Posts tagged: search engine marketing

Copywriting for Search – Get Your Copy Right, You Must

28 November 2013

SEO Copywriting – Why Content is King (and what you can do about it)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Devious Webmasters, would-be marketers and sloppy content writers are blighting the World Wide Web with spammy content, underhand tactics and dubious links…

There was a time when the world of website content was a wild frontier, plagued with mean tricks that would get your site up the rankings quickly and easily, and while it might seem that online copy is leading a clean-cut existence nowadays, the dreaded Black Hatters and lazy content writers (think Darth Vader and Boba Fett) are still at it. So just how do you stay clear of the penalties handed out by the likes of algorithm update, Google Panda, and keep your site ranking well?

The web is made up of content – that’s what it is; a behemoth Smörgåsbord of files and folders full of documents, images, videos and so much more. So it stands to reason that in order to have a well-ranking website your content should be wholesome, good and honest (think Princess Leia and R2D2).

Google (and those other search engines we occasionally hear about) is becoming increasingly more attuned to the way in which content is written and, more importantly, how it is understood by the most technically advanced element of the internet, the humans. Content is still very much king (or, er, emperor?) and with the recent release of Google’s Hummingbird update ushering in the dawn of semantic search, that mantra isn’t looking like it will go away anytime soon. In fact it’s going to get increasingly harder for the bad guys to ‘outsmart’ the search engines as they dynamically learn the values and trademarks of well-written content.

Darth Vader's helmet

Definitely Black Hat

Princess Leia

A clean-living White Hatter

Images courtesy of LucasFilm and The Walt Disney Company

The Top 10 Steps to Better Content

Making significant gains in Google’s organic search listings needn’t be cloak and light-sabre (‘black hat’).  Follow these 10 steps to becoming a Content Jedi:

  1. Write for people first and worry about ‘bots’ later.
  2. Choose your keywords carefully and use them wisely.
  3. Don’t get SPAM-tastic – No-one likes a thorough keyword stuffing and Google seriously hates it!
  4. Mark up your page with a relevant structure (headings, sub-headings, bold text etc.)
  5. Better Meta – Help search engines to understand what’s going on with good meta data.
  6. Keep it interesting – Include some dynamic content such as images, videos, polls etc.
  7. Keep it relevant – Writing about red widgets? Then don’t try and sell me casinos and ladies of the night.
  8. Build some trust – Create links to and from relevantgenuine, trustworthy sites.
  9. Share it – Don’t wait around for people to accidentally trip over your shiny new content, tell the world.
  10. Tell Google – That’s right, you can let the boffins know too! Google Webmaster Tools is a great place to start.

For more tips or help with content writing, web design and online marketing please visit Outsrc Web Design and drop me a line.

Remember, the force is with you, mostly.

SEO – It’s football crazy

11 April 2013

I’ve seen the practise of SEO described as both an art and as a science, and indeed one of my primary considerations when enrolling on the SSMM course at the University of Salford was to ensure I received an authoritative, impartial, and academically applied grounding in the subject rather than a purely commercial one.

Tackling a new art or science project can seem very daunting though, and as the weeks rolled by and multiple layers of influence in the online marketing sphere were revealed, it dawned on me how search engine marketing has many parallels with the world of sport – the concepts of which I can understand much more easily. My sport is football (soccer, if you must), but I think the principles can be extended to virtually any sport you follow – let me know if I’m wrong!

So how can a football team’s success on the pitch mirror a website’s performance on the Google playing field?

League Tables

The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) can be viewed in much the same way as a football league table – the most successful at the top, and with each page back, we can think of lower and lower divisions in the football pyramid. Just as smaller clubs still have their own supporters, so less well-optimised websites will still possess devotees, but the “big boys” at the top will continue to attract the majority of attention and new fans. It is thus the ultimate goal of each club to move up the rankings and become number one.

The Tactical Battle

Christmas trees, diamond midfields, flat back-fours, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3? If these don’t sound familiar to you then they are a selection of tactical formations football manager’s choose to line up their teams, in the hope they will best perform in that way.

A website owner needs to employ tactics in the same way, from how their site is structured (about Sitemaps) to the keyword strategy they employ. Keywords are like the best players on your team, and you want them to control the action on your website, so it is important you select the most “talented” ones you can – and play them in their strongest positions!

A number of tools are available for keyword research, and just as football clubs scout for new players – website owners need to search for terms which will strengthen their “keyword squad”.

Football managers will often check out their opposition to gain a measure of their relative strengths and weaknesses, and via tools such as Open Site Explorer, online marketing managers can do the same to gain a competitive edge.

