Vision64

Category: SEO (Page 1 of 2)

Search Engine Optimisation

Building, Monitoring and Cleaning Backlinks

Get the Right Links and your Rankings will Improve. Fact.

Despite all the recent talk about links and even suggestions that they don’t matter anymore, make no mistake good links are still a fundamental part of SEO and are often a necessary part of gaining more visibility in Google and the search engines.

When it comes to links, it’s quality rather than quantity that matters. But what is “quality” when it’s referring to a link? With the exception of Google no one can say with 100% certainty whether a link is good, bad or exceptional.

For a long time Google PageRank was used to determine the strength of a domain name and from it the potential quality or strength of a link. But in 2016 Google did away with PageRank.

One of the best benchmarks as to whether a link is good or bad is to ask: “does it help people”. If someone is reading an article on a website and there is a link in the text for example, does the link offer help or assistance?

A bad link might be a link that is just there for advertising purposes, but provides no value. Or a link that links to poor content that has been created just for the purpose of linking.

Spammy links and black hat methods can be successful in the short run, but there is often a high price to pay in the form of penalties and difficulties that can persist over years if a website falls out of favour with Google.

How Good are your Back Links?

If you don’t check your back links on a regular basis there is a danger of you running into difficulties with Google further down the road. These can take the form of sustained poor rankings or an out-and-out penalty from Google.

If you think your rankings are being held back or you have noticed a sudden drop in rankings, it’s probably time to take action before it gets even worse.

Good Links from Relevant Websites

The majority of our SEO services include firstly making sure that your back link profile is unproblematic and secondly building more good links to strengthen your domain and improve your rankings. We do this in a manner that is compliant with Google’s guidelines:

  • Theme relevance
  • No SEO networks
  • No site-wide or footer links
  • Links included in the content of well-written artilces
  • No reciprocal links
  • No links from link-exchange or similar schemes
  • Links that visitors would expect to see

Our goal is to make sure that your website can withstand future Google updates. None of our work is automatic; it’s all done manually and involves much time and experience.

We will go out and find the right link sources for your project, these can include:

  • Websites with editoral content
  • Niche websites and blogs
  • Relevant directories
  • Social networks
  • Citations
  • Press releases
  • Comparison websites
  • Forums and communities
  • Suppliers
  • Manufacturers
  • Sponsors

If you would like some examples of the links that we have built, please get in touch. To protect our clients, we don’t want to make them public here.

Avoiding a Google Penalty

Ever since the Google Penguin update in April 2012 it has been clear that spammy and poor-quality links certainly don’t lead to long-term success.

Indeed, poor quality links can have a negative impact on your website or individual pages. Google hands out penalties to websites that do not adhere to the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO vs. PPC – Which is the Best Option

Why Do Businesses Spend Big on AdWords and Virtually Ignore SEO?

Analogy: The Subway Train (AdWords) vs. the Steam Train (SEO)

I’ve been in the SEO business for nearly 10 years now and this is a trend I have seen again and again. Businesses that are more than happy to spend thousands or even tens of thousands a month on Google AdWords suddenly become incredibly hesitant and even shocked when presented with a SEO quote of even £2000 + a month. If we take the willingness of businesses to spend on online marketing as a yardstick, SEO vs. AdWords is a no-contest. Businesses spend up to ten times more on AdWords (there is a reason why Google is one of the world’s biggest and richest companies!).

The reason people get cold feet when making the decision to invest even a fraction of their budget on SEO rather than Pay-Per-Click (PPC is another term for AdWords) is that for the average business owner, SEO is an unknown entity. This, coupled with unrealistic time frame expectations, can make SEO seem like a less worthwhile investment and something to be side tracked but ultimately, this way of thinking is very wrong.

Why a SEO Campaign is Like a Steam Train

Imagine your burgeoning SEO campaign as a steam train, the process of getting this heavy stream train moving is similar to getting your SEO campaign moving.

It takes a lot of fuel (content, links, website changes) thrown into the burners to get it going and once it gets going, it takes a little time to get up to speed. This is where invariably many people lose patience, give up and stop throwing coal into the burners, this will ultimately cause the train to slow down and stop.

Once the campaign is in full speed however, you no longer require the amount of fuel you needed to get the train started. Steam trains take a long time to slow down; a little fuel now and again will be plenty to keep that train moving at full speed for the foreseeable future. You will see your website starting to climb Google, your traffic numbers increase and be able to look forward to benefiting from these positive changes for many months and years to come.

AdWords (PPC) on the other hand is more like a subway train, it is easy to get a subway train to move, all you have to do is supply the electricity (paid-search budget) but as soon as you stop that supply of electricity any momentum the subway train has achieved will soon subside and stop pretty quickly.

Why Businesses May Have Tunnel Vision When it Comes to AdWords?

SEO vs PPC - Which is Best?

There are many reasons why businesses prefer spending their money on PPC rather than SEO but here are the ones that I hear the most often.

AdWords Gives you Fast Track Results

Unlike SEO, AdWords gives you instant results; you can create an AdWords account, bid on your keywords and have traffic running to your website on the same day. In contrast, SEO takes time to get going and you are not going to see instant results.

AdWords are Easier

In comparison with organic search engine optimisation, AdWords is an easy process; you set up an account, bid on your keywords and set up your ads. You also start spending straightaway! In contrast, SEO isn’t as streamlined as Google AdWords and requires knowledge, commitment, a plan and some time investment.

Businesses are often required to improve their website, create new content aimed at satisfying the interests of their customers and to format existing content among many other things. This can easily put people off.

It’s Easy to Calculate the Return on Investment of AdWords

With AdWords, business can easily look at the stats, see how much they are spending and how much they are converting into sales and work out a ROI. Unfortunately, SEO is a little harder to work out the ROI, thus making it look inferior.

Why SEO is Just the Ticket for your Business in the Long Run

Reading the section above, you might be thinking “Why would I even consider spending money on SEO? AdWords sounds fantastic.” But you would be very, very wrong. AdWords certainly has its benefits and can be a good way to spend money, but SEO can be far more powerful at much lower costs.

So let’s take a look at the above section again but this time from an organic search-engine-optimisation perspective.

AdWords Gives you Fast Track Results

Instant results are great, in the short term but what about in the long run? What happens after you stop running AdWords, what happens to your traffic? What happens to your traffic when your competitors decide to spend far more money on PPC advertising than you?

AdWords are Easier

When given the option, people always take the easy way out. I often drive to work instead of cycling in the morning because it’s quicker and easier. Unfortunately, it also more expensive and not as good for me in the long run.
If you look at the following chart from May 2016 showing “Organic click through rates for searches that contain ads versus searches that do not contain ads

You can see the Red line (Organic results achieved by SEO) consistently outperforms the ads in terms of click through rate. AdWords may be easier to set up and require less effort than SEO but just because something is harder to do doesn’t make it less worthwhile.

Conclusion

The aim of this article is not to convince you to ditch AdWords altogether for SEO but to address the discrepancy of the spending between the two. There is a big difference between SEO and PPC, but most companies just go for the easy option. Google is a business, a big business. Its corporate goal is to return bigger profits for its shareholders each year. As such Google sees SEO as competition to its AdWords service. Google has gone to great lengths over the past few years to discredit the effectiveness of SEO.

You, my friend, have the opportunity to be among the relatively small number of successful business that value and profit from investing in their website (otherwise know as search engine optimisation).
If you are spending £5000 a month on AdWords and £1000 a month on SEO and you see SEO has a higher ROI, then go-ahead and increase your SEO budget.

6 months down the line you will be thankful you did.

And not only that, any reputable SEO company will take care of most of the “hard work” for you. Want to know more if organic SEO is the right choice for your company? Please feel free to talk to us by using the details on our contact page.

More reading:

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

The History of Search and Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Nowadays, it seems impossible to imagine a world where you are not connected seamlessly to the internet, where the latest news and gossip wasn’t instantly available and emails couldn’t be sent to the other side of the globe in nanoseconds. In particular, it’s hard to remember a time when needing an answer required getting the encyclopaedia out or a trip to the local library. Now all it takes is a quick internet search and all is revealed. But how did the internet get started and how did Search Engine Optimisation develop to become so essential to our everyday lives?

The Development of the Internet

The Invention of the Internet

Early experiments has been going on into online communication and sharing since 1945, but it was Tim Berners-Lee who conceived and created the embryonic beginnings of the internet as we know it today. In 1989, he proposed a system for sharing scientific research, based at the CERN laboratory where he was working, that allowed experts from around the globe to share their work using a worldwide network of computers.

On August 6, 1991 the world’s first web page was launched, a copy can be found (http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html)

It was Tim Berners-Lee who developed the foundations of today’s internet, including HTML coding, URI (the unique address of each web resource), and HTTP, which allows web content to be retrieved. He also wrote the first combined web browser and editor and the first web server, introducing the now familiar ‘www’ and ‘httpd’ to the world. The first web page was finally launched on August 6 1991, and it was agreed that this service would become available to all, without charge, from 1993.

Early Development

Within a year, two million computers and 1,500 servers were linked together on the internet, used mainly by scientists and other academics and researchers. Some important internet companies such as Netscape and Yahoo were established, and users were already exploring alternative uses for the internet, such as online publication (Space Today Online), and internet radio (University of North Carolina’s WXYC). Tim Berners-Lee also founded the World Wide Web Consortium, tasked with devising ways to ensure the web continued to be freely available to all and was developed responsibly.

Increasing Growth

Developments continued at an astonishing rate:

  • 1995 – Amazon.com and Netscape IPO
  • 1996 – Microsoft Internet Explorer and Hotmail
  • 1998 – Netscape code released, allowing introduction of Mozilla
  • 1999 – Microsoft became the most popular browser, Google processing 3 million searches daily
  • 2000 – 70 million computers online, Google processing 18 million searches daily
  • 2001 – Wikipedia established, Google processing 100 million searches daily, Apple produced the iPod
  • 2002 – More than 3 billion web pages, variety of web browsers, first virtual reality world created (Second Life), MySpace, WordPress, Skype and iTunes introduced.

Within ten years the internet had outstripped all possible expectations and it has continued to develop at an unbelievable rate ever since. No-one could possibly have predicted how the internet would change our world so comprehensively.

The Internet Today

It’s now possible to access the internet from almost any place on earth, using laptops and computers, but also mobile devices such as tablets, smart phones and more. Estimates suggest that by 2015 there will be 4 billion internet users. The internet has truly become an essential part of everyday life for a vast number of people and is constantly evolving to meet the demands of its many users.

Search Engines

What Does a Search Engine do?

A search engine is designed to locate and organise information on the internet, so that when someone types a query, relevant results are shown to help them find the information they need.

Why are Search Engines Necessary?

The early internet consisted simply of a collection of FTP sites, but as it developed it became necessary to devise a search system to help users find information quickly and efficiently. Thus the search engine was born.

The First Search Engines

When the internet was originally established, it was conceived as a way for scientists to share their finding, so early search engines didn’t need to be very sophisticated. The first search engine was established in 1990, invented by Alan Emtage from the McGill University in Montreal, and consisted of an FTP site hosting an index of downloadable directory listings. Named Archie, this early model had limited space, so the documents themselves were not stored.

This was followed by Mark McCahill at the University of Minnesota, who created Gopher, a search engine that looked for text references within files using a hypertext paradigm. Mosaic was another early search engine, introduced in 1993, which was the first graphical web browser. The first search engine to utilise web crawling as it’s known today was Matthew Gray’s Wandex, which indexed and catalogued web pages.

Later Models

On the back of these early efforts, more sophisticated search engines were developed and launched as individual companies. However, the rapidly changing market environment led to several acquisitions and mergers, resulting in success for some and the quiet demise of others.

Excite

Excite began life in 1993 as a Stanford University project and was first introduced to the world commercially in 1995. Following a period of significant growth, Excite bought WebCrawler and Magellan in 1996, and later joined forces with MSN and Netscape. However, it was ultimately superseded by Google, and after filing for bankruptcy in 2001, it was taken over by Info Space and subsequently by Ask.com.

Yahoo!

In 1994, David Filo and Jerry Yang established Yahoo!, initially as a sites directory that was maintained manually. With considerable foresight, Yahoo! began charging an inclusion fee in 2001 which helped keep the number of sites manageable and also provided much-needed revenue. In 2002 it shifted to using web crawler strategies, and created partnerships with companies including Overture, Altavista, AllTheWeb and Inktomi. Renamed The Yahoo! Directory, it is still a major company today.

WebCrawler

WebCrawler was developed by Brian Pinkerton, a University of Washington student, in his free time and launched in April 1994 as a database of 4,000 websites. By November that year it had processed over a million queries and had gained two sponsors: DealerNet and Starwave. This made it financially stable, and in 1995 it was sold to America Online (AOL), then to Excite in 1997, where it became part of the takeover deal from InfoSpace. It is now functions as a meta-search tool combining data from many sources.

Lycos

Lycos started life as another university project, this time based at Carnegie Mellham University, but was also funded by a considerable investment of venture capital, and was launched publicly in April1995. It enjoyed phenomenal success over the next few years, becoming one the most popular search engines, and also bought a number of well-known internet brands. It was bought by Terra Networks in May 2000, but became a high-profile casualty of the dot.com crash in late 2001, and was sold on to Daum Communications Corporation in 1994. Subsequently, it diversified its operations to include phone services, social media, file sharing and email, utilising data from AllTheWeb for its searches, thus it remains a powerful force in the internet world.
AltaVista

Originally conceived as a super-fast search engine, AltaVista was developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation in early 1995, and was intended to have the capability to search the entire web. Indeed, it achieved this in August 1995, having specified over 10 million web pages. By 1996, AltaVista was providing search results exclusively to Yahoo!, but was bought out by Compaq. Always at the cutting edge of innovation, AltaVista was the first search engine to provide results for multimedia as well as text, and to operate multilingually. The company was bought by Overture in February 2003, which itself was acquired by Yahoo! in late 2003, and the brand was subsumed into the Yahoo! stable.

Ask Jeeves

Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com), was launched in 1996, and used editors to process results manually, including sites listed elsewhere, well-known sites and paid-for listings. Over the years it has acquired other companies such as Excite, but focused on developing its own search software. It now displays mainly paid-for results.

