User Experience (UX) for your Web Site and how important it is

UX or User Experience

First of all what is UX and UX design? Well quite simply this is not only how your website works, but also (and very importantly) it’s what your users need. So not only is there the obvious technical aspect to this part of your site’s design, but there should also be a deep understanding of the market and your users requirements. UX is closely related to CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) in that they both appear at the end of the chain meaning that they can both completely kill any return you might be expecting from building and then ranking your site. You’ve done all the hard work and gotten traffic, but your conversions are poor so something is not right. As discussed recently with CRO it could just be your pricing which is simple enough to fix. This means it has nothing to do with the site and how it works. But let’s say you’re pricing is fine and your conversions from your traffic are low, then surely it has to be something else right? Yes, and it’s almost certainly the way your site works, or what you are or aren’t giving your users along their journey on your site, making them give up and leave.

The main elements that make up user experience (UX)

There are roughly five main areas, some being rather obvious and some not. They are all in sequence too, culminating in the object of your site, which for the purposes of this blog has all been about generating sales or clients for SMB’s (small to medium sized businesses). There is a very good explanation of these elements with a simple diagram here, but broadly speaking they are:

  • Visual Design
  • Navigational Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Content Requirements
  • Site Objective

Lets take a little look at each of these as suddenly things might seem complicated and confusing, let alone technical when in reality they aren’t. We all follow these basic premises most of the time when browsing the web but we just don’t consciously analyse it.

User Experience Elements

User Experience Elements

Visual Design

This is the most obvious. This is how your fonts look, where the text is on the page, how big text is and what graphical and pictorial elements you have. Some of these maybe be buttons, or links to other pages and they may or may not contain instructions. Not all of this is technical and has an affect on your SEO for example, but it will certainly have the biggest impact on your users. For example horrible clashing colours, too much text with no breaks and titles, hard to read text, pics and text placed in silly places that don’t flow will all lead to us leaving a site.

Navigational Design

The way we navigate through a site is the second most obvious part of the chain, and also the second thing we process in our minds when browsing. Say you have found a landing page and it holds your attention and you want to know more, how do you get there? If you aren’t lead or can’t find the way on your own then you have an immediate problem. The menus, text links, buttons, image boxes, headers, footers, site maps and more all allow us to skip to what we want next. Not necessarily whet you might have had in mind with your page content and it’s journey. Everyone of us is different and our patience is now at an all time low (especially millennials) so you have to cater for everyone. It should be easy to navigate through your site. Obviously the bigger the site the more important this is.

Information Architecture

Information Architecture is probably where it starts getting less obvious, but really again, it’s quite simple. Is there the information we require on that page, and is it being fed to us in a way that maximises it, and in the right order? A recipe site is a good example; lets say you have found the perfect recipe for “Spaghetti Bolognese”. The page quite clearly says its a recipe for bolognese, its looks pretty (visual design), has nice big buttons to take you through the steps or find a similar recipe (navigational design) but suddenly you are a few pages in and they are talking about making it and you haven’t seen the list of ingredients and don’t know where they are? Information Architectural fail.

Content Requirements

Content Requirements is where we need more of an understanding of what our clients and users need. This comes from experince and feedback. Its better to cater for the majority rather than leave things out. It’s a delicate balance as you don’t want to clutter your page but also want to please as many people as possible. Good content design means that everything is there, and those who don’t require that part can easily skip without being affected. Its better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it. But knowing these requirements means some feedback (from real users, not just your friends and colleagues) and knowledge of your competitors. Bear in mind, someone ranking well may be an SEO competitor, but if they are making mistakes in this area then you will be simply copying theirs. A site ranking lower can easily generate more business than one who is ranking higher.

Site Objective

The site objective is to generate business, but at the same time it has to fulfil the users requirements too as these two elements go hand in hand. If done correctly you will tick both boxes in one go. At the end of the site journey (whatever route your user takes) there should always be a call to action. I don’t mean just at the end of a page with a contact us button. But it should be constantly there throughout your site in many various small ways. In simple marketing terms it could be expressed as “If value exceeds price, people will buy”. If you are looking for a plumber or a restaurant, we already have a set of preconceived elements we need to be satisfied, so making sure that the value is built along the way can help this. For shopping cart sites it’s fairly simple, but for sites advertising a high street service the site itself doesn’t fulfil their need, the restaurant does so it’s a case of at the end of your site experience not having any more questions and making a decision to go there, book an appointment, visit, sign up etc etc

UX summed up

Its clear that this is quite an in depth topic, and that it has also changed dramatically in a short space of time. Not only have we changed as uesrs, but the technology has changed too. Leaving this aspect of your site unexamined will be costly if your marketing and SEO efforts have been successful as your conversion rate could give you no ROI. For most SMB’s though, even if your site is old, all of these elements are easily rectified and improved and will be worth the time and money if you are generating valuable traffic.