Style of Play

In order to engage fans and keep them paying at the turnstiles, it is important to offer them a good experience. A fluid style of play with dashes of flair and inspiration, allied to displays of commitment and honesty will satisfy most football fans – and so too, quality content must be the basis of any website aiming to attract supporters and to keep them. Provide a dull, dreary slog and don’t expect to sell many season tickets.

Optimisation of imagery, copy and load speeds are fundamental to an online operation, and a grasp of the basics with a clear vision of how a site “should” work are required before any grand notions of growth and progress are considered.

Giant Killing

Unless your team is blessed with the backing of a billionaire benefactor, getting to the top and staying there is perhaps unrealistic, as the resources available to you cannot compete. Every season though, we hear of David versus Goliath clashes where the little guy wins.

Aristotle spoke of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and this in football relates to teamwork – everyone pulling in the same direction, with no prima donnas or shirkers in the team.

In the field of marketing, if all aspects of the business are “on message” then success is more achievable. In the online competition for Page ranking, niche or well reasoned keywords can bring success to smaller enterprises who cannot compete head on with large multinationals.

Resting on Laurels

Once a level of success has been achieved, it must be tempting to soak up the glory of a job well done. Be warned though, the competition does not sit still. After a long journey to the top, and will more resources to call upon than most, Manchester City were satisfied with their squad and playing style and changed very little form the formula which brought them success. Their rivals though, Manchester United, invested and adapted resulting in a reversal of fortunes for the neighbouring clubs in the following campaign.

Liverpool F.C., for so long the dominant force in English football, failed to move on from their last championship-winning team and allowed it to become old and stale – they have never fully recovered since, as rivals became more successful and generated more revenue.

Huge high street stores such as Comet and HMV have both failed to move on with the development of online business to disastrous effect.

It is strategically vital to nurture a website in line with developments in the industry and market place, because being left behind can have dire consequences to the visibility and hence profitability of internet traders.

Rules of the Game

Football has a host of governing bodies from FIFA on the world stage, to UEFA in Europe and the FA in England. All have regulations, but the game has generally consistent rules of play which all must obey.

Search Engine Optimisation has no official rule book, but, in the Western world at least, Google can realistically be viewed as the governing body. Such is Google’s dominance as the search engine of choice, that satisfying the demands of its “algorithm” (a tool employed to measure the authority and worth of websites) can be likened to playing by the rules.

Infringements to the laws of the game in football can result in penalties and suspensions, as can infringements to Google dictates when optimising websites. There are many cautionary tales on the web relating to Google’s “Panda” and “Penguin” penalties.

Just like the offside rule in football, Google’s considerations for it’s algorithm are widely confused – but if everything were clear cut and predictable, the beautiful game would not be so exciting, would it?!

This Manager’s Future

My client, Idyll Home, are a relatively young company, and I suppose could be considered a lower division team at present. There is plenty of talent and ambition there though, and I hope to utilise the skills and knowledge acquired on the #SSMMUOS course to push for year on year promotions to the Premier League!

One thing’s for certain about SEO though…it’s a funny old game!

“How to Become a Business Development Specialist in the Fast Growing Search and Social Media Industry”

21 April 2011

Dear Business Developer,

Are you looking to get started as web marketing consultant within search and social media marketing? Then read on…

I’m sure you’ll agree that online marketing is huge! Everyday you hear about Google, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. These brand names – that have entered our lexicon – are like pesky mosquitoes buzzing around. They just won’t go away.

And you know it’s a fact the Internet has changed the way savvy businesses do business.  And even the dinosaur companies are starting to realise they’re going to die a horrible death unless they act now.

But Beware the Cowboy Search Marketing Companies

Just last week I bumped into a friend who told me he was working for this type of company. They have a big telesales operation and prey on the naivety of business owners. People who are desperate to increase their sales and profits. Telling someone you can give them 10,000 hits on their Facebook page is a little different to the reality – 10,000 impressions on Facebook. It’s a subtle but crucial difference.

Only get involved with an ethical company.

Do you need Selling Skills to be Successful?

Absolutely. Ideally you’ve got at least two years’ business development experience in the bag. Also, I’ll take it as red you understand to how to build rapport with strangers. And you can generate leads through cold calling (it’s easier than you think). In addition, you’re able to uncover sales opportunities at networking events or down at your local health club.

And it doesn’t just stop at talking. You need to be a competent business writer. Why? Because business developers should be able craft a professional proposal.

Lastly, you must possess good presentation and closing skills.

Search and Social Media Marketing Training will Pay Dividends

Okay, so you’ve got the selling ability of Brian Tracy or Zig Ziglar. If you haven’t then you’re working at it. What do you do next?

