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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

local search’s growing importance

Local Business

Image credit: James Ian L.A.(Flickr.com)

This article will cover Local Search one of my favourite topics. I’ll explore questions such as what exactly is local search? And why is local SEO for small businesses so important?

What exactly is local search?

Local Search covers a specific area, such as a town or city. A map containing pinned locations indicates local search results.
local search results

What + where?

what + where searches are a handy way to visualise local search, for example. What are you looking for? and where are you looking for it? Takeaway Pizza Morecambe would be an example of a what + where search, as would Taxi Kendal. Queries of this nature will result in local search results being displayed.

Why is local search so important?

After examining the data, local search’s importance is obvious

  • 61% of local searches result in a purchase (Searchenginewatch.com).
  • 74 % of internet users perform local searches (Kelsey group).

The growth of mobile computing underlines the importance of local search. As mobile searches have now overtaken searches from a traditional computer, the importance of local SEO is underlinined

  • 53% of mobile searches have local intent (Mediative.com).
  • Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day.
  • 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Search Engines help the public to search for reputable good quality local businesses. This influences the data that the search engines collect.

Google My Business

Over the last few years Google’s handling of local SEO has been pretty haphazard. A number of competing platforms such as Google plus local, Google maps and Google places for Business complicated the issue. Fortunately, things have now stabilised and the Google my Business Dashboard has consolidated the various platforms in an easy to use dashboard, now we’ll examine what you need to do to ensure your business is correctly listed.
Google offer the following description of Google my Business

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses, brands, artists, and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.

Local Ranking factors

1.Citations

Citations are mentions of your business on other websites, typically business directories. A full citation requires the following information:

  • Business Name.
  • Business Address.
  • Business Phone number.

This is usually abbreviated to NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Note: a citation doesn’t necessarily require a link back to your companies’ website. Citations help Google to confirm if your business is legitimate, with regards to the authenticity the next point consistency is vital.

Consistency

Consistency across the web is vital, Ensure that NAP data is identical for every website where your company is listed.

Reviews

Reviews are another important factor affecting local search results, the three major search engines handle this differently. Google’s handling of reviews has improved dramatically. A year ago it was difficult for customers to leave reviews in the Google network, now it’s a straightforward process. Bing local lacks review functionality, however they have a partnership with the yelp! reviews network with data being shared between the two companies.

Parting thoughts

Local search offers a productive way for smaller businesses to actively market themselves to their local community. building up a number of citations and ensuring NAP consistency is essential. if they can achieve a snack pack listing which would be effective for both desktop and mobile searches. I’m convinced its the best way for small local businesses to make an impact on the SERPs (Search engine Results Pages)

Glossary

Local Search
Search which covers a specific locale, and results in a map with pinned locations.
Local Pack
A prominent window which, in Google contains 3 results.
NAP
Name adress and Phone number, the main elements of a citation.
Citation
Where your business is referenced on another website.

Further Reading & Bibliography

  1. Why is Local Search So Important?ducttapemarketing.com
  2. The Definitive List of Local Search Citations localvisibilitysystem.com
  3. 6 Local SEO Stats Every Online Marketer Needs To Know searchengineland.com
  4. Local Content Silos: The Secret To Local Search Successsearchengineland.com
  5. Local SEO: How To Rank Your Local Businesssearchengineland.com
  6. Top 5 Issues Wrecking Local SEO For Multi-Location Businesses searchengineland.com
  7. The New Google Local Search Display searchengineland.com
  8. How Not To Do Local SEO In A Post-Pigeon Erasearchengineland.com
  9. The 16 Secrets Of Guerrilla Local SEOsearchengineland.com

By | June 15th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

On Guard! How you can prevent WordPress spam

Guardsmen on duty

Image credit: NH53(Flickr.com)

I love WordPress don’t get me wrong but one of the major banes of WordPress is spam, spam registrations, and comments, I know for a fact it bothers/irritates some of my customers, it certainly bothers me. This is not the fault of WordPress it’s an unwanted side effect of WordPress’ continued popularity, one Estimate claims that 59.4% of the web consists of WordPress websites (ManageWP.com) this is based on research by w3techs.com, this makes it far and away the most popular Content Management System and so a more tempting target for would-be hackers. One estimate claims there are over 74 million WordPress websites although this includes the WordPress.com hosted blog system that is slightly different to the self-hosted WordPress websites.

What do I mean by spam?

By spam here I mean unwanted or irrelevant comments left behind on your blog, unwanted user registrations are also part of the problem albeit a less visible part, it’s very easy to set up WordPress so only registered users can post comments so in a way unwanted registrations are a slight breach of your blog’s defences, so its better to completely prevent unwanted registrations, that in essence is what the solution I’m proposing does it prevents spam bots from registering and thus prevents them from posting, thus hopefully leading to a spam free blog & website.