Today’s Major Players

Yahoo!

Yahoo! began diversifying from its original function as a listings service in 2002, acquiring other search directories and building itself into a significant presence on the web.

Google

Early Days

Started in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google started life as Backrub. It used the innovative concept of searching and cataloguing sites by using back links and ranking the relevance of the site to the search enquiry, a system it has maintained to this day, albeit with many changes to the actual algorithm. In a nutshell, Google assigns a higher ranking to sites with a high number of trustworthy back links, a high number of genuine clicks by users, and demonstrable relevance to the search query.

Google Milestones

Google has had a number of significant milestones in its bid to become the world’s most popular search engine:

  • 1998 – The company is launched
  • 1999 – Funding secured from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins
  • 1999 – AOL selects Google as a search partner
  • 2000 – Yahoo selects Google as a search partner. Multilingual service launched
  • 2000 – Google launches Google Toolbar to make browsing easier
  • 2000 – Google launches AdWords to sell self-managed adverts on Costs Per Thousand (CPM) basis with keyword targeting and performance data
  • 2002 – AOL uses Google to deliver search related advertising, the critical factor in winning the deal with Overture. Google News launched
  • 2003 – Google launches AdSense, selling targeted advertising on other websites

Google continued to launch a variety of services, including Google Earth and Google Maps (2005), Google Analytics (2005), Gmail (2007), Google Wallet and Google Calender (2006). It also acquired companies along the way, such as Picasa (2004), and DoubleClick (2008).

Google Today

Google is now the front runner in terms of internet search engines, cornering over 70% of the market, with its nearest rival Microsoft’s Bing capturing a mere 18.7%. It processes a staggering 89.2% of UK searches, outstripping its closest competitors Microsoft (5.93%) and Yahoo! (3.22%) by a breathtaking margin. Google is also the top seller of internet advertising by some considerable distance.

All this makes Google a force to be reckoned with, and no online business today can afford to underestimate the importance of tailoring their online presence to take account of Google’s massive influence.

How Google Works

Infographic showing how google works

info graphic by the pay per click blog

Search Engine Optimisation

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

SEO is an umbrella term for the strategies used to try and ensure a website is given the highest possible ranking in internet searches. These are sometimes referred to as a ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ results as they are achieved without resorting to paid advertising to ensure visibility. Organic results are usually shown below paid-for results; for example. Google displays adverts in a yellow box at the top of search results, with organic results displayed below.

More Info on the Definition of SEO – Point Blank SEO

Why is SEO so Important?

Featuring highly in the search rankings can be critical to the success of any business. Research shows that 75% of users never look beyond the first page of results, and despite the fact that paid-for results feature first in the rankings, 70% of clicks are actually on organic results. If you want your business to be clearly visible to your customers, you need to be have a high placing.

How Does SEO Work?

Different Aspects of SEO

There are two elements to SEO.

On-page SEO

This refers to the information that’s visible on the page and the key to success is in ensuring that your page is relevant, detailed and interesting to your users. Aspects such as a good title, relevant keywords included early in your text (without keyword stuffing), and having genuinely useful content, are all important to the on-page SEO. Other important factors include speed of page loading and ease of navigation.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is about proving to the search engines that your site that is trustworthy and known as an ‘authority’ site, which is achieved by building a network of genuine back links from other sites.

How do Modern Search Engines Work?

The job of a search engine is to collect data about each web page and use it to determine how helpful that page will be to potential users. This data is processed and used to rank the pages. When users perform an internet search, the pages are displayed in order of perceived relevance and trustworthiness.

Which Data is Collected?

This can include keywords or phrases, the URL, the code used to create the page and links to and from the page.

Where is This Data Stored?

Search engines either store the data on their own servers or link to other servers which can store it.

How Does the Search Engine Collect This Information?

Search engines use programs to ‘crawl’ the internet seeking out information. These programs are usually referred to as ‘web crawlers’, ‘bots’ or ‘spider’.

How is the Information Processed?

The search engine server uses an algorithm to process the data. When a user enters a search term, the search engine performs its algorithm to find pages that appear most relevant to the query, and displays the results.

The Google Algorithm

Since Google has virtually cornered the market, webmasters looking to achieve the best possible ranking generally consider the Google algorithm as the most important when designing their site.

Google considers all the relevant on-page data, but also places great importance on the value of citation notation from other sites i.e. genuine back links. If lots of other trusted sites recommend your site by providing links for customers, logic implies that your site is also a valuable and trustworthy one.

Google believes that focusing on producing a high-quality interesting site will render intense SEO tactics unnecessary.

Which Features Help your Page to Rank Highly?

Google’s stated aim is to rank highly pages that are well-written, relevant, and are genuinely useful to users, and every update they employ is with the purpose of encouraging this. The Google algorithm focuses on good quality content, relevant keywords used properly, and genuine back links from other sites. Paying attention to details such as including relevant keywords in your title tag and meta description tag can also help to achieve a better Google ranking.

Which Features Could Penalise your Site?

Any tactics which could be viewed as trying to manipulate your ranking could cause your site to be demoted or even removed altogether. Google takes a dim view of automatically generated content, irrelevant pages with unconnected keywords, keyword stuffing, cloaking and cookie-cutter content, purchasing or swapping numerous back links etc.

White Hat and Black Hat SEO

Tactics intended to achieve high ranking by aligning themselves with Google’s insistence on high quality content are referred to as ‘White Hat SEO’. Unscrupulous methods, such as those mentioned above, are called ‘Black Hat SEO’. Some companies, which appear to offer a low-cost service with so-caller ‘guaranteed’ results in the rankings, use Black Hat strategies which may have good results initially, but will ultimately lead to problems when uncovered by Google.

How the Evolving Algorthim Shapes the Web

How the Evolving Algorthim shapes the web

Infographic by SEO Book

Are there Alternatives to Using SEO Strategies?

It is possible to use other legitimate strategies to help boost your ranking.

Pay Per Click

If you use systems such as Adwords, PPC, your page will be displayed above organic search results, and you will pay a fee for every click you receive (although not for views). You can set a daily budget to limit your outlay.

AdWords

Although there are several PPC services, Adwords is the only one that features in Google search results.

How Does the PPC Bidding Process Work?

PPC can be paid for at a flat rate, but the most popular search terms are generally paid for by bidding. Users enter a contract with the provider, and define the price they are willing to pay per click; this can be done manually or by an automated service. Other users do the same, and the bidding process when the search term is clicked – the highest bidder takes the top spot, with close rivals placed below.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Keyword?

This depends on the keyword in question. A little-used term can cost as little as a few pence, but the most popular can be very expensive; in 2014, the most popular keyword was ‘insurance’, which retailed at an average of $54.91 (£34), per click.

The History of SEO

Now that you have an understanding of how SEO works, you may be wondering how SEO developed into the form it is today.

The rapidly changing environment around SEO meant that webmasters were continually updating and evolving their strategies to take account of changes, in the all-important race to be top of the tree in the rankings. Broadly speaking, there have been four eras of significant change, including the present day.

The Meta Era (1994-2000)

As early as 1995, with the launch of AltaVista, the balance began to swing away from listings being submitted and towards SEO, so it became important to tailor your content rather than simply to submit your site. After all, people searching the net weren’t likely to trawl through pages of results looking for the company or, in later years, products and services they wanted – they would simply choose from the first few. So the race to top the search rankings began.

Initially, search engines relied heavily on site submission to compile their indexes. But in time, they developed crawler bots to harvest the information, allowing them to index sites and rank them accordingly. The actual information on the page was of prime importance.

By 1997, software to decode search engine systems had become widely available, allowing companies to dominate the rankings easily, and also to employ cloaking strategies to prevent their rivals from cashing in on their coding.

Naturally, with so much potential, SEO became a hot topic, and in 1999 the first ever SEO conference took place. ‘Search Engine Strategies ’99’ was moderated by Danny Sullivan, who was already becoming a leading authority in the subject. In 1996, Sullivan founded Search Engine Land, one of the most trusted and respected sites about SEO, as well as keeping a personal blog, and managing further SEO conferences such as the SMX: Search Marketing Expo events.

Another early enthusiast for the new field of SEO was Bruce Clay, who started Bruce Clay Inc in 1996 and has built it into one of the most famous and best-respected SEO companies in business today. He was also a speaker at Search Engine Strategies ’99.

The Page Rank Era (2000 – 2003)

In 2000, Google launched its toolbar, and webmasters were then able to see their ranking.

It was perhaps inevitable that webmasters began to look for ways to cheat the system, and tactics such as link buying, link swapping and keyword stuffing became commonplace amongst less scrupulous operators. Rumours began to circulate about the potential use of algorithms to prevent this manipulation of ranking.

The Florida Era (2003 – 2009)

The launch of Google AdSense in 2003 inadvertently set off a chain of events that had a significant negative impact on search rankings. AdSense made it simple for spammers to set up a myriad of monetising websites solely for the purpose of figuring highly in the rankings, and Text Link Ads responded to the significance of back links on the algorithm by enabling users to purchase multiple spurious links. Google, understanding the significance of all this activity, made a comprehensive overhaul of its algorithm in November 2003, which not only knocked out many dodgy sites, but also wiped out many legitimate ones too. This became known as the ‘Florida’ update, and was followed by other updates such as ‘Jagger’ and ‘Big Daddy’.

The Florida update signaled the start of regular and ongoing Google’s updates designed to ensure that rankings are based on high quality content. Google also continued to take direct action where they deemed it necessary, such as banning Text Link Ads altogether in August 2007.

In 2003, Aaron Wall founded SEO Book, a site dedicated to everything SEO-related. Over the years it has developed to include advice, blog postings, training modules, tutorials and SEO tools, making this which is now considered one of the most authoritative sites on the net

The Modern Era (2009 – present day)

Google’s two major updates, Panda and Penguin were game-changers for SEO. These new algorithms have made significant progress towards outlawing so-called ‘Black Hat’ SEO, in which strategies are employed in a effort to outwit the algorithms and manipulate the rankings. For example, the practice of using no follow tags, when page-sculpting in an attempt to influence the direction of web crawler traffic through a site, is now much less effective.

SEO today is a complex and demanding operation. Google continues to monitor web data and manage the results of its findings to promote high quality sites and penalise those who use suspicious tactics to mislead users. Hopefully, this will ensure that the results of search queries always provide the best service for internet users.

Further Resources

Stone Temple – The Changing Face of SEO

Innovation Insights – SEO Landscape Overview

Entrepreneur.com – 5 SEO Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know for 2014

E-Consultancy – Q&A: Mags Sikora on the Current SEO Landscape

Brick Marketing – Google Panda Update Vs. Google Penguin Updates

Search Engine Land – Google Hummingbird & The Keyword: What You Need To Know To Stay Ahead

Green Light Digital – History of SEO

The History of SEO – People

The History of SEO – The Basics Behind a Search Engine

Google Guidelines – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en

Google – Our History in Depth

Word Stream – The History of Search Engines – An Info graphic

Search Engine Watch – Where Are They Now? Search Engines We’ve Known & Loved

World Wide Web Foundation – History of the Web

Web Design Tuts Plus – A Brief History of the World Wide Web

Search Engine Optimisation

How to Find a Reputable SEO Company in the UK

No-one can dispute that ensuring your business has a high ranking on the search engines is essential if you want your business to be a success. In the past it was probably enough to have someone with good SEO knowledge managing that process in-house. But nowadays, with so much at stake and the requirements changing regularly, it’s universally agreed that hiring a professional SEO company is the smart option. But why is hiring a professional company the best solution, what can an SEO company do for your business, what are the pitfalls, and how do you go about finding the best SEO company for you? This article aims to answer these questions and more.

What Does a SEO Company Actually Do?

In a nutshell, an SEO company is totally focused on ensuring that everything necessary is done to get your company website to rank highly in customer searches. However, the way in which this is done involves a wide range of tasks, as well as taking a great deal of skill and organisation. If it’s done properly, getting high ranking for your firm is not a quick fix, but should rather be viewed as a long-term strategy for increasing and maintaining your visibility on the web. You should approach managing your SEO as an ongoing investment.

So what will an SEO company actually do for your website?

There are three main stages involved:

  1. Initial investigation and analysis of current performance
  2. Improving your website based on the findings
  3. Ongoing management of the account to ensure continued performance

Naturally, there’s a good deal of overlap on these stages and the activities contained within them, but broadly speaking, these are the areas it will cover.

Initial Investigation and Analysis

This stage of SEO management involves implementing a number of strategies for analysing your site’s current performance to assess its effectiveness.

These strategies may include:

Whole Site Analysis

This is an in-depth analysis that looks at features such as URL structures, page load speed, meta description tagging etc. that may affect your customer’s overall experience, as well as features which may affect page ranking.

Keyword Research

Key words are the life-blood of the search engine, so it pays to undertake careful analysis here, to see if current content is using the best keywords to rank highly. Keywords should be matched to popular search terms, have relevance to your business and not be over-used by similar companies. More on how to do keyword research for beginners here… and here….

Google Analysis

Current performance such as in-bound traffic, bounce rate, most popular pages and more, can be analysed using tools such as Google Analytics or Webmaster tools to assess its effectiveness.

Link Profile Analysis

Inbound links should be high quality links, as spam links can be penalised by Google and detract from other development strategies. Cleaning up poor links should be give a high priority when improving your site. A good tool for finding external links to your website is Majestic

Content Analysis and Expansion

Your existing content may need to be adapted and developed to make it more relevant to search engines. This may be a simple as doing a little tweaking to your current pages or it may involve designing a completely new site from scratch.

Code Overhaul

The underlying code for your website also affects its search ranking, so adapting or re-writing this may help improve your results.

Link Monitoring and Disavowal

Monitoring links is important for two reasons. Occasionally, your company could fall victim to a negative SEO attack, which could affect its Google ranking. If negative links are discovered, it’s possible to ‘disavow‘ links to minimise the impact. It’s also important to monitor links in case the quality of the inbound links could be improved.

Brand Monitoring

If your company is mentioned elsewhere online, it’s important that there is a link back to your website. Brand monitoring will identify where this is needed and the SEO company can contact the other site to try and ensure this is done.

