Get a backlink today

SEO 2 Comments

Backlinking seems like rocket science to many companies and while it can get quite complicated, there are some things that most companies can do.

First of all, for those who don’t know, a backlink is another website that links back to a page within your website.  The more backlinks you have, the better for your search engine optimisation.

However, don’t be fooled.  If you use a cheapo service to generate you hundreds or thousands of backlinks to your website then don’t be surprised if you don’t get great results.   Before you run out and get all your contacts to create links to your website, look at it from the viewpoint of Google – is it really a relevant link if your friend, the florist is giving a backlink to your website that focuses on widget making?  Nope!

There are many companies who have thousands of backlinks to their websites and yet they are lower in Google than competitors who have focused on the quality of backlinks rather than purely the quantity.

So where’s a good starting point for you?   First of all you need to determine who you consider to be competition.  What phrase do you type into Google and it bugs you that a competitor is quite prominent on page 1?

Taking an example, the phrase ‘antique clocks’ brings up http://www.gutlin.com/ at the top of Google.  That particular website has thousands of backlinks to it and, to be honest, would be nigh on impossible to beat unless a huge amount of effort/money was put into it.  However, we can learn a lot from looking at the backlinks to any website.  In the case of Gutlin, just one of their backlinks comes from the page http://nickhardeman.com/blog/?p=213.   It’s a link from a PR3 page (which is good) and the page itself refers to clocks, which makes the link relevant.

If you look at that http://nickhardeman.com/blog/?p=213 page you’ll be wondering where there’s a link to the Gutlin.  If you do a search on that page for the word ‘Marconi’ you’ll get taken to the part as shown in the screenshot below …

If you hover over the words ‘Brian Marconi’ then you’ll see that it’s a link back to http://www.gutlin.com/.  The words ‘Antique Clocks’ are also a link back to http://www.gutlin.com/ and it’s this latter one that’s important.  From Google’s perspective, a website page that is about clocks, has a backlink called ‘Antique Clocks’ that links back to a website about antique clocks – one tick in the box.

So if you were an antique clock dealer, what would you do?  Exactly the same – create a profile and post a response to that blog.   Make it at least believable that you’re posting for reasons other than to get a backlink and you won’t fall foul of the website owner.

Hey presto! You have just created a relevant backlink to your website.  OK, you’re just replicating what a competitor has done but it gets you started on your backlinking journey.

But of course, you’re probably NOT an antique dealer.  You may also not know how to analyse what backlinks are going to your competitors websites?   We’re quite generous at Custwin – just let us know what type of phrase you want to be visible under in Google, and who one of your competitors are, and we’ll give you some free (no strings) insights into their backlinks that will be useful to you.   Also, if you want to know how many backlinks you’ve got to your website and where they come from then please do let us know and we’ll give you that info for free.

What retweets may say about you

Twitter No Comments

Isn’t it a nice feeling when someone retweets you!

But how often does that happen, and how ‘useful’ for business is that retweet?

Let’s say (using round numbers) you send out 100 tweets in a month.  How many times do those tweets get retweeted?  What percentage return on investment do you get out of the tweets you made, which presumably are quite business-oriented?

Definition of a good result

You tweet something and more than one person retweets it.

Definition of a poor result/bad timing

No-one interacts with your tweet.

With September upon us, here’s something you can try and it’s really easy as long as you’re keeping an eye on who is retweeting you …

  1. Send out tweets as normal.
  2. Note down the numbers of retweets you get, discarding any that you think are rubbish (e.g. automated stuff).
  3. After the month add up all the retweets and compare to the overall tweets.

If you’ve sent out 100 tweets and overall, you’ve been retweeted 100 times then you’re heading in the right direction.  If you’ve been retweeted more, even better.

But what if your percentage of retweets is below what you’d hoped for?  What may that say about your tweets?

Of course, this isn’t an exact science because there are many people in business who send out a mixture of tweet types, often jokey/friendly stuff, and while some people may respond to such tweets, many won’t.  That doesn’t take away the value of the tweets though – I know many people who tweet what can most kindly be described as ‘a waste of time’ but those tweets put personality into them and they benefit in other ways.

As an overall experiment though, it may interest you to assess how people interact with your tweets over a period of time.  If you can measure it and you don’t like the results then you have the opportunity to make beneficial changes.

Shiny website things

Website Strategy 2 Comments

Here’s how the conversations always start ….

“Wouldn’t it be great if on our website we had …. ?”

The great thing could be anything that’s new and shiny and that seems cool.  For example:

  • News feed related to your industry
  • Something that translates your website into another language
  • Buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Any number of WordPress widgets

As humans we like shiny new things.  They make us feel good and so when we find them, it’s tempting to put them onto websites.