Google Plus (Maps) will help your SEO

Google Plus is important

Some businesses still aren’t set up on Google Plus (also known as Maps, Places and Google My Business) which is pretty much crazy. Often, even if they are set up, its not properly optimised, claimed or even accurate etc. Whilst its fair to say that Google never quite got this whole service right from the start as it’s very confusing, it does have the virtue of being free and can provide traffic and business all on its own. It has become very confusing due to the constant rebranding and it has had an almost never ending stream of changes, hence why so many listings are not optimised correctly. Many users are also confused between a personal page and a business page (like Facebook) except you don’t need a personal page for G+.

In fact, to benefit from maps you don’t even need a website. You can generate customers and business simply by being found in the map results of Google, their Apps and best of all, even in organic search queries that show map results. Quite why some high street businesses have not created a listing is almost baffling. The most obvious benefit if you have a site is that you can have 2 results on the first page if you are lucky, which can obviously double your chances of generating traffic and business.

Google Plus is also a social network, you can post to followers, it caters for groups, it also handles reviews and is connected to all their other services. It requires a simple verification process then you can complete your profile. The better optimised and the more info is in your listing the better your chances of appearing in the organic search.

How does Google Plus help your organic SEO?

There are many ways it can help. Posts on G+ generate their own URL’s and so increase the size of your relative index with Google. Regular posts with traffic, followers and comments can increase your organic rankings by about 15% which can make the difference between page 1 or not, let alone getting into the top 3 positions for the most traffic and highest conversion rates. In its simplest form its a verified business listing which is about as good a link as you can get, after all, its with Google themselves. Your opening hours, pictures and reviews are all easily accessible and so will be found for more search queries.
It’s really up to you how much time you use it and are active on it, but not having the basic listing is simply stupid, especially if you have a web site that ranks or is trying to rank.

seo company in pattaya

seo company in pattaya

 

How does Google Plus and Maps actually work?

G+ is essentially a business listing much like Yellow Pages etc, except that it works live and interacts with Googles own maps. Other directories have added more features and maps on their pages, but you have to be inside them to view locations. Having a G+ account means your directory is completely optimised and integrated into the maps section of the search engine results page, Googles Maps apps on mobile devices and most importantly, you may feature in the organic search results when Google chooses to display local listings. This last section varies a lot but is easily worth the most when it comes to gaining business.
When Google put map results at the top of the organic search, users can’t help but to be drawn to the top and the easy to understand graphic. We also subconsciously trust the organic results as they are not paid for and we know Google is trying to give us the highest relevancy to our search query.
Appearing here will depend on quite a lot of other factors, but it’s also possible to appear with an unclaimed and unoptimised listing.

Claimed and unclaimed makes a huge difference

To maximise your appearance in the organic search results will largely come down to how much competition there is and who got their first. Whilst you may now not have the luxury of controlling those two factors, you can help in many other ways.
Most Digital Marketing Companies are fully aware of the importance will normally include this as pert of their SEO or Social Media strategy. Google caters for admins in case you are worried about someone else using your account.

Many people can be present on G+ as someone has added their business to it so they see their pin when they look at their local area in maps or search their company name. Basically the general public can add a place of interest to maps, but this is an unverified and unoptimised listing that is often inaccurate. You must claim your listing or better still create your own account.

If you have been working on your SEO in any way then you will probably already be listed in other directories. If your name, address and phone number is consistent in these other directories (especially if they are old) then this will dramatically help your chances of increased exposure in the maps.
Completing your profile (by being verified) will also help, as will reviews, posts and any activity showing Google you are active and real. Not just a pin created by a tourist 3 years ago. Basically a verified listing that is active is a lot better, way more trustworthy and important to Google to one that isn’t. Maximising a free service is such a no brainer in todays marketing world, especially when it can benefit your SEO rankings.

