Backlinks for Beginners: How to Build Links to Drive Traffic to Your Website

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backlinks for beginnersIf you’re involved in running a website, you’re probably aware that one of the best ways to improve your online presence is to gain referring links (or backlinks) to your website from other sites.

Building back links is one of the trickiest yet most effective forms of SEO. Consequently, it’s one of the most valuable ways to increase traffic to your store, and well-worth investing the time and effort to build a healthy link profile. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to build links to drive traffic to your website.

But first, why are backlinks such an essential part of SEO?

Search Engines use links as an indication of the quality and popularity of a website. They use complex algorithms to evaluate sites and pages based on the number of external pages linking to them. And they don’t just measure quantity; search engines look at the quality of these links as well. The more popular and trustworthy a site is, the more valuable links from that site are.

Building a back link profile isn’t the be-all and end-all of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but SEO experts are all agreed that link building is critical to the success of a website.

Backlinks for beginners: Our Top tips

Beginning a back link campaign isn’t easy. Of course, you can list your website in free directories, and comment on forums – there are a few pretty easy, low-effort ways to get links to your website.

But the links that really boost your SEO are the ones that come from high-quality, relevant content published on high-quality, relevant websites. There’s no quick, easy way to get these links, but there are a few things you can do to get started…

1. Produce OUTSTANDING content

backlinks for beginners

This really should be your number one focus if you want to drive organic traffic towards your website. Quite simply, if you want people to link to your website, you need to create unique, interesting, well-written content. And there’s a lot of clutter on the internet; a lot of competition. To stand out, you need to publish content that shows you to be an expert in your field.

Rather than focussing on selling your product, think about how you can solve a problem, answer a question or share some trade secrets. This quote pretty much sums it up:

Share or solve; don’t shill. Good content doesn’t try to sell. Rather, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information. Your content shares a resource, solves a problem, helps your customers do their jobs better…” – Handley & Chapman, “Content Rules

That’s it in a nutshell. Forget the sales pitch, set yourself up as a reliable and valuable source of information for your customers. That’s what drives traffic to your website, and that’s the kind of content that people will link to.

Imagine you run a website selling outdoor active wear. Rather than writing a blog post gushing about the latest hi-spec Gortex-adorned, diamond-encrusted hiking boots you just got in stock (save it for the product description), write a post about how to look after your hiking boots. Or what kit you need to start hillwalking. Or even the top 10 mistakes winter walkers make – and how to avoid them

In an ideal world, you’d create an amazing piece of unique content and the internet would welcome it with open-arms. You’d be viral in 20 minutes. But as you may have already experienced, it doesn’t always work like that.

No matter how good the content, it can be tricky to make an impression, particularly if your website’s fairly new. There are occasions where you’ll need to pursue links more actively. However, having brilliant content that people will want to link to makes it easier. It’s the best place to start.

2. Ensure existing mentions include a link to your site

A quick win on the back linking front is to make sure any existing mentions of you or your brand include a link through to your website. So, if someone’s mentioned you in a review or a blog post but hasn’t included a link, get in touch and ask them to add one.

There are lots of free tools available to help you trawl through the internet in search of mentions. Moz’s Opensite Explore or SEM Rush are great places to start.

3. Make the most of existing relationships

backlinks for beginners

Do you know someone who writes for an influential blog or owns a high authority website? Perhaps you have partners you’ve worked with who might be willing to link to your website, or loyal customers who would be happy to write a review on their blog. Use your existing networks to make the most of any opportunities to gain links to your website.

Share your content on social media. Tag clients and partners that are relevant to the content, as well as anyone that you’ve referenced in your content. Better yet, get hold of their email address and tell them that you’ve mentioned them in your blog. If they like what they see they might share your post on social media or link to your article on their own website.

 4. Guest posts and link exchanging

If you’re an expert in your industry or field, there are many bloggers that would be glad to accept a guest post from you. They don’t have to link back to your website, but they generally will publish your bio alongside your article, containing a link back to your blog or website.

You’d be tempted to save all your best content for your own website. But sometimes a link from a high-profile, quality website can be worth sacrificing your own web content for.

Check out this useful article about guest posting for some tips to get you started.

 5. Use free tools to create new networks

There’s a lot of clutter on the internet, and it can be time-consuming to sift through all the noise to find the websites or people that might be interested in linking to your site. But there are some short-cuts you can take.

Link Assistant is a free tool that trawls through the web to find websites that might help you build links. It’ll use your chosen keywords to find websites that allow guest posting, or forums and posts for you to comment on, as well as people who review products and opportunities to join giveaways.

Another quick short-cut is to find out who your competitors are getting links from by using Opensite Explorer. Knowing who has linked to your competitors gives you an indication of which websites might be interested in linking through to your site.

6. Be careful about buying back links.

If you’re really desperate, you can buy back links. But be careful to buy them from reputable companies. My mum always says that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So if you find someone promising you a link from a high authority website for pennies, run for the hills.

Buying links is expensive and it may well be worth spending your time on link building strategies that focus on building links to your site naturally. Search engines put a lot of time and resource into weeding out those links that haven’t been acquired naturally. And whilst they can’t detect all paid links, you’re more likely to have success with genuine links that have not been bought.

And so we come back full circle…

The main aim of Search Engines is to provide users with a list of the best, most relevant websites according to their search query. As Search Engine algorithms become more and more intelligent, it’ll become harder and harder to use SEO tricks and shortcuts to rank highly on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

To perform well on search engines, you need to play their game. It all comes back to producing outstanding, unique and relevant content. However, the real winners are those who know how to market that great content so that search engines can find it. Use your contacts, make new contacts and keep thinking of creative ways to get your content seen.

I’d love to hear about your experiences around building back links for your website. What’s worked for you? What blockers have you come-up against? Have you got any tips for newbies to the world of back linking? Comment below or get in touch on Twitter @swankyapple

 

Dan chatting to Matt from Brightpearl at the Shopify Retail Tour

Shopify Retail Tour: Bristol

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The Shopify Retail Tour is an event which Shopify has been running in various cities across the US for a while now, and last week it launched in the UK. We naturally had to be a part of the action and signed up to support the tour as a sponsor.

We had a fantastic time at the tour and have written up a guest post over at ecommercervw.com with pictures and highlights from the day and evening sessions.

The London event is due next week (full dates on the ecommercervw.com blog) so if you’re in the area and run or are thinking of running an ecommerce business then you should absolutely sign-up.

search optimisation for ecommerce sites

The Right Way To Do Search Optimisation For eCommerce Sites

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As Shopify Experts, we’re often asked if search engine optimisation for eCommerce sites is somehow special? Does it require a different approach from SEO for other website types? While it’s true that experts in search engine optimisation for ecommerce consider it to be more difficult than traditional SEO, this is primarily due to the sheer number of pages that need to be optimised. This makes it largely a question of effort rather than special requirements. Since it’s common for eCommerce sites to have hundreds or even thousands of product pages it is definitely advisable to take a methodical, step-by-step approach. Making a technical mistake on a few article pages in a non-ecommece site is one thing – extending a mistake to hundreds or thousands of products may be far harder to rectify. Here are some search optimisation tips tailored to ecommerce store owners to help increase traffic to your eCommerce site keyword rankings and improve conversion rates at the same time.

