August 30, 2011
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.
August 29, 2011
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!
August 16, 2011
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.
July 27, 2011
SEO, Website Development
As part of SEO it’s useful to get the url of your website pages right. It’s only one aspect but it can help. Most people nowadays understand that it’s crazy to have a url that’s not plain English (for example www.example.com/CatProd?Prod_id=123345 instead of something like www.example.com/pink-ballet-shoes.html).
Some people understand that you should have plain English urls but still don’t quite get there. For example, the page http://www.thedancelocker.com/bloch-m-1.html is all about a particular brand of dancing shoes so it would be better off as being http://www.thedancelocker.com/bloch-shoes.html or ending /bloch-dance-shoes.html instead of that bloch-m-1.html.
And then there are those who understand that you need plain English in the urls but somewhere along the way get carried away with the keyboard …
Wow! That makes for a long url.
Why would you do such a thing? And more than that, repeat it throughout that website.
The golden rules with naming pages within urls are:
- Use hyphenated words (e.g. pink-ballet-shoes instead of pinkballetshoes).
- Use only a maximum of 3 words.
For further reading on url structure, a useful guide can be seen at http://www.bml-creative.co.uk/2010/10/url-structure-for-seo-success/.
July 18, 2011
Online Reputation Management, SEO
Forget all the hype about the Google +1 button, it’s time to think further outside the box.
For those who don’t know, the Google +1 button is what people can click if they like/recommend something that they’ve seen online. For example, you go to a great restaurant and you ‘+1’ it online. Then people you know will see your approval when that restaurant pops up within their visibility. Because you’ve done a +1 they may make a restaurant booking based on your recommendation.
In short, think about the Facebook ‘Like’, appreciate that Google wants something that will compete against that, and you have the +1 button. There are many articles about the subject and for more reading it’s worth going through the article at http://www.webseoanalytics.com/blog/google-plus1-vs-facebook-like-the-similarities-and-the-differences/.
The purpose of this blog though is to take the concept further …
A Google -1 button.
We all go to websites that we think are poor, or receive levels of service that we think are poor. Surely then, we should have the option to ‘-1’ websites linked to things that we’ve not been impressed by?
So, let’s say you read a blog that’s clearly been automatically generated out of other blogs content. It bugs you, so you -1 it. You go to a restaurant that was poor and so afterwards you -1 it (or even, while you’re there, from your mobile).
You could have options to choose from:
- -1 it without anything further to add.
- -1 it, giving negative feedback to a central Google system.
In the same way that Google will be giving SEO benefits to websites that have good levels of +1’s, it could do the opposite to those with -1’s.
The challenge is in there being potential to destroy the reputation of someone/a business through ‘fixed’ use of -1’s. Such a challenge can easily be overcome though as follows:
- Someone allocates a -1 to a website. Google attributes a small negative against that site.
- Someone allocates a -1 to a website but backs it up with commentary that’s stored by Google. Google attributes a larger negative against that site (because it’s been backed up by commentary).
- Google keeps a close eye on IP addresses and Google accounts that are active in -1 usage (to ensure there’s not a lot of deliberate negativity being spread around).
- End result: Google takes the -1’s and the +1’s and uses them as part of the search engine ranking decision process.
It’s in Google’s interests to do this because people need to have a Google account (logged in) to use +1, and the numbers of Google account users compared to the numbers of people who use Facebook, are tiny. Therefore, Google really needs to create a ‘negative’ angle to the concept (the -1 button) in order to encourage more people to sign up with Google accounts and so use the system more.
Imagine a day when you could search for something in Google, or go to a website, and you’d see certain contacts of yours have done a +1 against something and others have done a -1. How fantastic would it be to then get the views of both sides before you make your decision?!
As with all such ideas, this is just that – the potential for Google to think deeper into the +1 concept and make it something that has an effect of encouraging businesses to up their game through the fear of them losing search engine positioning from people who may have the wish to put a -1 against their business.
July 14, 2011
Remember science at school? Specifically, trying to remember what was in the periodic table? Ag is Silver, Au is Gold, but what was Tungsten?
