Local SEO For Restaurants – OK Google…I’m Hungry

restaurant seo

 

Just the other week my girlfriend and I were looking for a particular patisserie in the Brighton Lanes that sold raw vegan chocolate cakes (yes I know, very Brighton!).

OK Google, where is Black Mocha?

This is the search result returned from Google:

 

brighton serps

 

brighton results

Excerpt from Black Mocha’s Google Business page

 

Black Mocha have done an excellent job of optimising their web presence for local search. These guys don’t even have a website – not one I can see anyway.

But they have managed to build up brand exposure through reviews on highly relevant websites such as Trip Advisor and have a strong Google Business Page.

These are just two of the tactics we will be looking at in this post on how to optimise your restaurant or cafe for local search.

 

 

Why is Local SEO so Important for Restaurants?

 

Siege Media recently researched the 100 most popular Google keywords of 2016 excluding the obvious branded terms such as GMail and Amazon. At number 11 was restaurants near me which received 3,350,000 searches per month in the US.

 

seige media 2016 popular keywords

Source

These types of location based searches tend to be from mobile devices. In fact 50% of local searches from a smartphone result in a store visit within a day.

This is perhaps expected. Somebody searching for a near me type search implies they are pretty far down the buyer journey – they are ready to buy.

For you as a restaurant owner, this means they are ready to eat. So how can you take advantage of this hungry traffic and ensure they come to your eaterie?

Well the answer lies in the application of local SEO tactics.

 

 

How Restaurants Can Optimise For Local Search

 

Google My Business

Google My Business is a free Google service that makes it easy for small businesses to get found online.

Creating a Google My Business listing gives you exposure on Google Maps, allows you to display opening times, contact details and interact with your followers.

Your listing will also improve your local ranking meaning your business will be displayed in Google’s local 3-pack listings.

If you are a restaurant wanting hungry diners to find you, this is where you need to be.

Consider this local search for italian restaurants near me.

 

google search for italian restaurants

 

These results are displayed at the top of the results page. Clicking through to any one of these restaurants give a feast of information that would be of interest to a diner such as menu links, website link, customer reviews and directions.

 

orsino brighton google business page

 

Notice the ‘Directions’ button at the top of this result for Orsino? This will help lead a hungry diner right up to the very doorstep of your restaurant, by giving precise directions.

Your Google My Business page also allows diners to leave reviews which is the second restaurant SEO tactic we are going to discuss.

 

 

Get Customer Reviews

If you’re anything like me, when thinking of dining at a restaurant you’ve never been to before, you are curious to find out how previous customers rate the food there.

It is only natural that people like to see proof that a product or service they are spending their money on is going to be good.

In 2014 a Bright Local consumer survey revealed 88% of searchers read the reviews of local businesses to determine if they are trustworthy.

 

customer review research 2016

Source

Reviews also help your local listings search results stand out from the crowd with gold stars, helping to increase the number of people clicking through to your business.

 

brighton restaurant listings

 

The image above illustrates a search result for restaurants in brighton.

Not only do reviews help to make the local results stand out with stars, the result after the local 3-pack (Trip Advisor) is another review site.

So in addition to getting reviews on your Google My Business page, you also need to get reviewed on review sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp.

Which leads us conveniently on to our next SEO tactic for restaurants.

 

 

Get Local Citations

Local citations are mentions of a local business anywhere on the internet. Local citations don’t necessarily contain links, but are still an important local SEO ranking factor.

 

moz local seo ranking factors

Source

Local citations provide evidence to the search engines that your business is actually real and not some bogus setup to con money out of unsuspecting people.

They also allow people to leave reviews of your business.

Here are some examples of places to get your restaurant locally cited on:

 

 

An important point to note when getting local citations is to make sure that you stick to a consistent NAP – name, address and phone number. This helps enhance trust signals with the search engines which will in turn improve your rank in local search results.

 

 

Optimise for Local Keywords

There are certain on page elements that you will need to optimise in order to get page 1 visibility for your restaurant with the search engines.

 

  • Meta title – A title that contains your keyword is essential in order to rank. The meta title describes what the web page is about and search engines often use it as the blue link text on the results page

 

indian restaurant brighton search

 

The image above illustrates the top 3 results for indian restaurant brighton.

Notice how the first result has been truncated?

This is because the title is too long. Google will only display the first 50-60 characters so be sure to fit your keyword and restaurant name within the permitted limits.

Although not in position one, the second result wins the prize for most effectively optimised meta title.

Why?

If you head over to Google’s Keyword Planner (you will need to sign up for a free Google account) you can check monthly search volumes for keywords you are interested in.

On checking the traffic numbers that search for the keywords our 3 Indian restaurants have optimised their titles for, you will see why the second result has done the best job SEO wise:

 

 

brighton search terms traffic

 

The second result, Pavel Indian, has optimised for two closely related terms – indian restaurant brighton & indian takeaway brighton. And managed to fit it all within 50-60 characters.

The first restaurant has only optimised for one keyword, even though they also offer a takeaway service.

The third has targeted keywords that don’t deliver much traffic and are very generic. The search intent behind order takeaway doesn’t indicate what the person might be searching for.

 

  • H1 tag (page heading) – Whereas the title will indicate the page subject matter from the search engine results page, the heading will let the site visitor know what the page is about once they’ve clicked through.

It is a good way to confirm to your visitor that they are on the page they’ve expected to see.

Ideally, your page heading should contain the keyword you optimed the title for so there is consistency between the search result and the page.

