Posts tagged: seo

Social Media Complaints (the basics)

17 November 2011

A recent U.S survey found that only 29% of consumer complaints received via twitter were responded to. In this blog post, I would like to speak to the 71% of companies who have chosen not to respond to their customers and explain why they should take the time to engage and how.

Why should you engage with customers who complain about you via Social Media?

Now, I’m not pretending that I am expert in customer service but being a consumer myself I would expect that if your customers are talking about your brands/products or services my hope is that you would want to know about it? Just as your phones are picked up and emails are responded to, I see Social Media as another channel of communication…albeit a very public one!  Social Media is undoubtedly a very valuable tool which gives you access to free and honest feedback and it’s a great platform for showcasing how fantastic your customer service is…you really are missing a trick if you are not taking full advantage!

One example of companies who are engaging with their customers is Silver Cross and Kiddicare. Here we have a very simple request for a contact number as the customer has a fault with her new Silver Cross Pushchair which she had purchased from Kiddicare (an online retailer) – click on the image to view the full Complaint story:

Social Media Complaint Example­­

You will notice that even though the first tweet was not directed to @SilverCross_UK , they still managed to find and reply to the customer, apologising effectively. Later in this post I will explain a couple of online tools Silver Cross may have used in order to locate this complaint. The main point I want to make here is that a customer publicly declared she had a faulty product but rather than the problem escalating and resulting in further mentions of the Silver Cross or Kiddicare brand in a bad light, the companies sought to rectify the problem and even received positive public feedback as a result. Remember, it is highly likely that customers who complain via social media have friends connected to them who are also within your target audience. If your friends/family were to mention a brand in a bad light, are you likely to try their products/services?

Monitoring your Social Media – The basics

The first thing you need to be doing is monitoring what people are saying about your brand or services. It’s not spying as such….it’s just being aware….a bit like neighbourhood watch if you like…

There are hundreds of free tools out there which you can use to monitor social media content which you can then analyse and collate vital data from. Remember in my earlier example you saw that Silver Cross were able to locate and respond to the customer even though the tweet was not directed to their twitter name…. well, it’s highly likely they were using media monitoring tools which seek out where-ever and whenever their brand name is mentioned on a variety of social media platforms. Here are just a handful of top pick social media monitoring tools::

  • Google Alerts – Works by sending you an email every time a new item pops up in Google search with your chosen keyword. (i.e Silver Cross may have one set up for their brand name plus any of their products)
  • Board Reader – Forum search engine which seeks out ‘human to human’ discussions
  • Social Mention – Tracks blogs, blog comments, news, twitter, images, videos and can bes saved as RSS feeds
  • Yahoo Pipes – This is a bit more complex but it’s really useful as it enables you to Aggregate, Manipulate and Mashup data (so it basically picks-out the relevant bits data and put it all in one place!)

Have a browse on this list collated by Social Brite which brings together their top 20 social media monitoring tools, have a bit of a play and find out what tools work best for you. There are loads of YouTube video’s that can help you get the best out them. You can even use twitter itself my simply typing your brand name into the search box!!

Responding to Social Media complaints

Responding to a Social Media Complaint is a subject very much up for debate (no rhyming intended!). The best thing to do is analyse the data you have collected from monitoring your social media and collate a list of common issues which can be resolved quickly such as the example above where the customer could be directed to a telephone number or email address. For more complex or urgent issues (at your discretion) you could ask the customer to PM (Private Message) you their details and take it from there.

Don’t just use your social media platforms with replies to user comments though… you want to engage and break up the customer service with interesting updates – share articles, talk about current topics related to your market and encourage conversations and above all show humanity! You want be conveying that this channel of communication is open and you are comfortable connecting to your customers.

Top Social Media Responding tips here

Uh Oh…it went viral!!

One recent example where a social media complaint has escalated is with Waitrose, which can read more about on The Drum. This emotionally fuelled complaint went viral with masses of people demanding action. Although the complaint was acknowledged very early on, there must have been so much subsequent dialog that Waitrose voice had been lost through the digital crowds. I would suggest that in these situations you keep your customers well informed and ride the social media wave until it passes, and it will!

I will just leave you with a question….

As a consumer yourself, would you or have you ever openly complained via social media?

You can connect to me by:

  • Leaving a comment below.
  • Connecting with me on LinkedIn.
  • Following the #ssmm tag on Twitter for useful tips and connections.

SEO Career – 10 Steps to Help You Get Yours Up and Running

17 November 2011

With the demand for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) skills on the rise and the average UK salary paying £32.5k a year, it’s no wonder more and more people want a career in the SEO industry. The question is however, how do you get a job in SEO?