Keyword Research

Every SEO campaign must begin with proper keyword research. One of the biggest takeaways when learning eCommerce SEO is that you need to understand buyer intent. As you may already know, targeting high search volume keywords might prove useless if the traffic you receive does not convert. When researching keywords, find ones that have high buyer intent. These are keywords that indicate an interest on the part of the user in buying a product or service.

For instance, keywords with the words “best” and “cheap” have high buyer intent. These are the keywords that you want to include in your content. You can use your keyword tool of choice to get a list of relevant keywords. It only takes a little common sense and some trial and error to choose which ones you should target.

Check For Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is the bane of all eCommerce sites. It is so easy to trigger duplicate content detectors due to the number of product and category pages. The first thing to keep in mind is to avoid using the manufacturers description. Simply copying and pasting all the technical details would make your site appear spammy in the eyes of search engines. It is tedious to write unique product descriptions, but this is an important step if you want to improve your search visibility.

Use Sitemaps

Shopify includes a fairly robust auto sitemap generator (it does this for you without you needing to do anything) which creates a sitemap readable just by search engines. This is useful for everyone but a big benefit to sites with loads of collection pages that feature largely identical product content. Why? Because it ensures that those search engines find their way through to your primary collections without getting overwhelmed (or confused!) by the vast number of possible collection pages. You should learn how to submit your shopify sitemap to Google Search Console to harness the significant benefits of your auto-generated sitemap.

Improve Your On Page SEO

Make it a point that you are employing effective on page SEO tactics. Internal links are very underrated in terms of helping boost rankings, but they are a great way to improve the usability and functionality of your site. Navigation and breadcrumb links must also be used to help search engine crawlers and online visitors jump from one page to another.

Your URL structure must be organised, as well. You don’t want URLs that look like http://ecommercesite.com/123321=product1. It should show the category page and the name of the product. Similarly, you want your entire site structure to make sense to search engine spiders. Make sure that subcategories are placed under their respective parent categories.

Shopify store owners will find this largely handled automatically. Shopify will automatically set page titles and meta descriptions, and it forces a logical url structure. Your collections are organised like so: youstore.com/collection/collection-name and your products like this: yourstore.com/products/product-title.

Use Responsive Web Design

If your eCommerce site still is not optimised for mobile devices, then you are probably missing out on a ton of sales. Plenty of studies show that more and more people use mobile devices when purchasing products online. What’s more, Google released an update last year that pushed websites with a responsive design higher in their search index.

By using responsive web design, you can guarantee that your site can be viewed and used without any problems regardless of the device used by your visitors. Google offers a mobile-friendly test to help webmasters identify potential problems with regards to their responsive website.

Craft Content That Converts

When creating the content for your eCommerce websites, be sure that it compels readers to follow through with a purchase without appearing forceful. A genuine review of a product is an effective way to earn the trust of customers and buy your products. In addition, it pays to add a “Reviews” section in which visitors can see what others have to say about the product. Other elements, such as, star ratings and call-to-action buttons can also make a measurable difference for your conversion rates.

Off Page SEO

Off page SEO primarily involves building high quality links. This can be a difficult process, but by building connections with other webmasters in your niche, you can get relevant and contextual links to your eCommerce website. While guest posts usually come in the form of an informative article, you can offer other kinds of content as well such as an educational infographic, an entertaining video or in-depth case studies.

There are plenty of things to do in order to make an eCommerce SEO campaign successful. It might take a significant time commitment, but it is a worthwhile investment once you see your eCommerce site dominating the competition in the results pages.

Jonathan Leger has been a successful Internet Marketer for over 11 years. He owns an SEO Tools suite at KeywordCanine.com

How to Increase Website Traffic by 153% in 6 Months

6 Month Case Study: How to Increase Website Traffic by 153%

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In September 2014 we were approached by a client who was looking into how to increase website traffic visiting his site. He had been running a tech blog for around 3 years, and was now generating significant traffic, with up to 1,000 visitors/day. However, due to increased work commitments the client had significantly reduced the amount of time and effort he was spending generating new content for the blog. The blog had plateaued and he wanted to prevent it from going into decline. He commissioned us to get things moving again. The site was also generating a healthy AdSense revenue (by displaying third-party adverts through Google’s AdSense scheme) which helped to cover hosting costs and generate a small income. As the website’s traffic had plateaued the client had experienced a corresponding drop in his AdSense revenue. The client therefore had two primary goals:

  • Increase the amount of traffic visiting the site
  • Increase the AdSense revenue

6 Months Later: The Results We’ve just passed the 6-month mark and we’re delighted with the results that we’ve been able to achieve. Here are some of the headlines:

  • An early blog post that we wrote has generated over 100,000 hits
  • AdSense revenue has increased 504%, from $16.05/week to $97.00/week
  • The site has received 309,745 pageviews at an average of 51,624/month
  • We’ve seen a 153% increase in sessions, from 851/day in October 2014 to 2,155/day in April 2015

In this article we’ll share how we’ve achieved these results. We’ll let you know what’s worked, what hasn’t and how we’ve refined our strategy over time. This has been a fairly unique project – for reasons that we’ll explain below – with some fairly significant restraints. It’s a good case study because we were unable to use a more conventional SEO strategy and had to think creatively about the best way to achieve the client’s objectives. If you’d like to find out how to increase website traffic for your website then why not check out our search and social marketing services or contact us using the form below.

Our Strategy: How to Increase Website Traffic

1. We Developed a Content Strategy

One of the distinguishing features of this project is that it’s been a pure, content-driven campaign. There’s been no link building, no directory entries and no blogger outreach. We don’t believe in black hat techniques, so there have been no dark arts. We also had a reasonably limited social media following of c.400 Facebook likes and 200 Twitter followers. What do we mean by “content-driven campaign”? We mean, quite simply, that by creating high-quality, valuable content we would be able to increase website traffic generated through search engines. This meant that we needed to think very carefully about content. The success of the project would rise and fall on the quality and engagement of our blog posts. Whilst developing our content strategy we spoke at length with the client. He explained that, having found a niche in the market, he had become an authority both in product/news reviews and providing ‘how to’ tutorials. He was keen to continue in this vein. This gave us the initial direction for our content strategy. Because the client had been blogging for 3 years we had significant archives of blog posts to use for inspiration. We also had access to 36 months worth of Google Analytics data (more on that later). In other words, we had a good idea of what would work. Next, we set about implementing our content strategy. This involved researching prospective ideas and titles for articles. We used tools like Google Keyword Planner and KeywordTool to find the most relevant, engaging keywords for each subject area. One of the hardest things about blogging – even for a seasoned digital marketer – is making sure that you’re creating enough content. We therefore scheduled when each post would go live, thinking carefully about giving readers the right content diet. This has helped us to keep things fresh whilst delivering regular, routine updates. Another key issue in the tech world is timing. There’s little point in writing about a product launch 2-3 months after your competitors. With this in mind, we thought carefully about how to synchronise our content schedule with product launches. We achieved this by keeping a close eye on press releases, events and product news.

