Wednesday, 11 January 2017

SEO that makes sense – no witches’/wizards' hats required & white gloves at all times

Pic: Bifetito

I have been too busy practising SEO to write about it. SEO is not dead, it has evolved. I have kept up-to-date through SEW and Social Media Examiner plus Econsultancy for a UK angle. I have also deployed SEO for my personal branding. I am not a cold caller and use my website and social media channels to secure work as a consultant or as a contractor. 

In the past four years or so, I have been working exclusively for SMEs and non-profit organisations so the main challenge has been to scale down the multi-national marketing model and do everything on a shoestring budget. As I read the last SEO articles of 2016, here are a few reflections and insights from my experience so far.

95% Organic

My SEO approach has been mostly organic with a small, outsourced PPC sideline. I work for small organisations and PPC has been deployed only for temporary campaigns as it would be too costly for my clients in the long term. So from my ‘content is king’ castle, I have been using Google Analytics to monitor Serps (search engine research pages). 

As I do not do management speak because it only confuses/irritates my clients, this is the general thinking behind my SEO strategy, which is then personalised to suit the customers' profile and scope of the organisation. I do not do One Size Fits All SEO because firms come in different shapes and sizes.

SEO strategy for SMEs

This is what strategy boils down to: 
  • On page SEO: pages should be well written with keywords inserted naturally in titles, flowing paragraphs, picture captions and metadata. There are a lot of articles about nefarious Google updates, but here are your warnings in a nutshell:

Pic: Scrumshus
      • Beware of lazy Pandas – there is no excuse to have low-quality content or web copy that is updated once a year or less often. 
      • Beware of slippery Penguins - links to inferior websites are now toxic, they do not just devalue a website, they contaminate it. In the worst case scenario, a full audit is required. 
      Pic: Andrew Shiva
    • Off page SEO: websites should only have quality links (i.e. to respectable sites, blogs, etc - see Penguin above). It's also worth adopting a realistic social media schedule to keep all channels ticking. Do not be tempted to schedule all the tweets, though… 

    Digital goals

    I will keep it short and sweet:
    • Authority – target influencers to review or test your product/service, consider blogger outreach
    • Value – upgrade your content by including popular topics (queries from your customers, searches for relevant products, customers’ forums, etc)
    • User experience – monitor your website for broken links, ease the navigation by diminishing the number of tabs on the home page 
    • Speed (you only need an image resolution of 72dpi for a website, do not use photos straight from the digital camera because they will slow down page upload)
    • Present relevant content - clear, concise and to the point, no waffling or going off tangents, please!
    • Ranking – invest more time and manpower in quality content: photos, articles, infographics, videos
    • Freshness – Monitor your online presence and refresh your website at regular intervals.

    Optimise to capitalise

    SEO menu extras:
    • Offer video transcripts/subtitles – many people prefer to read subtitles or the 
    • transcript as they cannot play a noisy video in an open-plan office. Do host your videos on your website, not just YouTube.
    • Create content that is shareable – if appropriate use humour and always have something catchy at hand.
    • Address mobile marketing – micro-moments are the new search marketing if your customers are browsing your products and services on a smartphone.

    SEO & social

    A few easy peasy tactics you can adopt:
    • Build links with your social media channels, they are of high value to search engines… they might feel like a chore but they offer increased visibility.
    • Quality of followers is key, it’s not about size any more. Fake likes will damage your reputation, so will clickbait articles.
    • Use keywords and hashtags. 
    • Local SEO is not to be sniffed at, especially if you offer a service to customers from your premises.
    • Use keywords to drive content creation – what are your people talking about on social? Can you offer an article or a solution to a problem, current issue?
    • Use slack periods to work on your editorial calendar. It’s all about seasons, anniversaries, fashion trends, buzzwords. Bear in mind your buyer’s cycle. For instance, gym memberships are often sold in December and January, while in the B2B universe January is the month for training.
    Pic: Charlesjsharp
    P.S. A little bird told me... the hummingbird update is not to be underestimated, it might not carry a ranking penalty but you have to bear it in mind because it's all about relevance. Find out what your customers' digital conversations are about and make your content relevant to them. If you want to find out more about this less talked-about animal, read this useful article.

