SEO Checklist for New Websites – Great Video from Rand Fiskin @ SEOMOZ

January 22nd, 2012 by Peter Cullen

What Rand talks about…
  • Accessibility
  • Keyword Targeting
  • Content Quality + Value
  • Design Quality, User Experience (UX) + Usability
  • Social
  • Link Building

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Some SEO myths dispelled by Google’s Matt Cutts

January 11th, 2012 by Peter Cullen

- Too many sites on the same server – problem for SEO – how many sites is too many?
- Including the same java script on the same site – is this an issue?
- Launching a new site in a new country – what’s best practice for large websites?
- Google Images and indexing technology – anything new?

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Search Engine Keywords – Simple technique for finding keywords for your business.

September 27th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

One of the most mis-understood and important tasks when it comes to marketing your business online through ‘organic’ channels is keyword selection.

Businesses tend to have a very one dimensional view of what keywords they should be targeting and tend to think in terms of what they already know. The most obvious sign of this is businesses using their own language when it comes to promoting their services and products.

Another limitation in thinking, is the medium they are using to market through, i.e. traditional search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Let’s take an example of an IT company targeting the UK market. How would this company start thinking about the keywords they need to target?

The introduction of Google Instant has probably changed where I would recommend starting to look for keywords to target. Google Instant is effectively the latest keyword suggestion tool. When a searcher is using Google with Instant turned on, they see the results as they type. Although now backed up yet with hard data, I believe the knock on impact on this functionality is that searcher will be much more likely to use the ‘Scroll To Search’ and auto suggestion feature, much more that they have up to now.

If you start with the basic keyword ‘IT Companies‘, type this into Google (with Instant turned on). You’ll see that you are given several options in the ‘Scroll To Search’ drop down list, see the image below:

Example of Scroll To Search in Google Instant

Google Instant 'Scroll to Search' Example

You can see that there are some examples listed by Google. Just by typing in ‘IT Companies’ you can see that Google is giving users some keyword¬†suggestions, all¬†related¬†to geographic locations.

So, first point to note, see what Google returns with the ‘Scroll To Search’ auto-suggestion. As these keywords are related to locations, Google Local search is going to be very important for IT companies.

If you click on one of the sugegstions above you’ll get Google Local results on the SERP, as below;

Google Local Search Listings Example

Google Local Search Listings Example

The next technique you can try out for using Google Instant as a keyword tool is to go through the alphabet to give you some keyword suggestions. The example below shows you how to use Google Instant to go through the alphabet to get new keywords to target.

So, that’s how you use the Google SERP as a keyword tool.

Have you used Google Instant as a keyword suggestion tool? What results have you being getting?

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Google Instant – Massive Impacts on SEO, PPC, Searcher Behavior??

September 9th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

Google has just launched their latest UI update, called Google Instant. What are the implications of this latest roll out for both those involved in providing search related services (SEO, PPC, Social Media) and for businesses dependent on Google for life giving traffic?

First of all, what is Google Instant?¬†As Johanna Wright, Director of Product Management¬†appropriately¬†says, ‘this is not a screen shot story’ ¬†so the video below gives some examples of what it is.

In summary there are three components to the new functionality;

  • Instant Results
  • Predictions
  • Scroll To Search

Instant Results give you, er well, instant results – literally as you type! Amazing stuff. The second component is that as you type Google is trying to figure out your intent and tries to complete the search for you while you are typing – again truly¬†awesome! The third component is ‘Scroll to Search’ where Google gives you keyword phrase options that are¬†similar¬†to what you are typing. You really need to check out the video to see this in action. As Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Product and User Experience at Google says, ‘this is search at the speed of thought’.

If you want to turn instant results off, at the far right hand side of the search box you can turn Instant ‘off’.

So, if you ‘ve checked this out yourself or have viewed the video above you’ll have seen just how cool this¬†functionality¬†is. With change though comes disruption and this, I believe, is going to have a¬†dramatic¬†impact on businesses that live off Google traffic and also for the search professionals who work on behalf of their clients and employers, and maybe even on Google itself!.

From the video above you can see that page two of the search results is now effectively redundant, not only that, but results below the fold are also now¬†seriously in¬†jeopardy, as users can just keep retyping in the search box to get the¬†results¬†they need.¬†¬†From what I’ve seen, ¬†page one is about to end just above the fold and for different screen resolutions and monitors and browsers that is probably going to mean page one ends from about position five or six.

What about keywords and the keywords business target and SEO professionals optimise for? As the new Google Instant functionality continually gives the searcher feedback in terms of either predicting the search query and/or giving the Scroll to Search suggestions, users are more likely to use this functionality to search on longer tail keywords.