Unfortunately, shiny website things often get added in because there’s a perception that the website isn’t gaining enough enquiries/sales and so the belief is that the addition of whatever is shiny and new is apparently going to solve the problem.

Wrong!

While shiny new additions to a website CAN have a beneficial impact, they act like a placebo – making the website owner think that everything is better now.   But the effect of the placebo still wanes when the visitors to enquiries ratio still doesn’t look good.

Most websites need only a very simple strategy which can best be summarised in 4 points:

  1. Tell people what you offer.
  2. Give them plenty of evidence of what you’ve done.
  3. Show them how you stand out from the competition.
  4. Actively promote the website efficiently and cost-effectively.

If your website has 500+ genuine visitors (i.e. real people) visiting it each month then without shiny website things your website should be strong enough to attract a reasonable percentage of those visitors into interacting with you.   If you’ve given people plenty of evidence of how good your products or services are then they should have enough to make them want to contact you.   If you haven’t then they won’t contact you.  If your website isn’t getting you results then it’s highly likely that you have missed something out.

If you went into a cake shop and there were several to choose from but one was made of poo, you’re unlikely to buy that one.   If the poo cake had extra cherries and cake decorations all over (the equivalent of shiny website things) then it would still stink and, although it may attract a few more flies, it would still be a cake of poo.

Shiny website things are great … when a website is already strong enough to properly capitalise on them.

Analyse just one website page

Website Analytics No Comments

Most people know that I’m a big fan of analysing website statistics but it’s fair to say that it can be a very time consuming process.  If you’ve not got into analysing your website visitors patterns, it can be daunting just putting a toe in the water.

But come on in – the water is fine and there are no jellyfish.

A useful introduction to the benefits of analysing website visitors is to focus on just one website page and get a ‘feel’ for how website visitors interact with that page.  This is worth demonstrating with an example …

The screenshot below is related to a company that offer a service called Category Management.  The screenshot shows that their categorymanagement page has been viewed 28 times in the past month.  That’s not a huge number (so immediately implies that more SEO would be beneficial) but it’s a number small enough to invest a bit of time analysing that website page.

By then asking the webstats analysis system to dig deeper into the website visitors details for that one page (http://www.worldofpatria.com/categorymanagement) it turns out that the 28 views of that page came from only 22 people.   By looking through each visitor path that looked at that page as part of their visit, some insights can be gained.  One such example is in the screenshot below …

In the case of the screenshot above, the visiting company may be of interest, as may be their interest in category management as well as the other pages they visited.

In the case of other website visitors it may present a different picture.

By investing a bit of time on analysing visits that include views of just one website page within your website you can start to form a picture of whether you’re getting the results you want, which will usually lead to changes being made.

And once you’ve dipped your toe in the water like this you may well find that you start to enjoy swimming in the waters of website visitors analysis.

ROI vs ROI

Website Analytics No Comments

ROI – it means ‘Return On Investment’ right?

Yes, it does.

But it could also stand for ‘Return on Intelligence’, which I feel is a more sensible approach.

Taking one ROI scenario related to websites …

You invest in website development work and SEO (sometimes including PPC).  You expect a return on that investment.  You get a few months down the line and your ROI isn’t what you hoped it would be.   You see figures from the SEO people telling you that your website is getting various numbers of visitors who have typed various types of phrases.  And yet your enquiries/sales are not at the level you want them to be.

Your ROI looks poor because you should be focusing on the alternative ROI of:

Return on Intelligence.

This means being more intelligent about what you’re investing in.  Anyone who has spent money on website development and SEO will know that it’s not a cheap exercise but so many companies do just that, expect good results, and wonder why those results don’t always happen.

Here are some of the things that could go wrong:

  1. The website redevelopment work wasn’t strong enough.  It may be your fault for demanding certain things to be created, but they weren’t actually good enough to impress the target market, which meant that the web developer just created what the client demanded.  It may also be the website developers fault because they missed out on various important things taht should have been included but you wouldn’t know what they were.
  2. The SEO targeted the wrong types of people, sometimes involving wasted expenditure on PPC clicks.
  3. The SEO company of choice turned out to be a dud.
  4. Your business processes failed to capitalise on what the website and SEO were gaining.  For example, each enquiry may not be logged, things get forgotten, and so potential business falls by the wayside.

