About Carl

Carl is the owner and founder of Carl Potts designs his interests include web design, MMO gaming, history, typography, old school dance music (especially acid house) he is currently trying to learn Russian

Its time to reexamine email marketing

mailbox

Image credit: Steve Johnson(Flickr.com)

One of the received wisdoms associated with online marketing is “The money is in the list” Google it if you don’t believe me its almost a cliché. The rise of mobile technology has meant that marketers are reappraising the role of email marketing, which had previously fallen somewhat out of vogue. Its email marketing I’m examining with this week’s blog post

What’s the list?

The list which I’m referring to here is the email marketing list which is basically shorthand for you email marketing database which contains the names and email addresses of people who have given you permission to email them.

Segmentation

Segmentation of the email list is a strategy that can dramatically boost the impact of your email marketing. Both
Mailchimp & AWeber support segmentation. Hubspot’s research reported the following results

39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.blog.hubspot.com

Segmentation will facilitate more effective targeting of emails. Segmentation means organising your email list along group lines these can be things such as

  • Gender
  • Geographical Location
  • Behaviour
  • Purchase history
  • Persona
  • job title
  • Age
  • Interests

Segmentation has a number of benefits such as:

  • Improved open rates, more people will actually open your email
  • Improved click through rates (CTR) i.e. people clicking on offers or links contained in your emails
  • Reduce Unsubscribing one of the main reasons I personally unsubscribe from lists is I feel the content offered is not relevant to me, segmentation reduces the danger of this happening you can offer relevant & interesting content to the people you have targeted

Purchased Lists?

Rather typically for the Internet there are email lists for sale, as with fake twitter /Facebook followers this is NOT a practice I’d recommend, it takes time and effort to build up a mailing list. The trading of lists is against Mail Chimps terms and conditions and could potentially lead to your account being closed, AWeber another bulk emailing solution certainly advise against the trading of email lists on their blog. The big difference between purchased and earned email lists is that people on email lists have given you permission to email them, which is often the trade off for Free e Books offered online, without that permission you would be guilty of being a spammer. This is why the entrepreneur Seth Godin hatched the term Permission marketing which is defined below

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.sethgodin.typepad.com

Advantages of email marketing

  • For the small business email marketing has a number of distinct advantages the low cost being foremost amongst these, the MailChimp plan I use is pay as you go
  • email marketing is measurable meaning its easy to see which emails are effective and which are not its easy to implement a/b split testing so email formats & various titles can be compared and contrasted
    Email Marketing can be used to develop brand loyalty and trust for your brand
  • its easy to offer personalised email messages unlike the “one size fits all” approach of typical printed mail campaigns. Research by eConsultancy in 2015 shows that 78% of email marketers believe that all email marketing will be personalised in the future (source: www.business2community.com)
  • Email lists can be segmented so its possible to target emails precisely with some experts suggesting that “batch & Blast” techniques are obsolete, this means not sending everyone on your email list an identical email.

    Parting thoughts

    email marketing is perfect for small businesses it offers a cost effective way to raise brand awareness and reach amongst your customers with targeted emails which is a distinct advantage over printed marketing. There does appear to be some disagreement regarding the effectiveness of email marketing. Neil Patel (quicksprout.com) argues “its really easy to make mistakes” so please don’t give up if your email marketing doesn’t immediately give good results.

By |February 5th, 2016|Content, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

Defining your media strategy

marketing types

Spend any time reading digital marketing blogs or articles it’s almost guaranteed you’ll encounter the following categories: earned, paid and owned media, especially if reading about Influencer marketing. I’ll be using this weeks post to explore and examine the three categories and related concepts. It’s my intention that you’ll be comfortable with the terminology and aware of the advantages/disadvantages of each category by the end of the article. One area where the three categories are frequently bandied about is in relation to influencer marketing, which I’ll briefly examine now.

What is influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a modern take on word of mouth advertising where influential people or publications can be persuaded to recommend your product service or they may allow you to guest blog on their website in addition to mentions on social media. It’s almost an Internet era revision of the old celebrity endorsements marketing strategies of the past, taking advantage of technology such as blogs and social media.

