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Did Ranking For Local Search Terms Just Get More Difficult?

You may or may not be aware but on 24 July 2014, Google rolled out another major algorithm change, this time focusing on local search results. Dubbed Google ‘Pigeon’ by Search Engine Land in the absence of an official name from Google, the algorithm was intended to align local search results with the web ranking signals used generally in search, however there seems to be more to it than this.

Remember some time ago Google showed its distaste of directories? Well now they are back. Yelp complained that they were not getting the visibility they deserved and that Google was manipulating the search results with its own content rather than Yelp entries – even if the searcher was using the term Yelp as well. Lo and behold, the pestilent pigeon flies past and Yelp are restored to page one for many local search terms along with other big name directories.

Ranking for local search

Google claim that this update improves local search results and makes better use of distance and location ranking parameters. I think they have just dealt a major blow to local independent businesses and retailers who cannot compete with the SEO signals being sent out by the major directory sites.

Besides, who likes using a directory anyway? It is basically search within a search and nobody that I have spoken to in the aftermath of the Pigeon will confess to being bothered to use a directory.

So what now for local search?

Is page 2 going to become the new page 1 for small local businesses doing their best to compete against the mega sites and bulging purses of the big boys?

When doing my own local searches for tradespeople in Birmingham for example, the majority of page one is taken up by Yell, Thomson Local, CheckaTrade, Freeindex, Trustmark, Rated People and myBuilder.com – to the point where for some search queries there is only one actual business listed on page one (local map results aside).

I would suggest that this move is just another one in the Google master plan to force small businesses into paying their way to the top via AdWords, which of course we all know they don’t have the budget for.

It’s too early to see the real impact of this update but if you are concerned please get in touch with the SEO it Right team today to talk about your presence online.

Frances Berry

Is SEO a dirty word?

Ask anyone what they think of SEO and you may sense a negative response in the offing. Even if that person has an SEO provider they are completely happy with, the 27 spam SEO emails they receive each day from India and other far flung places has probably contributed to giving the industry a bad name in their eyes. If connotations of spam were not bad enough, the issue is supplemented by the underhand tactics our search god Google uses to manipulate SERPS to suit none but their own needs. With changes to Google algorithms causing loss of rankings, loss of visibility, loss of sales and in some cases the loss of a business, there is a lack of trust in the marketing strategy that provided this visibility in the first place.

Call it what you will but it looks like SEO has become a dirty word.

is SEO a dirty word

For a long time the term ‘SEO’ hasn’t sat particularly well with internet marketers, purely because the name itself suggests we optimise search engines. We don’t do this because if we did we’d have spammed the hell out of Google and got the search giant to slap a manual spam action on itself! We optimise websites for organic search but that is now, only the beginning of the story.

As competition levels swell and progressively more brands demand a place online, marketing has become so much more than simply SEO.  Gone are the days of building huge amounts of backlinks to a website using optimised content and specific keywords. Now it’s all about making a great first impression, then sustaining and compounding that level of interest. Websites need to be full of interesting, engaging content to fly under the Panda radar and poor quality links removed ready for the next Penguin refresh to demonstrate to Google that you are on your best behaviour and have learned your lesson. It is no longer sufficient to simply publish content, you need to syndicate it socially, get people talking about it and prove that you are a brand worth engaging with. How do you do this? By spending more money with an SEO, or if you have the budget, hiring an in house team of search and social gurus. Dream on.

If SEO is a dirty word then perhaps you’d rather do it all in house, save yourself the shame of working with these minions from the internet underworld, or, better still, maybe you don’t need it at all? Perhaps that new website that you have spent your entire marketing budget on will deliver all the shiny, new traffic you need to make your fortune online? Again, dream on.

What is often neglected in the debate about beating algorithms and recovering from black-and-white-animal-related nightmares, is the fact that without optimisation, websites simply can’t be found, putting us back at square one. This suggests SEO is not an option, but a given. However, if the term is tainted what should we now refer to our services as? Online marketing? Digital marketing? Internet marketing? They surely do a better job of describing what we do?

Online marketing certainly offers a more precise description – after all that’s what we do – market businesses online, but with the consumer just getting their head around the SEO concept how much confusion will bringing in a new term cause? Many will rightly argue that they have used the term ‘online marketing’ all along but if they had any sanity or financial hunger pre April 2012, they will have optimised the heck out of certain SEO related keywords to ensure when people were searching for a little online voodoo, they showed up on page one.

