Category: SEO

How To Write Better Content For SEO

Content writing is a specific skill, and not everyone can do it. Even less great writers can also turn their abilities to search engine optimisation. If you have the formula for writing great, engaging content that’s also optimised to get your site found online, you’re quids in.

But how can you get to the point where you can comfortably balance these objectives and produce something great? Here are a few important tips which could help you reach that stage.

Keep people on your page

This is the number one thing you have to be doing.

However you do it, keeping people on your site for longer and maintaining their interest is crucial for writing like an SEO professional. This is because bounce rates have an impact on positions, and keeping people on your site for several minutes on average could get your ranking significantly higher than if people tend to leave after only a few seconds.

You might do this by creating a clear, simple structure for your writing. Huge paragraphs or vague, meandering articles will cause people to click away quickly. Very short sentences and paragraphs can help to keep things moving.

Provide context

A search engine needs to be able to understand what your page is about in order for it to rank for desirable keywords and queries.

This might not be that clear from just one or two words, so rather than repeating your main phrases over and over with generic fluff in between, you need to be clear on what context you’re talking about your subject in. This might mean including many more related search terms, questions and answers, so that Google can see a clear link.

Use unique search queries

If you want to get to the top of a search engine results page, there is one great way to do this: come up with a target query that hasn’t already been taken.

Think outside the box with this one, starting with your own brand or business name. This should be unique so that you can rank at the top for your own name. If you can achieve that, you know people will find you when they hear about you, and all your advertising efforts will eventually help generate natural organic traffic.

Beyond this, start coming up with unique names for any content you want people to find. Give unique and snappy names to your products, services and even ideas that you share. Come up with article titles which answer questions that haven’t been answered, even though people may be searching for help on the matter.

Take a specific online course

Still struggling to balance all your requirements when writing?

The best way to learn a new skill is usually to be taught by an expert. You can do this online, often for free, by enrolling in a course where lessons are delivered in video format and supported by downloadable resources. A writing course could be exactly what you need to polish up your skills.

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Diagnose Your Site’s SEO Problems

You might have had great positions for some of your target keywords up until now, but suddenly things may take a turn for the worse at any moment. Most professional SEO specialists have been there before at some point. It can be very frustrating not knowing why you were suddenly considered less worthy of ranking after you followed all the best advice perfectly. To help you diagnose sudden drops in positions, here is a checklist to run through. Hopefully you can identify one of these potential problem areas as something that applies to your site, and work on it quickly for a swift recovery.

1) New linkage – Even links from good quality websites can temporarily interfere with rankings if the number of them popping up at once appears suspicious. Unnatural links are a dangerous sign as far as Google is concerned, and it will sometimes act fast to penalise a site if your links are sending the wrong message. If you didn’t deliberately get any new links, use a backlink analysis tool to check if there is something you missed.

2) Lost links – Old links disappearing can have even more of an impact on what’s going on with your new links. A handful of top quality links can be enough to support great positions on Google, so sometimes it’s a case of putting too many eggs in one basket. Keep an eye out for disappearing links, and if anything major is gone, work fast to try and replace it.

3) Algorithm updates – There are usually new developments on the horizon when it comes to Google’s automatic ranking system. The algorithms that power it are gradually changed to accommodate new ranking factors, and this will logically affect rankings. Check if you missed a major update which means your website is now considered outdated in some way, or if it’s just a temporary glitch.

4) Manual penalties – If your website has been classed as a problem by Google in terms of suspicious linkage or other misuse of the ranking system, you could be subject to manual penalties that stop you ranking. Any breach of policy can result in this, so ensure this is not the reason before spending time working on SEO factors.

5) Technical problems – Sometimes Google may be getting inaccurate or incomplete information about your site due to some obscure issue with your website’s technical aspects. For example, a server problem could be responsible for problems with caching or crawling. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of these kinds of issues so you will need to communicate with your tech support team.

 

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Why “Black Hat” SEO is Still A Problem

SEO in general is not exactly encouraged by Google, because in essence it’s a way of playing the system and presenting your website in a certain way to exploit the ranking algorithm for profit. On the other hand, so-called “white hat” SEO is not really an issue because it’s mostly focused on delivering a better user experience. Whether this is done with the best intentions or not, it will usually have the same results. Google is happy as long as your website is becoming more user-friendly and providing better answers, because this continues to support its own traffic and revenue streams.