Earned Media

Now I’ll try to explain what qualifies as ‘earned media’. Earned media is exposure that has not been paid for. Its exposure, your company has earned. A glowing review on Google plus is a good example of earned media. This example highlights another characteristic of earned media it can be positive or negative, so a dreadful review of your company’s products or services would also be characterised as earned media. Hubspot offer the following definition of earned media

Earned media is any publicity you haven’t paid for that’s owned and created by a third party. Earned media is now that customer tweet about “the best brunch EVER!” at a particular restaurant that got several retweets and favorites. It’s also that horrible Yelp review. And it’s that technology blogger’s “Top 10 Apps of The Year” roundup that was viewed and shared by thousands.hubspot.com

Paid Media

Paid media is different in that its paid for. Traditional advertising is categorised as paid media, modern developments such as pay per click search promotion as well as social media promotions would also be categorised as paid media. Listings in business directories would also be categorised as paid media

Owned Media

Owned media is one area over which you have complete control. Your website/blog is a good example of owned media. Company channels on social media are another example of owned media, you may not own Facebook but you do control what goes onto the Companies Facebook page and other Social media accounts. Titan SEO offers the following Definition


Owned media – Owned media is any web property that you can control and is unique to your brand.Titan SEO

Parting thoughts

Current best practise goes beyond these three categories and makes use of a strategy which blends all three categories, the Venn diagram above perfectly illustrates why this type of marketing is known as Converged Marketing. Ciroqu.com argue that
It is no longer effective to just have one media channel in your marketing campaign. Companies now need to get their ducks in a row by organising their marketing efforts into three different channels and combining at least two or more of them in each marketing campaign.

These three channels are Owned, Earned and Paid media and the combination of one or more is referred to as Converged Media. All of this begs the question how is one to develop a converged media strategy? Don’t worry its not as complicated as it sounds, and you are probably already familiar with some aspects of it. Converged marketing requires a degree of coordination between the three types of marketing. Sales campaigns will already have an associated hashtag and paid media will be used to amplify the message and associated content. Sometimes it appears that marketers have an obsession with developing new jargon, I hope that this post has make things clearer for the layperson

By |January 21st, 2016|SME Online Marketing|Comments Off on Defining your media strategy

The lure of long-form content

writing

Image credits:Flickr Caleb Roenigk

Gavin Davies was running a struggling small business most of his efforts were spent trying to attract more business for his small company Doobrytech, attempts to use traditional channels such as local retail magazines had been unsuccessful so bearing this n mind and despite a lack of familiarity with the internet he decided to invest in a company website with some time and effort he’d got his head around the basics of Search Engines and had a rough understanding of what keywords are, despite this he’d watched with concern as local competitors had shown up above the Doobrytech website on the Search Engine Results pages(SERP) in order to improve the rankings for his website he’d gone along with advice of others to start blogging on his website something many similar businesses had adopted

All this despite the fact he’d done little no writing since School & College where he tended to avoid having to write in his wildest dreams or nightmares there’s no way he’d describe himself as a writer or heaven forbid blogger, yet here he was pen in hand trying to predict how business blogging would develop throughout 2016 and the implications for his company website and blog. One potential trend that seemed to be on everyone’s lips was long form content, Gavin tried to understand exactly what was long form content and what changes it would require from his business and would the benefits make all the extra effort worthwhile?

long-form content

Using Long Form content meant that Gavin would need to adjust his workflow and content development practises with more time allocated for writing, editing and research it would certainly have an impact on his weekly routine but the hope was the benefits would make this worthwhile

What exactly is long form content?

Long form content means longer more in depth blog posts with Forbes’ Josh Steimle suggesting that over 1,200 words per article is a good guideline for the length of the long-form blog post as opposed to the traditional 700 word article length

Long Form storytelling

Long form content often employs storytelling and is frequently presented as a narrative, this works just as well for businesses as it does for fiction writers. It facilitates the presentation of more complex topics meaning its easily possible to go beyond the basics into the depth where topics really become interesting

Why is long form content a good thing?

