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hands holding digital strategy

SEO mistakes that sites are still making

SEO has changed a lot over the last few years, but many sites are still making the same mistakes and hurting their performance. Here are some of the main offenders.
Almost everyone running a business knows the importance of getting online and getting discovered, and that means investing some time and effort into SEO. However, optimising a site can be harmful if it is done badly, and many organisations are still falling victim to the same SEO mistakes that have been doing the rounds for years.

If you run a website, it is worth checking through this list and making sure you aren’t falling victim to any of these common SEO errors that are still showing up.

Keyword misuse
Keywords are an integral part of SEO, but it’s easy to get them wrong. This commonly tends to happen because sites are using the wrong keywords. For example, both search engines and the people that use them give precedence to long-tail keywords: phrases of three or more words. However, often organisations choose single words and attempt to rank for those.

While this will not help your site rank particularly high, at least it won’t hurt it. However, the same cannot be said about keyword stuffing. Many sites still consist of transparent attempts to feature their keywords as much as possible. Not only do search engines pick up on this – and penalise it – it is also a good way to get a user to leave your site immediately.

Neglecting metadata
The content on a site is important, but it is not the be-all and end-all of SEO. The metadata is incredibly important as well, but many organisations neglect it. A good title tag and metadescription will be considered by search engines, so can give a webpage a boost up the rankings with relatively little effort.

One of the most neglected elements of metadata is image alt tags. A search engine cannot ‘read’ an image – it will have no idea what that picture of your product is actually showing – but it can analyse the text of an alt tag and work out what pictures your site is using from that. This makes the tags another great – but easily missed – opportunity for optimisation.

Paying for links
Link farming has got enough bad press that most people are staying away from it. Buying links like this is very spammy and will almost certainly get your site penalised. However, there are also downsides to offering giveaways in exchange for links, such as sending out free products to bloggers who will review it and link back to your site.

This is not harmful, it’s just a really inefficient way of link building. You’re paying out money or sending out products in the hope that the reviews will be positive and the links will boost your SEO. A better method is simply to produce interesting and useful content that is likely to be shared. You’ll get much more links for your money that way.

SEO

How to optimise your site’s images for better SEO

Site owners often think about optimising their webpage text, but rarely focus on their images. However, this can be just as important, and shouldn’t be neglected.

When people talk about SEO, often they’re referring to the text of their websites. Whether it’s content or keywords, a lot of focus is put on optimising the written word. However, in many ways it is just as important to make sure your images are tailored to both your audience and the search engine they will be using to find you.

So what does this actually mean? How does one optimise an image? Well, first off you need to give it a title when you upload it. So often, the filenames of images are a string of letters and numbers, which might seem fine to you, but it doesn’t help a search engine from working out what is on your page.

Google can’t understand images. There are efforts ongoing to develop computers that can work out what is in a picture as people can, but this is still a way off. For now, search engines are stuck with using the title of an image to ascertain what it is showing. When your title is meaningless, it doesn’t help your site at all.

Fixing this is as simple as naming the image after what is in it; “businesswoman holding meeting” for example, or give it the name of the specific product it shows. The more accurate you can be, the better.

This also applies to alt tags for images. This can simply be a list of words that apply to the image, although try not to be too spammy. You can also add a caption, which in addition to being picked up by search engines will also display if the image fails to load. For this reason it’s important to be nice and descriptive, although keeping it within a single sentence if possible.

Finally, remember that a huge part of SEO is about user experience. If your users arrive at your site to find basic stock images put there without any thought, they are highly unlikely to share your page, depriving you of valuable links. Instead, make sure your site’s visuals are planned just as carefully as you would plan what you write.

SEO Experts Leeds

Why SEO experts want you to know about citations

Digital marketing is an ever-changing and evolving industry. Although this makes it an exciting and interesting area to be involved in, it can make it difficult for small businesses to stay on top. With Google adapting its regulations on a regular basis and leading SEO experts often changing their advice on how to adhere to this, it can be a massive challenge for companies to ensure their site content doesn’t suffer.