2. We Meticulously Optimised Content

We knew at the outset that this project was all about generating organic search traffic. Knowing how competitive SEO is, we resolved to leave no stone unturned in optimising our content. We wanted to produce high quality content, but we also wanted to ensure that we’d feature more highly than our competitors. Like many leading bloggers, we used the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. This is an incredibly helpful editing tool that helps you to make sure that every blog post is properly optimised. We decided to try and hit as many green lights as we possibly could before publishing a blog post. This meant integrating the keyword into the copy, blog title, subheadings, images, metadescription and URL. We reasoned that this would give us the very best chance of generating large volumes of organic search traffic. Wordpress SEO Plugin by Yoast Case StudyWe were also meticulous about optimising images. Image searches are an incredibly valuable source of traffic, particularly in the tech sector which is very visual. We noticed that competitor blogs weren’t very good at this and realised that this was an area where we could outperform the competition.

3. We Rewrote Old Blog Posts

It might sound like a strange thing to do, but rewriting old blog posts was one of the most important steps that we’ve taken on the client’s site. We’re heavily influenced by Neil Patel who is a keen proponent of refreshing and re-optimising old content. His article on “how to make your most popular content more popular” is a great starting point when thinking about rewriting old blog posts. Rewriting old blog posts involved two key strategies. The first was to find popular blog posts that were featuring highly in the search engine results pages. We then compared them to rival articles/pages and made sure that our content was better optimised for those keywords. We were already on page 1 for these search terms, but by moving from number #5 to number #2, for example, we managed to significantly increase the traffic that those posts were generating. The second step was to look at old content that was poorly optimised. A lot has changed in the last 3 years, and whilst some of the client’s articles were well optimised, others wew missing key SEO features. This small change helped us to start driving traffic to blog posts that had almost dried up. We also took the opportunity to link through to newer blog posts. This had the combined effect of encouraging readers to stay on the site and view more of our content and delivering a more relevant, up-to-date message.

4. We Crunched Data and Applied Our Findings

Throughout the project we’ve been tracking our progress with Google Analytics and Moz Pro. This data has given us an incredible amount of insight into what’s working and what’s not. It’s given us a perfect feedback loop for experimenting with new ideas and techniques, and enabled us to tell the client exactly how well the campaign is going. Google Analytics has been an incredibly helpful tool for us. Here are just a few of the ways in which it’s helped us to improve the quality and effectiveness of our content generation:

  • Behaviour: this tells us which blog posts our readers are visiting, how long they spend on the site and what they do next. By identifying the most popular posts (with the longest engagement time and lowest bounce rate) we’ve been able to see what our readers are looking for. We’ve fed this data back into our content strategy and focused on creating more of the content that’s worked in the past.
  • AdSense: this has shown us how many people are clicking on adverts and how much each blog post is generating in revenue. Whilst this is a subsidiary goal, it’s nevertheless an important part of what our client has asked us to achieve. We’ve used this information to make some development changes (see below) and repositioned adverts so that they’re generating the most clicks and creating the least nuisance for readers.
  • Acquisition: this shows us where our readers come from. We know that around 80% of all traffic is generated by organic search. We’ve also used the Search Engine Optimisation tab (activated in Google Webmaster) to show which keywords are driving traffic to the site. Again, this has helped us to rewrite old content and target the keywords/articles which are generating the most successful outcomes.
  • Geography: our client is British, but around 30,000 pageviews/month are coming from North America. This is very significant for a tech blog, because product names and release dates often differ when you head across the Atlantic. We’ve therefore ensured that all of our articles are written with consideration for our American and Canadian readers.

Almost every change that we’ve made to our content strategy has been a direct result of learning new things from our data. We spotted pretty early on that a huge percentage of our traffic was coming from people looking for the ‘how’ and ‘why’ answers relating to certain tech devices. We also found that many of our readers were looking for alternatives to Apple products and services. By factoring this into new blog posts we were able to create new content which has outperformed the old. Our best performing “how to” blog post has generated 100,000+ views in the last 6 months (reaching 27,000 pageviews/month). The most successful “alternative to Apple” post has generated 40,000. Without seeing the data we probably wouldn’t have written these articles. We’ve also found that longer articles have performed much better than short articles. This makes a lot of sense – a more extensive, authoritative article is going to give readers a much better answer to their question than a 400-500 blog post. This in turn carries greater weight with search engines. We’ve therefore decreased the frequency of our articles and increased the length of each blog post to around 1,200-1,500 words. Adding in videos, photos, screenshots and subheadings has helped to break up the content and give people a definitive answer. Having such accurate data to hand has also given us the freedom to experiment and see what works. We’ve shared articles with different hashtags and at different times of day. We’ve tried different styles of blog posts. We even had a go at creating 60 second promo videos for blog posts to target traffic from a different kind of search. We’ll continue looking at different ways to drive traffic to the site.

5. We Did Development Work on the Site

SEO isn’t just about choosing keywords and optimising content. Search engine algorithms take a large number of factors into consideration when choosing how to rank pages. With this in mind, we wheeled out the developers and did some serious work on speeding the site up. This has delivered a much better experience for mobile and desktop users. It also tells Google that we’re serious about user experience, which in turn has improved our performance in the search rankings. We also had some duplicate content caused by the tags on the blog. This was very quick and easy to fix but meant that we stopped sending negative signals to the search engines. Duplicate content is usually indicative that a site is unoriginal and failing to generate new, useful content. As the opposite was true, we needed to make sure that this was corrected.

What Will We Do Next?

Whilst we’re really pleased with our results, we’re now looking at how we can take the project to the next level. The tech sector is such an innovative, growing sector and there’s plenty of scope for the client’s blog to be punching with even greater weight. We’ll be continuing to apply the lessons that we’ve shared above, particularly around content strategy and rewriting old content to make it as relevant as possible. As new products and devices are launched there are constant opportunities to carve out new niches and become an authority in those areas. We’re also planning to start rolling out some sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter to see how this compares to our organic traffic generation. If it doesn’t work then we’ll move on to something new, but with access to such good data we’ll be able to see exactly what’s going on.

Conclusion

This has been our most successful SEO project to date, but with several new clients on our books we’re excited about helping more businesses to increase organic traffic and generate more business. We’ll be growing this area of the business over the next few months, with several existing clients bringing their SEO and digital marketing work to us. We hope that this case study has inspired you to think about ways to increase organic traffic for your website. Yes, SEO takes a lot of hard work, but with the right strategy and tools it’s a powerful way to grow your business online. If you’ve got further questions or would like to find out more about working together then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation.

Should you worry about Google's mobile friendly update? We dymystify the latest update...

Should You Worry about Google’s Mobile Friendly Update?

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If you own or administrate a website there’s a good chance you’ve heard about Google’s mobile friendly update. Over the last few weeks we have fielded a lot of questions from clients and seen a significant increase in work as a result of this update. That’s great of course, but we’ve also received numerous cold-emails from web individuals, teams and automated bots talking up the impacts of the change to the extreme – and, of course, claiming they can resolve any issues overnight.

We’ve had clients forward quite scarily worded marketing emails to us, rightfully concerned that their site is about to vanish from search rankings to never return – unless they get the quick fix being sold.