Well, if you want to shortcut the road to success then get yourself booked on a quality course. One that covers search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing: the hot topics. You can pick up extra knowledge, such as email marketing, pay-per-click advertising and affiliate marketing once you’ve got a good handle on the SEO and social media stuff.

There are quite a few courses out there, but I’d highly recommend you first take a look at Search Engine Marketing Professional Organisation (SEMPO). It’s a not-for-profit trade organisation and they offer online certification courses via their commercial arm –

They’re a global organisation and all the top digital marketing agencies (your prospective employers) recognise SEMPOs qualifications.

Do you live near Greater Manchester. England?

If not, then don’t worry. But if you do then check out Salford University Business School because they offer SEMPO courses in a classroom environment. As well as certification, you get the added benefit of industry speakers who come along to offer advice on all aspects of search and social media.

Other Golden Nuggets to Help you Get a Business Development Job in Search Marketing

Below are a some of the things I’ve done over the last ten years to give me better understanding of web marketing.

  • Buy and sell items on eBay
  • Author an ebook and sell it online
  • Dig into Google webmaster tools
  • Start blogging or tweeting about your favourite topic
  • Stay current by reading SEO/Social news websites
  • Get social – set up profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Shoot a video and upload it to YouTube
  • Put some holiday snaps on Flickr
  • Read great books on Internet marketing (contact Para Web Marketing for a FREE list)
  • Build a website, so you have an appreciation of the design, traffic building and conversion process
  • Help a local company or charity to promote their business or cause online

7-Step Blueprint to Guaranteed Success

  1. Keep honing your business development skills
  2. Get a recognised qualification in search and social media e.g. SEMPO
  3. Create a CV and covering letter that’s specific to the sales role
  4. Try out a few of the golden nuggets (mentioned above)
  5. Be proactive – fire off your CV to job boards, recruitment agencies, and web companies who are advertising sales positions
  6. Pick up the phone – contact every search, web design and social media company within your commuting area. And ask if they need a good business developer (prepare thoroughly before calling)
  7. If you’re anti-social become social – attend industry events, follow and interact with companies you’d like to work for

BIOGRAPHY – Simon Davies LLB

Simon is a freelance business developer and web marketing consultant based in Manchester, England. He has 20 years’ sales and marketing experience, including 10 years at former telecoms giant BT. His time is divided working on his own web projects and that of other small businesses. In addition, he freelances for digital marketing agencies helping them to generate leads and sales.

marketing in the Fast Growing Search and Social Media Industry

SEO and Adwords outsourcing: 10 questions you should ask

20 April 2011

I am writing this based on experience from my company’s first foray into the world of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising (using Google Adwords) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I am the sole marketing person for an independent manufacturing business – Alker Fibre Optics – and when I joined I was made aware that we intended to commit a large slice of the marketing budget to PPC.  I explained I had little experience with this but was told not to worry:

 “We have a company that will take care of all that!”

Alker Fibre Optics

The experience taught us a rather expensive lesson, but we also saw glimpses of how it could work and gain us a lot of business, but at the time we just did not have the skills in-house. So, what have we learned from this?

Adword for Dummies – it did actually work!

I should also mention that prior to hiring an agency to help with our account, our Director, armed only with an ‘Adword for Dummies’ book got stuck in and set up some Adword campaigns, and I have to say, it did actually work! There was a real pick-up in enquiries and business almost immediately. However, it quickly became clear that the campaigns were not the most economical, we were spending far more than necessary to achieve our targets not to mention the countless hours spent googling for keywords! At the time, outsourcing to someone with the know-how and time we lacked seemed a better option – and it might have been, had we ourselves been better informed before choosing our agency.

I do believe we have to take some responsibility for not having a clear understanding of what to expect, but I also think that there are agencies and consultants out there who are more than happy to take your monthly fee and then run and hide behind Skype and email once you start asking questions.

So if you are intending to outsource your Adwords campaign here are my top ten things to ask agencies before you commit – but with the caveat that you should also do some research and find out more about search engine marketing and what it means to your business before going ahead.

You can skip the intro and go straight to ‘Top ten questions…’ if you have already done some research on the power of Google, SEO and Adwords.

Why is ranking high on Google so important?

I have built on my experience at Alker by attending the excellent Search and Social Media Marketing (SSMM) course at Salford University, so below follows a little information on where to start your research.

A little on Search Engine Optimisation first.

How many times have you clicked past page one when searching with Google? Not many I bet. If you don’t go past page one why would your potential customers? This link from illustrates the point beautifully:

  • The reason so few people click past page one is because Google is very good at what it does. It simply wants the person searching to find exactly what they want in the shortest space of time. Google therefore rewards websites which are relevant to the search by placing them towards the top of page one. This is why ensuring that your website is optimised for search engines is so important.
  • For Adwords or Pay Per Click, the same is true. Relevancy is king and Google will reward you by charging you less per click if the pages you direct your adverts to are highly relevant to the search term. They do this by allocating a score to each of your keywords used in your campaigns and your chosen agency should make sure your scores are relatively high (no lower than 5 out of 10).