Contrary to expectations what Gavin found interesting was that his analytics suite showed that bounce rates for long form content were lower, despite the common belief that attention spans were shorter online the long form content he’d added to his website was proving more engaging that the short form content he’d used previously. Research by moz.com found that long form content was more likely to generate backlinks

Greater Depth

Another benefit of the long form format would be that it would enable chosen areas to be covered in greater detail than the previous short-form content allowed him to.The shift in format enabled

The benefits of long form, What’s in it for my business?

Much to his delight alongside increased visitor engagement Gavin discovered that search engines loved the long form content he was producing leading to better Search Engine Results page (SERP) rankings

Better Quality Content

I broadly agree with Kristina Halvorson’s comments regarding the amount of poor quality uninspiring website content, some of this is due I think to the restrictions placed on authors by the short blog article (roughly 700 words) I’ll always support the idea that quality > quantity and for too long the opposite view has been dominant on the web, so this means I need to improve the quality of my own content, again I’m cool with that.

Parting thoughts

Long Form content does take more effort to develop however the benefits it provides more than make up for this The extra length gives authors the opportunity to create richer and more detailed content which goes far beyond the superficial content which is so prevalent on the web, taking advantage of the flexibility which long form content offers will allow you to stand out from the crowd in 2016

Bibliography

  1. The SEO And User Science Behind Long-Form Content
    Search Engine Land.com
  2. What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012?moz.com
  3. Why Long Form Content Marketing Works, And Why It Doesn’tForbes.com
By |January 8th, 2016|Content, SEO|Comments Off on The lure of long-form content

When is content not Content?

Change

image credits Flickr:Nana B Agyei

One of my recent conversations highlighted to me the disconnect between content as concept and content as reality for Small Business Owners, most if not all Small Business owners want to rank highly in Google and they vaguely understand it has something to do with content

The difference between content and noise

When is content not content? When its useless, uninteresting and badly written keyword stuffed guff, that’s not content its just noise. Don’t confuse the two. If Stuff on your website is not worth sharing its just noise. This is a trap I find small businesses falling into quite a lot, populating a website full of self congratulatory advertising copy in the mistaken belief its content, its merely the contemporary variant of Steve Krug’s much loathed ‘Happy talk’ reinvented as ‘content’ cause content is important, right? Jay Baer’s youtility concept is a useful when determining the value of content

‘Youtility is marketing so useful, people would pay for it ‘Jay Baer

Parting thoughts

Despite the almost Obligatory changes I see in 2016 blog posts which will be all over the web for the next few weeks, I feel in 2016 the emphasis will remain on producing good quality content and publicising it effectively, I cannot see this paradigm changing while backlinks are used to calculate SERP rankings

By |January 1st, 2016|Content|Comments Off on When is content not Content?

Think Content strategy is only for large agencies?Think again!

Content Strategy

Image credits Flickr:pshutterbug: It’s about rules and strategy

Introduction

I know its one of those buzz phrases which is chucked around all over the web, but this week I want to examine content strategy, what it is and why its important? If you are to maintain any sort of web presence, your content strategy needs to be considered, a website would certainly qualify for this. Firstly we need to examine what exactly is content strategy?

What is content strategy?

The Usability.gov website offers a concise definition of content strategy ‘The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content’ (usability.gov)

The Content Strategy Consortium define Content Strategy thus

Content strategy is the practise of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content” (quoted from Content Strategy at Work)

In her book Content strategy for the web Kristina Halvorson offers the following definition of content strategy as

“how you’re going to use content to meet your business (or project) goals and satisfy your users’ needs.”
Rahel Baillie’s definition adds a bit more substance as to exactly what a content strategy is

Content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle, and includes aligning content to business goals, analysis, and modelling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content, including governance.Rahel Baillie:Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits(2012)

Why is content strategy important?

The keywords for me are in the Content strategy consortium definition ‘useful, usable content’ rather than waste time, money and resources creating poor quality content which is not fit for purpose, A content strategy enables you to set the goals for your content marketing and realistic viable plans for producing the content.

Does a small business need to bother with things like content strategy?

