Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of any digital marketing strategy. But with so many buzzwords, ‘expert’ opinions and guides on the topic, there are naturally many SEO myths out there.
Here are ten SEO myths you might have heard – and why they are wrong.
SEO myth #1: it doesn’t work
It does. There are lots of companies out there generating a lot of organic traffic and qualified leads using SEO. Google is investing A LOT into free SEO resources (which can all be found collated in one place at the recently launched Google Search Central) and has even started publishing SEO case studies – focussed on how companies have used SEO to increase revenues.
SEO myth #2: what you spend on AdWords affects your organic ranking
It does not. It doesn’t make sense. This is why (straight from the horse’s mouth):
“We’ve heard people ask if we design our search ranking systems to benefit advertisers, and we want to be clear: that is absolutely not the case. We never provide special treatment to advertisers in how our search algorithms rank their websites, and nobody can pay us to do so.”
SEO myth #3: it’s a one-time thing
It would be great if you could pay an SEO magician to wave their magic wand and sort your SEO permanently. But that simply isn’t the case. Like most things in life, it requires continued hard work, adjustments, research and reporting.
Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, so tweaks need to be made on an ongoing basis. Competitors can move in on your rankings, so it’s important to keep improving, if you want to keep that sweet organic traffic. Basically, anyone who tells you that they can sort your SEO on a one-off project basis is not going to.
SEO myth #4: you need to include your keyword a certain amount of times
One of the most common SEO myths is that there is an optimal level of keyword density required in content. Search engines consider so much more than the number of times a keyword is mentioned – they consider external and internal links, user behaviour, images, semantically related phrases and website folder structure, amongst other things. So don’t get hung up on keyword density – you’ll be wasting your time and you’ll probably jeopardise the quality of your content, too. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about how Google understands language, then meet BERT.
SEO myth #5: keywords aren’t a thing anymore
Yeah they obviously are. How can you rank for apples if you only ever write about pears? Keyword density might not be a thing, but keywords are. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained this to Search Engine Land’s news editor Barry Schwartz:
“…I think, in general, that there’s probably always gonna be a little bit of room for keyword research because you’re kind of providing those words to users. And even if search engines are trying to understand more than just those words, showing specific words to users can make it a little bit easier for them to understand what your pages are about and can sometimes drive a little bit of that conversion process.”
It’s all about balance. If your content is user-friendly and topic-focused, you’re likely to include your keyword (and variations of it) naturally anyway. So, make sure that it’s included, but make sure that it is used in context, too.
SEO myth #6: content doesn’t matter, it’s about design
How you design and structure your website is important when it comes to SEO, more so than ever before in fact – speed and mobile friendliness is paramount to organic search engine success (speed is already a ranking factor but Core Web Vitals – focussed on how quickly content loads – will become a new ranking factor from May 2021. More on them here: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2020/11/timing-for-page-experience).
It’s no good having a perfect design if you don’t have good quality content on your site. As mentioned above, it’s all about balance. Unfortunately Google and other engines cannot currently conduct image analysis so still require text to crawl and digest.
SEO myth #7: mobile and desktop are the same
If you have a responsive site then there are often differences between the mobile resized version of your website and the desktop version. You may not realise the content changes (e.g. headers or ‘Read more’ sections disappear or the number of internal links change) when the website resizes. Likewise if you’re running light and speedy accelerated mobile pages (AMP) in parallel to your main site, then make sure your AMP carry the same content.
SEO myth #8: SEO is cheap
It definitely shouldn’t be. This is a myth perpetuated by old school spammy SEO agencies that will employ low cost tactics that could see you removed from Google’s index altogether. Why would a company that can help you generate hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of sustainable revenue charge you £30k a year for the privilege?
When you need technical SEO expertise, content experts and PR/outreach specialists to help you craft and execute a perfect SEO strategy, you shouldn’t expect them to charge next to nothing. Think about what you’d spend on a CMO – then spend at least that on an SEO agency.
SEO myth #9: paid search results get the most clicks because they’re at the top of the results page
Latest research (from September 2019 – this type of data is rare and is naturally not published by Google because while they’re keen on SEO they don’t want to devalue AdWords), when performing a search on a desktop computer:
- 61.96% clicked on an organic result
- 4.61% clicked on a paid result
- 33.45% didn’t click on anything at all
And, when performing a search on a mobile:
- 40.9% clicked on an organic result
- 4.52% clicked on a paid result
- 54.58% didn’t click on anything at all
The amount of money companies spend on AdWords over SEO is OUTRAGEOUS given the percentages of searchers who click on each type of result.
SEO myth #10: all links are created equal
When it comes to SEO, there are four types of back links – follow, nofollow, sponsored and UGC. All of these will help with SEO as Google’s now decided to use all of them as ‘hints’, but the best type of link is a followed link – this is a link from a reputable source that passes PageRank (link juice).
“All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”
Written by: Luke Budka, Head of Digital PR and SEO
What is link building?
Jump to section:
- Types of link building
- Not all links are born equal – follow versus nofollow (vs sponsored vs UGC)
- But wait, not all followed links are born equal either…
- Why do we build links?
Types of link building
When we’re asked, “What is link building?”, the simplest way to respond is to explain it is a way to build your brand’s online profile.
The slightly more technical answer is it’s the process of getting a third-party website to hyperlink to your website. Of course, it’s not as simple as that.
There are many different types of link building. Some are frowned upon by search engines.
Link building could involve:
- Setting up business profiles on directory sites that include a link to your website e.g. yelp
- Adding a comment to someone’s blog post and including a link to your website in the comment
- Getting your business partners to add your business logo to their site – the logo contains a hyperlink to your website
- Buying websites and linking to your website from these new sites
- Creating really valuable content and advertising it to your business’s stakeholders in the hope they link to it because it’s so useful
- Writing opinion pieces for a trade magazine related to your industry in which you get a link back to your website as part of the author attribution
- Watching out for instances of your brand name being published online and then contacting the sites it crops up on to ask them to include a link in your brand mention back to your website
Of the above, you do not want to be caught engaging in the practices detailed in points two, three or four. The others are all accepted methods of building links and ones we advocate as a leading B2B SEO agency. But that brings me to another point worth making – Google and other search engines don’t want you to build links per say, they want you to earn them, by being an excellent internet citizen. Create great content and third-party sites will naturally link to you; be an authority in your field and you will earn links without trying.
And that’s important, because links are like votes. The more of them your website has, the more likely it is your website will be returned for a relevant search query. E.g. if you sell blue widgets and you have a load of amazing links pointing at your blue widget site then there’s a good chance your site will be returned when someone searches ‘Blue widget supplier’.
Not all links are born equal – follow versus nofollow (vs sponsored vs UGC)
Just to clarify, all links are designed to be ‘followed’ by a search engine spider to their destination. However, it’s possible to make a link ‘nofollow’ by adding ‘rel=nofollow’ to the html tag. An example would look like this: <a href= “https://www.website.com/” rel= “nofollow”>. With that simple addition, the search engine spider will stay put and your website won’t gain any PageRank (link juice).
It seems a little unfair. After going to all the trouble of writing a kickass piece of content, passing it by the powers that be at your desired publication and seeing it published online – only to realise you got a nofollow link. What is up with that? Well, let’s go back in time a bit.
Once upon a time Google mentioned that it measured the quality of a webpage (and therefore the likelihood that it’ll be returned in the search results) based largely on the number of links pointing at it (or pointing at the general domain it resides upon).
And then a whole lot of badly behaved SEOs messed things up with their cheap (yet tbf at the time, effective) backlinking tactics involving forums, comment boxes and guest blogs – anywhere they could insert a hyperlink.
Google now roots out and largely ignores low-quality links (unless you’re taking the mickey and building them on a large scale, in which case it’s likely you’ll get slapped with a Google penalty or ‘manual action’ as it’s known in the trade).
However, as of September 2019 it announced two new attributes: rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc”.
The first to be used for links in paid for content and the second to be used in user generated content (UGC) i.e. comment boxes.
Google then made an interesting observation.
It said (regards nofollow links):
“Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.”
BUT – then it said:
“All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”
This is pretty big. It means Google’s now confident enough in its algorithm to use all links for ranking purposes. We suspect this is because Google realises a lot of important links are nofollow.
Most notably, editorial links. Loads of online news outlets make their links nofollow – normally because of a combination of two factors: they’re worried they’ll get hit with a penalty if they accidentally make advertorial links followed (this famously happened to The Daily Telegraph) and they also labour under the illusion that they’re somehow making their sites ‘weaker’ by routing PageRank away from their domains.
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at…By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.”
“…how the words within links describe content they point at” i.e. Google loves descriptive anchor text (the text that makes up the link).
“…shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.” i.e. all things being equal, a followed link is best, but a nofollow link on a decent website with descriptive anchor text is now really worth having.
The blog post concluded by announcing nofollow would become a hint as of March 1, 2020 (no mention of sponsored or UGC links in that line either which suggest to us it is these editorial nofollows it’s keen to use in its algorithms).
But wait, not all followed links are born equal either…
Followed links from popular and important sites carry more weight and push webpages higher up the search engine rankings. Google calls it TrustRank; if you have a lot of very high-quality links, then Google will trust you more and so your ranking improves.
Back in 2011 Google said: “So PageRank is the most well-known type of trust. It’s looking at links and how important those links are.
“So if you have a lot of very high quality links, then you tend to earn a lot of trust with Google.”
But, and this is crucial, you have to assess what a lot of very high-quality links looks like to your company.