If you type the phrase “how to start a career in SEO” (and that’s including inverted commas!) in to Google’s web search, you are presented with over 2,500 pages of content in the search engine results page (SERP). With so many websites giving their own advice on which is the best way to begin a career in SEO, it’s hard to focus on what you really should be doing. This post covers the definitive steps you should be taking in order to maximise your employability in the SEO industry.

1. Start reading… Learn the basics

At first glance learning SEO seems like a near impossible task. With so much reading material available through the internet and with certain web sites charging for this privilege, it’s difficult to be sure of which material is worthwhile reading.

One thing is for sure though, you don’t have to pay to learn the basics. There is a wealth of free information out there in the form of e-books, blogs, videos, and web sites that are worth paying attention to. Google’s SEO Beginners Guide is the perfect place to start as it is written by the people who’s search engine you will be mostly optimising for. It’s a no-brainer really. Another great place to start reading up on the basics (and the more advanced) is the highly reputable and popular SEOmoz. With over 18,000 likes on Facebook and over 100,000 followers on Twitter you get the impression that they know what they are talking about. SEOmoz provide a comprehensive Beginners Guide to SEO that is easy to read and digest for people new to SEO. Both guide’s are available for download and best of all they are free!.

2. Get Advanced… Familiarise yourself with HTML code

Arguably this should be an ongoing step, and form part of your basic learnings but with the advent of WordPress and other WYSIWYG editing platforms, knowledge of HTML is no longer a pre-requisite. There will definitely come a time though when you will need to edit HTML code directly so it’s important (and often a required item on a job description) to know your way around.

3. Start Practising

The numerous ebooks, blog posts and learning materials you have accumulated in steps 1 and 2 may leave you a little overwhelmed. They say practice makes perfect, so now would be a great time to piece together your understanding of SEO by getting your hands dirty and putting it into practice. You could either build a site, and experiment with the different SEO tactics you have learned to date, to attempt to get it to the top of the SERPs or create a personal blog in a platform like WordPress and start practising from a content creation angle. If you’ve got friends in business who have a web site, offer them some free SEO advice. Small businesses and charities that are on a tight budget will be more open to listening to some free advice and may even let you have a go at optimising their website… for free of course.

Tip: For some real-world work experience, check out the Analysis Exchange. They offer a great opportunity for people to develop their web analytics skills, a sure-fire way to boost your CV.

4. Keep Listening

Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and there are always opinions and new techniques worth listening to. If your “beginners handbooks” are gathering dust, swap them with some more advanced reading materials, found on sites such as Search Engine Land and SEOBook to stay abreast of the latest insights and to generally stay sharp. Moreover, it is advisable to visit Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as these are updated quite regularly whenever they make tweaks to their algorithm.

Tip: Keep an eye on Matt Cutts’ Blog – he regularly hosts Q & A sessions on new Google algorithm changes.

5. Just dive in

Get involved with discussions; which include answering questions on Q & A forums and being involved with relevant groups/threads on forums and commenting with your own opinions on other blog posts. Don’t just comment “great post”, elaborate, give your opinions and ask further questions. SEOmoz, SEObook, and Matt Cutts blogs are definitely ones you should consider bookmarking. Quora is a question and answer website, where anyone can ask a question and anyone can answer. Many industry professionals are actively involved so you never know, the likes of Rand Fishkin could be answering your questions! The Warrior Forum is a highly popular marketing forum where you can find people talking about anything from programming to mobile marketing and just about anything in between.

6. Attend a course

So far all of your knowledge has come from the sources available on the internet which is great, I mean it hasn’t cost you a penny. However, you can’t exactly put this down on a CV can you? Although there isn’t actually an official SEO certification available, and probably won’t be for the foreseeable future, there are SEO courses out there. But which one should you choose? Well a lot of these courses are aimed at businesses rather than individuals starting up on their own and the majority of the courses only run for one day.

From personal experience, Salford University’s Search and Social Media Marketing Course is a must for anyone starting out in the SEO world either as an individual or as an established company. Not only do you get free refreshments and sandwiches, you get 1st class lecturing from the head of Salford Business school, guest speakers from the marketing industry, and official US based global leader SEMPO training course material. This course is sure to give you the knowledge to stand out from the crowd.

Tip: For an “at a glance” comparison of the courses available in SEO & Inbound Marketing bookmark this great post from the David Naylor blog.

7. Engage in Social Media

Chances are you are quite active on Facebook already, but for more professional social media activity, recommendations include Twitter, LinkedIn and more recently Google Plus. Google Plus has amassed around 40 million users and the majority of these are “first movers” that are heavily involved in the tech industry. This has led to a very active core of users posting regular digital marketing blogs and updates. All of these social media tools will provide you with great sources of SEO information.

TIP: Many SEO jobs will require social media optimisation (SMO) as part of the job role, so it makes sense to be actively involved and have an understanding of how they work so you can show off your knowledge in an interview.

