Marketing

Link Building Strategies: What Should You Focus on and What Should You Avoid?

There’s a lot that goes into SEO. Some suggest there are 200+ Google ranking factors. You’ll see some of the famous names in the industry talking about all kinds of fancy techniques and strategies (like language models using ngrams or biometric parameters while viewing results.) This is all well and good, but it’s advanced stuff. …

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mobile digital marketing

An Introduction to Digital Marketing for Businesses

The growth in digital online advertising and marketing spending is an area that all companies need to be aware of.

Changes

According to Google, the shift in media consumption since 2010 has been the following:

Chanel                        2010                         2014

TV viewing                 47%                            38%

Digital / online          25%                            43%

Radio                          22%                            16%

Print                           5%                              4%

This introduction to digital marketing is the blue print for all of my blog posts for the next while. Why you may ask would I lay out how to setup your own marketing plan and explain all the moving parts. This is my company’s online CV. If you are conducting the work your self it is good to have understanding and direction – and you are likely not part of my target market.

Ask why – when you read or it is suggested that you engage in online spending, asking why can get to the route of the usefulness of the task. So if an SEO strategy expert like myself tells you your website needs links – ask why? The social media expert tells you how you need a big Facebook following – ask why – what are the outcomes – what is the profit short and long term?

Every digital marketing plan needs clear direction and measurable goals. Being on the first page is a clear goal – however, it is not specific enough. Earning an additional €30,000 per month via Adwords spend is a much clearer, measurable, and specific goal.

The following are the main elements that can work together to create a digital marketing action plan.

Website or Platform

For most businesses having their own website is the main target where they want to interact and draw prospective customers to. I have seen Facebook used as the main platform, however investing heavily in a platform that you do not have complete control over is a long term risk to your business.

Responsive Websites: a responsive website is a site that can adapt to any size of screen and therefore resizes for phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. A responsive web design is a must; the following statistics illustrate why:

  • 74% of consumers have a smart phone; this is expected to be 90% by 2020
  • 40% of online sales are on a smart phone or tablet
  • 67% are more likely to buy from a mobile friendly website
  • 40% of visitors will go to another site if the site is not mobile optimised
  • 65% of decisions start on a mobile and end on other devices
  • 94% of smartphone users look for local store nearby their location
  • 66%, of the last above, visited the store and 26% made an in-store purchase

The investment in a good web design is the first item in any digital marketing plan.

Blog: the decision to blog or not will be outlined in a later post; however for many businesses it is a waste of scant resources, some do have the time and money to invest and promote their blog posts.

Everything online needs to be promoted after it is created. Sayings like “write and they will come” and “publish great content” do not tell the whole story, those strategies do not work without intense promotion.

Before a website is launched keyword and competition research should be undertaken. In the real world, this is rare. Google Analytics and Google Search Console should be added to the site.

Email Marketing

Over lunch one day a friend asked me about his digital marketing. He was interested in social media and search optimisation. In my usual manner, I started asking questions and discovered that he has several hundred current clients.

The only contact he has with his clients is when some work needs to be completed.

The first and best way forward for his business was adding all these current clients, and past clients, to a newsletter. He can now let all his clients know each month about new investment opportunities and keep up awareness of his company.

Email marketing is the under valued child in digital marketing. Collecting email address on your website, setting auto responders, and sending out newsletters, can produce a quicker profit and customer engagement than any other marketing stream.

Search Engine Optimisation

mobile digital marketing

So far I have created this list in order of importance. Yes, SEO is more important than Adwords, social media and all the other items below.

There are two distinct areas to optimising your website; SEO Google recommends and the other that they frown upon and have penalised websites for engaging.

On-site optimisation is recommended by Google, they even publish a PDF explaining the areas to address. If your website is correctly optimised it will lower your costs in Adwords and provide the correct titles when pages are shared on social sites. This is the quickest way to increase your traffic from Google, however, without the second part of SEO, your website will struggle to rank well.