Web Site Conversion Rates

This is probably the single biggest statistic for any website that is for a business. It is the final measurable metric that shows how much of your traffic turned into purchases, sign ups, bookings and orders etc. It’s important not to confuse this data with business turnover and other types of web hits that we have previously discussed.
In it’s purest form your conversion rate is where Google analytics follows a user session to the point where they can’t go any further. To calculate simply take the number of conversions and dividing that by the number of total ad clicks to your site. For E-Commerce sites this is easily measurable by placing something in your cart and paying for it. For other sites it’s gaining sign ups or registrations. For others its users downloading trial software etc, but for most other SMB’s its going to be making an appointment.
This last step can easily get unmeasurable as a lot of site owners don’t have automated sites where appointments and services can be booked without human interaction, or they simply don’t have an off the shelf service. What happens at this point is that users will normally call. They can still contact you via email or social but not necessarily from your own site buttons or links.
All these and other reasons make measuring conversion rates with Google analytics (and other calculations) quite difficult. Its still possible to get a worthwhile metric though, normally you will have to measure this manually by looking at traffic increases, sessions that were long but didn’t trigger one of the ways mentioned above, then look at your overall turnover that month. Either way, it’s the most important statistic of your site and should be known by site owners.

So what is the average conversion rate for a website?

You may be surprised to find it’s a lot lower than you might think. Across various large industry sectors, the average landing page (commonly the homepage) conversion rate was 2.35%, but the top 25% are converting at 5.31% or higher with the top 10% have conversion rates of 11.45% or higher (as of 2014). For instance Amazon’s conversion rate as of 2015 was 13% which is still 4 times higher than the national average (for Prime members its a staggering 74%!!!). Rates vary from industry to industry but most SMB’s should be looking at between 2% – 4% and not get misled by stellar companies like Amazon. So what if your rate is lower than 2%?

Conversion Rate Statistics

The main reasons for a low conversion rate

Normally the reasons for a low rate are an ugly, outdated and confusing site. There can be other big factors like your site doesn’t work on mobile devices and things like pop ups, slow page load times, no overall marketing strategy or method can drastically reduce your conversion rate. Finally an obvious killer is pricing.
The good news is that all these factors can in most cases easily be fixed or improved. The first set easily has the biggest effect so lets look at those. Ugly sites just don’t appeal to users the same way as ugly, dirty and outdated shops don’t make us want to come in. If your site is confusing and the “call to action” isn’t clear (the ongoing message in each step of “click here to buy” etc) then users attention spans get stretched as it’s all too easy to go to another site and potentially complete the whole process quicker from scratch.
Missing information can also sometimes be a killer, just having your contact details easily visible on all pages all the of the time can be a factor. Making them clickable, especially on mobile devices) means that users have the option of calling you instead of using the site. Nearly all business owners would say that their conversions are higher when they speak to someone, normally above 75% so getting the phone to ring is an obvious win.
All in all there are many detailed factors and if your rate is low it might also be a combination of the above elements. A good SEO or digital marketing company should be able to find and solve this issue quite easily.

How to improve it with Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

There are easy basic optimisations like line spacing, button placement, font colours, etc that are simple to implement but should really be the basic minimals for modern sites, but it’s surprising how many SMB’s who haven’t been working on their sites don’t have these simple strategies in place.
This can yield instant increases in your conversion rate, especially when your traffic is low.
For true CRO, larger sites may employ split testing (A/B testing) a page against itself and still see one copy of the same page performs better. This is normally time consuming and expensive so only worthwhile if your traffic is high and your site is big with many landing pages.
It’s worth noting that doubling your conversion rate is far easier than doubling your traffic. Any SEO company will tell you that increasing your traffic means gaining much higher rankings (normally into the top 3 positions for high search volume key terms) and or having more terms ranking. Whereas lifting your conversion rate is normally instant, and inherently less costly.
Overall its obvious that this should be monitored regularly and seasonal shifts as well as new competition have to be factored, but not knowing your conversion rate at all is the most expensive mistake you can make.

How do I know how well my website is working for me and my business?

This is the most important question when it comes to being an online business. Many SMB’s unfortunately ask this question when in reality it should be known and constantly monitored. It’s also easy to find out and you can measure year by year performance very quickly to equate to your turnover and valuate your marketing / SEO budget.