This means that the SEO strategy for websites needs to start looking at targeting more and more long tail keywords. I believe that as users get more and more used to this new functionality, more and more searches will ultimately be completed using longer and longer keywords phrases.

As for PPC, the bidding on keywords is natually going to be heavily impacted if searchers are no longer just searching on ‘mortgages’, but are now getting suggestions for ‘mortgage¬†calculators’ and ‘mortgage¬†rates’. You see my point, the more generic the keyword, the less value it has for the searcher ¬†and the better Google gets at predicting the searchers intent, the less¬†likely¬†a one word or even two keyword phrase will ever be¬†actually¬†searched on again.

For an impression to be counted in terms of PPC, as ad must be showing for at least 3 seconds on the SERP.  But search at the speed of thought is going to make this 3 seconds seem like an awful long time. So if less impressions are the direct result less searching, then surely this is going to lead to less clicks and less clicks leads to less revenue for Google.

One of the stated goals of  this new functionality is to make search faster Рthere can be no question that it achieves that goal and hats off to the tech guys at Google for conquering this tough engineering task.

However, if you make search faster and make it more intuitive, then the logical extension of that is that searchers find what they are looking for faster and hence need to search less. Less searches means less impressions, less clicks, less revenue.  I think whereas before smaller companies were not bothering competing for the small, generic, costly  keywords, they will now face increased competition from larger brands looking to capture the market share of clicks for the long tail keyword searches. This is going to drive up the cost of clicks for longer tail keywords and drive down the cost of smaller more generic keywords.

It’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out and what impacts it’ll have on searcher¬†behavior¬†and¬†Google¬†revenues!

What about you? Have you seen the new Google Instant?

How do you think it will impact on the SEO community and businesses?

Do you think Google may have been more focused on the technology and user experience than on the business of search?

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From Link Building To Link Marketing – An Evolution In Strategy…

September 7th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

What’s the difference between Link Building and Link Marketing and why could an understanding of the difference make a big difference to your bottom line?

There is a very good overview of what link marketing might look like from Eric Ward over at Search Engine Land.

What do you think about when it comes to link building? Asking other websites to link to your site, posting comments on blogs and¬†forums? Basically trying to¬†artificially boost the authority of your website. OK, so the comments and the forums posts may be legit, but these techniques have a very high appeal to spam artists and it’s contributing to more and more bloggers setting the no-follow¬†attribute.

Google wants you to attract links to your website naturally, by providing something useful that other web sites owners feel compelled to link to , e.g. your content, a cool app, snappy video, ¬†inspiring/funny images…etc.

Businesses should continue to focus on this type of link building. It’s important to develop reasons why other websites should link to yours. There’s a great post from Rae Hoffman, asking 11 top link building experts about their insights into link building.

So what about link marketing? What is it and is it a easier way to enhance your bottom line that  traditional link building?

Link Marketing is about getting visibility for your business in ways that are more akin to guerrilla marketing than link building.

An obvious example (now) from the Eric Ward article above is to cross market your business with another similar business. Let’s use a different, the site http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk offers people the opportunity to find¬†accommodation from¬†property¬†owners directly.¬†¬†What happens when you¬†inquire¬†about a property? You get the confirmation email. What if this email contained a link, with an endorsement, to car hire firm?

At the moment the Owners Direct site already links to some card hire sites, but they don’t actively endorse them? Why not, surely this is a great link marketing opportunity for both sides. A car hire firm, say Budget car hire gives you a link to the Owners Direct sites when you book a car and visa versa – a match made in heaven?

I’ve¬†seen¬†some comments along the lines of…this type of link marketing is difficult in the real world as companies are always wary of losing customers or harming their reputation – crap! This type of creativity in marketing is and should be regarded as more business development that marketing. Think about your own company – what companies do you know who are complimentary to what you do? Would a link in their thank you emails and newsletters bring benefit to both companies?

The bottom line with link marketing is that you want your website URL to appear in places where people find it both useful and natural to want to contact you.

What about another example РYou go to the supermarket and buy some food, you pay at the checkout and get your receipt. Have you ever looked at the back of those receipts? Why is it only supermarkets that do that? Any business with  a POS has the capacity to strike up agreements to promote complimentary businesses on the back of their receipts. You have to get creative with this stuff.

Ok, so where do your customers hang out? What’s your target demographic? Maybe it’s moms with young children. Maybe you’re selling back to school books. What’s a creative way to get in front of this target audience? By leveraging the power of being linked with another business, one that is¬†complimentary¬†to yours?

What if you developed a link marketing strategy with a company that sells schools uniforms? Every time a mom buys x amount of schools books from you, maybe there is a discount printed on your receipt or their thank you email  - the discount is for buying X amount of uniforms from your partner compay and visa versa.