    Thursday, 29 September 2016

    Trying Twitter Polls - this time with a photo

    For some weird reason you cannot have photos in Twitter Polls, so here is the Photo I would like to poll.... This is not a clickbait thingy, just want to know why this pic was rejected for a social media tweet...

    Wednesday, 13 July 2016

    What the SEO??? PPC explained

    Project by mscherbear - Creative Commons
    So I did an image search for PPC and this was the cutest... PPC as a keyword has serious issues image-wise at least in the Creative Commons Universe. But moving away from pretty ponies to PAY PER CLICK, I have found today a really good article about it. The article is giving information from a small business point of view and you can find it here.

    This article (and the mentioned digital guide) resonates with me as I am mostly working with small businesses or for non-profit organisations with modest budgets. Plus as a content provider I am cheaper than hiring a PPC agency, which might backfire or be too costly. I still believe PPC is for promotions only, you need to think of SEO as a long-term objective and content marketing is the way to go. When I say content, I include videos, photos, infographics, memes, illustrations, not just WORDS.

    Read the article and leave a comment if you wish. I'd welcome PPC experiences!

    Wednesday, 25 May 2016

    In the SEO wonderland through the content keyhole

    Longing by KingaBritschgi

    I have been quite busy building websites and optimizing them in the most natural way: concise and informative pages, good photography and keywords inserted appropriately in headlines, subheads and captions. I tend to spend a lot of time formatting photos for the web as the content management system Cambridge University uses (Falcon - Plone) has been set up with very specific image sizes for pages, side portlets and carousels. 
    Some of my work has been updated by others who have followed me, but most of my work (or at least the bones) is still there to see. 

    I have also devised Twitter and LinkedIn strategies, compiled newsletters (embedded e-newsletters and attachments) and given advice to a variety of businesses in the corporate sector. I particular like devising blog calendars and providing ideas for articles (or coaching somebody to write an article).

    When building a new website it's important to minimize the number of main tabs and try to make the site navigable not confusing. With Falcon you can have menus popping down when you hover on a tab and various side panels. It has some limitations but it is easy to learn and has a special space for SEO code - ie Google Analytics and ways to tag images too.

    In a previous job I managed to rank a company blog on the first page of Google with a single article. I have a screenshot somewhere to prove it and got 300 likes from a Facebook article. There was no magic involved, just quality writing diffusing useful information and a pinch of keywords judiciously scattered throughout without forcing them on the reader.

    When I created a website for a biotech company, I experienced devising a two-level website with B2B and B2C pages. The B2B pages had more technical information and were aimed at doctors, while the B2C pages were written to create brand awareness among the consumers who might ask their doctor to use that particular brand of dermal filler. That is a crowded market with leaders willing to spend thousands of pounds so launching a new product on a shoestring budget is more of a challenge. The key is to do some competitor analysis beforehand so you can trump the competitor on something, not everybody can excell at everything so you can have a better blog than a bigger company and move faster because the content does not need to be signed off by as many executives and you don't have to deal with as many stakeholders either. You can really be an agile marketeer and strike the iron while it's hot!

    Tuesday, 28 April 2015

    Merchants of doom & gloom, it's not the end yet!

    Pic: Michael Coghlan

    Since Google introduced the latest update on 21 April, which skews ranking in favour of mobile-ready websites, there have been lots of conversations on LinkedIn and a scaremongering hashtag #mobilegeddon... This reminds me of the mythical bug of the year 2000, which never happened.

    First of all, if your audience is not mobile, don't sweat it. If you are a bit worried, take the free test Google offers (funnily enough not many pros mention this as they attempt to drum up business):, which comes with free advice.