Often it is the lesser-known aspects of SEO that can make or break a digital marketing strategy. Citations are one of these; able to completely transform your ranking on Google but something that few people outside of the industry know about.

A recent study from BrightLocal found that an incredible 90 per cent of local SEO experts considered accurate citations to be either critical or very important for local search ranking, while 86 per cent said the quality of citations was more important than their quantity.

It also found that industry relevance was the most important factor to use when determining citations, while a third said niche or specialist directories offer the greatest authority.

But what are citations and why are they so important for local search?

Citations are any mention of your business name or details on other websites, whether or not it directly links to your site. They can help you to build authority and helps Google and other search engines to consider your business to be legitimate.

Usually references will include your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Giving all these details is better than giving just your business name and address, for example, but a partial citation can still be used.

They are a key element of Google’s ranking algorithms, meaning that if you have a higher quality of citations than your competitors – and are equal on all other factors – your business is likely to rank better than theirs.

Citations are particularly important for industries where there isn’t a high level of digital savvy. Without any other information online at its disposal, the search engine has to use what it can find and citations can be weighted heavily.

However, even if you’re in a competitive industry, where there is a strong online presence, citations are still an important element of your digital marketing strategy.

Citations can support your local SEO strategy but it’s important that all citations are accurate and consistent. The format itself doesn’t really matter but the one on your website should also be what shows up on your Google+ Local page or anywhere else.

As well as reviews and links, Google uses citations as a primary factor when determining how to rank your business in local search results. This means it could make a massive impact on your online presence if you’re not ensuring consistency across different platforms.

Bright Local SEO Citations
SEO Mark – Local Citations
Moz – Local Citations
Search Engine Journal – Local Citations

Binary Instagram

What the new Instagram algorithm means

If you are active on social media, whether for personal or professional uses, you are likely to have heard some of the uproar surrounding Instagram lately. But what is all the fuss about?

The image-based social channel recently announced that it would be changing its algorithm, which essentially means that images are now ranked based on engagement levels rather than chronology.

Brands big and small have been concerned that this would have a negative impact on their online presence. This is because users will now see posts from people who they regularly engage with – by commenting or liking their images – before pictures from other users show up.

For small businesses trying to increase their presence on social media, this could pose a significant problem. How are you supposed to engage with users if they are unlikely to see your posts in the first place? How can you create brand loyalty if you can’t even engage with your audience? These are valid concerns and ones that smaller firms may struggle to address but it isn’t all bad news.

If you know your target audience and are taking the right steps to engage with them, then the Instagram changes shouldn’t affect you too much, as you will already have built up the customer loyalty and advocacy you need.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that those who want to grow a following may find their engagement drops. But this might not be all bad news. The rise and rise of social media has meant that many brands are trying to keep a presence on three, four, sometimes even five or six different platforms. For a small business, this can be a massive time sink, and even worse, your efforts may not have the impact you desire if you don’t have the time to properly understand the audience you’re targeting.

This is part of the reason why Instagram has introduced such a significant change. Too many brands are flooding the social media website with adverts, and engagement has plummeted as a result. To the Facebook-owned platform, this means that it isn’t as profitable as it could be – especially compared to the likes of Snapchat – and has triggered a fundamental change in how the site works.

If you are overly concerned that your Instagram following will suffer as a result of the new algorithm changes, it may be best to focus your efforts on other aspects of digital marketing.

Having a comprehensive digital strategy, which includes a well-optimised website and engagement on the right social media platforms, can work far more effectively than trying to battle with Instagram’s new rules.

The old Instagram almost rewarded bad practices. With the newest images appearing first, brands that posted the most had the best chance of being noticed by users. However, the changes will mean that only businesses that have targeted and engaged with the right audience will prosper.

There’s no denying that the changes will make it more difficult for small businesses to grow on Instagram, but the new algorithm is there to try and weed out the spammy approach that some companies adopt, which can only be a good thing for digital marketers.