Competitor Research

It’s not enough to know about your own company. In order to compete effectively, you also need to know what your rivals are doing. Analysing their performance can help you to enhance your own. Sistrix is a good tool for monitoring your competitors.

Improving your Website Based on the Analysis Findings

Once a thorough analysis of your website has been conducted, you are in a better position to understand exactly what you need to do to improve your site so that it ranks more highly in internet searches. An SEO company can make recommendations about steps you can take and can carry these out for you.

Link Building

This is possibly the most important aspect of managing SEO, and when it’s done well it can have a significant impact on your effectiveness over time. Reputable SEO companies will only use reliable and legal link building strategies, but some less scrupulous operators may use illegal ways to build links. These methods might produce impressive results at first, but eventually these can have a devastating effect on your rankings performance in the long term. More on link building here…

Content Creation and Marketing

This strategy is all about creating new content that markets your company, including blog posts, articles, info graphics or multimedia, which may be on your site on or another (e.g. guest posts on another blog). Running a blog is also considered a very effective way to link with your customers and generate additional traffic to your site. Here is an article on content

Liaising with Other Brands

Sometimes working with your competitors can help both parties. Practices such as guest blogging can bring benefits to you and to your host, so mutual liaison may be beneficial for you both.

Online Public Relations

Publicising your brand through legitimate channels, such as journalists, news outlets or social media, can bring significant results whilst avoiding penalisation from more dubious strategies.

Ongoing Management

Achieving high SEO rankings is a gradual process if done properly. Of course, a single project such as a website launch can bring about good results, but in order to maintain high ranking, you will need ongoing management of your website.

Why are Great SEO Services Both Expensive and Hard to Find?

Infographic market for lemons

Marketing Infographic by SEO Book

Why Should I use a SEO Company?

Many people may ask why hiring a professional SEO company is a good strategy. Surely this could be managed internally and let you save on the considerable costs of outsourcing? However, it’s worth taking time to analyse this viewpoint.

Managing SEO is Time Consuming

With so many aspects involved, it’s clear that managing SEO requires a huge amount of time devoted to it. Smaller companies may prefer to employ staff who are expert in their operating field and leave SEO to those better equipped and skilled to manage it.

Managing SEO Requires In-depth Skills

There are many specialist skills required to analyse, develop and manage each aspect of the SEO process. An SEO will have many experts at its fingertips, each fully conversant with all aspects of their individual field, and will have built strong working relationship with others on their team, enabling fast and effective communication. You could employ SEO staff, but you probably wouldn’t want to hire an expert in every area, as this could be very expensive.

Getting it Wrong Can be Costly

Making mistakes can have a devastating effect on your company’s performance, which could last for a long time and be very difficult to put right. You cannot afford to have someone inexperienced managing such an important aspect of your marketing.

Other Alternatives Can Cost More

Other options for growing your visibility are available, such as Google Adwords, but more competitive keywords are often expensive (e.g. £12 per click), so could prove less cost-effective in the long term.

Unless you are running a very large operation, you are unlikely to have enough staff with the individual knowledge needed to tackle issues competently. It would be better to leave SEO to the experts and let your staff concentrate on growing and managing your business.

How Much will Outsourcing my SEO Cost me?

(Everything you need to know about SEO costs and prices)

Naturally, the overall costs of outsourcing your SEO will depend on a number of variables, such as the size of your company, the amount of work involved, and the services you require. It may help to have an understanding of how prices are usually structured.

SEO Pricing Structures

Most SEO companies have several different pricing structures, depending on what you need. These generally include:

Fixed Price Services and Costs

Most SEO companies will offer individual services for a fixed price or perhaps on a sliding scale depending on the size and scope of the service. For example, undertaking an initial site audit might be such a project, enabling the customer to assess the current situation before committing to long-term services.

Costs for fixed price services vary widely depending on what’s involved. For example, a site audit for a small website may cost as little as $500 (£300), or run into several thousands for a large site. Individual services such as copywriting may be chargeable per word, probably ranging between $0.15 (£0.09) and $0.50 (£0.31).

One-off Project Services and Costs

It’s also possible to engage the services of an SEO company for a specific project, such as a website launch. Again, prices vary according to what is actually involved in the project in question, but reputable search-engine-optimisation companies should be able to give a detailed quote if required.

Ongoing Services and Costs

If you require ongoing services to manage your SEO, most companies offer a retainer system, usually with a monthly fee. Agreed services will be delivered, and you will receive a detailed report enabling you to see what has been done and where you may want to make any changes. Other models include Pay-Per-Rank and Pay-Per-Visibility type agreements where pricing is largely based on performance.

The cost per month will depend on the range of services you need from your SEO company. Smaller businesses can expect to pay around $750 (£465), for a monthly contract from an established SEO company, but costs can rise as high as $5,000 (£3,100) for a large-scale service.

Local SEO

Prices for Local SEO contracts can vary greatly. Here factors such as the size of the city, how competitive the market and budget all play a role. However, you can expect the cost of local SEO to be considerably less than national SEO.

Hourly Consultation Services and Costs

SEO companies will be able to offer hourly rates for consultation. Naturally, these will vary, but you should expect to pay between $100 (£62), and $300 (£185), per hour, depending on the service you require and the level of expertise of your consultant.

Beware of Low Cost Options

It’s an old adage, but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The prices outlined above are the rates likely to be charged by an SEO company that plays by the rules and delivers a good service. However, there are companies who will offer you a much cheaper deal, and this often comes with ‘guarantees’ about how they will improve your ranking. It’s actually impossible to provide concrete guarantees about performance or rankings, and it’s also impossible to provide a cheap service using legal methods. Investing in a low-cost company is false economy; they will probably by using so-called ‘Black Hat’ methods, risking the long-term future of your company (see below), and costing you far more in terms of possible lost revenue and also your reputation as a professional company.

You Get What you Pay for

It may seem as though SEO could be an area to cut corners on your budget, but evidence shows that high quality SEO services provide the best ROI compared with other options. Nowadays, getting SEO right is absolutely critical to the success of your business, and money invested in obtaining a superior service will be money well spent.

Why is Great SEO so Expensive?

why is great seo so expensive

Online marketing infographic by SEO Book

Black Hat SEO

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO companies use illegal methods to enhance website rankings. Black Hat methods deliberately try to work around the terms and conditions of Google and other search engines, to get websites ranked highly, by using a host of spamming techniques. These strategies are designed to trick search engines into ranking a page highly and while this may work well in the short term, it will ultimately have serious consequences.

What Methods do Black Hat SEOs use?

Spamming Forums

This shady practice posts so-called ‘spam’ links into discussion forums that bear no relation to the subject of the forum. Many systems filter spam so it doesn’t actually appear in the forum, but sometimes this can be seen as a way to generate links quickly.

Blog Comment Spam

Blog comment spam works in a similar way to forum spam, by posting irrelevant links in the comment sections of blogs. Again, it is often blocked by efficient filtering, but can occasionally be successful.

Links Farms

Search engines include the number of links on a site when factoring its relevance. A link farm is a family of sites, each linking to the others and perhaps containing multiple links. However, these won’t generate genuine traffic.

Keyword Stuffing

This involves swamping the web page with key words, some of which may be hidden from the reader, to fool the search engine into thinking the page is relevant to the search.

Cloaking

This technique presents one set of information to the web crawler and another to the reader, so perhaps the page appears to be about one thing but is actually about another.

Link Buying and Link Exchange Programmes

Buying a link to your company on another site, or exchanging links, are ways to gain extra links, but Google does not allow excessive use of these techniques.

Article Spinning

Article spinning involves re-writing sections of existing articles or making minimal changes to attract web crawlers.

Doorway Pages

A doorway page is a worthless page that spams the search engine index and re-directs users to another page, thus tricking the search engine into giving a better ranking.

Why Shouldn’t I use a Black Hat SEO?

The bottom line is that Black Hat SEO techniques are banned by Google, so whilst they may give you a great result in the short term, Google is continuously looking out for websites which use these practices and taking action against them when they find them. This action includes:

  • Removal from Google indexing – your site will no longer show up on search engines, even when customers look for it specifically
  • Your site is not ranked for keywords or brand name
  • Search ranking is reduced to ‘0’

Once these penalties are enforced, traffic to your site will drop dramatically and you will need to completely revise your SEO strategy. In the worst case scenario, you may have to design a completely new website.

How do I Recognise a Black Hat SEO?

There are several warning signs to look out for when trying to identify a Black Hat SEO company. These include:

  • Guarantees about the level of your ranking or the length of time it will take to achieve them (e.g. top spot on Google in less than a month)
  • Guarantees about generating a specific number of links in a given time
  • Guarantees about the amount of traffic that will be generated
  • Significantly lower costs than other SEO companies – $750 (£465), monthly is generally considered the lowest advisable amount
  • Reference to shady techniques such as social bookmarking, article spinning, directory submissions, guest posting on content farms etc.

What if my Site is Already Affected?

If you’ve already had a brush with Black Hat SEO techniques and you’ve seen the messy results, you may be wondering whether there is anything you can do to repair the damage. This will take a great deal of time and effort, but there are steps you can take.

  • Overhaul your site to remove as many bad links and other negative aspects as possible
  • Contact other webmasters and request that bad links under their control are removed
  • he Google ‘Disavow’ tool allows you to ask Google to disregard specific links when conducting their algorithms
  • Revamp your site by creating excellent content that will generate genuine traffic and provide a good service to your customers
  • Once you have done all you can to remedy the situations, ask Google to reconsider their penalty. It will help if you can provide evidence of your own efforts to clean up your site

How do I Find a Reputable SEO Company?

There are several considerations to bear in mind when choosing yourself a good SEO company.

Price
Don’t look for the cheapest but look for the best. Remember – low-priced companies are far more likely to be operating Black Hat strategies that could damage your company significantly. Our prices

Location
Some SEO companies only work in specific geographical areas, so they understand the local market and can offer you a more personal service. Vision64 for instance is specialized in German SEO

Reputation
Try to find out about the companies you are considering, by looking for independent reviews or by asking trusted colleagues for recommendations. Word of mouth is often an excellent way to find out about the success (or otherwise), of individual SEO companies.

References
A good SEO company should be able to provide references from satisfied customers. Don’t rely on these alone, but they are a useful starting point in gauging whether they can offer you a good service.

Experience
Ask whether the company has any experience of managing accounts for businesses in a similar field to your own. If so, they should understand the world in which you are operating, and may already have some ideas about how to improve your website’s performance.

Get quotes
Obtain a specific quote that details exactly what you will get for your money, so you can compare like for like when making your decision. Contact us here for a quote

Talk
Spend time talking to the companies – your gut instinct can often be a good guide as to whether you can build a good professional relationship with them. (Feel free to use the details on the right to speak to us).

And finally…

Getting the very best SEO services for your business is too important a decision to be left to chance or undertaken lightly. The whole future of your business may rest on the choice you make, so take the time to investigate all the ramifications and your various options very carefully before taking the plunge.

Making an informed decision will result in finding a great SEO company that can help give your company the prominence it deserves, letting you focus on what you do best – growing your business.

Further Resources:

4 Tips For Hiring The Right SEO Firm – Forbes

How Do I Find a Good SEO? – Moz

How to Choose an SEO Company: Ignore Top SEO Lists – Outspoken Media

What Does An SEO Firm Do? – Forbes

Google Guidelines on SEO Companies – Google

The Inconvenient Truth About SEO – Smashing Magazine

How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services? – Search Engine Watch

SEO Pricing: 600+ Agencies Share Costs of Services & Pricing Models – Moz

What Is Black Hat SEO? – Word Stream

Black Hat SEO: Techniques to Avoid – Postionly

SEO 101: Meet the White Hats, Gray Hats, Black Hats & Asshats – Search Engine Watch

SEO 101: Meet the White Hats, Gray Hats, Black Hats & Asshats – Search Engine Watch

Other SEO Companies in the UK that you Might want to Try

pinnaclePinnacle SEO | Freelance SEO Consultant Northern Ireland
Pinnacle SEO is a freelance digital marketing consultancy based in Northern Ireland offering businesses SEO & PPC services
gomungGoMungoSEO
Digital SEO Agency based in Islington, London.
deleteFuse8 | Award Winning SEO Company in Leeds
Leeds-based SEO Company, clients include: Buying Solutions, Alton Towers, Persimmon Homes, Meningitis Research Foundation.
custardCustard Online Marketing | Content Marketing Agency in Manchester
Custard, an online marketing and digital media company based in Manchester, are efficient and professional SEO and web designers.
the-designTH3 DESIGN  | Design & Marketing Company Hull / Yorkshire
Web design Hull – TH3 DESIGN is a creative design Company providing web, print and video services in Hull, East Yorkshire and nationwide.
twenty-oneTwentyone Agency | Strategic Digital Marketing Blackburn, Website Design & SEO
A Lancashire-based strategic digital Company, est. over 10 years ago, with core skills which include: SEO, Digital Marketing ; Website Design.
SEMSEMtelligence | North East SEO Consultants & Internet Marketing
SEO consultants and internet marketing service providers specialising in SEO services, social media optimisation, PPC advertising and improving conversion rates.
Search Engine Optimisation

Environmental Impact of Search and the Internet

The internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that in many ways we hardly notice it any more. In the early days, there was much talk about the ‘paperless’ society and how the internet would have a beneficial impact on the environment. But recently, that view has been called into question. So what are the various claims about the environmental impact of the internet and what are the facts and figures underlying these claims?

Alex Wissner-Gross (2009)

In 2009, Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross published a paper on the environmental impact of the internet. An article in The Times newspaper singled out this statistic from the report: each Google search has a carbon footprint of 7g of CO2, enough to boil half a cup of water. The article also quoted statistics relating to other Google services. For example, it claimed that watching a YouTube video produced 1g of CO2 for every ten minutes watched and a typical Gmail user would produce 1.2kg annually. The use of these statistics sparked an intense debate that has continued ever since.

Google’s Response

Google disagreed with this assertion and produced evidence in a number of areas to back up their view.

Energy Required for Each Search

ON its official blog, Google challenging the context of the statistics. The blog post claimed that even taking into account pre-search tasks such as building the search index, each search used 0.0003kWh (1kj) of energy, stating: ‘For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.’