Effective but Unobtrusive

Confession time my eyesight is not what it once was and some of the old fashioned reCaptchas are a real hurdle for me to read, I’m sure others sometimes suffer from this problem, so as I’m not a bot I do struggle with some reCAPTCHAs and why I’m such a fan of the new Google checkbox system which is easy on the eye and tough for bots to break through with simple questions like are you human? providing the obstacle to registration,I can happily live with that if it leads to a spam free web.This is what I mean by Unobstrusive validation no real difficulty to humans but a major problem for spam bots.

Yeah, but doesn’t Akismet prevent spam?

In my experience Akismet does stop spam but its less effective when it comes to preventing unwanted registrations having just cleared out 6,000 spam registrations I can testify to this, Akismet is free for personal sites/blogs but its $5 per month for business websites so I don’t generally use it for clients, I want my anti-spam solution to be free.

Tightening things up

new Captcha animation
Although I’m generally dubious about Corporations and the benefits they bring in this case, Google has done the world a favour improving reCaptchas into what Google call the No CAPTCHA reCaptchas, the description of which follows.

reCAPTCHA is a free service that protects your site from spam and abuse. It uses advanced risk analysis techniques to tell humans and bots apart. With the new API, a significant number of your valid human users will pass the reCAPTCHA challenge without having to solve a CAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA comes in the form of a widget that you can easily add to your blog, forum, registration form, etc
In order to in order to take advantage of it you’ll need to register on the ReCaptcha website (pictured below)

Once you’ve registered on the Google reCaptcha site you’ll be presented with a public and private key for your website, these need to be integrated with your WordPress website and I’ve been using the WP-reCAPTCHA plugin in order to integrate the two.

The Spammers make use of automated spam bots in order to plaster links back to their websites on every available place such as forums, comments forms or unprotected website, if the spam bots visit 10,000 sites and only place backlinks on 1%, that’s 1000 backlinks, even Newspaper comments boards sometimes fall victim to these spam bots. Your job as site owner is to make it impossible for spambots to register and to do that we play the numbers game from the other side of the board, we make our sites unique from a security perspective so it’s NOT worth the time of the spambot operators spending lots of time trying how to figure out the defences in place to limit their effectiveness, I’ll be developing a WordPress plugin to add even more protection to the registration process

A spambot is a computer program designed to assist in the sending of spam. Spambots usually create accounts and send spam messages with them.[1] Web hosts and website operators have responded by banning spammers, leading to an ongoing struggle between them and spammers in which spammers find new ways to evade the bans and anti-spam programs, and hosts counteract these methods

Parting thoughts

I used to be an administrator for a popular forum, one with over 100,000 posts most administrators and users of forums will be well aware of the problem posed by comment and registration spam it can ruin the forums. As admin, I tried every trick I could think of to eliminate the problems but by far the most effective approach was inserting a fairly simple question (what is the capital of England?)into the registration process this killed the problem stone dead, that’s why I aim to develop a WordPress plugin which will go a long way towards preventing spambot registration I personally recommend a multi-layered approach to spam prevention. With spam prevention is far better than cure and preventing spambots from registering on your website foils any attempts to post comments if your WordPress is correctly set up.

By | May 26th, 2016|SME Online Marketing, Web Design|0 Comments

Beginners guide to SEO

searching

Image credit: Strevo(Flickr.com)

I hear so much completely inaccurate information regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) I decided to create this SEO Guide for Small Businesses, this cannot cover every aspect of SEO it will, however, cover the basics in a plain English that the layperson can understand I’ll keep any technical jargon down to a bare minimum so the general public can easily understand it (there’s a Glossary at the end) and this can serve as an SEO starter guide for the typical small business owner it focuses on organic SEO rather than Pay Per Click (PPC), as with the other content on my site this guide is mainly for small business owners who wish to keep costs down, so I’ll not examine tools which are priced for agencies and larger firm instead, preferring to focus on cheap/free tools.

The crux of the matter

The typical Small Business owner is unconcerned with debates such as ‘is SEO an art?’ or is ‘SEO a science?’ instead, their focus is on whereabouts their website shows up in the search results as this has a huge impact on the number of visitors their website attracts, SEO is the process which should result in your website ranking more highly for the words your customers actually use when searching for your company. The aim of SEO is to make your website more easily found by your customers which in itself is a laudable aim, in a nutshell, Keyword research is finding the keywords your target market and customers actually use

Keywords, Keywords …Keywords

Keywords are one of the areas of SEO I found confusing initially
perhaps keyword phrases would be a more accurate description. ‘Widget Shop’ is an example of a keyword despite the fact it consists of two words, ‘Widget Shop Manchester’ is another example of a keyword, Keywords are important because they can be researched (using a variety of tools including Google’s keyword planner) to see what phrases your target audience are using when searching, these can and should be researched so there is no guesswork involved when selecting keywords, additionally its possible to see how much competition there is for particular keywords, the screenshot below illustrates Google’s Keyword planner in action, personally I don’t like the Google Keyword tool so I’ve suggested a couple of alternative tools in the list below

Free Keyword tools

  1. Google Keyword Planner
  2. Majestic SEO
  3. Übersuggest
  4. Semrush
  5. Bing Webmaster Tools
  6. So what are Long Tail Keywords?