If, for example, you specialise in fintech, you need to pursue reputable sector specific sites for links back to your website. A huge spread littered with links in The Angling Times won’t earn you nearly as much TrustRank a nod from Fintech Futures. So, focus your resources appropriately and be sure to fish in the right waters.
Why do we build links?
When considering what link building is, it’s more important to understand why you would build links in the first place – links can help build better relationships, boost your business’s profile and drive more traffic to your website.
At their most brilliant, links ultimately help generate qualified leads which turn into new clients which result in increased revenue and business growth – ta-da! But remember, if you put lipstick on a pig it still goes oink. If you earn a load of links but your website isn’t ready to perform then you can wave goodbye to all those lovely, ready to buy leads.
Want to find out more? Check out the blogs below.
Need some help figuring out link building and how to do it right? Chat to Luke as soon as you can. He’s our inhouse SEO specialist and the link building magic man.SEO RoI for B2B organisations – the SEO ROI formula
Jump to section:
- How to calculate SEO ROI
- Types of SEO investment
- Attribution models
- How to increase your SEO ROI
- SEO ROI considerations
How to calculate SEO ROI
Cancelled events, telesales teams calling empty offices and a lack of face-to-face networking opportunities has led many B2B organisations to consider SEO for the first time (don’t believe me? Take a look at this Google Trends graph from the last 12 months). But before taking the leap they need to establish what SEO return on investment (ROI) might look like.
Return on investment is typically measured as a percentage or a ratio so it can easily be compared to other marketing investments. Search engine optimisation ROI can be measured by working out the gain from the SEO investment, subtracting the cost of the investment from that gain, and then dividing that number by the cost of the investment and multiplying it by one hundred. For example:
Gain from SEO = £275,000
SEO investment = £100,000
Difference = £175,000
£175,000 / £100,000 = 1.75
1.75 x 100 = 175% SEO ROI
Put simply, this means that every £1 invested in SEO paid for itself and then generated an additional £1.75 in gain.
Types of SEO investment
In order to work out the ROI you need to know what your gain from SEO is and what your investment is. Sounds obvious right?
For a straightforward ecommerce business selling shoes for example, it’s pretty easy to work out ROI – because the gain is as simple as the value of goods (shoes) sold from customers sourced through SEO activity. You can add ecommerce tracking to your website, assign revenue values to goal completions and away you go – very easy to work out your gains in Google Analytics.
Lead generation B2B sites are a bit different. This is because a website isn’t where a B2B sale is typically completed i.e. for many B2B businesses, sales are initiated when the prospect contacts the company (via form or phone), but sales cycles are often much longer and have multiple touch points.
You therefore need to assign values to different types of conversions – it’s not as straightforward as saying a customer spent £30 on product A therefore our gain is… instead it’s a case of saying a customer submitted an enquiry form to enquire about a particular service and if they convert, they’re worth X amount over the course of their lifetime.
But it’s not just about form submissions, you can also assign values to other types of conversions that are really important to the B2B sales cycle.
For example if you generate loads of eBook downloads using SEO and you know that typically every ten eBook downloads will result in one paying customer, then that helps you work out your ROI.
For example if the total value of customer (gain) generated from ten eBook downloads = £30,000
And the investment total…
- SEO agency consultancy (investment) that led to ten eBook downloads = £5,000
- Cost of creating blog and eBook content (investment) = £5,000
- Cost of nurturing leads until conversion over six month period (investment) = £10,000
Then the difference is £10,000
£10,000 / £20,000 = 0.5
0.5 x 100 = 50% SEO ROI
Put simply, this means that every £1 invested in SEO paid for itself and then generated an additional 50p in gain.
The above example is important. Search engine optimisation will typically involve lots of different types of investment from both the agency you hire to support you, as well as your internal resource, whether that be marketing and/or sales.
However it’s rare you’d employ an SEO agency to focus on a series of eBooks like in the example above. It’s more likely they’d consider your micro conversions (like eBook downloads, webinar registrations and/or newsletter signups) along with macro conversions like consultation form enquiries.
It’s therefore really important to know how much your micro conversions are actually worth. However, it is VERY rare to find B2B organisations that know this. (It’s also rare to find B2B organisations that know what their organic conversion rates are for micro and macro conversions – we’ll come on to that later.)
If you do know your conversion values then you can start customising Google Analytics to report on goal value i.e. if every ten eBook downloads generate £30,000 worth of revenue then in theory every eBook download is worth £3,000.
The goal that completes in Google Analytics whenever someone on your site downloads an eBook can then be assigned a £3,000 value and it becomes easy to review your SEO ROI for that particular conversion.
So let’s take another look at a more realistic B2B SEO ROI calculation over a 12-month period:
Total value of customers from eBook downloads generated from SEO = £30,000
Total value of customers from newsletter signups generated from SEO = £25,000
Total value of customers from webinar registrations generated from SEO = £45,000
Total value of customers from consultation form completions generated from SEO = £250,000
Total gain: £350,000
SEO agency investment = £115,000 (incidentally, read this if you’re interested in how much SEO costs)
Cost of creating blog, eBook, newsletter, webinar and optimised website content = £35,000
Cost of nurturing leads, until they convert, over six month period = £27,000
Total investment: £177,000
£350,000 – £177,000 = £173,000
SEO ROI calculation
£173,000 / £177,000 = 0.98
0.98 x 100 = 98% SEO ROI
Put simply, this means that every £1 invested in SEO paid for itself and then generated an additional 98p in gain.
So far we’ve considered SEO’s role as a last click driver of leads i.e. the last thing a prospect does before they become a lead that either needs to be nurtured or converted is click on an organic search result. But what about SEO’s role in other types of conversion? This is where a B2B organisation needs to consider attribution modelling.
Attribution modelling is basically the decision to assign a marketing channel a particular value. For example, in a linear attribution model every touchpoint in the conversion path shares equal credit for a sale. So if a qualified lead clicked on a paid Google ad, downloaded an ebook that they found via organic search, visited your website directly and then eventually visited via LinkedIn, before submitting an enquiry form during that session, each of the four channels would be awarded a quarter of the credit.
The attribution model therefore impacts your gain calculation, which then impacts your SEO ROI calculation.
Attribution models include:
- Last Non-Direct Click
- Last Google Ads Click
- First Interaction
- Time Decay
- Position Based
For more detail on attribution modelling have a read of Google’s overview of attribution modelling.
How to increase your SEO ROI
Fundamentally your SEO ROI will be dependent on your keyword rankings. The higher you rank for the right keywords, the more traffic you generate, the more leads you’ll generate. And the ranking gains are significant. Let’s consider a macro conversion example – a prospect landing on your website and submitting a consultation form.
First off, let’s take a single bottom of sales funnel keyword – one that you want your website to rank for because you think it’ll lead to prospects contacting you that you can do business with. Let’s say the keyword is ‘B2B SEO agency’. We want to rank for that because we know someone searching for B2B SEO plus the modifier ‘agency’ is probably looking for an agency and therefore someone we want to talk to.
Let’s say the keyword gets 200 searches a month.
We know that the unbranded click through rate (CTR) for the first placed organic search result is 31% and fifth place CTR is 7% (according to CTR data from Advanced Web Ranking).
Let’s also say we know that ten percent of the organic visitors to our site will submit an enquiry form.
Let’s say half of those enquiries are qualified and we close half of the qualified leads.
Therefore if we’re ranking fifth for the keyword then we can expect:
200 x 0.07 (7% – the fifth placed organic CTR) = 14
14 x 0.1 (10% – our onsite organic conversion rate) = 1.4
1.4 x 12 (months in a year) = 17 (16.8 but let’s round up)
So if we rank fifth we know we’ll probably generate 17 leads a year. Half of those are qualified (let’s say eight) and we close half of those (let’s say four). If we know our average customer lifetime value is £40,000, then ranking fifth for that keyword would generate £160,000 a year in revenue.
If we’ve invested £30,000 of our staff’s time in SEO (we have an hourly rate so we can work this out) then we come back to our profitably calculation:
Gain = £160,000
Investment = £30,000
Difference = £130,000
130,000 (difference) / 30,000 (investment) = 4.33
4.33 x 100 = 433% SEO ROI
Put simply, this means that every £1 invested in SEO paid for itself and then generated an additional £4.33 in gain.
Now let’s adjust the ranking CTR. Let’s say we rank first instead of fifth and enjoy a 31% CTR. Everything else (onsite conversion rate, qualified lead and close rate) remains the same:
200 x 0.31 = 62
62 x 0.1 = 6.2
6.2 x 12 = 74
So if we rank first we know we’ll probably generate 74 leads a year. Half of those are qualified (let’s say 37) and we close half of those (let’s say 19). If we know our average customer life time value is £40,000 then ranking first for that keyword would generate £760,000 in revenue.
If we’ve invested £60,000 of our staff’s time in SEO (we have an hourly rate so we can work this out) then we come back to our profitably calculation:
Gain = £760,000
Investment = £60,000
Difference = £700,000
700,000 (difference) / 60,000 (investment) = 11.67
11.67 x 100 = 1,167% SEO ROI
Put simply, this means that every £1 invested in SEO paid for itself and then generated an additional £11.67 in gain.
A pretty impressive return!
SEO ROI considerations
A few final things to consider when working out your ROI:
Different conversion rates for different conversion types
We’ve used an onsite organic conversion rate of ten percent (the percentage of your organic website visitors that convert i.e. submit an enquiry form) in our calculations. However yours might be lower or indeed higher. Your conversion rate is also going to be different depending on the type of conversion you’re measuring. For example you might find a lower percentage of organic visitors download your ebooks. Conversion rate is driven in large part by intent. If someone’s searched for a keyword related to one of your services then it’s likely they have an immediate need and will submit an enquiry. However if they entered the site after searching in Google for the answer to a question, then the conversion rate will likely depend on whether or not you answer their question without them having to download anything.