Emphatically YES! Content strategy is not something that need only concern large outfits and agencies, resources are often tight in SMEs,I especially find time to be the most pressing constraint, a content strategy enables time and resources to be efficiently allocated

Benefits of a content strategy

Content strategy offers benefits in addition to planning and resources, improving the overall quality of website content by ensuring that content is useful and cohesive, so no poor quality content slips through the net, this can be verified by content audits which I examined last week, as content maintenance is part of a content strategy there’s no excuse for inferior quality content being present

Parting thoughts

Content strategy is not something which need only concern large companies and agencies, it prevents content being developed in a haphazard manner and ensures content is properly planned with resources being allocated accordingly with priorities being planned which is very relevant given the pivotal role of website content in search engine rankings and performance something which many small businesses take very seriously indeed, you cannot afford to waste time and money developing content which is not fit for purpose. In conclusion content strategy adds to a more cohesive use of content, better quality content will make a good impression on website visitors. Useful content, which answers their questions, can only benefit their impression of your company.
Personally I feel that Margot Blumstein’s definition of content strategy sums up the aims of content strategy perfectly in a succinct manner

How do you make smart choices to ensure the content types, tone, and media in an experience support that experience in a way that’s appropriate to the brand and useful to its audience?Margot Bloomstein: content strategy at work(2012)

it is imperative that content serves the needs of your audience, otherwise it is useless.

Bibliography/Further reading

  1. Content Strategy Basics Usability.gov
  2. content strategy at work, Margot Bloomstein (2012)
  3. Content Strategy for the web(voices that matter),Kristina Halvorson & Melissa Rach (2012)
  4. 10 Definitions of Content strategy Busolati.com
By |November 20th, 2015|Content|Comments Off on Think Content strategy is only for large agencies?Think again!

Content Audits, how you can get started on the right track

Content Audits

Content auditing may not be the most exciting part of your content program this doesn’t detract from its importance. Knowing exactly what content your website contains allows resources to be allocated effectively, in addition to this it enables the quality of your website content to be analysed and adjusted accordingly giving you the opportunity to focus on the areas which require improvement. Content expert Kristina Halvorson suggests a number of benefits offered by auditing a website’s content such as

  • Help you to scope and budget for a content project
  • Give you a clear understanding of what you have and where it lives, even if only to being thinking about maintenance or content removal
  • Serve as a reference for source (or existing) content during content development, making it a highly efficient tool for writers and other content creators to keep track of what they have to work with

Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach: Content Strategy for the web(2012)

Moz.com suggest further advantages which are detailed below, the difference in the advantages is due to the different focus of Ms Halvorson who is a content strategist and Moz.com which is a SEO based website and service.

  • Determine the most effective way to escape a Panda penalty
  • Determine which pages need copywriting / editing
  • Determine which pages need to be updated and made more current, and prioritize them
  • Determine which pages should be consolidated due to overlapping topics
  • Determine which pages should be pruned off the site, and what the approach to pruning should be
  • Prioritize content based on a variety of metrics (e.g. visits, conversions, PA, copyscape risk score…)
  • Find content gap opportunities to drive content ideation and editorial calendars
  • Determine which pages are ranking for which keywords
  • Determine which pages “should” be ranking for which keywords
  • Find the strongest pages on a domain and develop a strategy to leverage them
  • Uncover content marketing opportunities
  • Auditing and creating an inventory of content assets when buying/selling a website
  • Understanding the content assets of a new client (i.e. what you have to work with)

Different Types of audit

Halvorson identifies a range of different audits some of which have a complementary role to play in the detailed auditing of your website’s content. These are as follows:

Quantitative Audit

Quantitative content inventories are a comprehensive top to bottom records of all the content in your website. Automation has a role to play in the creation of Content Inventories, as this could be a very long winded process otherwise, a quantitative audit is used to get an idea of what content is present on your website determining whether it is fit for purpose is the role of the other type of audit, the qualitative audit.

Qualitative audit

Qualitative audits are used to examine the quality of your website content, is it good enough to use or will further effort be required to bring it upto scratch? The Qualitative audit will highlight content which requires removing from the website. This should be part of your on-going content maintenance efforts.