If you fail to do this you risk visitors leaving your site after they click through. You have a very short time to convince a visitor to read your web page once they’ve landed. If the page title isn’t related to the search result link they clicked, they won’t see relevancy and you won’t see them for dust.

 

  • Page Description – The page description is often used in the search results to provide an overview of what a web page is about. It sits underneath the blue link (yellow box in image below).

example page description

 

Although the page description isn’t considered a search engine ranking factor it does improve click through rate (CTR) to the page. Particularly if it contains the keyword a user is searching for.

Search engines truncate descriptions over 160 characters, which you can see has happened with the Pavel Indian result.

 

  • url – A keyword in the url is great if appropriate. However, with a home page this isn’t advisable.

 

  • Page Content – Opinions vary regarding how often you should mention keywords within the page copy. However, a good rule of thumb is to use keywords if it makes sense to ie does it benefit the user?

Matt Cutts, Google’s former Head of the Web Spam Team, explains how Google analyses keyword use in web page copy:

  • Image alt tags – These describe what an image is about and aids visually impaired people who use screen readers. It also helps search engines to discover what an image is about in order to list them in image search results.

   So be sure to include your keyword in any image alt tags too.

 

 

Local Link Building

Links are still a fundamental part of Google’s algorithm. When it comes to optimising for local search, links from locally based sites and blogs are pure gold, particularly if they are related to your business.

Links from local sites send signals to the search engines that your restaurant has a strong association with whatever town or city you’re in.

Here are a few ideas of places to look at to whet your appetite for building some great local links to your restaurant website:

 

  • Local suppliers
  • Local food bloggers
  • Local events sites
  • Local food festivals

 


Final Word

If your restaurant serves mainly local customers, it is crucial that you optimise your business for local search.

Having a Google My Business page is a good way to get started if you don’t have the budget for a website yet. This is a free service provided by Google, and if optimised, your Google My Business page will rank in the local results without the need for a website.

Reviews are also an important part of increasing your restaurant’s online presence, so don’t be afraid to ask for them!

Finally, if you do have a website, make sure you get local citations from listing sites and links from other businesses that are local to you.

 

 

 

Voice Search is Coming – How Should Small Businesses Prepare?

voice search small business

We are currently at the dawn of a new era in how we use the internet.

Comscore estimates that by 2020 50% of all internet searches will be voice activated.

Previous technical difficulties which meant you got the number for your local plumber after inquiring Siri about the weather, are no longer a prevalent issue.

These initial teething problems are disappearing fast due to the recent rapid advancement of technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text To Speech (TTS).

Voice search is now much more accurate. According to KPCB, it is now over the 90% accuracy threshold:

 

voice search accuracy

Source: KPCB Internet Trends 2016

 
Add to this the rise in use of digital personal assistants such as Cortana, Siri and Alexa, it becomes clear why voice search is becoming increasingly popular.

According to a study by Thrive Analytics in October 2014, nearly 2/3s of respondents said they used their smartphone personal assistants at least once a week:

 

smart phone personal assistant use

Source: Thrive Analytics, October 2014, n=2,058

 

Who is Using Voice Search?

It will probably be no surprise to find that the early adopters of this technology are Millenials. Google recently surveyed 1400 Americans and found that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search daily.

 

who uses voice search

Source

 

It seems that younger people have less hang ups about speaking to a computer than older people, who may not be able to get past the horrors of HAL; the AI computer that went slightly wrong in the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

Why Use Voice Search

Being from a generation that lived in a time before the internet (yes there was such a time!) I can understand why some are reluctant to start using voice search.

However, now that the technology has improved, I think there are some sensible reasons to use it if you can get past the initial awkwardness of talking to your phone or computer!

Here are a few voice search queries that might actually be preferable to a standard keyboard search.

 

  • You are driving and need to re-route due to a traffic jam
    • OK Google, please find me quickest route to X
  • You have arrived in an unfamiliar town for a meeting. You are a bit early and fancy a latte at your favourite coffee house
    • OK Google, where is nearest place to get good coffee
  • For people that are sight impaired
  • When searching whilst otherwise engaged such as watching the TV

 

Hound, a voice powered virtual assistant app, published its findings into what users are using their app for.

This gives us some insight into why people use voice search.

 

hound voice search categories

Source: KPCB Internet Trends 2016

 
We can see that search use can be broadly categorised into four reasons:

  • Local Information
  • Fun & Entertainment
  • Personal Assistant
  • General Information

 

What Can Small Businesses do to Prepare for Voice Search

Using this information we can make some educated guesses as to how small businesses might be able to prepare for the anticipated growth in voice search.

I would hazard a guess most businesses could gain advantages by thinking how best they can serve user queries that fall into the ‘Local Information’ and ‘General Information’ categories.

 

Local Information – Optimise for Local Search

It is clear from Hound’s research that voice search is popular for local based queries. Consider these ‘near me’ type searches:
 

  • Where is a good coffee shop near me
  • Nearest take away Chinese restaurant to me
  • Best B&Bs in Brighton

 
The following tactics will help ensure that your small business website is optimised for local search traffic:
 

  • Create local business listings on sites such as Yelp, Brownbook and Yahoo! Local.There are literally thousands of these sites and the key thing to remember is to keep your business information consistent across all listings.
  • Claim your Google My Business page
  • Optimise your web pages with local keywords eg Brighton removals company
  • Use schema.org markup with business details such as name and location. This is basically additional coding for your website that makes it easier for search engines to understand information such as where you are located and what type of business you are
  • Get as many local reviews as you can. Although Google reviews should be the priority, don’t discount other sites such as Yelp, which Apple maps use
  • Build links from other local websites such as local suppliers you do business with

 
These tactics will enhance your website’s visibility for location based search terms, whether they are typed or spoken.