At that age it was never easy to remember. I broke out in a cold sweat revisiting it as part of creating this blog.
There’s a periodic table of search engine optimisation (SEO) ranking factors, shown in tiny vision in the screenshot below but you can view a proper version via the link on search engine land.
It’s one of those documents that is great to show clients who are misguided into thinking that ‘SEO is easy’, usually influenced by the cold call claiming that ‘SEO is easy and costs only £99 per month for great results’. It’s also a great conversation starter with any company because you can take a pin and blindly stab it into the document and there’ll be something to discuss.
For example, someone randomly picks Cq (the ‘Quality’ SEO ranking factor) and the conversation centres around how vital it is to have website pages that are really well written and contain substantial quality content (instead of being cobbled together to just get something live). That’s the sort of conversation that makes business owners sit up and take notice.
Companies could easily use such a periodic table to gradually chip away at website issues that are causing problems and I believe that many companies would look at SEO in a different way just by having a dialogue with their SEO service providers about the various elements involved in getting a website high up in the search engines.
SEO often seems like a mysterious art to those in companies who pay for services and expect results. It becomes “that stuff the web people do”. That attitude doesn’t really work though because the company ideally needs to understand some aspects of how SEO works in order to support the SEO service provider with information and website content that will be important.
So if you’re reading this, and you’re in the vast majority who aren’t getting enough business out of your website, then print off a copy of that SEO ranking periodic table and start that conversation with your SEO services provider. Alternatively, feel free to contact us – we’ll be happy to share with your our (free) thoughts on whatever you pick out of the periodic table, and how your business can benefit by taking action.
June 19, 2011
SERP, for those who don’t know, means Search Engine Results Page, which basically means where you appear in Google etc. when someone types a particular phrase. The SERP listing is the text that appears in the search results and it’s the start of an online dialogue with your potential customer. It should say “hello, I’m relevant for you to click on” before the dialogue can get any further.
We’ve all typed search phrases and seen search results that either impress or don’t. Getting your SERP listing right is both easy to do and essential. Looking at an example, here’s the top two search results for the phrase ‘Amore & Baci beads’:
The blue underlined line is taken from the meta title tag of the website. It clearly refers to Amore & Baci beads. It also refers to them in the next two lines (which are taken from the meta description tag of the website). It’s also referred to in the page url.
The SERP listing below it doesn’t have reference to Amore & Baci beads in the all-important title tag (blue) line and although there’s some reference to them in the next two lines, the majority, time-poor readers, will skip over it because it’s not blatantly obvious.
In the example below I searched for ‘fifth anniversary presents’ and got those search results …
The top two are fine because they refer to 5th anniversary in both the title line and the text underneath. They also link through to pages that are clearly relevant for someone looking for a 5th anniversary present.
The one underneath does have a reference to 5th anniversary in the title line but it’s not so obvious. Also, the two lines below (taken from the meta description tag) don’t focus on 5th anniversary presents. When you click through to that website page (http://www.thewoodhut.co.uk/) it’s their home page, which does refer to 5th anniversary gifts but many people would have missed that SERP listing in the results because the ‘5th anniversary’ message didn’t come out strong enough. In fact, they’d probably skip that one and go onto the next one down which is much more obvious.
Both those examples do at least use their meta description tag but it’s quite common for websites not to do so, which means that the SERP listings can be even more vague.
Go ahead and type some (anything) phrases into Google and see what the SERP listings are like. See if some grab you whereas you would skip over others, particularly if you’re in a hurry to find something.
Then go and type phrases related to your company and see how strong your SERP listings presence is compared to the other websites that also appear. You may be impressed or you may be wanting to make some changes.
June 18, 2011
Not yet, but sometime (in the hopefully not too distant future), there is likely to be a shift in the way that the major search engines rank websites. Currently, a lot of credit is given to backlinks but my view has always been that the system is flawed (because it’s so easily conned).
In addition, most companies aren’t prepared to put in the time/money needed to engineer a ton of backlinks that will help with their search engine positioning. Those that know how to ‘beat the system’ are those that get the good Google positioning.