How is this done? Well they’re called “Google Search Console” and “Google Analytics”. SC was formerly known as “Webmaster Tools” (or GWMT, GWT) and is a free service provided by Google to control your sites broad search settings. “Analytics” gives data on how it is performing by measuring traffic and users in huge detail if needed.

Google’s amazing free tools allows a broad range of users (site owners, marketing professional, SEOs, Software Developers and App Designers).

It can do many many things not only to help your results but also to measure your sites performance. They are constantly evolving, Analytics can provide some incredibly deep data analysis for large corporate sites who have their own in house teams to analyse what they are doing and trying to achieve and SC can make sure your search settings are optimised for Google’s indexing requirements (submitting a site map, fixing errors and check a robots.txt file).

How do I get these services and how can I use them?

Getting them is relatively easy, an analytics tracking code must be inserted into the site (normally when it was created) and this allows Google to track data from that point onwards. Your web master can tell if you have one and there are some ways to check. If you have never had one you can’t see back in time, only from when you had it on your site. This can be implemented in a matter of minutes and unless you did’t want it, it really should have been done mandatorily by your site creator.

SC is also simple, creating an account and adding your site to it via the verification process which ensures only the right people have access to your info, after all your sites data is personal and can be very valuable to competitors and their marketers.

For most SMB’s though it comes down to two main KPI’s (key performance indicators) which are supplied by Analytics: Traffic and Bounce Rate. These may or may not seem obvious so let’s take a closer look:

Example of Google Analytics Data

Example of Google Analytics Data

Traffic:

Traffic or web site hits is the amount of users visiting your site.  The most important one is the overall amount normally viewed by month. This allows you to see increases and decreases so if you have an active SEO campaign you can see whether it is working or not.

There are 6 main types of traffic, and these are important especially regarding your SEO campaign:

  1. Direct: Users who type your URL (domain name) into a Search Engine, i.e. users who already know who you are
  2. Social: Users navigating from your presence on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc
  3. Email: Users who have followed a link from your email marketing campaign
  4. Paid: Users who clicked on a PPC link like AdWords, Banner Ads and Pop Ups etc
  5. Referral: Users who have actually clicked on a link from another site that has influence (the type of backlink you want), this includes directories
  6. Organic: Users who have found you via a search query with key words

Your traffic can be measured in not only numbers, but over defined periods, how the users found you, where they are in the world, what time of day but also into device type like desktop, mobile, operating system etc meaning you can measure performance accurately spotting trends and targeting your market. It should be obvious that the whole point of an SEO campaign is to generate more “organic” traffic, as this is new users who have almost certainly never seen you before.

Bounce Rate:

This easily misunderstood stat measures a single page session on your site and is measured as a percentage and divided against all sessions. That means a user found your page and didn’t trigger anything else measurable before they left (like going to another page). It doesn’t have anything to do with the time spent on that page (which is commonly explained by marketers and SEO companies). All single page sessions are calculated as 0 seconds. Unfortunately this means that a high bounce rate like 75% isn’t necessarily a bad thing as users may find all they need on your homepage and call you etc. For shopping cart sites it’s an absolute killer and means users are leaving and not buying.

Averagely bounce rates are about 25% to 40% depending on your industry and higher is generally bad but not always. Analytics can delve deeper than you can possibly imagine measuring a users entire session with page times and clicks all tracked.

Measurable Marketing

It’s clear that even these two metrics can be interpreted many different ways and that SC and Analytics are powerful tools that can provide customised graphical reports for analysis. Knowing your basic metrics is important especially if your site has a reason to have traffic by being a business, after all, what is the point of having, being precious or worrying about your site when no one is seeing it or using it? Knowing these main stats will help you make important decisions, especially when it comes to SEO. Your online marketing team should help you with this, but knowing your main 2 stats should be something all business site owners know. They also help with calculating your ROI and conversion rate optimisation (or CRO) which we will look at shortly.

What are Links or Backlinks and how do they help my SEO and Google rankings?

Most site owners will have heard of links and how important they are but not necessarily fully understand what they are or how they work. There are different types of link and each one will have its own individual merits based on many factors making them all unique, even though two may seem identical.