 

General Information – Question Based Queries

Question based search queries are on the increase. According to Search Engine Watch there has been a 61% increase in question related queries in recent years.

Interestingly, the top question type keyword is ‘who’; perhaps people searching for information on famous people such as ‘who is Donald Trump’s current wife?’.

 

search question growth

Source

 

‘Who’ type questions aren’t really going to be relevant to businesses, but ‘how’ type phrases may well be.

Consider how these voice search queries may relate to your business:

 

How do I remove a hard drive from my computercomputer repair shop

How do I fix a leaking tapplumber

How do I repair a fuseelectrician

 

So when creating new content for your blog, make sure some of your content titles use question type keywords.

For the first example above, a video showing the steps required to remove a hard drive entitled ‘How do I remove a hard drive from my computer’ would be optimised for anyone searching for this information through voice and would show your business’s expertise in this area.


Final Word

It is still very early days for voice search so nobody can predict with absolute certainty how this technology will impact businesses in a few years from now.

However, current data suggests that voice search is here to stay and as more people start using new voice activated devices such as Alexa, business owners need to start thinking about how they can gain a competitive advantage over the slow adopters.

Today there are a few simple things that can be done to ensure your website is prepared for voice search such as ensuring your site is optimised for local SEO, if you serve local markets, and creating blog content titles that are optimised for voice queries.

Or you can do nothing, bury your head in the sand and hope that voice search is nothing but a passing fad. Just like author Clifford Stoll did when he predicted that the internet will fail back in 1995.

15 Link Building Tactics For Small Businesses

link building tactics small business

Backlinks still remain an important factor that Google considers when ranking a website.

In 2015 Searchmetrics conducted research into ranking factors and found a strong correlation between the number of linking domains and keyword rank:

backlinks benefit seo

Image Source

The red box indicates that the number of linking sites has a very positive impact (2=strong, 0=no effect, -1=negative effect) on a website’s ability to rank.

However, the wrong type of links can harm your website and even get you de-indexed by Google. Not good if your business relies on the internet!

Gone are the days when you could buy £100 worth of links and watch your keyword rankings rise whilst you relax with your feet up. This tactic will almost certainly get you penalised today.

Nowadays link building is hard work but the reward for your blood, sweat and tears is long term search engine visibility.

The other way to get search engine visibility is to pay for it. However, once the PPC meter runs out, you lose visibility.

Now we know why links are important, here are 15 small business link building tactics that won’t get you penalised – as long as you don’t overdo it!

 

Alchemy Magic – Judge a link not only on its ability to help your site rank, but also on whether it will help deliver traffic likely to convert into customers


 

Link Building Ideas for Small Businesses

 

Using Existing Business Relationships

A good start when building links to your business site is to simply ask for a link from any partners and suppliers you have relationships with. Many businesses have a ‘partners’ page, so this tactic could be a quick win for you.

 

Submit to Industry Directories

Link building from generic directories was pretty much rendered useless after Google implemented the Penguin Update in 2012.

However links from specific industry directories still count because they are relevant to your business.

If you’re a plumber, of course you want to be listed on a local plumbing directory. This is a highly relevant and valuable link for you.

Here are a few searches you can copy and paste into Google to find these kinds of directories. Simply substitute industry for whichever one you work in:

inurl:submit + directory + industry

inurl:add url +directory + industry

intext:submit a link + directory + industry

 

Links From Industry Bodies & Associations

Is your business a member of any industry specific bodies? These types of organisation often have high authority websites so links from them will certainly help raise your keyword ranks and give you exposure on a very relevant website.

 

Local Business Directory Links

Local business directories are still a valid type of online directory to acquire links from and will help with local SEO.

Use the following Google search to find a list of local directories in your town or city:

intext:add site + business directory + town

 

Guest Blogging

This is an effective link building tactic but be careful you don’t overdo it. If you are guest blogging on a website that is related to your business in some way, this is fine. You get exposure on a website to a new and relevant audience and also acquire a new link.

However, you may attract the attention of Google’s Web Spam Team if you’re an electrician and you regularly guest blog on a health food site.

Here are a couple of Google guest blog searches to get you started:

Inurl:submit guest post + industry

Inurl:contribute + industry

 

Build Relationships with Influencers in Your Industry

Influencers have a wide audience reach on social media and are trusted members of a community or industry. As a small business owner, it is worth your while spending time building relationships with these people. A chance to contribute on their blog will not only get you a valuable link, but it will also raise your profile and trust amongst a very relevant audience.

Image Link Building

If your business website uses imagery to convey its message, you may consider offering these images to bloggers in return for a link via an embed code or attribution. For example, many travel businesses have stunning imagery to entice people into buying a holiday.

There is always a high demand for good, free images from bloggers.

Start a blog

This is a long term link building strategy. However, if you regularly post high quality content and market it on relevant social media channels, you will attract links naturally. It is hard work and takes a lot of time and resources, but content is the heart of any digital marketing strategy and it inextricably connected with links and traffic.

Setup Google Alerts for Your Brand

Do you want to easily find out who is talking about your business online? If they are mentioning you, would they possibly link to you?

Setting up Google Alerts is easy if you have a Google Account. Simply go here and add your company name.

If you are lucky enough to get a good mention on a blog somewhere, contact the owner and ask for a link. They normally oblige as a link in this case often adds to user experience ie the reader is often curious to see the website of the business being discussed.