With all these warnings, sensationalist ‘mobilegeddon‘ style articles, and cold-contacts from teams claiming critical flaws and urgent fixes, it’s easy to be swept up in the hysteria and make the wrong decision for your website.

In light of all this, we’ve decided to put together a fact-based article explaining exactly what the mobile update will mean for your site, how to identify issues for yourself using Google’s own tools (rather than trust the assertion of a third party), and detail how to get any issues addressed. We’ve divided this into four easy chunks.

Should you worry about Google’s mobile friendly update? No, provided that you’re properly informed and understand what it will and won’t mean for your business.

1. What is the Google Mobile Friendly Update?

You don’t need to go far to find out exactly what Google’s mobile update involves, which came into effect on the 21st April.

The mega-corp have been very careful to provide in-depth information and resources to help webmasters understand what the update is, what it does, and how to benefit from it. Their latest blog post on the update describes it like so:

We’re boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.

That’s it in a nut-shell. It is not a penalty and you can benefit from it by making your site mobile friendly.

The blog expands on that a little though:

Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.

In other words: This update should result in sites which are mobile-friendly being ranked more favorably than sites which are not – this only affects mobile search results, not normal desktop search results. Mobile currently accounts for roughly 40% of searches.

2. Who Will the Mobile Update Affect, and How Significantly?

Google has made it clear that the update will be applicable to every website. Whether that translates into an appreciable change in rankings or profit/loss for your organization is another matter which we will address in a moment. The update roll out will happen over several weeks, starting from today.

We can go straight to Google for our our first (big!) clue on how significantly the update will affect search engine rankings:

While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

In other words, mobile friendliness is important, but not critical; Google uses several hundred metrics to position a page in seach results and mobile-friendliness is about to be added to that mix of metrics. It will be important for mobile search results, but is just one of a few hundred metrics measured when ranking search results for a particular keyword. Until we begin seeing new results, we can’t say for sure quite how much impact it will have, but this guidance suggests a balanced view is sensible.

Based on the guidance that this update will only affect mobile search (which accounts for roughly 40% of total search volume) we can imagine some impact scenarios:

Let’s imagine for a moment that SwankyApple.com isn’t mobile optimised.

This means our search engine page results will not benefit from being mobile. In an extreme case we could imagine our keyword “shopify design devon“, for which we rank 5th, moving to 15th position.

The simplest explanation of this event is that all 10 closest competitors below 5th place all have mobile optimised sites when our 5th position result does not, and that all the hundreds of other ranking metrics are only minorly distinguishable.

Dropping from 5th to 15th would mean our results total click-share on mobiles would drop from around 2% to 0.2% (based on this total search CTR study) for a given keyword. That’s disappointing of course, but considered in light of the extreme nature of the scenario, the unaffected 60% of search results for desktop searches, and varying relevance for hundreds of other mobile keywords, the overall visitor drop for the vast majority of non-mobile friendly sites will be measured in 1’s, rather than 10’s of percentage points. This scenario is true for the vast majority of potential keyword searches.

Our message then resonates with Google’s own: While this update is significant and important for the shape of the web and the end-user experience, the impact to the majority of sites will be a net positive or negative of a few percentage points.

Of course that matters – there will be winners and losers – but it’s not the doomsday scenario being talked-up by so many news sources and marketing emails.

3. How Can You Check Your Site for Mobile Friendliness?

So, having put the real impact in perspective, let’s look at how to gain back those few percent of visitors and perhaps gain a few positions on our competitors!

Firstly, you can visit Google’s own mobile checking tool. Enter your main domain name (for example swankyapple.com) and click the Analyze button. The result given here will tell you whether Google considers your homepage to be mobile friendly or not. If your homepage is mobile friendly then it’s unlikely you’ll need to do anything else.

Google Mobile Friendly Tool

If you feel that some internal pages of your site are not mobile friendly, then you can test those specific page URLs or contact us for a full test of all pages. Rankings will be calculated on a per-page basis, so if your site is generally mobile optimised, but one or two pages are not, the mobile update will only negatively impact the rankings of those specific pages.

4. Should You Worry About Google’s Mobile Friendly Update if  Your Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly?

You’ll need the help of a web development expert to either modify your sites code architecture to make it responsive or, if you are on Shopify, in some instances we can provide our own custom app which generates a mobile only version of your site. This is less preferable but has a much lower upfront cost than the re-architecting. Do feel free to contact us to talk about our services in either area.

Soon after your site is mobile friendly Google will re-index it and it will be re-ranked in mobile search accordingly. There is no permanent impact as a result of not being mobile ready immediately.

Should you worry about Google’s mobile friendly update? We hope that this article has helped to demystify recent changes and help you identify what action you need to take next…

We take an in-depth look at the advantages of Concrete5 website design with a particular focus on the benefits for larger organisations...

What are the Advantages of Concrete5 Website Design?

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In this article we’ll be looking in depth at some of the advantages of Concrete5 website design. If you’re in a hurry you can follow the links to read more about our Concrete5 web design services or contact us today for more information.

We specialise in the development of three particular types of website platform: Shopify, WordPress and Concrete 5. Whilst WordPress and Shopify are two of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the market, Concrete 5 is less well-known. In this article we’ll be looking at the advantages of Concrete5 website design and considering the circumstances in which this would be the right CMS for your business.

What is Concrete 5?

Concrete5 is an open source CMS that powers over 500,000 websites. That might sound like a relatively small number of sites. However, the majority of Concrete5 websites are extremely powerful.

The beauty of anything “open source” is that it’s normally free and backed up by a community of highly-skilled, committed practitioners. In this case, an open source CMS such as Concrete 5 or WordPress benefits from the ongoing work of an online community of web developers. This means that it’s constantly improving and being updated. When we think about key website criteria such as speed, security and cross-device compatibility this is a very important benefit.

One of the unique features of Concrete5 is that it offers in-context editing. Unlike other CMS options, which tend to have a “back end” that you must log into in order to make changes, you simply edit your content by clicking on the relevant section of the page. The idea is that Concrete5 is completely intuitive, making website maintenance as efficient as possible.

There have traditionally been two common objections to content management systems:

  1. More powerful CMS packages have tended to be seen as too complex, keeping control in the hands of the web developer and not the end user.
  2. User-friendly blogging platforms such as WordPress frequently reach their natural limitation. This is one of the reasons why we have so many WordPress plugins which help us to continue developing WordPress’ capability.

Part of the thinking behind Concrete5 is that we should re-think the traditional CMS altogether. If you can manage and maintain the website on the site itself then confusing back-end systems become far less important. This in turn has a range of advantages which we’ll discuss in a moment.

So, then, Concrete5 is a powerful and user-friendly CMS. We’ll now look at the advantages of Concrete5 website design and apply this into an everyday business context.

What are the Advantages of Concrete5 Website Design?

In our experience, Concrete5 is a very attractive CMS for certain businesses in certain circumstances. We’ll look at some of the biggest advantages of Concrete5 website design and explain how this might affect a business using this system.

1. Concrete5 is Totally Customisable

The first big advantage of Concrete5 website design is that it’s totally customisable and extremely powerful. In other words, it’s a developer’s playground.

