Entries Tagged 'search engine optimisation' ↓

SEO: The Difference Between Black Hat and White Hat

You’ve probably read umpteen articles that bang on about black and white hat search engine optimisation techniques.

Understand them?

Do you know what’s good and what’s not?

There is a lot of confusing material out there so here’s a quick run down of what’s good (i.e. white hat) and what’s bad (i.e. black hat) in the world of SEO.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

Black Hat

Black hat is all the stuff that Google hates that if used will generate a heft penalty.

1. Bad content

This encompasses anything that’s written for the search engines and keyword stuffed or automatically generated content that is meaningless drivel produced by various software programmes. Don’t use either.

2. Links

Never buy, sell, exchange or dabble in automated link building activities. Links should always be earned through creating high quality content.

3. Hidden links and text

Text hidden behind images, white text on a white background, tiny fonts and hidden links (i.e. linking a hyphen rather than a word) will lead you into trouble.

4. Scraping

This is republishing articles from other sites without permission and pretending they’re your own.

5. Redirects

In the past people would create text-heavy web pages that were crammed with keyword-stuffed content written for the search engines. When clicked on, they redirected the user elsewhere.

White Hat

White hat is all about optimising your website for your audience. These activities are aimed at improving user experience and not manipulating the search results.

1. Content

It must be relevant, useful and written naturally. Plus, it produced regularly so there’s always something fresh on your website (e.g. by adding a blog).

2. Links (internal)

These are links to other content within your website. They are designed to enhance your reader’s experience by taking them to other relevant information within your website.

Only use a couple or so within your content so you don’t bombard your reader and make sure you use relevant anchor text.

3. Link earning

Every website that links to yours is like a vote. The more votes you get, the higher you rank. But these links must be natural and earned.

4. Navigation

At the top of your website (or down one side) will be your navigation helping your readers find their way around your website. These should incorporate your keywords.

5. Tags and titles

META descriptions and keywords are no longer important, but your title tags are. The tag you use should accurately describe your page whilst using your keywords (but without stuffing).

6. META description

Yes, I know I said this was no longer important and from an SEO point of view their not. But they come into their own for the user when your website is listed in the search results. It is this description that will help the user make a decision about which website to look at.

7. Images

The search engines can’t read images, but they can read the Alt tag that goes with them. Make sure your tags are meaningful and relevant.

8. Anchor text

This is the word or phrase you use to link out to another page of your website. It should utilise your keywords, but naturally, built within a phrase.

To make sure you don’t go wrong simply make sure that everything you do is for your reader and not the search engines.

YouTube SEO: How to Boost Your YouTube Rankings

YouTUbe boost

With over 30 million visitors a day, YouTube is the second largest search engine. That’s why it makes sense to house your videos on the platform.

Millions of businesses are making the most of YouTube’s popularity by using it as a repository for their videos that they can then embed within their own website.

Not only do they benefit from YouTube’s search capabilities, but they can also use it to create a channel to which people can subscribe.

It sounds great, but its popularity also has drawbacks – namely competition for rankings and the need for an SEO strategy.

As with all content marketing strategies, every video you put out must be of a high quality and contain content that’s targeted to your audience. Then it comes down to good old-fashioned hard work to optimise your videos for maximum impact.

How to improve your YouTube rankings

1. Keywords

You can’t get away from them. Whatever form your online marketing takes, keywords will always have a part to play.

This isn’t a free ticket to keyword-stuff your videos, far from it, but it is important to make sure you use words that relate to your video’s content. A great tool to use for this is YouTube’s own keyword tool.

2. Video title

Just as with your articles and blog posts, your video title will have a big impact on your click rate.

Make sure it’s short, attention grabbing and uses one or two of your keywords. But you only have 120 characters to play with, so you may have to get creative (just so long as the title is relevant to the video’s content).

3. Description

Sadly, Google can’t watch your video so the only way it will know what it’s about is through your description. Again, use your keywords (sparingly) and, if it’s a long video, add a transcription to give your SEO a boost.

4. Tags

Video tags serve the same purpose as those you use for blog posts. They help YouTube understand what you’re video is about and, by using keywords (plus locations, categories etc.) they will boost it’s search-ability.

5. Links

Links back to your video are as important as links to your website. In the same way as they help your Google rankings, links back to your video will help its YouTube rankings.

6. Thumbnail

Not as obvious is attractiveness of your video’s thumbnail.

Find an image that will appeal to your audience to try and attract clicks.

How does YouTube ranking videos?

It’s also worth taking note of the factors that YouTube takes into account when it comes to rankings its videos:

  • How many views the video has
  • How long users spend watching the video
  • How many appearances it’s made on a user’s playlist
  • How many positive ratings and comments it’s received
  • How many subscribers your YouTube channel has
  • How many times the video’s been added as a favourite or to a playlist
  • How many times the video has been embedded on the web

Popularity appears to be a recurring factor, therefore it’s worth adding another factor to help you improve your rankings – social sharing. Getting your videos out on social media regularly will boost your audience and have a positive impact on your rankings.

Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd and cyclist (not at the same time).

Why Conversion is More Important Than Traffic

My office faces one of the busiest roads in Suffolk. Traffic constantly roars back and forth as people make their way between Suffolk and Norfolk. SEO and copywriting

Drinking my coffee this morning, wracking my brain for an idea to write about, it suddenly struck me. Traffic.

You, and every other online business, is obsessed by traffic.

Religiously, day in day out, you’re checking your analytics to see how many visitors your website is getting and where they are coming from.

You smile smugly as you see your visitor numbers increase; you are invincible because you are brining in 10 times the traffic of your competitors.

So what?

If you’re that amazing, why are your competitors making more money than you?

What’s happening to your traffic?