 

Forum Link Building

A somewhat under-utilised link building tactic, forum marketing can be an effective way to get a valuable link (from your forum signature) and drive relevant traffic to your site.

Forums can offer you a very targeted and relevant audience that is interested in your product or service. If you use forums to help other members, you will soon build up trust amongst the very people that might be interested in your goods and services.

 

Broken Link Building

It is hardly surprising that broken links are created as the internet evolves and grows.  Broken link building involves contacting sites that link out to pages that no longer exist and offering them a solution; linking to your page or resource that has similar content.

A great tool to get you started with this tactic is Check My Links; a Chrome plugin that highlights all the broken links on a web page.

 

Link Building Through Blog Comments

This tactic is often regarded as ‘black hat’ as it was used to death before Google cottoned on to it. However, if the comment adds value and the addition of a link will help convey the comment’s message, then that is perfectly acceptable. Just avoid this type of affair which I’m sure you will!

blog comment spam

Image Source

 

Quora & Other Q&A Sites

Quora and Yahoo Answers are two examples of Q&A sites you can use for link building.

As a small business reliant on the web, you want to be in the places where people go to search for answers related to your product, so Q&A sites are a valuable place to get exposure.

On Quora for example, you can search out a topic that you may be able to answer with your content:

link building quora

Then write your answer in the box provided, linking to a resource you have on your website if helpful.

link building q&a sites

Thinking beyond the link gained, this tactic will also give you valuable exposure to a relevant audience.

 

Competitor Link Building

Going after the links your top ranking competitors have is a proven tactic and works on the ‘what’s good for them will be good for me’ principle.

You will need a decent backlink tool in order to work out what sites are linking to your competitors. Open Site Explorer and Site Explorer are two excellent tools that you can use to do this, and both have free versions you can use to try them out.

 

Link Building Using Infographics

Does your business site have any good infographics you could use to attract links? People love graphics that explain complex concepts visually so infographics tend to attract links naturally, provided they are unique.

Visit Venngage and you’ll be able to begin creating your own infographics for free.


Final Word

I hope this has given you some new ideas on how to build quality links to your website. It is important to always be thinking beyond what the link may do to benefit keyword rank, and consider how the link will help deliver relevant traffic. Bearing this in mind will help ensure that your small business website has a natural looking link profile and isn’t in potential danger from future Google updates.

How Do I Find Time to Blog When I’m a Small Business?

small business no time to blog 2

 

You run a small business and there are simply not enough hours in the day. So just how do you find the time to do blogging?

This is the predicament many small businesses and SMEs find themselves in.

However, just because your business is under resourced and time poor, is no excuse for failing to blog at all!

If your business is reliant on the internet for sales and leads, you need to be blogging.

Let’s first examine why this is the case, before looking at some tips to ‘make time’ for this vital piece of your digital marketing strategy.

 

Why Small Businesses Need to be Blogging

 

Whether you’re a solopreneur or a global corporate giant, you’re raison d’être is essentially the same, albeit on different scales; you are selling a product or service.

And this product or service provides a solution of some kind to your customer.

A downloadable eBook on tips to lose those love handles, for example, helps people wanting to lose weight. Anti-virus software helps people keep their computers safe etc.

Behind every solution (product/service) there is a wealth of problems (consumer pain) that the customer is trying to solve. And it is these problems that you want to be writing about on your blog.

When people have a problem these days they Google it. If you have a blog post on your site that offers helpful, non-salesy advice, and your product/service is relevant to the issue, then your blog post has helped turn a random visitor into a future sales prospect.

If your blog contains countless posts that discuss every conceivable problem your target customer might be able to solve with your product or service, you turn your small business website into a lead generating magnet.

 

Alchemy magic – your blog content needs to help your target customers by offering free advice. Don’t sell, help. The rewards come later.

 

And all this is in addition to the fact that Google loves regular fresh content and the more content you have on your website, the more long tail keywords you are able to rank for etc…

You get the picture. If you want customers from the internet, blog until your fingers bleed!

However, blogging takes commitment, time and effort.  So here are a few blogging tips to make this essential marketing task a little bit easier.

 

Small Business Blogging Tips – How to Become a Writing Beast

small business blogging tips

 

Create a content calendar

 

A content calendar has the desired effect of fleshing out a plan to achieve a specific business goal, say of 30 blog posts published over the next 3 months.

If you also create working titles in your calendar, the task of writing the posts will be much easier. Sometimes the most difficult part of writing, is deciding what to write in the first place.

Having a calendar which specifies dates by which titles should be published, removes much of the psychological barrier to getting started with blogging in the first place.

 

Structure posts first with sub-headings

 

Subheadings not only help make a blog post easier to read. They also make posts easier to write.

Before you even put pen to paper (or rather finger tips to keyboard) do all your research. Whilst researching your topic, jot down some subheadings to structure the post, ensuring they cover all the salient points of your chosen subject.

Again, this process removes the psychological resistance to writing in the first place and saves a lot of time that might otherwise be spent staring blankly at your computer screen, wondering where to begin.

 

Alchemy magic – Plan a content calendar along with post titles and dates. Having a plan makes your content goals much easier to achieve. A goal without a plan is just a wish!

 

Cut out all distractions for a block of time

 

I personally find that writing solidly for 45 mins then taking a break, works out best for me. During that time, I turn my phone onto silent, turn all social media notifications off and any other distractions and simply write.

If I have researched my topic well and have my subheadings already in place, writing tends to flow.

My point is, if you are going to write, write. Make it your only focus for a specified time. You will find it a lot easier than you think and you may even begin to enjoy it!