    Long tail keywords contain more words and are generally associated with the later stages of the purchase funnel as the searcher drills down for more specific answers, returning to the widget shop example ‘Acme AC456 Widget stockist, Manchester’ would be an example of a long tail keyword search as you can see it’s a lot more specific than ‘widget shop Manchester’ here the searcher is looking for a particular Make and Model of Widget

Onpage and Offpage SEO

SEO generally falls into two categories, On page SEO and Off page SEO, Onpage SEO is concerned with the contents of YOUR website such as the text and images, Offpage is more concerned with other websites which link to your site (the backlinks people are always talking about) The model which is usually mentioned here is that Google view a backlink as a vote for your website, a site which lots of people are linking to must be good …(well not always see Gaming the System) this is the concept which lies at the heart of Pagerank a concept drawn up by Larry Page who along with Sergei Brin founded Google, Google offer the following definition of Pagerank

PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websiteswww.Wikipedia.com

So what on earth is Link Juice?

A model that the search engine industry uses to visualise the impact of backlinks is that of linkjuice, backlinks to your website provide ‘linkjuice’ the more ‘linkjuice’ your website accumulates the higher its authority in the eyes of Google, not all websites provide the same amount of link juice, high authority websites such as Wikipedia and the BBC provide

A short Aside: Google’s perspective

The World of search is extremely competitive. So how do Google stay ahead of their competitors such as Bing & Yahoo? The short answer is by providing better results and answers to users queries, this thinking lies at the heart of semantic search where the search engine is described as an answer engine. By attempting to understand Google’s perspective suddenly the changes they implement make much more sense. Google’s Mission statement is as follows

Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.Google.co.uk

Gaming the System?

As soon as the importance of Search in Online Marketing became evident there arose people willing to use underhand techniques in order to boost their search engine ranking and businesses only to happy to take any shortcuts available, its fair to say that Google are engaged in a constant battle to negate these shortcuts and cheats, these explains Algorithm changes such as Panda and Penguin, the aim of Panda was to prevent sites with poor quality content enjoying high search engine rankings, Penguin penalised sites which make use of black hat SEO techniques and used poor quality backlinks which were freely being traded at one point.

White hat, Black hat and grey hat

This terminology comes from definitions of hackers in the field of Computer Security and I think originally from Cowboy movies, i.e. the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. This has been adopted to describe the techniques used by search engine optimisers (SEOs). White hat SEOS only use techniques Google approve of. Conversely Black Hat SEOs use techniques that Google don’t approve of such as Link farms and Keyword stuffing, grey hats use a mixture of white hat and black hat techniques in order to boost search engine rankings hence the grey hat moniker that implies a mix of black and white

On Page SEO: Ranking factors

Although search Engine Algorithms are a closely guarded secret, the following on page factors are widely regarded as being important (items listed in order of importance)

  1. Page Title tags
  2. Meta Description
  3. Headings H1 especially
  4. Website/Data Structure
  5. SEO Friendly URL Structure

Parting thoughts

Despite one or two persistent misconceptions about Keyword stuffed Rubbish, Search Engine Optimisation has come along in leaps and bounds over the last ten to fifteen years, Google has publicly stated that their three main ranking signals are, Links, Content, and RankBrain. Contemporary SEO is all about Content, if you can provide a website full of great quality content or linkable assets being the term link builders use you’ll have nothing to worry about search engine wise. In my experience this is where the vast majority of Small Businesses fall short failing to provide any useful or interesting content on their websites

Further Reading & Bibliography

Beginners Guide to SEO
SEO Moz
The Art of SEO (Theory in Practice)
Eric Enge,Stephan Spencer, Jessie Jessie Stricchiola, Rand Fishkin
The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors
Search Engineland.com
  1. How to write meta title tags for SEO (with good and bad examples)searchenginewatch.com
  2. What is off page SEO? www.reliablesoft.net
  3. On-Page SEO Factors: Which Ones Have the Most Impact on Rankings? www.searchenginejournal.com
  4. On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Pagewww.backlinko.com
  5. What is link juice?www.goup.co.uk
  6. Topics Over Keywords: An SEO-Driven Approach To Content Marketing www.anumhussain.com
  7. 12 Free Keyword Tools To Replace Google’s Keyword Tool www.internetmarketingninjas.com
  8. How to Find Content Topics That Score Big Using Keyword Researchwww.copyblogger.com

By | May 20th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

is your content aiming and hitting the right targets?

Is your content on target?

