Developing a Strategy for SEO that works

wp_seoAnyone who reads these posts regularly will know that we have an uneasy relationship with SEO. We firmly believe that SEO needs to be a central part of any joined-up web marketing strategy, and although we love SEO that works, we take issue with the idea that it is a marketing magic wand, and the suggestion that “All I need to do is get to the top of Google.” We have always advocated that SEO should be integrated with a joined-up marketing approach, and should be an on-going part of your website content development. As such every time you add content to your site, this should be done with an eye on your SEO and keyword strategy. This process can be made more straightforward if you have the right tools, and if you are using WordPress for your website, we would highly recommend the SEO plugin Yoast as a great tool for the Job. yoastDesigned by an SEO company, and used by many professional SEO experts, Yoast fully integrates on-page search engine optimisation into the process of writing content for your website. Not only does it give you all the functionality you need to ensure that your pages are structurally optimised, it also includes some great keyword and page analysis tools that make it simple to ensure that the content you are writing works form an SEO perspective too (oh, and did I mention that it is FREE!). In our opinion, if you want to develop a strategy for SEO that works, and you are using WordPress, you should definitely check out the Yoast plugin. Installation is a simple process and assuming that you inderstand the concept of SEO, it is straight forward to configure. But if you want some help implementing it, then give us a call. We would be delighted to help.

What does 2013 hold for SEO?

whatisseoBack in October, as part of our continuing focus on the joined-up marketing approach, we announced our strategic partnership with search marketing specialist Orange Tree Digital. As we move into a new year, we felt it would be interesting to ask for their views on potential developments in search marketing over the coming year and the likely impact on SME marketing. Here are the thoughts of Orange Tree Digital MD, Michael Wignall:

Google Searchotgsq

Google will remain the only game in town for getting visitors from search traffic in the UK and Europe. I think we’ll continue to see less diversity in search results, and increased difficulty for SMEs in getting page 1 rankings for competitive terms, particularly in B2C markets. We’ve already seen heavy engineering of the search results to promote Google’s own products for example YouTube, Google Local listings, Google Shopping , Google+ posts;  at the expense of other video platforms, business directories, shopping comparison sites, and general blog and social media postings. Expect that to continue, with indications that Google will be moving into insurance, vehicles and education slots this year. The effect of this is to shrink the available spots for ranking your website on page 1 of Google, and also reduce the visibility of general and niche directory websites you may be listed in, from Yell downwards. There was a consistent theme in 2012 of Google favouring major brands, whether through changes to its search and ranking algorithms giving them higher rankings,  or failure to impose penalties for tactics which draw punishment for smaller brands. None of this has to be calamitous, but SEO practice needs to evolve.

E-commerce

From March 2013 the previously free ‘product search’ listings which power Google Shopping  move to a pay-per-click Adwords model. There’s no real upside to that, retailers will have to pay to play. I also expect a stick + carrot approach to getting B2C retailers on to the Google Shopping  ecommerce platform as it goes toe-to-toe with Amazon in this market. With the difficulties in getting natural search rankings, a lot of small retailers are looking at moving their entire operation onto Amazon and cutting Google out entirely. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but it’s true that something like 15% of all online shopping activity already begins and ends at Amazon. There’s going to be quite a punch-up there.

Pay-per-click Advertising

A quick word on paid advertising, which will continue to supplant organic search opportunities as Google looks to grow its revenues close to infinity. That means more competition. For B2C companies, advertising on Facebook now provides a reasonable alternative platform to Adwords, and that is going to grow. I think the bottom line for SMEs, is that if you can’t get a return on investment using PPC then it’s unlikely that you’ll get SEO to work either.

The death of cheap SEO

Another feature of 2012 was Google starting to penalise tactics used by a lot of ‘We’ll Rank You No.1 on Google’ SEO firms, such as bulk link building using comment spam, blog networks and article directories, which simply no longer work long-term. (Although they do work for a few weeks, which is why a lot of search results for very commercial terms are still terrible quality.) The target for this is mostly spammy affiliate sales websites, but the collateral damage was huge. For SMEs on limited budgets this is both good and bad. On the down side, the entry level for SEO just got more expensive. The ‘£150 a month’ packages, and in fact quite a few of the ‘£1500 a month’ packages being sold were little more than link spam and a monthly report. They’re dead in the water. Not so good if that’s what you’ve been paying for. Nor is writing a blog and waiting for links going to get you any traffic. The web is competitive and commercialised, and SEO is now a high-cost, high-return marketing tool. The good news is that swathes of poor sites are disappearing, likely some of your competitors among them, a lot of cowboy SEO firms are going out of business, and above all it is possible to still get decent RoI.