8. Speak to Industry Professionals

Contact industry professionals and ask them for their advice. Ask them how they started out, they may reveal something that you could use to propel your career.

Mark Johnson, a Digital Insight Consultant at Latitude kindly took the time out to offer some industry advice for this post… “If you plan on building a website, before you do make sure you have a strategy and a clear goal of what you set out to achieve. Don’t rush in and always do your market research”. He also adds a bit of technical advice by saying, “Make sure your website is hosted in the right place (UK clients = UK IP address) and is URL friendly”. A great tip that should be applied to step 3 in this post .

Tip: A great place to meet industry professional in person is via the Manchester SEO (meetup). This meetup provides a fantastic opportunity to talk to like minded people who can offer you advice and point you in the right direction.

9. Apply for jobs

Now with all the SEO knowledge, tools and self generated experience you have developed it’s time start applying for jobs. Finding that perfect first job isn’t that easy. In fact your first job might not specifically be in SEO. For example, the requirements to become a PPC executive aren’t quite as demanding becoming an SEO executive. However, by being a PPC executive you can build up the experience and develop certain skills such as keyword research, analytics, & reporting that are required to be an SEO executive.

Here are a few recommended websites to get your job search started. eConsultancyjobsinsearch, The Drum, SEO vacancies, Only Marketing JobsIPA, Reed.

Tip: Now for when you get selected for an interview check out this blog post for an idea of what questions to expect.

10. Don’t just stop there….

Always look for ways to continually develop yourself no matter what level of knowledge and skills you have. It’s a competitive field out there so you must continually grow and stay fresh. You can achieve this by constantly engaging in the steps covered in this post, over and over again. You could even concentrate on one area such as the increasingly important link building and become an expert in that area.

In a recent SEOMoz Whiteboard Friday session, the topic was exactly what we’re discussing here – so for a visual representation of some of the topics covered, and to give this post one final element of depth you can view that below!


Each one of these steps could actually warrant their own detailed post but this is a summary of the key steps an SEO newbie should take. Sure, there are more which is the beauty of the SEO industry. The learning possibilities are almost endless. However, by following these 10 steps anyone’s arsenal will be well equipped with vital SEO weapons that employers look for and will ask about in an interview.

It would be interesting to know what you think about the steps covered in this post. If you are already in the SEO field, what first steps did you take and did any of these steps apply to you? Please feel free to comment below.

Follow me on Twitter and Linkedin.

How Can an Online Golf Store Benefit from SEO and SMM?

1 November 2011

Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag is my Online Golf Store that has been in operation since 2004, selling items such as Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag.  When we started out on the internet, I expected to have a website built, and that people would come and buy.  A lot of time, and a lot of money invested, I now know that getting the right people to the Online Golf Store is the key to making it work.  So I decided to take on the challenge, and instead of paying out for the so called “SEO Specialists” every month, I would do it myself.

Golf Equipment Categories

When operating an online store, there are a number of factors to take into account when marketing.  Am I going to go for traffic from broad keywords such as “Golf Clubs”, “Golf Bags”, etc etc, or am I going to go for better converting product specific keywords.  With Golf equipment, there are a lot of categories to choose a product from,  such as golf balls, irons, etc etc.

Well I chose the section Golf Bags and from that, I decided to work on the product Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag.

Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag Ranking

For our online golf store, we have found that people searching for the exact product are by far the highest convertors, so the keywords I am going to work on are “Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag” and “Adidas AG Strike Stand Bag” ranked the Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag page 13th and 16th for the key phrases.

On Page Optimization for the Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag

The first part of the challenge to increase the rankings of the Golf Stand Bag in question, was to change a few things around on site, and as we are always told, “Content is King”.  So first thing was first, get the description redone to be unique.  After following the guidelines, (not giving all the tips away) the onsite changes were made.

Off Page Optimization for Adidas Strike Ag Stand Bag

Next I needed to get the off site work done.  A blog post on the Adidas AG Strike Stand Bag and a few little bits here and there, and we were waiting for the results to flow in…


Within a few days of starting to make the changes, I had noticed results.  I had increased in the Google rankings from 16th to 9th, and from 13th to 7th.  This was quite a change already.

After a few more tweaks here and there, and a few more tricks thrown in I had learnt, and i had a look again.  Pretty much 10 days since  starting to work on the item, and I was quite shocked by the results.  The main search term I was focusing on was “Adidas Strike AG Stand Bag” and for this term, I was first in the search results and so far up to 6th for “Adidas AG Strike Stand Bag”.

Well just another 600 or so products to work on; and get them to the top of the SERPS… and i’m looking forward to your comments below or via Stuart White on LinkedIn !