My feeling is that it’s time for change and the good news is that every company has it within their power to prepare for the change that could come in the future. That change is:
Brilliant quality content.
When looking for products or services, people searching online are looking for an excuse to buy. If they find something really powerful then they’re going to take notice.
Using the well-worn subject of widgets, let’s say that Widgets Ltd have got an employee that knows an immense amount about how widgets can be connected to didgets. The information from that employee makes its way into a detailed article that gets posted up on the website of Widgets Ltd.
The article is so good that it’s highly unlikely that anyone else in the world has provided such a useful piece of information about how widgets can be connected to didgets.
Google comes along and picks up on the article and soon enough, a search in Google for ‘widgets and didgets’ (and numerous variations on that phrase) brings up the page leading to the Widgets Ltd website. It may not be top positioning in Google but it’s visible. People interested in widgets and didgets look at the article and some of them comment on other websites (e.g. Widgets weekly) about how good that article is, and they link back to it.
Meanwhile, Widgets Ltd are actively finding other websites online that have an interest in widgets or didgets and are posting content that acts as a teaser to the page on their website. Other website owners also pick up on the article and ask permission to have a copy of it on their own website (as long as there’s a link back to the original article on the Widgets Ltd website).
To cut a long story short, over time, the best ‘how widgets can be connected to didgets’ article in the world is recognised as such and because there are highly-relevant links back to that article from other websites, it climbs to the number 1 spot of Google. End result: increased and highly relevant backlinks, which helps with SEO overall.
Taking this further, supposing Widgets Ltd started creating more fantastic articles on particular subjects, and promoted them in the same way. Then anyone interested in widgets will see lots of useful content both on the web in general and also on the website of Widgets Ltd. Each time, the company name ‘Widgets Ltd’ will be repeated and so, when it comes to buying widgets and wanting to deal with a company fully knowledgeable in the subject, the buyer is more likely to go to Widgets Ltd – even when prices are sometimes cheaper elsewhere.
I hear a lot of people within companies saying they’re the best at what they do but it’s very rare to see content on their website that reinforces that. That acts as their flag in the sand that proudly says “We are the best at X!”.
So here’s the challenge going out to any company …
- Think about an element of the products or service that you provide, that you have a lot of knowledge on.
- Type that phrase into Google, see what comes up, and look at the pages that appear.
- Is your knowledge in that subject still superior?
- If it is still superior then craft your article to post live on your website. Make sure you build in relevant elements (ask me if you don’t know how) to give it the best potential to be picked up by Google.
- Launch the article fully confident that your knowledge on the subject is going to be really hard to beat.
From then onwards you can do one of two things:
- Wait to see if the article gets picked up by Google, then monitoring how many people come to the website via that article page, including monitoring what other websites link to that article.
- Do number 1 in addition to proactively being ‘out there’ online finding opportunities to get your full article, or part of it, onto other websites that are closely ‘on topic’.
All the time you’re monitoring visits to that article page – where they’re from, how frequently, and, where possible, which companies are reading that article (which provides opportunities for you to capitalise on knowing those companies have been to your website).
Over time, as long as you’ve set it up correctly, you should see yourself rise high in the Google rankings for that particular article page, which is your first step towards doing lots more of the same and building yourself some hard-to-beat SEO strength for the future.
In short, ask yourself two questions:
- “Do I want to be highly visible in Google when someone types a phrase that’s closely related to something that I have a lot of knowledge in?”
- “Do I want to build links to my website that are so high quality that if there comes a day that Google changes the way it measures the quality of backlinks, I’ll be in a really good position?”.
Time is on your side but to be ahead of the game, I’d encourage you to start dipping a toe in the water now.
May 2, 2011
Are you a company that wants your website to be visible to people outside the UK? For the majority of readers, the answer is probably “No”. For the others, this blog may be of more interest to you.
Let’s say you’re based in the UK and you sell widgets. You’ve had some search engine optimisation done and when you go to Google and search for variations on ‘widgets’ phrases, you see yourself visible. Enquiries come in and you’re a happy bunny.
But what if you actually wanted to sell your widgets to people from other countries. What, for example, would happen, if someone in Spain searched for ‘red widgets’ in Google.es? Would they see your website?