Running a business is tough. There’s so much to think about and only a finite amount of money to reinvest.

You probably started out with an ‘OK’ website that you got cheap and filled with content yourself. With a bit of help from your SEO guy (or girl) you’ve got traffic heading your way in droves, but something strange is happening.

When you look at your sales (i.e. conversions), they aren’t reflective of the number of visitors you’re getting.

Why?

Because your website and its content isn’t up to scratch.

Look at it this way, if you have a High Street store with a stunning window display, potential customers will flock through your doors. When they get inside, if your products are haphazardly strewn here and there and your sales team are loitering in corners discussing what they’re going to be doing at the weekend, ignoring them, the chances are they’ll turn round and find a different shop that’s more welcoming.

Well, that’s what’s going on with your website.

Your SEO guy/girl has done an amazing job luring people to your website, but because you’ve got a dreary site with awful content, they’re leaving straightaway.

Yes, SEO is important to get people to your website, but it’s the design and, more importantly, the content that will get them to stay and buy.

Convincing people to stay and buy

Your website copywriting must:

  • Address the reader directly
  • Sell the benefits of your products and services
  • Convince them to buy

One of the most common mistakes is to write about your company. This comes across as very inward facing and ignores the needs of your customers.

When they reach your website they want to instantly see what it is you offer, how it will help them and why they should buy it.

If you write in the second person (i.e. using ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ – just like this blog post) you are instantly creating a relationship with the reader. It’s as if you are talking to them – it’s the written equivalent of eye contact.

Using this technique, show them the benefits of your product. That doesn’t mean the colour, size, technical spec etc., all that comes later in the product description. They will want to know how it will make their life easier.

SEO and content go hand in hand

If you want to succeed online, you must invest in good search engine optimisation and great web content.

Find a copywriter who really understands the concept of search marketing and who can create content that fulfils the needs of both Google and your customers. It’s a fine line to tread, but one that will bring incredible results when done well.

A good SEO and copywriter is a dream team – when you find yours hold on to them and don’t let them go.

 

Author: Sally Ormond – Briar Copywriting Ltd

The Hummingbird Cometh – Google Strikes Again

The end of September saw yet another Google algorithm update – the Hummingbird. Hummingbird update

At the heart of this little bird is the difference between what people are looking for and why they are looking for it.

Search engines have always delivered ranked results by matching the keywords typed in the search box to the keywords on a web page.

The problem with that is that words can have different meanings, as illustrated by Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Amit Singhal when talking about the Taj Mahal: “Was the search about the monument in India, the musician, or a local curry house? What was the intent behind the search?”

Hummingbird’s semantic search capabilities are an attempt to clarify the context of queries. In other words, it tries to understand how we use language and how the meaning of words varies depending on context.

Hummingbird and search marketing

With all the Penguins, Pandas and Hummingbirds in the world, it’s hardly surprising that the face of search marketing is constantly changing.

In fact it was only recently that Google announced it would no longer be providing webmasters with data about which keywords were driving traffic from search results to their websites.

Google’s explicit message being that webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share. In other words, engaging website content.

Hummingbird and website content

It’s important you understand how to make sure your website copywriting and content align with Hummingbird’s aim.

What does your customer need?

It’s important to think about why customers want or need your product or service. For example, if you have a travel site, do you offer information about travelling to the destination, what there is to see, local customs, restaurants, galleries or where the best beaches are?

Analytics

Look at your analytics to discover what people are searching for when they’ve reached your site, but can’t find immediately. This will help you understand what they are looking for and optimise your website content accordingly.

Blogs aren’t the be all and end all

Think about varying your content. Great information doesn’t only come in the form of a blog post; it could also be video, graphics, an eBook, report or white paper.

Just make sure its form and function match.

Language

Don’t just go for an exact keyword match when describing what you do/offer. Use synonyms too, which will provide alternative phrases that people may use when searching for what you offer.

Make sure the language you use isn’t dry and dull. Show your personality through your writing so it informs and inspires.

Social

Make sure all your content is easy to share.

Above all, make sure the content on your website complements your sales strategy by being relevant to your products and services.

A well written website should already have all those features, but it’s worth checking yours out to see if it can be improved in any way.

It may, at times, seem as though Google is playing God with your business, but all these changes are there to make the search experience more rewarding and relevant. Provided you abide by Google’s rules and aren’t tempted to take any short cuts, you should be able to weather these changes with minimum fuss.

 

 Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos

Are META Descriptions Still Important?

Is it really worth adding a META Description to your blog posts and other web content?

These tags are chunks of information about a web page that the search engines use to suss out what the page is about. There’s a lot of conflicting information about these, so this post will make the current situation clear.

These tags are not used by search engines to rank a web page. That said they are still a very important element that should be included on every blog post and page.

Why?

The search engines always show a description of the page in the search results, so why not make sure it’s something relevant?

If left blank, the search engines will pick something based on the search term used. But you always include well-written descriptions Google (and the other search engines) should use them.

Think about your own search habits.  When faced with a list of websites you automatically read the tags to see which result is the most relevant to you. So if you want your web page to get the click, make sure you write a stonking tag.

How to write a good description

The following tips will help you create great descriptions:

  • Write for your readers, not the search engines. Although it’s important to include keywords, don’t stuff them.
  • You’re limited to about 150 characters so think carefully about what you want to say.
  • If you use WordPress, use one of their SEO plugins to help you.

Think of the META Description as your 60 sales pitch. Use it to tell your reader what the page is about and how it will help them.

A well-written tag will dramatically increase your chances of getting that all-important click. So next time you write a blog post or create a new web page, think carefully about how it will help your reader and tell them in the tag.

Remember, the META Description won’t affect your ranking, but it will help drive search traffic your way.

 

Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Follow her on Twitter and Google+

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