Black Hat SEO – Keyword Stuffing

Black Hat SEO spelled out with Scrabble letters

When I started SEO in 2001 things were a lot simpler than they are now. Back then it was all about keywords. Keywords in the Keyword Meta Tag, keywords in the Meta Title and Meta Description tags and Keywords liberally scattered throughout the content.

Obviously people came up with ways to “game” the system, to effectively cheat the search engines into giving them a better result than they were probably due and Keyword Stuffing was one of the first.

Keyword Stuffing – Level 1, repetition

Based on the knowledge that the search engines looked at the number of times a keyword was featured on a web page, keyword stuffing became the thing to do. This simply involved the multiple repetitions of keywords at the bottom of the content. The problem with this was that it looked ugly.

An example of keyword stuffing
An example of keyword stuffing

Keyword Stuffing – Level 2, invisible stuffing

Level two in Keyword Stuffing was to set the font to the same colour as the background, making the stuffing invisible but leaving a great deal of apparently empty space at the bottom of each page. However, you could highlight the text with your mouse, if you were so inclined

Keyword Stuffing – Level 3, nearly invisible stuffing

Now, the search engines realised they were being gamed so if you were caught using fonts in the same colour as your page background, your site would be penalised. The SEO folk adapted to this by making the font a very similar colour to the background……a visitor would still not see the text but because it wasn’t the same colour the search engines were happy – for a very short time. And they changed the rules so if your keywords were in an identical OR very similar colour to the background you’d be penalised.

Keyword Stuffing – Level 4, totally invisible stuffing

And the SEO folk learned from this changed the font size back to a contrasting colour and then set the font size to 0. So, the keywords were there, they were in a colour that stood out from the page background but the typical visitor to the page wouldn’t see them, they took up minimal space and all was good in the world of SEO

Until the search engines cottoned on again and amended their rules to penalise websites that used keywords in the same (or similar colour) as the background AND/OR had the font size set to zero

The above techniques to game the system (a polite way of saying cheating) became known as Black Hat SEO and it’s something that I avoided simply because I didn’t want client sites to be penalised.

Since those early cowboy days of SEO, many things have changed. The profession has cleaned up its game (although Black Hat SEO still exists if you want to cheat the system and eventually get kicked out of the Search Engine Results Pages – SERPs) and the search engines regularly update their algorithms – the software that decided where a website deserves to sit in the Results pages.

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

SEO is for life, not just for Christmas

I am frequently asked “when should I stop doing my SEO?” I suspect that this is because people are looking to stop either working on their website or paying somebody else to do the Search Engine Optimisation on their website

The SEO Triangle of Google, Bing and Yahoo

The answer, which might not be easy listening for some, is that you can only stop when either you have taken over all of your competition, when all of your competition cease to exist, or Google stops updating the way it ranks websites and your business website sites at the top of Page 1

I agree that it would be great if one could create a website, ensure that it is fully search optimised, click “publish” and watch the magic happen as people flock to the website and make purchases or submit enquiries.

And a lot of businesses still think that this is the way that things should be done. Great thought, and money, is invested in the design, the content, the logo, the colours etc but SEO tends to be at the bottom of the list.

I have lost count of the times that I have been asked to optimise a new website and spent time with the owner discussing the changes that are required to ensure that the site can be effectively optimised, rather than just paying lip-service to the requirements.

Sometimes a root and branch rebuild is the only way forwards.

The reality is that SEO should be as an important part of the website planning, development and build as the thought put in to the logo, the colours used, the pages required etc. It should be there, from the beginning – not considered an afterthought.

And once optimised, many website owners think “that’s it, site optimised, job done”.

The problem is that it can take several months for the SEO to have an impact (see “how long does SEO take” for more info). And you will probably find that your site ins’t in the hallowed top spot on Page 1. Your site might not even be on Page 1 so more work will be required.

And while you are doing this, so will your competitors – they’ll be trying to beat your website and working on their sites so you will have to keep working on yours.

