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Archive for the ‘Seo’ Category

Local SEO is a lose/ lose proposition

by in Seo on Apr. 3, 2014

I was asked today about looking at a local flower shop’s SEO. I rarely do client work anyway and looking at this market reminds me why. I have absolutely no interest in flowers. Thats going to make working on a site hard to start with.

The other problem is that a lot of websites aren’t designed with SEO in mind. Optimising a website with little text on the homepage is tough. You have to do little tricks like put big paragraphs of text at the bottom of the page to give Google something to read.

The rest of this post will be just what I replied to this person who enquired about the SEO work.

I’ve taken a quick look at the results pages and the most obvious term is ‘flowers sheffield’ If you type that in to google, there isn’t a single organic results above the fold on the most common screen resolution. The most common screen resolution is 1366*768

If you look at the search volumes, you’ll see that not many people actually search for that term either ( see there and select exact match)

You’re looking at 5 searches a day on average. Even being number 1 on the natural listings for both, I can imagine you’d get less than 10 visitors a month for those terms as no one likes to scroll. You’ll potentially get traffic for related terms, eg, flowers sheffield same day delivery but the volumes will be small. I can’t see SEO being able to drive much traffic.

Your other options are the google places or adwords. Places is pretty simple. sign up there. You’ll get a card with a pin in it that is used to verify the place. Once you have that, make sure your profile is 100% complete and get plenty of legitimate reviews.

Adwords is simpler but not really cost effective. Looking at who is advertising, they are all big national companies. I can see them out bidding any local retailer with their bigger margins and ability to justify ad spend on branding.

If I was you, I’d get the local business stuff right and then ask a few SEO companies what they’d do and for what cost. Ask them about the traffic you’d expect, what exact keywords they’d target and what techniques they’ll use to get you backlinks. Back links changed a lot since last year when Google sent out a load of ‘unnatural link’ warnings and then battered people with Penguin.

If you get a few proposals together, I can tell you what I think but to be honest, SEO for certain industries is grim. I can’t see anyone that really knows what they are doing being bothered with such a small but competitive market. Google has made local SEO a lose/ lose for client and agency.

Obviously if someone held a gun to my head I could do local SEO but with all the crap Google put on the SERPS pages its value is dubious. Assuming I can get to number 1 without getting slapped by Penguin, I think I’d find the value of being number 1 is so small, its not worth it.

Plugins I use for WordPress

by in Seo on Mar. 27, 2014

WordPress is the most common CMS partly because of all the plugins available. The plugins make WordPress one of the most powerful CMSs on the market. I tend not to use that many plugins but I do have a few which I upload to every new install.

  1. Exclude pages from navigation – Allows me to exclude pages. Handy for pages such as ‘privacy’ which you need but don’t necessarily want in the main menus.
  2. RSS footer – inserts a link back to your site if you get scraped.
  3. A contact form. I use Gravity forms nowadays as I have paid for it and its got excellent integration with Mailchimp and Paypal. Probably an overkill for most people though. I used to use contact form 7 or enhanced contact form.
  4. A SEO plugin. My choice at the moment is the all in one SEO plugin but I have heard good things about Yoasts SEO plugin. If I was starting out I’d probably use the latter based on reviews I’ve read but I can’t be bothered with it as All in One SEO works for me.
  5. An anti spam plugin. I generally use WordPress spam free but some cleverbots have managed to get round that. Cookies for comments is good and I think moving forward I will be using that.

If you are going to be completely legal in the UK you do need a cookie consent plugin. I am waiting until I implement the cookie directive on my sites but at the moment the plugin I’ve seen most is Cookie Control. You should also have a privacy policy which you can get a plugin to generate.

If you register with Google Webmaster Central, then installing XML sitemap generator is a must.

Thats pretty much it. I do use other plugins when needed, eg, photo gallery plugins, announcements plugins, etc but they are the main ones I use on every site.

Penguin thoughts and moving forward

by in Seo on Mar. 16, 2014

16th or March will stick in the mind of many independent SEOs. Its the day Google unleashed the Penguin update. Originally the ‘webspam’ update, they decided that naming it after a cute animal would sound better from a PR point of view.

As the original name suggested this algorithm change is designed combat SEOs who ranked using methods that Google have frowned upon. You can read the full announcement post here. I think there is a bit of misdirection going on there. They’ve been penalising sites for keyword stuffing for years. From what I can see, they are penalising sites which are abusing anchor text, paid links and spam links (scrapebox, xrummer, etc).

This is what Penguin looks like

Screen shot from Netrefer. I generally don’t use any analytics on my site

A sharp drop on 25th April 2012 (Penguin was released 24th but I guess thats US time so in the UK we got the hit the next day). Thats a dead giveaway that this site was hit my Penguin. The good news is that its not all gone, just cut by two thirds. Google has some more nasty penalties that pretty much wipe you out. If you suddenly find yourself on page 5, you pretty much have the kiss of death and probably have to start again. I am hoping that a full recovery is possible from Penguin.

