What is Organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
According to Wikipedia SEO is is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine‘s unpaid results. Simplistically put, it’s all about getting to the top of Google’s Search results on Page 1 above the competition essentially creating ‘free advertising’ for your website to generate website traffic that will hopefully lead to a conversion.
What is PPC (Per Per Click)?
PPC stands for Pay Per Click and is a form of internet marketing that allows advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked (Cost Per Click). Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically. Typically, for a new business or site Adwords Pay Per Click Advertising can be a fantastic way to give your site a boost and drive some traffic to your site. The downside with PPC is that it can become very costly particularly in competitive industries therefore to attempt maintain a long-term presence through Adwords can require some serious funds.
Organic SEO versus Adwords PPC
Both SEO and PPC have their advantages and disadvantages. My advice to clients has always been that the two should have a indirect correlation relationship. In other words as Organic SEO and rankings improve and increase the reliance, investment and budget for PPC can reduce. With that said a well optimised website can actually reduce an ads Cost Per Click (CPC) due to the fact Google believe the site to be of good quality with a good landing page experience so rewarding your ad with a reduced CPC.
Depending on which study you have read (and there a lot out there) organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than paid search results!
In the past Organic SEO versus PPC could have been likened to Advertorial vs Editorial with the user understanding one has been paid for and the other has been “earned”. However, in 2016 Google decided to introduce the 4th Ad and kill the right hand side ads. Now I can only talk from my personal experience particularly managing so many clients SEO and PPC. For one client who we ensure is number 1 in PPC we actually saw an uplift in conversions since the introduction of the 4th Ad. Competition on a national scale can be fierce, however this is where Local SEO can be integrated into the overall digital strategy as an online acquisition method to gain more website visits.
Do I need to worry about Google Updates?
Over the last few years in particular I tend to get asked “Are you worried about the future Google Updates?” and my response is pretty consistent with the reply: “No, I’m not”. The reason for this response is that Google is only trying to achieve what it set out to do from day one which is to deliver users with the most relevant and quality content related to their search.
I believe there really are no shortcuts to a long-term, future-proof SEO strategy. It does take a consistent and concerted effort to ensure your business/brand is rewarded with high rankings. Deceptive black hat techniques have been proven to be a risky game and see some companies websites fall off the searches all together. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I’ve never optimised a website to page 1 in a few weeks, typically it will take 6 to 12 months usually requiring a collaborative relationship and investment from the client.
For those who are interested I thought it would be worthwhile going over the Google Updates and may give you some tips for improvements 🙂
The Panda update was first launched on February 23rd 2011 and was a pretty big deal. The updates primary concern is centred around on-site quality. Therefore, having a site that has lots of pages that are thin on content are a bad idea since Panda. Below are some tips to avoid your site having it’s ass kicked by Panda.
How to recover from Panda?
- Remove duplicate content – particularly if large chunks of text have been copy and pasted on multiple pages
- Reduce number of pages that are thin on content – ideally aim to have over 400 words per page for Google to view the page as a quality page.
- If you’re guilty of Plagiarism hold your hand up and replace it with original content asap – do not replace just a few words, Google can tell.
- Check Keyword / Search Term Usage – The optimal is 4%. If you’re found guilty of keyword stuffing, you run the risk of Panda perceiving your site as spammy and poor quality resulting in poor rankings.
The penguin update was first rolled out on the 24th April 2012 and was focussed on sites that had an unnatural link profile. In other sites that have deceptively created an impressive amount of backlinks in order to fool Google into giving them higher rankings. Out of all the updates this is by far the one that has landed work my way. Typically businesses that employed an agency to look after their SEO and had an excessive amount of poor quality links to their site.
Tips for recovering from a Penguin Hit
- Check links to your site using Google Search Console
- Consider using the Disavow Tool (advanced feature, use with caution)
- Consider using a third party link tool such as LinkResearchTools
THE HUMMINGBIRD UPDATE
Rolled out in August 2013, Hummingbird as mentioned earlier is arguably one of the more significant updates and was a major re-write of the core algorithm powering changes to Semantic SEO and the Knowledge Graph. One of my favourite Webinar on the subject is by Gianluca Fiorelli and his Mozinar on Semantic SEO for the People which you can watch here: Semantic-seo-for-the-people (or click here for the powerpoint slides)
Tips for Improving Rankings and Benefitting from Hummingbird
1) Integrate Conversational Queries into your SEO / Content Strategy – Google likes content that answers users questions i.e How can I improve my website’s SEO in Southampton?
2) Move away from keywords and towards topic hubs/areas – Google trusts brands and sites that are authoritative in nature. If Google perceives your site to be an authority within a particular industry or subject matter it is likely you could rank for a multitude of keyword variations i.e Web Design Southampton, Web Designer Southampton, Web developer in Southampton. If I have 10 pages and all I did was bang on about Web Designer Southampton and stuffed each page with too many reputations of web designer southampton it is quite obvious to Google of my intentions and that I was trying to spam the search term. An area such as Web Design would include aspects such as SEO, UX Design, Social Media, Content Management Systems etc.
3) Strive for Co-citation and Co-occurence
This sounds pretty complex but simplistically put it’s about getting your brand / business name out there. If enough people / sites are shouting about your name (liking, tweeting, @ mentioning, tagging, commenting, reviewing etc) it’s hard for Google to ignore this social proof. It’s important that brand / business name consistency is maintained across the web. Facebook/Google Plus/LinkedIN personalised URLs, @ handle on twitter etc.
How to avoid Google Pigeon crapping on your site?
- Create a Google My Business Page
- Check and ensure that your NAP details (Name, Address, Phone Number) are consistent on and off your site.
- Place your business on quality local directory sites (Bing, Yelp etc)
- Ensure that your site has local context and content
For more information on influencing Local SEO rankings, please read this article by Search Engine Land:
The web has unquestionably gone mobile and Google wants to make sure that sites are meeting the demands of their users. I’ve seen the searches from mobile in my clients Google Analytics increase quite significantly year on year and have been developing Mobile Responsive Websites since 2012. Therefore, the fact MobileGeddon didn’t roll out until 22nd April 2015 wasn’t really a surprise to many let alone responsible web developers and digital marketers.
To ensure your website is mobile friendly you can go and use Google’s convenient tools:
RankBrain as I understand is part of the Hummingbird update, however has become the 3rd biggest ranking factor out of the 200 odd within Google’s Algorithm. It’s all about refining searches and offering higher quality results based on stuff like machine learning and relevance. Therefore, if you make it easier for a search engine to understand your content by creating strong, quality, contextual content to users searches your chances of the search engine favouring your site increase.
How can I enhance my website by thinking like RankBrain?
Think about your users, their searches, their language, search terms to promote a better user experience with a site that is structured clearly and promotes a positive user journey.
Simple example I always give is when I go to a client’s About Us page.
And in the h1 we have ‘About Us’
Then I ask … Who is Us? What does Us do? Why should I contact Us? Where are Us?
Then all of a sudden the penny drops and the client starts thinking about creating context and making it easy for a search engine to understand their site but also re-enforce to the user who you are, what you are, what you do, why they should call, where you are etc etc.
For further reading on RankBrain I would recommend Danny Sullivan’s article here: http://searchengineland.com/faq-all-about-the-new-google-rankbrain-algorithm-234440