Image credit: Falcon® Photography(Flickr.com)

Content takes time & resources to create, therefore it’s imperative that there’s actually an audience for the content you create and it covers a topic people actually want answers to, This doesn’t mean only write about high traffic/high competition topics, there’s still some value to covering long tail keyword terms where there is less competition and searchers are further down the sales funnel and it is this selection of topics to be covered I’ll examine this week, this post is influenced by Trond Lyngbø’s excellent article ‘The seven deadly sins of content Marketing’ on searchengineland.com, I’m mortified to see I’m making two of them and that why I was inspired into writing this post so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Lyngbø argues that

(businesses) are passive and keep postponing any corrective action. They know it’s important, but they don’t want results badly enough to make the changes happen. It’s easier to pretend nothing’s wrong and carry on. Sometimes, it takes a serious failure to jolt them out of their comfort zone.searchengineland.com

Keyword research is one of the core requirements of the approach Lyngbø advocates, paradoxically (to some) Keyword research isn’t just for SEO geeks its also part of the Content Creator’s toolkit as well, Keyword research can be used to gauge

  • What information people are searching for
  • what keywords are they using to look for it?
  • how many people are looking for it?
  • How much competition there is for these keywords

Not just Keywords its, demand!

It’s not just a case of just going for the popular high traffic keywords or you’ll end up with a website offering free pads and celebrity news the topics you cover need to be covering are ones which fit in your overall content strategy or game plan or are of interest to the people represented by the personas developed while creating your content strategy or your typical customer, The Approach suggest by Trond Lyngbø removes any guesswork from the selection of topics, and will ensure you choose the right topics for your blog and any associated content

On reflection I’m now guilty of 3 of the seven deadly sins this one area of the content cycle I have neglected. No more. Personally, I’ve been jolted out of my comfort zone and I hope if you are content marketing it will jolt you out of your comfort zone so when developing your content marketing strategy, research of potential content ideas for blogs keyword research needs to be park of the equation
In her excellent “What should I blog about post” Kimberly Grabas suggests a list of three factors a blogger should consider but neglects to mention the SEO research Trond Lyngbø advocates, in Kimberly’s defence she’s not writing for content Marketers or SEO wonks her audience is writers/bloggers so the SEO considerations still apply really as it’s a rare blogger who doesn’t want to attract a larger audience. She does advise using of Google’s Keyword planner whilst researching so her keypoints are
1. Who is your audience or the intended consumer of your content?
2. How do your passions, interests and talents intersect with the wants and needs of this specific group of people?
3. And finally, what are your goals or the results you wish to achieve?
4. Does Keyword research confirm that there is sufficient interest in the topic to justify the time and resources it will take to add value to the current state of the topic area i.e. is what you are producing better than the current content devoted to this topic

Parting thoughts

Historically this has been one of the weak points in my content marketing and its one I’m determined to rectify from now on ,Analysis of the success of content is a major part of Trond Lyngbø’s recommendations and from now on I’ll monitor this using Google Analytics, this is the feedback loop which ascertains if your content is actually working (so it’s essential if you wish to be accurate rather than relying on guesswork I don’t want to just use ‘click bait’ style titles I want to offer genuine value to my readers) so there’s still some work to do on my content cycle and Workflow

Further Reading & Bibliography

Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization (2011)
Olivier Blanchard
Ultimate Guide to Link Building: How to Build Backlinks, Authority and Credibility for Your Website, and Increase Click Traffic and Search Ranking (Ultimate Series)
Eric Ward & Garrett French
  1. What Should I Blog About?haleymarketing.com
  2. What on earth should I blog about? flyingsolo.com.au
  3. What Should I Blog About? 10 Ways to Discover Your Perfect Niche buildingaframework.com
  4. Blog Post Ideas for Writers: Solving the “What Do I Blog About?” Conundrumwww.yourwriterplatform.com
  5. The 7 deadly sins of content marketingsearchengineland.com
  6. Topics Over Keywords: An SEO-Driven Approach To Content Marketing www.anumhussain.com
  7. Content Marketing: How to Choose Topics That Deliver Serious ROI www.upwork.com
  8. How to Find Content Topics That Score Big Using Keyword Researchwww.copyblogger.com

By | May 13th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

How Small Businesses can more than hold their own with social media

small-business

It’s all well and good talking about huge social media campaigns but this week’s post will focus on the other end of the scale i.e. social media for small local businesses and how they can use social media to develop stronger ties with the local community. I want this article to go beyond the usual 10 ways to succeed at social media with a couple of case studies chucked in type post and to offer genuine value to my readers with something a bit different

Reciprocity

This is the fancy way of saying ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’, in my experience small local businesses react well to a helping hand on social media, even if its nothing more than sharing their promotions amongst your followers its things like this which will enable the Smaller business to extend their network beyond immediate friends & family the first hurdle which a lot of local businesses fail to get over in my experience. Just as one swallow does not a summer make, one tweet doesn’t constitute a campaign it’s the lack of consistent effort which I find trips up SMEs entering the Social Media arena lack of consistent effort and overarching strategy which I find separates the professional from the amateur use of social media.