 

Write at the same time every day

 

People differ as to when their minds are at their sharpest. Choose a time of day when you think that you are at your most productive and make it a habit to write every day at that time.

Writing every day at the same time will train your brain and writing blog posts will soon become habit.

 

Alchemy magic – daily blog writing will pay off many times over for years to come in the form of free traffic that is relevant to your business.

 

Carry a notebook around with you

 

We often get our best ideas at the most inopportune of moments such as in the shower or out walking the dog. At the times and places when we don’t have a pen or paper.

Great inspiration comes from the subconscious mind, not the conscious mind. We therefore don’t have any control over when inspiration comes up.

But if you carry a notebook and pen around with you will be able to write down your great blog post ideas.

And for all you technophiles out there, sorry to say that your iPhone just isn’t the same as a notebook as this excellent post points out.

 

Outsourcing Blog Content

 

If finding the time to write regular content for your business blog really is impossible, then outsourcing blog writing is always an option.

There are a couple of things to consider if choosing to go down this road. Firstly, if you already blog regularly your readers will have come to expect a particular personality and tone from your writing. Outsourcing will make it difficult to maintain the same style your readers have grown to love.

Secondly, outsourcing can sometimes be a false economy where time is concerned. Sending drafts back and forth to the freelancer during the editing process may be eating up as much time as it would take you to write the post yourself, especially if instructions regarding tone haven’t been communicated clearly.

 

Final Word

 

There is a mantra in digital marketing spheres – content is king. For the small business owner it is an opportunity to build up your online visibility amongst the very people that have an interest in your product or service. If you write posts that help prospects, rather than sell to them, you will establish your brand as a thought leader in your niche; a business that people will come to trust.

This isn’t an overnight process and takes a lot of work. But the rewards are great. And I hope that some of the tips discussed in this post will make the task of blog writing a little easier.

 

7 Proven Ways to Drive High Quality Targeted Website Traffic

drive quality traffic to your website

 

Not all website traffic is created equal.

There is traffic that has the potential to convert and fulfil a pre-defined business objective and then there is everything else.

Are you fed up of having a business website that attracts visitors that don’t convert? Then read on as I am going to discuss 7 ways to drive high quality targeted traffic to your website. The kind of traffic that is likely to convert.

So how do you get the traffic you actually want?

 

 

1. Produce content which helps your target audience. Content is the fuel of any business digital marketing strategy and the right content will drive potential customers to your site. When people want answers these days they ‘Google it’. In fact 20% of Google searches each day have never been used before. Businesses can use this to their advantage by creating content that addresses the challenges their customers face so that when they are searching for answers on Google they end up on your website.

OK, so they probably won’t immediately convert and become a customer. But you will have generated brand awareness amongst your target audience, and with enough content you will establish yourself as an authority in whichever industry you operate.

 


2. Do regular keyword research. This point leads on from the first tactic. Doing regular keyword research will ensure you sweep up any keywords you may have missed and ones that may not have been around when your website was initially launched. If content is the fuel for your digital marketing campaign, relevant keywords will increase your fuel’s octane rating. Relevant keywords are what drive quality traffic to your site. Good content is what keeps them there and encourages them to convert.

 

Alchemy magic – Regularly creating helpful content, optimised for the keywords your customers use, will drive quality traffic to your website.

 


 

3. On site SEO. To give yourself the best chance of attracting quality website traffic, on site SEO is essential. A whole post could be written about this topic but the essential things to have in place are:

  • Meta titles, description, heading and image alt tags optimised for keywords your target audience are likely to use
  • No issues with pages having duplicate content. This can harm your search engine rankings.
  • No pages with ‘thin content’. There are probably as many definitions of thin content as there are SEOs. However for the purposes of on-site optimisation, a page with thin content doesn’t really serve a purpose to a website visitor. So to avoid any thin content issues and getting into trouble with Google, ensure that all pages on your website contain relevant content that is well researched and written and actually help your intended visitor. If you are still confused about thin content, Moz wrote an excellent post about it here.
  • Site architecture is such that it is easy for search engines to spider and users to navigate. A common rule of thumb is the 3 clicks rule which suggests that users of a website should be able to find what they need within three clicks of a mouse.

 


 

4. Link building from sites your target customers visit. SEO is constantly evolving and what was working 3 years ago won’t now. However, one thing that has remained constant since the dawn of Google has been the power of links to help a website rank. The way in which link building is conducted has changed dramatically in recent times.
For example, acquiring low quality links from generic web directories no longer cuts the mustard. Any links built need to come from relevant sites in your niche or closely related ones. For example if you are in the health and fitness business, links from health food and body building blogs may be good choices to try and get links from.  Links are far more than a source of increased search engine rankings. They are also a source of relevant traffic.

 

Alchemy magic – When link building first ask whether the link will deliver relevant traffic to your website.

 


 

5. Build relationships with influencers in your niche. By influencers I mean people in your industry who have a large online following consisting of your potential customers. Building relationships with influencers will help amplify the content you produce amongst a relevant audience you don’t yet have access to.

For example, say I run a business that sells health food products. I produce regular blog posts about healthy eating each week. But my Twitter and Facebook following is low, so when I share my content, I don’t have a very high audience reach. In this situation, building a relationship with @Snack_Girl_, a healthy food blogger from Massachusetts with a Twitter following of over 85K, would be ideal for me. If my blog posts were high quality and relevant to people interested in healthy eating, she may share my posts to her vast following, providing my healthy food business site with a source of high quality traffic.