In order to get a return on investment you first have to focus attention on the concept of return on intelligence.  This means putting in a bit more effort than paying the bill of the web developer and SEO people.  You need to have your finger on the pulse of how your website is or isn’t working.   In short, from day 1 that your redeveloped and SEO’d website goes live you need to be gathering data about each individual website visitor, including:

  1. How they found your website (search engine, online directory, other sources).
  2. What they typed to find you (if from a search engine).
  3. What page they landed on and each other page they looked at, and for how long.
  4. (where identifiable) What company/organisation they were from.

Currently being used by many Custwin clients is the webstats analysis system that allows all the above (and more) to be achieved.  But it needs one important ingredient for it to work:

Intelligence.

Not the intelligence that comes out of the website statistics analysis system but the intelligence of the person within your company who agrees with the following statement:

“If I am going to invest money in my website then I need to invest time in analysing how numerous visitors interact with my website.  If I don’t like what I see then I will be able to take action at an early stage”.

The ‘Return On Intelligence’ is the knowledge you gain from fully understanding how people interact with your website.  It allows you to ask questions such as:

“Why is it that XXXXX people landed on this website page, went to that website page, but we didn’t get any enquiries as a result?”

Within just a few weeks of your redeveloped and/or SEO’d website being launched on the world, you, through using ROI in the right way, would be in the position that you can be asking questions of the web developers, the SEO people, AND yourself, about why certain website visitors aren’t making contact with your company.

Or, you can invest in website development and SEO work and wait several months before realising that your return on investment wasn’t working as you hoped it would.

Does it take time to analyse website visitors statistics in the recommended way?  Yes, of course it does.  But I’d suggest that the time invested is a lot more valuable than time spent on some other activities.   For most small to medium sized companies, using our new webstats analysis system (to be officially launched during September), it would typically take 5-10 minutes per day to analyse website visitors patterns and then capitalise on the intelligence gained.

That’s why we’re going to make it free for the first 30 days because when used as intended, the whole concept of return on investment is looked at in a completely different way that will give companies that ‘get it’ a huge advantage over competitors.

Google Adwords Quality Score explained

Google Adwords No Comments

It’s time to clear up a misperception that many people have …

Appearing high in the Google Adwords (Pay Per Click – PPC) listings is NOT all about how much money you offer per click on your advert.

Years ago you could keep offering Google more money and they’d position you high accordingly.  The highest bidder won.  For some time now though it’s been all about the quality, which is where the Quality Score comes in.

Google wants people to click on adverts but it also wants searchers to like what they find on the website they click through to.  For each keyword phrase and advert you have set up in a PPC campaign, Google is looking for the following …

  1. Does the advert get a reasonable level of clicks when people search for keyword phrases that make that advert visible?
  2. Is there a good match between the keyword phrase, the advert, and also the landing page of the website that the searcher would click through to?

Quality Score goes up to 10/10 but when a PPC campaign is initially created, Google tends to give you between 4/10 and 6/10.   As time progresses, the system will be looking at your rate of clicks (plus other factors) and if that rate isn’t strong enough then your Quality Score may be penalised, which means that you have to pay more money for the Google system to list your advert.  It’s like a smack on the wrist – if your advert isn’t strong enough, or high enough in the listings, then people won’t click, which implies that it’s a poor advert or the budget isn’t good enough … so you get penalised.

By default, Google Adwords also doesn’t show you the Quality Score column, which means that you don’t know what score each keyword phrase is getting.  Many PPC novices fall into this trap, finding that advert positioning isn’t high enough so they keep raising their click budgets, totally unaware that their Quality Score is the problem.

It’s another of those ‘Google things’ that’s a bit odd.  You’d think that it would be better business for Google to make it much clearer what people need to do within their PPC campaigns to make them more successful.  Included in that would be a much more upfront explanation about Quality Score.  By being ‘kinder’ Google would have advertisers that run their campaigns more efficiently and so become longer-term advertisers.  Perhaps though it’s easier money for Google when people blindly increase their costs per click, even though long-term they’ll stop using PPC advertising because they believe it’s not a good return on investment.

So here’s the quick guide to what you need to do when first setting up a Google PPC campaign …

  1. Start small – create a small campaign focusing on very few keyword phrases.
  2. Ensure that there is a strong link between the keyword phrases, the advert(s) created, and the landing page of your website.
  3. After making your campaign live, go into your Ad Group and from the Columns pull-down option, tick the ‘Qual. Score’ box.  You will now see your quality score appear.
  4. Over the coming days and weeks monitor your quality score for each keyword phrase.  It’ll often start at between 4-6 out of 10 but you want to see it increasing to 7-8 out of 10 and hopefully up to 9 or 10 out of 10.
  5. When your Quality Score is looking good for the small campaign start to build out your campaign but always watch out for lower Quality Scores because they’ll imply that something isn’t quite right.