This is a very basic overview and as I said before I highly recommend you familiarise yourself with the field further. A good starting point to find out more about Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing is as always Wikipedia – SEO / SEM, but I can also recommend Avinash Kaushik’s web analytics blog.

10 questions to ask before outsourcing SEO and Adwords

So, born from expensive experience, here is what I should have asked, and what I believe you should expect from a good Search Engine Marketing/Adwords company or consultant – but don’t forget to do some homework first!

  1. How long do I need to do this ‘optimising’ for?

    The first thing to bear in mind is that Search Engine Marketing is not just for Christmas – it is for life. A long-term strategy is therefore important. If you are relatively certain that you want to outsource both the organic optimisation and the paid for search for the foreseeable future, then budget for it and agree a long-term strategy with tangible outcomes and regular updates.

  2. Is there any training offered?

    If your longer-term strategy involves bringing the skills in-house or making sure your staff have some core skills around search marketing, ask your shortlisted companies if they offer training and on-going support (and if they have run any courses so far). If you want to train your staff independently of your chosen SEO company I can highly recommend the Search and Social Media course at Salford University.

  3. Will you understand their reports or is it one big alphabet soup?

      Ask to see examples of client reports (without the client data of course) and if there is something you don’t understand – ask.  A good digital marketing company should be able to explain what all the terms mean and why they are important in such a way that you understand it. Most search engine optimisation is not about technical know-how. It is about ensuring you have good, relevant copy that is easy for the search engines to find and understand. It is about increasing your web-presence and authority with an all-round strategy.

  4. How will they build you good, authoritative links?

    This is a key part of getting your website up the rankings and unfortunately also an area where less reputable companies will take shortcuts that can seriously damage your business (to the point where you no longer show up at all on Google searches). Instead of going for someone promising you 100 links a day, choose the company that will take the time to talk to you about who your customers are, or what the online trade journals and directories relevant to your business are and if you can gain links back to your website from these. As an example, my company, alker fibre optics, has a number of Universities as clients. Getting backlinks from these around work we have done with them was far more valuable to us than random links from irrelevant websites, and also unlikely to land us in trouble with Google!

  5. How will they communicate with you?

    Decide if you want regular face-to-face meetings. It may seem a small point, but some companies will prefer to deal mainly on email and phone.  Personally, I prefer to know I have someone’s full attention when discussing my business and did find it frustrating when regular meetings were difficult to arrange, particularly for the first few months when there is a lot of new jargon to take in.

  6. Who do you liaise with and vice versa?

    This goes both ways. Your chosen company should ensure you have key contact people you can easily get in touch with and, likewise, you should champion the SEO and Adwords work from the top of your own company. Make sure that it becomes part of someone’s job to manage the day-to-day work. If, for instance, you are implementing customer feedback on your website there is nothing worse for your business than to then ignore it because you haven’t got time. The same goes if your digital strategy involves using social media platforms (like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter). If you’re going to do it, make sure you do it consistently.

  7. Who will have access to and work on my website?

    Does your shortlisted companies outsource the work or do they have the staff in-house? Outsourcing isn’t necessarily a negative, but I would find out if they regularly use the same consultants and that your work will be assigned to mainly one contractor to ensure a consistent approach.

  8. Who else do they work with? 

    A good digital media agency should have current or previous clients that they are happy for you to get in touch with. 

  9. Their website looks great, but…?

    Do all the basic checks you would do if you were making any substantial financial commitment. It is amazing how a great looking website can dazzle you into thinking everything is hunky-dory. Check their registration with companies house, ask them about staff turnover, how long they have been in business etc. NB: A lot of SEO/Adwords companies are relatively young – don’t immediately count this against them!

  10. Manage your expectations.

    There are no magic widgets that you can buy that will propel you to the top of Google’s organic listing and no one can guarantee you this using SEO alone. If you are starting from scratch you should allow three months for the work to start making an impact. If you are also implementing Adwords, this will have more immediate results and you should expect to see your adverts appearing on Google in the first week of going live. How long the work takes leading up to this depends on the complexity of your business, but I would expect it to take at least 4-6 weeks.

I would be interested to hear feedback from the excellent agencies that have contributed to the SSMM course  about their experiences – are expectations from clients too high? Have I missed any obvious points in my list?

Find me on LinkedIn/AnneGrondahl or @annegrondahl.