Category: SEO

How to Get Organic Inbound Links and Improve Your SEO

SEO can be a complicated business. There are so many strands to it that businesses often get swamped by the options and spread their resources too thinly with diminishing returns.

One constant mantra from marketers when it comes to optimising your site for platforms such as Google is the importance of inbound links.

Here we take a closer look at what these are and ways to get other sites to link to you organically (in other words, without you having to pay them) and, hopefully, improve your ranking.

What Are Inbound Links?

Any link to your website from another site is called an inbound link. If you have lots of interesting information on a particular page, someone might read it, write an article of their own and use your content as source material, embedding a link to your page.

Why Are They Important?

Search engines see inbound links from other sites as an important indicator of authority The more you are linked to by reputable sites, the more it should improve your ranking.

How many sites do you need linking to you to see an effect? Well, this is a slightly nebulous concept because there is no set rule that X amount of inbound links will achieve X steps up the ranking. All we know is that it makes a difference.

5 Ways to Get Inbound Links That Work

There are several ways to get inbound links. You could, for example, ask partners and suppliers to your business to link to you. You can, in certain, circumstances buy links from other sites though we don’t advise this as it can be expensive and not achieve the results you are looking for.

The best way to encourage inbound links include:

  • Create great blog content: Having a blog on our website allows you to build a catalogue of great content and, more importantly, a readership. This could include options such as how-to guides, the latest news associated with your business or opinion pieces that get people thinking. The more interesting content you have, the more people are likely to link to you.
  • Guest blogging: Many online journals and industry sites are always on the lookout for great content and will usually allow you to have at least one link to your website in any blog. These sites tend to have strict guidelines for content creation so make sure you read through these before producing anything.
  • Design infographics: Infographics are some of the most shared content on the internet and having a few on your site can certainly help inbound links. They tend to work best for lists or step by step information such as this one called Understanding Viral Content Marketing.
  • Provide useful resources: Resource guides are relatively long pieces of content that give links to sites across the internet on a particular subject. For example, you may produce a 50 link guide to the best online resources for buying a home. These kinds of pages are often seen as a one-stop-shop for information which people are happy to link to.
  • Use social media: While you are not strictly creating content for inbound links, getting your posts in front as many people as possible is vital. The best way to do this is to include social media sharing buttons on your blogs, infographics and other content. In other words, make it easy for people to tell their friends and family about the stuff you have created.

Inbound linking strategies are not a one-off activity. They should permanently be part of your overall approach. At Web Design Southampton, our expert team can help you build your website content so that it naturally attracts more links of this kind and improve your SEO at the same time. We can also help you with a content creation strategy that works over a long period of time.

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How important is local search?

How important is local search?

When it comes to SEO, there is a temptation to focus almost exclusively on the main search results. For many businesses, directing resources at a local search campaign may actually make more sense.

If you aren’t yet convinced that local SEO is a worthwhile use of your SEO budget, read on to discover exactly how important local search is.

1. Local search leads to local visits

Any businesses with a physical bricks and mortar location can benefit from local search. Why? Because it has been proven time and time again that a local search typically leads to a local store visit. That means if you’re looking to increase footfall to your shop, bar, restaurant, hotel or other business premises, it’s critical to be highly visible when local customers head online.

Two often cited research studies confirm this opinion:

  • 90% of search users will choose a search engine when they need to find local information
  • Local search has a high purchase intent with just 7% of non-local search leading to purchase within 24 hours, compared with 18% for those looking locally
  • Half of those who carry out a local search on a mobile device will visit a physical store within 24 hours

2. Local search visibility is linked to mobile and voice search visability

Mobile search volumes have exceeded desktop search volumes for a couple of years now making it the standard when it comes to search rankings and optimisation. Naturally, given that we turn to our smartphones more when we are out and about and away from our desks, a lot of mobile search is locally focused. The same goes for voice search – 63% of consumers try voice search when driving because they need local information.

Investing in local SEO and prioritizing local visibility is therefore an investment in mobile and voice search too.

3. It’s more competitive than ever

If you’re guilty of having neglected local search SEO in favour of traditional SEO, then it should be even more of a priority for you today. As smaller businesses have found themselves unable to compete with national firms for traditional search rankings, they have flocked to local search in order to at least win local business and/or capitalise on mobile and voice search trends.

Competition has been made harder still by the fact that the local search pack has shrunk over the last few years, so there are now fewer spots up for grabs on page one than ever before.

All of this means that if you haven’t invested in local search before now, time is of the essence. Fail to use local optimisation tactics going forwards and you might find that you’re missing out not just on mobile traffic, the higher purchase intent that comes with local search and voice traffic – you may be unable to get a footing on Google at all.

Need help getting your local SEO campaign off the ground? Contact us to find out how we can help.

