Posts tagged: seo

Social Media – it’s great to be sociable !

8 May 2014



Where do you turn when your business slows down or reaches a point where it stops growing? Well that is the question I asked myself, working on an organic vineyard in the beautiful south west of France and a in a wine shop in Hale, a few months ago. Well grab a glass of wine, sit back and look no further guys, organic marketing and social media are the answer.

Nowadays, most social businesses don’t use their capacity to their advantage. It’s easy to employ a marketing company, spend a lot of money, and not see any results. A friend of mine has a successful optical instruments online business and decided to outsource his Google ads campaign to a marketing company. After 6 months of paying high management fees he decided to end it and he saw no difference in his sales or website visits. This is why I went out there and studied SEO at the University of Salford as you are never better served then by yourself.

Maybe now is the time to mention that this blog is written by a glamorous blonde, and so will not be full of complicated words and non-understandable long statements about how you can go in the back end of your website and change every small details and correct mistakes. Time to employ a descent IT professional. However, there are still many things you can do by yourself.

cork social-media

So, to get back to how you can make a massive difference in your business, social media is a great opportunity. You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost the plot, that everyone uses Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other social websites; but do you use them the appropriate way? Probably not or you wouldn’t be reading this post.

For a start, pay attention to what happens on the social media. Listen for what social media users are saying about your company, your competitors, and your products, why they love them, why they don’t. Don’t start guessing or thinking you know what people want, because honestly you never know what’s in anyone’s head. You can also find future trending topics, and maybe even spot new markets and products opportunities. Isn’t this great?

Now that you’ve done this, you can start populating your social media content. The great thing is by listening to others, you will now have a better idea of what to post, what will be shared, talked about and even referred to. Be the first to post an interesting and relevant news and gain more customers awareness.

To make your customers connected with your brand you need to engage with them, make them feel they matter to you. The hardest thing is that you might sometimes get negative feedback as you can’t always have happy customers, but the way you deal with them will be crucial for the rest of your social network. Breathe in, stay calm and never step out of place. The customer is –unfortunately- always king.

As you don’t get anything for free these days, social ads is a great way to spend your money. Social ads are those ads that are displayed to users who have friends that are fans of the advertised business; they aren’t excessively expensive and can draw more attention to your business and target a specific part of the population.

After you’ve made so much effort in putting yourself out there don’t forget to measure your success. By doing this every so often, you will be able to see what works and what doesn’t and with time it will become easier to use social media and you will always be the one knowing all the gossip – and hopefully spreading a few- in your industry.

wine social media

I guess you are at least half way into your bottle of wine by now, so as a last note here are a few tips. Have a strategy, plan what you want to post every week or month so you don’t forget to do it. Social content needs to provide value and encourage action, your post isn’t just here to look good but also to be shared. By using social media wisely, your customers will sell your brand for you, and the best is that social media will help your business dominate the first page of Google.



If you ran out of wine by now, don’t hesitate to have a browse on here (free delivery all over the uk).


Is your website mobile device friendly?

24 April 2014

Already being in the digital marketing industry, last year I attended Salford University to study on the SEO & Social Media Marketing course to brush up and improve on my digital marketing skills.

Responsive Websites & SEO

mobile internet growth

The Mobile Web

The online marketing landscape is rapidly changing and moving towards the mobile web, traditional methods of viewing websites on desktop and laptop computers  is on the decline.

In the last couple of years smartphone and tablet pc sales has exploded, people are ditching their desktops and laptops in favor of mobile devices. It`s now the era of smartphones, apps and tablet devices which brings yet another set of challenges to website owners and marketers alike.

Having a mobile device friendly website to meet the demand of this rising trend is now essential rather than a necessity, especially is you still want to remain buoyant and relevant in the search engines.

If you have been considering having a new website layout developed, the wiser choice would be a responsive website which is the industry best practice as delivering the best results for people searching and visiting your website across a wide range of devices. One thing is for sure, we will all be going mobile sometime in the near future! The question is, will your website?

Surprisingly over 70% of websites online still do not have a mobile optimised version. Responsive websites are only going to gain momentum, so why shouldn’t you and your business find out what the fuss is about?

Mobile SEO

Google has stated that websites with responsive designs or  mobile websites optimised for mobile devices may rank better in the organic search listings compared to traditional websites. Google wants to deliver the best results for users searching from smartphones meaning the SEO benefits are clear cut. In another 18 months time if your website is not mobile friendly you can be sure your traffic and rankings will almost certainly be on the decrease.

Good luck, and remember that any successful business must keep up with the times, Remember a mobile website will let your clients know that you’re reaching out to a modern audience.