So call it online marketing, digital marketing or SEO, it means the same thing – it is just the service behind the name that has changed. Search Engine Optimisation helps you reach new audiences, increase traffic, improve search visibility and engage with potential audiences online. So too does digital marketing, content marketing, social media marketing and so forth. If SEO is a dirty word then so too is any other synonym and if you call yourself an SEO you’ll have a history of spyntax to apply here.

Posted by Frances Berry

Interview With Technical Genius, Riz the Whizz!

We get to grips with the technical side of SEO by speaking to Riz, our very own technical whizz kid!

SEO Developer Riz Mulla

Riz, what is your role within SEO it Right and what does a typical day involve?

I am an SEO Developer at SEO it Right and the role is extremely varied! There’s not really such a thing as a typical day as the industry is constantly changing and there are always new questions and requests from clients. However, you can very often find me carrying out onsite analyses for new clients, providing technical support for existing clients, helping to maintain the server and developing responsive websites. I also work on ongoing projects when I can.

How has your role changed since you joined the company back in November 2011?

The role has expanded significantly – we now have to contend with different threats to the server, responding to requests for responsive websites as well as anticipating technical issues so that we can provide a pro-active service rather than a reactive response. The onsite checks are far more in-depth now too, as my level of knowledge has increased and I am able to try and test out new tools.

When looking at a website for a new or potential client, what are the initial areas you will check?

I would check if the website is canonical and if there was any duplicate content throughout the website. It’s also vital that Google Analytics has been set up and Google Webmaster Tools has been enabled. Google Analytics will help clients to see the traffic on their website and any messages and warnings from Google are also shown in Webmaster Tools. Amongst other things, I’d also look at tasks such as checking to see if there is any social integration on the website.

What do websites need in 2014 to be considered SEO friendly?

I believe that for a site to be SEO friendly, it needs to be user friendly. In the past, SEO was all about optimising sites for the search engines, but nowadays it definitely needs to focus on providing a good user experience for the visitor. Having sites which are responsive and can be easily viewed from a mobile device as well as building sites which are easy to navigate are vital, if people can’t see the site or can’t use the menu properly then they’re just going to bounce straight off. It’s also vital to have effective social integration on the website too, so perhaps adding social sharing plug-ins to allow visitors to share interesting content.

What area of your role would you like to develop and learn more about?

I’m currently studying to become a Google Adwords Certified Partner. Paid advertising is becoming more and more important for many customers so it will be good to have an in-depth understanding on how Adwords can help businesses to be found online. I am also looking at schema markup on websites, which will help structuring data which search engines can have direct access to. This will help improve the display of search results by providing the searcher with extra information from the webpage.

If you weren’t a Developer, what career path would you like to follow?

I guess I’d love to be a food critic, particularly as I have a sweet tooth!

Many thanks to Riz for taking the time to answer our questions, but if you still have some burning technical questions, feel free to contact the SEO it Right office on 0121 308 0219.

Claire White

Sporting Events and Social Media: The Perfect Match?

With the World Cup well underway in Brazil, the newspapers and sports news sites are filled with stories of triumph and defeat but could the real winners of this and future sporting events be social media sites?

Consider that when the world’s greatest teams, athletes and sports stars come together to compete on the world stage, there are a massive number of big names all under one relatively small roof.  Add to this the huge number of supporters worldwide who are all tuning in to see the same game, the same match, the same race and it is easy to see why sports events have a big influence on social media.

Sporting events and social media

Here are just a few of the statistics I’ve come across in researching this article:

  • When Usain Bolt won the 100 metres at the London 2012 Olympic Games, tweets-per-minute hit a record breaking high of 74,000
  • Manchester United have 46.3 Million likes on their Facebook page
  • In the run up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the term ‘World Cup’ was averaging 500,000 social mentions per day

In effect, social media creates a giant conversation about each sporting event and then shares it with the rest of the socially hooked up world.  During a major sporting event it is likely that the team pages and the personal profiles of sportsmen and women involved will see massively increased activity with more people liking, sharing and wishing their favourite sporting stars good luck. 

Social media sites also provide the fastest results and scores.  They surpass the news wires and major papers in broadcasting the latest news and results because they rely on the power of the people present and those watching on television to tweet, post and photograph their comments and images.  The true power of social media then comes into its own as these updates are shared and expanded on, to keep social users up to date and provide the next best thing to actually being there.

