SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION
Q: How long will it take to optimise my site?
You never complete the process! SEO must be seen as an ongoing process because there is always more that we can do to improve our position (adding content or links to the site) and we're in a dynamic environment, which means that the rules change and new competitors come into the game. This means that we regularly need to review and measure our activities and make changes. However, if the question is how long will it take to have a real impact - you should be able to make a big difference to your rankings within 2-3 months.
Q: Should I optimise my site for all search engines?
Google is the search engine to prioritise, simply because around 85% of UK search volume goes via Google. Following Google is Yahoo and Bing, who obviously have a much smaller number of users. If you get it right for Google, then you will probably be right for the other engines. But things change, so watch this space!
Q: What is meta data?
Meta data is ‘hidden' in the code behind a visible page, but it's very important to search engines. They are able to read page titles, descriptions, image tags and other meta tags and this tells them what the site is about and what the key relevant search terms should be. This of course will have a profound impact on rankings within that search engine.
Q: Is it worth paying for sponsored links?
This is difficult to answer as, even for businesses that closely manage their link costs, it all depends on the market you're in. For example, some niches in consumer goods can be covered for less than 20p per click, whereas some search terms will cost upwards of £5 per click. It's obviously better under these circumstances to obtain free (organic) search listings, but these take time and are not guaranteed. Sponsored links are great for new sites and for short term, campaigns.
A good idea is to run short-term campaigns (1-2 days) to establish viable keywords at low cost, and accept that a significant effort will be involved in maintaining effective campaigns.
Q: What's the best way of measuring the effectiveness of my inbound links?
You should download the Google toolbar and go to settings, options and select Page Rank info. This will put a tool on your browser which will tell you how Google ranks that page in terms of inbound links. Remember this on tells you Google's view on the value of your inbound links.
Q: How can I see which sites are currently linking to my website?
You should use a good backlinks analyser. There are free versions on the internet but they do vary over time, so use more than one. Go to your search engine and type in "backlinks analyser". You can find many of the links by using the main search engines, but we do not recommend Google in this instance because they only show a small percentage of the total links. Yahoo does show most of your inbound links if you go to Yahoo Site explorer. This will show you most of the inbound links but won't show you the value of each link.
Q: What's the best tool for measuring traffic to my site?
Easy answer. Without good traffic measurement you can't effectively manage your SEO. You can pay thousands, or you can use Google analytics for free. It's very powerful and pretty comprehensive (i.e. you need to use it regularly to fully understand it). Go to Google and set up an account (we usually add analytics to our site builds for our clients to access).
Q: I'm planning to trade internationally but currently have a .co.uk domain. Do I need to change this to a .com?
This is a big topic in its own right. It may be that you should have two sites - one which is focusing on a home market and one which caters for international markets. If the information really will be the same for both markets, then the usual rule would be to use .com for international markets and .co.uk for the UK, but of course you need to have both suffixes pointed at your site. UK visitors will usually be looking for .co.uk site. Perhaps just as importantly you need to consider whether you need a multi language site.
BEATING THE COMPETITION
Q. How can small businesses compete with bigger brands that are more regularly searched?
There are a number of ways in which small businesses can compete with bigger, more well-known brands. Small businesses have the ability to react quickly to changes in the market and also to compete in niche, specialist areas. Keep one step ahead of larger brands by being aware of changing environments and implementing changes to your business model as and when is needed.
- Differentiate your product through innovation, price or service. Offering something different to competitors will set you apart from them.
- Embrace social media. Facebook and Twitter are low-cost ways of communicating with your target audience and building brand awareness. Blogging, forums and business information sites are also a good way of raising your businesses profile.
- Update content and images on site frequently. Changing featured products or parts of your site means customers will always see something new and interesting.
- Keep in touch with your customers. Newsletters and mail-shots should tell the customer what is in it for them and explain reasons for them choosing your brand over a competitor.
- Look professional. Keep websites clean, professional and easy to use.
- Try to gain positive PR for your business. Customer testimonials help build a positive relationship with a customer and help you to compete with larger, well-trusted brands.
- Have systems in place to deal with enquiries/complaints quickly and effectively. Outstanding customer service is key to setting you apart from a competitor.
Q: What are the legal implications surrounding prize competitions and free draws for data collection purposes?