SEO Checklists for Healthcare and B2B Websites

28 November 2013

How to Optimise Websites for Performance

In large B2B and public sector organisations, many managers face similar problems when running their websites.
They have a high level view about what a high performance website should be like. But the intricacies of SEO techniques are not for them. Give them detailed explanations plain English that will support their decision making. Then enjoy having a hand in building and maintaining a high performing website for your customer.

What is a high performing website?
Websites that perform well:
• Meet the needs of the people using them
• Achieve the business goals for which they were created.
The trick is to make sure that the website is optimised to meet both needs. Every page should provide a core message that people can find and understand.

SEO Checklist – the Basics

Below are some SEO basics to work on when domain and page authority need improving to meet your company’s standards.

Web Optimisation is For Your Users

First and foremost, focus on what people need rather than what the organisation needs. At the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust,  the website’s primary users are its patients, next of kin, family, close friends and medical professionals. These users seek information about:  symptoms, conditions, treatments, care, clinics, locations, facilities and consultants.  The website is being optimised by putting them first and focusing relentlessly on helping them to achieve their needs.

Website Performance Measures

When a CEO asks about website performance, what is the most useful information to give them? Forage through the masses of statistics on Google Analytics and come up with nuggets that tell managers what targets have been met. Check the all-important tracking code, set up goals on the pages where your primary users complete tasks and you’re good to go. Avinash Kaushik provides expert help directly through the Google Analytics help pages.

Keyword Research for Search Engine Optimisation

SEO revolves around keywords so do your research. Some keyword research sources are:
• Documents and files already published that focus on your key services
• Your customer service team (at the Royal Liverpool Hospitals this is the Patient and Liaison Service Team) for questions frequently asked
• Internal search engine statistics
• Google Webmaster Tools
• Google Analytics
• Introduce your manager to and show them comparisons between the links and keywords competitors are using.

Writing Optimised Web Content

An optimised web page contains a title tag, meta description, navigation links, tagged <H1> <H2> <H3> and images, headings, subheadings, hyperlinks within text and compelling copy.
Title tag
The title tag position is real estate on a web page and the first word is given the most importance. Use 6 to 15 words, or up to 70 characters including spaces, and make it unique.
Meta Description Tag
Although not rated by search engines, this helps people find what’s relevant to them. Write a meta description of 150 (250 maximum) characters of informative copy, unique to that page. Including a benefit encourages click through.

Optimising images

Label images with descriptive alt text that makes it relevant for people using screenreader software. This will meet W3C accessibility standards too. For example: new-royal-phase1-floorplan. Not: DMC31002.
PDF and document files
Use primary keywords for PDF and DOC file titles. For example: medical-education-newsletter.pdf

URL and File Structure

Write unique URLs with primary keywords. For example:

Compelling copy

Write one core message per page and cut anything superfluous.
Focus on the primary audience and the calls to action for each page.
Write the primary and secondary keywords in the first sentence of the first paragraph, two or three more times throughout the page and in the last sentence.
Page length should be between 200 and 400 words.
A good test: can your gran understand it?


Links hold everything together and are essential for rankings.
Write hyperlinks like this: More information on pain medicine
Not:     Click here for more information on pain medicine.
Links within text are rated more highly than lists of links.
Are all links correct? Check broken ones using the W3C link checker tool.
Redirect – 301s – permanently moved pages to avoid ‘page not found’ (404) errors.

Page Loading Times
Pages should load in 2-3 seconds. Test using Pingdom to investigate slow loading times.

Clean code
Use a W3C validator to check quality and highlight errors.

More Site Optimisation Checks – Beyond SEO
Site structure and the technical development of a website affects search engine ratings. Fix the above SEO basics then try some off-site optimisation for best results.
For more information, connect with me on twitter @sue_lister, on LinkedIn and Google+.

Sue Lister

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.

Google Now: Getting To Know You (and anticipating your every move)

28 November 2013

google now

Working as the marketing executive at digital marketing agency Fast Web Media means I’m surrounded by industry experts banging on about search, tech and social. My role is very varied; on any given day I’ll be posting on our social media accounts, writing blogs, drafting copy for our websites, running email campaigns, dealing with clients, or organising the odd trade show! I find I’m no expert in any given field but know bits and pieces of the areas that apply to me.

One topic that has caught my attention recently is the growth of Google Now. I actually own an Android operated phone but didn’t quite catch on to Google Now until I started reading about it in blogs. I then noticed that my phone seemed to know what I needed to search for before I even told it what I wanted… spooky!

For those that haven’t heard about or used Google Now, let me take it back a step:

Google Now’s tagline is “The right information at just the right time” and that’s exactly what it is. Google Now is voice activated information services with a personal organiser. But it’s much more than that, as it’s personalised to the nth degree and the system learns more about you as you use it, being able to connect to your lifestyle and show you the kind of information you’re likely to need at the right time. The video below explains this:

It can sound confusing, so let me elaborate. At around 5.30pm Google Now knows that I’m likely to start making my way home, so will automatically show me up to date traffic information from the office to my home.