How can you get involved?

You can participate by using certain trending hashtags, but if you’re tweeting on behalf of a company remember to keep it relevant. Your business may want to wish the England team well or perhaps any other team the company has international links to – this is a great way to get involved in trending topics of conversation on social media sites and who knows your posts and comments may be liked, shared or even viewed by your sporting heroes!

It may not help England, or whatever team you support, to win the World Cup, but social media definitely provides a great platform for conversation and keeping up to date with the latest.  With a predicted global audience of 1 billion people for the World Cup 2014, there will certainly be a lot of people sharing their opinion on social media and whether you agree with them or not, every status is a little bit more promotion for this great sporting occasion.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from social activity around big events and whilst the average small business cannot replicate the size, scale and nature of a large sports event, they can learn tricks such as keeping up to date with the latest Twitter trends, following relevant organisations and joining in online conversations.  After all, promoting a sports team or personality is no different from promoting a company – it all comes down to brand awareness.

To find out more about supporting your business through social media please visit our website.

Posted by Frances Berry

Fun Run Fundraising Update

At SEO it Right we’ve been busy nursing our feet back to health after taking part in the Great Midlands Fun Run on 1st June.  It was a fantastic day and we all thoroughly enjoyed our walk/sprint around Sutton Park and the surrounding roads.

seo it right at the fun run

SEO it Right Directors Adam and Fran Berry with son Alex after completing the Great Midlands Fun Run

As you are probably aware we are raising money for the cancer ward at Birmingham Children’s Hospital – we wanted to support poorly kids in the area and this seemed like the ideal charity to support.

So far we have raised an impressive £580 (or £671 if you include gift aid) but we’d love to make this total even higher.

You can still donate to our Virgin Money Giving page until 1st July 2014 so if you want to support a great cause and say thanks to our feet please visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/SEOitRight

Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far – we really appreciate every penny :)

Google Rolls Out Panda 4.0 Algorithm Update – How Will This Affect You?

It was officially announced yesterday that Google had started rolling out Panda 4.0 – the latest version of its algorithm that targets low quality content sites in the search results.  The Panda algorithm debuted in February 2011 in response to Google’s dislike that content farms were ranking well.  Although Google announced some months back that they would be using more subtle monthly updates rather than the bigger updates we had previously experienced (think Penguin April 2012), it seems this is a big one.  The best way of looking at it is a new version of the algorithm rather than a refresh of existing versions.

Google tells us that 7.5% of English language queries will be affected to a degree that a regular user might notice.  That seems like a pretty big number so how will this affect webmasters and business owners who rely on the internet to gain sales?

panda 4.0 algorithm update affects search

If your site has purely been designed to rank well in search then you have permission to start panicking now.  Google is no fool and if you haven’t been hit by previous versions of the black and white bear, you may well experience a drop in rankings following this latest algorithm update.

Google has been proclaiming for a long time that sites must deliver good quality content that delivers something back to the site visitor in order to gain good positioning in its SERPS.  The more sensible members of the online community will have gone back to the drawing board a couple of years ago to ensure their websites were delivering on this score, however we all know that there are also plenty of sites still with coveted page one positions that are quite frankly appalling in terms of content.  Google also reassures us that some sites will gain in visibility thanks to the update, though the upside is one that is rarely talked about!

So where does this leave us?  It’s too early to tell the impact from the Panda 4.0 update but I expect activity to be high over the next few days as SEOs, webmasters and business owners scratch their heads to try and fathom out what the brains at Google are trying to achieve this time.  How many website owners will be hurt in the process?  Only time will tell I’m afraid.

Posted by Frances Berry

 

SEO it Right – The ‘Dash for Cash’

This year SEO it Right is participating in the Great Midlands fun run. The run is 8.5 miles all around the Sutton Coldfield area and the idea behind it is to raise money for your chosen cause.

Every year, we get behind a charitable event in order to give something back to the community. In 2012, the directors Adam and Frances Berry departed on an expedition up Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, raising money for a young girl with Cerebral Palsy who needed to go to America for life changing surgery and last year we supported Yoxall Dads for Charity by being a sponsor at their charity ball. In 2014 we, as a company, have chosen to do the fun run.