SEO Tactics for 2013

SEO is now about ‘Inbound Marketing’ rather than search rankings. I see 5  distinct areas for success in 2013:

1) Social Media and Press Work

Are SEOs becoming more like PR companies? To a certain extent yes, due to necessity. Content marketing has been a solid link building tactic for a few years now, and that is liable to refine itself more and more into producing press-releases and other unique content for media outlets and social media networks. You may think your B2B product is too dull to generate press coverage; you’d almost certainly be wrong.

2) Technical SEO

You will need a website that is optimised for mobile phones and tablets. Ignoring that fact is the equivalent of ignoring the internet 10 years ago. Do it now and you’ll get a competitive advantage. There’s also a rankings (and traffic) boost to be had from implementing structured mark-up language, which I won’t begin to explain here.

3) Universal Search

As Google gives ever greater prominence to its own services, get onto those services that are still free and exploit them – that means video for YouTube, Google Shopping for reviews, a Google Local account and integrating Google+ into your website.

4) Localisation

If you are a local or regional business, you need to be optimised for local search. I think we may also see a renewed growth in local or hyper-local directory sites, particularly aimed at mobile users looking for services. 5) Conversion Rate Optimisation & Analytics Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) involves analysing the data from your website usage, PPC advertising, email campaigns and whatever else you do online;  then using this to make (and test) changes to your website in order to make more money out of each visitor. It’s by some distance the most cost effective way to increase revenue. Best of luck in 2013! Michael Orange Tree Digital www.orangetreedigital.co.uk  

Is your WordPress site up to date?

wp_update As I am sure you are aware, we are great fans of WordPress. For any company with a focus on joined-up marketing, it’s a great tool for developing a professional & flexible website where content can easily be updated and integrated as part of a proactive marketing strategy. You may find ‘techy’ web developers who decry WordPress as being vulnerable to hacking. While this can sound threatening, our ‘real world‘ experience is that we have never had any problem with an up to date WordPress website. Furthermore, WordPress enjoys some notable users who demand a high level of security and reliability. Here are some of them:

  • E-bay
  • Sony
  • VW
  • Jay-Z

A wider list can be found at: http://en.wordpress.com/notable-users/ However, back at home, a recent incident highlighted an reinforced the need to ensure that your WordPress installation is up to date.

Disaster Strikes!! – well what could have been a disaster anyway!

A few weeks ago a redundant WordPress site housed on one of our test servers was hacked! Because the site was no longer live, the installation had not been updated, and was more than 2 years out of date. The hack exploited a vulnerability that had been plugged in the WordPress system 18 months ago, but that was still there in this site as it had not been updated! One of the great features of WordPress is that it is constantly being updated with patches and new features. Although this means that the core functionality of your site is continually being developed, enhanced and protected, it does mean that updates need to be applied on a regular basis.

Not an issue if BSA manages your site

Everyone who has their site managed by BSA can relax. We continually monitor WordPress updates, and ensure that updates are applied appropriately. If however you manage your own site, please don’t ignore the update messages in the admin system. Updating the site is a s simple as a couple of clicks, and can avoid a whole lot of grief! Just remember to backup your site & database before you do it (to be on the safe side!). Here are a couple of links that you may find useful if updating your own site:

 

Managing Director – Clarke Lambert Landscapes

“From launch, the site and associated marketing programme has developed steadily and is now consistently producing quality enquiries on a weekly basis. In the first year the site has generated opportunities worth well over £100,000. BSA has delivered an effective, productive e-marketing programme on time and on budget.”

Interesting Email Stats from 2012

Browsing the web over the Christmas break, I came across an interesting article detailing some email marketing statistics from 2012:

33% of email is read via webmail!

jan_13_stats1 When considering email design, you have to remember that the variety of email clients is significant, and all tend to work differently. When designing email, we tend to use Gmail as a baseline. If an email looks OK in Gmail, then it should look OK in most other clients too. As Gmail makes up a significant chunk of the webmail universe, this stat would tend to back up that approach. 23% of email is read on smartphones & tablets. This number is significant and growing rapidly, so again considering mobile when designing emails is important.  

Use of desktop decreases significantly over the weekend.

jan_13_stats2

I see this as significant in the markets in which we/you tend to operate. It is not a huge leap to suggest that one reason for this is that B2B email consumption decreases significantly over the weekend, and hence infer that the use of desktop in B2B email is more significant. It is certainly the assumption we make when developing email for clients. This said, we also recognise that  B2B use of mobile is also increasing rapidly, and thus will continue to grow in importance as we move forward.

On the desktop, Outlook is king

jan_13_stats3 With over 60% of desktop emails being opened in Outlook, it is clear that testing how your emails display in Outlook is very important. Furthermore, these figures are global. If they were focused on the Business to Business market, it is likely that the prevalence of Outlook would be even higher. This is one reason why, as well as designing email content to look good in Gmail, we also test all emails in Outlook desktop client as well. If you would like to discuss the opportunities offered by email marketing for your business, we are always happy to talk.  

