SEO Archives - Klaxon

The Three Ss of Technical SEO Explained

Search engine optimisation is becoming ever-more user focused. Content, context, and conversation are more important than ever, as search engine algorithms become better at understanding what is on a page, what is trusted content and opinion, and whether that page is relevant. With all that taken into account, it could be argued that the technical side of SEO is less needed. Search engines have improved at extracting meaning from pages, allowing the best content to rise to the top and the most talked about issues to stay prominent for longer.

I say that technical improvements for search are more important than ever, but not for the sake of directly pleasing algorithms, for improving the user experience –  one of the largest factors in search. Whilst hundreds of individual technical tasks may fall under the reign of a search engine optimisation specialist, everything can be framed within three factors:

  • 1. Speed
  • 2. Structure
  • 3. Security

If you want a checklists of tasks to help you rank well in search, you’re in the wrong place (though there are plenty of other posts, on this site and others, which will help you with that). My goal here is to deliver the why behind technical optimisation – to help you understand what matters to your users and to search engines. Hopefully to help you think of Google, Bing or Yahoo as just another individual with needs and wants to satisfy.

Speed, or don’t be seen

Let me tell you a little story about speed.

In Google’s company philosophy, user focus and speed matter. Stating that;

Fast is better than slow

Focus on the user and all else will follow

Those statements are true for Google’s search algorithms. Since 2010 Google’s PageSpeed has been a factor in search; including a dozen metrics which consider page size, scripting, and on-page speed optimisation – all in the context of user experience.

So, why is speed a considered factor in search?

In the last 5 years, there has been an observable decrease in attention from people whom are currently online. There has also been a rapid shift toward mobile and tablet devices changing the way we search and consume content. When browsing on mobile information is often time-sensitive and subject to the constraints of mobile networks, meaning that a slow loading pages are frequently left.

Some experts in the SEO industry call this behaviour ‘pogo-sticking’ – jumping away from one page before or just after it loads. This has a large negative impact in your ranking. Not only will Google rank your site less highly for that ‘pogo-sticking’ user, but it will also factor into your overall ranking for that page. Google interprets pogo-sticking as a user not finding what they want, and so improves user experience by decreasing the ranking of a slow loading page.

In addition; speed has a massive effect on conversion. When Mozilla optimised its Firefox download page for speed, a 2.2 seconds decrease in page load time resulted in a 15.4% increase in downloads. Admittedly, it’s not clear how long this test was run for, but they have proven a strong correlation (for data lovers) and the additional 60 million downloads this speed improvement delivered in 2010 isn’t to be sniffed at.

Speed is all about how quickly your users can get from a search engine page to the information they want, which when combined with a solid structure is vital for users and search engines…

Solid structure supports everything

Algorithms seek structure.

Structure (done right) should almost give preference to search-engine bots over users. Users are adaptable, people after all have been developing and changing since the year… and for better of worse, if your users want something, they will deal with a little bit of momentary processing to reach their goal. Algorithms on the other-hand are less fluid, they can only use the data given to them, rather than making assumptions like you or I.

Giving search engines more data has its risks and rewards. More data gives more points of comparison, which can positively effect your site’s performance, or if your site is intentionally misleading, poorly configured, or badly designed, provide more negative ranking factors. There are several steps you can take to make sure that search engines understand how all the pages fit together, sometimes by doing little more than creating links.

link piramid

Build your site with a logical structure with pages getting more specific the deeper you go – Moz

Remember a while back I said I would explain ‘the why’. Well, the why for structure is because algorithms, for all their knowledge, make assumptions in a way that attempts to mimic user interaction, but in many cases is not close to parody.

Sure you can use sitemaps to demonstrate holistically the context of a website. You can also use microdata to add additional semantic ‘meaning’ and information priority to guide the eyes of search engines toward what matters, but it does not (yet) replace human monitoring and curation. That’s why search engines use data from your browsing habits to inform the value that a page/or site provides.

Remember back at the top of this section I said structure is more for search than users, that’s not entirely true. Search engines do prioritise site and page structure over data gathered about user habits, though for how long, it’s hard to tell

Security shouldn’t be a second-thought

Security is all about keeping the wrong users out and letting the right ones in.

Search engines like consistency, for example, they value domains that have been established for years far more highly than those which are months old. As such, consistency should run through every aspect of a search strategy, from content to engaging in conversation — something which is impossible if your site is down for days or is penalised due to bad code or practice.