And then there’s all the changes and updates that Google makes to the way that it measures and ranks websites – you need to be on top of those in case any changes made by Google have a negative impact on your website. And Google makes, on average, 9-10 changes PER DAY, every day

You should ONLY stop your SEO when one of 3 states is reached

  1. You take over ALL of your competition and prevent new startups from competing with you
  2. Your business is so good that all of your competitors fail
  3. You have reached the top of Page 1 and Google stops changing things

Daily changes to Google Search

In 2018 Google ran over 654,000 experiments. These will have been carried out by Google’s AI engines, trained external Search Raters and live tests. The outcome being 3,234 improvements to search, or 9 a day

We’ll never get to know, and understand, the majority of these improvements because most of them will be tweaks to the system. However, significant changes are often announced by Google or can be tracked by businesses interested in Google’s updates and quite a few people have published lists of known algorithm updates such as herehere and here.

The Competition

Carry out any search on Google and you’ll be presented with millions of results. Even a search for “jumpers for rats” returns over 6m results.

Google Search "jumpers for rats"

And we know, or should know, that a Page 1 result is all that really matters.

Why do Page 1 search results matter so much

That’s really simple to answer. Research shows how few Google users EVER make it off Page 1 of the search results – as delineated on the graph below by the dotted line at “10” – and just 10% make it on to Page 3

Chart showing how many visitors to page 1 of Google and beyond.
Image credit Backlinko

Maintain, Maintain, Maintain. Keeping your site up to date

Once launched, your website is never “finished”. You need to be constantly checking to make sure that it’s performing as required, and investigating where it is performing poorly and put solutions in place.

You need to be frequently adding fresh content (a blog/news page for example), an “un-maintained site is a doomed site” as they say – and Google emphasise this on its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

Some websites are not maintained or cared for at all by their webmaster. These “abandoned” websites will fail to achieve their purpose over time, as content becomes stale or website functionality ceases to work on new browser versions. Un-maintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.

Google Search Quality Evaluator Guideline

In 20 years of SEO I have only had to re-skill myself about 20 times to stay current and up to date. The ONLY thing that hasn’t changed is that SEO is always changing. If your website fails to stay current then your website will wither on the Google vine.

The good sites will prosper, the poor sites – owned by lazy businesses – will be left behind. SEO is not just for Christmas

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

Find me:         https://seo.enterprise-oms.uk/  |  andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Follow me:     Twitter ¦ Linkedin
Phone me:      01793 238020 ¦ 07966 547146

How Google’s BERT helped catch a cow fishing

Google logo

I know, I know, you can’t really catch a cow when you go fishing, can you? Well, you can when you realise that a cow is actually another name for a large, striped, saltwater game fish.

And BERT  (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a major update to the Google search algorithm that has nothing to do with Transformers films or toys

What does BERT do?

Google has been consistently trying to understand the context of the words used in Google searches. In the early days of Google they just searched on the words used in the query without attempting to understand the context. So, if you wanted to go on holiday to Majorca and wanted a hotel with a swimming pool you might search using “Hotel Majorca Swimming Pool” for example.

However, your results might include the Hotel Majorca on Swimming Pool Road in Lowestoft or a hotel on Majorca Avenue in Andover or other results based on any combination of the words without understanding the real nature of your search.

Next up came semantic search which was Google’s first attempt to understand context of searches but my experience was that it wasn’t really that much of an improvement on what went before.

And this is where BERT comes in, BERT is a “deep learning algorithm that is related to natural language processing” and it helps a machine to actually understand what the words in a sentence mean, and can take in to account all of the nuances that are included in human speech.

Roger Monti of the Search Engine Journal was looking for a search phrase that he could use to demonstrate how context was interpreted and settled on “how to catch a cow fishing”.

Before BERT, Google returned a lot of results based on livestock and cows in particular. However, following the BERT roll out Google used “fishing” to understand the context and the same search, conducted, by Roger, at the end of October was full of striped bass and fishing related results.

A striped bass being held by a fisherman
A Striped Bass

Do I have to do anything on my website?

Not really. You just need to make sure that you continue to deliver quality, focused content and continue to use synonyms where relevant and appropriate.

BERT is currently rolling out globally and so may not have reached a Google Server near you, yet,

If you DO need some help with your website, search engine optimisation and/or your social media and email marketing you can always get in touch for a chat – 01793 238020 or andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

What is “bad” SEO

SEO writing on a window

The Art/Science/Discipline (delete as you see fit) of Search Engine Optimisation, aka SEO, has many branches. However, the first decision is whether you are going to use best practice or try to “game” the system, aka cheat, to get the search results you need..