Social media strategy

I’m keen to go beyond the generic advice which constitutes most online articles, BUT a social media strategy is an essential requirement for using social media professionally and in order to have a social media strategy, goals are required, SMART guidelines (see bibliography) ensure that these goals are realistic and measurable, Obtain 50 Facebook followers by August 15th, 2016 is an example of a basic Smart Objective. The strength of this approach is that it generates further questions such as:
• Why do I want 50 Facebook followers?
• How do I get 50 Facebook followers?
• How can I get even more followers?
• How can I use Facebook to generate even more leads & custom?
These are the sorts of questions, which need to be considered when using Social Media effectively to promote your business, I’m not satisfied with the way my Facebook company page is performing, Twitters doing great but engagement is unsatisfactory on the Facebook page

One of the most lively Communities I’ve seen is Kendal Sell and Seek on Facebook which offers second-hand goods for sale to those based in the Kendal area, I’ve also seen it used for recommendations of local tradesmen and services, this is a goldmine for great quality word of mouth recommendations, as I’ve seen some local businesses in the Kendal area frequently recommended, a social network which aims to tap into this ‘local’ vibe is Streetlife.com which quite deliberately sets out to build a sense of community around a locale describing itself as ‘the local social network’, I’ve personally found work for a local charity from Streetlife and I’m sure if used more actively it would be great for local businesses aiming to raise their profile locally. In fact the notion of social networks is nothing new with the Legendary WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), which has been in operation since 1985 making it one of the oldest virtual communities in existence serving the residents of San Francisco as with most virtual communities your status in the community will be influenced by how helpful you are to other members, so by helping others with expert advice you can raise your profile in a positive and sustainable way, I hear an awful lot of dodgy advice chucked around in my niche so if you can debunk some of the more common myths about your industry then you are providing a genuine service to your local community.

Parting Thoughts

Its not all bad news for SMEs wishing to compete against larger companies/corporations with far more resources, they do have a genuine connection with the communities they serve its this which the SMEs who are successful with Social Media leverage rather than the tired generic social media which can at times categorise corporate social media channels, properly leveraged its this authenticity which underpins GREAT social media with SMEs frequently being the most effective .Jeff Brand sums it up beautifully when he states

Authenticity—you know it when you see it. It’s not a metric. It’s not easily measured. But it’s there. It’s that feeling you get when you see something either incredibly on brand or incredibly off point.hootsuite.com

I feel authenticity is something SMEs can and should be doing well, offer friendly genuine interaction with your customers and be a friendly face that can be trusted in the modern digital marketplace for the Small Local Business that’s the surest way to achieve success with Social Media NOT the generic Social best practices advice such as inspirational quote et al which quite frankly have been done to death, the problem which faces Smaller Businesses is how can they find the time to utilise Social Media effectively?

Further Reading & Bibliography

Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization (2011)
Olivier Blanchard
  1. How Local Businesses Should Size Up & Tackle Social Mediasearchengineland.com
  2. How small businesses are making the most of social media to grow Guardian.co.uk
  3. Social media for SMEs: it’s all about engagement Telegraph.co.uk
  4. 5 Local Businesses That Have Mastered Social Media Marketing http://www.business2community.com
  5. The Best Social Media Strategy? Authenticity Hootsuite.com
By | May 6th, 2016|Social Media, Uncategorized|0 Comments

What sort of content generates the most backlinks?

Sharing

Google have stated that backlinks are amongst the top 3 ranking factors, so links are still important and are likely to remain important for the foreseeable future, the 3 most important factors according to Google are

  • Links
  • Content
  • RankBrain

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are links from someone else’s site to yours, Google views them as a vote for your website. Of course, as soon as some people got wind of this an entire industry sprang up trading backlinks, often from pretty poor quality websites. Google does not approve of buying backlinks and may penalise a site they suspect of aggressively purchasing backlinks, Algorithm updates such as Google Penguin have been engineered to reduce the impact of links that Google suspect may have been purchased. Backlinks are also referred to as Off-Site SEO or Off Page SEO. Marketing expert Neil Patel argues that

“Avoiding penalties while building links isn’t about luck. It’s about earning links. The types of links that Google penalizes sites for are low quality or bought links. If you can buy it on Fiverr, it’s not a good link. Period.

One legitimate way to builds backlinks is to create what are known as linkable assets, this is assets on your website which are worth linking to, ie good quality content which is another of Google’s top three ranking factors alongside link Brain which I discussed a couple of weeks ago, the upperranks.com argue that These days, you have to create something worth linking to. In a nutshell, that is what this blog post will focus on

Website Content Audit

Before starting to Link Build its best to get an understanding of exactly what Linkable content is available on your site, the way to do this is by a
Content audit. These will give you a good idea of what content is present on your website and whether it’s good enough to remain on the site or does it require repurposing or possibly removing altogether?