Link marketing does not replace link building, but complements it. I think link marketing and guerrilla marketing are very similar and are only limited by your imagination.

What about your experiences?

What unusual tactics have you used to gain links to your business?

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Getting ‘follow’ links to your website – Is it getting harder?

September 6th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

With the likes of Twitter and Facebook having the ‘no follow’¬†attribute¬†set on their website, and more and more bloggers setting the attribute to avoid getting spam comments, how are you to get those all important follow backlinks to your website?

This was the question posed to Matt Cutts over on the Google Webmaster Central Channel recently. Matt goes how to describe how to get follow link to your website naturally ¬†- as usual there is no great surprise in the answer – have a listen below…

Surprised at the answer?

How do you go about getting follow back links to your website?

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Determining User Intent – What are people really searching for?

September 5th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

When a searcher types in ‘bicycle rack’ are they looking for the type that goes on your car, or are they looking for the one that you can lock your bike to when out and about? What do people mean when they say, ‘I’m looking for a bike rack?’

We were recently asked, ‘Is there any tool available that will tell me what a searcher means when they type in an¬†ambiguous¬†search phrase?’

As far as I’m aware there are no such tools available. How can you know the intent of a searcher? The question was asked in the context, what keyword should we¬†optimize¬†our site for? Is it possible to get a good ranking for both types of keywords, i.e. ‘bike rack’ and ¬†’bicycle rack’ and should we be optimizing for ‘cycle rack’ also?

First things first, if any one knows of a tool that gives you an of understanding of user intent against certain keywords I’d love to hear from you.

In a situation like this, if you break down the navigation of your website to include all the different variations of a similar keyword and have similar content for each of these variations are you likely to get hit with a duplicate content?

In this case we suggested that they pick one of the keywords as their main target keywords and then have sub categories that target the additional keywords, something like:

bike rack

|__ bicycle rack

|__ cycle rack

The key to getting good rankings for all these variations is of course to start building really good, on topic, back links into the individual pages. I would suggest to try to steer clear of your normal link building campaign and develop a more creative link marketing campaign. Add in some video, audio, images to attract links to the different pages.

Targeting similar and ambiguous keywords can be tricky. A good way to see some insight might be to have a look at how the search engines handle such a query Рwhat pages do they return.

Enter ‘bike racks’ into Google and you get results that are very much focused on bike racks for cars, but you’ll also notice that some of the pages returned are targeting both car racks for bikes and bike racks that go in the ground. These pages can be very valuable in terms of spying on your competitors to see where they are getting their¬†back links¬†from and how they have¬†optimized¬†their content.

You can also use this competitor¬†analysis¬†to see what keywords are being used. For example, on one of the sites returned for ‘bike racks’ the words ‘commercial’ is used quite a lot to really¬†differentiate¬†and clarify the¬†meaning¬†of the page, i.e. ‘commercial¬†bike rack’, or ‘commercial racks’. Some of your potential customers may be using these¬†additional¬†keywords to clarify their intent when searching.

So, what about you? Have you had issues targeting ambiguous keyword phrases? How did you solve the problem?

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20 Questions Marketing Managers should be asking about their Online Marketing Strategy

September 4th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

It’s very easy to get caught up with getting a website launched and agreeing on the content, any content, just to get the site launched. After a site is launched many companies get caught up withe bottom line numbers, i.e. how much revenue are we making from the website in the case of an E-commerce site, or for a service driven site, the typical stats are how much traffic did we get this month or what what our rankings this month.

Getting too focused on these metrics will probably result ¬†in long term¬†disappointment. I’ve listed 20 questions below that any marketing manager ¬†should feel at ease in answering, and that will provide a whole new level of understanding about a company’s online strategy and performance.

This greater questioning and understanding of your online marketing strategy will  lead to making ongoing changes and improvements that positively impact on the ROI for any business engaging online.

1. Where are our customers coming from? What is our customer acquisition strategy?

2. What is the conversation rate on our website?

3. What are the goals for our website?

4. Are we actively tracking our goals with our analytics package?

5. What keywords are driving the highest revenue/goals?

6. What is our content strategy?

7. How do we plan to build the authority of our website, linking building or link marketing?

8.  Where do we get our traffic from? Are we getting traffic from sources that is of low value?

9. How much do we pay for our traffic? Should we be paying more/less?

10. Do we have a social media strategy? What is it? Does it reflect our company brand?

11. Do we have an email marketing strategy? Do we measure the success of it? How? What software do we use?

12. What is our web channel development strategy? How do we build partners/reseller online?

13. What is our online advertising strategy?

14. Who is responsible for the website? IT, Marketing, Sales?

15. Do we have a data back-up strategy? What happen if our website goes down? Who do we contact?

16. How does our website perform? Do we have bandwidth issues with our hosting company or with the plan we are on?

17. Who registered our company’s domain name? Who is getting¬†notification¬†that it’s about to expire?

18. Are we targeting the right keywords on our website? How do we know? What keyword software was used?

19. Who are our keyword competitors online? Are they different to our high street competitors?

20. Are we doing any A/B or multivariate testing to improve our conversion rate? If not why not? Is this type of testing it suitable for our business?