Comparison with Tailpipe Emissions

Google also stated that each search only produces 0.2g of CO2, adding for comparison that this was significantly below the EU regulations regarding tailpipe emissions, and that ‘the average car driven for one kilometre (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.’

Further Comparisons

In order to add extra food for thought, Google went on to give several other interesting statistics for comparison:

  • CO2 emissions of an average daily newspaper (PDF) (100% recycled paper) = 85 searches
  • A glass of orange juice = 1050 searches
  • One load of dishes in an EnergyStar dishwasher (PDF) = 5100 searches
  • A five mile trip in the average U.S. automobile = 10 000 searches
  • A cheeseburger = 15 000 searches
  • Electricity consumed by the average U.S. household in one month = 3,100,000 searches

The Scale of Google’s Operations

Google also felt that it was important to understand the scale of its operations when discussing the impact on the environment. Google conceded that their searches produced CO2 equivalent to running a domestic freezer for 5400 years and consumed enough energy to process 5.57 million loads of laundry (3,900,000 kWh). But the company argued that this should be viewed in context: their search engines processed 100 billion queries monthly (500 million times a day), and published results within microseconds.

Google’s Green Credentials

However Google was also at pains to point out that it was not complacent about these figures and was taking a number of steps to reduce its carbon footprint and develop its green credentials.

Data centres are an essential element of the internet, and in particular to cloud storage solutions.

What is a Data Centre?

A data centre is ‘a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organizations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.’ Stanford professor Jonathan Koomey has been studying the environmental impact of the internet since 2000, and has found that data centres account for between 1.1% and 1.5% of global electricity use.

Why are Data Centres Better than Local Solutions?

Nowadays, more and more customers are turning to cloud storage to keep their data in a secure and central location. This has several benefits. It frees them from the necessity of running their own storage servers which are often old and inefficient. Central storage also makes data easily accessible from almost anywhere, allowing remote working for employees, and also ensuring data protection and security arrangements comply with regulations.

Google’s Data Centres

How Much Energy do Google’s Data Centres Use?

Google has gone to considerable lengths in an effort to make its data centres more environmentally friendly, resulting in data centres which are 50% more efficient than most others. Independent studies have verified that Google data centres only use around 0.01% of the world’s electricity, equivalent to only 1% of Koomey’s estimated figures. Considering that Google processes over 70% of all searches, this is proportionally very small.

What has Google Done to Make its Data Centres More Efficient?

Google has taken several actions to improve the efficiency of its data centres.

Streamlining the Search Process

Google has an entire department devoted to finding ever more efficient ways to conduct internet searches, which has been a critical factor in reducing its energy consumption. It believes that in the time it takes to complete a search, the user’s home computer will use more energy than Google takes to process it.

Efficient Design

The use of green building technologies, including smart temperature controls, using natural cooling solutions such as outside air and recycled water, and smart architectural design, have all contributed to making data centre buildings extremely efficient.

External Verification

Google is the first large internet company to gain external accreditation for its commitment to providing safe workplaces, energy-efficient buildings and high environmental quality standards.

Google’s Other Energy Saving Initiatives

Google calculates that providing all its services to an average user for one year requires the energy equivalent to driving a car one mile. When its carbon-offsetting program is taken into account, this results in a carbon neutral situation.

The company has taken a positive approach to tackling environmental issues across its whole field of operations, including involving employees in suggesting and implementing green strategies and initiatives.

Renewable Energy and Carbon Off Setting

Google has actively collaborated with its energy suppliers to make the company’s energy use as green as possible. 35% of Google’s energy now comes from renewable sources, including deals with local wind farms and installation of 1.9 MW of solar panels producing 3 million kWh of energy annually. It also actively invests in renewable energy projects around the world to encourage greater use of clean energy. Google practices carbon-offsetting for the remaining 65%, making its overall operations carbon neutral.

Energy Efficient Buildings

Google works with architects to design its buildings with green and sustainable features, such as maximising natural light, installing efficient energy systems and eliminating dangerous materials. Over 4 million square feet of its buildings have been granted LEED Green Certification status.

Green Transport Solutions

Google provides a bio-fuelled shuttle service, electric car charging points, and a car-sharing scheme for its employees, resulting in a reduction of private vehicle use to the tune of 5,700 vehicles and saving 87 million vehicle miles each year. Co-workers who cycle or walk to work can designate a charity to receive company donations

Google’s Wider Initiatives

Google is also committed to working with partners to reduce carbon emissions on a wider scale. For example, it co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (2007), focused on reducing global computer CO2 emissions.

Google Environmental Report 2017 Progress Update

Carbon Footprint

According to Google, in 2016 their gross GHG emissions were 2.9 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). However, due to their “renewable energy and carbon offset programs” their net operational carbon emissions were zero.

Over the past 5 years, their “carbon intensity per revenue and our carbon intensity per full-time equivalent employee  both decreased by 55%, and our carbon intensity for electricity used at our data centers dropped by 59%.”

Performance Highlights from 2017

Google Performance Highlights

Google Performance Highlights

The Environmental Impact of the Internet as a Whole

However, Google is just one cog, albeit a large one, in the internet machine as a whole. What is the environmental impact of the internet overall?

The Internet in Daily Life

The modern public demands to be connected to the internet seamlessly for almost every aspect of their everyday lives. It is inconceivable that today’s businesses and individual users would not be able to access the internet quickly and efficiently via a host of different gateways, including mobile devices. Many government services, such as applying for tax credits or payment of Child Benefit, can only be done online. Almost every other area of daily life, including diverse tasks such as banking, reading, shopping, and making travel arrangements, are increasingly taking place online.

How Much has the Internet Expanded?

The internet has expanded at an astounding rate to meet this ever-growing demand. For example, internet usage has increased dramatically:

December 1995 – the internet had 16 million users (0.4% of global population)

March 2014 – the internet had an estimated 2,937 million users (40.9% of global population)

June 30, 2017 – the internet has an estimated 3.885 million users, with the most connected region being Asia at 49.7%

World Internet Usage

In what Ways is the Internet Used?

Who is Using the Internet?

According to the ONS Internet users in the UK: 2017 report, Internet usage can be broken down into the following age bands:

internet usage by age bands

How Much Time is Being Spent on the Internet January – June 2017

Using UKOM figures (the official cross-industry standards body that measures online audiences using approved comScore data), the average Briton spent 49% of their online time on smartphones, 37% on desktop / laptops and 15% on tablets on average per day Jan-Jun 2017.

Time Spent on the Internet

What are the Reasons for People Using the Internet?

People use the internet for a wide variety of reasons, including for fun or relaxation, but the most popular reasons were for ‘finding out and learning things’ (76% of all adults), and maintaining contact with people (60%). Men were more likely than women to use the internet to stay informed about news (47% compared with 32%), and sports (36% compared with 9%), but in other activities, results were broadly similar.

How Does all this Internet Activity Impact the Environment?

Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets now give users almost limitless internet access, and people in many developing countries are also getting online. Use of the internet is increasing significantly and looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future. But what is the impact of all this connectivity on the environment? This topic is the subject of much debate and there are several aspects that need to be considered.

Why is it Difficult to Reach an Accurate Conclusion?

Experts agree that the process of trying to arrive at an accurate conclusion about the impact of the internet on the environment is difficult for several reasons. A ‘data gap’ between the figures necessary to make relevant comparisons, lack of standardisation in research methods, and issues around the transparency of data, all make the task of assessing its impact very difficult. However, some tentative conclusions have been drawn about the impact in some areas.

What We do Know?

  • Energy consumption: The questions of how much energy is required to maintain the internet is a complicated one, and it’s difficult to arrive at a definitive figure. Areas for consideration include the direct use of electricity by the internet (e.g. to conduct searches), the energy consumption of data centres, and the electricity required by the devices used for connection.
  • Direct use of energy by the internet: Jonathan Koomey Was a keynote speaker at Google’s ‘How Green is the Internet” summit held in June 2013. Koomey calculates that the internet probably uses around 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption, but is keen to point out that this a complex area of study.
  • Energy consumption by data centres: According to Eric Massenet (Associate Professor at Northwestern University), data centres account for the second largest amount of energy consumed, using between 1% and 2% of the world’s electricity. The use of electricity by data centres doubled between 2005 and 2010, with the energy needed for cooling the building and powering systems accounting for most. Although IT systems are becoming steadily more efficient, Massenet believes this figure could be halved, but that the major barriers to achieving this are not technical but down to institutional reluctance. If companies were willing to streamline operations, abandon outdated and inefficient data servers, and migrate to the cloud, big savings could be made.
  • End user devices: It’s universally agreed that end user devices account for the majority of energy usage. Individually, the amount used by devices may seem almost insignificant; desktops use 200 kWh per annum and notebooks 70 kWh per annum. But it’s the sheer scale that makes such an impact, with 1.6 billion PCs and notebooks having online access in 2012, together with 6 billion mobile devices. Other peripheries such as wireless routers, phone systems, set-top boxes, and switches all consume electricity, along with display equipment such as monitors and Smart TVs, also use electricity.

The Impact of the Growth in Mobile Devices

There are now more people using mobile internet than the desktop equivalent, there are 3.5 billion global mobile Internet users as at August 2017.

This has a had a big impact on internet traffic, mobile traffic is now responsible for 52.21% of internet traffic compared to 42.16% from the previous year.

Although, While the total percentage of mobile traffic is greater engagement is higher on desktop with 55.9% of time spent on sites via desktop users and 40.1% of time spent on sites is by mobile users.

How Much Energy do Mobile Devices Use?

Mobile devices use significantly less energy overall than traditional devices:

  • Mobile phones: 1-2 gWh/pa
  • Tablets: 10-12 gWh/pa
  • Laptop PC: 70 gWh/pa
  • Desktop PC: 200 gWh/pa

Embedded Emissions

The rise in popularity of mobile devices means that the issue of embedded emissions is becoming more important.

The Impact of Electronic Communications

Many people believe that electronic communication is good for the environment, but it’s important to remember that even this has an impact. An article in Guardian Weekly (August 2011), draws on findings from the French environment and energy agency Ademe that reach some surprising conclusions.

Ademe concluded that emails sent and received by each French employee generate an average 136kg of CO2, making an annual total of 13.6 tonnes for a company employing 100 people. Ademe arrived at this figure by taking into account the energy used by computers to send and receive the emails, the energy used by data centres and the energy needed for production of the electronic components. Furthermore, adding 10 recipients to an email quadruples the energy required, whilst practices such as storing and printing use further energy. However, the report also found that removing one recipient per email would reduce the employee’s total by 44 kg per year.

But What About the Good Effects of the Internet?

Kualo Environmental Impact Internet 2017
The Environmental Impact of the Internet – An Infographic by Kualo.

Measuring the benefits of the internet is also a complicated process, because it’s difficult to balance all the ‘negative’ aspects against the positive impact. The facts and figures around the ‘cost’ of the internet on the environment should be balanced with the very positive benefits it brings towards environmental friendliness.

Information Technology Benefits the Environment

In a guest post on thinkprogress.org, Jonathan Koomey presents a very convincing argument that the internet has a positive impact on the environment. His detailed post gives a number of examples of findings from studies being mis-represented and statistics reported inaccurately. He states that many people believe that IT consumes a large amount of electricity and that this consumption is increasing at an incredible rate. Koomey argues that this is untrue: ‘while computers use electricity, they are not a huge contributor to total electricity consumption’.

Koomey cites the importance of continual striving towards better efficiencies to reduce the internet’s energy footprint even further, but he also stresses the importance of taking into account the way computers have changed how the world goes about its business. For example, years ago we used vast amounts of paper to print books, newspapers, keep business records etc. but now the internet allows us to do this all electronically. The internet enables us to do things more efficiently, helping us to reduce our energy needs in other areas. Koomey believes this pay-off is crucial: ‘Computers use a few percent of all electricity, but they can help us to use the other 95+% of electricity (not to mention natural gas and oil) a whole lot more efficiently’. Factors such as the impact of dematerialisation must be taken into account.

Ways the Internet Can Benefit the Environment

CD Purchasing vs Music Downloads

Koomey quotes a study from the Journal of Industrial Ecology contrasting purchasing a CD with downloading the music. When comparing the emissions produced from manufacturing and shipping the CD compared with downloading it, the study found that downloading the music produced at worst a 40% reduction in emissions, and in the best case scenario, an 80% reduction.

Working from Home

Koomey estimates that up to 40% of the US workforce could work from home. If this was actually implemented, it would be of massive benefit to the environment, but even if that 40% only worked from home for two days a week, it would still save around 53 million metric tonnes of emissions. This is equivalent to removing 10 million cars from the roads.

Email vs Snail Mail

Email has revolutionised how we communicate, both for business and for personal reasons. There has been recent discussion about how green email actually is, and las in other areas, there is much to take into account. Email is certainly faster, and the carbon footprint of a single email is considerably less than a letter. The Guardian newspaper (21 October 2010), calculated that the emissions caused by emails were:

  • Spam email: 0.3g CO2
  • Genuine email: 4g CO2
  • Email with attachment: 50g CO2

The University of Belgrano in Argentina concluded that the carbon footprint for producing a 4-page letter with envelope is 25g CO2. If that letter is collected and then delivered 400 miles away, the necessary stages in that process (such as transportation), add a further 3.37g CO2, making a total of 28.7g.

Other studies have shown that even taking into account the energy used to open, read, delete and store the email, the carbon footprint of an email is around 60 times less than that of sending a snail mail communication.

Critics argue that the sheer number of emails sent, combined with the impact of spam, means that direct one-to-one comparison is not helpful, and there is still much disagreement on the environmental impact of email use overall as opposed to snail mail.

Phone Call vs Text

Nowadays, many people use text as their first medium of communication rather than making a call, but how does the carbon footprint of a phone call compare with that of a text? The emissions produced by making a phone call are calculated to be 57g CO2 per minute, compared with just 0.000003g CO2 for a text. Again, some prefer to view the situation overall rather make a like-for-like comparison. For example, people may send a flurry of texts in a ‘text conversation’ which could be communicated easily in a short phone call, but overall, it seems that text has considerably less impact than calling.

So What is the Environmental Impact of the Internet?

