Killer content will click with customers
Monday, November 23, 2015
Prior to the internet if a company wanted to order some printed collateral they would typically pick up a copy of the local Yellow Pages and thumb through the alphabetised list of printers in the area before randomly selecting one. It was as rudimentary as it gets.
Today companies looking for a local printer simply need to type the word ‘commercial printing company’ into their search engine of choice and it will instantly recognise the geographic location from which the query was lodged and throw up hundreds of different options locally thanks to incredibly sophisticated algorithms that underpin these engines.
In many ways it’s never been easier for printers to be found. But at the same time it’s never been more challenging. That’s because most web surfers typically never get beyond the first few results never mind the first page of results.
According to research conducted by online ad network Chitika in 2013 (which reinforced the findings of an earlier study conducted in 2010), the top listing in a Google ‘organic’ search (which excludes paid for listings) receives 33% of traffic with the second place listing accounting for 18% – traffic numbers dwindle the further away from the top spot you appear. Likewise, the research found page one results attract 92% of all traffic from the average search – traffic falls by 95% for listings on page two.
You can of course pay to put your company website at the top of the search rankings, but that can cost a lot of money and the jury is still out on how effective a tactic this is. The potentially more efficient – and certainly cheaper – way of bumping your website up the list of search results is to master the art of search engine optimisation, or ‘SEO’ as it’s more commonly referred to.
But what is SEO, how does it work and what’s the most efficient way of marketing your company online to ensure that you appear at the top of the search rankings?
To find out PrintWeek spoke to SEO practitioners who appeared in the first couple of pages of a Google search using the keywords ‘SEO experts’ (after all, what better group of people to speak to than those who practice what they preach?)
According to UK SEO experts Red Evolution, SEO works thus. “In search results Google displays links to pages it considers relevant and authoritative. Authority is mostly measured by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages. In simple terms your web pages have the potential to rank in Google so long as other web pages link to them.”
And the easiest way to make people link to your web pages is simply by providing great content, according to Red Evolution’s manging director Dave Robinson.
“Most people understand that on some level links to your website from other websites are important,” explains Robinson. “However, in general people are confused about how to get them. So how do you get other sites to link to yours? Content. To encourage other website owners to link to your website you need great, some would say remarkable, content. The same goes for getting attention on social media channels such as Twitter. Your content is what will get people talking about your business.”
After content the second most important thing on a website in terms of increasing your SEO effectiveness are tags – this includes ‘meta’ tags (the HTML elements used to provide information about a web page) and ‘title’ tags, which essentially tell people what a web page is about.
To optimise their efficiency these tags need to include ‘keywords’ that will allow potential customers to easily find your business. So for instance, if you’re a print-on-demand printer based in Preston, ‘print-on-demand’ and ‘Preston’ would be useful keywords to employ. It’s vitally important that you identify what your keywords should be before you start rolling them out, according to Martin Woods, an SEO consultant at SALT.agency.
“Carry out in-depth keyword research to really understand your audience,” advises Woods. “Not only will this help optimise a website it will also help you understand how people research your products and maybe highlight a few new products lines.”
Mark Walters, an SEO consultant at SEOmark, concurs with Woods that researching keywords before ‘optimising’ them is critical. “If you choose the wrong keywords, regardless of what you do for on-site and off-site SEO, you’ll get very few visitors and/or visitors who don’t convert into sales,” explains Walters.
Once you’d identified a list of relevant keywords it’s then important that you add them in the right place. “They’re less important than they used to be, but you should still include them in URLs, page titles, meta descriptions, header tags and image ‘alt’ tags,” says Walters.
Another area that website owners can’t afford to overlook is mobile search. At the beginning of the year Google – the largest search engine in the world, which handily provides a raft of free useful information about SEO on the site – started to rank desktop and mobile results differently and many business have not responded accordingly to these changes, says Ben Norman, chief executive and founder of Koozai.
“It is something that many businesses are falling foul of and failing to consider,” says Norman. “Many feel that only desktop visitors are of commercial use to them. This, the majority of the time, simply isn’t true. Many people purchase via mobile and at the very least use their mobile for research and discovery. People often look at conversions and see the majority coming from desktop and therefore ignore mobile, but by doing this they can be missing out on a huge amount of people at the start of the acquisition funnel that will not go on to purchase at a later date.”
Norman adds that business owners often tell him that mobile doesn’t matter to their business, only for him to then go on and show them just how much of their business depends on mobile. That’s why although it’s possible for businesses to implement their own SEO strategy it makes much more sense – particularly if you’re just starting out – to seek some external advice on optimising your web strategy because if you get it wrong it can have a devastating effect on a business.
But before you take the plunge and splash out on hiring an SEO company or consultant, Woods advises business owners to carefully research who they’re getting into bed with as hooking up with the wrong advisor can also have a detrimental impact.
“Stay well clear of cheap packages that offer SEO services,” he cautions. “These unfortunately end up being at best thin air or at worst use black hat tactics to trick Google for a short period of time before damaging your organic search visibility.”
Concentrate on content
The sage words of advice from the experts when it comes to finding someone to work with to help build your SEO strategy, are take your time, explore your options and appoint an SEO expert/consultant who doesn’t promise the earth and who recognises that when it comes to successful search engine optimisation the watchword (or should that be keyword) is ‘content, content, content’.
As Red Evolution’s Robinson says: “Stop looking for an SEO silver bullet – there isn’t one. Instead concentrate on creating fantastic content people need and the rankings will follow.”
SEO TOP TIPS
Dave Robinson managing director, Red Evolution
"SEO is a slog and like most things in life wherever there’s a requirement for hard work there are people willing to take your money with promises of shortcuts and guaranteed number-one ranking. When made such an offer, run a mile!"
Mark Walters SEO consultant, SEOmark
"Ensure your content is good enough to be on the first page. If your content isn’t better than the content already on the first page for a keyword then your site doesn’t deserve to rank there. Aim to be in the top three, not just the top 10. If your site isn’t ranked in the top three positions for a keyword then you’ll only get a small percentage (less than 10%) of the traffic from searches for that keyword."
Ben Norman chief executive and founder, Koozai
"Mobile usage is increasing with mobile accounting for more search volume than desktop in certain countries and this is only going to keep on increasing – at least for the next few years. To ensure you don’t miss out I would advise starting off with ‘Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test’ [Google it to find the link]. This will show if the site is indeed mobile-friendly or if not what needs to be done to ensure it is."
Suzanne Wall founding director, Alchemy UK
"Focus on pleasing your customers and all else will follow. Content that people like will get shared and this is one of the pillars of Google ranking. Avoid writing content for SEO purposes – write for your website users.”
Martin Woods SEO consultant, SALT.agency
"Optimising for search engines covers a wide range of activities that come under the flag of SEO. Ultimately this boils down to technical SEO, marketing and content. If you’re getting some help with search engine optimisation make sure that all these sectors are covered as whatever strategy you might need to apply, in the end it all comes down to carrying out these three activities for the majority of the business."