Website Marketing Companies In Stampede For University SEO Course Backlinks

21 April 2011

social media boosting website marketing at University Salford, Manchester

Internet and website marketing companies from all over the region have turned up en masse at the University of Salford as part of an initiative to combat recent cost cutting announcements.

Under the guise of an intensive training course in SEO and search engine marketing, the University of Salford is selling backlinks to companies for £2000 a pop!

Enduring several 4 hour gruelling sessions, companies specialising in SEO in Manchester and the surrounding areas are holding out until the bitter end to bag one of these highly prized links and, while complaining about the amount of homework, have been happy to part with their hard earned wonga in order to jump on the backlink bandwagon.

One Leeds SEO firm camped outside for three days to make sure of a place on this so called course and told me . . .

“We really need high quality inbound links to complete an internet marketing assignment for a company specialising in van hire Leeds and also a well known mens shoes brand so we’ll do whatever it takes”.

I have to say that I enthusiastically enrolled to ensure that I wasn’t left behind by my colleagues and competitors but very soon began to forget the prize which was waiting and became engrossed with the excellent content of the SEO course itself.

Top SEO training tips and techniques

From the ground rules for keyword research and selection through advanced link building techniques to the latest thinking in social media marketing, both the superb core team and their excellent keynote speakers really managed to get their ideas across and moved my understanding and my ability to apply my learning right across my client base immensely. High end benefits for my clients and a more effective approach by my team will really mean more business and a more enhanced reputation for my company in the dynamic and competitive world of internet and website marketing.

Not sure how ethical this backlink sale is, although I do think the Search and Social Media Marketing Course is actually extremely good and I would definitely recommend you enrol for the next sessions. Hats off though to the guys at the University of Salford, Search and Social Media Course for thinking outside the box with this innovate if somewhat extortionate way to plug the funding gap and keep themselves and their mates in a job.

As a post script I would urge you to register early for this university SEO training course as places are selling like hot cakes and there are only a limited number of backlinks available – Good Luck and Bon Voyage!

Atommedia branding marketing search

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.

Search Engine Optimisation and Me – A True Story

7 April 2011

My recent foray into the world of Search Engine Optimisation, PPC and Social Media with the Manchester digital agency Fast Web Media has been an intense and enlightening experience. 

And the Search and Social Media Marketing course at Salford has allowed me to refresh and expand my SSMM knowledge. So I thought I would use this opportunity to share a little about my experiences of starting out a career in SEO with regards to the Salford course for those who may be considering a similar path.

Getting a taste for SEO

Prior to my role with Fast Web Media, I had, like the majority, been an avid consumer of “the internet” for work, rest and play. A Wikipedia addict, a Facebook user, a mocker of Tweeters, a LiveJournal dabbler and a Geocities resident way back when, my online world previously revolved around university work, amusing memes, stalking friends on Facebook and Googling for cheap gig tickets.

I had relied heavily, if not solely, on Google over recent years to help me navigate the digital seas; although I had rather naively shown little regard as to how search engines manufactured their results pages (as a science graduate, I look back and find lack of curiosity really rather shameful!) However, my role at Fast Web Media threw me in the deep end, opening my eyes to a brave new world.

The ever expanding Google empire, the Social Revolution…

along with the maturation of mobile technology and the digitalisation of the almost everything seem to correlate with the evolution and expansion of SEO. There is so much to learn and so much to take in all the time. To bastardise a Douglas Adams’ quote (forgive me), my initial impression was that

“SEO is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is.” 

The Foundation course at Salford allowed me to refresh the basics of what I had already learnt “on the job”, as well as gaining a general overview week on week. The course broke down all this information before my brain resembled something like a smashed bowl of petunias.

As SEO strategy is generally comprised of many smaller strategies and tactics, it is important to explore the different options and keep an eye on how existing methodologies are changing, lest you wish to fall behind the frontrunners. As any SEO will tell you, we are constantly learning all the time.

The Spice of Life

So, what do I like about working in digital media, in particular is SEO? One short-tail, high competition keyword can probably sum it up: Variety.

Variety with clients; variety in my day-to-day tasks; variety in my professional relationships. Fast Web Media has a great range of clients, big and small, which I’ve been allowed to sink my teeth into. Work can vary between Carling, Bravissimo and The Premier League (or “Beer, Boobs and Balls”, as I like to quip) in a single day. The benefit of doing the Salford course is that I have been allowed to explore the intricacies involved in the different theory and disciplines whilst then seeing and employing their practical applications on a wide variety of client work and the bespoke strategies we use.

Day to day in the office will always be different: from linkbuilding to pondering cunning new tactics for linkbaiting; from approaching new clients to constantly re-assessing existing clients and keeping them abreast of new developments in SEO. I might spend a morning getting lost in Google Analytics or stalking potential new leads on Twitter, or reading the countless brilliant blogs that make up the ever-expanding knowledge database for inspiration, advice and often educational amusement.