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Online shop - Digital tablet

Google rolls out new Google Ads formats for retailers

With Black Friday just a few short weeks away, it’s fair to say the holiday shopping season is well and truly upon us. With that in mind, Google has launched two brand new Google Ads formats which it says it created specifically for retailers to help them sell more in the seasonal sales period.

The two new Ads formats are Video in Showcase Shopping Ads and Shoppable Image Ads – which is a pilot for now but is expected to roll out fully over the next several months into 2019.

Video in Showcase Shopping Ads

We all know that a picture speaks a thousand words but when it comes to shopping and tempting online consumers, that’s truer than ever. Add video to the mix – which is consistently named as the most shared content format and the one that drives the most engagement – and you have a recipe for success.

Google’s new Video in Showcase Shopping Ads gives retailers another outlet for their video content. Showcase Ads are a multi-image Shopping format which when clicked on, take the user to a landing page with images, products and product descriptions. The new addition sees Videos taking pride of place – the video is displayed in the featured image position and then, once clicked on, will play in full at the top of the landing page.

Advertisers that have Showcase Shopping Ads already running can use this new format option right away.

Shoppable Image Ads

Consumers will often search for pictures online, using Google, before they make an actual real world purchase – this happens in around a third of cases, says the search engine. Shoppable Image Ads give retailers a chance to make a connection with the consumer when they perform that image search, not just on Google but on selected third party publisher sites too.

When used on a third party site, such as a blog, a Shoppable Image Ad will trigger a carousel of products once clicked which are all similar to what is displayed in the image. A food blogger for example could post a picture of a tablescape and a user clicking on the Shoppable Image Ad would then see a list of similar crockery or cutlery available to buy.

When viewed in Google search, the Ad is a large unit with the products contained within the image bearing a price tag. This format is undergoing pilot testing but Google says it will ramp up significantly in the coming years.

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Six ways to ensure the most successful sales season ever – as outlined by Google

Six ways to ensure the most successful sales season ever – as outlined by Google

Halloween might have only just been and gone but Fionnuala Meehan, VP EMEA, Google Marketing Solutions has taken to the search engine’s blog to outline six ways that retailers can make this their most successful holiday shopping season ever.

With turmoil on the high street, trying a few of these Google-suggested approaches could see your seasonal sales campaigns off to a much needed flying start. Read on to discover how to put Google’s advice to “think laterally, act local and keep on going until the party’s over” mantra into action right now.

1. Think like a shopper

This might sound like an obvious piece of advice but, it might actually be something that is missing from your paid search campaign strategy. Google says that some retailers are guilty of focusing on the very obvious keywords that support the festive season with other products being overlooked – potentially to the detriment of your bottom line. Creating a campaign for batteries for example could well net you a host of extra sales with a spike 24-30 December each year. Tailor your adverts and budget to appear when demand is at its seasonal peak.

2. Start now, finish later

The sooner you switch on your seasonal ads, the sooner you will start to make sales but, avoid the temptation to switch them off too early. It actually pays to leave ads live longer than you may think, with Google revealing that almost a quarter (20%) of shop traffic in December actually happens six days after peak season. Keeping your ads live a little longer than conventional wisdom dictates mean you’ll be perfectly placed to benefit from that unexpected shopping surge.

3. Try remarketing

If you don’t normally run remarketing campaigns, the festive season is a great time to dip your toe in the water. Research shows that 41% of those shopping on a mobile device will bounce from your ecommerce store without making a purchase – but cash conscious consumers could well simply be shopping around and comparing deals so investing in remarketing ads makes sure you stay in the running by staying visible.

4. Show inventory levels

If technical possible, be transparent about how much stock is left – 41% of online shoppers want retailers to do better when it comes to sharing inventory information. In the run up to Christmas this is especially important as this gives the buyer the confidence that the item they want to gift is in stock and will arrive on time.

5. Don’t neglect local ads

Local search is still lucrative at this time of year so don’t forget to have a locally focused campaign up and running too. This is especially important if you have a physical store location or your product is stocked in a local retailer’s store as 85% of those performing a local search visit a physical store within 24 hours.

6. Try new formats

Shoppers have proven themselves to be open to purchasing from new retailers and Google recommends that as an advertiser, you take a leaf out of their book. This means making an effort to try something new, such as one of the new seasonal ad formats just launched.

Need some more help ramping up your sales activity this holiday season? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you maximise seasonal sales opportunities.

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A beginner’s guide to online reviews as their importance soars

How important is local search?A beginner’s guide to getting-to-grips with online reviews as their importance soars

The latest research on online reviews has highlighted just how vital they are to business success, especially as an ecommerce retailer or local business. The updated Local Consumer Review Survey discovered that more than eight in ten (85%) of local consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a personal recommendation. Simply put, online reviews are the next generation of word of mouth recommendations with experiences of strangers valued just as much as those of friends and family members.