SEO

How SEO has changed and why it’s still important

SEO – or Search Engine Optimisation to give it its full title – has changed dramatically over the past few years, and digital marketing strategies have had to adapt quickly and effectively to to meet its pace.

Back in the day, when people were just starting to figure SEO out, it was a whole lot simpler. On-page optimisation was based almost entirely on the URL and key page elements, such as the title or headings on the page.

However, thanks to a lot of keyword-cramming and generally black hat practices, Google has changed its conditions, gradually refining them and ensuring that pages that give users the best experience online.

This meant semantic searches became far more relevant, meaning that Google would recommend topics based on what you were typing instead of taking each word at face value. The search engine giant has become a lot smarter and now attempts to understand the premise of entire pages, not just look at the keywords on the page.

Likewise, the dodgey days of piling as many links into a piece of content to get good SEO are also a thing of the past. However, they do still play an important part in overall optimisation. Back then, it was possible for companies to do deals for exchanges, direct requests or even bought links to get themselves further up the rankings, but now it is far more about quality than quantity.

Only links from trustworthy and relevant sites will do you any favours, while getting a good mix of link types – inside good quality content – will also assist you in your quest to conquer SEO in 2016.

We’ve also seen changes in Google’s Search Engine Result Pages, with the most recent being made just a few weeks ago. More than ever, businesses need to be creating and promoting fresh and interesting content that will reach and engage their target audience; while also ensuring it is all optimised, of course.

However, the way we view searches has also changed. The dramatic increase in smartphone usage has had a significant impact on SEO. For the vast majority of internet users, mobile platforms are the most popular way of browsing the web, keeping up to date with news and sharing things with their friends.

Last year, the number of searches made on mobile platforms surpassed those made on desktops for the first time, and many experts believe this trend will only continue. Although there is definitely still a place for content that is optimised for desktop computers, far more focus is being placed on being mobile-friendly, and rightly so.

This means a good SEO strategy now must consider the mobile experience, with those that are not optimised to this platform now potentially being punished by Google.
With all of this to consider, it can seem like a daunting prospect for a small company to get to grips with SEO. However, now more than ever, achieving good SEO is all about knowing how to create high-quality content that your audience will genuinely want to read, rather than trying to fool them.

SEO Search marketing

Google makes ads safer and more user-friendly

One of the main features of Google, and most search engines, is advertising. It is the reason for the online giant’s massive revenue, and most people are used to seeing the yellow ‘ad’ logo next to the first few results each time they Google anything. However, that could well be changing in the near future.

Approximately five per cent of users have been noticing something different from their Google experience. Rather than the yellow symbol, some eagle-eyed searchers have seen a green one popping up next to the pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements in their results. This has sparked a lot of speculation, but the situation seems to be getting clearer.

At first it seemed like the green ads were just appearing in the UK, then some users from Germany, Sweden and the US began tweeting claiming to have seen the same thing. Eventually, a Google spokesperson told Searchengineland that this was a “small test”, adding that the company is consistently trying to improve the way it labels ads.

So why might the green ads be appearing across the search engine’s results? There are several theories, but the prevalent one is that Google wants PPC ads to appear more natural, as the green colour blends in with the display URLs that Google naturally shows. This might increase the success of PPC ads, as users might be more willing to click on them if they are not such obvious advertisements.

However, this is not the only ad change Google has implemented recently. The search engine giant also announced it was attempting to crack down on deceptive “social engineering” ads.

The company defines this as ads that either “pretend to act, or look and feel, like a trusted entity – like your own device or browser, or the website itself”, or “try to trick you into doing something you’d only do for a trusted entity – like sharing a password or calling tech support”.

These ads are typically fraudulent, designed to steal users’ personal details or get them to download malware, so it is understandable that Google would want to protect users from this. However, it means that webmasters will need to make sure their sites are as safe as possible to avoid being penalised by the search engine.

Google has said that Google Safe Browsing “may warn users when they visit the site” if it is flagged up as containing social engineering content. This is going to hurt sites with poor security or little control over their ads, so this is something that could have significant consequences for some organisations.

Sources
Webmasters

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Land