The main draw to the world of SEO, PPC and social media is that it allows me the chance to be analytical and creative in equal measures. And not being afraid of being wrong is pretty much the best advice I’ve had. It’s all about testing, learning, reviewing and creating.

A Bitter Taste

Being new to the industry, you cannot fail to notice the variety of attitudes towards the SEO as an industry. We certainly have a name for ourselves – the recent JCPenny fiasco has been the most recent case whereby the debates around the ethics of SEO have been fired up again. I personally find the whole Blackhat/Whitehat debate fascinating, amusing summarised in this video from SES London 2009:

I think it’s true to say that the forerunners of any industry or discipline are often the ones challenging its boundaries and pushing the limits as far as they can go. Although, please don’t take that as a commendation of such “immoral” practices – but it is the existence of such a spectrum and wide variety of methods and talent which so enamours me to the industry.

Google is a powerhouse of the internet world. It professes that it constantly amends its algorithm so as to “enhance the user experience”. It is that algorithm that SEOs are constantly puzzling over, trying to manipulate the results for various ends. Google says it has a responsibility to its users to have the most relevant content in its SERPs, and recent changes to the algorithm such as the Panda Update have seen the life of an SEO become that all a bit trickier.

However, in some ways, I see value in SEO reach beyond the financial. I think it is the responsibility of SEOs to constantly challenge Google’s algorithm since Google acts as an authority on knowledge and dictates what is relevant content. Any authority which has such power and financial, social and political influence should be questioned, challenged and held to account. Experimenting with Google’s algorithm and the SERPs is to exercise the right to question its results; Google promotes content which Google has attributed quantitative value to, and as mass consumers of this mass knowledge, we should question their methodologies and intentions. They say “content is king” – but I think it’s important to challenge the “natural order” if it is Google dictating who the monarch is.

What’s Your Flavour?

As such a colourful industry, involving so many different skillsets, I’ve been fascinated by the winding tales as to how people have ended up in the SEO/digital media world – including the wide spectrum of people on the SSMM course, from port to ponies!

After divulging a bit about mine (we can talk more here), I’d be very interested to hear more about youso, what’s the story about you and SEO?

Does a well trafficked website need SEO?

4 March 2011

What is the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to the University of Salford and specifically to Salford Business School? The University has approximately 250 websites and the main websites receive hundreds and thousands of visits every year. So why should we worry about SEO and what is the point in Social Media and Social Media Marketing? They can never be monetized. Time is a precious commodity, Social Media Marketing eats time and we need to use our time where it will most benefit the University of Salford and Salford Business School. Right?

Right if you are only interested in website traffic but if you are interested in meeting the needs of your customers, students, stakeholders and research partners, then SEO and Social Media Marketing are fundamental:

  • SEO, when used properly, and in the context of meeting the needs of stakeholders and business school students is powerful.
  • SEO enables the correct visitor to find the most relevant content quickly.
  • The use of appropriate header tags, title tags, alt tags, keyword density and linking strategy not only improve the ranking of the University of Salford’s content but also better meets the needs of the Business Schools student or research partner.
  • This is the start of a productive online relationship.

Social Media is the means through which relationships are developed and enhanced. The Business School at the University of Salford has a number of Facebook pages run by the School or by students to enable shared experience, tips, services and commentary. Whilst SEO helps to raise awareness, the Social Media platforms when used as part of a multichannel and integrated engagement solution create the engagement, the conversation, the loyalty and the advocacy.

And what about those 250 websites? We are currently working to reduce the number and increase the quality of websites across the University of Salford. Promoting 250 websites, not only spreads effort but it also results in the cannibalisation of web traffic and dilutes the impact of the SEO and the engagement.

So choose the content most needed and wanted by your audience, map the channels most likely to reach your target audience and focus your SEO and Social Media efforts in those areas. This is a win win for the Business School, the University, the students and other interested parties. Best practice in SEO and Social Media is taught at the Business School in a pragmatic and relevant manner. As Head of Digital at the University, I am keen to ensure my skills are current in this rapidly evolving field and experts in user journey, SEO, Analytics and conversion are hard to find. That is why I am taking the course.

What are your five most effective link building strategies?

17 November 2010

Well, compiling effective link building strategies is just one area of what can only be described as a minefield when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. PJ Web Solutions are a company for whom I currently work. Whilst they have always known how important link building is, PJ Web Solutions are only now attempting to become more proactive in their approach rather than being reactive and look for a source of information that separates the "wood from the trees" when looking to develop an effective link building strategy. It is for this reason why this blog post was born, it will separate the mindless array of junk that is posted on various websites and spam emails detailing ways of building links and will focus on what I regard as the ‘Top 5 effective link building strategies .