Not impressive enough? Ok, if you’re out and about in Manchester and you’re looking for restaurants, Google Now will give you information and directions about restaurants in close proximity to where you are. Based on your location, it will also have weather reports ready, latest scores from your favourite sports team or up to date stock information.

It can gather information straight from your Gmail and display flight information if you’ve recently booked a flight, and take it one step further by showing you the best route to get to the airport on the day of your scheduled flight, using the type of transportation it thinks you’re likely to be using. If you’re near the airport (and flying with American Airlines), it will find your boarding pass in Gmail and bring up a check-in QR code without being asked and gives you the weather report for your destination. Once you get to your destination, it will find local events, attractions, and restaurants. It can also give you the time back home, currency conversion, translations and more. Impressive enough yet?

It then organises all this information in a logical fashion using ‘cards’, automatically displaying them when you’re more likely to need them. As Google Now gets to know more about you, these cards are customised and will appear on the search bar of the Google Now screen.

I haven’t been using Google Now very long so my screen isn’t filled with ‘cards’ yet but Google already knows where I live, where I work, and that I drive there; so shows me up to date traffic and weather information. It also knows what football team I support; so shows me latest scores. Here’s an overview of what my page looks like:


In future, I expect to see flight information, package tracking information, restaurant information in my area, events linked to my recent searches, hotel bookings, news, stock information… the list goes on and on!

I’ve heard of Siri, is this the same thing?

Siri was really the pioneer when it comes to voice activated search, but Google Now takes this a step further. Much like Siri, it can answer questions and search the web, but apart from just assisting, it can anticipate your requirements using your calendar, Gmail, historic search and your current location. In this article, Marcio Cyrillo argues this exact point, and his conclusions point to the fact that Google Now takes it an evolutionary step further.

As a marketer, why do I need to know this?

Whether you’re an online marketer or not, there’s no denying this is an incredible advancement. But it’s undoubtable that those working in the world of online marketing will be asking themselves what this means for SEO and how they can stay one step ahead of their competitors.

The trend for marketers to analyse big data and determine what their customers want, what they need, and when they need it is only growing and Google Now is adding fuel to the fire with its predictive search capabilities. Search is evolving and becoming more relevant, and although there is still no talk of “Google Now Rankings”, it’s clear that local SEO will play a major role in making sure your business is featured in the right place at the right time.

In the same article referenced above, Cyrillo argues that Google Now could also be the stepping stone to completely changing the “number of links” mentality. The culture of SEO being all about linkbuilding in bulk is dying out and this is just taking us one step closer to those practices becoming obsolete.

For those businesses that still haven’t developed their Google+ local pages and garnered Google reviews, now is the time to wake up! In this regard, any business will gain a clear advantage in outranking their competitor in a local search.

Fascinating… or a step too far?

Google Now can only learn more about you if it has access to as much information about you as possible- this means Gmail, Calendar, search history etc. It could be a major step in making our lives easier… but is it perhaps a step too far? What about privacy issues? How much information is too much information?

As with everything, there’s a positive and a negative side to change, it’s more a question of personal preference. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find this change not only fascinating but mind blowing- how amazing is it that your phone knows exactly what you need?

But what about you? Are you looking forward to seeing where Google Now will take us or are you concerned that Google will have access to too much information about you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter or Google+!

Why Digital Marketers Need A Personal Blog Site

28 November 2013

When you’re responsible for digital marketing for a large company, it can be hard to try out new ideas, which is why you should have a personal blog site to use as a tester.

That way, you can use it to experiment without needing to get things signed-off by senior managers or provide definite ROI, and without waiting for internal IT or external agencies to implement your suggestions.

New Adventures In Hi-Fi

Having your own personal blog site gives you the change to be at the cutting edge of digital marketing, even if it’s harder to get there in your day job.

This is even more important if you are looking for work and don’t have a company site to work on.

You need to prove your skills are up to date and providing results, so where else but on a site of your own?

So , while I’ve been on the Search And Social Media Marketing course, instead of trying out the new things I’ve learned on my company’s website (which is in the process of being redeveloped anyway), I’ve been testing them on my own blog site.