Parting thoughts

I’ve already started auditing the content of this website and the initial quantitative audits have highlighted relatively minor issues (both of which are now rectified), as a website evolves its easy for content to fall out of date or by the wayside, I’m confident the qualitative phase will highlight content which doesn’t make the grade, My intention is replicate the 4 grades of content which moz.com use when reviewing their content which are “Keep As-Is”, “Remove”, “Improve”, or “Consolidate”, this will enable the quality of content to be maintained and where necessary improved. Furthermore the content audit is the starting point of developing a cohesive and realistic content strategy which is what I will be examining with next weeks post.

Bibliography/Further Reading

  1. Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter):Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach New Riders 2012
  2. How to do a content audit moz.com
  3. Qualitative or quantitative: which one do you need? stickycontent.com
By |November 13th, 2015|Content, SEO|Comments Off on Content Audits, how you can get started on the right track

Effectively implement your content strategy with the Content Lifecycle

Anne Rockley’s Content Lifecycle: original vector courtesy Designed by Freepik

Introduction

This week’s post will introduce a concept which relates to how content is utilised on your website that of the content lifecycle. The Content Lifecycle ensures that content is created in an organised and predictable fashion. Content Expert Anne Rockley suggests that

‘Content moves through various phases of development such as creation, review, management and delivery’Anne Rockley: Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy’(2002)

Content Lifecycle and Content Strategy

Content Lifecycle is not the same as Content Strategy, although they are related. Content strategy has some influence on the Content Lifecycle. Content strategy maps the direction; the Content lifecycle provides a map for getting where your content needs to go. A lifecycle helps to maximise ROI from your companies content.

Benefits of a Content Lifecycle

Having a defined content lifecycle helps to bring a degree of organisation to your companies content efforts, essential if resources are to be allocated efficiently, ensuring that content is supported to borrow a metaphor ‘from cradle to grave’.

There are a number of different content lifecycles. Rather than go through them all which would be pretty tedious, I’ll examine two of the more established lifecycles that proposed by Anne Rockley and the lifecyle proposed by Erin Scime
Erin Scime Lifecycle

Erin Scime’s Content Lifecycle: original artwork courtesy http://www.dopedata.com/

Erine Scime Lifecycle

Erine Scime’s Lifecycle consists of 5 major stages these are as follows

  • Audit and Analysis: Content stakeholder interviews, competitive analysis, objective analysis and evaluation of the content environment (site, partner content, sister, parent sites)
  • Strategy: Determine topical ownership areas, taxonomy, process/ workflow for content production, sourcing plan, voice and brand definition
  • Plan: Staffing recommendations, content management system customization, metadata plan, communications plan, migration plan
  • Create: Writing content, asset production, governance model, search engine optimization, quality assurance
  • Maintain: Plan for periodic auditing, advise the client, determine targets for success measures.

Anne Rockley Lifecycle

In Contrast Anne Rockley’s content lifecycle, which is detailed in her book ‘Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy’(2002)

Consists of 4 stages although she suggests there may be some fluidity with regards to naming of the phases and the phases she identifies may be known by different names elsewhere. The four phases Rockley identifies are as follows:

  • Create
  • Review
  • Manage
  • Deliver

    Rockley’s book and lifecycle are geared more towards large organisations and for that reason I believe Erine Scime’s lifecycle is more appropriate for small businesses

    Parting Thoughts

    Content Lifecycles help to ensure that new Content is added to your site in an organised fashion, Content is too important an element of the inbound marketing mix to add to the site in a haphazard fashion. I’m determined to make sure that my website is full of great quality content and a formalised lifecycle will enable me to initiate continual improvement in the niche which my website covers. My intention is to have a narrow focus on all aspects of digital marketing.