Conversion rate optimisation
It’s possible to improve the ROI of SEO (and any other online marketing disciple) by improving your onsite conversion rate. This is called conversion rate optimisation (CRO). If you want to learn more about that then read this book: Making Websites Win. If ten percent of your organic visitors submit consultation forms, then think about the knock-on impact if you managed to move that number by a couple of percent. In our original example we considered the impact of ranking first for a keyword with 200 searches at a conversion rate of ten percent. Let’s shift that rate by two percent:
200 x 0.31 = 62
62 x 0.12 = 7.4
7.4 x 12 = 89
So by improving the conversion rate from 10 to 12 percent we can increase leads generated by 15. If half of those are qualified and we convert half of the qualified leads then that’s an additional four deals per year. If each deal is worth £40,000 then that’s an additional £160,000 a year in revenue for a conversion rate improvement of two percent. Certainly worth an investment in CRO.
Paid vs organic
The disparity between what brands invest in paid search and organic search is jaw-dropping. Think about your investment. If you’re pumping hundreds of thousands into PPC then consider what impact diverting some of that funding into SEO will have. Yes pay per click offers greater certainty, but there is ultimately substantially more value in investments in organic search. It is important however, to consider how long SEO takes – unlike PPC it doesn’t deliver immediate results and your ROI will improve the longer you continue to invest, as that investment will result in keyword ranking, organic traffic, lead and qualified lead increases.
Remember, unlike B2C SEO, B2B SEO is often about value not volume: high value low volume sales. Therefore working out your SEO ROI is important for every B2B organisation. If you’re stuck working out your search engine optimisation return on investment, then give us a call – we’re always happy to chat!Schema for dummies – a beginner’s guide
What is schema?
Schema is a vocabulary maintained and developed by an open community. It’s like a series of flags. You can use different coloured flags to link relationships between ‘entities’ on the web. An entity could be a company, phone number, review or recipe.
Schema is broken down into ‘types’ (here’s the full list of types) and ‘properties’. For example, an ‘organization’ is a type and it has loads of properties e.g. areaServed (the geographic area where a service or item is provided) or email (email address) or foundingDate (the date that the organisation was founded).
You can use these properties to help search engines better understand the information on a website.
How do I use schema?
Why use schema?
You are making the web a better place by helping search engines, and therefore users, understand your content.
It’s not a ranking factor. Adding schema to your pages will not help those pages rank higher.
However, schema can trigger enhanced results in the search engine results pages. These results might look like a list of instructions, or a company’s customer service phone number or star reviews under a search result for a film or a product. For example:
What does the schema code look like?
In the example below, we’ve used JSON-LD to detail business information about TopLine Comms. In yellow we’re explaining to the browser that we’re using JSON-LD. Green indicates it’s the schema vocabulary. Blue is obviously the schema type we’re referencing and the pink indicates all the different schema properties.
You will notice in the example above that we had to specify the type of address we were using, and we ‘nested’ some of the properties under PostalAddress (as indicated by the slight indentation).
TIP: if you use Google’s Rich Results Test tool to check your code before you add it to your site (and you should), bear in mind you’re playing by Google’s rules. For example, in the above, the value expected for contactType is text. So as long as you’re describing what the phone number can be used for you could write anything e.g.
“contactType”: “Dog grooming helpdesk”
This would not be incorrect, but Google would say it is when you run the code through the structured data testing tool. This is because Google expects you to pick one of its approved contact types. Here’s a list of approved contact types. Always good to check Google’s documentation when drafting your JSON-LD.
How do you create it?
So, first of all, you don’t need to be able to ‘code’. There are two easy ways to create it:
- There are loads of free tools out there that will auto-generate the schema you want to create. Simply search for ‘schema generator’, pick your tool, and away you go! Once you’ve created it and tested it you’ll need to give it to whoever manages your website and explain which page/s you want it adding to.
- Use a CMS plugin. The most popular and best example is Yoast SEO for WordPress (£89 at the time of writing – a bargain at twice the price in my opinion!). The team at Yoast is constantly releasing new versions of the plugin that support more and more schema implementation. Well worth the investment if you’re running a WordPress site. Enables you to log in to your CMS and add the desired schema directly to the page without worrying about having to write it yourself.
Before you get started, a few things to bear in mind:
- Google only supports and displays rich snippets for a limited number of schema types. You can find them here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-gallery. New types of schema are being supported all the time though, so you can never mark up too much! At worst you’re improving the internet for everyone, at best you’ll start generating new rich results without even realising it!
- The free tools are limited – normally they’ll support a few of the more popular schema types e.g. local business, product, person etc. If you can’t find what you need then simply search online for the schema you want and then hack it around a bit – change the values to suit your purposes and then use the Rich Results Test tool to weed out any errors
- If you’re really stuck then Google actually has a tool called Data Highlighter which is in the old version of Search Console. You can use it to easily mark-up data on your site. However, with old Search Console almost entirely replaced by new Search Console, you may find it’s a tool that’s not supported for long
Dos and don’ts…
- Use JSON-LD and add to <head> section of the webpage
- Specify all required properties for your rich result type (otherwise you won’t be eligible for enhanced visibility in the search results)
- Add as many recommended properties as possible (and the rest…for tomorrow’s SERPs e.g. authorship…)
- Add structured data to every duplicate page not just the canonical version
- Use specific applicable type and property names
- Make sure marked up images belong to what you say they belong to
- Mark up content that is not visible to readers of the page
- Mark up irrelevant or misleading content
- Use structured data to deceive or mislead users
- Mark up content that promotes illegal activities
- Home of schema: https://schema.org/
- A more detailed beginner’s guide to schema: https://yoast.com/structured-data-schema-ultimate-guide/
- JSON-LD beginner’s guide – very good resource if you’re keen to learn a bit more about the format and troubleshoot your own code: https://moz.com/blog/json-ld-for-beginners
- Google’s testing tool – it’ll point out errors that you’ll want to fix before adding the code to your site. It’ll also enable you to check URLs that contain schema to make sure they’re hunky dory: https://search.google.com/test/rich-results
- Google’s currently supported (i.e. results in rich snippets) structured data types: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-gallery
- One of the many free schema generators out there: https://www.jamesdflynn.com/json-ld-schema-generator/
If you’re stuck with schema then contact us today to find out more about our SEO services.
This blog was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for accuracy.Building an SEO friendly site
“Launching a new site is easy” said no one, ever. Building an SEO friendly site is hard work. We know, because we’re an SEO agency with years of experience helping clients increase the amounts of traffic and qualified leads they generate from their websites.
We thought it was only fair to share what we learnt along the way. Sharing is caring, after all.
First things first; what is an SEO friendly website? An SEO friendly website is easy for search engines to crawl and understand – it doesn’t block them with noindex meta tags or its robots.txt file. It has a logical internal linking structure using descriptive anchor text and demonstrates appropriate levels of expertise, authority and trust (EAT).
Here are our top tips for building an SEO friendly website and getting some great SEO results.
Before your site launches, you’ll want to do the following:
Building an SEO friendly website means building a site that all search engines can crawl, understand and subsequently index. Once site pages have been indexed, search engines use them to deliver the most useful results to users based on their searches.
To create an SEO friendly website, you need to have a basic understanding of SEO. Therefore you need to read Google’s resources on how search works and its SEO Starter Guide. The Google Webmasters YouTube channel has also launched a Search for Beginners series to help you get started.
Do your keyword research
You need to figure out which keywords you need to target to attract traffic that’ll turn into leads. Read this for help: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research
Identify bottom, middle and top of funnel keywords
Bottom, middle and top of funnel keywords relate to customers at different stages of their purchasing journey. Those at the bottom already want your product, those in the middle are looking for further information and those at the top are the furthest away from buying something and are simply browsing looking for solutions to their problems. For example, someone searching for ‘What is digital PR’ is hoping to learn more about what digital PR is and is therefore higher up the sales funnel. Whereas, someone searching for ‘B2B PR agency’ is at the bottom of the funnel and likely ready to appoint an agency.
Plan your parent and child pages
Your parent and child pages should be based on bottom of funnel keywords. For example, if ‘animation services’ is the parent page, then different types of animation services are the child pages e.g. ‘explainer video animation’. You’re going to have to make a judgement call on whether a keyword is worthy of its own page. Long gone are the days when you’d have a page per keyword – if you’re doing that now in an attempt to manipulate search results, Google many punish you (“In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved.”).
Plan your site directory structure
To ensure search engines reach your most important pages first you need to organise your site in a logical way. Google has a good resource on site hierarchy and you can visualise your hierarchy using a tool like Gliffy. We cover this some more in our guide to B2B SEO.
Next, you’ll need to prepare your parent and child page content. When writing, you should consider:
- Target audience: Think carefully about this as it will help you produce more suitable content. Think job title, size of company they work at, specific vertical they operate in, what keeps them awake at night etc.
- Key messages: Which ones need to be included?
- Funnel stage: Is this content for the top, middle or bottom of the funnel? Remember, if it’s product or service landing pages you’re drafting, the content is bottom of funnel.
- Check what the SERPs look like: If this piece is designed to rank for a keyword/group of keywords then what do the page one organic search results look like when you search the keyword? Quick analysis will enable you to produce a piece that’s better than what’s currently on page one. Also are there any featured snippets returned for your keywords that you want to try and secure? If so you’ll need to produce appropriate content – check out the Moz guide on featured snippets.