Got any questions about Quality Score?  Just contact us – we’ll be happy to advise you for free.

Updating News on websites

Website Strategy No Comments

It’s surprising how many companies find it to be a challenge to keep the News section of their website updated with news.  A comment often heard is: “we don’t have anything newsworthy to put in there”.

The downsides to not having updated news on your website are:

  • People think you have nothing positive to say
  • SEO benefits are missed out on

So let’s look at what ‘News’ could be.  Perhaps:

  • New product/service announcements
  • Awards won/being considered for
  • Landmark events within your business (e.g. just sold widget number 10 Million)

But such news items aren’t regular occurrences, which is why many companies struggle with updating what they perceive to be ‘news’.

Looking at what else could be considered ‘news’, how about a monthly update on products/services sold during the previous month?

We all take for granted the day-to-day work we do and I’d suggest that there’s a danger of keeping achievements hidden, when they could so easily be doing a job of selling your business via your website.

As an example, the text below could be a news update from a company that makes widgets, who produces a news update on their website just once a month …

August is typically a quiet month for us but we’ve had our busiest August ever.

Since expanding our business unit and buying in more widget making equipment back in May, combined with our new website and online marketing, we’ve been increasingly busy.   In the past month alone we have made:

  • 2,500,000 red widgets for ABC Ltd
  • 1,500,000 blue widgets for DEF Ltd
  • 825,000 purple widgets for GHI Ltd
  • 200,000 green widgets for JKL Ltd

We are also celebrating our first order from Dingobits in Australia, which came from widgets we’d previously provided for one of their subsidiary companies in the UK.  The UK subsidiary were so impressed with the quality of what we produced that they recommended us to the parent company.

We’ve also launched our new grey widgets for the automotive market and within just 3 weeks had our first sale and this great comment from that new client:

The quality of these grey widgets is superb.  We had been buying from China, primarily on price, but had issues with returns due to poor quality.  We’re now proud to ‘buy British’ having experienced the great attention to detail that your company provides.

Dan Booth
Works Manager
Big Cars Ltd

The news update above achieves the following:

  • Awareness that the company is growing in an economic environment that’s declining.
  • Awareness that the widgets company is in demand, based on the numbers of widgets made in the month.
  • Awareness that the company doesn’t just sell to the UK.
  • Awareness that the quality of the products is good (so helps to detract from price-led issues).
  • Awareness that the company launches new products.
  • SEO benefits from linking (underlined words) back to relevant pages, while encouraging people to look at those pages to see more details.

When you take that concept and replicate it each month, you start to build up a portfolio of company successes which sends out the right message to potential clients.

Potentially, a company that’s busy enough could create a news update every fortnight or weekly but for most companies, just focusing on a monthly news update should be enough to handle.

So my question to you is, if you have a News part of your website, could you be doing more with it so that it sends out a stronger message about what you do and have done?  As long as your News section is regularly updated, is easy to find, and you encourage people to look at it, then you will start to see links between those people who have looked at your news pages and the enquiries/sales that you get.

Google sitelinks update explained

SEO No Comments

Someone recently asked me to explain Google sitelinks and because the way it’s work has recently changed I thought it worth making a blog out of it.

An example of how sitelinks has changed can be seen in the screenshot below, which is what you see in Google after typing ‘custwin’ …

Prior to the change, Google would have displayed the names of sub-pages in the results but not the further detail.  As shown by the example on the Google blog, the sitelinks are now providing a lot more information so that people have a better idea before they start clicking on links.

As individual companies you have little control over what sitelinks are displayed – it’s Google’s algorithm that decides that.  However, you have the option to use Google Webmaster Tools to demote some links that are appearing, if you want to.

Over the years I’ve recommended that companies keep an eye on how they appear when people type their name into Google.  This has been mainly related to just being aware of where your company name appears but the issue of sitelinks changing makes this more important.

Here’s an example …

We typed the name of a company into Google – Alpha 1 Security.   When you type that in, you get the following view …

The good news for them is that they appear top, complete with sitelinks to relevant sub pages of their website.  However, there are other companies who have the same name of Alpha 1 Security and, as you can see from the red arrows in the screenshot above, they’re not top of Google.  Whereas previously they would have been closer to the top, the increased depth to the sitelinks has the effect of pushing them down the search results page while shouting out “click on this top company – they’re the best”.

What this means is that Google has made a decision about which ‘Alpha 1 Security’ should be positioned top and given all those juicy sitelinks displayed underneath.  It will have based that decision on various factors but mainly on how well the website is structured and visible to the Google bot.  Clicking through to those other two websites it’s very clear why Google doesn’t consider they’re worth putting higher.  In brief, they’re appalling websites that don’t deserve to be higher.

