Thursday, 15 November 2018

SEO is not 20 years old!

https://twitter.com/chapmangamo

So I go to an SEO event in Cambridge, nothing new here. But this time I come away with a load of personal insights... I will bullet-list them:

  • I have done technical SEO for years and I was not aware.
  • It's OK to argue with myself because SEOers and web developers have issues.
  • What I am doing now is the new SEO: digital strategy and web performance
  • It's OK to ignore crawl tools' suggestions & analytics' gloom and doom alerts.
But then comes the controversial bit: SEO is 20 years old. Excuse me? I challenged this afterwards with the most senior speaker as I had already hogged too much time in the Q&A talking about my other 'shit'. Now I don't know the age of this lady, but I guess she is younger or perhaps she is like me, a wizened baby-faced person.

I don't go around broadcasting my age as the industry is very ageist, but let's say I started working when there was no internet (OK, there was but just in academic circles, not in business, not in the UK). To the risk of sounding like some aggrieved OAP, SEO became a thing in 2008 when I was learning it. Yes, I built my first site earlier in geocities, but back then SEO was not in the horizon. It was keyword-stuffing paradise while I took pain to provide decent content, which won me a Golden Web Award from a US outfit - award, well, it was a congratulatory email. I just wonder if it was the early days of this 'monster' organisation called Golden Webby Awards. Well thank you very much, I did 0 SEO on it, just wrote nice content.

The site was called London Cheapskate, offering free things in London. I started to get emails from people wanting me to advertise their events, wanting a link, you name it. I just left it and moved on while someone copied the idea and built a business on it. I was more interested in learning digital journalism and blogging. I went into blogging in 2005 and then slowly moved into copywriting, becoming an SEOer around 2008 when I built my first professional website by altering the html of a free template. This is an approach I still follow because it's all very well to use CMSes but I want to code a bit because when the CMS does not do what it's told, it's the code you need to tinker with. I got into SEO then in 2008 and started reading Search Engine Watch. Now, the speaker I questioned used that as a proof that SEO is 20 years old. Well no, it's 22 if you consider this bit from Wikipedia:

"Search Engine Watch was started by Danny Sullivan in 1996. In 1997, Sullivan sold it for an undisclosed amount to MecklerMedia (now WebMediaBrands). In 2005 the website and related Search Engine Strategiesconference series were sold to Incisive Media for $43 million. On November 30, 2006, Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch, after his resignation announcement on August 29, 2006.[2] Rebecca Lieb was named editor-in-chief the following month. In 2015, Incisive Media sold SES, Search Engine Watch, and ClickZ to Blenheim Chalcot.[3]Google's Matt Cutts has called Search Engine Watch "a must read." Yahoo's Tim Mayer has said that it is the "most authoritative source on search."


I am an earlish adopter and SEO did not hit me with his stick until 2008 when I was trying to optimize my own website. I got a huge client out it, an advertising agency in Ireland because I ranked for the words they were looking for. Fancy that, all I was doing was having links of articles I was writing on parenting topics. So I was a link builder as I also had links in publications I wrote for and blogs I blog-posted on. I did start blogging in 2005, so maybe for me SEO started then, but kind of made sense in 2008 because of my website.

The agency hired me as SEO copywriter and I was with them between 2009 - 2012. Then I started this SEO blog and wrote about SEO for agencies. I was writing blogs for them, anonymously. You will find my best series in this blog. I did post it here as soon as their site went down because it was and is still pretty good. I have used it a lot and got more clients from it. They lap it up because it explains simply what SEO is, what digital strategy is... It's my 'whitepaper' really, so I have done some updates and reposted it. Here is the first of four posts: Digital Strategy for SMEs, which is still a very popular post/s. It did not age much and it's still OK today because I have always been on the quality, white side, not the dark side of SEO.

So how old is SEO really? It depends, borrowing an answer from last night. Are we talking technical SEO, content-driven SEO, strategic SEO? What SEO are we talking about? However you look at it, SEO is not 20 years old. SEO is also not monochrome: it's white, grey and black, depending on your ethics as a marketer. So if I were doing a talk on SEO, I would be wearing white gloves (I don't own a white hat). The talk would be called Pure SEO, whiter than snow.

MORAL OF THE STORY: it's funny when people younger than you tell you the history of something you lived through. SHOWING MY AGE THERE BUT honestly, are you trying to teach me to suck eggs? Now I get my white gloves and I am out.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Long time, no SEO

Hello there,
I have not been diligent updating this blog as I am looking after other people's SEO most of the time. I have now a bit of time and would like to publish a short message. I know this blog is still visited and if you are worried about the gap in posting, don't because many of the principles I have explained are still relevant. Technical SEO might have moved on but content-based SEO still holds the same principle and content is still KING. 

The picture below really reflects my thinking. Look after all these elements and you are away... The main thing that has changed is that you now need to have a secure protocol, namely the https - get the info from the horse's mouth.



