Monday, 25 March 2013

5 Top SEO Tips - advice from an industry expert

Two weeks ago we featured Gaynor Witchard on our blog with some great advice on Landscape design- the Real Design Cost It was great to have Gaynor's advice to share with our followers. 

We are really pleased to be able to share with you some more excellent advice on a current hot topic.

The last few weeks there has been a lot of talk on twitter amongst our followers about SEO (Search Engine Optimization)  and the recent changes that Google has made. Now, I do like to read up on SEO but it is not my area of expertise, that's why we have spoken to our friends at Retriever Web Solutions who have come up with 5 top SEO tips to point you in the right direction. 

We would like to point out that any guest that features on our page is not paid for or being paid for links- these are professionals who genuinely care about informing the public about current issues. 

5 Top SEO Tips by Retriever Web Solutions

1.                   Content

If you have done any kind of SEO research you will undoubtedly have read that ‘Content is King’. So what exactly does this mean in terms of your website? Over the last couple of years Google has clamped down heavily on unethical, spammy SEO techniques. It is no longer acceptable to have a poorly written website filled with your keywords. Techniques which two or three years ago would have almost guaranteed you a page 1 position on Google are now frowned upon. Google demands quality content, which means well written, relevant and regularly updated content. If you don’t have a blog page, add one. This is one of the easiest ways to incorporate regularly updated content onto your site. Do you have a news page? If so, make sure it’s updated regularly. You may have spent hundreds if not thousands of pounds on a new website. It may be all singing and all dancing, but is it is not regularly updated it will slip further and further down the Google pages, eventually slipping into obscurity. You must invest time into regular content.
On the same subject, you will have heard the phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. Well, unfortunately not if you’re Google. Whilst photos can and undoubtedly do sell products, Google cannot read photos, it reads text. Therefore, you must have text on your site. This is not to say you can’t place photos on your site, but just add accompanying text. And always spell check. Obvious I know but sadly underused.

2.     Don’t separate SEO and Social Media

In years gone by SEO was simply about getting your website onto page 1 of Google. Whilst this is of course still an important factor, SEO has moved on to become more about raising your web profile. You may well get to page 1 on Google, but if your website isn’t up to scratch, if you have no real web profile, you will of course get more visitors to your site, but this does not guarantee increased sales. These days it’s all about building your brand online. This means having a great, well designed, well written, regularly updated website, ALONGSIDE a great social media campaign. You want your potential customers to find you and interact with you on a variety of different platforms. The world has gone social, and as much as some don’t want to embrace it, social media is where contacts are made and business is done these days. Facebook and Twitter are not just for teenagers. LinkedIn is not just for corporate businesses.
This is not to say that every social media platform is right for every business. Some work better than others. If you have attractive products and great photos, Facebook and Pinterest will work wonders for you. If you are more business to business, then Twitter and LinkedIn may be your platforms of choice. What you cannot do is simply rely on your website for bringing in business. People want to get to know a business, build a relationship and know that the business has a ‘human’ side, which can be achieved to great success through social media.

3.                   Onpage optimisation

Once you have your website built, you will need to ensure it is fully optimised. This means creating relevant title tags and meta descriptions, as well as creating good content. There are thousands of online guides to help you, but the basic guidelines are thus:

Title tags – These are the titles displayed right at the top of the screen on your web browser. They should contain around 70 characters (including spaces), and should be relevant to the actual content of the page. They should contain your chosen keyword/s for that page, as much as possible they should be written with the customer in mind, not the search engine. When anyone does an online search, the search engine (I shall use Google as an example), will search through title tags to display the most relevant pages on its search engine results page. Therefore, you need to get you title tags right. If you only work in a certain location, ensure this location is in your title tag. It’s an easy thing which could potentially make a huge difference to where your website ranks.

Meta Description tags – This is the description of a site which appears on a search results page underneath the title. Whilst they are not so important as title tags in terms of getting your website ranking well, their importance lies on the fact that your potential customer will read this description before clicking onto your site, so it needs to be informative enough to ensure people want to click onto your site. As with title tags, the meta description should be relevant to the page content, therefore, you need to have different title tags and meta descriptions on every one of your pages.

Content – This has been covered already in tip number 1, but it is so important it deserves a little more time. Ensure you have enough content, ensure it is well written, and ensure it contains your chosen keywords. If you don’t feel that you are up to writing the entire content for your site, think about investing in the services of a copywriter. Your website may be the first time a potential customer will have heard of you. You need to be making a good impression.

There are various other onpage tips, and I could go on for another 10 pages, but these are the basics which will be a good start. Once you have completed the above work successfully, then start looking at headers, sitemaps, Google analytics & webmaster tools, and always ensure that any new pages/content are fully optimised.

4.                   Don’t be tempted to spam

I cannot stress enough how important it is to use ethical, organic techniques when it comes to SEO. As I mentioned before, Google have clamped down hard on spammy, ‘black hat’ techniques in two updates, called Google Penguin and Google Panda. Whilst these updates have sweet sounding names, they have been the death of websites which had used black hat techniques.
Don’t ever be tempted to buy links. Any links made to your site need to be quality, relevant, organic links (more of this later in tip number 5). Don’t write a low quality article and submit it to hundreds of low quality article submission sites. You would be better writing one quality article and submitting to one quality site. The same with blogs and press releases. If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is.
Don’t overfill your site with your keywords. Make sure that your content is written for your potential customer, not for the search engine. Yes, it will take longer to see results, but you will not face the wrath of Google, who can and do either remove sites or place them into obscurity as a punishment. 
If you are thinking of using the services of an SEO company, do ask them about the techniques they use. Ask about black hat techniques. Make sure they only use ethical techniques. Any quality company will willingly talk to you openly about their services.

5.                   Linkbuilding

Now this is where things get slightly trickier. Linkbuilding is an ongoing process which takes some stamina, but the rewards can be enormous. Links come in a variety of forms. Internal links are links between pages on your website. It is really important to link all your pages together as it makes it easier for Google to crawl your whole site, as opposed to disjointed pages. You can also create links to an external site. For instance, your blog may make reference to an association or charity for example. You would then create a link to that particular website. The links that I want to discuss however are backlinks. These are links from another website to your own. Any good SEO campaign is built around a good linkbuilding campaign.
There are some links which are relatively easy to come by. Directories for example may provide a link but generally this link will not carry much weight. You can also gain links from RELEVANT forums, blogs, guest blogging, social bookmarking, reciprocal links where appropriate and a number of other means. Linkbuilding is without doubt the hardest part of any SEO work. It takes time. Importantly, it is the quality of the link which is important, rather than the quantity. You should only look for links from relevant, quality sites. If not, Google may punish.

As you can see, SEO is no longer just about onpage optimisation. It is about getting your name and brand out into the web via various platforms. What is important is that all of the above is an ongoing process. There are no quick fixes.

If you are thinking about using the services of an SEO company, I would suggest asking them these questions:
·         What linkbuilding techniques do you use?
·         Do you provide weekly/monthly reports on your work?
·         Can you guarantee you do not use spammy/black hat techniques?
·         Can you provide references?
·         Can I have a meeting with you, either over the phone or in person (preferably at their offices), to discuss your SEO campaign in more detail. 

Taking on the services of an SEO company is a big decision. There are unfortunately still some unscrupulous companies out there, so make sure you have done your research before signing on the dotted line.

Thank you to Retriever Web Solutions in Sussex for this informative and useful article.

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