Link building has become a dirty word in the online marketing community during the last few years since Google started to penalise websites for certain types of links. Instead of link building, we have content marketing, inbound marketing, anything to stop companies being regarded as link builders.

Without links, your website will not rank well in Google.

Local SEO

Local search optimisation is great for companies that target a geographical area. For example, if you have a plumber in Dublin, or even more granular plumber in Ballsbridge.

Local SEO enables a company to target a few keywords and rank in Google’s 3 or 7 pack that is often shown on the first page before other organic results. Compared to other online marketing costs the return on investment for local optimisation is tremendous.

Adwords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn etc.

Online advertising can provide targeted instant traffic.  Many smaller businesses though have had a negative experience of Adwords and other online paid advertising; this I believe, once I see the accounts, is mainly the result of not having an adwords management agency to setup campaigns.

There are many mistakes made on small accounts that lead to a waste of company profits on Adwords or other advertising platforms. Either taking the time to learn how to use the interface or pay an Adwords manager can save a company a huge percentage of their online spend and turn using Adwords into a positive experience.

I work both sides of the fence, those who love the easy measurability of Adwords and those that would rather not pay Google and therefore use SEO. However somewhere in the middle is often the better strategy. If I consistently make a profit of €100 for every €100 spend on Adwords I would be {fill in yourself} not to use it…

Facebook ads are great when targeting certain markets and I have used LinkedIn ads to target only groups or people of a particular profession. The online advertising options are almost endless and include:

  • text ad
  • video / animated / interactive
  • image / banner
  • remarketing
  • mobile
  • expanding

Social Media

Social media marketing is not all hype, however, as I will demonstrate in a future post the revenue from visitors via social is the lowest revenue on my site. That said it works great for particular purposes and in certain sectors.

Facebook for my company is a waste of time, Twitter allows me to connect with others in my industry, and LinkedIn helps me to connect with prospective customers. The breakdown is different depending on industries and resources available. For example who would have thought that a sports betting website could have a huge following on social but Paddy Power have the resources and are willing to take fairly large risks; they have 1.4 million followers.

Social Proof: social media buttons and counters on your own website can be a great indicator of social proof. If you have social buttons on your website, you MUST make sure there are at least a few shares, zero shares across your website is not a good message to give customers.

One last thing about social media marketing – it takes time.

Conversion Tracking and Optimisation

Once you have some traffic it is worthwhile making sure that visitors are following your expected paths on your website.

Conversion tracking is one of the free services offered by Google. After a click on your advert conversion tracking can tell you what happened next – did they buy, sign up for the newsletter, visit your contact or about page?

Conversion optimisation is the art of increasing the conversion rate of your website. For example, Google continually experiments with advert colours, placements, fonts, and sizes, to increase their CTR, click through rate, and profit on adverts.

The simplest form of conversion optimisation is split testing. Take two pages and send half your traffic to one page and the rest to the other. Take then the best performing page and split test again, and again, and again.

Where elements are on the page, the colours used, the fonts, the writing, there are a huge amount of elements you can test for better and continual improvement.

Inbound Marketing / Content Marketing

The descriptions of inbound and content marketing are so similar that it is hard to distinguish a difference. In essence, they are the process of using various types of content to bring visitors to your site rather than having to go and find customers – in reality, they are the new form of link building.

That said there are some great companies in this field who have built a process that simplify all the steps and pull data together for easier analysis, the best known of these is Hubspot.

Reputation Management

If your company is not well-known users will often look for reviews. This is very common in the web hosting and hotels area. Both of these are however gaming the review websites with negative and positive reviews.

Online review websites can hold a company to ransom, the best way to deal with these is to have your own properties that rank and use available free resources to rank your company like LinkedIn and Google+ – there are many places that you can use.

If your name is displaying false information posted by someone the best way to deal with this is make it drop in the search results by populating the first page with pages you have ownership of. However, reputation management will not eradicate information about companies that have cheated or lied and been caught publicly.

eBook Marketing

Having just published my first eBook, which is selling well, I began to see some other interesting results.