I am now looking after this website (doing a lot of news writing to keep it fresh) and setting up a digital strategy so it's SEO all the way and of course social media integration. On the home front I have bought the protocol for my own website as the 'not secure' message was bugging me. It's very hard to do SEO in a saturated market.

My thinking has changed as I now have an holistic view of it all. The website is your shop front but you need to get the punters in, which is not impossible through the social media channels, but it's closing the deal that is getting harder. I am trying to use video more but of course I have a small budget so it's down to people filming events for me, often coworkers as we cannot hire a film company. On the homefront I have tried shooting a video of myself but did not like it, I have to grow confidence in talking to the camera. I am a better writer so I will still focus on that and using good images. Creative Commons stock is quite good now and if it is not yielding the goods, I take my own photos.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Digital Strategy for SMEs (4): Social Media - your launch pad for interactive engagement

The famous snapshot of the social media universe
by Brian Solis & JESS3 - Creative Commons

Promoting your business with social media - whether it’s an article, news about an award or a prestigious contract, a blog post, a photo, a video showcasing your product or eye-catching infographics - is a crucial part of digital marketing. Think of it as a cost-effective way to raise awareness of your brand, get more traffic to your website and foster customers' loyalty, which all lead to increased sales. But which social media platform should you invest your time and resources in?

Just take a look at the colourful social media prism above, but don’t get cross-eyed or panicky about it. There is a multitude of names – some of which might have been replaced by newer platforms - the digital pace is relentless. For all this mind-boggling variety, there are six main social media platforms you need to get to grips with first: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. The rest is only relevant for particular audiences, for instance snapchat is the platform to target younger generations. You also need to make decisions depending if you are B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer)… Facebook is not used that much for B2B marketing. The stats mentioned below have been taken from the channels' corporate websites.

Nearly everybody knows Facebook, which was launched in 2004 as a network for recreational use. It has now been embraced by B2C businesses trying to ignite and boost engagements with their customers. With 1.28 billion daily users, you are bound to find your customers and engage them with samples, competitions, interactive discussions with prizes and even raise awareness of worthy causes you are supporting. Some extra stats (2017):
  • 1.94 billion monthly active users
  • Approximately 85.8% of daily active users are outside US and Canada.

How to use it
  • Create a Business Page (if required)
  • Promote events
  • Boost posts with advertising
  • Promote sales, promotions and offers
  • Get feedback
  • Ask questions 


Twitter
It has been around since 2007, has 313 million monthly active users and is available in over 35 languages. It’s defined as a micro-blogging platform because of its text restriction (up to 140 characters). You can easily set up a free account and tweet your content - links, photos, views, even ask a question - and follow online influencers, celebrities and reporters – news tend to break on LinkedIn first. Some extra stats (2016):
  • 82% of active users are on mobile
  • 79% of accounts are outside the U.S.

How to use it
  • Create a Twitter profile
  • Follow influencers, celebrities and media personalities
  • Build up your following by offering/retweeting links to good content
  • Broadcast blog links


Boasting over 467 million members, LinkedIn is the main platform of international professionals. It has been around since 2003 and is available in 24 languages. This is the network for finding professionals, recruiting staff and discussing industry topics and trends. It is perfect for the promotion of B2B products and services. Members are sharing insights and knowledge with status updates and in groups. The premium account offers benefits for audience segmentation and email marketing campaigns. Some extra stats (2017):
  • In over 200 countries
  • 67% of LinkedIn members are located outside the U.S.
  • Over 40 million students and college graduates
  • Over 10 million firms have Company Pages

How to use it
  • Create a company profile
  • Join groups and become involved in discussions in groups
  • Follow influencers and get involved in their updates
  • Connect with employers and clients
  • Ask/answer questions or give/ask for recommendations
  • Ask for introductions


YouTube 
It's the second largest search engine after Google. Launched in 2005, it currently boasts over 1 billion unique users each month. Online videos have moved from entertainment to education, including “How To” videos. It is used by media agencies to showcase TV adverts - a one-off, 30-second TV ad does not provide the same viral potential.
Some extra stats (2017):
  • Hundreds of millions of hours of videos watched every day
  • Localised in 88 countries
  • 76 different languages, covering 95% of the world’s internet population

How to use it
  • Create a series of videos 
  • Upload your videos and embed them on your website
  • Use keywords to categorise videos and place links on your website
  • Broadcast your videos through other social media channels


Last but not least, Pinterest and Instagram, two photo-sharing platforms that allow you to share visual content. They are fast-growing platforms launched in 2010, with Pinterest prevailing at first and now being challenged by mobile app Instagram.
Pinterest stats (2017):
  • Over 175 million users worldwide
  • 50% outside the US
  • 80% on mobile
Instagram stats (2017):
  • 600 million monthly active users
  • 400 million daily active users

How to use Pinterest
  • Gather photos, grouped in theme boards
  • Re-pin other users’ photos (the equivalent of a retweet)
  • Launch a competition and invite users to post their best photos