Some CMS options start with a clearly defined framework. This can then be adapted in order to build a site which meets the client’s specifications and objectives. Concrete5 doesn’t limit you in this way.

This gives web designers and developers the freedom to find completely bespoke solutions and then implement them freely. If a client has a unique requirement then Concrete5 gives us the tools to turn it into a fully functional, powerful website.

Our biggest Concrete5 project to date was working on a community site for the US Army. The site is designed to provide a hub for soldiers stationed in Europe, providing local information and events to help troops make the most of their leave and explore the wider area that they’re stationed in. With a dedicated team of staff managing the website, we were contracted to provide a range of support and infrastructure services as part of the redevelopment of the site.

Concrete5 Website Design that was developed for the US Army

We developed a range of new features, optimised the site and ironed out various teething issues. However, the most notable feature of the site is the completely custom database administration that allows staff to share content in various parts of the site. It’s completely bespoke and highly complex. The calendar and event functionality is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. From a development perspective it’s highly technical and very awkward. The site is still very easy to use, but the functionality required wouldn’t be possible through a plugin or conventional CMS.

If you’re looking to develop a website that is completely unique then Concrete5 might be a CMS worth considering. It gives you the freedom to throw convention out the window and develop exactly what you need. Yes, it tends to be a more expensive, time-consuming process from a development perspective, but if there’s no alternative then this is a very exciting proposition.

2. Concrete5 Requires Less Training that Other CMS Options

The big strength of a CMS like WordPress is that it’s incredibly straightforward to use. If you’ve used one WordPress website then you’ll have little trouble getting to grips with another. You can normally get your staff up to speed with operating a WordPress website within a relatively short period of time.

The perception of a CMS like Concrete5 is that it’s going to be more complex to use. However, this really isn’t the case.

Because Concrete5 allows what’s called ‘in-context editing’ (essentially, editing content from the page itself, not a back-end system) it’s actually incredibly easy to use.

This can have a significant long-term impact on the value proposition that Concrete5 offers. At a development stage, it’s free to get hold of but tends to be more expensive in terms of development hours. However, because Concrete5 requires less training than other CMS options it can actually save you time and money in the long-run.

Whether this is an advantage will depend upon your particularly organisation. Broadly speaking, if you’ve got enough active users that training is an issue (and ongoing cost) then an up-front investment in a Concrete5 website is likely to offer a long-term saving and make you more efficient in the process.

Ultimately, the end user loves the interface and the ease of use. You’ll love that it saves you money and time!” Lucas Anderson

3. Concrete5 Allows Multiple Contributors

Of course, every CMS allows multiple contributors with individually assigned editing privileges. However, the beauty of Concrete5 is the way that it allows multiple contributors.

You can be extremely particular about the editing privileges that you give to users. This can be defined using almost any criteria whatsoever. It might be that you only want users to be able to make changes during work hours. Maybe you want to give individual departments a range of privileges for pages relating to their part of the organisation. With Concrete5, it’s completely possible.

The fact that Concrete5 allows in-context editing also helps to make the whole process work better. If you’ve got large numbers of contributors adding content across the site, you want to make sure that they’re improving the website and not leaving a trail of destruction!

Whilst other CMS options allow multiple contributors, Concrete5 offers a quality and consistency that is very attractive.

4. …Whilst Maintaining Custom Editing Privileges and Security

The perceived risk in allowing large numbers of contributors is that you won’t have control over what’s being published. However, in reality this really isn’t a problem. Concrete5 is a particularly good option if you need a system which allows you to implement a range of checks and restraints on how content is published.

This would be very attractive, for example, in a professional services firm. The likes of lawyers and accountants are seeing the huge marketing benefits of mobilising their professionals to create regular content relating to their practice area. It’s a great way to do business development, demonstrate your authority in key areas and boost your organic SEO results.

The challenge, then, is editing and maintaining this content. You’ll want your marketing department to be able to work through each article to optimise content and ensure that each article carries the same tone and flavour. You might want department heads to be able to check the accuracy of content being produced by junior members of the team. You might even want directors, partners or members of the board to have some control over what is ultimately published on the organisation’s website.

With Concrete5, this is very possible. We can simultaneously allow huge numbers of contributors and maintain tight editing controls. If you work in an environment where various systems are necessary to ensure consistency of quality, this is probably one of the biggest advantages of Concrete5 website design.

This kind of functionality is also very attractive from a security perspective. In the event that a former employee tries to publish critical content, for example, they will only be able to create content; they won’t be able to broadcast it.

Equally, if a hacker gains access to an employee’s account, they are still 2 or 3 steps away from actually being able to make changes to your site. In an industry where reputation is everything this is very reassuring.

5. Conclusion: Concrete5 is Perfect for Larger Organisations

Concrete5 is a complex and extremely powerful system. It’s capable of delivering bespoke functionality for even the most difficult of development objectives. However, it’s also incredibly simple to use, requires little training and provides outstanding security and editing safeguards.

In other words, Concrete5 is perfect for larger organisations.

If you’re running a small business or charity, WordPress is an outstanding CMS that will almost certainly be the best option for you. In an organisation where cashflow is tight, spending extra developing a bespoke Concrete5 site is unlikely to be the right approach.

However, if you’re looking to bring simplicity and accessibility to a powerful, large website then Concrete5 is an excellent option. Whether you’ve got web developers in-house or you’re outsourcing, it’s a CMS that gives you exceptional control and allows you to achieve the unique functionality needed by your organisation. It’s safe, secure, accessible and gives you the tools that you need to mobilise an army of regular contributors.

To find out more about Concrete 5 you can check out the Concrete5 website. If you’ve got any questions about the suitability of Concrete5 website design for your organisation then please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We promise to answer your question – or point you in the direction of somebody who will be able to.

We take a look at how to link online and physical stores using various apps for eCommerce retailers

How to Link Online and Physical Stores

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One of the big questions facing eCommerce businesses at the moment is how to link physical and online stores. Until now, the primary challenge has been working out how to sell online, but the success of eCommerce has created an unexpected new retail landscape.

Two types of business have particularly benefited.

High Street retailers who have successfully migrated to eCommerce have managed to combine the best of both worlds; customers can browse their products and prices online, before heading into town to pick up the product on the same day. These businesses tend to have complex transactional systems and can cope with the administration demands that this brings.

The other beneficiary has been the small retailer whose business is now done primarily online. However, these businesses tend not to have such advanced systems for managing stock and communicating inventories. This can result in all sorts of problems when you try to simultaneously sell online and in a physical store, particularly if you have high volumes of stock.

Before we look at the best ways to link online and physical stores, it’s important to understand the kinds of business that are most in need of these types of solution.

History: The Birth of eCommerce Retail

Once upon a time, just over a decade ago, retailers took the bold step to start selling their products online. There were numerous challenges to be overcome, from designing websites and photographing inventories to writing product descriptions and developing processes to help make transactions as quick and efficient as possible. Early concerns about the security of online transactions quickly dissipated and by 2015 eCommerce transactions reached an estimated $1.5 Trillion worldwide. The eCommerce revolution radically changed the retail landscape, with a handful of companies tending to dominate the market.