If you don’t already have your own site, here’s some top tips:

  1. Think carefully about what you want to write about
    If you are genuinely passionate about something, it’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to keep the blog updated and the content you write will be more engaging. If you’re writing content that people want to read and you have the enthusiasm about it to work hard promoting it, you’re more likely to succeed. If you can find a niche area, even better.
  2. Get it set up properly
    If you’re serious about running the blog as a tester site, you need to set it up as a hosted site, rather than going for the free option. So if you’re using WordPress, it’s from, not You should aim to use a hosting company based in the UK rather than the US, to help boost your site’s speed, but obviously check reviews to find out about reliability. If you’re using WordPress, installing plugins like Yoast’s WordPress SEO is basically essential, as is getting Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools set up.
  3. Halloween movie features

  4. Write good, engaging, original content
    Before starting to write, it’s best to try and do some keyword research – using Google Keyword Planner, for example – beforehand to work out who your audience might be, what they might want to get from the article and what keywords and phrases you should include. Before Halloween, I wrote content aimed at people who were trying to decide what horror movies to watch, so I published reviews and features around that theme, fitting in phrases that people would search for, while obviously keeping the content fun and informative to read.
  5. Promote it (with money)!
    There’s two routes to go down.  One is to pay for advertising via Facebook or Google, etc, but given that this is a personal blog, you’ll be spending your own money and aren’t likely to make it back. But it’s still worth having a play with it. You’ll need to set up an AdWords account to use Keyword Planner anyway, and for about £30 you can run a campaign that will bring people to your site and give you an idea of best practice for if you run ‘real’ campaigns at work. I did this on Google Ads and Facebook Ads for my Halloween content, with ads based around helping people decide what to watch, and saw a big upturn in traffic.
  6. Promote it (for free)!
    Social media is your friend here. It’s easy to find your audience on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or Pinterest with just a bit of research, and then you can use those platforms to build up traffic to your site. Google+ might not seem an obvious one to go for, but it’s becoming increasingly important in SEO terms (setting up Authorship is a must) and there may well be a Community on there that would welcome your content with open arms and clicking fingers.
  7. Link build
    This used to mean lots of grey hat activities, like buying links or signing up to link farms and directories, but these are potentially disastrous nowadays. You need to earn good, authoritative links through promoting your site in the ways mentioned above. Tactics like guest posts can still work, though you might well end up with a ‘no follow’ link, thus denying you link juice, you’ll still get traffic through it. I’ve done contributions to sites like the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed and have had decent levels of traffic coming through both. Using tools like Moz’s OpenSite Explorer will let you know what kind of quality links you’ve got coming through, while Webmaster Tools can help you identify any problems.

Most of all, if you’re doing this for yourself, you need to have fun and not be afraid to experiment. If you learn from your mistakes, it’ll stand you in good stead to get things right the first time when it really counts.


James is Digital Marketing Manager for Manchester Solutions, having previously worked as an online football journalist and charity Communications Officer. He also runs film, TV and music blog New Adventures In Hi-Fi. You can get in touch with him through Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

SEO & Social Media Marketing Essentials

26 June 2013

SEO & Social Media Marketing Essentials

Wednesday 24th July – Book Now

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Optimisation (SMO) are no longer an optional choice for many organisations competing for the increasingly internet savvy consumers. Do you have a digital strategy and a social media policy? Do you know that if you don’t manage your social media presence chances are your customers will manage it for you and not always in a most favourable way.

As part of the University of Salford’s commitment to delivering the best digital training available, Salford Professional Development have developed a one day ‘SEO & Social Media Marketing Essentials‘ course. This course is aimed at busy executives who want to have theoretic understanding as well as some basic hands on practical exercises which will highlight the essentials in SEO and Social Media Marketing. This knowledge will enable you to develop a better understanding of your customers behaviour online and help you to develop long term plan and implement basic techniques for management of day to day social media engagement. Working from your business objectives you will be able to draft some key performance indicators for your online presence, identify key social networks for your organisational use as well as conduct some basic Social Media Optimisation. The main focus on this course is to offer you a broad overview of search and social media marketing and help you to start working on your long term digital marketing strategy as well as plan for use of techniques.


Aleksej Heinze –

The course will be taught by Dr Aleksej Heinze, Aleksej is a co-director for the Centre for Digital Business which is part of The University of Salford’s Business School. He currently works on an international projects Passport to Trade 2.0 which helps businesses to understand International Business Culture and develop new business opportunities in Europe using social media networks.

Guest Speaker:

The course will also feature Martin Cozens who is the Managing Director for Banc Media. Based in Old Trafford, Manchester, Banc Media are a Search Engine Marketing company providing Pay Per Click & Search Engine Optimisation. They specialise in a measured & transparent approach, focussing on ROI for our clients through researched search engine marketing.

Martin Cozens: “We develop close relationships with our clients, proving to become an integral part of their business, smashing targets set by them and showing real return on investment in the products we supply and the search results they gain. Developing these relationships is what makes our business stronger and helps our team grow further to providing the very best service.”

Their clients include:

  • Lufthansa’s business rewards air miles scheme SACP
  • Cruise1st – a leading cruise holiday provider operating in the UK, Ireland & Australia
  • – the nationally known online furniture retailer that was on the high street in over 800 stores
  • Breens Solicitors – a renowned law firm operating out of Merseyside for both private and business clients.