The number of people following me on Twitter and Facebook increased. The rankings of my website increased along with visitor numbers. These are to be expected if the book is good. Ranking increased as people linked to the book page, the about page, and other resource pages on my site.

I have seen a friend who runs a very popular small business blog start to publish a series of “How to” books in the business area. This was initially a way of increasing direct revenue from the sale of the books. It though takes you and your brand / company to a new and larger audience.

You don’t even have to write the book yourself. Feels like cheating perhaps, but many eBooks are outsourced and some are then rewritten to be in the voice of the author – still work but easier.

In addition to now being a published author, opportunities become available to present to groups and use the book as a way to additionally promote yourself or your company online.

Affiliate Marketing

Setting up your own affiliate marketing program can be difficult, depending on the subject area. I ran the affiliate marketing side of an online betting website, and like everywhere online the competition is intense.

There are plugins available for WordPress to run your own affiliate marketing program and most travel agency booking programs allow affiliate setups.

This can work well for name recognition without upfront payments for advertising.

This introduction to digital marketing will now act as an outline for all my blog posts for the next six months. What are your own thoughts, have I missed something important?  Let me know below.

Increase Your Visitors Using a Content Audit and Re-Writing

increased-trafficWe would all like more website traffic – without having to write new blog posts or think of post titles or need to build more links?

This is the Blueprint to Solve that Problem

Coming up with ideas to write about can be difficult. I want to make your life a bit easier while at the same time increasing the traffic to your website.

It does involve work – as always, in SEO there are no easy, work free fixes – no matter what you might read.

This post is aimed at my clients who have started blogging on their business websites during the last couple of years, (if you are doing your own SEO read our beginners guide to Google SEO).  Blogging has become one of those online marketing tasks that now needs to be ticked off every week or so.

Most of us see an upturn in visitors after we start blogging, this increase in visitors can be boosted again by re-writing and increasing the word count of already published posts.  I have been following this plan and have seen a significant increase in visitors on my own websites.

The Benefits of Longer Blog Posts

Why are you blogging?

Is it with the intention of gaining more business through referral traffic from search engines like Google?

Another benefit of blogging is to be seen as an authority in your area of business.

When reviewing websites I notice a blogging pattern; starting off with enthusiasm and then over time blogging is just another thing to get done and the quality slowly drops.

This plan is all about increasing the quality, the length of the post, and taking advantage of your increased social media presence.  I try to aim for my blog posts to be more than 1,000 words.  You might find that too much and I would ask you to aim for at least 800 concise, helpful, informative words – and add a couple of relevant images.

If you look at longer posts you already have on your site, you will see that they likely get more traffic from search – a content audit will identify all these pages.  When you look at the same post in Google Search Console it will likely rank for many more keywords than any of the shorter posts.

Over time my presence on social media has slowly increased.  I connect with more people, visitors on my website click on the social media buttons and follow or connect.  The best way to treat these followers is to give them more of what they already like.  So let’s start with the nuts and bolts on WordPress first.

Add a WordPress Word Count Plugin

Most of us are using WordPress to run our websites and blogs, it makes life very easy from a content management perspective.  There are a few plugins that display the word count for each page and post in the main menu of posts or page.

I suggest you install one of these plugins.  Once the plugin is installed you will see a column that has a number of words in each page or post listed.

Not using WordPress?  The best solution, if you have less than 500 files on your website, is to download a free copy of Screaming Frog.  This is a desktop application that crawls your website.  Screaming Frog will list the number of words on each page, there is a slight problem though as the program counts all the words on the page and not just the content.  Therefore you need to subtract the boilerplate content, footer information, menus, and any words in the sidebar.