As well as being so valued by consumers, having a strong review profile can also help to build trust in your brand, with around 7 in 10 shoppers said to feel like they can trust a business more if it has positive reviews.

Beware though, the majority of shoppers read around seven reviews before they feel comfortable trusting a business and around half of consumers want to see at least four-star reviews before parting with their cash.

If you are new to online reviews, you’ll need to start actively embracing them. To help you get started on the path to a strong (and profitable) review profile, follow our tips for beginners:

1. Make it easy for customers to leave a business review

To build a strong review profile, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave a review. This can feel daunting at first but, the importance of online reviews shows no signs of diminishing so you need to embrace it.

Google and Facebook are the two most trusted sources of online reviews so it makes sense to start there. You’ll need to manually turn on Facebook reviews – go to your business Page, then click on edit Page. Next, find add tab and from there, scroll down to reviews or recommendations.

For Google, you’ll need to claim your Google My Business listing. Go to google.com/business to do this. It’s also worth registering for industry-specific review platforms such as TripAdvisor if appropriate.

Two often cited research studies confirm this opinion:

2. Make a review request part of your sales process

Over half of shoppers will leave a review if asked to do so – the tricky part can be remembering to incorporate this request into your existing sales and after care process. If you have transactional emails set up already, it should be easy to add a review request option to automate the process. Otherwise, you could use a tablet in store, send emails manually, include a request on invoices or receipts or packaging inserts.

3. Be responsive

The volume of reviews you receive is a local SEO ranking factor – but so too is how responsive you are. You’ll need to get into the habit of responding to reviews quickly and practise this for both good and bad reviews. Not only is responding to all reviews a good thing ranking wise, it also shows customers that their feedback is appreciated.

4. Develop a strategy for dealing with negative reviews

It is inevitable that you will receive a negative review at one time or another so formulate a strategy for dealing with them ahead of time. The number one rule is not to respond in kind or attack the reviewer for their views. If the review is grossly unfair or untrue, most review platforms will have a process for requesting reviews be removed. You will need to prove that the review isn’t genuine however so you can’t take this route for every negative review you receive.

While it can be distressing to receive a poor review, it’s worth keeping in mind that consumers expect to see the odd two or three star review as entirely five star ratings can seem false.

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How Long Does It Take to Start Getting Traffic from the Search Engines?

It’s one of the most common questions that new or would-be webmasters ask, which is understandable given that most Web traffic starts with a search query. Unfortunately, it’s also a question that has no easy answer, not least because it depends on a multitude of factors. One thing is for certain is that it’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not likely to happen within the first few weeks or even months of your website being live.

Submitting Your Website to Google

You can manually submit your website to Google so that it will be instantly added to the search giant’s index, but it will hardly make much difference. Google’s robots are constantly crawling the Internet for new content, prioritising well-established and popular websites over those with minimal content or those that are on new domains. However, Google’s multitude of complicated and largely unknown ranking factors are beyond the scope of this article. What matters is that it will crawl your website automatically, typically within a day or two of it going live. You can also submit your sitemap to the search engines although, again, this doesn’t make much difference. In fact, you can safely ignore submitting your website or sitemap to the search engines.

Sustainability vs. Black-Hat Marketing

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an important part of online marketing, since it considers the fact that the search crawlers don’t work in quite the same way to how humans would. In the broadest sense, SEO concerns making your website more visible to the search robots and making sure that its content and design meets Google’s terms of service. All of this takes a lot of time, typically three to six months, so if any SEO firm tells you that they can get you on the first page of the results in just a few weeks, there are two possibilities: they are either lying, or they use a black-hat link network to deliberately manipulate the search robots.

Black-hat SEO is an extremely risky approach, simply because it’s not sustainable and it breaks all the rules. You may well see some initial success, but as soon as anyone finds out that you’re breaking the rules, your website will quickly be pushed to the back of the search results and possibly even removed from the indexes entirely. The result? An utterly destroyed business reputation with absolutely no visibility in the world’s largest search engine. You might as well declare bankruptcy and forget about ever trying to do business online again. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to increasing search engine traffic.

The Importance of Organic Traffic

The main problem with black-hat SEO is that it doesn’t just try to fool the search engine robots, it also tries to manipulate people into visiting a website that likely serves up unoriginal content offering no real value. It’s the impatient marketer’s way of quickly building up website traffic without giving a moment of thought to the fact that it’s quality that counts, and not quantity. After all, what’s so great about having 10 thousand visitors to your website if there’s not a single conversion among them? By contrast, organic search engine traffic, which is the product of quality content, consists of people who are actually likely to be genuinely interested in your website.