SEO & Social Media Marketing Essentials is based and delivered at the state of the art teaching and training facilities in the heart of the UK’s Media hub at MediaCityUK, University of Salford. This cutting edge facility is on close proximity of the BBC, ITV and many other top digital and media agencies.


This course costs £299 + VAT.

Want to know more?

If you wish to enquire about this course, simply get in touch with Robert Goodison at Salford Professional Development on 0161 295 5407 or email

This course is aimed at busy executives who want to have theoretic understanding as well as some basic hands on practical exercises which will highlight the essentials in SEO and Social Media Marketing. This knowledge will enable you to develop a better understanding of your customers behaviour online and help you to develop long term plan and implement basic techniques for management of day to day social media engagement. Working from your business objectives you will be able to draft some key performance indicators for your online presence, identify key social networks for your organisational use as well as conduct some basic Social Media Optimisation. The main focus on this course is to offer you a broad overview of search and social media marketing and help you to start working on your long term digital marketing strategy as well as plan for use of techniques.
This course draws on the content used as part of the ten week evening course in Search and Social Media Marketing but does not include the level of detail necessary for senior individuals who are responsible for managing strategic plans

The 12 Days of Optimised Ecommerce Website Build

22 April 2013

As we all want a piece of that Google pie on the run up to Christmas time, I have put together a short guide to help you design and build an optimised ecommerce website design, just in time for Christmas.

On the First day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, decide what you want your site to be:

The single biggest decision when starting out in ecommerce website design is deciding exactly what you want your site to achieve, your route to market and the specific products you wish to sell. These decisions will form the basis and will define the complete structure of your ecommerce website.

On the Second day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, define a keyword list:

Once you decide on the subject matter of your ecommerce website you can then start to look at relevant keywords relating directly to your products or services.  Make a comprehensive list via a brainstorming session. Then expand your list using keyword tools such as Google AdWords keyword suggestion tool or Wordtracker to help you expand your list and establish a comprehensive database of keywords that can later be refined for use in relations to your website.

On the Third day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, refine and categorise:

You will now want to look at refining your keyword list. Use scoring attributes like

  • Relevance,
  • Specificity and
  • Popularity

for each keyword, categorising and re-listing the keywords in a sensible and structured manor. For example sort keywords with the highest scores appearing high in the list for easier referencing. This optimised keyword list can then play a large part in creating your optimised category taxonomy for your ecommerce site. When building a web tree of your website, it helps to build a visual representation of your site hierarchy from home page down to sub categories. It’s best to try to keep to a “three to four click rule” of website navigation to get to your individual product descriptions.

Website heirachy

On the Fourth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, purchase a domain name:

Domain names can be purchased from registrars such as 1, 2, 3-Reg, Go-Daddy, Fast host and such like. When purchasing a domain you ideally want to target a domain name with either your company name or keywords as this is a big contributory element in SEO and being able to rank for those terms. Do a little trial and error to find the best domain available to suit your website.

On the Fifth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, Choose your ecommerce software:

Ok, so you now have a good idea what you’re doing and where you want to go. You now need to find suitable software to take you there. There are many ecommerce website platforms to choose from with varying levels of functionality. If you’re a beginner i would suggest using an online platform with price plan. By using a predefined format you get lots of functionality with a decent Content Management System (CMS) and additional support on hand, should you need it.

On the Sixth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, secure your website:

If not supplied as a part of your software package, you will need to purchase and install a SSL certificate to ensure your site is secure when processing payments. This certificate is installed on your web server.

On the Seventh day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, Design your ecommerce website:

This is where we start to put the meat on the bones. You need to create the taxonomy you outlined earlier within the CMS and build the structure and raw ecommerce website design, including the shopping cart. Most software packages will have built in templates for pages and products you can edit to make a unique site.

On the Eighth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, Build your content pages:

You now need to create the text based content of your site including terms and conditions, privacy statements, the about us pages, news and any other text based pages you wish to include. Remember to utilise your keyword list featuring your keywords high on the page and within “h” tags to optimise your pages.

On the Ninth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, it’s time to add products:

As our site is taking shape, we want to start to add all the products on, that you wish to sell, this can be a timely job but is worth getting right first time. A couple of things to avoid are copy and pasting manufacturer’s descriptions and keyword stuffing, this will work against you in terms of optimisation.

On the Tenth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, it’s time to test your site:

Before going live with any ecommerce website, you should test all the features and functionality thoroughly including the shopping cart, before publication. The last you thing you want to do is tarnish your reputation before you have even begun.

On the Eleventh day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, publish and be patient:

It’s time to go live, publish your site to your domain name and start writing keyword rich articles and start pursuing back links to your website. For quick results using a PPC campaign could be prudent at this stage, this will also help with further refining your keywords highlighting popular search terms you can include in your text pages.