The SEO practitioners who cheat are known as “black hats” or “unethical” whilst the good guys are “white hats” or ethical.

Which you choose is up to you, however the impact on your business if you make the wrong choice, could be disastrous

How long does SEO take to have an impact on your website?
SEO takes time, months not days, not weeks but months. However, sometimes there are ways to “game” the system that can deliver results far more quickly. The downside is that they will be using something that goes against Google’s Best practice guidelines.

Yes, your website might rocket up the search engine results but, once your site has been identified as using unethical techniques,Google will apply a penalty

Google Penalties
Remember, Google does not have to list you anywhere, it’s of no real benefit to Google to have you in their listings and if you go against their guidelines you will be penalised.

Google is constantly checking results to make sure that the right sites are listed in the right place, to make sure that sites are not gaining unfair advantage and making sure that sites are not cheating the system.

In my experience, when caught cheating Google has three levels of penalty it can apply, depending on the seriousness of the “crime”.

  1. If it’s a relatively minor digression then Google may simply stop monitoring your site. Any updates that you apply to your site will be ignored which means your site will just slowly drift down the pages until your site effectively disappears.
  2. A more serious misdemeanour will see your site actively demoted, perhaps by 5 pages (for example). With only 10% of Google searchers EVER going beyond Page 2 of the results, if you are on Page 5 you may as well be on Page 100.
  3. Total deletion from the Google database. Remember, Google is under no obligation to you.
Google Search Console

Thankfully, most issues tend to be (1) and (2) and Google will let you know before a penalty is applied and give you time to put a remedy in place. They do this through the Search Console. You do use the Search Console, don’t you?

Simply put, if you click on the “Security & Manual Actions” link in Search Console’s left-hand navigation menu, Google will have posted any penalties that it is looking to apply. You have about a month to resolve so you need to be checking every fortnight so that you have 2 weeks to resolve any issues.

How to overcome a penalty
If Google advises you that you have done something that goes against their guidelines and that they are about to apply a penalty you need to put a solution in place.

The first step is to identify what has caused the problem. Contact your SEO company and ask them what they have done and instruct them to undo it PDQ. If you have done it yourself then you need to undo the dubious SEO tricks that you have applied to your site.

If Google don’t tell you, how will you know that you have been the subject of a penalty
Over the 20 or so years that I have been doing SEO I have fielded a number of calls from business people (not clients of mine) which all went in the same direction.

“Hi Andy, I don’t know if you can help but yesterday my business was on Page 1 of Google search. Now I can’t find it, and I’ve gone to Page 20. What’s happened?”

What’s happened is that they have been hit, and hit hard, by Google and have likely been deleted from their database.

Another way to tell is through Google Analytics, if your web traffic falls off a cliff, for example – as shown in the Analytics grab below.

Google Analytics graph hit by a Google Penalty

If you receive notification from Google that they are going to apply a manual penalty then you have time to reverse the activity that was the cause of this warning.

If, however, you are like the people that have called me, and your site has simply disappeared it might be better to bite the bullet, buy a new domain name, build a new site and start again.

In many previous cases, I have worked with businesses to identify what went wrong, put corrections and rectifications in place and then tried to convince Google to relist them. When, after 6 months, there had been no change, my recommendation was to start again.

However, the last time I did this was a couple of years ago so things could have changed

Types of Black Hat Activity
Cheating has changed over the years. Back in the (very) early days of SEO, all that was required was to add keywords multiple times in the Keywords Meta Tag and repeat them multiple times on the page itself. So you’d have a page of content and them across the bottom of the page you’d see the keyword repeated many, many times.

Keyword, Keyword, Keyword, Keyword. Keyword, Keyword

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so the web developers realised that this looked bad so they changed the font colour to match the background so the visitor couldn’t see the text but the search engines could.

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so Black Hat SEO people simply made the font size 0. The text disappeared from the page, but was still visible in the HTML that could be read by the search engines.

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it so the SEO folks went for keyword “stuffing”. Cramming the keyword in to as many keyword places that they keyword possible keyword could

The visitors didn’t like this and went elsewhere.

Next came Link Building and Link Farming. Buying back-links from websites that simply published lists of websites on thousands of pages, for a fee. These pages effectively looked like a phone directory where the only content was links to websites.

