might be linked to a site dedicated to sports or nutrition. If you find a site that links to your competitors, ask the site owner to link to you.

You can also create links yourself – for example in a Blog like this or a directory or maybe even online press release sites. BUT be very careful of
Black Hat link building as this will have an adverse effect. For the same reason avoid buying links.

If you need some help with this side of search engine marketing, please get in touch with me via my website…

5 Top Tips to help SEO

Below are the 5 main areas Bath Marketing Consultancy think you should look for when building a website which effectively can prevent a site from getting proper rankings:


 • Lack of content on the homepage. There are some very big companies who believe that they can get decent search engine rankings without adding readable text to the sites homepage. This is a huge mistake. 

Having a site Designed Entirely in Flash. Adobe has made a lot of great strides in making its files readable, and should be commended for it. However, text in Flash files gets embedded into images, which aren’t read by the search engines. In many cases, the search engine sees a big blank spot when Flash is presented, so it can’t judge how relevant a site is.  


No hierarchy. For very large sites, the lack of a clear hierarchy presents a problem. The distribution of pages on a website should look like an organizational chart for a major corporation. The homepage would be the CEO, the category pages would be the directors, and so on. A lot of sites present a very wide and shallow profile, so the search engine can’t distinguish between an important category page and an ancillary product page. Hierarchies can be created using breadcrumbs, good directory structures, and HTML sitemaps, and are always recommended for sites with hundreds or thousands of pages. A Bad URL Structure can also keep pages from getting found which makes your pyramid look a lot smaller in the search world.
 • Same Title on Every Page. Many enterprise level corporations are obsessed with branding, and want to be sure the same message appears on every title. A search engine can’t figure out the topic of each page if all the titles are the same, and the information at the left of the title is the most important. If your company name (xyz.com) starts every page title, you are robbing your site of a higher natural search engine position. 


 • Set It And Forget It Mentality. Part of keeping a site relevant involves making sure the site is updated frequently in order to stay fresh and account for search engine algorithm changes. In the corporate world, inertia can set in, so outdated information may be left on the site for years, and changes to the website may happen infrequently or as part of an initiative where all the pages are updated at the same time. After awhile, search engines visit less frequently, and competitors who keep fresh websites get priority in the search engine rankings.

There are quite a few other mistakes made when it comes to building websites and most of those mistakes are made in the small business sector. However, search engines have gotten very good at spotting many common mistakes, and can usually figure out the relationship between pages on smaller sites. Larger sites, however, may be compounding their design mistakes and may be fractionalizing the value that search engines apply to each of that sites pages. 


 Sometimes a cheap looking site with minimal SEO work can be more effective in search engines that an expensive, well-known branded site.

Drop me an email and I will take a look at your site.