5) Effective Link Building Strategy : Internal Links

When a lot of people think of link building strategies they tend to always think about links that link back to their website. Which is fine, however it is integral that the way your own website links to other pages within your site, are structured logically and create content silo’s which ensures that new pages you create are crawled by Google and indexed correctly.

4) Effective Link Building Strategy : Manual Link Submission

Manual link submission is important when developing an effective link building strategy, especially, if you can use non-financial methods of persuasion. It involves manually navigating to relevant websites in your industry and finding a point of contact to request a link to your website. A good starting point is to search for your targeted terms and choose non-competitive websites to request a link from.

3) Effective Link Building Strategy : SEO Directories

Mindlessly submitting your website to as many directories is not a good element of an effective link building strategy and it can be argued that it could even have harmful effects on search rankings. Unfortunately, I am very much in agreement with the idea that if the directory is free then it is not likely to be worth submitting your website to. There are, however, directories worth submitting your site to such as Yahoo and Dmoz.

2) Effective Link Building Strategy : Linkbait and Viral Campaigns

Viral content, if done properly, can be a powerhouse in creating an effective link building strategy. It attracts links by other sites referencing the piece of code which provides the back links to your website. For example free code such as calendars etc that people like to embed on their websites can create links back to you! Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc increase the effectiveness of link viral campaigns, as if people like the piece it will be ‘retweeted’ ‘liked’ and discussed gaining more and more exposure.

1) Effective Link Building Strategy : Content

My opinion is that whilst there is no doubt there are many ways to attract links to your site, some free, others paid for, the most effective way of building links is to prepare good, relevant content that people want to read. Content is king and if written well, it will appear on sites such as Digg, it will be retweeted and cause discussions amongst communities and social media channels. If content is written regularly and well, you can build a kind of social empire that people talk about and look forward to reading. Good ways of generating discussion could be, being slightly controversial, or playing devil’s advocate about a topic in your industry.

Always remember that building an effective link strategy takes time and is very much an ongoing process. If you dedicate the time to do things right there is no doubt you can succeed. Make link building fun, enjoy what you’re writing about and rather than it being a marketing chore, you can enjoy building links and driving your site up the search engine results page rankings (SERPS)!

SEO for All: a Journey into the Missing Link

17 November 2010

SEO for Developers…

‘SEO for All’ will explain why web pages – all online material, in fact – should be optimised to make them findable and that – much like web accessibility – this optimisation will not be too great a burden. Online material that has been optimised for findability has a great deal in common with accessible material: it tends to feature tightly focused content built on well-structured foundations. Findable and accessible sites tend to feature appropriate and focused architecture, supported by logical navigation and rich links. Findability works for the standardista and for the consumer.

…and the Rest of Us

Why all? Why not just web developers? The world of Web 2.0 is a world in which audience is author, the wisdom of the crowd authoritative. ‘SEO for All’ has it that anyone who writes for the webdo you tweet on a a particular subject or interest? have you reviewed Call of Duty online? – can apply simple guidelines to focus their message; focused messages are good for Google, reach readers and….well, you get the point.

‘SEO for All’ then, not just all webbies, all designers or all developers. Why ‘the missing link’, though? What’s missing?

The Missing Link: Me!

Or what I learned from Salford Business School’s course in Search & Social Media Marketing

What was missing was a personal awareness of the reality of SEO. I’m writing this at the back end of a 10 week, 4 hours a pop, ‘study when you’re bushed and the kids have gone to bed’ course in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Marketing run by Salford Business School just down the road from Manchester City Centre. From the general to the particular. Background and details. Beginner to professional. Well, not really. No one gets to be professional in anything after a mere 40 hours.

Principles, Real Professionals & Sandwiches

What you do get though, is a thorough grounding in the principles behind SEO and SMM (the course is acronymed as SSMM – Search and Social Media Marketing), the detailed techniques used in increasing findability and encouraging buzz and exposure to the various tools of the trade. You also get exposure to the real professionals, in the form of a weekly guest lecture by some of the most influential commercial SEO/SSMM organisations in Manchester. The likes of Latitude, MEC Manchester, PushOn and MediaVest. You also get access to SEMPO (international search engine marketing professional organisation) material and certification; the course fee includes 3 separate SEMPO Institute courses and awards. And sandwiches.

SEO: Corporate Fascism?