But Google didn’t like this and link farm users were likely to find them,selves deleted

So, the next technique was cloaking. Your web-server can differentiate between you and I visiting a website and a search engine. Black hat SEO folks learned this and created content that was precisely what the search engines were looking for and only showed this content to the search engines. It was a bit like putting a honey pot at the end of the garden to attract the wasps when you’re having a picnic in the garden on a sunny day

But Google didn’t like this and  users of cloaking were likely to find their sites deleted

How can you tell the difference between White and Black Hat SE Optimisers
If someone approaches you, offering to do your SEO and they guarantee to get you on Page 1 then I’d be inclined to avoid them. Nobody can guarantee this unless they are either

  1. Running a Google Ads campaign – but they should tell you this
  2. Running a Black Hat campaign.

If you ask an SEO agency how they will optimise your site, they should tell you what they will be doing. They should also tell you that they can’t guarantee results, just that they will use their skills and experience to move your site higher in the search results.

Avoid being hit by a penalty, give me a call to discuss ethical, White Hat SEO for your website by giving me a call on 01793 238020 or dropping an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

You’re thinking of PPC Advertising – but where should you place your money?

Screen Shot of Bing Ads, PPC

In my experience, when thinking about advertising on the the web, most people think of Google and Facebook Ads and that’s about it but there’s a wide range of Pay per Click (PPC) opportunities available and the key to success is deciding which are the platforms most likely to deliver the best results.

In this post I’ll be looking the top 8 platforms that you should think about,

  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Google Ads
  • Linkedin Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Twitter Ads
  • Yahoo Ads

Bing Ads

Run by Microsoft, Bing is the search engine that seems to be forgotten but is in daily use by millions of people. My experience is that clicks are cheaper than those from Google and frequently of better quality. It gets better because if you have a Google Ads campaign, Bing Ads have a tool that will import all of your campaigns at the click of a button.

Bing also powers the Yahoo Ad network so you’ll have the added benefit of your Ads appearing across Yahoo too.

Look hard and you’ll also be able to take advantage of £100.00 credit to get you going (there are terms, of course but essentially, it’s free advertising)

Facebook Ads

Facebook, largest Social Media platform on the internet. 2.2Bn users worldwide and about 32m in the UK so why wouldn’t you want to advertise here. Well, if you have something to sell to consumers then you should give it some thought. You can have image ads, text ads, video ads, sponsored updates and much much more. 

Not only that but you can target specific audiences and markets through the demographic data that Facebook hold, making it a far more targeted campaign than other platforms.

However, if you are in the Business to Business market, Facebook may not be the ideal platform for your ads.

Google Ads

Not the longest running Ad platform but certainly the most well established, the most popular and the one with the greatest reach, with more than 3.5Bn searches taking place on Google every day!

Google ads can be placed on Google, YouTube, the Content Network as well as Google Search Partners.

You can have simple text ads, image ads as well as responsive ads targeted at mobile phone users.

Google Ads is also a great way to waste money if you don’t think carefully about where your Ads are displayed, to whom they are targeted and the way your search words are formatted and used. Campaign management (either in-house or outsourced) is essential to get the most from your Ads investment.

Linkedin Ads

Linkedin is home to over 520m professionals and so if your business is focussed on selling things to, or providing services to, a business market place than Linkedin is the natural home for your ads.

You can focus your ads on almost any of the demographic metrics that Linkedin collects, whether geographically, job title, seniority, job role and much more.

Traditional ads are shown on the right hand side on your Linkedin home page and across the top whilst promoted posts appear in the newsfeed and hate works best are hints, tips and white papers.

Pinterest Ads

Pinterest is quite new to the paid advertising market but is rapidly catching up, as demonstrated by it’s initial valuation before going public on the 18th April 2019 at $19/share valuing the company at $12.7Bn.

With more than 200m active, monthly, users who are researching trends, looking for ideas and inspiration it’s an ideal place to sell “things” – especially if your target market matches the key Pinterest demographic with 70% of Pinterest users being women and 40% earning more than $100,000 or more

Twitter Ads

Twitter is used by 330m people every month and is recognised as a key source of breaking news. 

Unlike a lot of the platforms mentioned here, Twitter ads stay on Twitter and so can be particularly effective and remain fully under your control. Your ads can be simple text but photos work better and videos are event more effective.