Today we face an altogether different challenge. Internet-only ventures have become incredibly popular, enabling new businesses to establish themselves without the significant overheads traditionally associated with retail businesses. Many start-ups begin life as an online store, enabling their owners to gradually increase turnover within the relative security of full-time employment.

Today, anybody can start a retail business and quickly develop a significant, international customer-base. Like a modern-day American Dream, eCommerce has opened up a world of opportunity for the ambitious entrepreneurs of tomorrow. You don’t need huge resources to start a successful business; you need a good product, an online store and a lot of hard work.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the oft-quoted death of the High Street has thus far failed to materialise, despite the enormous success of eCommerce retailers. Yes, many High Streets have experienced a decline in the number of retailers as online rivals increase the competition. However, the appeal of the High Street remains as strong as ever.

The majority of customers still want to try before they buy, even if they subsequently make the purchase through an online retailer or website. There is a slightly nostalgic quality to High Street shopping that has captured the imagination of a generation of customers who have grown up with eCommerce. The greater range of information available to customers improved the High Street shopping experience, not kill it.

This is having a profound impact on the new, online retail businesses that have been birthed in the last 5 years. Whilst their origins were online, many eCommerce retailers are now looking to establish physical stores in response to demand from their customers. A physical, bricks-and-mortar High Street store is a real status symbol for a younger retailer.

We’ve also seen a huge increase in the number of pop-up shops as fledgling online retailers take their products to the High Street to connect with customers and gauge the feasibility of a physical store.

Today’s online retailers are becoming increasingly interested in having a physical store. This has exposed the limitations of traditional retail hardware and systems, creating a wave of demand for innovative solutions. Furthermore, many traditional retailers have successful embraced online retail and are now having to radically overhaul the way that they manage their business from the top down.

These are some of the questions facing retailers who need to link online and physical stores:

  • How do I manage my stock inventory when I have both online and physical stores?
  • What’s the easiest way to manage physical transactions, take payments, give receipts and keep track of my sales?
  • What’s the most streamlined way to run a physical retail store?
  • How can I let customers know which products are available in store?

Here are some of the solutions for businesses who want to link online and physical stores as seamlessly and efficiently as possible:

How to Link Online and Physical Stores

Fortunately for online retailers, eCommerce isn’t the only big technology change of the last 10 years. The introduction of smartphones and tablets has opened up a wide range of payment solutions for retailers looking to link online and physical stores. Most customers are perfectly happy to process their payment using an iPad; in fact, for many of us the novelty simply adds to the experience. It also makes it much easier for the retailer to get the customer’s email address to keep them up-to-date with news, offers and more.

There are already several apps that help customers to make payments, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet. However, we’re interested in apps that help businesses to link online and physical stores, not just facilitate payment.

Here are some of the most popular point-of-sale systems that can be used with an iPad, iPhone or equivalent:

1. Shopify POS

Shopify POS App for mobile transactions

Shopify POS (‘Point of Sale’) is an app that allows the user to process transactions using an iPhone or iPad. In a nutshell, you can process transactions, print receipts, accept card and cash payments, process refunds and more. It enables online retailers to bring all the functionality of an online store to their physical store. It’s designed to be affordable and lightweight enough for retailers to take with them wherever they go. Shopify POS comes with a range of hardware accessories, including receipt printers, cash registers and credit card readers. You can also use your existing point-of-sale hardware with Shopify POS.

Why is Shopify POS so good? Well, it’s designed to give you complete control over your transactions, managing your inventory from wherever you are. If you’re already using Shopify then Shopify POS will be very familiar, with a consistent back-end system. Like all things Shopify, it’s completely scaleable, allowing you to simultaneously run separate POS systems in different locations.

Oh, and you can now get a free 14 day trial.

You do, however, need to be using Shopify in order to benefit from Shopify POS. Whilst we strongly recommend Shopify as our eCommerce platform of choice, there are several other alternative systems on the market…

2. Vend HQ

Vend HQ Solution to Link Online and Physical Stores

Much like Shopify POS, Vend HQ is a point-of-sale solution for businesses looking to link online and physical stores. The features are almost identical to Shopify, although you would need to export your product inventory and customer database via an Excel spreadsheet, which isn’t the easiest of jobs for the tech-averse. It also has a slightly higher monthly subscription than Shopify, although with a 30-day free trial you might be tempted to have an in-depth look at Vend HQ and see if it works for you.

We really like the look of Vend HQ – it’s beautifully presented, and they’ve clearly done their homework. Their FAQ page, for example, is evidence that they really take customer service seriously. Having high-quality support when you need it most is so important.

3. Phone Swipe

Phone Swipe Mobile Payment Solution

Phone Swipe gives retailers the ability to process credit card transactions from their iPad, iPhone or Android phone. Much like Shopify POS, you can synchronise it with your inventory to help monitor stock levels, and it’s quick and easy to send receipts to customers.

However, Phone Swipe is currently only available in the US, with no indication of when it will be launched internationally. It doesn’t appear to have the range of hardware that Shopify POS offers, meaning that you can only process card payments, not cash. Whilst physical receipts are expected to become less common as we move towards a more eco-friendly paper free system, the greater range of options provided by the likes of Shopify POS and Vend HQ mean that it’s currently a more accomplished product.

4. Intuit Quickbooks Mobile

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile Apps Solution for Online Retailers

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile is a free card reader and app for iPhone, iPad and Android. There is no monthly charge; you only pay for the transactions that you actually complete, with a typical charge of $0.25. There are several neat touches, including the option to photograph a customer’s credit card in order to enter the details, making the transaction as quick and easy as possible.

Intuit Quickbooks Mobile is a very attractive option for smaller retailers who don’t require the more complex inventory management functionality offered by Shopify POS and simply want to complete transactions quickly and easily.

5. iZettle

iZettle Mobile Payment System for eCommerce Retailers

iZettle was an early leader in the mobile payment market. Their point-of-sale card and cash payment system is simple, free and has received good reviews from users. With no monthly fees and a “smart fee” that reduces with higher numbers of transactions, it’s an excellent option for startups who don’t want to over-commit.

However, unlike Shopify POS you have to manually enter your inventory to the iZettle system. Once you’ve done this you will get a great range of metrics and statistics, all presented in an attractive and intuitive interface.

If you have a relatively small inventory of stock and don’t need a minute-by-minute update on stock levels, iZettle might be the solution for you. If you’re currently writing hand-written receipts, for example, iZettle is an extremely way to improve the quality of your transactions with minimum hassle.

6. AirPOS

Air POS Mobile Payment System App for Online Stores

AirPOS is a very similar service to Shopify POS, offering a wide range of features and hardware. As you’d expect, it has excellent security features and will continue working even when you haven’t got a wireless or mobile connection. It can be used with iPhone, iPad and Android. AirPOS also give you the ability to get a store up and running in a matter of minutes.

However, AirPOS is realistically only going to be of interest if you haven’t yet got an eCommerce store, which isn’t really what we’re looking for at this point. We also think that it looks like a slightly lightweight version of Shopify, lacking the user base and expert resources that come with 100,000+ users.