For me – and, I suspect, a great many experienced web professionals – my interests and professional development over the last 10 years have included CSS, XHTML, PHP & MySQL, JavaScript, design patterns with a smattering of Apache and other server technologies. SEO was mentioned in hushed tones, if at all: text hidden by CSS, Google queries producing pages of link farms, source code which is 90% keyword tag…SEO was, like, working for the man, man, while we worked with flowers in our hair. SEO, then, was the blackest of black hat. Don’t sell the roses, smell them…

SEO: Absolutely Ethical

So what’s changed? Well, other than the stunning insight that the vast majority of SEO techniques – and practitioners – are absolutely ethical, the last 10 weeks have shown me that optimising web material so that it is easily findable (or, as appropriate, rises to the top of a search engine results page, or SERP as they are known in the trade) involves processes that, quite simply, complement the whole gamut of web standards.

Why SEO Matters or Here Come the Numbers

Earlier in the year Royal Pingdom reported that in 2009 there were 234 million websites, of which 47 million had been created in that year.

Here are some numbers from Blogpulse a couple of days ago:

  • Total identified blogs: 150,389,988
  • New blogs in last 24 hours: 45,126
  • Blog posts indexed in last 24 hours: 778,260

Almost a MILLION new blog posts today. Clearly it’s not the material that’s not there. Sure, the numbers are at best a rough guide. A blog post can be a single line. There’s no quality control. And no one reads it.

Ah…no one reads it.

Does that matter? Well, yes, it does if what you’ve got to say is relevant, reasoned, reasonable and just plain right! Without going down philosophical back-alleys, common sense tells me that most of us write for an audience. Most of us work for organisations that seek to promote themselves. This is not simply a matter of persuasion; in many (most?) cases, our organisations have an audience that are actually looking for the material we publish.

Let’s be clear about this: ‘our stuff’ is better than ‘their stuff’ (if you dont’ feel that, do it again) and we owe it to the public to make sure that when they want information, they get it from us! When statistics show that almost three-quarters of searchers click on a result from the first page of results, you’d better make sure that’s where your stuff sits.

Just as separation of style, content and behaviour are elements of standards-based, scalable, future-proof websites, findability achieved by Search Engine Optimisation is a vital ingredient in the toolbox of anyone who writes or develops for the web.

SEO for All: What to Do Next

Surf: 10 SEO Techniques All Top Websites Should Use (blog: 2008);

Study: Do the Course – Salford Business School’s Search and Social Media Marketing, designed and taught by University of Salford academics and industry professionals;

Read: Building Findable Websites (it’s a book by Aarron Walter – New Riders, 2008). The website also features a Findability Checklist.

Play: 10 free tools for Web and SEO Analytics.

Thanks for reading…


Mark Sanders

Twitter: @mark_l_sanders

#SSMM SEO and Social Media: Show me the money

16 November 2010


No matter how much of a `feel good’ factor any business has about social media, in the end, hard-headed marketing managers only really ask one question; `How can we make money from using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the rest of these time-consuming networks?’

The answer lies in identifying particular `tribes’ of users who are potentially your customers, your brand champions, your harshest critics when things go wrong, and born communicators – yes, some people are going to do your marketing for you. How cheap is that?


As the well known Twitterer @lesanto noted recently, Facebook 40,000 years ago was a cave painting. The update was `We hunted and killed today, it was good.’

This highlights what Robin Wight of the Engine Group spoke about at Like Minds in Exeter 2010. Human beings evolved in tribes of around 150-180 people. Our brains cannot truly `know’ more people than this, plus the number gives us a range of skills which helps group survival. So human communication is irrevocably tied to our evolution. That means Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other social network is underpinned by this same DNA-mapped reality.

Those who think they have 2000 `friends’ on Facebook are wrong. You don’t know these people. Those who simply broadcast on Twitter, without using Retweets, hash tags or @ replies to have a conversation, are on an ego trip. That isn’t social, it isn’t a conversation.

Any business can head down a digital one way street by simply broadcasting messages, but in the long run, they risk hitting a dead end in marketing terms. You have to listen.


I chose two small-medium sized companies as case studies; Frution Broadcast based in Manchester and London, plus MCi Tours, based in Altrincham to test the knowledge acquired on this course.

Fruition’s search ranking is low ( see more background at my Posterous blog ) and the site is heavy with slick flash player media. But the company doesn’t really want public visitors, they want relatively few music industry players to visit the site, be impressed, then hire them. But the SEO site audit did highlight one benefit.

One thing we all know is that people in the UK are looking for jobs right now. I found `event planning jobs’ were the top rising search UK term, up 190% in the last year. `Event co-ordinator’ was up 50%.

I refined it geographically and seasonally in Google trends;

Searches in England showed a spike in August 2010 and London, then Manchester, were top cities last summer.

So Fruition could place a house ad on their site in August, maybe blog and Twitter it too, plus run a PPC ad in the Manchester area during August, leading to a specific job application landing page.