Content Audits fall into two broad categories, which we’ll examine in more detail now.

Quantitative Content Audit

This is a process which can be automated by using software to crawl through your entire website this will give you a comprehensive overview of ALL the content available on your website, it will facilitate the discovery of SEO problems such as dead links, canonical errors and redirect errors, oops! I’ve discovered one or two already which I’ll now remove/rectify, links to external websites are subject to the ravages of time and will eventually be out of date as other sites around the web adjust/remove their content, as your site develops probably without the benefit of a content strategy or use of personas its entirely normal that some of the content developed will not be fit for purpose or entirely appropriate discovering content which no longer makes the grade is perfectly natural and a sign of the raising standards of your web content so prune and adjust where necessary, discovering the exact nature of your content shortcomings is the job of the other type of content audit

Qualitative Content Audits

Unlike Quantitative audits which they complement qualitative content audits should not be automated here, the input of a human being is required. The only software required is a spreadsheet, which is used to organise the audit. Content expert Kristina Halvorson suggests six questions a Qualitative audit needs to answer these being, in a nutshell the Qualitative audit A qualitative audit analyzes the quality and effectiveness of the content.

  • What does the content say?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Is the content useful?
  • Is the content used by your audiences?
  • Is the content written professionally?
  • s the content user-friendly?
  • A qualitative audit safeguards the quality of your content and linkable assets, important as your content grows. Qualitative audits enable the accuracy of content to be verified, important in the rapidly changing world of digital marketing. Without the rigor of a qualitative audit, it’s impossible to gauge whether your content fits into your content strategy. Older Content is quite likely no longer fit for purpose and should be archived or repurposed where appropriate, it’s also the best time to ensure that your content contains the correct number of LSI & SEO keywords. Zach Edling (tendo.com) argues that

    a good content audit combines quantitative and qualitative findings with analysis and actionable recommendations
    so a Content audit acts as a starting point which together with a coherent Content Strategy will ensure your website is full of engaging, useful and good quality content so properly promoted it should be fairly easy to acquire backlinks to.

    What’s hot and what’s not?

    There’s little or no point wasting resources creating content no one is interested in so it’s best to examine which topics in your industry are of the most interest. Buzzsumo gives a great overview of the topics in your industry which attract the most attention. Unfortunately, Buzzsumo is not available for free with the cheapest package being $99 per month; there are alternatives to Buzzsumo where one can gauge the popularity of potential topics, this will enable you to choose topics which are of interest to people, useful when trying to develop a content plan for upcoming weeks. Personally, I find the selection of topics one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a blog. There are alternatives to Buzzsumo such as

    List of alternatives to Buzzsumo

    Parting thoughts

    Good quality, well research content will ensure that your content attracts the right sort of attention and backlinks. This in essence is the core of the Skyscraper Technique linked below which takes already popular great quality content and makes it even better The beauty of really great content is that it is really easy to promote, and if others are sharing it will promote itself somewhat but one cannot afford to be complacent about that and the content should be adequately promoted, the standard caveats apply here such as making effective use of visual content (which increases engagement and shares) I’d love to add infographics but I, unfortunately, don’t have the skills yet or the resources to research and design the infographics I’d like to include, I really enjoy creating content which stretches me (I know there’s a hell of a lot of room for improvement, stop sniggering at the back!), in short really great content will enable you to stand out from the crowd, just make sure it adds value to your readers

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter)
    Kristina Halvorson & Melissa Rach
    Ultimate Guide to Link Building: How to Build Backlinks, Authority and Credibility for Your Website, and Increase Click Traffic and Search Ranking (Ultimate Series)
    Eric Ward & Garrett French
    1. 7 Content Search Tools That Are Perfect Alternative to BuzzSumo thenextscoop.com
    2. What Kind Of Content Generates The Most Links For Business Owners? Forbes.com
    3. 5 Ways to Build Links Without Getting Penalized quicksprout.com
    4. Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days backlinko.com

    By | April 29th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

    Google RankBrain the secret ingredient that determines your search engine rankings

    rank brain

    Image credit: Neil Conway(Flickr.com)

    An article which appeared on searchengineland.com in March provided the inspiration for this post, what was interesting about the article was that Andrey Lippattsev a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google suggested the following were the most important factors when determining the position of websites in Google’s search results

    1. Links
    2. Content
    3. RankBrain

    So what’s the big deal?

    The reason this was important was that Google and the other Search Engines are generally secretive about their Search algorithms and this information was from the horse’s mouth as it were. The SEO community had ascertained the importance of links & content years ago so no surprises there, it’s the third factor RankBrain that I will examine in this week’s blog post.