By |November 6th, 2015|Content|Comments Off on Effectively implement your content strategy with the Content Lifecycle

To be the best you’re got to write epic shit

epic-sunset

Image credit: Flickr Michael Gil

I’m not completely satisfied with the way my site or business are performing, there’s always plenty of room for improvement and the post which has inspired me the most this week is ‘write epic shit’ by Corbett Barr, he argues that Building a raving audience online all starts with writing epic shit. Period. Hands down. End of story.(fizzle.co) Corbett completely hits the nail on the head when he castigates so many sites for,

And I didn’t say “write mediocre shit.” Mediocre content is all over the web. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by writing the same inane crap that 10,000 other sites have already published.

This is the point, which struck home with me, there’s so much web content that is ‘meh’ at best, how many more blog posts need to be written about completing twitter profiles properly? its been done.to death. Also sites offering ‘templates’ which are little more than Microsoft word documents containing a table. ‘Experts’ reheating articles which were tepid 2 or 3 years ago. This isn’t content, its noise.

As so often happens this weeks post took a detour from the original topic, which concerned shareable content, in short shareable content is epic content. You don’t say to online friends ‘ hey come and look at this it’s completely ordinary’

Why epic is good

Epic is good because it will make a great first impression and provide all of the following benefits, most of which are very attractive; Epic content is the only way to do this. Average or OK doesn’t cut it, we’re swamped with mediocrity, this relates to authenticity, which I’ve discussed a few times before.

  • Enable you to stand out from the crowd
  • Increase Brand visibility
  • Establish your reputation
  • Earn Backlinks and better search rankings
  • Increase your expertise

Parting thoughts

I don’t want to be merely good or OK,I want it to be EPIC, yes I appreciate there’s work to do!(stop sniggering at the back.I think in some ways the content rat race (the need to constantly develop new content) will almost inevitably lead to declining standards trying to figure out a way to counteract this problem, this makes it an interesting/difficult challenge for the smaller business to overcome. I think a content lifecycle which focuses on continual improvement in response to measurement/feedback rather than continual growth is possibly te way forward here.Challenge accepted.

By |October 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off on To be the best you’re got to write epic shit

Fine tune your content by understanding the different types of search query

search-keyboard

(Image credits: Flickr:www.gotcredit.com/

Search Queries fall within three main categories. These are as follows

  • Transactional Queries
  • Navigational Searches
  • Informational Searches

If we can understand how searchers use Search engines then it should be possible to build websites, which enable them to satisfy their informational needs.

Navigational Searches

Navigational searches are where web searchers are looking for a particular website, “Facebook” and “You tube” are both navigational searches (incidentally they are the top two searches on Google (source:wordstream.com) these are good examples of navigational searches.SearchEngineland.com suggest that ‘Navigational searching seeks to locate a specific web site’(searchengineland.com) On a more everyday level searching for a particular company name in the hopes their website will be revealed is an example of a navigational search. Research has shown that around 10 -15% of searches are navigational in nature.

What can I do about Navigational Searches?

Wordstream.com suggest that ‘The fact is, you don’t stand much of a chance targeting a navigational query unless you happen to own the site that the person is looking for’(source:wordstream.com) this limits the options available for website owners

Informational Searches

When searchers are looking for facts and answers to questions this is known as an informational search. Research has shown that 50-80% of searches are informational in nature (searchengineland.com)

How can I target Informational Searches?

Wordstream.com argue that The best way to target informational searches is with high-quality SEO content that genuinely provides helpful information relevant to the query.Searchengineland.com suggest two broad categories of informational content, “time limited” and “evergreen” content, websites will derive more benefits from the latter type of content which doesn’t go out of date however they warn that evergreen how to type content has

unfortunately earned a bad reputation due to sites like ehow and wikianswers, where you are as likely to find content on how to tie a shoe (not particularly useful) as you are on how to tune a guitar (useful). If a how-to is useful, then by all means, you should write it and include it on your website.searchengineland.com

Transactional Searches

Transactional searches are where a searcher is intent on making a purchasing decision ‘Apple iPhone 4s’ would be an example of a transactional search as would ‘takeaway pizza Lancaster’ many local searches are transactional in nature.

How can I target Transactional searches?