On the Twelfth day of optimised ecommerce website build, my web master said to me, the ecommerce website’s built and now for some more SEO please.

You will need to manage and maintain your site whilst performing SEO techniques to rise up the organic rankings on search engines. This can take time and will require hours of research to perfect your keywords search terms and back link database, but its worth it in the end when you start to appear in the top places in Google and see your traffic multiply.

Oh and please remember, a website is not just for Christmas!

Happy Ecommerce! from ThinkbetterUK  – Nootropics UK

For further information on SEO techniques and Optimising websites please contact me at or follow me on Twitter or Facebook

In the land of SEO, is Content always King?

24 November 2011

In contenta always king in SEO? (credit to opensourceway)

“Content is King.” Since Bill Gates coined this term in 1996, it has become the golden rule of SEO (as well as one of its most pervasive clichés). Matt Cutts of Google has repeatedly said that quality content is key to getting to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).  And the bods at Bing have also said that “all SEO signals revolve around content.” But what do we mean when we talk about ‘content’? How do search engines differentiate between good content and bad content? And, in the land of the SERPS, is content always king?

Before we start looking at the ins and outs of how to produce content, we have to ask ourselves why is good content so important in the first place?

Content is the lifeblood of the internet – it’s the blog posts you read, cat videos you laugh at, maps you consult and images you use. The major search engines main objective is to deliver the most relevant data and provide the best user experience possible. It does this by awarding higher visibility to websites that offer relevant and high quality content to the searcher. But there are a thousand and one websites out there that are talking about your chosen topic – how can you create content that enables your website to get to the top of the results?

Well, there are a number of ways. You could stuff your web pages so full of keywords that it resembles a rhyming dictionary. You could employ one of those shady ‘Black-Hat’ SEO types to buy up lots of paid links to ensure that your website gets a good page ranking. If you’re feeling confrontational (and fancy stirring up a bit of a social media storm), you could ‘linkbait’ – a tactic which sees you producing content which catches people’s attention (for both good and bad reasons – for a perfect example of how Linkbait works, watch how Twitter reacts every time Liz Jones writes a feature for the Daily Mail). Or, you could be really radical and actually produce content that people want to click on.

One of the key recommendations that the Google Webmaster Team advise that you consider when you’re creating content for the web is ‘authority’. Essentially, the more niche you make your content, the more of an expert you’ll become about that topic. People will like what they see on your webpage, won’t ‘bounce’ back to the search results, and will probably visit again – meaning you’ll be rewarded accordingly in the SERPS. Whilst Google’s engineers have said that they don’t favour ‘brands’, the reputation of a brand undoubtedly has an effect on how people search, and the conversions they make once they find what they want. Indeed, research has shown that 50% of consumers are more likely to click on a search result if a brand appears multiple times on a results page.

For an example of a brand who have got it right when it comes to unique content, take a look at Old Spice. Their series of Old Spice ManYouTube videos – custom made pieces of content where their spokesman responded to questions from bloggers, celebrities and fans who posted questions – is one of the most popular viral campaigns in recent history. And with good reason. After all, who wouldn’t want a personalised video from a devastatingly handsome man?

How does Google define ‘good content’? Simply follow the Panda

In early 2011, Google launched its ‘panda’ algorithm. This had one key goal – to “reduce SERP rankings for Low Quality Sites—i.e. sites with low value to users, generally containing unoriginal or shallow content.” This meant that sites which contained unoriginal content which had been scraped off other websites, or were just pages and pages of links would be penalised, whilst websites which contained original, ‘good’ content and encouraged social engagement  would shine.

Panda was a game changer in terms of SEO.  When it was rolled out by Google, it reportedly affected the rankings of almost 12% of all search results. Websites which was considered to be ‘high-quality’ sites saw their rankings improve, while those of supposed low-quality essentially vanished from top of the rankings.

But how does the Panda algorithm define what is good content and what is bad content? Well, Google has specifically stated what they look by providing you with some questions you need to ask yourself when you’re writing for the web:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Good spelling and grammar help too. Google evaluates the ‘quality’ of content on websites, and the ability to spell correctly correlates with PageRank. As Matt Cutts explains in the video below;

“We noticed a while ago that, if you look at the PageRank of a page — how reputable we think a particular page or site is — the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that. So, the reputable sites tend to spell better and the sites that are lower PageRank, or very low PageRank, tend not to spell as well. The reputable sites tend to spell better and the sites that are lower PageRank, or very low PageRank, tend not to spell as well.”