- Searcher intent: What are the searchers trying to accomplish when they search for those keywords? What does the page need to do to ensure they’re satisfied?
- Length: If you’re hoping of ranking for a keyword then consider the length of the articles returned on page one. Bear in mind though, long content, for the sake of being long is no good – it needs to be good quality and useful to the user too.
- Target keyword: This is the main keyword/s that you want to target throughout your copy.
- Secondary keywords: This is the second most important keyword/s to target throughout your copy.
- Title tag: Target keyword should be at beginning of title tag – maximum length: 60 characters. Gear this towards encouraging clicks.
- Meta description: This should include the keyword, a CTA and read naturally – maximum length: 160 characters.
- H1: This is the header tag and should include the keyword.
- URL: Keep it under 60 characters and include the keyword.
- Content suggestions: These are the words and phrases that appear on the web pages returned by Google when you search for your target keyword. Not to be confused with the keywords themselves. Use the Page Optimisation tool within the MozBar to get these.
- Images and video: Consider whether the page needs an image or a video and does it need to be optimised? Consider Google and other search engines still struggle to get a handle on image and video content so you need to help them out as much as possible with descriptive captions, file names, surrounding text, alt attributes, schema mark-up etc.
- Internal links: If you’ve planned your directory structure you should have a pretty good idea which pages should link to which pages (i.e. child pages should link to parent pages and vice versa). Remember, Google likes descriptive anchor text e.g. ‘click here’ is bad, but ‘click to find out more about explainer videos’ is good
- Structured data: adding structured data may make your page eligible to appear in special search results – like recipe lists or product info (see full list of examples here) – it’ll certainly help Google better understand the content on your page
Find a web agency and produce a brief
So now you’ve done your keyword research, planned your URL structure and written a lot of your SEO friendly content, you’re ready to appoint a web agency. Most websites don’t require hugely expensive content management systems (CMS) and depending on your requirements, from an SEO perspective you’re as good aligning yourself with a WordPress agency as any other. Afterall, Google has actually dedicated an engineering team to developing the WordPress ecosystem.
At a basic level (and I can’t emphasise this enough – there’s a lot that goes into a website build) you want:
- A mobile friendly responsive website that doesn’t change its content when viewed on different size screens (e.g. make sure on a mobile all the H1s don’t suddenly disappear) – you have until March 2021 to get this right
- A secure website – get an SSL certificate
- A fast website – test it here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- A website that’s easy to update. Request page templates and an easy to use CMS so you can quickly and easily add new pages and update content yourself
- Google Analytics (plus any goals you might be interested in e.g. form completions, button clicks etc.) and Google Search Console set up and ready to go on day one
- A user-friendly website. You don’t need to spend loads on user testing if you’re short on budget. Get family and friends to pretend to be customers and ask them to buy something/make an enquiry on your site, each using a different device mobile (Android and Apple), tablet, and desktop) once it’s live. Ask them to feedback on their user journey. Maybe your contact forms are too hard to find? Maybe the screen cuts off the form’s ‘Submit’ button on a mobile?
- A website that focuses on the user experience. Google uses a set of essential metrics, called Core Web Vitals, to assess the experience provided by your site. The vitals will act as a ranking signal. The metrics that make up the Core Web Vitals will change over time, but for now they focus on loading performance, interactivity, visual stability. If your website scores highly against these metrics, you’ll be on the right path to delivering a great user experience – which is exactly what Google wants!
- Other stuff to consider when putting your brief together:
- Uses canonicals – lets search engines know which the original version of your page is (useful in preventing duplicate content issues). Google has a handy guide here
- Uses an XML sitemap – a page on a site that tells search engines where the other pages are and how frequently they should be crawled
- Uses structured data to tell search engines what the important bits on each page are (easiest vocab is schema and easiest format is JSON-LD – this’ll help you get started: https://moz.com/blog/json-ld-for-beginners)
- Pipes PageRank (link juice from any links pointing at your website) around via internal, followed ahref links
- Has an easy to access HTML sitemap page e.g. https://toplinecomms.com/sitemap
- Uses hreflang tags to indicate regional pages (if you’ve produced pages for different territories e.g. you have one page for blue widget sales in America, one for blue widget sales in the UK and one for blue widget sales in Spain, you can use hreflang tags to let Google know which is which)
- Lots of descriptive internal linking using absolute not relative links – search engines want to know where they’re going when they follow a link on your site e.g. bad: ‘click here to find out more about animation services’ vs. good: ‘click to find out more about animation services’. An absolute link is one that includes your whole URL instead of just part of it e.g. bad: /animation vs. good: https://toplinefilm.com/animation
Create a content calendar
If you want to become an authority on your subject and what you’re selling, half-baked blogs won’t work. Focus on quality over quantity and produce fewer well-researched blogs that genuinely solve user intent. Aim for two of these per month, optimise for longer-tail keywords and use them for internal linking purposes. Always look at what’s currently returned in the search results for your target keyword and think how you can be better. Blogs could take five to ten hours each if you’re doing them properly – otherwise you just end up knocking out thin content for the sake of it which is fine if it solves a problem i.e. answers a common customer question, but pointless otherwise. Don’t blog for the sake of it.
Prepare the redirects
If you had an old site, then redirect all URLs from old to new. Tools like Moz can help you track links back to your old site, so you can work on getting them updated. Don’t forget legacy l.inks either i.e. links from an old old site pointing at your old site.
Got a new domain? Then make sure it’s added to your social platforms. It’s surprising how many people forget to do this and it’s really important.
Test your site
You must test your site before it goes live. Your ability to do this depends on your tech expertise and resources but we like the staging/testing environment to be noindexed, blocked by a robots.txt file and password protected so that we can ensure it doesn’t get indexed by search engines before we’ve finished testing it. You can use a free version of a crawler like Screaming Frog (it will crawl up to 500 URLs for free) to check for things like duplicate content issues.
Track your keywords
An SEO friendly site only fulfils that criteria if it actually ranks for your target keywords and attracts the right kind of traffic that then turns into leads, qualified leads and sales. Ensure you have keyword tracking set up before the site goes live so you can monitor progress and the results of your hard work!
Once your site launches, you’ll want to have a checklist ready to go through to make sure it’s working properly and generally doing what it’s supposed to do.
Here’s our mini checklist for your site launch:
1. Technical spot checks
- Is the site working? Check across a few different browsers.
- How fast is it?
- Can it be accessed on different devices (e.g. mobile, desktop etc.)?
- Are the contact details correct?
- Do the forms/contact email addresses work?
- Are your priority pages returning any errors? You can use a free tool like Page Insights to check individual pages, or use Search Console – you can submit individual pages to be crawled. We think Search Console is a better way to do it because it also enables you to check the page rendering i.e. what the search engine can see when it crawls your page. It’s important to check it can actually see all your page content, and you can a free tool like Google’s very own Lighthouse to check the whole domain.
- Is Google Analytics showing real time traffic and real time event completions (if you have events set up)?
- Crawl the new site to verify that there are no 404s or 301s (or any other 3xx, 4xx, or 5xx codes), no index directives, header tag issues or robot.txt issues.
2. Submit the site’s XML sitemap in Search Console (thus prompting the search engine to crawl your site).
There’s no getting away from it – launching a new site is hard work – and the above is a fairly basic one size fits all guide – every new site launch has its own nuances. But if you do it right and get your SEO strategy down from the start, then you’ll reap the rewards. Take it from us – over 70 percent of the leads we generate come through our website.
And, if you need help with any of the above, drop us a line!Some serious SEO results
Market-leading Access Self Storage was looking to attract more online leads and decrease its cost per lead. To do this, Access needed to generate more leads from organic search.
Access had the following objectives:
- To identify what keywords consumers use to find self-storage solutions
- To boost its website rankings for those keywords
- To attract more leads from organic search
- To remove penalties imposed by Google for previous spammy SEO activity
Access operates in a highly competitive market, and, with over 50 stores across the country, needed to make sure that it ranked for local keywords relevant to each store.
In addition, a previous SEO supplier had tried to game Google’s algorithm which had resulted in a manual action and Access being deindexed.
We developed a highly bespoke local SEO strategy that included:
- Intensive keyword research to identify over 350 keywords that could send customers to the Access site
- Meta data optimisation
- Local landing page copy focussed on store location and vicinities
- Regular blog content based on the affiliate interests of converting customers
- Optimised horizontal and vertical internal linking structure
- Google My Business, Apple Maps Connect, Bing Places for Business and Facebook verification and optimisation
- My Business review building
- Citation cleaning and building
- Editorial driven link building
- Competitor backlink and content monitoring
- Desktop and mobile keyword tracking, organic traffic and cost per acquisition measurement
The campaign delivered:
- 90 followed links with an average domain authority of 9
- A 230% increase in relevant keywords ranking (115 vs 380)
- Manual action removed by Google
- A 56% increase in UK organic traffic
- A 117% increase in organic UK leads
- A 117% decrease in cost per acquisition
“Working with TopLine has resulted in our desktop keyword and mobile rankings smashing previous records; we’ve never had as many keywords ranking in the top five – the result of this is our organic leads have hit a record high and our cost per acquisition has dropped 117% to an all-time record low. TopLine takes an ethical content-led approach to search marketing and we’re delighted with the results.”
Stavros Vichos, Marketing Manager, Access Self Storage
Find out more about our SEO services.The essential guide to B2B SEO
The humble website is more important than ever. This is because, where the public face of your company is concerned, it’s basically the centre of the universe: it’s your shop window, it’s the thing you’re pointing to on social networks, and it’s a Gatling gun in your business development arsenal. Of course, if you remember the brochureware websites of yesteryear – the age of the dial-up tone and Titanic making more money than most small economies – you’ll remember that it wasn’t always this way. A website was something optional, something you stuck on a business card and in an email signature: a resource for people who already knew who you were.