Checking Webmaster Tools

From the left hand menu in Search Console click search traffic then search queries.  Then in the middle of the page above the graph there is a tab labelled “Top pages” click this.  You will now see a list of the top pages on your website from Google’s perspective.  Notice the little arrows to the left of each page, some pages will have them some won’t, (I aim for all pages to have these arrows).  If you click on this you will see a list of keywords that Google thinks are relevant to this page.

Is your title tag and page heading in this list of keywords that Google has listed?  If not there is a problem with the page.  The most common error, and easiest to resolve, is the omission of the keywords from the body of the article.  Check that your keywords are included in the text of the post at least a couple of time, it is also a good idea to use synonyms.

There are three more items of interest on this tab.

  1. Is the keyword on the left is a hyperlink – it will be blue coloured?  You can click it and retrieve more information about that keyword – ranking, click through rate, and clicks.
  2. Impressions:  This is listing the amount of times that this page has appeared in Google when someone has searched for this keyword.  I hope that the highest impressions is for your target keywords for the page.
  3. Clicks:  this records the amount of people that have visited your website via this page using this keyword.

Check Ranking, Visitor Numbers, Bounce Rate

A blog post is not just a piece of filler content.  I like every post to rank in Google for a set of keywords that drive more visitors to my business.  Therefore I like to track the rankings of all the keywords, I use Advanced Web Ranking for this – but there are various tools on the market.

Along with ranking, I keep a track of the visitor numbers and bounce rate of each post.  Your bounce rate is very important, if this gets too high across your site this is one of the issues that is penalised by Google Panda.

Longer blog posts rank higher in Google.  It is worth experimenting by re-writing a couple of posts and checking the before and after rankings, bounce rate, and visitor numbers.  Remember to add similar posts at the bottom of each post using one of the many WordPress plugins.

Social Media

I expect that after writing blog posts for six months or a year and interacting on social media you will have built up a greater presence on your networks.  These are people who generally have not read your earlier posts.

Re-writing blog posts and sharing them again helps you by getting greater exposure on social.  I believe that the links from social do help rankings.  Remember to share the new post more than once over a few days.

Why Re-writing Blog Posts Works

In general I would expect better content to rank higher in Google, however, it is not that simple.  When you publish a post that has been re-written you need to change the date to the current date.  This pushes the post back to the top of your website where it gains higher authority from the hierarchy of your website.  Remember to link to outside sources and to other internal pages.  However, it is also worthwhile finding content within your own site that can link to the newly re-written post.

Posts that have a much higher word count rank for long tail keywords.  These posts illustrate that you know what you are talking about; it is much harder to write 1,000 words that make sense and are engaging than 500.

You may feel like all the hard work is done once you stop writing, but much more energy is required for promoting than is needed for writing.  So sometimes it is an idea to leave a day or two between finishing writing and starting to promote.

Let me know how you get on.

SEO Competition Research

Before starting to target your particular area online it is important to perform competition research first to find out as much information as possible. 

These are the main areas I need to have information about:

Is There Search Traffic from Google?

SEO is of little use to a website that is selling a product that no-one has ever heard of.  The intention of SEO is to put your website into the stream of traffic that is already there, it is not a way to generate traffic where there are no current searches.

Knowing if there is traffic for the terms you want to target is important, there is no point in optimising for an area where there is no-one searching – this is fully covered within keyword research.  Keyword / phrase research is the basic foundation for all websites.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Your competition is not always the same companies on-line as off-line.  Often there are ecommerce websites, directories, and information sites in the online space.

Are you blindly going into a market dominated by large media corporations or universities?  It is essential to know the websites you are up against online.

If you have several different areas that you target you will have lists of keywords that are relevant to each of these areas.  Pick the highest volume keywords and create your competition list from these.  It is best not to choose too many to start with as you will then end up with 40 or 50 other websites in your competition list and that is overwhelming. However, I would always want a list of 10 competitors from two different keyword lists.  Less than this can skew your view of the SEO market online.

How Much Will it Cost?