Sites that are poorly secured, have limited time left on their domain registration, or have long periods of down-time are not a friend of search engines. With that in mind, security and consistency should be your first priority. Everything from backup, preventing insertion of malicious code, server maintenance and insuring adequate password policies all comes under security. It’s about ensuring that you always have the greatest possible control over your online presence, and proving what your site delivers is trustworthy and authoritative.

For one of the most important elements of managing your ranking in search, security is most often overlooked. It’s an area which many ‘Search Engine Professionals’ don’t realise they know too little about until it’s too late.

hacked warning

Getting this warning will be the kiss of death for your click through rate at the very least.

Think about it this way, just as you’re trying to gain ranking in search, so are other businesses, and in high competition sectors some organisations think reducing your ranking in search is a valid element in their optimisation strategy.

Let me give you a theoretical worst-case scenario if your security is lapse, which happened to a previous client of mine…

A site in a highly competitive field saw increases in authority and ranking due to an aggressive link building strategy which involved getting several thousand links a month, fuelled by content marketing.

Whilst the majority of the these links were from respectable sources, this vast increase in links made it less obvious that negative SEO (the practice of getting low value links, or performing actions which would reduce a site’s authority) was being performed on the site by a competitor.

Due to a lack of effective monitoring, and limited concern for low quality links, the site received a Google Penalty. Which took six months and several thousand pounds to recover from – resulting tens of thousands of pounds in lost leads from search.

Technically perfect SEO

With search becoming ever more mobile-focused, and users expecting increasingly accurate and rapid responses from search, Google (etc) have had to consider more than just links and content. As search marketing continues to progress, I envision a landscape where it is less acceptable for the site to be technically weak. Every user interaction with your site will (sooner or later) become a ranking factor – from bounce rate, to time on site, to engagement through social – and lax speed, structure and security are three factors which will negatively effect usability more than any-other. That is why you should value a solid technological foundation, because when 90% of your users are lost before they even reach your site, achieving conversion or ranking targets becomes impossible.

If you have any questions about search and how it can benefit your business, I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

…or if you fancy a chat I’m always available @YianniPelekanos on Twitter.

SEO is Dead, Long Live SEO

I recently spoke at London Bloggers Meetup: SEO Edition with the goal of helping bloggers to better understand their relationship with search and how to improve their ranking. You can find a transcript of the talk below, where I cover three fundamental elements of Search Engine Optimisation in 2014;

1. speed

2. user experience

3. authority and trust

You can also see a slideshare of mine and the two other speakers below too.

I welcome your feedback in the comments below. I’m a big believer that SEO as we know it is evolving into a respectable and strategic marketing tactic, something that is going to become a mainstream skill for any marketer. But what do you think…

Hi,

I’m Yiannis, and I’m here to convince you that SEO doesn’t really matter.

I’m here to give you a bit of background as to why optimising your website for search, isn’t the same game we played 5 years ago.

Google or Bing or Yahoo don’t care about your content or your code (and yes, I can feel you all screaming at me saying, “but that’s what I’ve been told SEO is”). Well, search engines just care about your users. Or more importantly your shared users.

Let me put this in context, in 2013 93 percent of Google’s overall revenue was linked to advertising. Which means, the directors at Google, probably looked something like this.

Over 90 per cent of Google’s multi billion dollar business came from matching users with what they want. At it’s heart, that it’s all that search is, matching people with the information they’re looking for. Whether that be shoes or stationary.

So how does that affect your website. Well, whether you get 200 users per month or you’re Huffington Post, everything comes down to providing the best experience for Google’s users, making sure they’re happy, satisfied, and most importantly, that they come back. Ensuring that you are the correct fit for the person searching, is all that should matter.

I’m going to cover three main areas. The speed at which your website loads, the experience of using your website, and how much trust and authority you’ve gained.

So… first let’s start with speed.

Speed matters. Speed matters a lot. 45 per cent of your users will leave if a page takes more than four seconds to load. Just 1 2 3 4 seconds and 45 out of 100 people have left the room.

And if people are leaving your site from search you can bet that search engines are keeping track of it, as well as over 200 points of data about your site and how it’s used.

In SEO circles, we call that jumping back to the search page behaviour, pogo sticking, and pogo sticking is bad news for your ranking. It means that people aren’t finding what they want, and that directly contradicts the purpose of search.

Second is User Experience

This could be a two hour long talk in it’s own right.

We could talk about usability for hours focusing on; less able users, user experience design, mobile experience, user journeys, attention, or a thousand other design tidbits, but for you guys I bet keeping users who have come in from search is a massive priority.

Be honest with me. How many people know what bounce rate is? Raise your hand if you do. /raise hand/

For all that don’t, it’s a measure of how many users only visit one page on your site, then leave.