These days, if most of your site visitors are people you already know, then it’s a major red flag. This is because a bunch of people – sometimes a couple thousand, sometimes millions – are looking for what you’re offering every month. But if your website isn’t easily accessible and visible in a search engine, they won’t know you’re offering it, and they’ll get it from your more web-savvy competitors, regardless of how blatantly inferior, more expensive, and dubiously hygienic they may be. In fact, research shows that if your site doesn’t show up on the first page, it probably won’t gain any traction with searchers. Ideally, you want the top two positions – it’s optimal from a web traffic and lead gen POV. Check out these stats:
- 94% of B2B buyers search online before purchasing a product or service.
- 61% of searches on a desktop result in a click on an organic result.
- 40% of searches on a mobile result in a click on an organic result
- 56% of mobile searches result in no click (on organic results or PPC adverts)
- 35% of desktop searches result in no click (on organic results or PPC adverts)
- Organic positions #1, #2 and #3 on desktop search enjoy 35%, 17% and 11% click-through rate (CTR) respectively (data from international results in May 2020)
- Organic positions #1, #2 and #3 on mobile search enjoy 33%, 18% and 12% click-through rate (CTR) respectively (data from international results in May 2020)
Essentially: high = good, low = bad. With fewer clicks come fewer opportunities – so it’s smart to get as close to the top as you possibly can. And while you may be surprised at how low the percentages are above when it comes to searches resulting in organic desktop and mobile clicks (61% and 40% respectively), consider that the equivalent PPC stats (i.e. the percentages of searchers who click on the ads that appear in search engine results pages) are 4% on desktop and 4% on mobile.
What is SEO?
SEO is actually a pretty simple concept. The most important thing to understand is that Google (or Bing) wants to return the best possible results for its users. This basic idea should inform every aspect of your SEO strategy.
Google – or rather, its spiders – look at (or ‘crawl’) every webpage (e.g. your homepage or any other page on your site).
The collected info is then fed into Google’s algorithm and it decides, based on the information returned by the spiders, whether it should return the page as a result when someone conducts a search that might be related to the content on the page.
Google’s algorithm has over 200 ‘ranking factors’ which it uses to establish the page’s authority (things like the content on the page and architecture of the site) and the likelihood of it satisfying a search. It then ranks it accordingly. If somebody looks for life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs, for example, and you have the dubious honour of running the internet’s best page on life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs, you’ll be pinned right to the top of page one.
It’s possible to ‘optimise’ a page to help Google get a better idea of what it’s about. Optimisation comes in the form of on-site optimisation (i.e. stuff you can do on your website) and off-site optimisation (i.e. stuff you can do online but away from your site). Striking the right balance between both is essential.
Successful on-site optimisation (the stuff you can directly influence on your own website) is mainly focused on: keywords, content and design. Get these right, and you’re well on your way to SEO success!
To get found, your website pages need to feature terms (aka ‘keywords’) your target audience is searching for. This seems self-explanatory – after all, if you’re selling fishing rods, you’re not going to make a page about tennis or lobsters or whatever.
The process of discovering the best keywords for your business is called keyword research. It involves everything from reviewing the competition to see what they’ve optimised their websites for, to reviewing the PPC ads that are returned when you search for your company’s product or service to see which keywords they contain.
A good starting point is Google’s own Keyword Planner. It will only give you broad estimates on keyword search volumes (Google now only provides one of seven volume sizes: 0–10, 10–100, 100–1,000, 1,000–10,000, 10,000–100k, 100k–1M and 1M+ ) – unless you are a fully paid-up advertiser, but it at least gives you an idea of which keywords are searched for and could be worth targeting. Other paid-for keyword research tools are available.
Once you have an initial list of keywords you think might be relevant to your business, you can use tools like Answer the Public and Soovle to create long tail (‘long tail’ means three or four words plus) versions of them – very handy for future blog content for example. It’s also kind of entertaining to just type in ‘how’ and see what kind of messed-up stuff people are putting into Google these days; you’re welcome for that little time waster!
Think about user intent during the keyword research process. Certain keywords indicate the searcher is ready to buy, whereas other keywords suggest they are still in the research phase. For example, someone searching for ‘B2B SEO’ probably wants to know what it is. Someone searching for ‘B2B SEO agencies’ is probably interested in appointing one.
Once you’ve done your keyword research, you need to create pages optimised for these keywords.
For example, if you want to rank for ‘life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs’ (seriously, how did you get into that industry?) then you want to create the best page ever on the subject. You’ll want to make sure the keyword and synonyms of it appear in the text on the page and that it’s used in the metadata (‘metadata’ is the supplementary info on a page that tells search engines what a page is all about).
Example metadata includes:
- Title tag – the blue underlined search result that appears in Google when you search for summink – this is a very important place to put your target keyword because it’s an on-page SEO signal. You’ll find it in the HTML <head> section of any webpage e.g. <title>Life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs</title>
- Meta description – this is the small paragraph of text that appears in Google’s search results, e.g. <meta name=”description” content=”Only the very best life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs. Live your fantasy friendships with our cardboard constructions. Call 08444112233 for more info.”/>. Meta descriptions aren’t used by Google as direct ranking factors, but they can impact click-through-rate, which is a ranking signal.
- Alt attribute – this is descriptive text that’s invisible to the user (unless they have visually impaired settings activated) that Google crawls to understand what an image is about. The copy should describe the image and include the target keyword (or at least a synonym) in a non-spammy way. e.g. alt=“Life-size celebrity cardboard cut-outs of Daniel Craig.”
To edit metadata, you should log into your content management system (frequently shortened to ‘CMS’ – the software that manages your web content. Think WordPress, Joomla etc.) or ask your web developer/the agency that built your site to do so on your behalf (if you don’t have an easy to use CMS).
Beside the metadata you’ll need to include the keyword throughout the page and its copy. This includes in the title (which you’ll want to have tagged as an H1), in the sub-headers, the body content and in the URL (although when planning this you should take the site structure into consideration – see section 3).
Careful though. Long gone are the days where you can take a single keyword and stuff it into the copy as many times as possible with total disregard for quality, logic, grammar and comprehensibility. Alongside your primary keyword choice, you should use variations, synonyms and related terms to improve quality and relevance. Google will assess your page in-line with the other pages ranking for your target keyword and if it’s not using similar language and common terms typical for the industry, Google may smell a rat and decide that your page is not the quality of result it wants to show its users for that particular search term.
Content is probably the most important part of on-site optimisation.
The truth is that poor or irrelevant content can be as much a turnoff for Google as a slow-loading site or one that isn’t mobile-friendly. Don’t spam pages with ‘life-sized celebrity cardboard cut outs’ repeatedly: this will alienate the weirdos who come to your page to buy them, and search engines are wise to this trick anyway. Use keywords in a natural and relevant way and don’t forget, Google’s smart enough to understand synonyms as well.
Dedicate sections of your site to specific topics to ensure your company is seen by search engines and users as an authority on them. You could have a section of your site dedicated to life-sized celebrity cardboard cut outs and have pages sitting within this section breaking it down into specific categories – such as actors, footballers and singers. Don’t forget to use keyword optimised internal links on your site to further reinforce your topic expertise. For example, your life-sized cardboard cut outs page would link to your actors page using the keyword that you’d chosen to optimise that page for e.g. ‘carboard cut outs of actors’.
And remember, it’s a common misconception that SEO leads to clunky content writing: it may be true if you’re doing it incorrectly, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the case. If we’re being honest, if your content isn’t focused, on-topic, and interesting to your prospects it probably won’t rank anyway!
Good quality, well optimised, well structured, relevant content, that gives your users what they’re looking for, is needed to stand a chance at ranking.
Design & Structure
A well-built website should have a logical structure that allows search engines to crawl it quicksmart. This will help Google to understand the importance of certain parts based on their prominence. Basically, your most important pages should be located as close to your homepage as possible from a ‘clicks’ perspective (conduct a ‘click test’ – how many clicks does it take to get from your homepage to your most important pages? If it takes one click then Google assumes it’s an important page, if it takes six clicks then Google assumes it’s a less important page) and every page on the site should be accessible via internal linking.
Once you have done your keyword research, you’re ready to plan out your site’s structure. This is called Keyword Mapping. The process involves assigning keywords from your research to pages on your website. These can either be existing pages to be optimised, or new pages to be created and optimised. Chances are you’ll find multiple keywords from your research that could work for a single page. A good idea is for each page to have a primary keyword – which has decent search volume, the right user intent and is not too competitive to rank for – which can be supported by secondary keywords. It’s likely that once you have your list of keywords and pages, your site structure will need a little tweaking to accommodate everything. We love drawing our revised site structures out to help visualise where the pages will sit (Gliffy is a great tool for this). Drawing it out also helps plan all the redirects you need so you don’t end up with a bunch of rogue 404s!
If there is no internal linking, then how will Google’s spiders reach the right pages and crawl them? Internal links could come in the form of links in the text of the page; a sitemap page that links to every page on the site (always a good idea to have one of these that dynamically updates as you create more pages); or links in the site navigation.
It’s also worth mentioning mobile design at this stage. Google uses a mobile-first index. This means that the pages it returns in its results are the mobile versions of web pages. For example, if you have a mobile website in addition to your standard website (normally indicated by an ‘m.’ e.g. m.example.com) Google will return pages from the mobile site. Most modern websites are responsive (i.e. they adapt to the size of the device the search is being conducted on) which is great because in theory the same website is returned regardless of whether the search is conducted on a desktop or mobile (worth checking with your website agency/developers that your responsive site definitely is the same on mobile – we have seen instances where the reshaping of the site for mobile has resulted in important information on the site being lost which has subsequently affected its ability to rank for keywords).