Page Count

If your website has 5 pages and everyone in your niche competition has 50 pages you will find it hard to rank.  This does not mean you also need 50 pages, but it points to an issue.  In general, it is harder to rank very small websites unless they target ultra niches.

I cost a web page at about €150, however, a post like this one will take about two hours minimum and that cost is about €300.  Even if I am writing the page myself it is taking time from something else so the cost is not zero.  Also, add the cost of any images, every web page should have at least one.

screamingfrogI use Screaming Frog to crawl websites.  It is fast and it pulls a lot of useful information like page titles, descriptions, word count.  It is free to use up to 500 pages/ URLs.  Alternatively, you can use the command site:domain-name.com – this will list all the pages but it will include duplicates if a content management system is being used.  The other problem is that it will list only the pages that are indexed and generally I want the full picture.

Age of Website

Age of your site is one of the main ranking factors for Google, much less so for Bing – but almost no one is using Bing in Ireland.  However, during the last few years, the age of a website has become less of an issue for ranking quickly.

If your domain name is new don’t expect high rankings during the first few months.  However, after six months most age differentials even out, assuming you have been optimising your website during that time.

Check the age of the website on whois, this is the link to .ie domains.

How Many Inbound Links?

This is much harder to see than in the past.  Previously it was easy to look at one or two of the many SEO tools that list links to websites.  This part is still easy, however, the link graph has been messed up during the last few years by Google penalties.

Many websites will show 100’s of links in majestic but only have 20 or 30 that count or are useful for ranking.  It means taking more time to examine the link profiles of all your competitors in depth.

I cost links at €150 per link.  If you are outsourcing this, the outsourcer will pay for content and then time for a website to publish this content – something that is getting harder all the time as Google cracks down on any type of link building.

Many small business websites I work on in Ireland need only 50 or 60 links.  These CANNOT be done all in the one-month – that is a sure way to get negative attention from Google.

For this amount of links for a site that has none or few, I would spread the link building over six months.  During this time you will see a slow rise in rankings.

Please note that not all links are equal.  Spam links from a private network etc. are not a good idea.  Some of our work during the last few years has been helping companies recover from Google penalties as the result of cheap SEO and link networks.

I use more than one source for backlink analysis Majestic SEO and Ahrefs, both require a subscription.

Google Adwords – Pay Per Click

I like Google Ads, in general, I like any adverting that generates a good return on spend.  However, it is essential that your campaigns are set up correctly.  Setting bids to high or broad will decimate the return.  You can use Google Ads to place your advert on specific websites and for remarketing, (targeting users who have already clicked your ad or visited your website). Monitor and adjust daily at the start, then test ad copy over and over.  It works but it is not set and forget.

One of the main uses for Google Adwords is measuring traffic.  Your account will let you see how many searches there are for each keyword, assuming minimum volumes.

Semrush is a keyword research and competition research software for Adwords and search.  You can buy one months’ access for $99.95.  Here you can insert your competitor’s domain names and see what keywords they bid on within Google Adwords.  They also provide organic listings.

Total Costs

For a small website of 25 pages and the average SEO competition in Ireland the cost would be as follows:

  • 25 pages x 150 = 3,750
  • 60 links over 12 months = 9,000
  • Google Adwords basic budget = 500 per month, (6,000 over 12 months)
  • SEO Tools

Total cost over 12 months €18,750 – €1,562 per month.

How Long Will it Take to get to the First Page of Google?

It depends on your market.  If I was building a new website today in the Irish market I could rank on the first page within 6 to 12 months.  Most small business websites are in that range.

Achieving a Return on Investment

The above figures require additional business of€1,356 per month to break even.  However, some of these costs are upfront that are one-off never to be repeated or rarely repeated expenses.

If you know the search traffic, know the competition, and know how long it will take before you get a return on your investment you are able to plan accordingly.  Many potential online businesses fail these tests and often run out of money before they see a cent in revenue.  SEO strategy consultancy or training can help overcome some of these early mistakes that can end up being costly.  Contact us and see if we can help.