 


 

6. AdWords. Pay per click (PPC) advertising through Google’s search and display networks, is a very effective way of delivering traffic to your website interested in buying your product or service. PPC is a useful tactic to employ during the initial stages of an SEO campaign, when organic traffic is low and a boost is needed to deliver quality traffic that will convert into product sales.

 


 

7. Forum marketing. This is a somewhat overlooked tactic these days, possibly because forums aren’t as popular as they once were. However, if your buyer persona is active on them, so should you be. Forums are a great way to build relationships with potential prospects by answering any questions they post on the boards. Doing this is a non-salesy way will establish your business as one that your target audience can trust. They will see how your posts offer free expert advice to other forum members and be intrigued to find out more about your brand by visiting your website. Forum marketing does take time and persistence, but in the long run can be a valuable source of relevant traffic.

 


 

And there you have it, 7 tactics that will deliver quality traffic to your website. There are of course many more but I am sure you don’t have all day to sit around reading blog posts!

It’s now time for you to get stuck in to putting these methods to the test.

Good luck.

 

 

The Difference Between A Manual And Algorithmic Penalty

Difference Between A Manual And Algorithmic Penalty

 

A Google penalty can spell the end for a business which relies on the internet for customers. Since early 2011 Panda and Penguin have compelled internet marketers to change their black hat ways and follow tactics which abide by search engine guidelines. When business owners approach me for advice after they’ve noticed a dramatic drop in traffic, the first question I ask is whether or not they’ve received a manual penalty from Google. Most will reply ‘yes’ but when I log into their Webmaster Tools account I see no such penalty. Many are unsure as to the difference between a manual and algorithmic penalty. If you are in this group, please read on…

If Your Traffic Drops Dramatically, Check Webmaster Tools

If you have received an unnatural links warning in your Webmaster Tools account then your site is under a manual penalty. This will explain loss of rank and traffic.

unnatural-links-warning

Google Unnatural Links Warning

 

If you receive one of these you have to act. A detailed description of the process involved to remove a manual penalty is outside the scope of this blog post. However, the steps can be summarised as follows:

  1. Analyse all links pointing to your site using Webmaster Tools and other SEO tools.
  2. Determine which links are having an adverse effect on your search visibility and contact the site owners to get these links removed.
  3. Get Google to disavow any bad links you can’t get removed using the disavow tool.
  4. Send a reconsideration request to Google.

 

The main point to remember when creating a case for reconsideration with Google is that you have to be able to prove to them that you have done your utmost to remove any bad links.

My Traffic Is Down, I Don’t Rank Anymore, But I Haven’t Received A Warning

Your site may be subject to an algorithmic penalty. Strictly speaking, penalty is the wrong word. In reality what has happened is that Google has changed its ranking algorithm and as a consequence, the links you have pointing to your website no longer pass any value. This means you lose rank and your traffic plummets.

Obviously there could be other issues which have caused the loss of traffic to your website, such as infrastructural problems. However, a quick look at your analytics can confirm whether or not your problems are down to the change in algorithm. If your traffic drop corresponds roughly to the dates of these recent major Google updates, then you can be reasonably sure you have an algorithmic penalty:

 

  • Feb 2011 – Panda
  • April 2012 – Penguin
  • May 2013 – Penguin 2.0

 

 

 

Posted in seo

5 Ways To Increase Traffic To Your Website

 

Rewind the clock back to the year 2000. Back then, it would have been unusual for a small business to have a website. Today it is pretty much essential to have one in order to survive in these tough economic times. However, having a great, fully functional ecommerce website is just the first step of the journey to a successful online business. The remaining steps of the journey involve driving relevant traffic to your site. Here are 5 ways to help you take this important step.

1.    Guest Posting
This tactic du jour in the online marketing world can be a powerful way of connecting with potential customers on external websites and driving traffic to your own. However, many get it wrong as they fail to utilize this strategy to its full potential.

Guest posting isn’t simply about getting a link. Publishing useful content on a high traffic site relevant to your business niche, will enable you to capture some of that traffic and drive them to yours.  This will mean you will have people coming to your website, who may have an interest in what your business offers thus creating the potential for increased sales. And all this would be in addition to building a link and increasing your site’s visibility with the search engines.

2.    Interacting on social media
Small businesses simply cannot ignore this marketing channel any longer. Social media is a valuable tool for connecting with potential customers. But beware – don’t market your products or services as social media is a ‘personal space’ for people. How would you feel if somebody barged into your home to try and sell you something?

Many businesses set up social media accounts then never use them. It is important to interact daily and build up a following in your niche. If you interact daily, posting information which is useful or interesting to your target market, your following will grow, and so will the number of visitors coming to your site.

3.    Create A Site Blog
If your business website doesn’t have a blog you’re missing out on a tonne of traffic. Posting regularly on a blog enables you to capture what we call in the digital marketing world, long tail search traffic.

Imagine you have an online business selling plant seeds and flower bulbs. Your website is perfectly optimised for the search term ‘buy flower bulbs’, but because this is a highly competitive (short tail) keyword, your site never ranks highly enough to drive any traffic. However, write a blog post ‘Best Growing Conditions For Lupins’ and you stand a good chance of ranking on page 1 for the search query ‘what are the best conditions for growing lupins’ (long tail, low competition). This will drive relevant traffic to your flower bulb site, and create awareness for your business within your target demographic, in addition to potential sales.

4.    Add Social Share Buttons
Once you have published a new post on your site’s blog, the next step is to make that content work for you. You need to get that content under the radar of as many relevant people as possible and drive them to your site. A good way of doing this is to encourage your readers to share the post via their social media channels, so make it easy for them to do so by adding social share buttons. There are literally 100’s of plugins out there, so you don’t need to be a coder in order to add this functionality to your blog.