Where have all the (B2B) customer relationships gone?

handshakeNot very long ago there was a clear difference between B2C marketing and B2B marketing: B2C: Set up your shop, do some promotion, wait for customers to come to you. B2B: Identify your target customers, use a sales team to pro-actively keep in touch, build relationships & build business. OK, this is a simplification but the core distinction is valid; for B2C you wait for people to find you, for B2B you build relationships based on niche targeting. Over the past few years, things have shifted. The growth of web marketing has led to the seemingly overiding principle: “If only we can be at the top of Google, customers will come flocking”

So What Does B2B Marketing Really Need

Make no mistake – Google is Still Important

First of all, there is no doubt that a solid presence on Google is important, but the fact is that most SME Busnesses are targeting fairly focused markets (either geographically or sectorally – or both) and so the competition for that top slot is less intense. A professional, “search engine friendly” website with strong, optimised and appropriate information that will be valued by the market, and that is regularly updated with new, high quality content, is likely to rank well on Google for relevant searches.

Focus on building relationships – good B2B marketing depends on it

Yes, we are back to email. It is nowadays the most universal B2B communication tool and so still represents one of the best opportunities for B2B marketing. B2B Marketing has always been about building relationships. In most B2B markets, you are most likey to get business from those who know and trust you, so building this understanding and confidence should be the centre of any marketing campaign. By using a professional web presence and regular, targeted email you can build your profile in the market and ensure that your contacts know and value your offering. One key thing that the web delivers for the B2B market is cost effectiveness. 10 years ago a marketing programme to deliver a sustained customer contact programme off line would have been outside most SME marketing budgets. Now, the web has delivered the opportunity to create sustainable effective campaigns on modest monthly budgets, probably less that it takes to keep your car in fuel!!

In Conclusion

There is no doubt that internet offers significant potential for SME B2B businesses, but never forget that B2B marketing is different from B2C. Just because something fits the B2C profile does not mean it will be the same for B2B. When planning your marketing, and considering the use of web tools, you should work in the context of what you are trying to achive as an organisation and focus on meeting the needs of your customers within the context of their own circumstances

Web marketing in 2013 – our top 5 predictions

2013I write this post with a little trepidation, as I know it will still be there at the end of the year, but having looked back at 2012, I thought it might be fun to make a few predictions for 2013. Here are our Top 5:

1. Mobile usage will continue to grow

Probably not sticking my neck out too much here, but I think mobile will continue to be of increasing importance in B2B market, but how will this inform activity? Email – This is where I believe the big growth will come, in the number of B2B emails being opened on smart phones. This means that ease of reading of content on small screens & text sizes will need to be carefully considered. Websites – Although this will increase in importance, I believe that in B2B markets its importance will still be less significant with most websites still being viewed on either desktops or tablets where screen size is not too much of an issue. I do however believe that the use of Flash will continue to decline as realistic alternatives progress and the importance of having sites that are fully functional on iPads is recognised.

2. Focus on “Joined-up”

As anyone who reads Marketing Matters regularly will know, we are passionate about Joined-up Marketing. In the past, sometimes we have felt like a little alone on our soapbox on the subject, but I predict that the idea of connected marketing campaigns that join up all relevant aspects of both on and off line marketing will become more mainstream. As individual elements like SEO, Social, Email reach a higher level of maturity, they are more likely to be considered in a balanced way alongside the traditional elements of the marketing mix like PR, Networking, Telephone etc.

3. Content will continue to be king

“Content is King” has been a consistent web mantra over the past years, but I believe that this will become even more so as we move forward. In our experience good marketing campaigns flow out of a good source of content, and as the web continues to grow its ability to consume content will grow also. Put this alongside the increasing sophistication of web users, and I think the result will be that over and above all other factors. The delivery of good content that is valued by the market will be key.

4. Analyse Everything

There is absolutely no excuse these days for not having a comprehensive set of rich usage data for your web marketing campaigns, whether it be Google analytics for you website, or stats for your email campaigns. As we move forward, marketing will continue to be driven by the analysis of these stats. The key here is having a solid set of statistical data, and clear objectives for your campaign, but then to use the analytics data to inform rather than drive your marketing activities. After all, stats are only as useful as the ability to analyse and understand how they relate to your objectives.

5. Content Management will continue to grow.

With great open source tools like WordPress available to everyone, there is really no reason to develop static HTML websites anymore. I can count the number of non CMS sites that we have developed in 2012 on the fingers of one hand, I predict that in 2013 that number is likely to be ZERO! CMS gives control to the website owner, and allows the site to develop & adapt with the marketing activities. I can think of no good reason to develop a website outside a CMS system anymore! These are my 5 predictions for 2013. As always we look forward to your comments!!