Ok then, how many of you know your bounce rate? Abs where to find out?

Generally, if you’re at under 60% for your website, you’re doing well.

Now, how many of you know your bounce rate from search?

Really? That few? Well done you though.

Bounce from search really matters. Not only is pogo sticking bad. But it has so many other side-effects other than just your posts not getting read. If users aren’t staying on your site, then they’re not truly interacting with your content. Which means they’re not sharing your posts. Which means they’re likely reading posts from other sites which have a better user experience than yours .

On the highest level, user experience for your website is all about understanding what makes your users tick.

Understand why they want to read you, what’s in it for them, and what will keep them interested again and again. You should make keeping your users happy top priority, because as your website grows, this initial core-group are vital to give your website authority and trust.

Trust and Authority are the third factor…

Again, let me provide a bit of context.

Pre 2011 SEO involved a lot of link chasing. The most important factor for ranking in your chosen keyword was links, ideally thousands of them.

A lot has changed since then, at least with Google. Now what matters is authority and trust, which, at least in my mind is a far better metric than just farming links.

Just like offline, authority and trust are not things which you can manipulate independently. It’s almost better to call them proving your worth and getting recognised for it.

Authority is an amalgamation of the quality, diversity, when, where you get links from other websites. It used to be the case that you could just buy a few links and bob’s your uncle. A high ranking domain.

But now search is closer to an interaction you and I would have with an interviewer, with the interviewer being Google.  They would want to check your past roles, that you haven’t been doing the same job for 20 years, where you worked, and what results it had before you’re offered a position in search.

Trust, on the other hand, is the follow up interview. A more in depth look at who links to you. Google looks at how many links you are from a major source of trust, think along the lines of the BBC or respected centres of government, or education.

Google also looks at the experience your users are receiving as a measurement of trust. Core metrics such as time on site, pages viewed or bounce-rate all play into Google’s measure of trust.

And that’s when it all comes back to user experience.

Think of it like this. You shouldn’t be optimising your site for search, for most of your websites, this will come with time, if you create conversation around your website, continue to write focused, eloquent, posts and take actions which give your site more authority.

What you should invest as much time doing, is making sure that your users come back again and again, share and link to your posts and have a great experience using your site.

I know I haven’t had time to go in depth about specific tactics you can use to gain rankings in search. But what I really want to hammer home is this. All google wants to do is keep their users happy, they want them to find the right information, and know that they will always find what they want from Google.

So remember;

  1. Make your website fast,

  2. Make every page enjoyable and informative to be on,

  3. Give your users an opportunity to help you, by using, sharing and most importantly, coming back to your site.

 

Pay Per Click Advertising with Google Adwords: more than just clicks and traffic.

Google Adwords, or any Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaign must be clearly defined, carefully monitored, and maintained, to be the most effective. It is vital to understand your audience, and have clearly marked goals, not only to make sure that your campaign is providing the most value, but to understand the benefit of Adwords on other channels.

Google Adwords is not a risky advertising move, it’s more targeted, more measurable, and ultimately more profitable than almost any other medium, but that ease of use does mean, that inexperienced advertising can lead to missed opportunities and misguided interaction.

Using Adwords to gain leads, conversions, brand awareness, or applied as tool to understand keywords and audience, are some of the best uses of the service. When applied correctly, it is possible to create highly specific targeting which fulfils the needs of your business, allowing you to turn those leads into highly profitable, engaged customers.

Adwords is not a click factory

Let’s clarify one thing right off the bat, if your PPC account manager is only reporting clicks and traffic, they’re doing something wrong, very wrong. Google Adwords in partnership with Google Analytics allows bidding to not only be highly specific, but also highly measurable and accountable. This means that you can focus on specific endpoints for your Adwords campaign, whether that’s conversions, click-through-rate to a specific page, or engagement with your brand, and the route that users have taken to reach it.

Before monitoring any metrics, or even considering the analytics that Google provides, you should set goals and conduct research.  When you research keywords, competitors and audience, you can build a more complete view of how your goals can be achieved, and with tools such as Google Trends, you can monitor peaks and troughs. Which is especially useful if you’re in a seasonal or resurgent industry.

I cannot stress the importance of setting and fully discussing goals with the team who will deliver your advertising campaign. Not only to create a clear set of success criteria for your campaign to understand whether the campaign is working for your business, but also to allow your search engine marketer to discuss ways in which you can increase the reach of the campaign; offline, through social, and other marketing channels. Goals are important… they let everyone working on your campaign to plan, become profitable, and sustain a strong and positive relationship.