Using Sustainable Marketing to Build a Following

You need to take a long-term approach if you want to adopt a sustainable marketing strategy that will benefit your business in the longer term. There’s a lot more to digital marketing than building backlinks and stuffing your website content with supposedly high-value keywords. There are countless guides on digital marketing out there, but you’ll be using various methods to spread the word about your website, such as choosing suitable long-tail keywords, consistently publishing quality content and getting involved in social media. Paid advertising can also help raise awareness in your blog which can, indirectly, improve your search engine visibility.

Final Words

Every business and online entrepreneur wants to know how to become number one on Google, but it’s important to understand that it never happens quickly. Firstly, and most importantly, you need to have enough quality content to keep your human readers engaged. Secondly, you need to make regular but responsible use out of the wide range of marketing channels available to you. Eventually, and depending on the degree of competition in your industry and, to a lesser extent, how much you invest, you’ll be able to start earning organic referrals from Google. However, don’t expect this to start happening in any less than three months.

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Why Conversation, Not Content, Is Really King

Content is king. It’s a cliché that any Internet marketer has no doubt heard a hundred times and more to the point it’s become downright tedious. Worst of all, it’s not even entirely true anyway. In fact, it entirely fails to address the fundamental way people interact on the Internet. Every marketer knows that online content has become the lifeblood of modern marketing strategies, but not everyone seems to understand that fact that Web content is very different to that designed for print.

Another common cliché in the world of digital marketing is that social media is the new SEO, but there is at least a lot of truth in this. A few years ago, many forms of content, particularly blog posts and short articles, were written primarily for the purposes of boosting search engine visibility. Consequently, much of this content was over-optimised and written purely in an attempt to manipulate search results while offering virtually nothing of value to a human audience.

More recent years have seen the unprecedented growth of social media while, at the same time, search engines have evolved to make the old ways of SEO largely obsolete, hence the birth of the cliché. The reason why conversation, rather than content alone, is king, is a simple one. Without content, you have nothing to promote on social media but, without conversation, you cannot achieve any of the goals of your digital marketing strategy.

The Need to Inspire Conversation

Before digital marketing evolved, brands had far more direct control over their reputations, whereas now they are largely in the hands of consumers. After all, anyone can leave a review online about a company or a particular product or service. Alternatively, they can speak their mind on social media, online forums, blog comments or a variety of other systems. As a consequence, brands now need to operate transparently by humanising their approach to marketing.

The need to inspire conversation is not just about asking for feedback and hoping that it will be positive. With a company’s reputation now squarely in the hands of its customers, marketers also need to be customer relations gurus who can build meaningful relationships with their target audience. Today, the one-sided sales pitch or the stereotypical pushy salesman are dying breeds. What really builds reputations and ultimately drives sales, however, is conversational content.

With conversation, you have the perfect opportunity to show the human element behind your brand, and it’s this human element that immediately sets you apart from the clickbait spammers and other unscrupulous marketers. Having meaningful conversation with your target audience also gives your company immense opportunity to improve its product based on feedback and suggestions. After all, nobody knows better about what they want than your customers themselves.

Conversation doesn’t just concern collecting useful feedback to determine your reputation. It also empowers customers by offering them a chance to get involved in the development of your company. For example, in the video game industry, early access programs allow players to buy a pre-release version of games and become actively involved in their development. Many software and game developers run open betas for the same reason, since it ultimately helps make a better product.

What Is Conversational Content?

Conversational content talks to people rather than at people. It is meant to build rapport with your target audience and empower them, whereas writing solely for the masses often means losing your voice and becoming more like the stereotypical irritating marketer than a thought leader who people actually look up to. Conversational content involves talking more about your listeners and less about your brand while also posing questions to encourage participation.

Although every brand has its own voice, and different styles suit different industries, there are a few largely universal rules when it comes to crafting conversational content. Some of the most important include minimising the use of passive voice, avoiding lengthy blocks of text, keeping your content scannable and using contractions to maintain a more informal approach. Addressing your reader directly is also important, since it empowers them by getting them involved.

People tend to scan through online content rather than read it word for word from the beginning to the end. For this reason, you should keep your paragraphs short and use plenty of subheadings where appropriate. It’s also important to remember that a decent conversation has lots of questions, and using questions for subheadings is particularly effective, since they draw attention to those scanning through an article on autopilot in the hope of quickly finding answers that address their concerns.

It Doesn’t Stop There

Crafting conversational content doesn’t stop as soon as you’ve hit the publish button and shared it a few times on social media. The job of your content is to start the conversation in the first place, but for it to truly thrive, you need to prove yourself to be present and genuinely involved with your target audience. A successful blogger, for example, often spends a lot of time reading through comments and replying to them to the extent they become the leading voice in their community.

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