Only 20 questions, there are of course a lot more.

What about your online marketing strategy?

What questions would you add?

What questions would you expect your marketing manager to know the answer to?

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Blekko – New Search Engine – Quick Review

July 29th, 2010 by Peter Cullen

Quick review of the new Blekko search engine.

Have you had a chance to check it out yet?

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Are Search Engines More Trustworthy than Social Media?

July 22nd, 2010 by Peter Cullen

The rise in conversations about Search and how Search is evolving are growing. The debate focuses on whether Google will be superseded by Facebook and will Social Search take over from traditional search?

The core argument for me is, are searchers more likely to trust a faceless search engine or is your average searcher more likely to trust their social graph, i.e. family, friends and colleagues?

Some empirical insight into this question comes from the recently published Digital Influence Index June 2010. The report found that…

Internet users tend to look at many sources when seeking information, not relying on one source, apparently believing the truth is something average to the information  found on those outlets

The report goes onto say…

While most Internet users look to individuals and their experiences in online conversations and Internet postings, they do not trust everything they read. In fact, they tend to reply more on information from government or company sources than on what is posted by other users

What can be taken from this insight? I guess the first question to ask is where do people find our about new things today? Do they search for new products/services by asking their social graph or do they do the digging themselves?

As the quote above indicates people use several different sources. This question of ’sources’ and the impact a source has on an individuals decision was further investigated in the Digital Influence Index report. The graph below shows how sources of information have an influence on consumers making decision.

What sources of information do people use online?

Information Sources - Social Search vc Search Engines

In 7 out of 9 categories, a search engine was the most trusted source of information.

Look at the numbers for Social Networking Sites in the chart.

So we know that Facebook has just topped the half a billion mark in users, but as the meteoric rise of social media continues unabated, the question that should be asked is,

…As Social Media companies grow and become more of an influence in our everyday lives, is there a similar rise in trust people have in the users on these systems, or are more and more people piling in to be part of the¬†phenomenon¬†without really understand what they are becoming part of?…

Let’s take a step back.

What always surprised me about Google and it’s rise to search dominance, was the fact the most people (i.e. those outside the online marketing industry) always put a lot of trust and confident in the faceless search engine results page.

Ordinary people trusted the results that were delivered to them as an independent measure of value.

When Google talks about it’s algorithm it uses words like trust, authority, reputation, page rank, high quality. Matt Cutts and his team are constantly looking to evolve the Google algorithm in terms of putting more and more emphasis on quality, the¬†independent¬†quality of their organic search results is what makes Google Google. Check out the short 3 minute video below showing Matt talking about this topic.

Now, back to Social Search. There can be no question as to the rise in popularity and reach of social media, what is in question is what information sources do people trust?

Do users on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn trust their social graph? This question for me is more about the fundamental nature of people and less about the functionality of any particular social media site.

Ask yourself the question, and be honest, do you trust people you are connected to online? If you’re like me, you probably don’t really know most of the people you are connected with, sure you may know them in a casual business sense, but would you trust them? Would you trust them to give you a truly independent¬†view of a new product or service you are checking out? Maybe?

According to the data returned by Digital Influence Index, if you’re from the US, there is a 15% chance that you trust information that is provided by other internet users. Compare that to a 27% chance that you trust information that is¬†provided¬†by companies and a 26% chance that you trust¬†information that is provided by the government.

Trusting Web Information Sources

Trusting Web Information Sources

Think about a recent business event you were at, a face to face event. Think about the people you met, had a conversation with, exchanged business cards. You later connected with that person on LinkedIn and are now following them on Twitter. You’ve exchanged a few tweets and posted a couple of comments ( that were replied to) on their blog. Happy days, you have a new member of your social graph.

Question: Do you trust that person?

Do you trust them to give you an¬†independent¬†analysis of something you’re working on? Assuming you’re not paying them of course, would you trust them?

This, in essence, is the key question that needs to be answered when people debate how social search is going to take over from traditional search. Do you want your social graph to dictate what you see, or are you looking for a truly independent view of the world, a view that is not influenced by the unavoidable bias (positive or negative) of human nature?

What are your feelings about this? Do you trust your social graph? Do you trust search engines?

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