However, “black hat” SEO is the flipside. This is what some people immediately think of when it comes to search engine optimisation, and it has been blamed for giving the whole industry a bad name. SEO was originally much easier than it is today, since Google was much simpler, and this was especially true if you were happy to use underhand techniques. In fact, many companies offering SEO to clients still employ some truly bad strategies based on “black hat” advice, and a lot of it doesn’t even work on Google at this point.

Some outdated strategies may be honest mistakes, but in a lot of cases they appear to have been done deliberately to mislead Google. Many of these were once technically acceptable, at least until Google figured out how to detect and punish these crimes against search.

For example, keyword stuffing was once a sure way of getting your webpage noticed for given terms, but it pretty quickly became a sure way of getting penalised and marked as spam. Unfortunately, many website owners still seem to think it’s a brilliant idea, and cram their content with as many instances of the same keyword as they can, before wondering why their positions may be lower than a site with actual quality content.

Hiding keywords on a webpage is an even worse variation on this. By formatting text in such a way that it isn’t visible to users, but it still appears as content in the code of the page, the idea is that search engines will pick up on the keywords being used without having to go to the trouble of weaving them seamlessly into the writing. Since this is inherently misleading, Google started picking it up and penalising it long ago, but for many black hat SEO specialists this is still one of their main strategies, which puts their clients at risk.

Unnatural link building is also a major black hat technique still very much at work today, despite the increasing sophistication of Google’s algorithm and its ability to detect it. Some SEO companies will put very little care and attention into their link construction, basically using their own network of spam sites to link out to their clients, or even placing links on the clients’ own sites to each other. This all gets messy quickly and rarely yields good results.

There are many more issues with SEO techniques that are far from up to date, and in fact we can think of too many to go into! Suffice to say that underhanded techniques are still being sold to clients and used on many websites inappropriately, but we can expect to see Google continue to tighten up on these offenders.

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Things That May Affect your Organic Traffic

If you have paid any attention to insights and data analysis based on your website traffic (perhaps using official Google tools like Analytics), you will rarely find that your organic traffic is completely stable, or improving at a constant rate. In almost every single case you will see random jumps and drops at least every now and then, and it can be hard to figure out the context behind these sudden changes.

Fluctuations in organic traffic may be normal, but they are always caused by something, it’s just a case of determining whether that factor is within your control or not. If it is, you may need to act fast to rectify a problem and prevent further loss of potential traffic. Here are some examples of common issues that might explain sudden dips in traffic.

1) Indexing – To appear on Google’s search results pages, a webpage needs to be indexed. You can stop pages from being indexed, for various reasons, and sometimes this option may be enabled accidentally. A noindex tag or your robots.txt file may be to blame if your pages are missing from Google’s database.

2) Updates – If you have made major changes on your website, Google may detect this and take some time to go through the process of re-indexing the affected pages according to their new content. Expect some fluctuation in organic positions and traffic following a big overhaul of any page. It’s especially important when making updates to make sure you don’t break valuable links (setting up redirects can preserve these).

3) Google – The main search engine we’re usually all focused on is constantly making changes of its own. It ranks every website for every keywords based entirely on algorithms and calculations (with some rare exceptions), so when these algorithms are changed the rankings may be disrupted for a while. The engineers behind these changes tend to test new ideas quietly in the background, and at first the effects can sometimes be too extreme and require fine tuning. This could explain sudden changes in your organic traffic.

4) Competitors – You can’t control your competition within your market, however much you would love that power. Even if you are doing everything right in terms of SEO, someone else with a higher budget and a better website may spring up ahead of you out of nowhere. Unfortunately this may have a temporary (or permanent) effect on your own traffic, depending on how quickly you can react.

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Are Links Still Vital for SEO?

Google is regularly introducing new factors into its ranking algorithms, and in recent years a few newer elements have been rumoured to have a huge impact on search results for the majority of users. However, a few of the top factors have stayed the same  since the search engine’s inception, and show no signs of changing. But are links still one of these? Are there any SEO services that can help?

Historically, the more links a website has pointing to it, the better it ranks. This has been the case since the beginning of search engines, as it’s one of the clearest ways to automatically calculate the relevance of a web page. Since Google’s algorithm is all mathematically determined by crawling sites and looking at aggregate data, it’s easy to see why counting the number of links was quickly adopted as an important method.