Using Google Adwords and PPC for Lead Generation

Creating leads and acquisitions are commonly seen as the primary functions of Google Adwords, and Google has created a great marketplace to drive customers and possible conversions towards your site or store. Profit on a per acquisition basis allows advertisers to balance the price of a conversion, with the limit of their budget to create the best possible return on investment.

Whilst some businesses use Adwords to provide a constant flow of users, it is also possible to create a campaign tailored around a specific product range, store, or even promotion, allowing your scope to fit your goals and budget. All campaigns allow your adverts, whether it be a text, image, product or video ad, to appeal to a specific user’s need, whether they’re precise such as “buy macbook pro 2014” or as vague as “new laptop”.

Lead generation can be used as effectively for offline businesses. All you need is a store location registered with Google+ Local (Google’s service for associating real-world businesses with their identities online), or a call extension (which allows users to call you from their phone with one button press), and you can prompt a conversion to your store, without the user having to complete complex directory enquiries.

Using Google Adwords and PPC for Brand Awareness

Google Adwords allows your customers to make instant purchasing decisions, yet is equally effective at building relationships with your brand, products or company.

A key metric here is impressions, the number of users who have seen your ads. Impressions can easily be in thousands with Google Adwords, this is due to Google’s incredible volume of search traffic, but also its many partnerships with sites online. Through Google Display Advertising, you can have adverts appear in email-boxes, on thousands of partner sites, on YouTube, and many other media providers, all of which can be highly targeted to reach your audience.

Google Adwords also has a feature called Remarketing, this allows you to continue to engage users after they have left your website, keeping them in contact with your brand, while they browse other website. This can be highly effective for products and services which have longer lead times, but also this re-appearance of your advert is great for cementing a brand in the mind of the user.

When using Google Adwords for brand awareness, messaging, imagery and branding are of upmost importance, that is why, for larger campaigns, I would recommend you work with an organisation which has these elements built into their team. With great branding, messaging, graphics and video experts in addition to your advertiser, you can create an advert which can create a customer relationship which is long, stable and profitable, while missing one of this components can mean a less successful campaign.

Using Google Adwords and PPC for Keyword Research

Google Adwords can also be used as a search tool for other methods of online marketing, such as Search Engine Optimisation. Creating broad-reach adverts, with effective landing pages (page the user goes to when the advert is clicked), it is possible to get data not otherwise accessible to search marketers.

As Google has made changes towards privacy and implemented solutions which protect user data more deeply, strategies such as Keyword Research with PPC continue to be effective, consensual ways to get data which will let Adwords Campaigns be targeted to the correct user groups.

There are many applications of Google Adwords, only a few of which have been described here. If you business has goal, which involves leads, conversions, brand awareness, or many other measurable targets, then Advertising through Google Adwords will likely be a highly effective solution for your business.

Hello ‘Digital Visual Communications’ pleasure to be doing business with you.

Digital Visual Communications logo

I love new clients who work with tech — especially clients who have the expertise to present technology which not only makes work easier, but also more enjoyable. We’ve all bought useless gadgets over the years – I’m sure I’ve still got a Tamagotchi laying around somewhere – that’s why it’s so inspiring to see technology which works. That’s why Klaxon and I are proud to be working with Digital Visual Communications

Digital Visual Communications provide feature rich, aspirational technology for business which are a joy to use. They’re not your standard projector selling, video conference providing company, priding themselves on knowing how all the component parts of the Audio Visual industry fit together, to give a quality, tailored service, rather than just parts — a complete solution.

If I’m being honest, I’ve already mapped out in my head where I’d place my own interactive whiteboard… I guess for now I’ll have to put up with the traditional version… I can dream though.

Let’s get down to business.

Carys Strong, Business Development Manager at Digital Visual Communications approached Klaxon to provide search engine optimisation services, focusing on generating leads, and helping to convert from an already existing website.

We’ve already put the wheels in motion, with the help of Dan Coulthard to get the site optimised, not just to be adored in the eyes of search engines, but also to make the experience for users quicker and more engaging.

There are three main areas that we are working on with Digital Visual Communications:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) — Adapting the current site and the ecosystem of connected platforms to improve rankings for keywords, whilst continuing to improve usability and accessibility of content.

Creating content — Producing new posts, with the goal of not only generating leads, but also informing, and showing the wide range of uses which Digital Visual Communications’ products and solutions provide.

Strategy and Education — In tandem with ongoing work, we will explore new avenues for Digital Visual Communications to broaden their reach online and reach new audiences. This will go hand in hand with education, to allow existing content to reach new users; driving conversation, through comments and social media, to better utilise the knowledge of Digital Visual Communications online.