Prize competitions and free prize draws are free of statutory regulatory control under the Gambling Act 2005. Such competitions and draws can therefore be organised commercially for private benefit and profit. This contrasts with public lotteries which are the preserve of good causes, and must, unless they qualify in one of the ‘exempt' categories, operate under a license issued by the Gambling Commission. (The Gambling Commission, 2007). For further information from the Gambling Commission please see requirements for prize competitions and free draws.
Q: What is the optimum number of ‘inbound links' to have on a page?
Unfortunately, there is no right answer to this. Some markets are more competitive than others, so 5 low-quality links might be enough in one market, whereas it could take 10 high-quality links in another. The best approach is to see where you appear in the rankings for a number of key search terms and to establish the number of inbound links you currently have. Then do the same for the high-ranked competition and see if there are links you're missing. Finally, establish the links you need, acquire them and measure the improvement in your rankings - then do it all over again in a few months time!
Q: How do you set up an AdWords campaign without it costing a fortune?
AdWord campaigns are controlled by the account holder (you) via Google's online AdWords management tools. They're very straightforward and comprehensive. This allows you to test and control many variables, including maximum pence-per-click, maximum daily budget, individual campaign budgets and even the timing of ads being shown. It's really down to your individual market sector and your budget.
Q: What are you not allowed to say in your AdWords campaign?
Google Ad words editorial guidelines provide a clear overview of what is not acceptable in your AdWords campaign. Overall, it is important that any competitive claims are supported and if your ad contains comparative or subjective phrases such as 'Best', 'Cheapest', or 'Top', verification by a third party must be clearly displayed on your website. If your ad includes a price, special discount, or 'free' offer, it must be clearly and accurately displayed on your website within 1-2 clicks of your ad's landing page. Your ad cannot contain universal call-to-action phrases such as 'click here', 'link here', 'visit this link' or other similar phrases that could apply to any ad, regardless of content. Use a call-to-action unique to the service or product you provide. Also your ad cannot contain any offensive or inappropriate language.
Q. Can you use a competitor's name in AdWords?
The short answer is ‘yes', but it depends upon the context. For example, ad words using a trademarked term when that term is being used in a descriptive or generic way is allowed. Beware, there are currently major legal battles ensuing from this issue. Our view is that you don't make friends with consumers by misleading them anyway.
Q: Is using AdWords to sell a service as effective as selling a product?
The amount of successful transactions are easy to follow for a product as it is sold to a customer and the value of the mark-up on that product is multiplied by the number of conversions. However, it is more difficult to evaluate what a conversion is for services. For example, if a property based client is after potential buyers for their overseas property, the only conversions from AdWords you will see are people expressing an interest in the property by filling out a form on the client's website. The potential buyer may not buy the property or it may take over six months for this lead to bare fruition. However, it is still worth investing in marketing for services through AdWords although the end results are not always as clear as product transactions where a conversion is a concrete sale. In the end it comes down to the cost per conversion - this is the amount spent, divided by the average cost per conversion on your campaign.
Q: How are AdWords ranked?
Ads are positioned on search and Display Network pages based on their Ad Rank. The ad with the highest Ad Rank appears in the first position, and so on down the page.The criteria determining Ad Rank differ for your keyword-targeted ads depending on whether they're appearing on Google and the search network or on the Display Network.
Q. Is the position of my sponsored AdWord based only on the amount I pay?
Not solely. Google operates a Quality Score based on the relevance between the keywords in your ad, in the link, and on the landing page, along with your Click Through Rate (CTR). Because this ranking system rewards well-targeted, relevant ads, you can't be locked out of the top position as you would be in a ranking system based only on price.
Q: Are there any recommendations regarding page safe areas on a website?
Page Safe or password protected areas on a website are an ideal method for gathering customer information and building up a prospect database. They are also an ideal way to restrict access to certain areas of your site particularly areas which contain information you do not want your competitors to have access to. However, it is also important to keep these secure access pages to a minimum to avoid alienating or discouraging potential prospects who do not wish to register and enter their details.
Q: What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is revenue sharing advertising between two websites. The affiliate website will display an online advertisement of another website. Internet traffic from the affiliate site will be driven to the other website. The affiliate is compensated for displaying the advertisement.