When links are discussed by SEOs they are mainly referring to offsite links (popularity) pointing back towards your site, but there are also internal links within your site’s own pages and these are not back – links, as they do not link back (you see!).

How many links should I have to rank well in Google for my best keyphrases?

Well, there is no one single answer to this as all sites are different, but one thing we do know is that it isn’t just about overall quantity. Some sites rank well with just a few hundred links next to sites with thousands. There are many factors involved and whilst the amount you have is important as it shows activity and age, the most important factor is quality. This alone generates many questions in an ongoing online debate on this subject which has no real ultimate answer. However there are some simple basic rules of thumb. As discussed previously regarding being punished by aggressive black hat spammy link building, the opposite positive thing to do is also true and will help your site and it’s rankings. Constant ongoing link building in a natural way that is varied will never get you punished and slowly over time increase your rankings and traffic. Simply don’t do the same thing over and over again.

Are there different types of links?

Broadly speaking there are a few main categories of link types but all of them can be split into 2 simple categories by Google which are “earned” and “acquired”. The difference here is paid for links and ones that happened naturally on their own. There is obviously a middle ground where you can encourage or suggest people or sites write about you though. The point here is that Google is very good at spotting paid for links and punishing them, and spotting natural links and rewarding them.

The most common link types can be broadly broken down into coming from these types of sites:

Directories / Citations

Editorial / News

Blog Comments / Forums

Blog Posts / Articles

Images / Infographics

Do they all have the same power?

The short answer is no, but as ever it’s a lot more complicated than that. The biggest factor on your links is quality, and by that we mean what sites they are coming from. A link from the BBC is obviously going to be enormously powerful, but there are other factors too. The page the link is on, the traffic that page gets, the number of other links coming from that page, the amount of words and their overall subject and where the link is on the page and what form it takes. A good example would be a site that gets genuine traffic, is all about one subject, is on a page that gets visited and is old, has almost no other links coming from that page and has your link in the middle of all that unique content with anchor text. What is anchor text? Well these are the word(s) that are normally highlighted that when clicked take you to your site. Often you will just see the raw URL link which means it has no anchor text, but you can place that inside any words on a web page and it can be told to be indexed or ignored by search engines. Overall one link from the BBC could be as powerful as 1000 links from various other low quality websites, but bear in mind that almost everyone has some poor quality links. It’s just a case of the balance and whether or not Google will deem them harmful.

For example:

Here is a natural example of keywords matching the anchor text:

“ . . . now you know a bit more about links see how they can help your SEO results and rankings.”

Here is an unnatural way of matching a keyphrase to anchor text:

“ . . . now you know a bit more about links see how the best SEO company in Pattaya can help.”

Whilst the latter is not completely bad in isolation, it’s best to vary it and not keep trying to force the same keywords or exact key phrase matches into your content. You will undoubtedly have obvious ones like click here and visit website which is fine. The point is to make them varied and all of your links should be coming from various realistic sources and sites that aren’t built for black hat manipulation of Google.

Has my website been punished by Google and what can I do?

There is lots of talk mainly by SEO companies about punishments and the threat of possibly being punished by Google for various reasons (like working with another company, doing the SEO yourself etc). In reality, getting punished is quite rare and there are only 2 ways of doing so.

Ranking Punishment

The first is an algorithmical punishment. This simply means that you will suddenly drop in the rankings quite massively over a short period of time (normally in less than 24 hours). If you were ranking strongly to begin with this can lead to a massive slump in traffic and hence new business. The only way of knowing is to be keeping an eye on your rankings and knowing what your key terms are. This punishment is simply Google saying “this is where you should actually be” after it has uncovered an amount of black hat activity (normally bad or high quantity link building). Previous to the start of 2016 Google used to round up all the bad links it spotted and then punish all the offenders overnight about once a year. Since 2016 it has now been punishing links (and content) live, so just as there was a benefit to link building immediately, there is now the equal harm.

Penalty Notice

The second scenario is less common and it’s worse as your entire site can be de-indexed. Basically it won’t even be found in Google for anything. Your site still works but you won’t be able to get to it from Google. Not just for key terms but for the domain name etc. This takes some seriously bad behaviour on an epic scale and you will have been notified with a penalty notice in your Search Console (formerly Web Master Tools). This email will tell you that you have been de-indexed but probably won’t say why specifically. It can be that your site was hacked or has a virus but it’s most common that you have been misbehaving.