Wordstream recommend using Pay per click to complement organic search results arguing that with sponsored as transactional searches are generally near the bottom of the sales funnel targeting these type of queries will deliver ROI results already taking up a sizeable chunk of ‘above the fold’ content on search engine results pages (SERP),PPC would be an effective way of ensuring that your site ranks for this type of query.

Parting thoughts

The types of search query customers use changes during the customer journey or depending on their position within the sales funnel. A potential customer will have different questions and information requirements from a repeat customer it’s the job of your website to support customers with their questions during the buying process or at what http://www.entrepreneurial-insights.com describe as touchpoints. Providing a range of relevant and useful content is the best way to do this.

By |October 23rd, 2015|Content, SEO|Comments Off on Fine tune your content by understanding the different types of search query

SEO Basics: Spider,Crawlers and bots oh my!

Map of London underground

This weeks article will build on the previous weeks it’s a closely related topic, how search engines index or read & record the content of websites, by using search spiders (aka webcrawlers or bots) to identify and store the contents of the web, understanding how this works will enable the designer to build websites which search engines can easily index or ‘read’.

What exactly are search spiders?

spiders also known as web crawlers and bots(be prepared for plenty of arachnid metaphors here) are special pieces of software which crawl the web analysing the contents of web pages and feeding the information back to search engines. Google offer the following description

We use software known as “web crawlers” to discover publicly available webpages. The most well-known crawler is called “Googlebot.” Crawlers look at webpages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s serverwww.google.com

How do Spiders traverse the web?

The best metaphor I have encountered for explaining this is the in the book The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization (Theory in Practice) by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola and Rand Fishkin it uses the famous London underground map to explain how stations(web pages) and lines(hyperlinks), it is this network of hubs and spokes which search siders traverse, feeding the information back to the search engine, allowing the search engine to develop a representation of the web, when we (the end users search the web we are actually searching the Search Engines indexed representation of the web which has discovered by search spiders and fed back to

Why is this important?

Understanding how spiders operate enables designers to build websites that spiders can easily traverse and it explains why setting up robots.txt and xml sitemaps are best practise when optimising a website, it also influences the structure or hierarchy of the website, it is essential that spiders can completely traverse the website, it is best to minimise the depth of the website ‘no page should be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage’ (source: http://www.webseoanalytics.com) breadcrumbs(a navigation aid which shows the user where they are in the website) provide a convenient way to enable spiders to completely traverse the website, breadcrumbs are also excellent from a usability perspective.

Robots.txt

The Robots exclusion standard or robots.txt is a text file stored on the webserver, which provides instructions for search spiders. The file informs spiders which parts of the may be accessed and which parts are effectively off limits to the spiders. Wikipedia provides the following description of robots.txt.

A robots.txt file on a website will function as a request that specified robots ignore specified files or directories when crawling a site. This might be, for example, out of a preference for privacy from search engine results, or the belief that the content of the selected directories might be misleading or irrelevant to the categorization of the site as a whole, or out of a desire that an application only operate on certain data. >Wikipedia.com

Sitemaps.xml

Sitemaps are xml(extensible markup language) file which provide spiders (and search engines) with information how a website is structured it is best practice to have a sitemaps.xml file in the root folder Google offer the following advice:

If your site’s pages are properly linked, our web crawlers can usually discover most of your site. Even so, a sitemap can improve the crawling of your sitesupport.google.com

this advice is especially applicable if it’s a large website, Google then add the following warning, however its certainly advisable to ensure that your website has a sitemap.

Using a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that all the items in your sitemap will be crawled and indexed, as Google processes rely on complex algorithms to schedule crawling. However, in most cases, your site will benefit from having a sitemap, and you’ll never be penalized for having one.support.google.com

Parting thoughts

Understanding how spiders work is an important element of building spider friendly websites which can be completely analysed by spiders, failure to do this will result in parts of the website being off limits to web crawlers, thus rendering them invisible to search engines, for this reason caution is advised when securing parts of the website and using JavaScript heavy websites, historically spiders have had difficulties completely indexing JavaScript so best practise involves allowing fall-back methods to enable complete access where JavaScript causes problems for crawlers.

By |October 16th, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on SEO Basics: Spider,Crawlers and bots oh my!