How Will We Link Online and Physical Stores in the Future?

We’re really excited about the way that eCommerce is developing. Remarkably, it’s helping to make retail even more personable, bringing a greater variety and accessibility to small retailers than ever before. At the moment, the big challenge is to link online and physical stores with mobile point-of-sale and inventory systems. We’re particularly impressed by Shopify POS, Vend HQ and iZettle, which all offer good value payment systems and access to that all-important sales data to help you reach more customers.

We’ve looked in detail at the options available to online retailers who want to sell their products from a physical store. However, there are various challenges that remain to be solved.

What if, for example, you are shopping on your local High Street and want to buy a pair of black jeans.

Traditionally you would have had to walk in and out of every store until you found the product that you were looking for.

Today you can pull out your smartphone to find the nearest clothes shops. You can search individual retailers to check their prices and see if they’ve got the right product and size in stock. You can even complete the transaction online and collect the product in-store, helping to avoid the Saturday-afternoon queues.

What you can’t do is search all of the retailers on the High Street to compare all of the black jeans that are available in your size.

Until now.

bnkle is an innovative app that gives users an overview of all the products that are available in their geographical location, along with price and style. In other words, if you’re shopping on the High Street you’ll be able to make informed decisions before you even enter the store, without having to trawl through the individual eCommerce websites of all the retailers.

The premise is very simple. Essentially, retailers install the bnkle app which shares their current inventory and prices with users. It’s cross-platform compatible and really easy to use.

Currently only available in the US, bnkle is currently being rolled out in the UK. However, we like the idea and think that this could provide some insight into the future of eCommerce, particularly with the overlap with the High Street. This looks like an exciting next step in terms of trying to link physical and online stores, helping customers to make informed choices about their shopping.

These are very exciting times for online retailers and customers alike, with loads of great apps currently on the market.

If you’d like to link online and physical stores or want to work out how this might look for your eCommerce business then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Image by Giacomo Carena on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Definitive Website Maintenance Checklist

The Definitive Website Maintenance Checklist

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One of the biggest challenges we all face is keeping our websites up-to-date. Website maintenance is a vital process that ensures the ongoing health of your website. Whilst it’s not the most glamorous of tasks, an effective website maintenance process will help you to make the most of your website and avoid numerous common pitfalls. With that in mind we’ve produced the definitive website maintenance checklist to help you keep your website up-to-date and fully functional.

Whilst website maintenance is something that anybody can do, some of the processes in our checklist are a little more technical. If you need a hand with your website maintenance – or would like advice on anything we’ve discussedplease don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re particularly adept at WordPress website maintenance and Shopify website maintenance, but our definitive website maintenance checklist is suitable for all kinds of website.

The Definitive Website Maintenance Checklist

By regularly working through the steps listed below you should be able to keep your website in good health. If there are any problems, the definitive website maintenance checklist should alert you to them and give you an indication of what steps you need to take next.

Does it Look Right?

This is the first and most obvious step. Looking at your website as critically as you can will help you to gain an overall sense of how it’s performing. Most of us spend huge amounts of time browsing the internet and are therefore well qualified to judge the overall feel of a website.

There’s another reason why a quick glance will help you to maintain your website. We talk a lot about the importance of first impressions. Looking at your homepage and key landing pages will remind you what your visitors are seeing and help you to decide if you’re happy with it…

Dig into Google Analytics

Alongside a visual overview, digging into Google Analytics or another similar tool will give you a statistical overview of your website’s performance and health.

There are several key factors that you should be looking at in detail. The traffic that your website receives will dictate what kinds of outcome you experience. A healthy website should be experiencing a progressive increase in website traffic. You should also be looking at the amount of time that visitors are spending on your website and the number of pages that they view. If you’re only averaging 1-2 pages then either you’re converting visitors very quickly or they’re leaving your website before you’ve had a change to communicate your key messages to them. It’s normally the latter. You should also be trying to keep your bounce rates nice and low, keeping visitors engaged and directing them to more of your content.

The level of detail that you go into when analysing Analytics will depend upon the goals that you have for your website. You can analyse the impact that your PPC campaigns are having at driving traffic to your site, and check that those key landing pages are written properly. If you’re driving visitors to a redundant or poor page then your website is severely letting you down…

Check Your Website Speed

There are several reasons why the speed of your website is so important. Tools such as GTMetrix and Google Pagespeed will give you a detailed breakdown of how fast (or slow!) your website really is.

The time that it takes for your website to load will have a big impact on the experience of your users. Slow websites are frustrating to use, and most of us don’t stick around if things are taking too long. This is particularly true for mobile users who are reliance on 3G/4G and don’t want to waste their precious data allowance on loading your bloated website.

Website speed is also a key player in your SEO performance. Search engines reward fast websites with higher rankings in the results pages because they know that faster websites are more likely to give people what they’re looking for. Two websites might be very similar, but the fact that one is better optimised is likely to result in higher traffic.

Speed Up Your Website!

Once you’ve identified which pages are slowing down your website, the next step is to speed it up! This tends to involve a combination of image optimisation, structural changes, updating creaking plugins and other development tweaks. If you’ve found a slow page then a web developer should be able to make reasonable improvements to website speed in a relatively short time-frame.

If your website is really, really slow then this might also be an indicator that it’s time to think about investing in a new website altogether.

Fix any Broken Links

A broken link exists where your website links to a page which no longer exists. There are various reasons why this might happen. The link may have been to a blog, page, social media account or even website which has subsequently been deleted. Broken links are very frustrating for users and have a negative impact on your SEO results.

Checking that your links are working properly – either manually or with a crawling tool – will make sure that users and search engines alike get what they’re looking for from your website.

Delete Redundant Website Content

An aspect of website maintenance that is often overlooked – but nevertheless a key part of our definitive website maintenance checklist – is deleting redundant website content.

Most of us are adept at creating new content. A well-developed website will make it easy for users to add new pages as you add new products and services. However, we often feel inclined to keep old content – even when it’s become completely redundant.

Deleting old content will help to keep your website nicely streamlined; this will in turn improve speed and user experience.

Check Your SEO Performance

This is such an important part of website maintenance that we’ve dedicated a whole page of our website to describing it. Reporting on your SEO results – including traffic, keyword rankings, social media performance, page optimisation and various other metrics – will help you to keep improving your website and moving up the search engine results pages.

Whilst you can certainly do this yourself, many organisations choose to outsource this area of your website maintenance. Several of our clients commission us to provide monthly reports as part of our Search and Social Marketing package. In a nutshell, we deliver bespoke reports which show how the website has performed and progressed over the previous month.

Create New Content

We’ve already talked about deleting content; you also need to create new content. This can take the form of new pages (where you’ve expanded or changed the focus of your organisation) in addition to regular blogs and rewriting old content.

Users love new content. Search engines love new content. It’s therefore imperative that you try and keep your website as dynamic and fresh as possible.

Check All Dates and Prices

If your website involves dates and/or prices then it’s imperative that these are accurate. There are few things more embarrassing than having to let a prospective customer know that the information they have received from your website is inaccurate.