Accordingly, a slow-loading website is a major no-no. Google is so insistent on this that they’ve even provided free tools (one of which is PageSpeed Insights) you can use to test how fast your site responds – both for convenience and, one assumes, so you’ve got no excuse!
The overall user experience on your site (including load speed) is becoming an increasingly important search indicator. To help businesses and webmasters manage and improve their user experiences, Google has released a Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. It visualises how your pages are performing in relation to key factors with a handy traffic light system so you know exactly what to fix. Google really does want businesses to succeed at SEO, because it means they can offer better results to searchers!
A great site is no good if Google doesn’t know about it. You need to alert them to its existence – and, more importantly, its value – as soon as it’s ready. Use Google Search Console to register your site and submit a sitemap containing your pages: this will ensure the search engine crawls them all (you can also use Search Console to submit individual URLs for indexing – a useful tool if you’re regularly publishing new content for example and don’t want to submit a new XML sitemap every time).
Among the most important of Google’s ranking factors are hyperlinks pointing to your site from other sites. Google uses these links as votes of confidence. The basic concept is that the more links you have, the more authoritative Google thinks your website is and the higher your site will rank for keywords you’ve optimised it for.
There are several caveats.
Once upon a time, SEO professionals would build hundreds of links from spammy networks of sites to game the system. That tactic no longer works and does way more harm than good. Instead, you want to think about how relevant the site is that you’re building a link on as well as the quality of that site. If I have a fishing website and I manage to get a link from www.anglersmail.co.uk then that’s great because it helps search engines understand your site is about fishing.
It’s also important to understand not all links are born equal. There are four types of hyperlink – a followed, a nofollowed link, a sponsored link and a user-generated content (ugc) link. In the case of followed links, Google’s spiders will travel through the link to the destination site and start crawling that (thus passing ‘link juice’). Nofollowed, sponsored and ugc links don’t automatically pass on link juice in the same way as the followed links. These directives are used as hints by Google as it decides which links to include or exclude within its search system.
Want to know how to tell if a link is followed or nofollowed? Download the MozBar and use its handy highlighter:
Good link building however, is tough; it requires a creative, metrics-driven approach and it’s seen a lot of traditional SEO agencies fade away as older spammy tactics cease to work. We think the best way of building links in the good quality, contextually relevant publications you need, is by a digital PR strategy backed-up with top-notch media relations.
And if you do decide to go down the spammy route…
When you’re caught cheating or counting cards in a casino, you’re thrown out, and Google responds with similar force when it thinks a website is trying to trick it. And, as is also true of casinos, in the long run, the house always wins. Maybe you’re a genius SEO conman: maybe you’ve genuinely come up with a way to beat it. It won’t matter. Your victory will inevitably be short-lived: Google will almost certainly update its (increasingly complex) algorithms to accommodate your tricks at the first opportunity. Its reputation depends on it.
Trying to defeat Google is like trying to fistfight the sun: you’ll waste a lot of energy, and you’re liable to get horribly burned in the process. For example:
- When it was discovered that links counted in search engine rankings, some smart Alecs decided to indulge in a spot of link-farming: building vast networks of sites that all linked to each other in order to rack up huge numbers of links to their own webpages. Because this was detrimental to user experience – it pushed irrelevant sites right up the search rankings – Google responded by penalising sites in their updated algorithms (this is why Penguin exists).
- People realised keywords in copy were a critical variable in most rankings. So they decided to flood their sites with keyword-packed text – often irrelevant to the site itself. Some webmasters even packed their sites with invisible text (black writing on a black background, for example) or in tiny, imperceptible writing. Google didn’t update their algorithms to ignore this tactic: again, they updated them to actively penalise them. Overnight, these SEOs were rewarded for their deviousness with terrible, terrible rankings. Or simply removed from Google altogether.
For a long time, Google’s motto was ‘don’t be evil’. By no means does this make it a soft touch. When Google thinks it’s being messed with, it responds promptly, brutally, and without mercy.
In short: don’t be a smart arse.
Getting SEO right
You’ve got the basics down – congrats! – but now you’ve got to get to grips with the key elements of a successful SEO campaign. Why? Because again, SEO changes a LOT. This field has been around for over two decades, and it hasn’t sat still since: algorithms are constantly changing, and a strategy that worked last year may not do it today. In time, the information contained in this very blog could be entirely irrelevant: useful only as a historical snapshot of what SEO looked like at this moment in time.
Still, here are five ways to do it right, for now, at least. You may need to outsource some of this – again, it’s very time-consuming and requires ongoing maintenance – but understanding it will allow you to appoint a consultancy that can make the right campaign and get the right results.
1. Start with the basics
With all that said, it’s still worth keeping some time-honoured SEO rules in mind.
- Be mobile-friendly – Google indexes mobile sites instead of desktop sites in its search results. This means you want to ensure your mobile site is also the main site you update with all your great content. If, on the other hand, you have a separate mobile subdomain (e.g. m.example.com) then it’s important to consider how authoritative it is. If it’s a light version of your desktop site (less content, fewer inbound links etc.) then you may find it doesn’t rank as well as the desktop one did.
- Check your metadata (think title tags, image alt attributes, URL structure etc.)
- Do your keyword research before writing concise, engaging, keyword-rich content that demonstrates value to your visitors. Keyword research is an exhaustive subject and probably worthy of a guide in itself. If you want to read more about it, then the Moz blog is a good place to start – here’s Moz’s starter for ten on keyword research.
- Make your website easy for users and the search engine spiders to navigate and find – a Google My Business / Bing Places / Apple Maps Connect map listing is essential if you’re a small business with a localised offering – with limited resources to invest in online SEO, it’ll be the fastest and cheapest way for potential customers to find you.
- A short, simple rule that won’t see you go wrong: Good quality content always wins.
There are, of course, many more basic best practice elements to a successful SEO campaign – get acquainted with all of them! If you’re looking for some more SEO knowledge, Google has created its own SEO starter Guide too.
2. Analyse insights and trends
Where SEO is concerned, there’s no such thing as analysis paralysis. Tools like Keyword Planner, Search Console and Google Trends provide a distinct opportunity to keep up with hot B2B topics and popular search terms. Analysis of the data these tools provide can give you some idea of what you should be writing about – and how you can increase your web traffic. Search Console is deffo worth a look – it’s free and Google provides a lot of information on the performance of your website that’s very understandable, even if you don’t have any SEO knowledge.
Search engines increasingly punish sites with thin content (Google’s Panda update is particularly mean about this) so you’ll want to feed them new, optimised, and rich material on a regular basis. Employ those analytics tools to maximise your SEO value and you’ll be well ahead of your competitors.
3. Publish fresh content regularly
There’s value in your old stuff, but it’s worth repeating: a reliable stream of fresh content is your best way of maximising your organisation’s SEO value. Google is getting stronger and stronger: it’s constantly updating to ensure its users only get the most relevant search results for their queries.
But it’s not quite as simple as including bundles of original new content. It should also be of value and interest to your reader. Content that isn’t engaging or valuable will lead to higher bounce rates (people clicking on your site, not liking what they’ve found and then leaving immediately), which the search engines will notice.
4. Go social
Optimise your website for social: this will allow your audience to share your content easily, enabling you to rack up the visitor numbers, increase engagement, and build top-notch links to your company site. Even better, Google still displays tweets in its search engine results – so if something’s been RT’d and favourited a bunch of times, it could well show up on page one in future!
But remember – social media is about building trust and sharing valuable knowledge, not selling. You might have a terrific product, but people don’t want to hear about it on Twitter. They go on Twitter to ask questions, broadcast their fascinating opinions, and laugh at pictures of cats. It can help you sell, but you should never appear to be on there for that exclusive purpose.
5. You can leave your (link) hat on
Again: links from other websites are one of the most important off-site ranking criteria. You need to be cynical about how you approach link building: in every relationship, partnership, or association you enter into ‘Can I get a link?’ should be in the back of your mind. Wrote a cool piece for a major trade publication? Ask for a link in your by-line as though it were your birth right. Joining a new industry association? Offer to get one of your team to write some content about it, include a followed link to your website, and if they don’t include it, email them to ask why.
If you’ve partnered with a new vendor, ask for a link on your partner profile. Get on directory sites like Thomson Local and Yelp. Link opportunities are everywhere, and if you reach out and grab them, your keyword rankings will benefit.
Choosing the right SEO provider
Ironically enough, finding a good SEO agency can be incredibly difficult. This is because they all tend to promise the same things: a position on page one, within the top five results, for every pertinent keyword. If they weren’t doing this, you get the distinct feeling they’d be peddling love potions and all-natural cure-alls.
Search for an SEO agency in the UK alone and you’ll get millions of results. You definitely don’t have the time to go through all of them. Given the nature of the topic, it’s tempting to just pick the very first one – after all it’s a poor cobbler who can’t keep their children in decent shoes!
But it’s a bit knottier than that. SEO isn’t solely about simply optimising the HTML and keyword content on your site. The Panda and Penguin updates both talk about the importance of original, relevant, and regularly updated content for websites that want high-ranking positions, so having a good supply of great material will be more important than ever. Choosing an agency that can provide this – and a steady stream of high-quality links – should be at the forefront of your mind, along with these key questions.
And if in doubt, watch Google’s video about picking an SEO agency! Can’t get better than straight from the horse’s mouth.