Having said that, the sheer number of links is not the only factor at work here. Quality is equally important, if not more so, since just a few high quality links can have a huge impact on overall ranking. This contributes to organic traffic and the total success of a website. Meanwhile, hundreds of low quality links can do nothing to boost SEO scores, and just a handful of particularly bad links can have a noticeable negative effect on rankings. So how can an algorithm assess quality in a similar way to a human?

Firstly, there is the traditional keyword-based way. Ranking for certain keywords is supported by those terms being mentioned alongside links to the target site. If the content on these websites is all somehow relevant, that helps too. The authority of the domain will also have an impact, as well as the chain of links going to that site, and so on.

In more recent years, new additions to Google’s calculations such as the Rankbrain element can be used to determine more intuitive connections between words, phrases and their meanings in popular colloquial use, so Google is actually starting to understand the context behind simple words based on other information it can gather. All this means that links are becoming more important than ever, since search engines are getting more “intelligent” through machine learning which helps them decide on the quality level of those sites, leading to their rankings changing accordingly.

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What Would We Do Without Local SEO?

Although a few short years ago, Google was only in its early stages, it may be hard for us to imagine now. At one point, there were many different search engines still in the game. Of course, there still are now, but none have anything close to the monopolistic power of everyone’s favourite search giant. We feel like it knows us personally, and a lot of that is down to developments in the last few years, with an increasing emphasis on local and personalised results, plus the additions of many different modules and widgets on search pages that link to Google Maps and try to connect us with the most geographically suitable answers to our queries.

But what if we suddenly went back to a time when all of this didn’t exist? It wasn’t really so long ago when Google would basically return the same results for anyone searching on it, regardless of their precise location or even what country they were in. Local competition in terms of SEO is so fierce now, imagine what it would be like without that specificity? Not only that, but imagine how difficult it would be for search users to make informed decisions! It would basically become impossible for certain industries, including…

1) Healthcare – Currently if you were to search for a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy, you would almost certainly be presented with a local map widget labelling all your nearest options. If these businesses were not optimised to appear on Google properly, an emergency situation could become a lot more serious.

2) Jobs – Looking for jobs is almost a complete waste of time if you have no way of narrowing it down by location (amazing you will still find careers services online where this is the case). Currently Google will assist with this, but if it didn’t, you’d almost certainly miss all the best opportunities and waste a lot of time.

3) Food delivery – This is something many of us enjoy using Google’s local search powers for. If you look for just the word “pizza” in any given location you will usually see red pins appearing all over the place, for example. Without this, it would be frustrating trying to find somewhere that’s within easy reach or delivers to you, plus you have the issue of comparing user reviews to find the best option.

All this information is supplied through Google’s intelligent local pack, thankfully. But it is worth thinking about what would happen if we didn’t have the search features we now take for granted. What will be the next development that Google sees success with and we start to feel like we couldn’t live without?

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Facebook’s New Local SEO Tool

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Facebook has been an important platform for local businesses since it exploded in popularity over the last decade. Pages can be designated as local business pages, which allows you to add details about the industry you’re targeting, plus specific details like your opening hours, contact details and so on. This is all very helpful for people visiting your page, and a Facebook page that’s filled in to a high standard can rank well on Google search result pages.

However, until recently people weren’t that likely to find your page within Facebook. Its search function still leaves something to be desired, since it’s trying to take into account people, pages, groups and more while heavily customising the results shown on a personal basis. Facebook business pages also feature customer reviews, but since there was no centralised place to see them all you would be unlikely to use the social network to shop around for different businesses in your area.

Now Facebook has rolled out a tool which aims to tackle this problem, although it’s in the early stages of development according to their spokesperson and it hasn’t had any promotion yet. People have stumbled across the new area, Facebook Professional Services, when trying to optimise their pages. It effectively functions as a business directory, and is being interpreted as an attempt to muscle in on the market for review-based business listing websites such as Yell and Trustpilot.

The system is fairly simple at the moment. You can search for a business or service you’re interested in, but for your query you are limited to a predefined list of options. These are the categories that business pages are allowed to be placed under when you set one up, and you might find that the business you’re looking for (or your own business, if you’re creating a page) doesn’t exactly fit into one of these. You have to simply choose the closest match, which is an issue we expect to see fixed in a future version of this tool.