Of course, well written words aren’t the only aspect you need to consider when it comes to SEO. Other things you should think about when you’re optimising a site for the web are:

  • User Experience: The more engaging your website is, the more likely that someone will look at multiple pages.
  • Avoiding too many ads on your site (pop-ups are a real turn-off!): This one is fairly self explanatory. Having too many adverts makes Google think that the website exists just to serve ads rather than providing authoritative information.
  • Duplicate content: Don’t repeat yourself!  A page should contain its own unique content, title and meta description that tells the search engines exactly what it’s about.
  • Remembering that less is more: Having a lot of poor quality pages on your site can reduce your page rankings, even if you have plenty of high quality content. If you’re a Web Manager, try and do a regular audit of your website to ensure that it doesn’t contain lots of pages which contain out of date content and broken links.

If Content is King, then Linking is Queen

As we’ve established, good content is vital to getting your website noticed. But it’s nothing if you don’t have a good link building strategy in place. It’s not enough to put  words, pictures and videos onto the web and hope that they get linked to by an ‘authority’ website. If your content is good, you need to shout about it!

  • Think about trading reciprocal links with your peers: (I write a food blog – Little Red Courgette – and I get a number of clicks to that from fellow blogs which have links to that on their pages). Just one link from an ‘authority’ website  can have a massive impact on where your website appears on Google.
  • Leave comments on others blog posts which include a link back to your website: You get to tell someone you like their stuff and you get to promote your own website! Don’t be an idiot though – no one likes an idiot on the internet (well, unless they’re this kind of idiot).
  • Use good anchor text: If you’ve ever used ‘click here’ for a link, give yourself a slap on the wrist. Now. Then remember to never to do it again.
  • Alt tags are your friend! This is especially relevant when it comes to any images you’re hosting on your website. Make sure you add a full description of what the picture contains and any important keywords you’re trying to target.
  • Create ‘internal’ links to various pages on your website: This tells the Google spiders which pages on your website are important and which aren’t.
  • Add “rel=”nofollow” tags to your links where possible: This  is an HTML  command which instructs some search engines that a hyperlink  should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. It also helps to reduce the effectiveness of certain types of search engine spam, thereby improving the quality of search engine results and preventing spamdexing from occurring.
  • Make your content easy to share across social networks: The easier it is to share, the more likely people are to share it.

Don’t forget to be social

It feels as though every post on this blog is about Social Media, but it’s with good reason. Content is the fuel of the social web. According to data from a recent Nielsen content sharing study, 27 million pieces of online content are shared daily, and more than one in five social media messages include links to content. Quality content that can easily be discovered online is a preferred method of product research with a lot of people, and it also tends to lead to the most customer conversions. Nearly three-quarters of shoppers prefer information from companies in the form of blog posts and articles over advertisements, and 42 percent look to blogs for information about potential purchases. Plus, shared content frequently mentions brands by name. Judging from Google’s recent launch of its own social network, Google Plus, it’s clear that search engines wish to prioritise websites that actively encourage visitors to share content with others. So, what does this mean for us as web content creators?

If 23% of conversations on the web include links, then we have to create content which users actively want to share. We also have to make it as easy as possible for people who are coming to our content to share it with others – be it via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or any other social network.  One way in which we can do this is by transmitting it via our own social networks (at LIPA, where I work, each piece of new content uploaded to the website is promoted via our Facebook and Twitter accounts).  You can also add ‘share this’ buttons to your content which allows viewers to share it across a number of social networks with a single click of a button.

SSMM Social Media

Another good rule of thumb when creating content for the web is to think to yourself ‘is this the kind of thing I’d be happy to share with my social media networks?’ Granted, a remarkable amount of (arguably) awful content is passed around social networks on a daily basis, but having a single tweet retweeted by someone with thousands of followers can lead to your content going viral. This means lots of new followers and customers for your website and a higher page ranking on the SERPS.

What can we conclude from this?

Content is undoubtedly the most important consideration to take into account when you are devising a strategy of how to get your website a better ranking on the search engines. And if a blog post, video or picture is engaging enough, then it will always be shared across the internet by people. But as Content Creators, Web Managers and Social Media users, we should always be thinking about how we can engage users and encourage them to share our content with their own networks. The implementation of Google’s Panda algorithm has shown that the emphasis is slowly shifting away from paid links and content farms to content which is truly ‘social’.  Yes, good content is important. And when it comes to SEO, it probably always will be. But the impact of sharing links on social media really cannot be underestimated – and it’s an impact which is only going to increase in size over the coming years. Perhaps from now on, SEO specialists mantra should be that if content is king, then social is emperor.

Agree? Disagree? Or perhaps you just want to say hello? If so, feel free to follow me on Twitter at, or you can add me on LinkedIn.

Are you User Experienced?

24 November 2011

Illustrating User Experience Design

Illustration: Leah Buley, 2009

The term ‘User Experience’ was first conceived in the 1990’s by Don Norman, while he was Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple. User experience as an emerging trend essentially describes how a person interacts with a product, system or service.