Common causes for rankings to drop and sites being punished

The are a few common causes for rankings to drop. One being that your site has been hacked into and used for spammy purposes (having lots of outbound porn or gambling links for example). You will normally be oblivious to this and Google will inform you in it’s message somewhat that action needs to be taken. The other most frequent cause is a large amount black hat SEO activity which most commonly means spammy links (lot’s of them) or bad quality content pages being added (lot’s of these too). Both these things will look suspicious and low quality (spammy) to Google and you can get punished. Links are the more common thing to get punished for as these can be done en masse by low quality SEO companies and are less noticeable by site owners. Bad content needs more time by a webmaster to be added to your site and is more instantly noticeable. Often this content is “spun”, meaning it was taken from original content and re written by machine to essentially create another version the original to make a site larger. This almost never reads well and Google will notice especially if done aggressively.

What to do if my rankings have disappeared

Both these scenarios are completely rectifiable but will take time and some skill, commodities most business owners don’t have much of if their primary revenue stream has been removed.

If you have had a penalty notice then there are steps to follow back through Googles Search Console (GSC, formerly Web Master Tools or WMT’s) to have your site re-examined by Google once the virus or huge amount of spam has been removed (normally by re installing a recent back up of your site) and if it passes then this test then your rankings should be fully restored very quickly with little or no change.

Bad content can be re written, or if there is a lot it can be removed permanently. Links are hard to remove manually and it really does take an awful lot to get punished heavily in a short amount of time, but you can use Google’s disavow tool. This needs to be done by an experienced SEO company as this can be a very risky thing to do. You are basically doing Google’s job for it by telling it what you only think are bad links. Google will then examine these more closely and remove their negative impact if you are correct, but it will also examine the whole site these links come from, all other sites on the same IP address, and all other links on that site leading to more punishments. This is a complex topic and it’s fair to say that most SEO companies would never recommend their users using the disavow tool on their own or without their input. Recovering from a Google ranking drop is almost as complex as gaining the rankings themselves so you should nearly always involve the help of a professional SEO company but it is entirely possible and never permanent.

How to find the right SEO company for you and your business

Due to all the misunderstandings of what SEO actually is, and the bad reputation a lot of black hat SEO companies have generated for the industry, it’s not surprising that many small business owners shy away from having a professional SEO company get them some results. This is perfectly understandable, after all, you’re paying for something you can’t really see, from a company that is quite possibly not in your country, for something that takes time to work and done by people you may never meet! Thats if it works at all. But taking time to understand what it is and what it can do, talking to the right company who takes the time to understand your company and your aims can transform your business. SEO is truly a measurable form of marketing (actually one of the few), so working with a company who shows progress, reports on what they are doing will give you a strong ROI in the long term.

You should start by knowing if SEO can work for you. Whilst this sounds a little contradictory there are a few rare situations where it might not. Results are always achievable, but you have to be realistic in what you can do with your budget. If you want to compete for a hugely searched key phrase that has lots of competition and your site is brand new with little budget for SEO then you are going to struggle. The other main reason why SEO wouldn’t be the best option is if you have been punished either a sudden big drop in rankings or de-indexed and removed from Google completely.

Knowing what to ask and be asked when talking to SEO companies

Your SEO company should have an initial consultation, and by asking the right questions about your site and your business, they should be able to give you a good idea of cost, time and expected results. If they start talking technical jargon at you, don’t ask you any pertinent questions and start quoting prices then you should be very wary.

A good SEO company should talk to you in a clear and easily understandable way, not promise miracles, have evidence of results and preferably not working for your competitors. Essentially there is going to be a lot of trust due to the reasons stated earlier. A lot of site owners like to go local and meet up, specifically to fill that need of trust. But the most local SEO company isn’t necessarily the one with the best results or that is right for you. Normally a referral will help as that is how the best business is always done as you will trust the person giving it.

In this current digital world where you can work with people all over the globe where do you start if not local? The truth is most people don’t search, they are nearly always cold called and will choose from that or they will ask their friends. Simply “googling” best SEO company may or may not get you speaking to the right SEO company.

There are also good questions that you can ask them too, like what current examples do they have of their work? Do they and references you can speak to? Do you report on all your work? Are they working with your competitors? All these factors combined should give you a good idea of the quality of the company you are dealing with.