The charity we have chosen to support is the Birmingham Children’s hospital due to the fantastic work they do for children and the massive impact they have on young children’s lives. The race commences on Sunday 1st June 2014 at 11am so feel free to come down and support us!

We are also asking for donations to help support this fantastic cause. Whatever you can give we are grateful for and so are the thousands of children who have to visit the children’s hospital every year.

The training for the run is vigorous but the cause is very worthy. If you have any tips for us on how we can effectively train for the run please let us know! Some of us will be walking, some running and some doing it on all fours (well that will be Snoops the Dog!).

To make a donation, please click HERE!

Please watch this space for more updates from the fun runners!

runner silhouette

Matthew Beesley

My First Week at SEO it Right

I began at SEO it Right on Monday 17th March 2014 as part of my Social Media apprenticeship. I came in with only vague knowledge and understanding of social media after only undergoing one week at College. From first thing Monday morning, I had walked into the office and I was greeted by everyone and knew immediately that I was in a safe and friendly environment.

I then sat down with Frances who talked through with me what I had learnt and what I aimed to achieve out of the placement. I quickly grasped the way that everything was run and by the end of Monday, had successfully completed numerous status updates for a client. This went on for the entirety of my first week, with constant support and backing from the entire team who were more than happy to help even if I was asking the plain obvious. I have learnt how to effectively word statuses and how to manage my time and complete work to a high standard.

My apprenticeship is in Social Media and so I have been focusing primarily on this area whilst being in the workplace and I feel that the first week has given me more of an insight into how social media works within a business and how all the specialist tools work in order to convey this and keep them up to date. The skills I have learnt so far have already taught me how to correctly word updates to make sure that they are relevant to their target audience. I look forward to completing my apprenticeship and hopefully continuing my career in Social Media. I would like to thank the whole team at SEO it Right for being patient with me throughout this first week and for being very supportive whenever I have an issue. It is a fantastic place to work!

Matthew Beesley

How Hummingbird Changed The Direction Of SEO And Online Marketing In 2013

2013 was a year that saw numerous events that had a massive impact on SEO and online marketing as a whole. In the past, SEO was essentially about two things; keywords and links. However, this led to large amounts of keyword saturation and link building, not to mention, quite a considerable amount of attempts to game against the system, using what we call ‘black hat’ SEO techniques. Over the past year, Google has made some major algorithm changes that have changed the direction of SEO and online marketing as a whole.

September 2013 was a big month for online marketing, with two major changes to search putting nails in the coffin of the keyword salesman:

First of all, Google switched to https:// privacy settings, meaning that all ever increasing amounts of keyword search queries would show up as ‘Not Provided’ in Analytics. This means that although anyone who uses Google to search for keywords or phrases that might lead to your website can still do so, however, you do not have access to this data. Whilst keyword search data is no longer available for organic search, in a further effort by Google to protect their Adwords revenue, keyword data continues to be available for paid search.

Secondly, Google surprised everyone by announcing the release of a brand new algorithm with no warning. Many argue that Hummingbird will prove to be the biggest change in Google’s algorithm since the beginning. The main purpose of Hummingbird is to allow Google to be able to interpret much more ‘conversational’, semantic language, understanding the intent of a search rather than just recognising short keywords.

The introduction of Hummingbird could be linked with the ever increasing popularity of mobile search. Many people prefer to use voice search on their mobile devices, talking directly into the handset to find what they need. We have started to search questions, not keywords. This means that people are less likely to use short-tail keywords, and are instead likely to search using full sentences that are more familiar to our everyday speech.

Hummingbird plays a big part in changing the way that SEO and online marketing is sold. The future of SEO is no longer based on keywords, but how keywords form a relationship to the intent of a targeted search. Whereas in the past, many in the online marketing community could get away with keyword stuffing to a certain level, the introduction of Hummingbird brings about the importance of online marketers producing more quality, detailed, long form articles that are designed to answer long-tail search phrases.

It could be argued that we are yet to fully see the real extent of Hummingbird’s impact online marketing, however, with search engines adapting to the way that we are now using long-tailed and question-like search queries, Hummingbird has undoubtedly set the stage for a future that is centred on mobile search. Online marketers must therefore adapt their strategies away from short keywords and push out more and more semantic-influenced content in order to capture more traffic. In 2014, we can only expect to see the increasing impact of Hummingbird.

Rob Edwards