Can the agency produce well written, keyword-rich content?
Essentially: does the agency have the know-how and authority to write for the business you operate in and maintain your brand reputation? Using keywords as though they were jigsaw pieces isn’t going to do it. It’s about strategically deploying original content and news to demonstrate that your business can be trusted.
Does the agency have its ear to the ground?
A good agency is an up-to-date agency: one that knows the ‘trending stories’, the hot topics, the hippest lingo – all the relevant, need-to-know industry information that could potentially increase engagement with your visitors and prospective customers.
How proactive is the agency when it comes to keyword research?
SEO isn’t a one-and-done process. Optimising your site for current, high-volume, lead-gen search terms is part of the job description: everyone does it. Finding an agency that makes use of all relevant data – trend reports, social analysis, etc. – to attract a different kind of prospect or find a new, potentially breakout search term? That’s an entirely different proposition.
The ones that will give you lasting success are the ones that will stay ahead of the competition. SEO is an ongoing process – the agency that can deliver real results will be the one that uses all the analytical tools in its arsenal to deliver a continually-optimised keyword research strategy.
Are they technically competent?
While the advent of SEO friendly CMSs and plugins like Yoast have massively reduced the level of technical expertise required for SEO, the agency you chose should still know their hreflang tags from their canonicals and their JSON-LD from their redirects. You’re not expected to know much about this but you should expect them to break it all down into understandable chunks so you have a better idea of what needs to be done and why.
Will the agency integrate the SEO campaign with other digital marketing and communications campaigns that you’ve invested your brand and money into?
As fresh, interesting, user-focused content grows further in importance for SEO, it’s essential that the content produced remains consistent with the overall brand message and image presented in your other digital marketing campaigns. Hiring an agency that is familiar with your industry and that can provide an integrated digital marketing and communications service that considers SEO, social media and PR should be at the top of your business’ list.
Keywords are important, but unless they’re surrounded by good, relevant content, they’re essentially pointless. Google knows what users are looking for, and it recognises sneaky webmasters. It’s not yet able to see you when you’re sleeping, and it doesn’t know when you’re awake (unless you own a Fitbit), but it’s only a matter of time. All your content should be keyword-optimised, on-brand, and on-message: go for a service that can balance all these priorities in an integrated marketing strategy.
SEO is a rapidly evolving field, and B2B organisations need to ensure they work with providers that can balance technical skills with business insights and the ability to create compelling content. In almost every industry, investing in quality SEO will deliver direct and measurable benefits in the form of website visits and, most importantly, qualified leads. Selecting an agency is a bit like falling in love or finding a good burger place: it takes time, but you’ll know the one when you see it. And it’s always worth it in the end.
Written by: Tom Pallot, Digital PR and SEO Strategist at TopLine Comms
What is digital PR?
Digital PR is the use of online trusted, independent, unbiased, third parties to positively influence a brand’s target audience.
Now I’m going to explain why that’s the answer to the question: What is digital PR?
- School of thought #1 – social and online
- School of thought #2 – search engine optimisation
- Online PR or specific activities?
- Digital PR KPIs
- Measuring success
- Difference between traditional PR and digital PR
- Digital PR in your marketing strategy
- Picking a digital PR agency
School of thought #1 – social and online
Like so many marketing terms ‘digital PR’ is born from marketing tactics evolving and agencies trying to keep up.
In particular, old school PR agencies realising the print media landscape is getting smaller all the time and launching ‘digital PR’ pages on their websites in response.
Typically these summarise:
1) Their ability to generate coverage on websites instead of in print publications – sounds basic right? But a lot of companies we speak to still differentiate between the two – they ask, “Can you secure print coverage for us too?” Some agencies realised this and hooked their digital PR service to it.
2) Their social media expertise. Social media = digital PR. Box ticked. But it’s so much more than that, as any good B2B PR agency will tell you.
3) Their search engine optimisation smarts – more on that below.
School of thought #2 – search engine optimisation
The second school of thought has been seized upon by SEO agencies. They consider digital PR to involve everything from citation building (posting instances of a business’s name address and phone number around the internet), to generating back links from press release distribution (not recommended!), to ‘outreach’ activities (traditionally known as media pitching) – see this blog on outreach from leading SEO software company ahrefs, as an example of how SEO agencies approach media pitching.
This approach to ‘outreach’ has landed ahrefs’ SEO software rival, SEMrush, in hot water. It launched a new service (see Twitter conversation) offering ‘guest blog posts’ (or byliners/op-eds as they’re more commonly known in the PR world).
This was a manual outreach service. All the client had to do was supply the anchor text and destination URL and an SEMrush partner would write the content. Voila! Sixteen days later you have a lovely new link.
Unsurprisingly Google was all over this and SEMrush instantly shut the service down. What differentiates this type of ‘digital PR’ from traditional PR pitching?
- SEMrush asked for the target URL and anchor text – if you can stipulate this then it indicates a degree of control over the coverage – this screams spam. If you’re from the world of PR you know you have to work very hard to get basic messaging included in coverage when dealing with journalists, let alone getting links to certain landing pages included (almost impossible unless you’ve got great content on your domain the journo is referencing).
- The refer to the service as ‘guest post outreach’ – Google isn’t a fan of ‘guest posting’: “Lately we’ve seen an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts.” Check out the related blog post for more detail.
- It promises post publication in 16 days or less. Once again, if you’re from the world of PR you know you may have to wait weeks or minutes for coverage depending on the editorial/opportunity you’re dealing with. If you can control publication time then you control the opportunity. If you control the opportunity then you’re essentially paying for an advert. Google does not permit followed links in adverts (obvs – you’re gaming the PageRank system).
However, outreach is essential to generate back links the right way – from digital PR: linked mentions of your brand name in opinion pieces and news associated with your company. This is not the aforementioned ‘guest blogging’ – this is traditional PR with the happy by-product of authoritative links from editorial sites. After all, links from contextually relevant third party sites to your website are crucial for great keyword rankings. And how do we know this? Because Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, told us what the top two organic keyword ranking factors are:
“I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”
Other than link building there are two other areas that marry SEO to digital PR.
Click through rate
Google’s former chief of search quality Udi Manber testified: “The ranking itself is affected by the click data. If we discover that, for a particular query, hypothetically, 80 percent of people click on Result No. 2 and only 10 percent click on Result No. 1, after a while we figure out, well, probably Result 2 is the one people want. So we’ll switch it.”
So if everyone performing a search has been subject to brand B’s digital PR efforts (i.e. have read about brand B in horizontal and vertical online titles) and associates the brand with a particular search term/topic, then even though brand B ranks below brand A in the organic search results, it picks up the majority of the clicks because searchers recognise it. Before long, it moves into position one.
Expertise, authority and trust
In August 2019 Google set the SEO world alight with a blog on expertise, authority and trust (EAT for short).
Suddenly every SEO in the land was touting EAT as the new ranking signal you just had to get right. Google was asked so many times about EAT that it went back and added an addendum to the original blog post in March 2020 explain that EAT was about overall web presence rather than a specific thing (e.g. like adding author profiles to your website).
It’s about the quality of content on your site and various other on and offsite signals. One of which we suspect is brand mentions in authoritative editorial publications (not linked mentions necessarily, just brand mentions, otherwise knows as implied links). And why do we suspect implied links are important? Because at Pubcon 2017 in Las Vegas, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes was subjected to a detailed interview on developments in SEO.
He referenced the search quality raters, the human beings Google uses to manually review search results according to the Google search quality rating guidelines. Illyes suggested that the quality raters would know a brand was ‘quality’ if it’d been featured in an authoritative media publication.
Interviewer: “If ‘The Wall Street Journal’ writes an article about you, then that’s probably a good thing?”
Illyes: “Yeah. Basically, that’s how the ranking algorithm works as well.”
He went on to confirm: “…the context in which you engage online, and how people talk about you online, actually can impact what you rank for.”
So what conclusion do we draw from this? Being featured in contextually relevant publications is key to EAT and important for organic search engine rankings. We also suspect simple brand mentions are now becoming more important and acting as ‘mini votes’ – and how do you get these brand mentions? Answer, digital PR.
To conclude this section, digital PR positively impacts:
- Trusted inbound links
- Click through rate
- Expertise, authority and trust
Online PR or specific activities?
The answer is debatable, but I would argue it’s a series of specific activities – question is, which ones? If PR is the act of managing relations with a public then there’s not much it doesn’t include; agencies tend to base the answer to this question on what they’re good at and what they can sell.
For the sake of this blog let’s say the desired result of traditional PR is increased brand awareness. So if we look at digital PR in the same light, as an online discipline designed to raise awareness of a brand, then I’d suggest it includes:
- Social media influencer relations
- Social media advertising
- Online article placement
- Video production
- Inbound marketing
- Review generation
- Email marketing
However, in order to avoid the broad definition I’ve applied swallowing all marketing disciplines, I’m going to apply the following caveat:
All PR, online and offline, has to involve the use of a trusted, independent, unbiased, third party.
Therefore I’m dropping PPC, email marketing, social media advertising, inbound marketing, video and blogging from the list. All definite awareness-raising activities, but controlled by the brand and the brand alone. This leaves us with the following:
- Social media influencer relations
- Online article placement (including reviews)
I think most marketers would agree social media influencer relations and online article placement sit squarely in the digital PR camp. The argument I would anticipate is: ‘But how can you include SEO if all PR, online and offline, has to involve the use of a trusted, independent, unbiased, third party?’