    Google’s search engine algorithm named ’Hummingbird’ contains over 200 factors, which are used to determine search engine rankings the three most important being Links, Content & RankBrain as stated above. Searchengineland.com provide the following definition of RankBrain
    RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results I want to further clarify this definition into plain English i.e. to de-geekify it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that are designed to learn to perform a task; Machine learning is a form of Artificial Intelligence. RankBrain is a part of Google’s Hummingbird Search Algorithm, which uses Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to better understand vague/ambiguous search queries and provide users with useful information. deMyers suggests that


    RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that’s being applied to and used with Google’s current search engine algorithms to provide better results to user queries (Forbes.com)

    The growing Importance of RankBrain

    As RankBrain has overtaken hundreds of other factors to enter the three most important signals it must have quite an important role in the continued development of Google’s search engine, that alone means it is worth taking the time to understand it, but how can understanding this improve my own search rankings? that’s the $64,000 question and in order to understand that we’ll need to examine Semantic search

    What is Semantic Search?

    Wikipedia offers the following definition of Semantic Search

    Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results. Semantic search systems consider various points including context of search, location, intent, variation of words, synonyms, generalized and specialized queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results.Wikipedia.com

    This is best illustrated with a simple example. Semantic Search makes use of the context in which information is presented, take the keyword Jaguar it has a number of different meanings. Jaguar on a web page featuring words such as forest, panther is probably referring to the Jaguar breed of big cat. Where Jaguar on a web page featuring the terms Tata & Land Rover is more likely to be referring to the Jaguar brand of luxury cars this admittedly simple example illustrates what I mean by the role of context when searching by using this the aim of semantic search is to provide the user with more relevant which better satisfies their requirements.

    Parting thoughts

    Like most people who don’t work for Google, I don’t have the exact information about how RankBrain works all I know from Mr. Lippatsev’s interview is that it’s an important ranking factor so I’ll take the cautious approach and recommend the best practices for ranking highly in semantic search.

    Latent Semantic Indexing(LSI)

    LSIgraph.com provide the following definition of LSI keywords

    LSI Keywords are essentially keywords related to the keyword that you search for on search engines such as Google. In a nutshell, they are keywords that are semantically linked to your main keywordLSIgraph.com

    For the Jaguar Cars example above the LSI Keywords would be Range rover, Aston Martin & Maserati that clarify it’s the Luxury Cars brand I’m talking about rather than the big cat variety of Jaguar.

    Internal Linking

    This means links between pages which make up your website, these should make it easy for both users and search spiders to navigate your website, Anchor text, URL structure, and site hierarchy are additional factors with a pyramid being regarded as the optimal structure(see diagram below)
    Pyramid site hierarchy

    By | April 18th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

    Ok, I got it wrong about Google plus

    Google plus

    Ok so I was wrong predicting the death of Google plus to my newsletter subscribers, I could be forgiven for this because this reflected the opinions of the SEO & Digital Marketing press at the time ( a year ago)

    Google plus has a small but loyal following there is a genuine sense of community there, It’s a popular network for photographers wishing to store & display their photography. Although it’s certainly quieter than alternatives such as Facebook and twitter but it’s not the Ghost town some categorise it as. Personally, I like Google plus (though I sometimes struggle with the UI) I find the Google plus communities generally far more knowledgeable & useful than their LinkedIn equivalents. I’ve revised my opinion about the future of Google plus as recent changes have convinced me Google haven’t given up on this social network despite the departure of some of the original team notably Vic Gundotra

    Changes to Google plus

    Added

    • Collections
    • Communities

    Removed

    • Events
    • Hangouts

    Although it was the redesigned logo which brought my attention to the changes taking place at Google plus,I don’t think Google intend to close the network down after putting all this effort in
    Julia McCoy at Express Writers.com argues that The thing is, this isn’t the only project they’ve had over the years that started off with a bang and ended up with a whimper, its certainly a whimper now compared to the high hopes Google initially had for this network. Attempts to integrate Google plus with YouTube were poorly received by the YouTube community with Google receiving some criticism for their high handed approach to the integration. Google has form for closing down projects that have failed to perform as expected Google Wave & Google Buzz being but two examples, there’s plenty more if you look for them, Google plus’s future could be described as uncertain and that influences my advice for those with Google plus pages which is

    Play it cool

    I’d not advise deleting or removing your Google plus pages but I’d certainly be wary of investing lots of time nurturing a following there I don’t think Google have completely given up on Google plus … yet.Local Search expert Mike Blumenthal argues that
    The new G+ is about content, collections and communities. It’s not about businesses, marketing and promotion. if this is the case, and it certainly appears to be

    By | April 1st, 2016|SME Online Marketing, Social Media|0 Comments

    Creating great Visual Content on a Budget

    emotion
    The benefits of visual content are well understood, however for smaller businesses without IT knowledge & graphical savvy expecting them to make use of Photoshop or similar software may be too much, personally, I’ve got over ten years experience with Photoshop it’s not a cheap piece of software to purchase and it can at first glance be quite a daunting prospect, There are cheaper & free alternatives which will be perfectly adequate for small businesses wishing to develop visual content for use on their blog and in Social Media That’s what I’ll examine in this week’s blog post how can Small Businesses develop good quality visual content on a budget without extensive graphic design training?