How to use Instagram
  • Post photos from your phone. You can edit photos in the app
  • There is a workaround trick to use Instagram on computers but it's not good enough; most users share photos from their phones
  • You can have competitions to build your audience
  • Bear in mind that it's a channel popular with celebrities and bloggers 

Once you have your social media accounts up and running, place a link on your website or a widget so visitors can follow your activity – this is a really basic thing to do, but it’s amazing how many businesses still don’t promote their social media presence on their website. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Digital Strategy for SMEs (3): Search Engine Optimization for SMEs

Pic: Tumisu

SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your website in search engines. Put it simply, you need to optimise to capitalise. But how?
  • High-ranking keywords: the step 1 of the first article of this series, 7 lucky steps to digital domination
  • Creating quality content: as explained in the second article of this series
  • Backlinks: trustworthy, quality websites willing to link to your website and/or guest posts in relevant popular blogs
  • Authority: gained through a consistent social media presence that informs while solving real problems.
Each of these practices breaks down in a variety of tasks. For instance, phrasal keywords can be deployed in visible copy (your website’s blurb and blog posts, page titles, picture captions…) and the invisible back end of your website (where the code is). 

A top ranking will make your website stand out from competitors and will address surfer’s fatigue. Internet users have a short attention span, so if your website is listed on page 1 of a search, it’s bound to be seen by a greater number of people. Dedicated surfers might make it to page three or four, but research shows that 91% (used to be 87% back in 2012) of web users do not venture past page one.

So far so good, except that the SEO landscape keeps changing as search engines make changes to their algorithms. If you want to see the latest updates, ravaging their way through dodgy websites, read this article on panda, penguin and hummingbird - and meet the possum, the new animal in the SEO ZOO.

But it’s not only about words, visual optimization still works, so it’s important to use good keywords in captions and post your photos on social media platforms - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest allow you to share visual content with millions of users. Video and podcasts are a great too, although they can be costly as you might need to hire a professional cameraman or voiceover artist.

Once you get it right, you can’t rest on your laurels, though. You should constantly monitor digital trends and update your website and blog with fresh content. If it’s all too much for you and you’d rather leave it to the professionals, you can contact me (cheeky plug!). If I can’t help you, I can recommend someone who can.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The SEO zoo...

This morning I read an article on SEW and there is a new animal in town... not really new as it's nearly one year old. Meet the possum, the update that deals with local search.

Pic: Max Pixel
I have not done much local SEO recently, so this animal sneaked into the zoo without me noticing. This cute critter is responsible for relevance and quality. Mind your fingers!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Digital Marketing for SMEs (2): Creative content to capture customers

Pic: Nick Youngson

Customer engagement is key in digital marketing. Leads are potential customers who need some good, old-fashioned nurturing before they buy your product or service. It is nothing new, people need to trust the seller or sample the offer before they open their wallet, not unlike the sales patter of a shop assistant or the free tastings you get at the farmer’s market.

The first step is to set up a website. But how do you persuade people to visit, foster their trust and convince them to buy? That’s where content marketing comes in… Here are a few suggestions on how to attract visitors and transform them into paying, repeat customers:
  • Blogging is perfect to disseminate up-to-date information on your business. You can tell your customers about new products, awards you won and pass on industry news that is relevant to them.
  • Blogger outreach is offering samples to influential bloggers in exchange for reviews and links.
  • Curated content are articles written by experts. You are sharing links you have specially selected to inform your visitors.
  • Videos are a great introduction to your company. Product tutorials are very powerful because they show how your product or service can be used. This is very important for new technology.
  • Podcasts are recordings that can be played over and over again. They are easier to produce than a video and work best as a series rather than a one-off.
  • Webinars are online workshops that showcase your product or service; they are more interactive than videos/podcasts and can be used to grow your email lists.
  • Slideshow presentations are basically PowerPoint files uploaded to your website or social media channels.
  • Infographics are a colourful snapshot of your business. They can include graphs, pie charts and other attractive ways to make data eye catching - especially useful for B2B companies.
  • E-books are the best way to share long-form content. They can include live links, too.
  • White Papers are relevant to companies that need to educate their customers about their products and services.
  • Free reports are popular with companies selling services. For instance, if you are into recruiting, a salary survey will go down well with job applicants and HR departments.
  • Reviews are essential for retail websites – think Amazon and John Lewis.
  • Apps are fun. You can have a free app, a paid app, a freemium app (free with paid extras). They are essential for mobile marketing.
  • E-newsletters are the cornerstone of email marketing. They inform, entertain and show how capable you are.
  • Last but not least, you need good photos – a high number of internet searches focuses on images only.

The next step is to use relevant social media platforms – your creative content can be tweeted, shared on LinkedIn or posted on Facebook – if your audience is on those channels. And if you have a case study or a story with plenty of human interest, you can get in touch with traditional media to get exposure in newspapers and periodicals – again, if that’s where your audience is. The scattergun approach wastes time, money and resources; put your strategic hat (or hire one) and find out where your customers are before you fire your first shot.

PS: the first article in the series (digital strategy) is here.