Other factors in choosing an SEO agency

Cost also isn’t necessarily a major factor. If you have been quoted a cheaper price you have been quoted different work. You’re not buying the same SEO from any individual company like you are buying groceries. At the end of the day you have to use some logic, common sense and a bit of gut instinct like you do with any other business decision and use the points we have made above.

Be very cautious of companies offering “pay on results”: would you operate your business this way? It only incentivises bad practice and black hat techniques. Also there is no such thing as an absolute guarantee, after all, is your SEO company in charge of Google?

How important is a good SEO strategy for your online business?

There is no short answer to this as it depends on how your business currently generates turnover, i.e what other forms of marketing you are doing. If you are lucky your business might rely solely on word of mouth, you have no competition or you are doing other forms of effective advertising.

It’s obvious that not every website needs to rank organically for competitive search terms. Blogs, hobbyists, data, news and many other such sites have no need to rank organically as they are not businesses in the obvious sense. But for small to medium sized businesses (SMB’s) having a website might only be a business card online, again due to the reasons above. But for most, it’s there to help their business and so SEO or some form of online marketing is crucial.

There is also a very misguided perception that you will simply be found by Google simply by having a site! Once upon a time that was true, but as soon as search terms and habits became set, and there were more than 9 other competitors then that obviously stopped. Some site owners think that because you type their company name in and they appear that that is what users will type and they will get business when this is obviously not the case.

The fundamental principles of SEO are the same for everyone, whilst the strategy is not. Results are always achievable, it’s a question of managing expectations to budget and being honest and transparent throughout the whole process. You can see your rankings and traffic rise, and then when you are on page 1 you will see your turnover rise and your business and profits start to grow.

Understanding what SEO is and knowing what it can do for you

We have talked already about misunderstanding what SEO is, but also many business owners have never seen what it can do for them as they have never ranked strongly and gained any business from it. If your site has never ranked and you are not doing any other online marketing then your site is only a resource for the people who you are taking there manually or are already your customers. For many, this is not even worth the expense of hosting, updates, domain name registration and all the time and worry that goes with it. You simply don’t see the amount of business going to your competition, even if they are not as good as you.

For others who have ranked strongly they know the value of being there. An important point to make again is that we are not talking about regular clients you already have, but new customers actively searching for your products and services. It’s new business that increases your profits and helps you grow. And if you keep your customers happy then those new clients will refer you to others. The increase can be quite dramatic and beneficial. Also, these new clients and sales are ones that didn’t go to your competition.

Strongly ranking for multiple key terms that are relevant to what you do is like being open for business 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Organic traffic has no traffic limits, no costs, no time windows and pure trust factor for users as Google and other search engines reputation is at stake to give users only relevant results. Bear in mind that Google is competing with Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo etc, so it’s in their interest also to keep you as a user.

Once you have experienced this almost invisible form of generating clients and turnover you start to understand the value of your site and what it can do. Suddenly the difference between positions on page 1 becomes crucial, as do many of the other finer points of a strategy (like landing pages, competitors, conversion rate etc).

Can I Help My Own Websites SEO?

Now we know the main basic factors that make up two of the three factors that search engines use to rank you. We will go into the different aspects of these two areas in later posts, but first lets see if there is anything you can do to help. One of many questions will be “can I do anything myself?”. Well, the answer is obviously a resounding “yes”. There are many things you can do that aren’t technical and will definitely help, but first lets look at what won’t!

Common DIY SEO mistakes

Work as a team with your SEO company:

So if you are working alongside a professional SEO company remember that the key tactic here is to be part of a team. It’s not the amount you do that will help. It’s what you do. Talk to each other and let them guide you in what you are doing. Do not work independently, after all, you are paying them for their knowledge so carrying on “solo” is obviously a mistake. Being part of a team is bound to lead to better results.

Letting friends help with SEO or Web Design:

Other common mistakes are letting a “friend” who is “good with technical” stuff work on your site (or offsite). Another previously mentioned mistake is that of doing something which is considered good too many times (like blog commenting or social posts). Instead of doing these at a moderate rate and making them unique, instead you copy and paste the same thing over and over telling Google that you are trying to manipulate it. This is one of the main reasons why Google and others sit and wait on what they see to make sure it is considered worthy of helping your site (white hat) and adding to your sites authority as opposed to suddenly it being repeated endlessly and being considered spammy (black hat).