A quick internet search will reveal that opinions are sharply divided on the actual impact of the internet on the environment. This is further complicated by the difficulty in obtaining reliable and broadly agreed data with which to examine the problem. Experts such as Koomey have spent many years studying this issue, and although he has been able to reach some reasonably firm conclusions, he also claims his research is often used of context or misrepresented, especially by the media.

There is certainly an argument that it’s impossible to judge the impact of the internet on the environment simply by calculating the supposed use of energy or its carbon footprint, without taking into account the myriad of other changes and influences that the internet has had on almost every aspect of our lives. This is a difficult and complex discussion.

Ultimately, at least for the foreseeable future, it’s impossible to reach an informed decision based on agreed scientific research that can address all aspects of the equation properly. And with the ever-changing scenario, perhaps it’s possible that this is a question we shall never be able to answer fully.

Sources and Further Reading

Google’s Carbon Footprint

Google discloses carbon footprint for the first time – The Guardian

‘Carbon cost’ of Google revealed – BBC News and Technology

Two Google searches ‘produce same CO2 as boiling a kettle’ – The Telegraph

Powering a Google search – Official Google Blog

Energy and the Internet – Official Google Blog

Google Search scratches its brain 500 million times a day – Cnet

Is the Internet Hurting Our Environment? – Word Stream

Data Centers and their Impact

How a Data Center Works – SAP Data Center

Data Centers – Google

Solving for sustainability – Google

Google’s Environmental Report – Google

Growth of the Internet and its Impact

Internet Growth Statistics – The Global Village Online

How Much Electricity Does the Internet Use? – Elecktor Magazine

Google’s Footprint: The Environmental Impact of Internet Searches – The Wall Street Journal

Scientist slams newspaper for Google CO2 report – Cnet

Does the Internet pollute the internet? – CCCB Lab (in Spanish)

Debunking the myth of the internet as energy hog, again: How information technology is good for climate – Think Progress

Web surfing, email and memory downloads take an environmental toll – The Guardian

Internet Stats & Facts for 2017 – Hosting Facts

Search Engine Optimisation

Penguin and Panda: Explaining the New Algorithms

When we search for something on the internet, we expect to find what we want quickly without being directed to useless or inappropriate sites, but have you ever stopped to consider how much work goes into making that experience possible? We are used to typing in a search term and finding an answer to our query quickly and easily, and the success of this is down to the expertise (or otherwise), of the search engine. There are several search engines available for us to use, but far and away the most popular is Google, which accounts for around 70% of searches made. So how does Google go about ensuring that our web browsing is a positive experience?

Google Algorithms

Google has spent a vast amount of time and energy streamlining its search process to ensure you get a good result. Over the years, Google has developed and introduced a series of algorithms to try and push the most relevant and high-quality sites to the top of their search rankings and eliminate those low quality, spammy sites.

What is an Algorithm?

Search engines are continually ‘crawling’ the web, collecting information about the millions of sites that are out there, and storing it on their data servers so they can interrogate this data when a search is made. When you enter a search term into your web browser, the search engine goes through all the potentially relevant data and tries to offer you the sites which best match your query at the top of the list displayed. That all sounds very simple, but in practice this is an extremely complex operation.

How do the Algorithms Work?

This is the million dollar question. Google (understandably), is reluctant to reveal the specifics of exactly how the algorithms work, preferring instead to encourage webmasters to focus on producing high quality content which benefits the customer and make manipulation of the ranking unnecessary. In other words, if your site has excellent content and is well maintained, it will naturally rise in the rankings.

Why are Algorithms Necessary?

Online businesses understand the importance of ranking highly in search results. Research shows that 75% of users never look beyond the first results page, so it’s important for companies to get the highest possible ranking. Whilst it’s possible to pay to have your website displayed at the top of the results, it’s also been shown that 70% of clicks are on ‘organic’ results – i.e. not paid-for results. Once webmasters realised the critical importance of gaining a high ranking, some resorted to spurious techniques to try and manipulate their ranking, using spammy tactics and so-called ‘Black Hat SEO’ strategies. Google has been in an ongoing battle ever since to defeat these practices and promote genuine sites for its users, releasing several important updates to its algorithms such as Panda (2011), Penguin (2012), and Hummingbird (2013).

Why do Changes in the Algorithm Matter?

Many of the Google updates had little impact on search rankings. Some sites moved up and some moved down and eventually, over time, webmasters could perhaps find genuine ways to increase the visibility of their sites. However, some of Googles updates had a big impact on ranking, with significant changes to rankings occurring almost overnight. So let’s take a closer look at these updates and the effect they had on search rankings.

Further Resources on the Google Algorithm

https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change

https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/algorithms/

https://computer.howstuffworks.com/google-algorithm.htm

Google Panda

Google Panda Inforgraphic

SEM Infographic by SEO Book

Released in 2011. Panda was specifically designed to tackle practices such as building spammy, low-quality back links to sites, spun and scraped content, and to identify ‘thin sites’ (those with little real content).

Google Quality Raters

One strategy used by Google to determine the worthiness of a site is to use Google Quality Raters. These people surveyed sites to judge the quality and trustworthiness of sites, for example, by considering whether or not they would trust the site with their credit card details.

How does Google Judge the Quality of a Site?

There are several features that Google consider could imply a low-quality site:

  1. Duplicate Content
    If you have a large amount of repetitive information, e.g. separate pages for a similar clothing item in every size and colour, rather than one page with relevant options that can be selected from a drop-down menu, this is considered to be duplicate content.
  2. Short ‘light’ Articles
    Having lots of short articles, with little genuine content and that simply ‘fill up’ your site, are also likely to be penalised.
  3. Lots of Mistakes
    If your articles have lots of spelling or grammatical errors, your site will not be considered a high quality one.
  4. Spun Articles
    Articles created by using article spinning software that reproduce essentially the same article with minor changes such as using synonyms are also condemned by Google.

Life After Panda

Naturally, the best way to ensure that your site achieves a good Google ranking is to avoid dodgy practices like those above, and to focus on building a high-quality site with superb content that genuinely offers your customers a good experience. This could include:

  1. Creating unique content
    There is little point stealing article from another site to bolster your own; make sure you produce excellent articles yourself, that are well-written and relevant. That way users are more likely to remain on your site, reducing your bounce rate, and also more likely to return.
  2. Limiting the number of adverts
    Bearing in mind that Google’s avowed intention is to give users a good experience, wading through dozens of adverts on a page to find the real content is extremely off-putting and is likely to be penalised.

How Can I Improve my Site’s Ranking?

In its advice to webmasters, Google is categorical that attempting to manipulate one or more specific aspects of its algorithm is pointless. Not only is the algorithm process highly complex, making it unlikely that trying to alter one specific area will be ineffective, but the algorithm is also being changed constantly. The best way to advance your site’s ranking is to consider what negative features to avoid and to focus on producing genuine high-quality content that really gives your customers what they need.

  1. Ensure expert content
    Make sure the articles on your site are written by experts who really know what they are talking about. For example, if you have a health website, people must be able to trust advice that you give. Your site needs to be considered an authoritative source.
  2. Originality is essential
    This is not only a case of not scraping or spinning articles from other sites. You also need to try and produce content that is truly original, such as original research data, original opinion pieces or original analysis. Make sure you cover everything in as much detail as possible and present differing viewpoints where appropriate.
  3. Eliminate mistakes
    If people come to your site as a trusted source, you must make sure the information you give is correct and relevant. You must also proofread and test everything carefully so you don’t have spelling mistakes or wrongly-formatted pages, which will lessen your reputation as a trusted source.
  4. Monitor your site well
    Google wants to see that you are taking an active role in managing your site. If you have lots of out-of-date information, or a blog comments box stuffed full of spam, this implies the site is not well-managed, and could affect your ranking.
  5. Work with others to generate genuine back links
    Whilst the practice of buying or swapping back links is rightly deemed as inappropriate, you can work with others to help build genuine back links. For example, guest blogging on another site with a link back to your own is a good way to generate a genuine back link.
  6. Attention to detail
    Attention to detail is also an important aspect of web management. Even if most of your site is excellent, just one or two low-quality pages can result in your whole site being ‘demoted’ in the rankings, so it’s worth checking absolutely everything with a fine tooth-comb.

Ultimately, Google maintains that if you make the maximum effort to ensure your site is the best it can possible be, this is the best way to achieve a good ranking.

Further Resources on Google Panda

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html

https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/opinion/2067687/google-panda-update-say-goodbye-low-quality-link-building

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda

Google Penguin

First heralded on 24 April 2012, Google Penguin was the next significant Google update to hit the internet. It was primarily aimed at decreasing the rankings of sites which didn’t follow Google guidelines, but instead were using Black Hat SEO tactics and relying on spurious back linking techniques.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO refers to tactics which attempt to achieve a high search ranking by manipulating the search algorithms rather than aim for good quality content.

Which Tactics are Considered Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO tactics include:

  1. Spamming forums
    This is the practice of posting spam links into forums that are unrelated to the subject of the forum, in an attempt to generate links. Many forums have a filtering system which blocks these before publication, but this is not always the case.
  2. Blog comment spam
    Similar to spamming forums, the practice of spamming blog comments involves posting spam links into the comments section of a blog. Again, these are often filtered, but not always.
  3. Links farms
    A links farm is a group of sites devised specifically to generate links between these sites, but these links are not genuine. They are an attempt to manipulate the Google algorithms by making it look as though each site has lots of back links.
  4. Keyword Stuffing
    A page with keyword stuffing has lots of supposedly relevant keywords, either in the text or in the metadata, making it look as though the page is helpful for the user, but in fact there is no real information.
  5. Cloaking
    This practice uses metadata to ‘fool’ the web crawler into thinking the page is about one thing when the actual text is about another.
  6. Link Buying and Link Exchange Programs
    Because the Google algorithm considers the number of back links to a page when calculating its relevance, some have resorted to buying or exchanging links with another website. Overuse of this practice could result in being penalised by Google.
  7. Article Spinning
    Article spinning software allows the user to take and article and change it slightly (e.g. using synonyms), without changing the substance or structure of the original.
  8. Doorway Pages
    Doorway pages are set up to attract the web crawler and gain a high ranking, but instead of providing genuine information, they merely redirect the user to another page.
  9. Buying links
    In the early days of back link significance, some people set up sites allowing webmasters to purchase links to their site. Google has made it clear that this practice in unacceptable and will result in a penalty.
  10. Link networks
    A link network is a chain of websites, perhaps owned by a Black Hat SEO company, that can create multiple links to your site in an effort to trick the search algorithm into thinking your site has lots of back links. However, these are clearly low-quality links and likely to attract a penalty.

What Happens if These Tactics are Used?

All these techniques are considered by Google to be attempts to gain a site a higher ranking than it deserves. If Google feels Black Hat SEO tactics have been used, it may decide to issue a penalty. This could result in:

  1. Your site being removed from Google indexing – even if customers are looking specifically for your site, it won’t be displayed
  2. Your site will not be ranked for keywords or brand name
  3. Your search ranking being reduced to ‘0’

What Should I do if I’ve Been Hit with a Penalty?

If you notice a sudden decrease in traffic to your site, it’s likely you’ve been issued with a penalty. You can find out for sure by using the Google webmaster tools to check. Naturally, this will have a big impact on your site’s visibility, so you will need to take drastic action to overhaul your site so that it can be reinstated by Google. There are several actions you can take that will put your site on the road to recovery.

Identify the Bad Links

Identifying and eliminating the bad links to your site will go a long way towards helping combat the effects of a Google penalty:

  • Use a site explorer to comb through your back links and identify any that are low quality or spam links
  • Compile a spreadsheet with all these links included
  • Do your best to clean up these links. You could ask the webmaster of the linking site to remove the links, although if these are spammy links this could prove difficult
  • Use the Google Disavow tool to inform Google that you don’t want these links associated with your site

Next Steps

  • Wait and see
    Google maintain that if your site is cleaned up it will recover in time, so you could choose to wait it out until you see that recovery.
  • Submit a reconsideration request
    You can also submit a reconsideration request to Google, asking it to look at your site manually to decide whether or not it’s now suitable to be included in the search rankings again. Of course, it’s essential to make sure your site has been properly cleaned up before making a request.
  • Build a high quality site
    As well as removing all spam links and evidence of any other Black Hat SEO tactics, you also need to focus on building a high quality site that has the best possible chance of ranking highly for legitimate reasons. Writing superb articles that will truly help your customers and finding ways to generate genuine back links will help get your site ranked well for the right reasons.

Further Resources on Google Penguin

http://www.penguinupdate.co.uk/recover/

https://searchengineland.com/library/google/google-penguin-update

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Penguin

Google Hummingbird

Google’s Hummingbird update is the latest of Google’s updates to be introduced. Launched in 2013, and named because it’s intended to be ‘fast and precise’.

How is Hummingbird Different?

Hummingbird differs from Panda and Penguin in its approach. Although it is generally seen as an update to previous algorithm, in fact it’s fundamentally different in the way it carries out a search.

Takes the Whole Search Query into Account

Hummingbird attempts to take into account the whole phrase of a search request, rather than focusing on just a few keywords. This means it will be looking at the context of the search query, thus making it more likely to deliver the most relevant results. It’s about trying to get under the skin of a query and find out the user’s intent by determining the relationship between words in the search phrase rather as human would do. This is especially relevant to users of voice-activated devices such as Google Glass, because a spoken query is more likely to be phrased as a sentence rather than just key words.

Finds the Most Relevant Page

Because the algorithm can be more precise in its outcome, it can take the user to the most relevant page on a site, rather than the top level page or home page.

Google Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird

This ‘smart’ search capability also extends to other Google tools such as Knowledge Graph. When users enter a query, Google displays what it thinks are the most relevant results, but also tries to make it easier to spot the most likely answer. For example, a search query using the phrase ‘How many?’ will have the numbers in the answer displayed in bold, making it easier to see that information quickly.

How Should Webmasters Respond to Google Hummingbird?

As in previous updates, Google believes that creating a high quality site that is well managed is the best way to be ranked highly by Hummingbird. Key words are still important because they demonstrate that your site is authoritative, but you should also do your best to ensure that your site answers the questions your customers are likely to be asking.

Further Resources on Google Hummingbird

https://searchengineland.com/google-hummingbird-172816

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/google-hummingbird/

https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/06/23/google-hummingbird

Conclusion

Ultimately, it’s not worth trying to outwit the search algorithms using Black Hat SEO tactics. It may give you success in the short term, but in the end you are likely to be hit with a penalty which will cancel out any previous success and will probably make things worse. Instead, focus on creating a superb quality site that answers users’ queries effectively and gives them information that is genuinely of good quality. That way you are most likely to improve the visibility of your site and achieve success.

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

Top 5 SEO Tools for Beginners

SEO Tools for Beginners

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website so that its ranking in the major search engine results tables is improved thereby increasing the volume of traffic to your site. Webmasters who consciously embrace SEO techniques will make sure they understand how search engines work and the kinds of search terms and keywords that people use. It may also require the site’s content and codes to be edited in order to remove an unnecessary barriers to search engines.

Although SEO is essentially an area of specialist expertise, there are a number of tools available that even the beginner can readily utilise to improve the search engine performance of his or her site. Amongst the most effective are:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google Keyword Research Tool
  • Google Webmaster Guidelines
  • Majestic SEO

Google Analytics

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a key resource for individuals and businesses who are new to the world of SEO. For the beginner it has the advantage of being very easy to incorporate into any website: a simple snippet of JavaScript code is added to each page. The basic service is provided free, although there is a charge for the premium version.

But, for all its technical sophistication, Google Analytics operates in accordance with the most basic rule of marketing: know your audience. Once a website is Google Analytics-enabled the site owner is able to employ a powerful range of tools for generating statistics about the people who visit the site, including the sources of traffic and the rate of conversions into sales or other desired outcomes.

How Does it Help?

The more a website’s owner is able to understand about his or her audience and the way they behave, the better he or she is placed to be able to identify adjustments that will improve the site’s visibility. A knowledge of the search terms used by potential visitors to your site, for instance, can enable you to incorporate the appropriate key words into your SEO strategy.

Google Analytics is a particularly useful tool as it does not require the user to have an especially high level of technical knowledge; it provides graphs and charts which can be customised to the site owner’s dashboard and data which can be downloaded in a number of forms familiar to the average user, including into a spreadsheet.

How Does it Work?

Once your site is connected to Google Analytics you can access the tool’s main dashboard. The data available is organised into a number of tabs, the key ones being:

  • visitors
  • traffic sources
  • content
  • goals; and
  • ecommerce

The dashboard is reasonably easy to customise so that it focuses on the data particularly relevant to your site and its goals. Data can be shared with others and exported into PDF or spreadsheet form.

The key to understanding the market your site operates within is to gather and analyse smart, comprehensive data about your visitors. With Google Analytics you will be able to see details about the visitors who find and interact with your site including:

  • where your visitors are located geographically
  • what language they speak
  • what browser they use to view your site
  • how often the visit your website
  • how long they stay on each page

The value of this kind of data is that enables you to log the keywords that people use to find your site. With this information you can identify which keywords work and which do not. Furthermore, you can identify which sites link to yours, which provides a clearer picture of your potential market.

In terms of content the data provided by Google Analytics can tell you which pages are visited most and which are visited less frequently, which is useful for determining which of them are working and which are not. You can also pull up data detailing which pages visitors tend to arrive through and which ones they exit by.

Every website has its own set of goals. A site’s goals, in this context, are the outcomes the site owner wishes to achieve. These can typically include sales, downloads and registrations.

More Resources on Google Analytics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Analytics

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/23/google-tracking-trackers-cookies-web-monitoring

Google Webmaster Tools

What is Google Webmaster Tools?

If Google Analytics is the starting point for website managers who wish to improve their SEO performance, Google Webmaster Tools is the additional option which brings a powerful suite of tools to your SEO strategy. At its heart is the concept of metrics, which enables you to see your site as Google sees it. In other words it allows you to identify your site’s Google indexing, link and traffic status. In other words you can check which pages on your site have been indexed, what links are pointing towards you and which are your most effective keywords.

Given the central role of Google in the web searches of most internet users, it is important to be aware of your site’s Google status, and particularly whether you have inadvertently fallen foul of any of Google’s rules and have consequently been penalised. This is vitally important to the process of optimizing your site’s visibility.

How does it work?

Google Webmaster Tools’ main features are:

Search traffic – this feature provides you with information on your site’s traffic and the keywords people use to find it. It also provides you with an insight into your site’s potential traffic should you make appropriate adjustments.

Impressions – this tool allows you to see how many people are seeing specific areas of your site as a result of particular keyword searches.

Clicks – this logs the number of web users who see your site listed and click on the link.

Click through rate (CTR) – CTR is a measurement of the percentage of those who see your site listed who then click through to it. It is a good indicator of the effectiveness of your title tags and meta descriptions.

Average position – this feature lists the typical ranking of your site for each keyword. Tracking this data of a period of time is a useful measure of the effectiveness of your SEO strategy.

Index – this shows how many of your pages are indexed in Google. Webmasters can also remove pages or URLs from their Google index in this feature using either a request or robots.txt.

In addition, Google Webmaster Tools has a ‘with change’ option which allows you to evaluate recent SDEO improvements you have made to your site. This allows you to track the effectiveness of your SEO strategy over a period of time.

Google Keyword Research Tool

What is Google Keyword Research Tool?

The Google Keyword Research Tool is a very effective tool for researching potential keywords to use on your site. Its purpose is to help you find strong keywords to use in your website titles and in the text. These are the keywords that focus on the search terms web users looking for your type of site actually use.

How Does it Work?

Google Keyword Research gives you access to Google’s own keyword resources. It allows you to search for new keyword suggestions relevant to your product or service. Features available include:

Search for new keyword and ad group ideas – The Google Ad Words Keyword Planner tool allows you to access fresh keyword and ad group ideas. Here you can enter your product or service, your landing page and your product category and it should give you a list of keywords relevant to your information. Not only does it give you a list of suggested keywords you can use but it also gives you average monthly searches so you can see how many people use that search term each month and how that term ranks when compared with the competition.

Search volume or a list of keywords – Using this tool you can check on the search volume of your existing or planned keywords.

Targeting, Customizing and Filtering – In order to comprehend and make use of the enormous volume of data available Google’s tool allows you to target, customize and filter your results. Results can be targeted by language, location and network settings and can be further customized by date ranges in order to analyse seasonal trends. You can also filter by specific keyword ideas.

More Resources on the Google Keyword Tool

https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research

http://www.wordtracker.com/academy/keyword-research

Google Webmaster Guidelines

What is Google Webmaster Guidelines?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is not a tool as such, but they are a set of protocols and guidelines designed to ensure best practice by webmasters. They are, thus, particularly useful for those new to this field. To quote from Google’s opening statement to the guidelines:

‘Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines,” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action. If a site has been affected by a spam action, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.’

How Does it Work?

Google’s website guidelines cover three key areas:

Design and Content Guidelines – These guidelines explain the standards Google expects in terms of your site’s content and design. For instance, they strongly recommend providing a site map and limiting the number of links on each page.

Technical Guidelines – Google provides webmasters with guidelines to ensure that Googlebot can crawl all appropriate areas of their site. They also emphasise the importance of regularly checking your site’s performance and load times.

Quality Guidelines – Google’s guidelines highlight their view that you should ensure your site provides a positive user experience rather than just focusing on optimising its visibility to search engines. In particular they spell out the practices they will not tolerate which may lead to your site being penalised.

Google’s website guidelines, while clearly a crucial resource for webmasters, should be followed as a guide, not necessarily as a set of hard and fast rules. However, should you deliberately flout their guidelines to gain a commercial advantage, they may take manual action against your site which could affect your search engine performance.

More Resources on Google Webmaster Guidelines

https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2273660/how-to-use-google-webmaster-tools-to-maximize-your-seo-campaign

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/4559176?hl=en

Majestic SEO

What is Majestic SEO?

Majestic SEO is a SEO explorer and back link checker. Similar tools available include those provided by Moz.com and ahrefs.com.

How Does it Work?

Majestic provides a set of tools which focus on link building and back link clean-ups. Its user interface gives you access to a site explorer tool which will enable you to:

Check back links – Which means that you can see who is linking to your website and from where. This is useful, not only for your own site, but knowing who is linking to you is important because any unsavoury links outlined in Google’s webmaster guidelines could lead to a nasty penalty from Google.

Check the competition – It is useful to know about the competitors in your niche. Majestic allows you to see which sites in your niche getting links and from where. The tool also gives you some insight into the reasons behind your competitors’ performance, such as the quality of their content. In addition it shows you the keywords and anchor texts used by those linking.

Compare sites – Majestic enables you to compare two or more sites to see how they match up in terms of factors such as current standings and back links.

Compare keywords – Which allows you to search through lists of keywords to compare their relative competitiveness on the web along with an indication of relative search volume.

These are just five of the many tools available to those who wish to incorporate SEO into their marketing strategy. However, for SEO beginners, as well as those with more experience in this field, they provide an impressive battery of resources for anyone who wishes to optimise the visibility of their website. But we need to remember, of course, that an SEO strategy, just like any other business process, is not just a one-off quick hit, but an ongoing process.

More Resources on Majestic SEO

https://majestic.com/

http://www.seobook.com/comparing-backlink-data-providers

https://searchengineland.com/link-building-tool-review-majestic-seo-103646

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

How Do Marketing Agencies Work?

In today’s competitive business environment, all businesses, whether large or small, need to take full advantage of every opportunity to promote their service. In years gone by, a physical advertising campaign might involve displaying posters in prominent positions, buying premium advertising time on TV, or perhaps even direct marketing such as a mail-shot to prospective customers. A good campaign would result in an increase in the market share and net new customers to grow the business.

But the publicity landscape has undergone a seismic shift in focus and tactics, with a move away from advertising aimed at getting noticed by customers and towards engaging with them instead. With the explosion of access to the internet, and especially the rise in the use of mobile devices, your customers are now living their lives online, and that naturally includes the way in which they access good and services.

They have also become more sophisticated in their expectations; indeed, research shows that many people find old-style direct marketing very off-putting. For example, 44% of direct mailings are never opened, 86% of viewers fast-forward through commercials and 85% of 25 to 34-year olds have left a website because of intrusive advertising. Companies that ignore this shift in attitudes, or are slow to respond to it, are now significantly behind the game, with an inevitable negative impact on their potential business growth.

There is no doubt that digital marketing is the way forward for any company seeking success, but what exactly is digital marketing, what is involved, and how can you make it work for you?

Defining digital marketing is actually quite complicated. Wikipedia defines it as ‘marketing that makes use of electronic devices (computers) such as personal computers, smart phones, cell phones, tablets and game consoles to engage with stakeholders. Digital marketing applies technologies or platforms such as websites, e-mail, apps (classic and mobile) and social networks.’

The Financial Times lexicon clarifies this further by stating that digital marketing ‘ does not include more traditional forms of marketing such as radio, TV, billboard and print because they do not offer instant feedback and report’

In a nutshell, digital marketing harnesses the power of the internet to allow businesses to engage with existing and potential customers and to receive and analyse real time response data that enables them to target their marketing efficiently. This is often referred to as ‘inbound’ marketing, when customers decide to actively connect with your business, as opposed to ‘outbound’ marketing when you try to promote your business to the customer.

Digital marketing includes ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling’ techniques to attract customers

Push Techniques

Push techniques involve reaching out to customers to inform them about what you have to offer, such as:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • RSS feed
  • Voice broadcast

Pull Techniques

Pull techniques serve to draw your customer in to your website, and may include:

  • Banner advert
  • Pay Per Click advertising

The critical difference between digital marketing and physical marketing lies in the ability to access immediate feedback and reporting on the success (or otherwise) of your campaign. Naturally, finding the winning combination of techniques that serves your company best is a skilled job, so many businesses prefer to hire a digital marketing agency to provide professional service.

What is Digital Marketing

What is Digital Marketing

Further Reading on the Definition of Marketing Agency

http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=digital-marketing

What Does a Digital Marketing Agency do?

A good digital marketing agency will combine a number of different elements to put together a campaign that is specifically tailored to the needs of your company. There are many aspects that could be included.

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): One of the most important aspect of any campaign is to try and ensure that your business ranks very highly in the organic search results. 70% of clicks on search results are made on organic links, with 60% of those going to the first three results, and three-quarters of users never going beyond the first page. There are a number of ways to increase your chances of ranking highly in the listings, including creating high-quality content, strategic use of keywords, creation of genuine back links to your site, and on-page and off-page optimisation.
  2. SEM (Search Engine Marketing): Search engine marketing involves using tools at your disposal to make your site more attractive to search engines and gain a good ranking. There are three main aspects to this.
  3. Keyword research: Using the best keywords is crucial to targeting your campaign successfully, so finding out which are the most commonly used search terms for your business can make a huge difference to your noticeability.
  4. AdWords Once you know which keywords are most likely to bring customers to your site, you can pay to use them using Google AdWords. Some investment is needed here, as popular search terms can be expensive to purchase, but this is likely to be money well spent if it results in a healthy increase in traffic to your site.
  5. Reports: Reports are invaluable in helping you to monitor and evaluate the success of your efforts. Careful analysis of these will help you to tweak and modify your campaign depending on customer responses to each strategy.
  6. Social Media Marketing: The rise in the use of social media for customers to interact with companies has revolutionised the way they market themselves. No-one can afford to ignore the massive impact this has had on how customers go about buying goods or services. Nowadays people are far more likely to buy something based on personal recommendation rather than relying on a ‘faceless’ advert. The power of social media is easily demonstrated by how quickly things like news or opinion goes viral. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword, as bad news can travel just as quickly as good news.
  7. Facebook: Facebook is a great way to connect with people. Many companies have their own Facebook page, allowing companies to keep customers up to date with developments e.g. a bus company informing travellers of delays or unexpected route changes. Clients can connect directly with the company, ask questions or raise a complaint, and receive a quick response. The average Facebook user has 190 ‘friends’, so one person liking or recommending your product could quickly be seen by hundreds of others in a very short space of time. 83% of companies now believe Facebook to be very important to their business and 52% of all marketers have gained a customer via Facebook in 2013.
  8. Twitter: Twitter is an almost instant form of communication, again allowing you to keep your customers right up to date. Tweets can be ‘favourited’ or ‘re-tweeted’ easily and the savvy use of hashtags lends itself well to encouraging content to trend or to go viral.
  9. Google+: Google+ is another mode of social communication, also allowing customers to link with your company and share their experiences with others. Google+ circles allow users to share socially with others in a similar way to Facebook posts.

On-page Optimisation

Naturally, you need to design your website to the highest possible standards and ensure that everything on your site leads to a positive experience for your customers, as well as including elements that help your site to gain a high ranking. These strategies should include:

  • A responsive design: Your site should display equally well on whatever device your customer is using
  • A relevant URL: this will help search engines to find your site easily
  • Relevant keyword-rich content: this should be well-written so it informs customers and emphasises your reliability
  • A clear site structure: customers and search engines must be able to navigate your site easily

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the key routes to success. Companies that provide useful information for their visitors are likely to attract significantly greater traffic and build lasting customer loyalty. Probably the most effective way to do this is via a blog. For example, businesses with a blog have 97% more inbound links than those who don’t and 66% believe their blog is essential for their business. Over half of all businesses have netted customers via their blog. Other content marketing strategies include newsletter sign-ups, white papers, podcasts and ebooks.

Display Advertising

Carefully managed, display advertising can also be an effective tool for getting your message across, although this should be done in a limited way to avoid alienating visitors to your site.

Email Marketing

Email marketing, such as producing regular informative emails, helps you stay in touch with customers and keep them well informed. Email sign-ups ensure that customers have opted in to receiving it, so it won’t be viewed as junk mail.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides powerful tools to let you track and analyse how effectively your campaign is performing, enabling you to make changes as you go along.

Further Resources on What Marketing Agencies Do

https://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2014/10/13/five-important-digital-marketing-elements-to-consider/

https://visual.ly/community/infographic/computers/digital-marketing?utm_source=visually_embed

https://blogs.salford.ac.uk/business-school/digital-marketing-definition-relevance/

http://mashable.com/2011/10/30/inbound-outbound-marketing/

What are the Advantages of Digital Marketing Over Physical Marketing?

The advantages of digital marketing over physical marketing are legion.

  1. Everyone is on the same footing: No matter what the size of your company, digital marketing techniques can be employed by everyone. A superbly designed website of a small company could easily outperform a poorly designed one of a large multi-national, making the system fairer for everyone. It’s no longer about who has the bigger budget.
  2. Costs are reduced: Inbound digital marketing has been shown to much more cost-effective than physical outbound marketing. Companies don’t need to spend vast amounts on TV advertising slots, prime billboard sites or expensive mail shots. Inbound marketing costs on average 62% less than physical marketing, with strategies such as company blogs, use of social media and good use of SEO all cost less per lead, making this a much better ROI.
  3. A huge amount of data is available to you: Analytical tools such as Google Analytics can provide a vast amount of real time data about how well each individual tactic is performing. You can see immediately where something need tweaking or changing, which lets you manage your campaign super-efficiently. With physical marketing you can generally only see how well the campaign has performed once it has ended.
  4. You can reach a wider market: With digital marketing your reach can be literally world-wide. You are no longer limited by the restrictions of locality, but instead you can be visible to potential customers wherever they are living.
  5. You can respond in real time: The responsive nature of a digital campaign gives you complete control at all times. Depending on what your analytic reports tell you, you can make changes or even halt your campaign altogether. This means you won’t be wasting your budget or valuable time on strategies that aren’t working and you can focus on what is getting results.
  6. You can build a wider customer base: Because you are not limited by location, your customer base can also be world-wide. A customer on the other side of the planet can order and pay online instantly, letting you do business efficiently wherever you want.
  7. You can encourage greater customer interaction: Utilising the power of social media you can build a truly meaningful relationship with your customers. You can inform them of new developments, respond swiftly to problems or complaints, and provide a way for them to recommend your services to others quickly and easily.
  8. You are open round the clock: Anyone around the globe can see what you have to offer at any moment of the day or night; you are not bound by fixed operating hours but instead you are open for business round the clock.
  9. How important is digital marketing to your business? It’s probably fairly clear by now that smart use of digital marketing can be critical to the success of your business. Your customers now expect that searching for a product or service online should be quick and easy, whether they are using a PC, laptop or mobile device. In fact, 90% of transactions are now begun on one device and finished on another, so you need to provide a system that transitions between devices seamlessly if you are really serious about competing in today’s market.

SEO Statistics That Give Food for Thought

If you were in any doubt about the importance of a high page ranking to modern consumers, these statistics emphasise its importance:

  • 70% of search links click on are organic
  • 70-80% of users ignore the paid ads, focusing instead on the organic results
  • 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results
  • Search and e-mail are the top two internet activities
  • Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages and companies with more indexed pages get a far greater number of leads
  • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
  • Marketing Charts reports that over 39% of customers are drawn in from searching online

Digital Marketing Statistics

Similarly, digital marketing is increasingly becoming the ‘go-to’ strategy for companies looking to grow their customer base and build a solid relationship with their consumers rather than simply shout about their product. Drawing potential customers in with attractive and useful content, such as images and expert advice, and then maintaining their brand loyalty by regular liaison via social media, are now considered far more powerful than old-fashioned advertising.

  • Internet advertising will make up nearly 25% of the entire advertising market by the end of 2015
  • The average social marketing budget is set to double over the next 5 years
  • emails with social sharing buttons increase click through rates by 158%
  • Almost 50% of all companies have content marketing strategies
  • 73% of reporters think press releases should contain images
  • 72% of PPC marketers plan to increase PPC budget in 2014, which demonstrates its cost-effectiveness

Further Considerations

Companies that have already embraced digital marketing are reporting some significant benefits to their operations.

  • 67% of B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t
  • 43% of all marketers found a customer via LinkedIn
  • 55% of marketers worldwide increased digital marketing budgets in response to its success
  • Videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86%
  • Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional outbound marketing
  • Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%

Further Resources and Figures

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/24-eye-popping-seo-statistics/42665/

https://www.business2community.com/seo/7-seo-stats-will-crawling-excitement-infographic-01000157

How Much Should you be Spending on Digital Marketing?

In some respects this question is rather like the familiar ‘How long is a piece of string?’. Every company is unique, even if they are operating in a similar market, so deciding how much to spend on a digital marketing campaign needs to take into account several factors.

Three main aspects:

  1. Budget
    Of course, you will need to begin by considering your budget. Depending on the size of your operation, this could be a relatively small amount or a multi-million pound pot. However, with so much riding on getting customers to notice you, it’s probably fair to say you should commit as much as you can reasonably spend. Certainly the ROI on a digital marketing campaign is worth the investment you put in, as it could bring you many new clients.
  2. Long-term goals
    You should have a clear idea about the direction in which your company is moving and some concrete goals for the future. However, unless you are extremely lucky and your company brand goes viral very quickly, your digital marketing campaign should be viewed as a long-term sustainable strategy that is designed to let your presence grow organically. There’s little point plunging in with an expensive and complicated plan; that could result in wasted money, time and effort. Instead you should consider a few steps which can be analysed and evaluated carefully, allowing you to plan your next steps in the light of performance. Of course, if you already have an established brand, launching a larger-scale campaign may well be possible.
  3. Size of your business
    It goes without saying that a digital marketing campaign budget for a small independent start-up company will look very different from a sizeable corporation. It may help to look at some case studies of similar businesses to your own to get an idea of how much is a reasonable amount to consider.

Good marketing calculator: http://digitalmarketingcalculator.com/

Case Study of Nestlé’s Marketing Costs

Naturally, an international brand like Nestlé has a huge budget to play with. Nestlé posts around 1500 content items daily across its Facebook pages, costing the company $127,000 daily. Facebook is arguably the major player in the social media market, with significant global reach of 50%. However, it is also somewhat ephemeral; each post has an estimated life of three hours with the period of maximum effectiveness in the first 30 minutes.

A Rough Guide to Costs

Using an online digital marketing calculator can be a useful way to gauge a rough idea of the kind of costs needed to launch an effective campaign. You can enter information such as your annual revenue, your geographical reach and the length of your projected campaign and you can see an estimate of how much you need to find. For example a small local B2B company with around $500k revenue would need about $800 per month (spilt equally between SEO and PPC), for a 6 month event. A B2C outfit grossing over $10m and planning a 12-month campaign should allocate about $48,000 per month, which encompasses strategies such as social media, email and mobile.

Other Financial Implications

The average marketer uses seven channels. Based on the above figure for Nestlé’s Facebook activities, this would amount to a staggering $892,500 every day. Video has been shown to be a fabulous way to attract customers, but at around $1500 per minute it doesn’t come cheap.

Cost of Modern Marketing Infographic

Cost of modern marketing infographic

More on the Case Study

https://blog.percolate.com/2014/09/much-marketing-really-cost-infographic/

What does the Future Hold for Digital Marketing?

Without a crystal ball it’s impossible to state with certainty what lies ahead for digital marketing. However, it is possible to make some sensible predictions.

Content is Crucial

Google has cornered the market in internet searches, certainly for the foreseeable future, and it has stated that it has virtually achieved its stated aim of rewarding sites with excellent content whilst penalising those with spammy links, spurious information and containing low-quality content. Unless you have a well-designed content-rich website you will have little chance of staying competitive against your rivals.

Connections are the Key

Shouting long and loud about your company with an old-style outward-bound campaign is more likely to annoy and repel people. The way to success lies in utilising strategies to spread the word through connecting with your customers and building a positive relationship with them.

Mobile Access will Dominate

It’s estimated that by 2019 more than 6 billion people will have access to the internet and this will primarily be through mobile phones. It will be essential to respond to this by ensuring that your customers have swift and easy access to you via mobile devices.

Mobile-only Sites will Decline

But most people now have a variety of devices to access the internet, so it’s important that your web presence extends across all areas and doesn’t limit itself to one specific device. For this reason it’s predicted that mobile only sites will decline, to be replaced by sites that are multi-device friendly.

Marrying of Responsive Websites and Push Notifications

Combining a responsive website with targeted push notifications will help you stay in contact with customers without being intrusive.

Content Discovery and Native Advertising Begins to Grow up

Google’s Hummingbird update has been designed to hone in on exactly what customers are searching for by taking into account the whole search query. This will give them a more positive experience and allow you to tailor your marketing very specifically.

The End of Significant Google Algorithmic Changes

Google doesn’t anticipate further algorithm changes, meaning that providing your site now meets their criteria for a high ranking, you won’t need to make significant changes to it in the future.

Decline in Content Adoption Rates

Between 2013 and 2014 content adoption rates fell by 7.5%. It’s predicted that these will continue to decline.

Further Reading on the Future of Marketing Agencies

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/2014/11/05/6-predictions-about-the-state-of-digital-marketing-in-2015/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/chad-pollitt/8-bold-predictions-for-digital-marketing-in-2015_b_6341426.html

https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2014/dec/16/digital-marketing-trends-predictions-2015

https://www.forbes.com/sites/avidan/2014/11/09/11-marketing-trends-to-watch-for-in-2015/

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that many people, especially those in developing countries, still don’t have access to internet. For this reason, there is still room for physical marketing. However, with a continuing increase in the number of people accessing the internet, the rise in use of mobile devices to do this, and the ever-evolving social media scene, it’s clear that for the most part, digital marketing is truly the way forward. By weaving the various techniques and strategies involved into a harmonious campaign, you can build a springboard to launch your business into a bright future.

Digital Marketing Agencies in the UK that you Might Want to Try

qubaQuba | Online Marketing in Sheffield
Quba design and build everything you see on screen, and provide strategic online marketing to ensure whatever we develop is commercially successful.
 jelly-fishJellyfish l A Global Boutique Agency
Jellyfish partner with clients like Experian, Betfair, Nestlé, Toyota, Engie and Samsung on multi-channel digital marketing strategies, have an in house training division and supply services of every discipline, across Europe, the US and South Africa.
 blueBlue Digital | Digital Marketing, Web Design & SEO Agency in Leeds
For effective web design, SEO, content marketing, ecommerce, wordpress, Magento, email marketing, social media and PPC speak to Blue Digital.
 harvestHarvest | Digital Marketing Agency London
Harvest Digital are a performance agency offering a full service across areas of digital including display, paid search, web design and online advertising.
 after-digitalAfter Digital | A Strategic Digital Agency in London, Manchester & Glasgow
After Digital is a multi award-winning strategic digital agency in London, Manchester & Glasgow. With over 19 years experience in delivering creative results for our clients across sectors.
 studioStudio14 | Digital Marketing Agency
Studio 14 is a digital marketing agency, we specialise in mobile app development, web design, branding, animation, audio post production, graphic design.
 tudorTudor Lodge Consultants – SEO, PPC and Digital Marketing
Tudor Lodge Consultants are a digital marketing consultancy based in North West London. Set up in 2011, they started trading as an alternative to expensive London agencies.
 relativeRelative Marketing – Design & Marketing Agency Bolton, Manchester
Relative are a creative Marketing Agency based in Bolton, Manchester and we focus on ROI driven marketing for your business.

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

Importance of SEO when Translating a Website

Whenever you are composing content for a website it is vital that you consider the issue of search engine optimisation (SEO) from the outset. Building in SEO components has two important functions for your website. Firstly it helps you to construct web pages that are easy for people to find, to read and to navigate. Secondly, and perhaps crucially, it helps the surfer to actually find your website and the content you are providing. This is no less important with content that is intended to be translated into another language, such as German, as surfers search the web in much the same way whatever their native tongue.

What is SEO?

SEO refers to a number of techniques that are used to maximise the search engine ranking of a website thereby improving the volume and quality of traffic referred by those search engines. SEO is a subset of search engine marketing and requires the user to have a clear understanding of how search engines work and the ways that people tend to use them to conduct an internet search.

Know Your Search Engines

In order to successfully optimise your webpage it is useful to know how search engines work. Every search engine constantly ‘crawls’ the internet to fetch all the web pages related each website. The search engines then create a database of webpages by a process known as indexing. This involves identifying the words and phrases that best represent each page and logging the page with selected keywords. As each search request is received the search engine compares the request with the indexed pages in its database by an action referred to as processing. Finally the search engine calculates the relevancy of the results then retrieves the best matches and presents them to searcher in his or her browser. Whilst the general principles by which the major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, operate are well known all of them adjust their relevancy algorithms on a regular basis in order to counter any deliberate manipulation by websites.

How Does SEO Copywriting Work?

SEO copywriting focuses on the viewable content of a webpage and prioritises creating a positive reading experience for the visitor. The technique also targets specific search terms with the aim of maximising the site’s search engine ranking for those particular terms. In addition SEO copywriting embraces other on-page components such as the page’s description, title, headings, keyword tags and alternative text. Genuine SEO copywriting concentrates on providing the web-surfer with quality content and avoids misleading him or her with a ‘doorway’ page or any other form of ‘cloaking’.

Keyword Research Before Writing Copy

A lot of copywriters create their website content first and then conduct their keyword research afterwards. Unfortunately this is the wrong way round and risks ending up with content that sounds forced or unnatural because keywords have been shoe-horned into it after it has been written. It can also lead to choosing keywords that are too competitive to rank for or that are not relevant to your audience. By starting the process with your keyword research, on the other hand, you provide yourself with a framework for writing your piece and make it easier to insert your keywords in a natural way.

Many keyword searches will come up with variations on a basic word or phrase. It is invariably good practice to try to incorporate these variations into your copy because it will broaden your base of people searching for your product or service. Also, repeating the same keyword again and again tends to sound unnatural and forced whereas the use of variations allows your copy to flow more coherently.

Once you have identified your keywords you should list them in rank order and then work through this list from the top to include some or all of them into your text. The keywords should be incorporated into the body of your text and your title should include one of your primary keywords. In order to keep track of their keywords when they are composing a piece many copywriters highlight them in a different colour from the main body of text. To produce readable copy it is a good idea to use sub-headings. This is also another place to incorporate keywords.

The Importance of Thinking about SEO When Translating Copy for Your Website

Whilst your copy may initially be written in English it is important to remember that, for an international or multi-language website, it will need to be translated into at least one other language. The reasons for ensuring you obtain a top-quality translation are obvious; a clumsy translation will undermine the credibility of your website, turn off readers and will ultimately mean you lose business.

Google Translate is an extremely useful tool and using it to translate your webpage may appear to be a cheap option. However, while it may occasionally add to the comic value of your page, a poor translation will certainly undermine any other value your site offers. Readers in all countries expect your copy to be clear, precise and grammatically correct. A professional translation is therefore not just a sensible investment, but an essential one. Should your marketing budget be very limited, however, you may be forced to consider paying for only your key webpages to be professionally translated and then use a free application such as Google Translate for any others. This is not an ideal solution, however.

It is just as important when you are considering translation to ensure that your SEO keywords will work in another language too. A direct and literal translation of your English keywords into German, for instance, may not necessarily be effective with a German audience. In such a case you would instead need to research the actual keywords German speakers would search for. In Italy, for example, locals tend to use the hybrid phrase ‘voli low cost’ to search for cheap flights rather than the direct translation into Italian. In a similar fashion ‘l’assurance automobile’ is the direct French translation of ‘car insurance’, but most French speakers will search for car insurance using the phrase ‘auto assurance’.

You also need to be aware of variations arising from local dialects. A ‘coche’ in Spain, for instance, is a car but in Spanish-speaking Latin America this is the word people would use for a baby-buggy. The advanced options on Google’s keyword tool can help you with identifying suitable keywords in other languages.

Given that English these days is something of an international language in the world of business, many internet users whose native language is not English will nonetheless still use the English word or phrase in their internet search. For example, the German translation of the English phrase ‘contract for difference’ is ‘differenzkontrakt’. However, research suggests that more Germans search using the English term than do so using the one in their native language.

But even if you are using selected English keywords on the German version of your web page, you still need to be sure that your English word works correctly within the grammatical structure of your German sentence. For instance, the word ‘contract’ from the example phrase we referred to earlier is generally a noun, but it can also sometimes be used as a verb. Before you drop your English keyword phrase into a German sentence you will need to take the guidance of a translator to ensure that your sentence is grammatically correct in German and still conveys the meaning you wish it to convey. As with English the keyword research for your translated websites is an ongoing process: search engines will frequently change their algorithms and your competitors will sometimes find ways to up their SEO game.

Other Things You Can Overlook When Translating Your Website

Duplicate Copy – if your organisation is going international for the first time you may worry that translating your content into another language may be wrongly identified by search engines as a duplicate web page which may then lead to some form of penalty against your website’s ranking. Fortunately you can relax on this point, Google and others do not regard translations as duplicate content.

Neglecting Your Google Webmaster Settings – using Google Webmaster you are able to create individual sitemaps for each region or country your website is targeting. This is much more efficient and easy to maintain than sticking with the default setting of a single sitemap for the whole website. However, if you are not using subdirectories for your locale-based sites then is not necessary to create sitemaps for each of them.

Making Your Different Locale Sites Hard to Find – most visitors will automatically arrive at the appropriate website for the native language of the location in which they are based; auto-detection of their location will ensure that this occurs. However, there are a number of circumstances in which this will fail to happen and the surfer will end up at the main .com site: when people are travelling, for instance, or when they are based in a country with more than one principle language. For this reason it is important to make the different language versions of your website easy to find. One simple but effective step is to provide clear national-flag icons on the home page of the main website to lead visitors to the appropriate language site. You can also add links of this type to your site-wide footer area.

Adding Multiple Languages to a Single Web Page – it is easy to assume that by including text in several languages on your web page visitors will be convinced that your website caters for users in several languages thereby encouraging him or her to engage with the site. In reality, however, readers find this kind of web page confusing and it often results in them moving on elsewhere. A far better option is to design your website along the lines described in the previous paragraph. In other words it is far better to create duplicate versions of your website in more than one language and to provide easy navigation options from your main website to these alternatives. This step also helps with the search engine ranking of your alternative language webpages.

Forgetting to Take Local Competition into Account – if your main website is based, for instance, in the United Kingdom you will be well aware of who are your local competitors and your organisation’s SEO strategy will be shaped accordingly. One common error companies make once they start to operate globally is to assume that their chief competitors are the same everywhere. This is incorrect: whilst your global competitors, by their very nature, may indeed have a presence in most countries, you may also be competing with a range of local organisations in these other domains. This is yet another reason, as we discussed earlier, to research appropriate keywords for each country in which you operate. If you intend to address a German-speaking audience, for example, it is important to be aware of the keywords local competitors are using for the kind of product or service you offer. This will enable you to compete for a strong search engine ranking position.

Language Markup – language markup is an element within a webpage’s HTML coding that tells the search engine what language the page is written in and where to find other language versions of the same page. This is something of a ‘belt and braces’ step as Google and other search engines can often work this out for themselves.

Focus on the Right Search Engine – it will come as no surprise to learn that Google is the world’s most popular search. But it is by no means the only one, nor is it the biggest one in every territory. Yahoo! Is the market leader in Japan while the South Koreans favour a local search engine called Naver. The majority of Chinese internet users prefer the Baidu search engine. Baidu has achieved a stunning rate of growth and recently achieved fourth place in Alexa’s world rankings. It is important to know which search engine prevails in the country whose market you are targeting as they all have slight differences in the way in which they operate. Yahoo! Japan, for instance, prefers a slightly higher keyword density than search engines elsewhere while Baidu favours meta-tags but pays less heed to inbound-links than other search engines.

Cultural Sensitivity – most of us are familiar with the tale of the Rolls Royce Silver Mist which did not sell very well in Germany as the word ‘mist’ has a very earthy meaning in the German language. In a similar way certain words, phrases, images and even colours can be interpreted in a very negative way in other cultures. As well as translating your content into the local language, therefore, you will need to exercise some degree of awareness of the cultural sensitivities of the domain which you are targeting.

Making SEO Work for You in Other Languages

Optimize Your Keyword Density

This is just as important in your translated copy as it is in the original. You should make sure that your keyword density is still in the optimum two percent to five percent range on your newly-translated webpage. Anything significantly more or less than this risks triggering Google’s penalty filters. A number of keyword density-checking tools are available to download.

Translate Image Titles

You will probably be aware that applying an appropriate name to the images you use on your website can help to improve your search engine ranking. When you translate your website into another language you also need to translate all of your image titles into a language that matches that used on your new webpage. This seems like such an obvious piece of advice, but in practice too many people fail to follow it.

Remember Your Meta Titles

Assuming you have optimised your meta titles, meta descriptions and anchor text in your primary language, it is important that you also do so in your translated language.

Localizing the Code

Using the same search terms in two different countries, say Germany and France, may produce different results in each. It is, therefore, important when you are translating a webpage to put the correct site code settings in place. The Google webmaster tool can help you achieve this by setting the correct geo-targeting and the appropriate language code.

Local Link Building

As well as translating your content for a foreign language webpage you need to adapt your link building to fit the conditions in the country whose audience you are targeting. For example, while you may advise French readers to make use of eBay as you would in the UK, you should refer people in the Netherlands to the local version known as Marktplaats. Similarly other commercial and cultural references should be appropriate to the country at which you are aiming your attention. In general terms it is better to build local links. By preference these should have the appropriate ccTLD, such as .de links on your German language pages and .fr links on those in the French language.

Avoid Thin, Low-quality Content on your Localized Websites

It is not enough to have good quality content on your main website; this principle also needs to be applied to the translated versions on your foreign language webpages. Anything less than this may mean that your site falls foul of Google’s strictures. In fact Google’s recent Panda 4.0 update specifically targets thin, low quality copy and this includes poorly translated content that does not appear to have been written by a native speaker.

Incorporate Localized Videos into Each Version of Your Website

The importance of user-generated copy is now widely recognised in internet marketing circles with social media feeds and reviews playing an important part in people getting to know about a product or service. You can increase the reach and credibility of the translated version of your website by ensuring that your user-generated content is also localized.

Social Media Profile

Despite Google’s recent suggestion that it does not take social media activity into account when calculating search engine rankings, a presence on social media should still be part of your internet marketing strategy. Your organisation’s social media profile is an increasingly important factor in driving traffic to your website, and this is as true for your websites in other languages as it is for your main one.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the social media channels you use in your own country are necessarily the right ones to use elsewhere. Facebook, for instance, is especially popular in India and Brazil, whereas people in China are particularly keen on video and photo-sharing platforms. Most Western social media is still restricted in China, but the local variant Sina Weibo is extremely popular. It is vital that you understand the full gamut of these national variations and preferences before launching your newly-translated website into the social media scene in another country.

Why Bother with Translation?

We all know that internet usage and online business is expanding at a phenomenal rate. What most of us forget is that most of that expansion is among non-English speakers. Less than twenty-seven percent of internet users speak English and more than fifty percent of Google searches are conducted in other languages.

Few businesses that wish to grow internationally can ignore expanding into Germany: the Germans have the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest by GDP in the world. Germany is also the leading economic power in the European Union and the Eurozone.

Germans, like people in most other nations, are more likely to purchase goods or engage with services online if they can read about them in their own language. Translation will bring your content to a German audience, while SEO will make it much more likely that they will find your webpages.

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

Search Engine Optimisation

How Search Engines Have Revolutionized Advertising

Millions of people use Google every day to SEARCH for everything and anything. This because they WANT TO FIND information, products and services! While traditional advertising BROADCASTS and SHOUTS regardless of whether people are interested, search engines simply help people to find what they are looking for at exactly the moment that they are looking for it.

Understanding this single concept is the key to understanding Google’s incredible success. Google is an instant answering system providing ultra-targeted results. While normal advertising interrupts people, search allows you to sell what your customers want, when they want it. Search is not intrusive, and does not look or feel like any other form of advertising.

Search Engines Make it Possible:

  • to be in the right place at the right time every time
  • to know in advance that a market exists
  • to know in advance exactly for what people want are searching
  • to know in advance how many people are searching monthly for a particular “keyword”
  • to see the prices competitors are paying to advertise on Google
  • to see where your competitors are strong and where you are missing out

Why you only have Two Options if you Want to Benefit from Google

Option 1 – Pay Google to Advertise

Google search results with Adwords

Advertising on Google can work if done correctly. You can pay to advertise on Google using its flagship program called Adwords. Paid ads are shown at the top (see image) and down the right hand side of the search results. The advertiser pays Google for each click on an advert. Advertisers compete against each other for the best positions. The higher the price an advertiser offers for a click, the more prominently the advert is displayed by Google. Advertising on Google is continually getting more expensive. The price per in click at the moment (May 2010) for “management consultants” as in the example above could be as high as $ 3.50

Because Adwords is immediate, effective if done correctly, most SEO companies now concentrate on offering the pay-per-click SEO model. Lots of people simply don’t have the necessary expertise to optimize Adwords efficiently and profitably for the long term.

Option 2 – Organic Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimisation concentrates on the “organic” results. Organic means the normal Google results that are “free”. The aim is to optimize a website so that it is displayed “ranks” at the top of the google results for a specific keyword.

The Benefits of Professional SEO:

  • You do not pay per click
  • Once good rankings are achieved, they are displayed 24/7
  • The overall search-engine performance of your website improves for lots of other lower-volume search terms
  • Your competitors cannot outbid you for the top positions
  • Usually far less expensive than Adwords

So How Much Would Top Google Rankings Be Worth to Your Business?

Here are some random examples of the number of times people search for a certain keyword every month on Google.com in the USA:

How much are top keyword rankings worth in Google
How many times do people search for your keywords? If you would like a rough estimate of how many times people search for the keywords that are most important for your business, you can find out yourself by using the Google Keyword Suggestion tool: https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner

Occupying top positions in Google for commercially-attractive keywords can make a HUGE difference to the sales and profits of companies. Provided a website is optimized and able to convert interested prospects into customers, the power of a top position on Google is unparalleled in today’s internet-driven world. How valuable would limitless distribution be to your company?

More Resources:

Have you had enough of not attracting visitors to your website and fed up with lack of sales? We can help. I’ve helped hundreds of companies over the past 20 years acheive their goals. Feel free to call or contact me to talk it over.

Alan TwiggAlan Twigg - Co-Owner of Vision64

Tel (UK): 0114 2999 259
E-mail: mail@vision64.co.uk
Contact Form

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