Once you select a search term, however, the tool becomes more sophisticated. It takes into account a range of variables when deciding how to rank businesses, such as geographical location, average customer rating and other unknown factors. For every Facebook user, the results will also be personalised depending on your own history with the business pages shown. For example, if you or your connections have previously interacted with the page it is likely to appear higher for you than it would for someone else.

At the moment, Facebook has basically asserted that this tool isn’t ready yet. The fact that it launched without any fanfare was enough of a clue, but since it has been confirmed since we can assume that it’s going to keep an eye out for early feedback and make adjustments before promoting it nationally or globally. For now it’s a good idea to make sure you get your page in order, however, and see if you can encourage people to leave reviews for your business when they’ve had a good experience. Staying active on your company Facebook page is a good way to ensure you stay ahead of the curve, whatever changes the social network chooses to make later.

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Are Keywords Still Important?

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Google is always trying to improve its algorithms, so it can more accurately judge the relevance of a particular webpage when someone enters a search query. The algorithm allows Google to instantly and automatically make an informed and calculated decision about what order to display thousands of results in. It’s pretty impressive that it can understand all the information on your website to make this judgement call, right?

Well, the answer to that is mixed. Yes, Google is making an extremely fast decision (and as you’ve probably noticed, it always loves to brag about exactly how fast that decision was by displaying the time it took to show your personalised search results). However, it is not taking everything on your webpage into account the same way a human does. It’s looking at particular things, which we normally refer to as ranking factors. We know that keywords have always been a very major ranking factor, which is to say, the text content on the page you’ve created needs to contain some words which match the query a user typed into Google in order for that particular page to be shown on a search results page for that particular person.

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What Rankbrain does and how SEO should respond

 

Google recently revealed it has been secretly testing a new element in its infamous algorithm, the set of codes and calculations that decide what order websites are ranked in when people run searches. It’s been nicknamed Rankbrain and the announcement confirms that the rollout is already complete, having been phased in throughout early 2015.

Now Rankbrain is fully implemented and it’s estimated that it’s involved with rankings for around 80% of search queries. “Google has actually said that Rankbrain is the third most important ranking factor now,” says Diana Esho, Managing Director of prominent Leicester SEO company, 123 Ranking. “Although it refuses to confirm what the top two factors actually are. It has been speculated that these two factors are text content (i.e. the words that are used on the website matching the search term) and inbound links from external sources.”

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The Most Important SEO Tools In Google Analytics

If you are a website administrator who is heavily involved in or curious about the statistics for your website’s traffic and visitor information, you have probably heard of (if not already signed up with) the search giant Google‘s well-known statistics tool  Google Analytics. It’s an extremely well-known and religiously used analytical tool that will monitor the visitor statistics of your website and how it is accessed within Google, all based on a simple tracking code that is added to your website.

Some time ago, Google added an SEO report section to their well-known analytics service. You need to enable Search Console integration to access this section, although some of the data can be found elsewhere in Google Analytics (or GA). It makes use of some features found in Google’s Webmaster Tools and supplements these with tools of its own. If you want to use GA to draw conclusions about your SEO straetgy, you should certainly be looking for these key pieces of information:

  • Queries – The total number of search queries that returned pages from your site results over the given period. These numbers can be rounded, and may not be exact.
  • Query – A list of the top search queries that returned pages from your site. You will usually find that many are “not provided” which results from users being logged in and Google choosing to keep their data private. However, the data that is shown can still be useful if you have enough visitors.
  • Impressions – The number of times pages from your site were viewed in search results, and the percentage increase/decrease in the daily average impressions compared to the previous period. (The number of days per period defaults to 30, but you can change it at any time.)
  • Clicks – The number of times your site’s listing was clicked in search results for a particular query, and the percentage increase/decrease in the average daily clicks compared to the previous period.
  • CTR (clickthrough rate) – The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click to your site, and the increase/decrease in the daily average CTR compared to the previous period.
  • Average Position – The average position of your site on the search results page for that query, and the change compared to the previous period. Green indicates that your site’s average position is improving. To calculate average position, it takes into account the ranking of your site for a particular query (for example: if a query returns your site as the #1 and #2 result, then the average position would be 1.5).

(Based on information taken directly from Google)

Using Google Analytics to its full potential can be tricky, but most of the features are easily accessible to the majority of users. It’s an invaluable source of information about a huge range of factors that influence your website’s success, in terms of SEO and also user experience and ultimately online business success. If you don’t already have your site set up in Analytics this should really be something you look into.

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