Copying someone else SEO as it worked for them:

This is probably the easiest mistake to make for the uninitiated. Just copying what someone else is doing may obviously seem like a good idea, but unless you know everything that they are doing you will only be copying part of a strategy (which is no strategy at all). It will all come down to the details rather than just hearing the basics of what they did. Every site, history, competition and area of business are unique and so the strategy for your site should be equally as unique. Whilst the fundamental principles and rules of SEO are the same for everyone, the application of these is not.

Buying large amounts of links:

Links work right? They are one of the strongest ranking factors right? What can go wrong? Well, whilst this is all true, unfortunately so is the opposite. This is the most punishable and constantly changing factor in your rankings also. We will look at links in detail in a later post, but for now just don’t buy random links. Ever. Ok?

What you can do to actually help your SEO

There are some very simple but important things that you can do that will boost your domains authority. The main one being Google’s recent favourite of content. “Content is King” we heard Google say for the past few years (as it relentlessly punished links). Adding unique, relevant and engaging content to your site is key. After all, who knows more about your business than you? You might know how to optimise this content and some of it might compete, but it’s still adding rather than taking away.

The next most helpful factor is if you are good at social media which sends “social signals” to search engines (like tiny beacons saying that you are active and important rather than static and possibly out of business) then you can take sole charge of this area, letting your SEO team concentrate on the factors that contribute most highly towards your rankings.

We’ll look at the details of how content, links and the other major factors work soon which will help increase your ability to help your own SEO.

Good and Bad SEO Strategies (Black Hat and White Hat)

So know we know all the factors that search engines use to determine your sites rankings across all the different key phrases and individual key words. This overall worth that search engines weigh up is known up as “authority”, or what has now become more commonly known as “Domain Authority” thanks to large online SEO resources like MOZ. Again, to be clear, MOZ’s DA (domain authority) is not used by Google and they have stated that they do not factor in MOZ’s DA as part of their algorithm, after all, when you think about it, Google have their own DA: It’s called their ranking algorithm! Lets also take a quick look at an explanation of MOZ’s DA:

Domain Authority

This is taken from Google’s SERP and the key word here is highlighted in grey: “predicts”. MOZ is simply taking an educated guess at a sites ability to rank. These guesses have now spread to whether your site is penalised, an individual pages authority as well as traffic for an individual key term.

The truth is that all these are a useful guide at best. Exceptions to the rule can be found everywhere so it’s important to not take these guides too seriously, especially as Google does not factor them in as they are already hidden inside its very secret algorithm which MOZ and equivalents are simply trying to reverse engineer to sell their services to SEO consultants and SEO companies etc. The point is that traffic is so valuable that everyone is trying to guess what works and what doesn’t, hence why there are a lot of different techniques both good and bad.

Black Hat and White Hat SEO Strategies

But how does Google etc tell the difference between good and bad content and links? You might think that all of it would be good, but like almost anything in life it can be manipulated and fraudulent. Why? Because there is something to gain: traffic. The whole point of being online for most businesses or individuals is to gain traffic. SEO has become a much maligned industry, and rightly so. Not only are people confused as to what it is (as we saw in the start of our last post) but they also don’t know how it works, let alone are aware that bad practices exist that can harm your site. A lot of so called “SEO companies” have spammed their way to results only for their clients to later get punished. Google over time learns all manipulative strategies and then removes their beneficial elements from your domains authority. It is constant battling manipulation and moving the goal posts accordingly.

There are two different kinds of SEO practice, black hat (manipulative and cheating) and white hat (organic and natural). As in real life, cheating sometimes works, but Google is very clever, and your manipulative past can catch up with at any time just like law in real life. So there is obviously only one practice thats of any real use long term. So how do I know or tell the difference as a business? Well, trust and transparency on the part of your SEO company is one, if you are doing this yourself then the other is common sense. If it looks bad or low quality then it probably is.

A confusing thing is that doing something good once, is beneficial. But doing it over and over again is not. It’s not an easy task, but if you use common sense and aren’t trying to deceive Google and do things naturally you will be building some authority to your site over time.

So there are things that you can do to help and maximise your efforts in a co ordinated way with your SEO company or consultant. We’ll look at those next time.