The practice of developing and improving the user experience is referred to as User Experience Design, which considers the emotional response and how a user feels about, perceives and interacts with a product, system or service. The decision to become a regular user or visitor will depend on answering key questions such as “does it give me value?” “Is it easy to use?” and “Is it pleasant to use?

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it’s meaning… user experience, human centred design, usability; all those things, even affordances. They just sort of entered the vocabulary and no longer have any special meaning. People use them often without having any idea why, what the word means, its origin, history, or what it’s about.”

Don Norman, 2008

Who creates the User Experience and how does UX translate to the web?

The User Experience Designer’s role is to impact the overall experience a person has with a particular product, system or service. They are enablers who define and improve existing systems in order to enhance the experience for the user. UX Designers come from a wide range of disciplines, and often have a focus in one particular area of UXD. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s focus for example, is almost exclusively on web usability. The User Experience Designer will cross a range of disciplines to develop an optimum experience for the end user. This can incorporate any or all of the following:

  • Information Architecture (IA)
  • Search and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • User Interface (UI)
  • Design
  • Systems Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Digital Marketing

SEO and the User Experience

Having a high ranking site amidst the endless lists of search engine results pages (SERPs), particularly in Google, is of paramount importance to the online User Experience. Your site may be a dream to navigate, well written with lots of useful info and look like it was designed by Apple, but unless it instantly appears when a user searches on one of your keywords, the User Experience can be destroyed.

The Search and Social Media Marketing course here at Salford is a mine of information on all aspects of the SEO journey to help you in your quest for search engine domination and improving the user experience for your customers. Sessions cover:

  • Keyword Research
  • Understanding how Google and other search engines work
  • Using Google Analytics to learn from your website visitor’s behavior
  • Integrating social media into the mix

Speakers from industry attend the sessions every week, to give a commercial perspective on SEO and how it’s being used by business for competitive advantage.

Why does User Experience matter and why should we care?

The way a user feels about, and interacts with a product, system or service is of growing importance to the organisation as well as the end user. The ever-increasing complexity of technology and the role it plays in our lives, coupled with the rapid expansion of the web and the vast number of sites continually being created, simply perpetuates the demands of the highly discerning consumer who is only ever one click away from exiting your site.

The Internet has evolved from the early days of Web 1.0, which provided an extremely linear process where the author published to the web and the reader received the information. Now that we have reached the heady heights of semantic Web 2.0 and beyond, users can read and write to the same space enabling the mass multi-linear sharing of data, and creating an environment where networking online is taking collaboration to an unprecedented level.

The rapid growth of social networks and online communities reflects this huge change in the way the web is evolving, and the canny UX Designer can tap into this wealth of collateral to provide a comprehensive user experience not only through their corporate web channels, but also across a range of online media, networks and applications, in order to:

  • Increase conversions, turning visits to sales for their customer
  • Increase the early adoption of new technology by the end user
  • Enhance customer satisfaction through a sublime user experience
  • Act as a key differentiator in a crowded market

Illustrating the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Illustrating how the web went from the old 1.0 system of one to many, to the more recent 2.0 environment of many to many, exposing the web to unparalleled levels of sharing, interaction, collaboration and community building.

Developing the Online User Experience – what’s involved and where to start?

The UX Designer will find themselves involved in a variety of tasks and processes at the beginning of a UX development project, and may need to wear many different hats when dealing with a diverse range of people and practices. This could include exploring all the areas below, or focusing more in-depth on one aspect such as User Research for example:

  • Discovery phase
  • Competitive analysis
  • User research
  • Information Architecture
  • Design
  • Usability testing
  • Prototyping/Wireframing
  • Documentation

Identifying business objectives and the target market are primary steps in the process. It’s also imperative for the UX designer to gather a project team of associated professionals within the organisation, and also to look further afield towards additional staff who although may not be UX or Design professionals themselves can still have a creative and positive input into the process (in 1987 Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas termed this phenomenon ‘Silent Design’). The User Experience Designer always sees the wider picture.

Illustrating the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, illustrating the ‘Silent Design’ phenomenon found in many organisations. This can be of particular use to the UX Designer in helping to develop the ‘bigger picture’ of the User Experience.

Challenges to the User Experience Designer

Often UX Designers work within organisations as a single practitioner, sometimes with a lone voice, which can present huge challenges in terms of engagement with those who have a non-design or digital background. San-Franciscan Leah Buley presents her experience as a self-styled UX Team of One and all-round UX Superhero, offering tricks and techniques on developing the user experience and overcoming some of the issues facing the UX Designer.

How was your user experience?! I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on my post, and your own personal stories in making the online user experience and ultimately the web a better place to be for all of us.

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