Wednesday, 11 January 2017

SEO that makes sense – no witches’/wizards' hats required & white gloves at all times

Pic: Bifetito

I have been too busy practising SEO to write about it. SEO is not dead, it has evolved. I have kept up-to-date through SEW and Social Media Examiner plus Econsultancy for a UK angle. I have also deployed SEO for my personal branding. I am not a cold caller and use my website and social media channels to secure work as a consultant or as a contractor. 

In the past four years or so, I have been working exclusively for SMEs and non-profit organisations so the main challenge has been to scale down the multi-national marketing model and do everything on a shoestring budget. As I read the last SEO articles of 2016, here are a few reflections and insights from my experience so far.

95% Organic

My SEO approach has been mostly organic with a small, outsourced PPC sideline. I work for small organisations and PPC has been deployed only for temporary campaigns as it would be too costly for my clients in the long term. So from my ‘content is king’ castle, I have been using Google Analytics to monitor Serps (search engine research pages). 

As I do not do management speak because it only confuses/irritates my clients, this is the general thinking behind my SEO strategy, which is then personalised to suit the customers' profile and scope of the organisation. I do not do One Size Fits All SEO because firms come in different shapes and sizes.

SEO strategy for SMEs

This is what strategy boils down to: 
  • On page SEO: pages should be well written with keywords inserted naturally in titles, flowing paragraphs, picture captions and metadata. There are a lot of articles about nefarious Google updates, but here are your warnings in a nutshell:

Pic: Scrumshus
      • Beware of lazy Pandas – there is no excuse to have low-quality content or web copy that is updated once a year or less often. 
      • Beware of slippery Penguins - links to inferior websites are now toxic, they do not just devalue a website, they contaminate it. In the worst case scenario, a full audit is required. 
      Pic: Andrew Shiva
    • Off page SEO: websites should only have quality links (i.e. to respectable sites, blogs, etc - see Penguin above). It's also worth adopting a realistic social media schedule to keep all channels ticking. Do not be tempted to schedule all the tweets, though… 

    Digital goals

    I will keep it short and sweet:
    • Authority – target influencers to review or test your product/service, consider blogger outreach
    • Value – upgrade your content by including popular topics (queries from your customers, searches for relevant products, customers’ forums, etc)
    • User experience – monitor your website for broken links, ease the navigation by diminishing the number of tabs on the home page 
    • Speed (you only need an image resolution of 72dpi for a website, do not use photos straight from the digital camera because they will slow down page upload)
    • Present relevant content - clear, concise and to the point, no waffling or going off tangents, please!
    • Ranking – invest more time and manpower in quality content: photos, articles, infographics, videos
    • Freshness – Monitor your online presence and refresh your website at regular intervals.

    Optimise to capitalise

    SEO menu extras:
    • Offer video transcripts/subtitles – many people prefer to read subtitles or the 
    • transcript as they cannot play a noisy video in an open-plan office. Do host your videos on your website, not just YouTube.
    • Create content that is shareable – if appropriate use humour and always have something catchy at hand.
    • Address mobile marketing – micro-moments are the new search marketing if your customers are browsing your products and services on a smartphone.

    SEO & social

    A few easy peasy tactics you can adopt:
    • Build links with your social media channels, they are of high value to search engines… they might feel like a chore but they offer increased visibility.
    • Quality of followers is key, it’s not about size any more. Fake likes will damage your reputation, so will clickbait articles.
    • Use keywords and hashtags. 
    • Local SEO is not to be sniffed at, especially if you offer a service to customers from your premises.
    • Use keywords to drive content creation – what are your people talking about on social? Can you offer an article or a solution to a problem, current issue?
    • Use slack periods to work on your editorial calendar. It’s all about seasons, anniversaries, fashion trends, buzzwords. Bear in mind your buyer’s cycle. For instance, gym memberships are often sold in December and January, while in the B2B universe January is the month for training.
    Pic: Charlesjsharp
    P.S. A little bird told me... the hummingbird update is not to be underestimated, it might not carry a ranking penalty but you have to bear it in mind because it's all about relevance. Find out what your customers' digital conversations are about and make your content relevant to them. If you want to find out more about this less talked-about animal, read this useful article.