Yahoo

Yahoo was one of the original sellers of search ads and was the model that Google based Adwords on. Yahoo still stumbles on as part of the Oath network (Yahoo, AOL, Huff Post and Tumblr). 

Yahoo has a partnership agreement with Bing which means that your Bing Ads will also be displayed on the Yahoo network (and vice versa) and your ads can be simple text, images, video and any other supported media across the network

Conclusion

There are numerous Ad networks fighting for your advertising spend. My advice is to start small, test AND measure. If, after a couple of months, it seems that one of the platforms isn’t working for you then stop and switch to a different one until you find the right platform for your business.

And, if you need any help, I’ve been doing this since 2003 so give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, initial chat to see whether I can improve your existing campaigns or help you launch something new.

How to optimise your YouTube videos


You can watch the video, listen to the podcast or read on

YouTube, great isn’t it – more cat videos than you can watch in a lifetime! 

However, it’s also a great source of information AND a really powerful way to reach web users who prefer to watch videos rather than read stuff. Imagine you want to learn how to fly fish. Just go to Google and search “learn how to fly fish” for example, and Google shows you that there are 135 million results and the top is dominated by YouTube videos .

Google search results for Fly Fishing

Getting Started with Video Marketing

Making videos has never been easier with great quality cameras in our phones, our tablets, our digital cameras – the list of devices goes on.

Before you start recording, however, you need to make sure that your video has a purpose. Then you need to make a short list of keywords that are relevant.

As you record your video and add your commentary you need to make sure that you use these words and phrases from your list.

For the video accompanying this blog I’ve concentrated on “optimising your video”, “making your video easy to find” and “SEO for YouTube” 

Watch your video, does it look OK? Does it sound OK? If you are happy then you’re ready to move to the next step.

Uploading your video to YouTube

Once you’ve recorded your video and checked to make sure that you are happy with it the next step is to upload it to YouTube. Now you need to make the video easy to find and and make it easy for Google to understand what it’s about so that your video stands a chance of appearing in Google results, not just in YouTube search.

Next on the “to-do list” is to do is give your video a name that includes the types of words that people might be using when searching – so for the video that goes with this blog I’ve called the video “How to optimise your YouTube video”

Then you need a description so that YouTube can understand what the video is about.

Finally you need to add captions, in other words translate your speech in to text so that watchers don’t have to turn their speakers up or plug their headphones in. YouTube will automatically create the captions but you need to check that their speech t text translation has translated accurately and if there are errors you can go in and correct them.

Vimeo.com

Although powerful, YouTube has a number of annoying traits – not least

1/ The ability to show “People who watched this video also watched……” 
2/ The ability to place annoying adverts on your video – ads which might come from your competition if you’re not careful.

So, before you embed your video in your website or share through your Social Media channels and email campaigns get on over to https://vimeo.com and set up a free account.

Vimeo is a “YouTube for professionals” and doesn’t take Ads and won’t recommend similar videos so your viewers wont get dragged away down the YouTube rabbit warren and forget where they started. 

As a professional video platform it is mainly funded by subscription accounts but the free account should be more than adequate for your use.

Use the Vimeo embedding tools to add your video to your website, your blog, any email marketing that you conduct and your social media

And that’s it. If you have any problems with recording your video, optimising your video or anything else to do with your digital marketing then just give me a call on 01793 238020 for a free, obligation free, chat or drop me an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

How long does SEO take?

Hourglass - representing the time that SEO takes

SEO, easy isn’t it. Write some content, mess with the Meta Tags, get your image names and Alt Tags right and Bob’s your uncle, right? Instant SEO love from Google and a rush up the search engine results pages (SERPs)

Wrong………SEO takes time. Despite the amount of technology and artificial intelligence devoted to managing Google’s (other search engines are available) search results it actually takes some time for your changes to search to actually take effect.

If you are not familiar with key SEO terminology then pop across to my SEO Glossary

But how long does it actually take?

Google certainly isn’t telling but a number of people have carried numerous experiments and a number of conclusions have been reached.

The first is an answer that you don’t want to hear – “it depends”. And it depends on so many things, more than 200 according to Google.

Like everything, SEO should be planned and can be broken down into a number of phases, the first of which is

Research and Discovery

Audit your website to see what needs to be done, have a look at your competitors, think of the ways that people might be looking for the things you do.