The purpose of this blog isn’t to go into the details of how to ensure your website is visible in other countries but is purely to send you in the right direction to find out, the easier way, how visible you are in other countries.
There’s a Firefox (and Chrome) extension called Google Global that makes life easier. You simply install it (see both https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/google-global/ and the creators website at http://www.redflymarketing.com/internet-marketing-tools/google-global/) and when you’ve typed a search phrase (e.g. ‘red widgets’) into your normal Google window you’ll see where you’re positioned for that phrase. All you then need to do is right click, select the Google Global country that you’re interested in (you can programme it for those of most interest to you), and you’ll see the search results in that country version of Google. They may make you smile … or cry a little.
I ran a test on the phrase ‘belgian chocolates’ in both the UK and then Belgium. In Belgium there’s a website www.g-bastin.com that comes up quite well on the first page of Google but in the UK version of Google they’re invisible. OK, their site isn’t strong anyway but IF they had an ecommerce offering and wanted to be visible in the UK, then they’d have much work to do.
Even if you’re not currently thinking about selling products or services to people from other countries it may be something that you’ll consider in the future and so, by using a tool such as Google Global at an early stage, you’ll be in a better position to plan your expansion accordingly. You will also hopefully avoid making the mistake that I’ve seen many times – people who go to the time and expense of making their website multi-currency and/or multi-lingual etc. without having assessed whether they’ll actually be visible (in Google) to people in those countries that they’re hoping to get sales from.
April 4, 2011
A topic I regularly discuss with clients is the importance of creating content for websites. It’s a subject that never goes down well because most clients are in a permanent trap of being “too busy to create website content” and I often feel as if I’m asking them to saw off their own limbs.
So why is it so important to create good content to go on your website? Quite simply, good website content and website backlinks are two major factors that contribute towards your website getting well positioned in search engines. If you write good content then people will respond to it (when on your website) and if you’ve marketed that content properly (and created new content specifically to post on other websites/in response to blogs), you’ll gain backlinks. The major search engines are also looking out for websites that have strong content to make it worth considering placing the website higher in the rankings. There’s a particularly good blog on creating content for websites on the emagine website, which is well worth you investing a few minutes to read.
People in business have a few options here:
- Do nothing about creating stronger website content.
- Utilise external content creators to create content on specific subjects.
- Dedicate time to writing something within the company.
Taking that point 3 above, although it may be an attractive idea to use external content writers, it’s usually the case that people within the company have the real expertise in any given subject and so a piece of content created would likely be so much stronger when created internally. So how do you get started on building in some website strength through content creation?
Within any business it’s likely that there are one or more people who have a real passion for certain subjects related to the business. I often have conversations with clients in which they’re talking about an aspect of their business and I find myself saying “that would be a fantastic subject for you to write a blog or article on because it’s genuinely interesting”. To the client though, the knowledge is something they take for granted and they usually don’t realise that their passion for their subject can be converted into some really good website content.
Like most things it’s about practice and confidence. When you first learn to ride a bike it takes a bit of time to really get the hang of it. When you go to your first ever networking meeting it also takes a few sessions to become more comfortable and to find your feet. But time and practice make a difference and the great thing about websites is that they make it easy to dip a toe in the water. So here’s my challenge if you find yourself in the position where you have to admit that you’ve not created much in the way of content for your website …
- Pick a subject that you’re knowledgeable about, and is related to your business.
- Write about it in the form of a blog or an article to go on your website.
- Make that content live.
- A week later pick the same subject again and write another piece of content, but with a different angle.
- Make that content live.
- Continue that looping process, perhaps once a week, for a few weeks.
- After a few weeks of writing for your website, return to the original article you wrote and ponder on how you feel about writing now, compared to how you felt when doing that original article. Chances are that you feel much better about writing.
The purpose of this blog isn’t to go into the ins and outs of how you can use content to help with your SEO – it’s purely intended to get the ball rolling so that you have at least some fresh content live on your website, from which you can then move onto using methods to best capitalise on that content and then start to feel that creating content for websites is not a huge chore or a waste of time.
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