5.    Add schema mark up
Web pages are coded in HTML and marked up to tell a browser how to display the content. For example, the following text has been marked up (with h1 tags) so that a browser will display it as a heading:

<h1>Click Alchemy</h1>

Schema mark up is additional mark up to provide the major search engines with additional data (known as microdata) regarding the content on a web page.

Search engines such as Google love schema mark up, because it helps them provide the most relevant results to their users. However, there is also an advantage for online businesses using schema mark up, as rich snippets are added to your website listing in the search results. Rich snippets are additional information which is sometimes displayed in search engine results, such as in the following example where the third result has a photo of the author:

how to increase website traffic

Which result are you most likely to click?

Rich snippets can have a positive effect on click through rates and therefore increase traffic to your website. People are more likely to click on a result which displays author name and photo, or any other relevant information, even though it may not be the top result. Adding schema mark up is fairly easy to implement and is a simple way to drive more traffic to your website.

Posted in seo

Factors To Consider When Expanding Your Online Business Overseas

 

The internet has opened up the global economy in ways never imagined 25 years ago.  Back then companies with goals of international expansion needed to invest a vast amount of resources and time in order to set up a base overseas. And after the initial set up there were the inherent difficulties of navigating the particularities of a foreign business culture. Now, I’m not proposing that the internet has broken down all these barriers to entry, but things are a little easier for small businesses wishing to target foreign markets, because setting up a website is far simpler than establishing a bricks and mortar premises abroad.

However, setting up a website to target a foreign market requires some planning and there are a few important questions you must ask yourself, from a digital marketing perspective.

What Will The Domain Strategy Be?

There are three options to choose from and the best option is probably out of reach for many small businesses:

  • Choosing a country specific top level domain (best option)If you want to target the French market, then it’s best to go for a .fr domain. However, this means a totally new website so will require resources to build links to it in order for it to rank well with local search engines. Many small businesses don’t have this level of resource.
  • Choosing country specific subfoldersFor a small business on a tight budget this is probably the best option. Instead of having to begin again, adding a subfolder eg: www.mycompany.com/fr  to an existing site means that any link equity built up over the years will filter to the sub-folder. However, the ability to rank in the local market will not be as effective as having a country specific top level domain.
  • Adding a subdomainFor example france.mycompany.com. This isn’t a great choice as more authority is passed down to sub-folders than sub-domains. However, sub-domains can be hosted on a different server to the main site, so a slight benefit could be had by hosting in the country you wish to rank in.

 

Language Difficulties

Although many people throughout the world speak very good English as a second language, studies have shown that people are more likely to buy from websites in their own language. Any required content needs to be written by a professional translator or native speaker. Never rely on translation services such as Google translate otherwise you will look unprofessional as these services are only useful for translating single words and short phrases at best.

Localisation

In addition to creating a website in the official language of your target market, it is essential to localise for the culture also. Do not assume that search terms translate directly. For example, in the UK we might search for ‘low cost flights’ when looking for a bargain holiday. The direct translation of this term in Italian is ‘voli basso costo’ but people in Italy use ‘voli low cost’ when doing an online search. Failure to take into account these details could lose you potential business and waste time and money in ineffective marketing strategies.

What is the main search engine

Google may  be the Gods Of Search in the UK, US and many other parts of the world, but in a few countries their market share is minimal. For example in China, where the main search engine is Baidu, Google only has a 3% share of the market.  Different search engines will use different algorithms to rank websites, so it is important not to assume that what has worked well for your business website in one country, will work in another. Different countries will require different SEO strategies.

Although English is still the web’s most common language, its share is rapidly decreasing as countries such as China, Brazil and India embrace eCommerce in favour of traditional bricks and mortar businesses. The business potential for UK based online businesses is huge, but careful consideration must be made to language and cultural differences, and the SEO strategy has to suit the specific market.

Posted in seo

How To Recover From The Google Penguin Update

 

If you are a business reliant on web traffic for your bread and butter, Google holds a lot of sway in determining whether you sink or swim. In April 2012, Google released an update to its search algorithm which impacted sites which use manipulative link building tactics to rank highly – particularly building links with exact match, commercial anchor text. Nick named Penguin, the update effectively devalued these ‘bad links’ and affected around 3.1% of sites in the English speaking world. Two weeks ago on May 22nd 2013, Google released the next generation of the Penguin update, Penguin 2.0.

Symptoms You’ve Been Slapped By Penguin

Unfortunately Google doesn’t send you a message informing you that the Big Bad Penguin has paid you a visit. However, there are two symptoms which would indicate that the algorithm change has impacted your site:

  • A marked drop in traffic – if you’ve seen an unusual drop in organic search traffic to your site around April 2012 or/and May 2013, you may be dealing with a Penguin issue. This will be confirmed by the second symptom
  • A drop in rankings for your keywords – if this drop in traffic coincided with a drop in rankings around about the same time, you can be pretty sure you’re site has been affected by Penguin

 

There is a third symptom which would indicate you have received a Penguin penalty, and that is the receipt of an unnatural links warning from Google in Webmaster Tools. However, be warned that non-receipt of this warning doesn’t mean your site hasn’t been affected by Penguin. Penguin is an algorithmic change in the way Google ranks websites – if your site has been engaging in what Google sees as manipulative link building tactics, your rankings and traffic will suffer whether you receive a warning or not. The unnatural links warning is manually sent out by a member of Google’s Web Spam Team and is meant to draw your attention to the fact you have dubious links pointing to your site, which may be affecting your rankings. Its Google’s way of saying you might have a problem, but not all sites affected by Penguin will receive a warning.