Implementation

SEO Writing

The next step is to take the results of your research and start to build it in to your website. The “Technical SEO”. You should be auditing your back-links to make sure that they are of a high enough quality

Next up you need to start creating new content. Writing blog posts, creating FAQs, writing white papers etc. You should be sharing these through your Social Media channels, email campaigns etc.

By month four you should begin to see some improvement in your position in the search results – an indication that your work is paying off – but don’t stop.

Management and Tracking

You should be paying attention to Google Analytics to see how much traffic is visiting your site and how many leads, sales, enquiries are being made. If traffic has increased but actions haven’t then you are either reaching the wrong people, sending the wrong message or your site is not working particularly well. Now is the time to look at all of the issues and put resolutions in place.

Continue with your content creation. Too many companies opt out of SEO after 3-4 months because they don’t feel that it’s working for them. The reality is that their SEO may only just be getting going. A time frame of 6 months to a year is where you should be aiming. SEO is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The more you work at it, the better things will get but the marathon never ends.

But remember

It’s no good being number 1 in the search results if your website isn’t playing its part in the role and converting those visits in to leads, enquiries or sales.

Not only that but SEO is just part of your marketing mix, you also need to be effective with your Social Media, email and Video marketing and everything else that you do to promote your products, services and your brand.

And if you need some help with any aspect of your SEO, from a site review to a full package just get in touch for a free, no obligation conversation and we’ll see where it takes us.

If you need help with your search engine optimisation (SEO), your website or anything else to do with your marketing all you have to do is pick up the phone and give me a call on 01793 238020 or send andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk an email

How many words is enough?

A lot of you will know that I keep my finger on the pulse of SEO, it is what I do 60% of the time, after all.

I always push the need for “fresh content” on website because it’s well known that it really helps with your SEO. However, I am often asked how long a blog post or web page should be.

Graph showing Total Word Count Vs Google Position

If you search on Google for the answer, you’ll find that people are recommending 1,000 to 2,000 words as the minimum for “optimum SEO” and in a recent post Backlinko quote research that indicates that the average piece of content that ranks on Page 1 of Google contains 1,890 words.

However, just because you can write the magic amount of words doesn’t mean your post will gain a P1 ranking and here’s why.

There are over 440m blogs across the internet but if you take Medium and Tumblr in to account then there must be over 1 billion blogs and with billions of searches conducted every day, and thousands of new updates posted everyday, there’s an awful lot of competition so, how do you win the content war?

First off, throw away the word count target.
Why?

Because if I tell you to write 1,890 words you’ll aim to do precisely that and a short update will be padded and padded with unnecessary filler which means that even if it does rank – people just won’t read it. On the other hand if you need 3,000 words to do a subject justice you’ll edit it so heavily that it just won’t wont make sense. So here’s my first tip.

Tip 1 – make your content as long as it needs to be

Obviously, from an SEO perspective, the longer it is, but you also need to write really well to maintain reader engagement.

Tip 2 – Be Original & Ride The Wave

Sounds contradictory I know but If you piggyback on a news article you’ll simply be one of many “me too” writers, so use your knowledge, skill and experience to approach a topic from a different angle. Tools such as UberSuggestBuzzSumoand Google Trends will help you find popular topics to use your skills and experience on.

Tip 3 – Ask your readers

You could use Social Media and Survey Monkey to actually ask your readers what they would like to know about. I know, daring isn’t it!

Tip 4 – get writing

Remember, once you have written something, find some relevant images to illustrate your message and then re-read what you have written to make sure it makes sense. Use tools such as the Hemmingway App and Read Able to ensure readability (aim for a reading age of around 12-13) and then, finally, read it out loud to yourself.

If you read in your head, you’ll read what you think yo have written but by reading out loud your brain has to analyse every word and translate the visual signal in to an audio signal and you’ll frequently find yourself thinking “I’d never say things like that” and every time to reach that point then go back to the edit screen and revise.

All that I would like to add is a hearty “good luck and good writing” and if you need any help with your content just get in touch – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or 01793 238020 for a no-fee, obligation free chat.

Oh, and how long is this article? It’s just 568 words

And if you need any help with technology, websites, SEO or marketing all you have to do is pick up the phone and give me a call on 01793 238020 or send andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk an email for a free, zero obligation chat about your needs.