Obviously, I am not happy about this update. I was under the impression that as long as you made a decent site, Google were cool with you using grey/ blackhat techniques. This was my mental model

Good site + Grey/ Blackhat = win
Crap site + Grey/ Blackhat = whacked

I used to joke that in some verticals if you removed all the sites that were ranking with less than white techniques, they’d be nothing left. Well, thats whats happened. All the sites that are ranking are trash compared to what used to rank.

The main problem with Penguin (and Panda) is that its a batch algorithm update. If I make changes today, I have to wait until the next time they run it to see the results. This makes planning my next step tricky. Its possibly easier for me to just built out new sites than fix some of the stuff I’ve done in the past. Some of the links I don’t think I could clean up even if I wanted to. Lucky for me, I do have the odd site that wasn’t hit so I can live while I build up some traffic.

This will mean that I’ll not be taking on any clients for the foreseeable future. The returns are just not there. Once upon a time I would have been confident to rank for anything given the right site and budget but now the complexity is so much more its not worth it. Before, there was possibly some money in selling cheesy SEO packages named after precious metals or ranking in noddy SERPS but no more.

SEO tips for Ecommerce in 2012

by in Seo on Mar. 21, 2014

I was recently asked for tip about SEO for ecommerce. Its not really my area of expertise. There is so much more to running an ecommerce store than SEO. I could even argue that SEO for ecommerce in 2012 is not possible for your small player. The algorithm and SERPs (search engine results page) layout favour big brands and Adwords buyers. Its sad but true that Google doesn’t like small business.

Look at this video from Matt Cutts. Unless you are super niche, you are just duplicate content and are asking to get pandadized (Panada came much later but it did kill these ecommerce sites with no value add, large companies can afford the money and time to recover from Panda. Many small businesses were killed.).

The first thing I’d do is make sure my site is perfect. Do a lot of user testing and make sure the conversion funnel is perfect. If you can up your conversion rate from say, 2% to 4% you’ve doubled your revenue. Make sure you have analytics installed, conversion funnels set up and multi-channel attribution. With out that, you’re working blind. Google analytics is the gold standard nowadays so may as well use that.

Make sure you do have unique content. Google can penalize your whole site if you have not enough useful content. This can be difficult if you are using a manufacturers’s feed. Doing it manually is time consuming and costly. Google can detect manually spun content nowadays so even a rewrite might not stop you from getting pandadized. Its a tricky one this, maybe get some user generated content. That has its risks but if you can seed the comments right, I’d rather have comments than no comments.

For the main SEO, I’ll share the best video I have ever seen on ecommerce SEO. Its from Patrick Altoft from Branded3. Click here to view it. It pretty much covers the textbook off site stuff to do for ecommerce. There was a recent algo change that devalues anchor text so thats probably not right any more. My tool of choice is Majestic rather than OSE but apart from that its a solid strategy. If you really want compete with the big boys you’ll probably need to do more than what he suggests but that’s a whole another blog post. You need to spend a lot of time on keyword research too and think about where the user is in the overall conversion funnel. That’s a whole new blog post too.

I’d would recommend reading Rob Snell’s site. I saw him at Pubcon and thought that he was someone that knew what he was on about and he specialises in ecommerce. He was talking about cross selling stuff and using free gifts to boost the average order value. If you can perfect your site, then you’ll be able to buy traffic straight from Google via Adwords and not have to worry about SEO.

Google Venice update February 2012

by in Seo on Mar. 20, 2014

Every month Google give out a summary of the algorithm changes. You can read the latest update here. I rarely read them. If there’s something useful, I figure that someone will tell me. Most of the time the details are lacking so they aren’t much use anyway.

I have noticed quite a major change buried in that list though.

Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename "Venice"] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

I am guessing this will upset quite a few national players. Basically, google now blend in local results in to the main serps if they believe there is some relevance to local results. For example,

The query ‘seo company’ for someone located in Sheffield shows this,

You can see 3 local results which would rank for the local equivalent, seo company Sheffield. I’ve played around with a few search queries which trigger local results and it looks like they are inserting 3 local results in to the SERPS in positions 5-7.

The people that probably are the most annoyed about this are people that used to rank 8-10. They’re pushed on to page 2 now, so will get no traffic. As search is a zero sum game, there will be some winners. I am not convinced that the people receiving the boost will win that much. The biggest winners will be the top 3. The competition is now pushed further down. Search has always been a winners takes all market and this makes it even more so.

In terms of how I am going to change my strategy, I’ll have to modify my mental model of how much the traffic is distributed. The higher up the better but there should be a big jump in potential clicks if you can make it from position 4 to position 3. Given the higher reward it makes sense to invest a little more in links. I just need to be careful not to hit a filter.