    If you are worried and on a budget, aim to introduce responsive design coding on the home page and readable content in a not too small or light font. Then sit back and review later on. Don't get sucked in the #mobilegeddon hype.

    Sunday, 15 February 2015

    There is no God (in) digital marketing

    I once joked that this blog is a Godin-free zone, a British kind of joke I got from a plaque at Porter's Pie restaurant in London's Convent Garden. There used to be a plaque saying something like: "This is a Michael Winner's-free restaurant". The late Michael Winner became famous for some excruciatingly bad insurance ads - so bad they were good and raised the profile of a brand - but he was actually a film director (he directed a good Agatha Christie's adaptation among others) and a hard-to-please restaurant reviewer/customer to put it mildly. Hence the restaurant's plaque.

    My statement then and now has nothing to do with Seth Godin's marketing expertise, it's more about sickly sycophants who keep posting his quotes as if he were God giving us marketing commandments. As I said to my digital marketing students on Friday, I believe there is no real expert in digital marketing. Take note, digital marketing, not traditional marketing. Digital marketing is like quicksand, always shifting and sometimes gobbling up people and ideas. There is no guarantee a campaign will work, no matter how much it has been researched, no matter how many marketing boffins have poured in their genius to make it succeed. Nothing is right or wrong in marketing. It became apparent to me when a fellow copywriter retweeted an article in the Guardian about the TV comedy Nathan Barley, in particular the episode where an earnest journalist writes about The Rise of the Idiots. The Guardian said the TV series was prophetic, anticipating Shoreditch's cool army of media people and creatives. Shoreditch is an area in East London quite close to the Golden Square Mile (the City, traditional financial heart of London). I used to live a 15-minute walk away from Shoreditch for several years and saw all this trendiness happen. The area is now renown as a media and arty hub. Rents have rocketed, expelling the original trendsetters and small operators. Little me, at the time a journalist, got shifted, along them, to Walthamstow, E17. That's where the small creative fish headed to. There we set up our own Arts Club, a creative hub that originated a successful Arts Trail among other local initiatives. The Village area became cool, it was regularly featured in Time Out. Estate agents rubbed their hands at the rising property prices. But let's move back to marketing.

    If you watch the embedded video, you can see that these people now exist for real and are the darlings of B2C social media. Going for the viral jugular often means creating crazy, silly stuff and whether you are a real or a faux idiot, a professional with strict integrity or a sell-out, that's what the mass market wants more of. I call it inspired idiocy. That's how cool brands are made. I am not criticising here or holding the moral high ground. If I am after high-brow culture, I read a book or go to an art exhibition. Still there are plenty of marketing pros who are cultural snobs. There is nothing wrong with popular culture. Do you know that staff at The Sun are Oxbridge educated? You have to be clever to create puns and engaging wordplay. There are intelligence and creativity behind this kind of idiocy. And if you watch the whole episode the video has been taken from and reflect about it, who is the hero? I am afraid it's not the idealistic, high-brow journalist who is a miserable sod. Nathan, the "idiot", is the real hero, eager to share his office space and resources - albeit to an attractive female - and a marketing genius of the viral variety. I am not saying I like his habit of tormenting poor Pingu, his office assistant, though.

    So repeat after me, there is no real expert in digital marketing, we are all learning and holding on with white knuckles to the fast and furious rollercoaster that is web marketing.

    Monday, 2 February 2015

    Blogging for fun, fundraising and profit

    It has been a busy end of 2014 and start of 2015. I have barely switched off my computer for a few hours, even during the Christmas holidays.

    I had web content to write, digital strategy to formulate, a University website to maintain, a blog to look after for a non-profit community group and my lectures to prepare. This Friday I am starting teaching Digital Marketing Communications to postgraduates at a local university, while being involved with the other university in a communications role.

    So it's no surprise I have neglected this blog. I plan to post more regularly this year, but in the meantime I will leave you with the PowerPoint slides of a talk I gave on Friday in Cambridge. Enjoy and do leave a comment if you have any questions.