This week brought some great news to one of our clients. They had been longing to appear in the local pack of Google search results for a specific handful of keyphrases. We did some technical SEO to get them there and this had the delightful side-effect of knocking their number one competitor out of almost all their corresponding search positions! Result! Read more
Can you imagine 80% of your sales leads originating from just 2 minutes of effort per day? That is the level of success that our friend Kapil Kapur is currently enjoying on social media, focussing specifically on LinkedIn and Facebook.
As a small business owner you will probably already be aware that Data Protection regulations are going to change in May 2018. You will almost certainly be affected if you hold data on individuals in any form. But there’s a lot of poor information swirling about. Don’t get caught out by GDPR myths. We’ve compiled a list of need-to-know tips to help clarify what your responsibilities will be. Read more
We’re sometimes asked “What is SEO” or “How does SEO work?” It’s a big topic but let’s start with the very basics. In this article I’ll give a high level summary of search engines work, how the position of websites within search engines works is calculated, and touch briefly on how SEO aims to improve position.
So if you have no idea of what SEO is, this article is for you!
All local businesses – no matter the size – have a right to be found in local search results, whether on Google, Bing or any other search engine.
The only thing stopping you is ensuring search engines understand who, what and where you are.
Here are my top 10 guidelines to ensure your small business is found in local search.
In Google searches, a Featured Snippet is a highlighted information panel that lies at the top of the organic search results, but below any advertising panels. It can contain a paragraph of text, list or table of data drawn from an expert website, which answers the question you asked and links to that site for more information.
They can show that your website has the definitive answer to a specific question.
Let’s take a quick look at what featured snippets are, how you can supply Google with featured snippets, and what problems they may cause.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is an idea intended to improve using the web on mobile devices. It’s designed to address the typically slow loading speeds experienced by mobile users in a web that’s chockablock full of ads, forms, widgets, popups etc. AMP pages load about 4 – 8 times faster than “normal” web pages.
Websites are all about trust. Users are (almost unconsciously) looking for signals that will build their trust in a company when they visit the website. Websites can build or destroy trust through the presence or lack of trust signals.
We see many websites which lack these simple trust signals. They are so easy to implement and yet so many websites lack them. It’s no wonder these sites fail to engage users and fail to convert users to buyers!
So let’s go – how many of these simple trust signals does your website currently have?
- Clear language and 100% correct spelling
Nothing puts users off more than bad spelling and grammar.
- Links to active social media channels
Users are looking for evidence that they are not alone in trusting this new company they’ve just stumbled on. Links to active, responsive social media channels will be checked by users.
- Terms and conditions
Nobody wants to be bound by a spurious set of terms and conditions, just for browsing a website. Or do they? Actually terms and conditions signal trust because they show the company is professional, cares about their relationship with the user and wants it to be clear and legal.
- Copyright with current year displayed
It’s so simple to implement an automatically updating copyright year notice. Yet we so often see copyright notices that show a date or 5 or even 10 years old. This indicates the business behind the website is defunct – or seriously behind the times.
- Snappy logo
A well-designed, unique logo shows you have invested time and effort into your brand.
- About Us page
This page is usually one of the most-visited pages on any website, especially B2B and B2C service websites. Quite simply users want to know about the people they will be dealing with. If it’s a trade website, they want to know who will be turning up on their doorstep.
- Team photos
And we don’t mean fake photos of young women wearing headsets. We mean real, professionally shot photos of the actual team members at their place of work. Smiling!
- Non-stock photography
Use your own, professionally shot photography. Because the presence of generic, stock photography makes a website look fake and destroys trust.
- SSL certificate/encryption
Google is already flagging insecure websites. SSL certificates cost as little as £50 per year and are an absolute must in today’s online environment.
Have I missed out any obvious trust signals? Let us know.
RankBrain is now entrenched as part of Google’s search ranking algorithm and is said to be the third most important ranking factor after inbound links and great content. It is having a big effect on how searches are presented.
But what exactly is RankBrain and why should small business owners care?
RankBrain is “artifical intelligence” (AI) applied to search engines.
AI is all about machines learning how to get better at doing things. So RankBrain is software that helps Google to improve it’s search results by learning what worked for a particular user in the past.
Back in October 2015 Bloomberg broke the story that Google was using a new system to help deliver search results.
It started out as a way for Google to perform better on the 15% of searches it had never seen before. These are searches that Google was being asked to carry out for the very first time.
The remaining 85% of searches, Google had seen before and could already test which search results were proving popular (being clicked on).
But those pesky 15% of never-before-seen searches were proving difficult for Google to confidently provide results for.
RankBrain aimed to assist by using machine learning to link words together into “vectors” and figure out the relationships between words and word clusters.