Install the Latest Plugins and Activate Updates

It’s good practice to have the latest versions of all plugins and apps within your website. However, it’s important that you do this carefully – sometimes installing a new version will upset functionality somewhere else in your website. It’s wise to ensure that you install the latest plugins and activate updates in collaboration with your web developer who will be able to advise you about any potential issues.

This will keep your website fast and ensure that your website is compatible with your users’ latest browsers.

Read Every Page of Your Website

Okay, maybe not every page. Still, you should be reading through the key pages of your website to check that you’re happy with what your users are seeing. You can identify your key pages by looking at the landing pages that are receiving the most traffic and the ‘first layer’ of pages that are accessible from your homepage.

There are several good questions to ask yourself. Is your content still relevant, true and helpful? Is there anything that you’ve missed? Would a visitor who lands on that page receive a true and persuasive account of what your organisation has to offer at this moment in time?

Ensure that Your Website is Backed Up

Finally, is your website securely backed up? In the unfortunate event that something goes wrong with your website, do you have a recent, functioning backup that can be restored? If not, all your hard work maintaining your website is in danger of being completely lost…

We hope that you’ve appreciated our definitive website maintenance checklist. If you have, why not share it with a friend or colleague? If you’ve got any questions about anything we’ve said then please do get in touch or leave a comment below…

how quickly can I expect to see SEO results

How Quickly Can I Expect to see SEO Results?

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In a recent conversation with a client we were discussing that age old client/agency SEO question: “how quickly can I expect to see SEO results?”

This is clearly an important consideration for every business which invests in SEO services. Unlike traditional advertising methods such as newspaper and radio advertising, investing in a medium to long-term SEO strategy is unlikely to deliver overnight results. We all know that an effective SEO campaign has the potential to generate a huge ROI and make an impressive contribution to an organisation’s influence, web presence and ultimately turnover. The question we’re really wondering about is that voiced by our client…

How Quickly Can I Expect to see SEO Results?

In our client meeting we explained that whilst SEO is far from an exact science (in recent years search engines have been keen to move away from notions of a ‘magic SEO formula’ to a more holistic evaluation of a website’s true value to a searcher) we normally expect to see some strong preliminary results in 3-6 months.

This time-frame gives us an opportunity to develop an initial SEO strategy, make necessary technical improvements to the client’s website and start producing engaging content that connects the client’s business with their current and potential customer base.

Indicating to our clients that initial growth tends to take 3-6 months also helps us to provide a realistic, honest appraisal of probable SEO results.

However, that’s not to say that we’re not pursuing overnight results. We are. We know that it’s possible to generate a big upturn in traffic reasonably quickly, particularly when we target long-tail keywords and deliver a holistic search & social marketing strategy that connects with every area of a client’s online presence. There’s no reason why individual articles shouldn’t hit page #1 for their chosen keyword within 7-10 days. Furthermore, if you’ve already got an audience lined up in the form of an email marketing and social media following, early SEO efforts should results in a pick-up in repeat web traffic and an opportunity to convert more users into paying customers.

Similarly, Pay-Per-Click campaigns allow organisations to connect with users immediately through targeted advertising. The effectiveness of PPC tends to increase over time as Google establish the relevance of your website to their searchers and you begin to hone in on the keywords that offer the best value for money, but you can still get very positive results from day 1.

There are so many factors that affect SEO performance that the anticipated time-frame in which you can expect to see impressive results will vary from client to client. It will depend upon the competitiveness of the industry, the current performance of the site and the amount of resources that you have at your disposal. Needless to say, spending more time working on the site, content generation and delivering the strategy will come at a higher cost but deliver better, faster results.

How Quickly Can I Expect to see Substantial SEO Results?

One of the ways in which we tried to answer our client’s question was to turn the question around and apply it to his business. “How quickly can I expect to see SEO results?” is a question of similar magnitude to “How long does it take to develop a successful business?

The answer, of course, is far from straightforward. Developing a successful business takes time; in most cases, years. You can achieve a huge amount in 12 months, but you’d always expect to do more in the next 12 months. It takes a huge amount of effort, learning, discussion, new ideas and a determination to continue pursuing the end goal even when things get tough. You can develop a successful ‘new business’ in a shorter period of time, but it won’t compare to a successful ‘established business’.

The same is true when we think about SEO. It takes time to implement a successful SEO strategy. We can deliver impressive results in just a few months, but at the same time we’re looking to build momentum that will result in sustained growth over the coming years.

Image: “Business Class” on Flickr (Creative Commons)

We take a look at how not to plan a web strategy so that you can do it better...

“A List of Goals is Not a Strategy”: How Not to Plan a Web Strategy

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The Harvard Business Review recently published Graham Kenny’s article “A List of Goals Is Not a Strategy“.

Kenny begins by outlining the expectations that most people have when they sit down to talk about strategy. In most situations we’d draw many of the same conclusions that he lists – growth, increasing sales, optimising ROI, more efficient work practices etc.

When you’re done, you might scratch your head and reflect: I think this looks OK. It doesn’t. It contains what might be called goals, objectives, actions, and vague statements of intent — but alas, no strategies.

These conclusions resonate with us. We help our clients to plan and implement their web strategies in order to grow their business or organisation. Applying Kenny’s observations into a web design context gives us two very helpful questions to shape any web strategy discussion.

Here are two important considerations that will help you to plan a web strategy:

Who do you depend on for success?

This is a great question that will have a big impact on the way that you plan a web strategy, website design and digital marketing. Quite simply, you need to work out who it is that you are specifically targeting.

Your target audience might only be a tiny percentage of the population. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that you know who your target audience are then then plan a web strategy that will help you to engage with these people better.

It’s also essential to identify those within your business or organisation upon whose shoulders your success or failure rests. Maybe you’ve got a talented writer who needs to be encouraged to allocate more of her working hours to producing highly engaging content for your website and social media platforms. Perhaps there’s a key member of your admin team whose attention to detail is crucial in keeping your eCommerce website up-to-date and accurate.

These people will play a key role in helping you to implement and plan a web strategy. Identifying them at the outset will help you to protect their time and ensure that their efforts are focused on your key priorities.

What do people expect from you?

This is another valuable question. Too often, for example, we are primarily concerned about communicating our sales messages to customers. Little or no consideration is given to thinking through what the customer might want from you.

Unsurprisingly this will vary from one organisation to another. An easy way to contextualise this question is to identify the reasons why an individual might follow you on Facebook or Twitter. *Hint: it’s probably not your sales pitches. However, your industry knowledge, product updates, special offers and local events might well be.

Learning what your users expect from you helps you to clarify your web strategy by identifying key messages that need to be prioritised.

It also gives you a chance to position yourself ahead of your competition. By taking steps to become the business that your customers want, for example, you increase the likelihood of growing your customer base.

If you’re running an eCommerce store you might want to give away a run of freebies or offer free shipping. After all, when the shoe is on the other foot and you’re a customer these things are very attractive. 

Identifying what people expect from you will also liberate you from going through the motions simply because you think that ‘these are the things that businesses should do’. In your approach to social media, for example, you should feel permission to tweet and post in a way that educates, informs and entertains your target audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s only interesting to 10% of the population; the important thing is that it is interesting to those people.

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