The response could be huge, if so, people could be held on file by Fruition – a talent pool basically, full-time or freelance. All that would save a large amount currently spent on recruitment agency fees or local media advertising. Crucially, it also saves hundreds of man-hours phoning around for staff each year at peak times.

So in terms of using SEO research, we are showing the client the money trail – recruitment gets quicker and cheaper. Result.


MCi Tours wanted more people on their motorcycle holidays for 2011, winter is their peak booking season, kicking off with the UK motorcycle show.

Working with MCi Tours’ boss Al McFarlane, we identified three things that could be done over winter to improve things.

1. Audit and tweak the website layout and content to make it more `SEO-friendly.’

2. Try and capitalise on the link traffic that’s coming MCi Tours way. Make it relevant, as well as increase it.

3. Use social media to drive more potential motorcycle touring customers towards MCi Tours – especially those interested in Route 66 US tours, as there seems to be healthy demand at present.

SEO X-Ray revealed just one external link to the site. One of things I’ve suggested to MCi Tours is that they try to get a link from the FSA, because MCi are authorised agents for motorcycle travel and breakdown insurance. Having a link from a government site would be gold dust – we can but try.

SEM Rush found 288 searchers went to MCi Tours site looking for `Motorcycle breakdown insurance.’ Interesting, as it isn’t a core part of the business, but it shows a healthy demand in the market. The fact is many UK insurers do NOT recover your motorcycle from across the English Channel – there’s an opportunity here.

We made a tweak to the site and put `Travel Insurance’ in as a H2 sub-heading and flagged it on the home page separately. MCi Tours didn’t want to commit to a full social media campaign, building Facebook conetent and a fan base of Twitter followers, but they did send a customer database email out announcing their presence at the UK bike show and the FSA-authorised travel insurance.

The result was seven holiday bookings prior to the show, whereas the previous best was two bookings in early November.

SEO works. Good news. The better news for me is that MCi Tours have retained North Point for a six week social media campaign, with live blogging, video clips from the show, posted on a new MCi wordpress blog, also on You Tube. Plus we are building a base of Twitter and Facebook followers running up to the show which opens on the 27th November – see you all there!


One of the things that emerged from TruManchester was that mobile recruitment is growing fast. According to Jobsite UK it still only accounts for around 6% of all traffic, but mobile use was up 390% from Jan 2009 – April 2010. ( source; Jobsite Whitepaper ).

What does it mean in broader terms?

Social media is time consuming, so in the near future, when perhaps 50% of mobile phone users are comfortable using Smartphone browsing, stripped down, graphics heavy interfaces will become the norm. Time spent magnifying screens to tap in passwords painfully slowly, or enter a whole stack of personal data won’t be popular. Smartphone software developers are going to have create social network tools that can be used quickly, easily and intuitively.

Humans are lazy, we like the familiar. Those who insist on bombarding their Facebook `likers’ with spam updates that don’t prompt any conversation, any meaningful interaction, will fall by the wayside. Those companies who already infest Twitter with irritating 140 character PR messages, repeated twice a day and autopost replies to followers just don’t get it. You can’t automate every conversation, people are different, even if they want the same things.

The companies that develop QR code digital `fingerprints,’ which a user can access as their default gateway to the company, a kind of Polaroid snapshot `app,’ will find more business heading their way.

Mobile apps that shortcut the time involved in searching for insurance, jobs via LinkedIn, or buying gig tickets on Facebook, will make small fortunes for those who do it right, and lose large fortunes for those who back the wrong horses. Software which tracks people’s eye/mouse movements and detects their body language via webcams has incredible potential. Where our attention goes, our money follows…

Companies who use social media stripped to its essentials, the basics of human communication will always find a market. If you sell your Facebook Farmville crops to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and get paid in real money off vouchers, people will buy into that. It is human nature.


`Brands must be useful and confer status on the user.’

Robin Wight again. It takes an adman to sum up the psychology of why we buy.

So small businesses; there are 500 million people on Facebook, find your `tribe’ within that global nation. Some 300,000 new users open a Twitter account each day, joining 105m already on the network and there are 600m Twitter searches by trend, name or topic each day. Mine that gold dust, it is worth digging deep for it. Social media allows you to set your own algorithms; location, interests, age, occupation, circle of friends, Facebook apps used etc. People buy from people, so show a human face to your company. Be a friend first, a salesperson second.

Do you sell to the trade only, not the public? Use LinkedIn.

Mark Williams, known as @Mr_LinkedIn on Twitter recently noted that this network has probably halved the amount of B2B PR and trade shows that anyone does in the UK. You can join relevant discussion groups and announce conferences, webinars, invite potential buyers to look at your new product video on Vimeo or You Tube. You control it, it’s your online business media – not a big publisher’s trade show or magazine.

If you want to start a conversation, that leads to conversion. Go social.

Alastair Walker

North Point

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