Our answer to that as a leading London B2B SEO outfit is: from the target audience’s viewpoint, organic search results and online media coverage share one thing in common, they are both published on independent, unbiased portals. No, Google isn’t independent and unbiased, but neither is a newspaper. Personally I don’t see the difference between being featured on the front page of a newspaper versus the first page of Google’s search engine results pages for a particular keyword. Both are ways to publicise your brand to a target audience, only difference being, we can measure the impact of the page one ranking whereas it’s much harder to measure the impact of the print coverage.
What are good digital PR key performance indicators (KPIs)?
A good digital PR result is therefore anything that positively influences a brand’s social media or organic search profiles, or any positive online media coverage. They can be split into outputs and outcomes – this is important – after all outcomes are what will positively impact your bottom line and what your FD cares about. Here are example digital PR KPIs:
Social media influencer relations:
- Have you increased your target audience community size? (output)
- Are increasing traffic from your social channels to your website? (outcome)
- Have you created new brand advocates? (outcome)
- Are your posts being shared by relevant social communities/influencers? (outcome)
- How many links have you built? (output)
- Are your keyword rankings improving? (outcome)
- Have you managed to increase traffic from search engines to your website? (outcome)
- Is increased organic traffic resulting in more leads? (outcome)
Online article placement (including reviews):
- Have you got more positive coverage that your competitors? (output)
- Have you increase implied lines (brand mentions)? (output)
- Have you secured coverage in tier one online media targets? (output)
- Have their key messages been pulled through into media coverage? (output)
- Have you secured good reviews on sites that rank highly for keywords the target audience will be searching for? (output)
- Have you seen an increase in referral traffic from online article placement? (outcome)
How do you measure the success of digital PR?
Now we can answer the ‘What is digital PR?’ question, we can begin to think about how to measure success.
Public relations has typically struggled because it’s hard to measure its contribution to a business’s bottom line. Interestingly digital PR doesn’t suffer the same problem. Anything that’s directly responsible for increasing website traffic and conversions is very valuable to a business and something worth paying for.
That’s not to say traditional PR doesn’t contribute to sales, but it does so in an indirect way (e.g. makes it easier for telesales teams to get through to prospects, increases a company’s credibility etc. – very valuable, but hard to put a number on).
Traditional PR agencies that are confident enough to leave outdated PR metrics in the past where they belong, will often suggest PR success measurement is based on how well their clients’ businesses are performing. If business performance is good, business objectives have been met, and PR has visibly supported the process, then the PR campaign has been successful (this is the fundamental logic of the Barcelona Principles pulled together by AMEC, designed to help the PR industry prove its worth), but by that logic, if revenue and profit is down, then PR has failed.
However, this isn’t always the case. The PR campaign may have been excellent at raising awareness with a target demographic but that demographic may have not been the right target audience for the brand, or it was the right target audience, but that audience wasn’t ready to buy, or were put off by something else. Point being there are a million variables that may obscure the effectiveness of a traditional PR campaign.
By contrast, measuring the effectiveness of digital PR is relatively straightforward, especially if you have access to the following tools:
Google Analytics (GA) – the staple software you’ll need to measure digital PR success. Using GA enables you to measure (amongst other things):
- Organic traffic levels
- Referral traffic from media websites
- Referral traffic from social networks
- Source and medium of client website goal completions
- Type of user your client’s website is attracting
Keyword tracking software – at the high end of the SEO spectrum you have tools like Moz which will help you track your keywords and give you access to a wide range of SEO tools, like Link Explorer, that come in very handy when running SEO campaigns. On the other hand, if you are primarily interested in plain old keyword tracking then you won’t go far wrong with a product like Authority Labs.
Social software – while social tracking tools like SharedCount have been used in the past to track all social sharing from major social platforms, their effectiveness is now limited as it has no access to Twitter and LinkedIn. Truth is, the best way to do this is to set up social tracking in Google Analytics – Hootsuite’s guide is perfect for beginners.
What is the difference between traditional and digital PR?
Going back to our definition of what digital PR is:
Digital PR is the use of online trusted, independent, unbiased, third parties to positively influence a brand’s target audience.
Therefore there is no fundamental difference between offline and online PR, simply the channels through which they’re delivered. Whether online or offline a good story is still a good story and if it’s carried by an ‘trusted independent third-party outlet’ then traditional and digital PR are similar. The difference is in the channels used to promote the brand and the way the online and offline versions of the discipline are measured.
How does digital PR fit into a marketing strategy?
To answer this you need to ask another question: what is your digital strategy?
If your audience is millennials and your strategy is ‘Be where they are’ then social media will be an important channel, and brand ambassadors promoting products a great tactic.
If, however your strategy is ‘Get them when they’re ready to spend’ then SEO will be key, along with PPC and other point of purchase marketing disciplines.
How do you pick a good digital PR agency?
Now the tricky bit; how to pick a digital PR agency. Questions you can ask any prospective digital PR partners include the ones I’ve detailed as subheadings above. And if you’re leaning toward hiring a PR-led SEO agency for digital PR support (and you should!) then watch Google’s video on hiring SEO support – a lot of the lessons apply (after all, it’s all very well a digital PR agency generating the best links for your organic search campaign, but if they can’t do the technical onsite piece then you’re pouring a lot of fuel into a broken engine).
Armed with the knowledge from this blog you should be able to have a fairly informed conversation with any ‘digital PR’ agency and confidently ask the question: what is digital PR?
If you’d like more information on digital PR, or advice specific to your business, drop the author of this blog post Luke a line. He’d be happy to help!Choosing a good SEO company
Choosing a good SEO company is tricky, mainly because it’s really hard to figure out what a good SEO company looks like. Talking to search marketers often doesn’t help: their jargon is dense and impenetrable to the point that it’s often hard to understand what’s actually being said and why it matters.
It makes you feel like the school bully in a 1980’s coming-of-age drama: at the end of the day, you just want these silly nerds to stop babbling and give you what you want (swirlies optional, but highly recommended).
The worst part of this opaque, laborious process is that it isn’t even successful all that often. We’re an SEO company ourselves, and we’re often the second, third, or fourth agency a business works with. Why do the others fail? The reasons are legion: they engage in dubious, black-hat processes; they use outdated, ineffective practices; they let algorithm update after algorithm update pass them by (please don’t swirly us); they build poor spammy links – the list is extensive unfortunately.
Of course, knowing why they fail isn’t enough to succeed. So how do you go about choosing a good SEO company?
You don’t need to read every page of the SEO handbook: for one thing, it’s updated often enough that it’s likely to be old news by the time you’re finished; for another, it’s a task for your search agency. The key is to make sure they know it – and how they can use it to solve your particular business needs.
In your early conversations, you want to see evidence of a modern approach to SEO. Warning signs at this stage include:
- Low cost – if they’re offering to get you to position one for hundreds of pounds they’ll be using spammy techniques that will cripple your website in the longer term. You might not believe it, but Google penalises sites that use spammy links – if your website is a lead generator, these penalties can be disastrous. Good SEO costs thousands not hundreds I’m afraid – AVOID.
- Mentioning things like – link wheels, reciprocal links, forum comments, advertorial (paying for media coverage) – all connected to old school black hat tactics and all likely to get your website penalised by Google – AVOID.
- Newswires – lots of old school SEO agencies know they need to do good PR for their clients these days but they lack the skill, so they turn to paid for newswires to distribute their clients’ news in the hope of attracting links. These result in paid for links. These are seriously frowned upon by Google – read about the Penguin part of the Google algorithm if you want to find out more – AVOID.
- No strategy – good SEO agencies build strategies consisting of technical onsite tactics, great keyword research, content creation, PR, link building etc. If they cite one tactic to solve all your problems – AVOID.
- No interest in your business objectives – SEO is there to help you meet your business objectives. If an agency is only prepared to talk to you about how good they are at improving keyword rankings and not about stuff like how they increased organic traffic, reduced client cost per acquisition, cost per deal etc. – AVOID.
- No content team – remember, search marketers don’t just make reports and tweak your website. They are, in some respects, your business’s writers: they’re responsible for creating keyword-rich web copy and generating links with quality PR content (if they know what they’re doing – find out more about that here).
- In the course of doing these things, they’re also serving as brand representatives. At the very least, you should want them to understand your brand.
Finding an SEO company
The most immediately obvious means of finding a quality SEO agency is Google. After all, if they aren’t near the top of the rankings, there’s clearly something wrong with them. Cobbler’s children, etc. etc.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Rankings are, for one thing, subject to change; usually because of a change in the algorithm, or a change in Google policy to punish ‘black hat’ practices such as page swapping, invisitext, or link buying – often via the algorithm (we keep saying ‘algorithm’, we’re really sorry).
We appear at or near the top for several keywords ourselves (search for “B2B PR agency” – we’re quite proud of that one) but we’d never pretend that this is, in itself, an indicator of what we can do for you. When it comes to choosing an SEO agency, do your due diligence. Get recommendations. Proposals. Concrete examples of what they have achieved and what they think they can achieve. Get some notion of how they intend to pursue ranking opportunities, increase conversion rates, and translate your requirements into tangible business value.
How much time do they intend to spend on onsite vs. offsite optimisation? And don’t take “50/50” for an answer. Can they provide evidence of successful link-building from high domain authority (a metric from Moz that gauges the trustworthiness of various websites) sources, and is their own domain authority reasonably high? Do they have case studies – with real metrics – that prove the value of their approach?
If they have good, realistic answers to these questions, and if they know what your business is trying to achieve, they’re probably a safe bet – congratulations, you’ve solved the problem of choosing a good SEO company! If they make promises they can’t keep, demonstrate a willingness to use unethical methods – or worse, attempt to hide their use of unethical methods – and haven’t kept up to date, then it’s wise to meet with a few more candidates.
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