For example: Google may have seen the query “what’s the best digital marketing company in London” many times before. But it may never have seen the query “show me top London online marketing firms”.
RankBrain can tell that these queries are similar – that is, the search intent is the same (to find top digital marketing companies based in London).
Here’s a technical post from Google about machine learning in search – very cool.
What’s the state of play today?
RankBrain worked so well for these never-before-seen queries that Google decided to integrate RankBrain into almost all searches.
So now Google has a tool which can much better interpret the intent a user search. This understanding of meaning transforms Google from a dumb machine into an intelligent interpreter of meaning.
So where next for small businesses?
I stress that today, RankBrain is just one of hundreds of factors involved in generating search results.
It means that small business need to worry just a little bit less about creating pages which contain the exact keywords and phrases used in search queries. Perhaps instead of creating two pages, you could create one.
It also means that content should be aimed more and more at human readers and less at search engine spiders.
That’s good news for search engine users and for content providers like SMEs.
What do the next few years hold for search engine optimisation? Since almost all businesses rely on organic search traffic, it’s vital to understand the direction of travel with search engines and SEO. Here’s my brief analysis of where we are currently heading.
Top ranking factors
There are hundreds of factors which determine where your website sits in the search results, but the top three factors are: on-page content, inbound links and (since fairly recently) inputs from Artificial Intelligence software, such as Google’s RankBrain.
Since on-page content and AI deliver more reliable results than inbound linking (which is easier to falsely manipulate), inbound linking may decline as a ranking factor in future.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
This technology allows search engines such as Google to actually host your content instead of you hosting it. It only supports a small subset of the functionality that “full-featured” web pages do. As a result AMP pages load and display really fast. This is good because pages that are loaded with ads tend to display very slowly on mobile devices.
You provide the content by supplying it on your site in a special format called AMP, then Google will take it automatically and display it direct from Google instead of from your site, and credit you at the bottom of the page. As the user experience is held to be better, these pages will be ranked higher in search.
However, it’s controversial because Google allows you to “swipe right” to another provider’s content instead of staying on your website. And some content providers, including major newspapers, have said that ad revenues from AMPs are lower than than from self-hosted web pages.
Voice and personalisation
Personal assistants such as Google Now, Siri and Cortana are set to grow massively and change the future of search.
Currently, the most popular voice requests are to for travel directions, time and weather updates, dictating text messages, playing music and getting TV and film listings.
But that’s just the tip of of the iceberg.
As these assistants are personal, they will tailor search results according to how you have interacted with them in the past. This bypasses the search engine results pages and goes straight to the relevant content.
In a similar way, smarthome devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo are bypassing visual interfaces and moving straight to voice interfaces, which requires a “direct to result” approach (perhaps a throwback to Google’s I’m Feeling Lucky – remember that?)
User experience (UX)
User experience (UX) is another huge factor in upcoming SEO. UX means the quality of the experience a user has when visiting your site. For example, if your site is laid out in a logical, appealing and easy-to-use way, we say it is a good user experience.
On the other hand if your content is bland or weak, badly put together, badly laid-out and unappealing, users won’t stick around because it’s a poor user experience.
Google is wise enough to know that if a website has a great user experience it is probably a better bet to send a user there than to a site with poor UX. Google measures UX in a number of ways. Three easy ways to check your UX is to look at page dwell time – the amount of time a user spends reading your page. Bounce rate – the % of users who hit your site and flounce straight off again, disgusted by the lack of relevance to their search.
New platforms for search
Off-search engine search engines will continue to rise. When we think of search we tend to think of Google’s search bar or search page. But actually the biggest search engines are social networks such as YouTube, Facebook. And social media content has appeared in search results for a long time now.
Google can now index the content inside mobile apps and incorporate this into searches even when the user does not have the app installed. Little wonder, since 84% of time on mobiles in spent in apps, especially social networking and messenger apps such as SnapChat and WhatsApp. What you can do with your apps – especially social networking apps – is set to increase. Facebook now have instant messaging, SnapChat lets you send money to friends via SnapCash.
For small businesses, this all means three simple things to do right now:
- Keep producing great content for your online presence, assisting your existing and new customers in every way possible
- Improve the user experience of your website
- Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages
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- Case Study: Improve Local Search Rankings Against Competitors
- Case Study: 80% of Sales Leads from 2 Minutes of Marketing Per Day
- GDPR – What Small Businesses Need To Know
- SEO: Back to the Very Basics
- 10 Easy Ways to be Found in Local Search
- What are Featured Snippets and How Do You Get Them?
- Accelerated Mobile Pages – What Are They and Should You Care?
- 10 Simple Trust Signals Your Website Should Always Have
- What is RankBrain?
- Future of SEO
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