How much should you budget for SEO services?

How much does SEO cost?

Person looking confused

The real answer is “how long is a piece of string” but you don’t want to hear that, you want to nail down your costs so that you can shop around and get the best deal for your business – note that I did not say “cheapest”The first problem is that every SEO requirement is different, there are many variables that impact on the amount of work required and here’s a small selection;

  • How up to date is your website?
  • How SEO “friendly” is your web design?
  • How fast do you need SEO to take effect?
  • How does your site compare to the competition?
  • How many competitors do you have?
  • How well optimised are their sites?
  • What’s their likely budget?
Good, Cheap, Fast. Yoou can have any 2 but not all 3

This latter is not about understanding their absolute spend, more about an overview based on the simple fact that the larger the competitor the more likely that they will have a greater budget than you.Looking at the Quality, Fast, Cheap Venn, you’ll see that you can have

  • Cheap & Fast
  • Fast & Good
  • Cheap & Good

but you can’t have Cheap, Fast AND Good, it’s just not possibleIn reality, it’s not about how “good” your SEO is, it just has to be better than the competition. I’ve worked with a couple of businesses where the competition was clueless about SEO so it was a relatively simple task to push them higher in the rankings but most businesses these days are aware of SEO so the task is tougher.

Expectations & Reality

A recent survey reported that less than half of all small businesses have an SEO budget. Of those with one the majority (71 percent) spent less than £100/month. That’s right – 71 percent of small businesses budget £0 – £99/month for SEO.

This is further supported by the inquiries I receive from prospective clients. Here’s the breakdown for a pretty typical quarter in 2017

Monthly SEO enquiries/budget

This is why your in-box is spammed with promises of “guaranteed first-page results” for £99. SEO spammers know the market. Their promise of first page results is hard to resist and, in my experience, most business owners have no idea how SEO works, they are far too busy running their businesses to spend time learning SEO and so may very well opt for the least expensive quote.

Most businesses are process driven, to get from A to B you follow certain process to get there. A lot of people assume SEO works in a similar way, they tend to treat it as a commodity and, as a consequence select their SEO on price, frequently choosing the least expensive [cheapest]

The Cost of Cheap SEO

I’ve been doing SEO since 2001 and over the years I been a member of many internet marketing groups on Linkedin and I never cease to be amazed by the number of people with a little knowledge who pose as SEO professionals and take on clients. How do I know they lack experience? It’s questions like “I have just taken on a client that wants to rank for “keyword x” – how do I do it?” that tends to give the game away.

A close second to asking “how” is the use of link schemes, specifically private blog networks (PBNs), without ever explaining the risk to clients. If you were to simply throw your money away by hiring an incompetent to carry out your SEO that would be bad enough.

The problem is that the damage does not stop at the waste of money – it’s far more serious than that. The damage that someone who does not know what they are doing can go much deeper. It could attract a Google penalty and virtually wipe out a website’s visibility on the web.

As a consequence, even if you don’t choose EOMS to conduct your SEO I would encourage you to insist on using tactics that comply with Google Webmaster Guidelines, as I do.

Managing Your Resources

With Google using more than 200 ranking factors it’s easy to become intimidated and paralysed. However, there are some key areas that, if properly managed, will go along way towards great SEO results. Your site should 

  • be easily accessible to search engines.
  • follow Google Webmaster Guidelines for SEO best practices.
  • perform quickly (pages opening in 3 seconds or faster).
  • work well on all devices, mobile, tablet, and desktop.
  • feature content that is unique,interesting and of value
  • have regular fresh content added

Set Goals

As with everything in business, Goals are good. They help focus the mind and ensure that everybody knows what’s expected.

When setting goals, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Your goals need to be SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic – Stretch goals are fine, but pie in the sky benchmarks can actually work as a disincentive.
  • Timed – You need to give the campaign time to workAccording to Google, “in most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefit.”

At one time, success was measured solely by where your website would be featured on the Search Results Pages. While this remains an important metric, it’s no longer the most important metric. The most important are those that deliver real value, such as:

  • Improving organic sessions by x percent.
  • Increasing conversions by y per month.
  • Increasing revenues by z percent.

Developing an SEO Budget

And here we get to the nub of the matter. Your goals will define the strategy required needed to succeed. This will then provide the information required to develop an action/implementation plan which defines the work required and, consequently, the budget necessary to achieve the desired goals.