    Fonts

    Fonts are important and can be used to define your brand’s identity this is a two-edged sword because using an inappropriate font can give the completely wrong impression so Comic Sans is out I’m afraid especially for professional websites & content. I cannot give you an extensive training in typography here, I can offer a handful of basic pointers to ensure you don’t make beginners mistakes when using type or text in your visual content.

    Cheesecake fonts, great but don’t overdo it!

    Graphic Design rookies have a tendency to overdo what Robin Williams describes as ‘cheesecake fonts’, so called because they are really enjoyable in small amounts but sickly if overused. Cheesecake fonts are great but only if used SPARINGLY e.g. for subheadings only. When I started out as a web developer this was a trap I fell making extensive use of one particular font in every website I developed*cringe*

    Great Font sites

    Font Prices range from hundreds of pounds meaning these bespoke fonts are the preserve of Large Corporations. Sites such as font squirrel http://www.fontsquirrel.com/ and dafont http://www.dafont.com/ have extensive ranges of free and nearly free fonts but ensure that you’ve checked the terms and conditions before using as some may not be used on commercial products, these two sites alongside Google fonts (https://www.google.com/fonts)should cover most if not all of your font needs.

    The Benefits of Visual Content

    In her book ‘the Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand (2014) Ekaterina Walters argues that the brain absorbs visual content up to 60,000 times more quickly than textual content, in todays attention starved world this explains the popularity of visual content such as Infographics and photographs in the fast paced world of social media in addition to this Walters argues that Photographs can be used convey mood far more effectively than text.

    Stock or not?

    Stock Photography is a relatively cheap way to get professional quality photography for your website, what could possibly be wrong with that? The problem is a lot of stock photography is extremely corny and instantly looks just like stock photography a characteristic which the brilliant http://womenlaughingalonewithsalad.tumblr.com/ pokes fun at, I’m not sure any company would want to look corny & fake but it’s a mistake lots of companies make overusing stock photography with little or no thought about the impact, I’ve tended to shy away from using stock photography in recent years for the reasons I’ve mentioned so I get most blog images I use from Flickr which is free and frequently a lot better than the stock photography available.

    By | March 25th, 2016|Content, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

    Reexamining Pod-casting

    Microphone

    Image credit: Rich Menga(Flickr.com)

    Podcasting is an often-overlooked form of content. This is a shame as the low entry level & costs means its perfect for smaller businesses wishing to stand out from the crowd, due to the success of podcasts such as “Serial” podcasting enjoys a much higher profile in the United States, that’s not to say there’s no podcasting in the United Kingdom BBC Radio 4 is well represented in the UK podcast charts, however the use of podcasts as a form of content is certainly less common in the UK.

    What are podcasts?

    Podcasts are downloadable audio recordings not dissimilar to old-fashioned radio shows. The word itself is a portmanteau of the words iPod & broadcast

    Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

    Podcasts use technology such as RSS (really simple syndication) allowing users to easily subscribe to shows they particularly like; this can be done through software such as iTunes.

    Benefits of podcasting

    Podcasting enables content to be delivered in an easily accessible & convenient way, one executive interviewed by smallbusiness.co.uk admitted to preferring podcasts over music to listen to on the way into work, this is an opinion I’ve heard a number of times. thetimbre.com argue that

    it comes to audio, car is king. Nearly 90 percent of Americans listen to AM/FM radio weekly, and more than half of that listening time occurs in the car. So when will podcasts start to fill in that vast chunk of time?thetimbre.com

    Smartphones are another popular way to listen to podcasts so contrary to popular belief you don’t need an iPod to access them, I generally listen to podcasts on my computer .Podcasts allow the producer to inject a bit more personality into content

    Simon Hénault suggests that ‘they’re much like your own radio show but listeners can tune in any time they want to. Being able to express emotion and bring personality to your marketing communication can be very powerful. From public relations, customer relationship management, thought leadership, branding, training, to generating leads and sales, all can be done through podcasting.

    parting thoughts

    Although podcasting enjoys greater popularity in the United States there is still plenty to recommend it to Small UK based Businesses wishing to make an impact online, its a great way to demonstrate expertise in a particular niche or market, this in turn will enable you to develop more authority and build a better relationship with your customers, an additional benefit is the lack of competition utilising this medium in the UK. The best podcasts are lively, fun and very informative. Personally I find listening to a light-hearted dialogue between experts a completely effortless way to develop knowledge in a subject area.

    By | March 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments