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Ways to improve your Search Engine ranking (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making changes to your website in order to improve your online visibility in a search engine’s organic results, otherwise known as unpaid or natural results. The factors which affect your website’s search engine rank have changed over the years, due to Google’s (and other Search Engines) continual updates to their algorithms; therefore, continually reviewing your SEO activities is crucial to ensure you appear prominently on the search engine results page (SERP).

Did you know that 75% of people don’t scroll past the first page of search results and 70%-80% of people skip straight past paid ads completely and to the organic results? Therefore, even if you are using pay-per-click (PPC) ads; which generally appear at the top and bottom of the results page and marked ‘Ad’ next to the URL, the majority of online users will ignore your ad and skip straight to the organic results, where you may not appear if your website is not optimised effectively.

 

How can I find out where my website is ranking?

If you want to see where your website is ranking on a search engine, we don’t recommend you perform a search of your business yourself as it is likely that you will not get an accurate representation of where your website ranks for a number of reasons:

  1. You are likely to regularly visit your website from the device you are using and therefore the search engine will recognise this and display your website as one of the top results based on your cookies and browser history.
  2. You may be carrying out the search from your office location and the search engine will show businesses closest to you based on relevance.
  3. If using Google search for example, you may be logged into Google using an account associated with your website or your Google My Business listing and therefore your website might show artificially high in the results.

To check your website’s SERP ranking correctly, there are a number of free or paid tools you can use. Our recommendation is Serpfox, they offer a free account for up to 10 keywords or paid plans from $10 a month. Other quick online tools which don’t require an account or subscription include Moz Rank and SERPChecker, but there are a variety of others available which also provide keyword idea tools and the ability to check your site’s ranking against your competitors.

 

What factors affect my search ranking?

There are a number of factors which will affect your website’s organic search ranking, some of which aren’t new and have been best practice for years, but others are becoming increasingly more important as Google continues to update their algorithms almost every day.

 

Keywords

A search engine recognises search terms as ‘keywords’ and will look for these keywords on your website to see if it is relevant for that search. The use of keywords for SEO has changed slightly over the years as it’s no longer feasible to throw a bunch of keywords onto your website in the copy or H1 tags. The basic rule is to choose one unique keyword per page to tell the search engine what that page is about. You can use free online keyword tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner, WordStream or Wordtracker to find keyword ideas and their search volumes. Most tools will also show the PPC competition and cost-per-click (CPC), if you decide to use the keywords for paid search ads too. To benefit from full SEO, the keyword you have chosen for that page should be included in the meta data and on the website page itself (in the first H1 tag and at least once (possibly more) on the page text, ideally in the first paragraph). You can also include it in the page URL and alt tags. All of these placements will help tell search engines what your pages content is really about.

 

Meta Data

Meta tags are bits of text that describe a web page’s content; however, they don’t appear on the web pages themselves, only in the page’s HTML code. A search engine reads the meta data to find the topic of the web page and check for the relevance of your web page against a particular search term. Each page of your website should have a unique meta title and meta description. This will tell the search engines the name of your page and what it is about. To effectively write meta data for your website, your meta title and descriptions for each page will have one main keyword in it that is relevant to that page. The meta data is also the title and description which will display on a search engine’s results. For example, I have searched “SEO tools” in Google and one of the top organic results was this page link for Moz (see image below). You can see that the keyword “SEO tools” is in the meta title; therefore, Google has recognised that this is a relevant web page for my search term.

In order for your meta tags to display correctly, your title should be no longer than 50-60 characters and your description no more than 150-160 characters in order for Google to display your page listing without getting truncated.

Page URL

Search engines will also check your web page URL for relevance to the search term, therefore in addition to your meta tags you can include your chosen keyword for that page in the website’s or page’s URL to help improve your ranking.

Content

Updating your website regularly with new content will help to improve search engine results too. Content can be anything in the form of copy, blogs, video, resources, graphics, infographics and more. Video is also increasingly relevant and in demand by users; therefore, having embedded video on your website is a bonus for your SERP rank. Using keywords in your website’s copy such as blogs and case studies will also help to improve search results and you can also label your images and other media using alt tags, which work similarly to meta tags and give the search engine further information about your website’s content.

 

Mobile-Friendliness

Over 50% of web traffic in the world is now on mobile and mobile users are increasing dramatically year-on-year; therefore, it is vitally important for websites to be mobile-friendly. Google can recognise how well your website performs on a smaller device and will rank your website accordingly. It will check your website for its responsiveness, accessibility, loading speeds and user-experience on mobile. You can check if your website is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

 

Image source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/241462/global-mobile-phone-website-traffic-share/

 

User-experience

In addition to mobile-friendliness, you should still ensure that your website performs well on desktops and tablets too. If your website has a lot of java-script, high-resolution images, video and links, these factors can affect a website’s page load speed; which will have a negative impact on your search rank. You can check how your website performs in this area using free online tool, GTmetrix; which gives you a score for your website’s page speed and will also provide you with smaller scaled images or ‘smushed’ images to replace those on your website, without compromising quality.

You should also check your website for broken-links in case you have changed any of your website’s page names or URLs historically. Old links from your website may still show up on search results or may be linked from other website and need re-directing, otherwise your website will show a 404 error page, which also negatively impacts user-experience. To check your website for any broken links, you can use the ‘Crawl Errors’ report under Google Search Console’s webmaster tools.

Another thing to consider which can impact your ranking is your website security. In 2014, Google confirmed that websites with an SSL certificate would get an added advantage in the search engine results and last year sites with a non-HTTPS status would be flagged with the warning message “Not secure” in the URL bar of the browser to show that it was unsafe. If your website is http:// instead of https://, you should consider purchasing an SSL certificate from your web hosting company. An SSL certificate will help to minimise the chances of cybercrime and hacking that is often targeted through security loopholes in web browsers. You should also check that you are using the most up-to-date version of your CMS or PHP. If you are using WordPress for example, in 2018 official guidance was released that you should run PHP 7 or higher, which not only provides improvements in handling errors and script problems but improves your website’s security and makes your website harder to hack.

 

Google My Business

Finally, if you haven’t set up your own Google My Business account, it is possible that Google has created one for you. This is the business and address listing that shows for your business. For example, when searching “Winchester restaurant” in Google search, I am given several listings of restaurants and a map. If you utilise this tool to its potential, it can have positive effects on your SERP ranking. You can edit your listing to include images, a description, opening hours, contact information, a link to your website, directions and reviews. A listing with positive Google reviews (all things being equal) is more likely to rank higher in Google’s search engine results than a listing with poor reviews or no reviews at all. You can set up a Google My Business listing or request ownership of one that exists for you by creating an account here.

 

 

How TLC Business can help

TLC Business can undertake a variety of SEO-related activities for SMEs including a review of your website, creating an SEO strategy, setting up Google Analytics and Search Console, keyword research and analytics, meta-data creation, on-page and off-page optimisation and more. You can find out more about our SEO services (make this the link) on our website, or get in touch by emailing info@tlc-business.co.uk or calling 01962 600 147.

A beginner’s guide to keyword research

Keywords form the cornerstone of any SEO strategy. So whether you’re writing a blog post, or putting together your homepage text, identifying the right keyword to optimise a page is an essential part of attracting the right types of visitors to your website. Get it wrong and you risk driving visitors to your website that don’t represent your target audience or languishing in the depths of the search engine results, failing to be found. But get it right, and you create a channel for attracting and engaging with your ideal audience and generating a steady stream of new business opportunities. If this sounds good, the next step is choosing the keywords you are going to optimise your site for. But how do you know which ones are right for you, your business or organisation? With this beginners guide, we’ve outlined a very simple 4 step process for identifying the best keywords for your website.

Step 1: Brainstorming

The first thing to do before you start your research is to brainstorm some ideas.  What are your customers looking for? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think of the first words that come to mind when you think of your product/ service. You could ask friends and family for their input. Don’t forget your clients and customers. Once you have some key themes, you can then come up with keywords associated with each category.

Now that you’ve got a few keywords in mind, try and think of some similar terms or possible longer phrases, otherwise known as ‘long tail keywords’ (niche terms that are more specific and have less traffic), which people may also use to search for your product/ service; these will give you even more variety. Even misspellings can make great keywords!

Step 2: Check out your competitors

It’s also a good idea to find out what terms your competitors are optimising their sites for. Visit their website and right click view source to discover how a particular page has been optimised. This will give you a clear idea of what keywords they think are important. Bear in mind that they might not be the best or right terms for you; however, it will give you some ideas.

You can also type your keyword ideas into a search engine and take note of the websites that are ranking highly for them. Again, take a look at how they have optimised their sites via right clicking on a page on their site and viewing source. If you’d like to invest some money in SEO, you can also use a paid for tool, such as SEMrush, to see what keywords your competitors are using. It costs money but can save time.

Step 3: Search for trends on oogle Trends

It’s also a good idea to see what’s currently trending in and around your industry. This could give you further ideas for keywords, or possibly help you narrow down your choices. Google Trends allows you to break your analysis down by region and also shows you related terms rising in popularity. Bear these in mind for potential keywords.

Step 4: Use Google AdWords Keywords Planner

This step is the most crucial, as this tool will help you understand how the keywords you’ve come up with are performing, how competitive they are and how much they’ll cost you if you were to undertake a PPC campaign.  Be sure to refine your search so that it includes the relevant search terms for your location. As well as showing you how the keywords you’ve chosen perform, it will also give you recommendations and help you come to a final decision about the most relevant keywords for your website.

And you’re done!

Now that you’ve got your initial keywords, you’ll need to implement the optimisation of your website for them. Be sure to review how your site is performing for your chosen keywords on a regular basis. Also, remember to keep researching those keywords; searching habits are constantly changing so don’t rest on your laurels!

How to Make Your Website Responsive on Mobile

No matter how big or small your business is, it’s important that your website is responsive across all devices, especially mobile. A recent survey found that 88% of consumers who search for a local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours, and 57% won’t recommend a business if the website isn’t responsive on mobile. Thankfully, with just a few simple steps you can improve your website’s ‘viewability’ considerably and give your customers the seamless experience they’ve come to expect.

  1. Re-evaluate the template you’re using
    If you’re using a DIY website building site, like Squarespace or Wix, and your current template isn’t responsive, it’s time to re-evaluate! There will be a plethora of responsive templates you can choose from to replace your current unresponsive one. Take a look at them and choose one that is best fit for your business. Even if it means you have to spend some time altering the layout and content on your website, it’ll be worth it in the long run. If you have a bespoke site, created by a developer, get in touch with them to discuss making your site responsive. It might cost you a bit of money but it will certainly help your site perform better in the search engines and improve your visitors’ user experience.
  1. Make navigation simple
    Avoid long navigation bars which require consumers to zoom or make it harder for them to click the right link, as this easily puts people off. Less is more when it comes to navigation bars, so keep your options in the 4-5 range and make sure each one has a strong title with  clear calls to action. The text size is also important as consumers need to be able to easily click the link.
  1. Keep the text short and sweet
    Mobiles can’t display as much information as desktops and tablets, so it’s a good idea to review your website’s text with this in mind. Can you be more concise and reduce the volume of text? This will almost certainly have benefits outside of improving the mobile experience of your visitors. Once again, you need to make sure your calls to action are clear and customers understand what your business does, and why they need your services. Typography is also important; make sure the text isn’t too small and the spacing is even as this will allow for easier reading.
  1. Make sure your images are optimised
    Images which aren’t optimised can slow down your website a lot and could potentially lose you customers if your site is taking too long to load. JPG, PNG, and GIF files are usually fine and there are many tools you can use, such as Optimizilla; which will optimise your images for you. Images which are too big can also reduce your websites responsiveness, so make sure you check the size of your images too.
  1. Use mobile specific features
    Adding interactive maps and providing icons for your contact details are great for customers using your website on their mobile. This way they can get in contact with you much more easily than having to re-type your details into a search engine.
  1. Avoid using pop ups
    Pop ups can be a serious buzz kill, especially on mobiles as often browsers don’t support them, so avoid using them as they can easily put customers off.

To conclude, a responsive website is a necessity. By making your website responsive, mobile visitors are more likely to have a positive experience, which means they’re more likely to turn into loyal customers. Your websites ‘viewability’ will also affect where you rank on search engines, so make sure you check your website is providing the best mobile and desktop experiences frequently. Once your website is responsive you’re well on your way to success!

 

5 Things that Mattered this week in Marketing #MarketingMoments

As always, it’s been another busy week in the world of marketing. Here we’ve summed up the top 5 marketing stories to keep you up-to-date on the latest news and views in the industry.
1.Netflix and YouTube enter top 10 best brands list for first time

Youtube and Netflix have entered the top 10 on YouGov BrandIndex’s annual list of the UK’s top brands, for the first time this year, showing the increasing importance of online streaming services for consumers. YouTube placed 9th, whilst Netflix ranked 6th position.

Read more.

2. Twitter launches its new discovery tool Explore

In a bid to make the app more consumer-friendly, Twitter launched its discovery tool this week, to help make it easier for users to discover the latest trends and keep up with live news.

Read more.

3. A fifth of UK agencies lost business due to Brexit

A survey of over 200 advertising agencies in the UK has found that 22% reported losing business due to June’s Brexit outcome.

Read more.

4. #ThisGirlCan campaign makes a return

The hugely successful #ThisGirlCan campaign started its comeback this week, with a series of posters aimed at not just teenagers and their Mum’s, but now their Grandma’s too. The new TV ad is due to come out later this month.

Read more.

5. Brands take a stand against Trump

Brands, including Starbucks, Nike and Airbnb, have been breaking their silence this week on Trump’s newly imposed Muslim-majority country ban, by offering individuals affected support, from jobs to places to stay.

Read more.

 

Digital Marketing Trends to watch out for in 2017

With 2016 but a distant memory, 2017 is now in full swing. We are certain it is going to be another exciting and unpredictable year…and that is just for digital marketing.  From chatbots to video marketing, with lots in between, the industry is awash with talk about this year’s most important trends.  Here we’ve rounded up some of our favourites and why you need to be watching out for them in 2017.

1.Live streaming
We saw the buzz of live streaming first-hand last year with the US Presidential election, but it’s set to get even bigger in 2017. Most recently, Instagram has followed in the steps of Facebook and launched a live streaming service on its story feature. Virgin Media also received high praise for its live TV ad, which was created by piecing together live footage from 18 locations into a 60 second feature. Not only does live streaming allow brands to get creative, but it can also be more cost-friendly and allows consumers to interact on an even deeper level.

2.Chatbots
Chatbots are set to be the next big thing in messaging app technology and will reshape the way we communicate with consumers. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have already started using them, so we’re sure many other businesses will follow suit.  While some are still unsure about chatbots, many argue that they’ll increase both sales and communication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.Video marketing
From Android’s ‘Friends Furever’ to Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, video content is gaining ever more popularity amongst both consumers and marketers. While creating video content can be daunting, when done right it can be extremely effective. Videos generate 1200% more shares than text and images combined and it’s predicted that 74% of online content will be video by the end of the year.

4.Further personalisation
In a survey carried out by Swirl Network in 2015, it was found that 88% of shoppers were more likely to shop with retailers who offered personalised experiences.  From emails, to your homepage, personalisation can be done easily and effectively.  Research has also found that customers spend up to 48% more when their experience is personalised, which is revenue that no business can afford to lose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has been around for a while now; however, businesses are now moving towards what are known as “micro-influencers”. These people may not have millions of followers, but they have the niche audiences businesses are looking for. You no longer have to be a big business either to use influencers; smaller businesses are constantly using them to bring about brand awareness, making it a useful marketing strategy for businesses of all sizes.

#MarketingTitbits – marketing focus, social media blunders, Google Panda

marketingfocus-social-google-smaller1. Why consumer trust, storytelling and collaboration are Nestle, Mars and Airbnb’s focus for 2016
Speaking at Cannes Lions festival, marketing heads from some of the UK’s top brands shared their views on their priorities for 2016.

At the top of most brands’ lists was the consumer. On one hand, Nestlé’s global head of digital and social media stressed the importance of consumer trust and transparency, while on the other; Airbnb shared their focus on storytelling. However, for Mars, top of their agenda was to build closer relationships and to figure out whom to collaborate with, as the lines between marketing and sales blur.

To read more on their focuses for 2016, click here.

2. 10 of the biggest social media blunders ever

If you want to build your company’s presence online, social media can be an ideal way to do so. But while social media is often a powerful and beneficial tool, there are times when brands fall into the trap of negative publicity.

Entrepreneur has compiled a list on what not to do on social media, which include mistaking national tragedy for fireworks from American Apparel, JPMorgan Chase inviting public hatred, LG making fun of an iPhone with an iPhone and many more. For examples of embarrassing blunders, look no further.

Click here to see them all.

3. What does the latest Google Panda update mean for your business

Since the latest Google Panda update was released, speculation has been escalating as to whether rankings had been affected or not. Although Google hasn’t made an official announcement, fluctuations in ranking can often point to changes. So what could this mean for businesses?

The original Panda update was introduced to combat the issues surrounding what makes ‘good or bad’ pages, and consequently stop any ‘bad’ pages from ranking high in search results. It’s become clear that this recent update is concentrated on the quality of content. Businesses should be regularly producing new content that is relevant, useful and engaging, while also updating older pieces of content.

Find out more on how the update may affect your business by clicking here.

#MarketingTitbits – Google, Ryanair messaging, internet fees

google-ryanair-internet-smaller1. Does Google use social signals for ranking?Are pieces of content more likely to rank higher on SERPs if they have more social signals (likes, retweets, comments, etc.) than similar content of less social ‘worth’? Econsultancy sheds some light on the topic.

Google is known for ranking content based on its quality, but it appears now that social interaction could possibly be added to the complicated ranking equation. As of this month, Google has begun to roll out an update in the US which shares tweets in real-time in search results.

So, if you have created content and shared it on Twitter with an optimised tweet, chances are that Google may have shared it too. To read more, click here.

2. Quality now drives our messaging, not price, claims Ryanair’s CMO

Ryanair has recently announced that its profits were up 66%, reaching £614 million for the first quarter of the year. Chief executive, Michael O’Leary, has claimed their ‘Always Getting Better’ programme is the key to their growth.

Over the same period, the airline’s marketing spend hit £166m, in an aim to improve brand perception by boosting personalisation features for its customers. Although the brand appears to be winning customers from competitors, be it budget or premium, it still has work to do to push up its index score and rise in the aviation ranks.

To find out more about Ryanair’s success, click here.

3. We’ve hit the peak of ‘free’ on the internet. It’s time to pay up

Over the years, the New York Times has juggled its subscription fees from free to paid and back again a number of times, but what will happen at a point where around 15% of users are paying for a service of some sort?

Free content shows no sign of disappearing, but is likely to be ‘rebalanced’ as online payments become safer and paid content becomes more valuable. But now, as large companies such as YouTube and Apple begin to join in the premium services, will you be persuaded to pay up?

Click here to read more on the ‘peak of free’.

 

#MarketingTitbits – Google, websites – then and now, Twitter election

google-websites-election-smaller1. The Google algorithm update may be a thing of the past
Google’s algorithm updates are known by names such as Penguin or Panda and will regularly move the SEO goal posts, leaving marketers awaiting their arrival with a certain level of anxiety. But this could now be a thing of the past.  Since 2012, the number of updates released by Google have decreased each year.

In a recent post on Search Engine Land, Nate Dame, the founder and CEO of search and content marketing firm Propecta, revealed his thoughts for fewer algorithm updates from Google and the reasons behind them.

To read more, click here.

2. An internet blast from the past!

Can you remember what LinkedIn looked like when you first visited the site in 2003?

Web design has come a long way in the last 20 years, so we’re sure you will enjoy looking at how some of the leading websites have changed since the early days of their existence.

On the list you will see how our favourite social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have all evolved, as well as Google, Amazon and eBay.

To see how the websites have transformed, click here.

3. ‘Twitter can be crucial to connecting people at this General Election’

With the General Election just over a month away and social media at its peak, it comes as no surprise to see that 34% of people in a survey carried out by Twitter have changed their vote from one political party to another after seeing something on the social media site.

The country is now at a point where people are feeling more disconnected than ever from politicians, so it is clear that Twitter could become a powerful tool for improving engagement, with 78% of members of parliament now signed up. Those in the running for the election could take tips from politicians like Barack Obama, who benefited greatly from his social media strategy during his campaign.

It’s expected that the 2015 electoral campaign will top the 7 million tweets generated from the Scottish referendum, but what influence will this have on votes? Head to MarketingWeek to find out more.

#MarketingTitbits – domains, data laws, Budget 2015

domains-data-budget-smaller1. Eight genuinely useful tools for domain name generation
When creating a website, the hardest part can often be thinking of and securing a name. One of the biggest problems today is that there are over 900 million registered website domains, but only 25% are actually in use. If you’re struggling to find a domain for your website, a list of the best name generator tools has been compiled by Econsultancy; here are just a few.

Name Mesh, Panabee and Domainr are sites that will allow you to search for a number of alternatives to your ideal domain name/s, which could include shortening or finding alternate TLDs (top level domains). Another problem is then replicating your chosen name across social networks, but with the help on NameChk, you can browse through 157 communities to find out which ones are available.

To see the other tools, you can click here.

2. What new data laws mean for marketers

The EU has been working on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for some time now. The net result of which, brands and businesses will be required to be completely transparent with consumers about what they can expect their data to be used for. The Guardian is one brand that has followed this, through their creation of a £5000 video titled ‘Why your data matters to us’.

With the GDPR due to be released in 2017, the legislation that will be introduced could include the ‘right to be forgotten’, which allows for any out-of-date or incomplete information to be removed from search engine results. The GDPR could also offer brands the option to process pseudonymous data, where personal identifiers are replaced to protect consumer rights.

For more on the GDPR, click here.

3. What the Budget means for your business

When the Budget was announced last week, George Osborne promised that the annual tax return would be scrapped, with digital accounts as replacements. But, what hasn’t been made clear is exactly how this will happen.

One potentially beneficial possibility is that by 2020, small businesses may be able to link their accounting software to government systems, which will share their financial information. As efficient as this might sound, businesses might not respond so positively to the initiative. 100% tax relief on the cost of new equipment is due to fall from £500,000 to £25,000, although George Osborne has suggested this will be reviewed.

These are just a few of the measures that might affect you and your business. You can find out more on what the Budget announcement means for your business by clicking here.

#MarketingTitbits – hashtags, social analytics tools, SEO tips

hashtags-analytics-SEO-smaller1. Use hashtags to generate greater brand engagement
Are hashtags a fad? Their growing popularity has seen them start to overtake the infamous Facebook ‘like’ button for brands looking to drive consumer engagement. Such is growing obsession over hashtag creation for brands, that some are even employing ‘specialists’ in the field. They may seem like clever creations, but if the brand doesn’t generate any actual positive engagement via this process is there any purpose to them?

Take the hashtag #FirstDraftEver for example – it featured on an ad for ‘Avocados from Mexico’ in what was their first appearance at the Super Bowl. It generated 25,000 mentions in the first 24 hours. This may sound impressive, but the problem was that many Tweets didn’t mention the Mexican brand itself. So did it drive brand awareness?

If you’d like to read more about how hashtags can be used to boost your brand, click here.

2. Five tips for picking the right social analytics tool

Have you ever considered the use of a social analytics tool for your business? If you’re in need of help, Econsultancy has created a few tips to help you along the way.

When using social analytics tools, it is important to focus on how business goals can be achieved rather than social goals. Ask yourself questions – what problems can be solved? What price gives your business the best value? These are important considerations that will lead to a successful investment in tech.

To see the full list of tips on social analytics, click here.

3. 32 simple SEO tips for small businesses

SEO can be a complicated concept for many people to grasp, but the good people at Econsultancy have put together a great list of tips, you can be sure to come away with some valuable insights you can implement straight away. We’re outlining just a few!

Firstly, by creating a blog, you can update your site frequently with valuable content that is interesting and engaging for readers, which in turn will build a strong online presence for your business. Another idea would be to take a look at your competitors; see what they are doing in terms of keywords and site optimisation and how you can improve upon them in order to stand out from the crowd and give people a worthwhile user experience.

To find out more about SEO and how your business can improve, you can check out the list of tips by clicking here.