How To Recover From The Slap

Since the Penguin update penalises sites which have been using manipulative link building tactics, any site which Google detects as having an unnatural looking link profile, will be affected. The first stage of recovery is therefore to examine the inbound links to your site:

  • Examine Inbound LinksThere are many free tools you can use for this task such as Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO and Google Webmaster Tools. A detailed account of the steps taken in using these tools is outside the scope of this post and warrants a post of its own. The main thing we are trying to determine with this examination is the proportion of inbound links with exact match, non-branded anchor text. A high proportion (anything over 20-30%) of exact match anchor text could be deemed unnatural by Google.

 

So what do we mean by ‘exact match’ anchor text? If I have a website which sells blue widgets and I want to rank for ‘cheap blue widgets’, an exact match anchor would be ‘cheap blue widgets’. A branded anchor might be ‘blue widget company’ and a generic anchor ‘visit our site’ for example. Before the Penguin update, having a high proportion of exact match anchor text links gave strong signals to Google as to the relevancy of your site for specific search queries. The ease of manipulating search results with this tactic is a major reason why Penguin was introduced.

If your inbound link analysis has shown that you have too many exact match links, you have to delete these harmful links.

  • Delete Harmful LinksContact the site owners asking for the links to be taken down. It is strongly advisable to be as courteous as possible, as the site owners have nothing to gain by cooperating with your request. If you can’t find any contact details on site, try using whois lookup.

 

A word of warning on deleting harmful links – make sure you don’t delete any valuable links. By a valuable link I mean ones from domains where metrics such as DA and PA (domain authority and page authority) and PR (Google’s page rank) are high and the website is in the same or a similar niche to yours. The subject of determining the characteristics of a good link will be discussed in a future post.

  • Dilute Harmful LinksEmbark on a link building campaign creating branded and generic links to dilute the harmful links and show Google a more natural link profile. You will want to stay away from sites irrelevant to your niche, with poor metrics. Avoid poor directories and spamming blogs with comments that serve no purpose other than to provide you with a link.

Link building today is about building meaningful online relationships with relevant sites. Get involved in online communities and offer something of value – for example, answering questions on forums. Aim to become an authority within your niche and people will naturally want to link to your site, especially if it has good content.

Write well researched, outstanding content and publish it to high quality, relevant blogs which accept guest posts. If this content is placed on the right sites, not only will you be able to attract traffic and conversions, you will please the Google Gods and be rewarded with good search engine rankings.

Posted in seo

How Do Search Engines Work

 

The invention of the internet and the world wide web is akin to the invention of the printing press or internal combustion engine. It has revolutionised the way we do business and interact in a little over 20 years and it’s scope is so vast it has changed the way we speak; if you asked somebody to ‘Google it’ 20 years ago people wouldn’t have a clue as to what you were talking about.

The fact that we can find out information on virtually every conceivable subject, from any device connected to the internet, from anywhere in under a second is an amazing feat. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo amongst others, allow us to select one web page out of trillions, which is relevant to a given query. Just how they do this is down to a complex algorithm they use to grade pages in terms of relevancy and importance.

The 3 Main Functions Of Search Engines

  1. Crawling – Search engines employ automated robots called spiders which crawl the web from document to document. Spiders crawl the web using links.
  2. Indexing – Once a spider reaches a web document, it looks at the code to determine what it’s about, then stores it in massive data centres owned by the search engines.
  3. Serving results – When a user enters a query into a search engine, it will return a list of relevant pages from those stored in it’s database. The list of pages the search engine returns is ordered in terms of relevance and importance.

How Search Engines Provide Relevant Results

The relevance of a web page is the degree to which it matches a user’s query. Early search engines circa late 1990’s would look at a document’s text, such as titles, headings and content, to determine the relevance of a page for a specific query. Because unscrupulous SEO’s would use techniques such as keyword stuffing to trick search engines into thinking a page was relevant when it wasn’t, engines have become much more advanced, and there are now 1000’s of additional characteristics which will determine the relevance of a page.

How Search Engines Provide Important Results

To a search engine, the more popular a page is, the more important it is deemed to be. And the more important it is, the higher it will rank for relevant queries. A question you may be asking yourself now is just how do I go about making my web page or site more popular or important. One way this can be accomplished is by building links from relevant sites to your web page. In the eyes of the search engines, links from external sites count as votes, so if the relevance of two pages is the same, the one with more links (votes) to it will rank more highly.

SERP example

Searching for ‘cheap holidays’ includes these results ordered by relevance and importance.

 

The reality is, of course, much more complex than this and search engines use hundreds of ranking factors to determine where a page should be on the search engine results page. These factors are all part of a complex algorithm, search engines use to serve up results which satisfy user queries.

You Can’t Fool A Search Engine

Or rather you used to be able to. Early search engines such as Infoseek, Lycos and early Google were very simplistic and only looked to a document’s text to ascertain whether a site was relevant. A whole industry was set up around fooling the engines, to ensure a site came at the top of the search engine results. As this sometimes led to poor results being presented to users, Google and other search engines, have had to develop increasingly complex algorithms, to ensure users get the best search experience possible. Over the past two years, Google has introduced two major updates to it’s algorithm – Panda and Penguin. These updates badly affected sites which were using unethical tactics to rank, some being de-indexed by Google.

The bottom line is, today you can’t fool the search engines, but if you work with them, within their guidelines, you will benefit from higher and more sustainable rankings.

Posted in seo