Let’s talk about conversation.

Initial work with a new client is largely about getting to know each other, finding out about their sector, but also understanding areas which they can develop upon.

In the coming months we’re going to take all the great things that Digital Visual Communications is doing — and multiply them. Take their great product knowledge, and make it available on their website. Take their ability to remove the hassle from a large AV build, and show you through Twitter. Though most importantly, show that they’re a pleasure to work with, and tell as many people as possible.

On that note, let’s introduce you to a few people in the team at Ditgial Visual Communications:

Carys Strong — Business Development Manager

Rhys Gwillym — Sales and Marketing Director


Sarah Baverstock — Education Account & Marketing Manager

 

Over the coming months, you can expect more helpful content, more interesting conversations and more demonstrations of how a great service starts with temptation over a product, but leads to complete satisfaction with a solution and it’s design.

You can see new posts, and comment on developments in AV technology on the Digital Visual Communications Blog.

The Three Cs of SEO Explained

There are two sides to SEO (search engine optimisation). Cat and dog

The first is highly-complex, sprawling, and almost incomprehensible. A ball of algorithms, which change daily, and are guarded more vigilantly than the Enigma Code. The only way to determine the gears behind these gargantuan beasts of search is by: trial, error and billions upon billions of records, analysed for months at a time.

Whilst the other can be summarized in three words: content, context and conversation!

Content

We’ve been producing content since man first discovered that chisels work pretty well on cave walls. Content should be easy, because content is everything! From a scrappily taken photo in the small hours at an office party, to the magnum opus you’ve spent a decade writing, it’s all content, and it all tells a story.

That’s why content is arguably the hardest part of SEO. You can produce: blog posts, videos, graphics, etc, until the cows come home, but if it doesn’t enrich the story of your business, it’s as good as useless. Or worse, degrading to your audience, confusing to Google, and detrimental to your brand. This is why many content producers give up, they find their content doesn’t resinate and it becomes little more than white noise: all because they don’t understand their audience.

Google is becoming better every day at understanding whether a piece is well written, a video is exciting, or a graphic is engaging. It’s all about telling a story for your clients.

Context

If content is king, then context is his closest advisor.

Google’s approach to understanding the connections between content online is becoming increasingly human, and whilst that’s terrifying for anyone trying to ‘game’ their way onto the first page, it’s a hallelujah moment for the rest of us. Dozens of sources are used; maps to determine if your site is relevant locally, on page data to understand if content is enjoyable, but overall, the most important are links.

These links between pages are measured in two main ways:

Domain Authority – how trusted and influential your site is, determined by the breadth, relevancy and quality of the people who link to you.

Page authority – similar to domain authority, but focused on the topics covered on a particular page.

The best way to describe context online is like a friend at the pub.

Let’s call him Guy. Guy is a builder. He has a strong knowledge of his trade, you know this because you’ve known each other for years. Guy has a lot of recommendations from a lot of important sources, who support what he says with relevant information. This is domain rank.

Guy now (slightly drunkenly) starts a conversation with you about homing pigeons. You trust Guy as a person, but he has never talked about this topic before, so you take it with a pinch of salt, until people who are influential in the field support the conversation. This is page rank.

Search engines are rapidly developing the way they form links between content, to create connections which are similar to the way we do offline, with the goal of making your experience more natural and tailored to your tastes.

Conversation

SEO is rapidly becoming more socially focused, both online, and off. When I talk about conversation and SEO, it’s so much more than an odd tweet or acquiring Facebook likes.

Conversation, at least in my eyes, is a culture. Conversation is about having the confidence to actively engage in discussion, not just about your site, but around it. Demonstrating that you’re so knowledgeable about your business that you can make conversation; and ultimately direct people to your website.

This is where SEO comes full circle. Make content, provide context to fuel conversation: your customers will ask questions, which helps to define your content. This is not about throwing links into every corner of the internet, or spamming social media until your followers run away screaming, it’s about proving credibility, and overwhelmingly showing that you’re respectable people to do business with.

Search engine optimisation is becoming less about finding out how search works, and more geared towards a great experience for your customers. For now, in 2014, search still treads a line between code-breaking and content-driven simplicity. Every day Google is taking steps to make using their service better for users, which ultimately means a more effective channel for lead generation — but only if you create the content, context and conversation that Google is clamouring for.

SEO - the three cs

Optimised content, rich context, and vibrant conversation should be your SEO goal for 2014… as for 2015… I’ll let you know when Google changes its algorithm… again.

If you have any questions about search and how it can benefit your business, I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

…0r if you fancy a chat I’m always available @YianniPelekanos on Twitter.