If you are a company that has a fairly distinct name/brand then as long as Google likes what it finds on your website then you’ll see yourself at the top with sitelinks included.  You should be aware though that you are allowed up to 12 sitelinks and so there may be further opportunities to improve your website.

If you type your company name/brand and you’re not top but others are, along with sitelinks, then you have some work to do!

The link between exam results and websites

Website Development, Website Strategy No Comments

Today was the day of reckoning for many as school exam results put smiles or tears on the faces of thousands of teens.  I was there at the school with my daughter, seeing how her efforts at school translated into results.

It made me think about the parallels between exam results and company websites.

In the case of my daughter, she needed to get certain results to guarantee a few things:

  1. Getting into 6th form.
  2. Being able to do I.T. in 6th form (if you do I.T. then you get to go on a trip to New York – yes, I know, not really the right reasons!).
  3. Get a juicy £150 bonus for passing her Maths (which had been a problem subject).
  4. Getting her 16th birthday present of a flashy camera (needed to do photography if getting into 6th form).

Unfortunately, the Maths grade was poor, which had the following negative knock-on effects:

  1. Poor Maths grades = loss of £150.
  2. Poor Maths grades = no option to do I.T. as a subject, which means no New York trip.

She’s highly likely to still get into 6th form, because other results helped her and, let’s be honest, the education system is so dumbed down that it’s extremely hard to totally fail nowadays.

Back to how this relates to websites …..

  • If more effort is put into school studies then better results will be gained.
  • If more effort is put into website strength then better results will be gained.
  • If school results are impressive then there are benefits (taking a subject that facilitates a trip to New York; getting a financial bonus of £150).
  • If websites are impressive then there are benefits (more enquiries and sales).
  • When you leave 6th form, if you’ve taken your own education and, more importantly, attitude, to a much stronger place then you will have a chance of gaining work in the big wide world.
  • When you’ve continued to build on your website strength, never accepting that it’s finished, then you will gain ever more business.

How many people in business are the equivalent of those who didn’t put in enough effort to get the better grades at school?   They are the ones that have websites that don’t get great results because they don’t put the effort in.  Some of them have websites that generate nothing at all – the equivalent of the dreaded ‘U’ grade in exams.

My message to those coming through the education system is this:

Although (in my view) attitude and ability to impress people are far more important than exam grades, the ‘system’ expects you to have put sufficient effort in to get the grades you need to impress those who could be in a position to pay you money.  If other people have more to impress people with, then they will do better than you.

In parallel, my message to those with websites that don’t gain enough business is:

The effort you’ve put into your website may be eclipsed by the effort that your competitors have put into theirs.  People have a choice of who to buy from and if your website is the equivalent of lower level exam grades (in the eyes of the viewer) then you will not get what you want in business and life.

Pick an SEO battle you can win

SEO No Comments

I frequently hear companies saying that they want to be high up in Google for a search phrase that’s extremely competitive.   They are usually companies who have made minimal effort with their websites and online visibility but yet they feel that for some inexplicable reason, Google will welcome their website into the first page of search results.

There also seems to be a perception amongst many companies that SEO experts can suddenly magic up great Google positioning, within a relatively short period of time, and for a budget that’s woefully inadequate.

Taking an example, if you offer Nile cruise holidays then you may want to be visible on the first page of Google for the phrase ‘nile cruise holidays’.  And so does everyone else want that same visibility, because that’s what most people search for.   The screenshot below gives one view of how competitive that phrase is.   Don’t worry about the detail – just note that red means difficult to beat, green is easier to beat, and amber is inbetween …

Although most people type that ‘nile cruise holidays’ phrase, it’s extremely competitive and you wouldn’t stand a chance of getting in the first page of Google unless you’re going to spend a serious amount of time and money.  The SEO battle is too big.

However, if you pick the phrase ‘nile cruise and stay holidays’ then you’re picking a battle that, although not a walk in the park, has more potential to be won – the prize being first page visibility in Google.   If you look at the screenshot below you’ll see that the ‘red’ isn’t as dominant as in the previous screenshot and so the phrase ‘nile cruise and stay holidays’ is one that you could feasibly get visibility for in Google …

Taking this a step further, if you want to make it even easier on yourself, pick a keyword phrase that’s even more niche.  The less popular the keyword phrase, the more chance you have of picking an SEO battle you can win.  Admittedly, you won’t get anywhere near the levels of website visitors as you would have if focusing on a really popular keyword phrase … but some traffic has got to be better than no traffic, which is what you’ll get if you pick an SEO battle you can’t win.