Remember though, that the budget needs to take account of the time to properly plan, implement and tweak a campaign in order to evaluate its success.

That said, the right budget is one you can afford, without losing sleep, for a minimum of four (and ideally 12) months and the lower the budget, the longer the journey

How much should you spend on your SEO?

Well, £99/month just isn’t enough to do it properly. If you are hiring an SEO company expect to pay from £200-300 per month.

If you can’t afford to retain a top level SEO, there are some options. The most common being a one-time website SEO audit with actionable recommendations that you could implement yourself.

Just fixing your website will often lead to a meaningful boost in organic traffic. Content development and keyword analysis are other areas where you can get help from a pro for a one time fixed rate. Another option is to become an expert and do it yourself.

SEO Cost Calculator: Measuring Organic Search (SEO) ROI

Best Widget Ever - ROI calculator

Above is a calculator commonly used (incorrectly) for measuring return on investment for SEO.

Of course, the above calculation has a major flaw, it fails to take into consideration the lifetime value of a new customer.

Online businesses need repeat orders/sales in order to grow. By not calculating the lifetime value of a new customer the true ROI is grossly understated.

The right way to calculate ROI is to build lifetime value into the calculator as seen here:

SEO Return on investment table incorporating lifetime value

The Takeaway

Unlike Pay Per Click – (Google/Bing Ads etc) an organic search campaign won’t yield immediate results and, even when executed to perfection, it takes time for Google to recognise and reward these efforts.

That said, the traffic earned from these efforts is often the most consistent and best converting among all channels.

And if you need help with your SEO then please get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or send an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, obligation free chat about your SEO and/or anything else to do with your website and digital footprint

How much is a Page 1 result in Google actually worth?

Elements of Search Engine OptimisationAlmost every week I am approached by clients who need their site to be found higher up in the Google Search Results Pages (SERPs). Quite often they have been approached by (or have approached) consultants offering to this but have baulked at the fees.

Now, I know that the fundamentals are pretty easy to achieve if you have the knowledge, experience, inclination and time but many small businesses rarely have any of these and yet many still believe that good search engine optimisation [SEO] can be delivered quickly and cheaply.

If you’re confused by the SEO jargon, have a look at my SEO Glossary of Terms for clarification.

Is this possible and what’s the real value of good SEO?

Let’s take a look at the numbers. In the UK about 85% of the population use the internet. With a population of 65.64m (Worldometers) and this equates to around 56m individuals who are online. Of these, 80% use search engines to find what they are looking for, that’s about 45m people and at least 95% of them use Google as their search engine of choice, 42.75m people.

Now, let me ask the question “how much is it worth to expose your brand to a potential audience of this size?”

TV Advertising

Lets look at TV first. There is the cost associated with the production of the advert, script writing, casting, production, filming and editing.

According to the Televisual magazine, the average cost of producing a 30 second advert for TV is around £201,000.

Clock - how much does a 30 second TV ad costThen there is the cost of your slot. This will vary based on a number of factors

  • your target channel
  • whether you want a regional or national ad
  • the time of day, the product to be advertised
  • the show (s) that are on either side of the ad break targeted
  • etc

So, putting your ad on screen at peak viewing, 9pm, is going to cost much much more than a slot at 2am when the audiences will be far lower

As a very rough guide, an evening slot on ITV will cost around between £60,000 and £75,000 and this is likely to reach between 5m and 9m viewers depending on the popularity of the show.

However if you want your ad to go during something like the X-Factor then a 30 second slot cost will set you back a cool £200,000.

Radio and Print Advertising

So, you may look at radio or the print media, both of which have lower costs (production and media costs) but also have significantly lower audience figures.

In all of these cases, the costs will be for a one-off and most people with any experience of advertising know that one-off adverts simply do not work, so you have to pay for a campaign.

All of a sudden fees quoted by Search Engine Optimisers actually begin to actually look like pretty good value for money bearing in mind that if they succeed your site will be in front of the largest possible audience 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

What’s next and a Shameless Plug

Are you happy with the place your site has reached in Google? If not, get in touch today – call me on 01793 238020 or drop me an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

My SEO rates start at £150.00 + VAT per month, peanuts compared to TV, radio and most forms of print advertising.