SEO and ROI: How Optimising for Google Isn’t Just Alphabet Soup

December 2nd, 2015 in Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation

This blog needs to come with a warning sign: “Danger! Quicksand!” I’ll be honest: I thought at first that this post would be simple. That was a rookie error: I don’t want to put you off, but it wound up just a little bit technical!

Building websites is all well and good – but once you have one, how do people find it? Ensuring that your website actually has visitors should be an integral part of the service provided to you by any web developer – what’s the point of having one if no one ever sees it? To avoid this dilemma, you need good Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.

Emily’s written before about the budget concerns of clients, and we understand them. If all the technical quicksand in this blog post has a plus side, though, it’s that it acts as proof, if you need it, that SEO is both essential and not for amateurs. Anyway, I’ll try to keep things straightforward – and I promise I’ll get to the return on investment eventually!

The key concept is relatively simple: SEO is not just about getting you onto page one of Google with brute force. It’s about trying to put some science behind our efforts, using as much data as we can possibly gather about your business and your audience, so that we optimise your website in as appropriate – and future-proof – a way as possible.

Let me explain a bit. The first thing we do is ask our customers to complete an SEO questionnaire to identify which keywords and phrases they would like Google to associate with their site – in other words, which search terms users will need to type into a search engine in order to find them.

Our job begins in refining that initial list: using our knowledge of how Google works – and how users search – we’ll amend it by removing key phrases which are too general, or ones too far removed from what the client actually does. We’ll then put the resulting list of keywords through a Google tool which will assess them in a variety of ways.

Most importantly, we want to discover which keywords and phrases similar to those we have already selected are the ones people are actually typing into their search engine.  Once we know this, we’ll have a list of the most appropriate keywords and phrases that people are using to searching for that business – not just the ones we think people might type to find our client, but the ones we know they are actually using.

For example, a business might consider ‘air conditioning’ to be their most important key phrase. But our assessment process might suggest that ‘air conditioning units’, ‘domestic air conditioning’, or ‘portable air conditioning’ might secure them a greater number of better qualified leads. Once we’ve consulted with the client, we’ll have a final selection of keywords and be able to identify where their site currently sits in the rankings for those phrases.

SEO can be a long game. Let’s say that for ‘portable air conditioning’ our client is ranked on the third page of Google (which receives on average just 2.42% of the click-throughs from any given search term – the first page receives around two thirds); we might decide that this key phrase could be a ‘quick win’ – in other words, we could, with proper SEO, get the client to pole position for this phrase in about twelve months.

Often good ‘quick wins’ are geographically specific phrases: ‘air conditioning birmingham’, for instance. The reasons for this are obvious – they pre-qualify your leads and reduce the number of potential competitors for that phrase. The good news is that we can identify exactly how many searches for a particular phrase there are per month; we can do this for a geographical phrase as easily as for a generic one. So we can find out the total searches in the UK, or just the West Midlands, or just Birmingham.

This ability gives us real power: we know that if a client achieves the number one position in Google, they will get an average click-through rate of traffic to your site of thirty per cent. So if there are a hundred searches for ‘air conditioning birmingham’ (there are in fact 90 – but 100 makes the maths easier!), then typically thirty of those would be directed to your website.

This last stage is the one at which we need to start making assumptions – and of course we do this in conjunction with our clients (the Image+ model is at every stage based around conversation). In other words, of those thirty people who just clicked through to your site, how many might place an order? Let’s be conservative and say 10% – the client would get three orders per month.

And, just like I promised, here’s the bit about return on investment: if the average margin of an order is £500, then getting to number one on Google for ‘air conditioning Birmingham’ just earned our client a return of £1,500 per month.

To reiterate, spending £500 a month on SEO could be returning £1000 per month – for just one keyword phrase! Not only can you really not afford to have a website without SEO – you can afford the help it takes to navigate all that technical quicksand I walked into in writing this post. So maybe we didn’t need that warning sign after all …

Why Affording An Agency Website Is Like Eating Cake

October 29th, 2015 in Apps, Bespoke, Design, Development, Marketing, Web apps cake Design development Web website

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I realized the other day that I’ve been spending a lot of time at networking events in recent weeks. This is not just because it’s a great way of scoring free cake (hardly a networking event in the country now does not supply afternoon tea as standard, I can only-slightly-smugly report). It’s because these sorts of meetings offer great ways to meet new clients, and understand how all businesses are thinking.

One of the constant themes of my conversations with people from SMEs is one of cost – or, maybe more accurately, how expensive many businesses imagine a professional website might be.

We’ve all met the small business owner who asked his friend to build a website, and wound up with one that was half-finished; we’ve all probably tried to build a website using one of these ‘out-of-the-box’ services or web builders, and found it just cannot do the job. The fact is, your business’s website is ever more important – and needs to be professionally tailored to the particulars of your business. That takes a proper design agency.

The people I talk with over all those cream teas, however, are always worried that they simply can’t afford an agency. You might expect me to try and convince them otherwise, and, I confess, I do – but it’s a fact we don’t want to hide that, sure, we’re more expensive than using a website builder’s templates or getting your mate to do it.

But you invest a lot in your business, and an investment repays over time. We believe that the little bit extra we cost – and it’s nowhere near as much as many people seem to fear! – is worth the investment, and will help your business be the best it can be.

Come to think of it, it’s all a bit like cake (yes, I have cake on the brain – why do you ask?): the better the ingredients, and the better the baker, the tastier the final product. If you’re trying to impress, you don’t use value flour, you don’t scrimp on the icing, and you don’t ask someone who’s never made a cake before to whip one up for you. Your business will look worse than it is – and be less accessible to customers than it should be – unless you build your website like you’d bake that special sponge.

At Image+, we build a website around your business: we’ll design it to look uniquely yours, build in the features you need and those customers expect, and write the content for you so that it’s all professional and compelling. You’ll have face-to-face meetings with us; we’ll be on the end of the phone whenever you have a question; and we’ll do it all for you – you won’t have to fiddle with a single button if you don’t want to!

Let’s say you spend about £3000 on your website with us – that’s a standard amount for a fully-featured website, tailored for you, though we’ve done cheaper – and let’s say it lasts three years before it needs a bit of a facelift. That’s just £80 per month, which is a great deal given that proper websites, as opposed to bad ones, are proven to generate leads, improve repeat business, and increase your brand’s reach. From this perspective, dealing with a tricky online website builder that churns out a basic cookie-cutter website and doesn’t offer any after-sales support seems like the bad investment, right?

So. Not only is an all-singing, all-dancing agency website cheaper than you think; it justifies whatever extra expenditure it may incur over the cheap-but-far-from-cheerful alternatives. So why not pop in and have a chat with us about what we can do for you? I’ll even bring cake.

Why Your Website Is Like Muhammad Ali

January 6th, 2014 in Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation google hummingbird marketing search

Muhammad Ali once famously professed that he floated like a hummingbird, but stung like a bee. Thanks to Google’s new algorithm, known as ‘Hummingbird’, your website can have a serious marketing sting in its tail, too – but only if you know how to exploit its new method of ranking sites.

Muhammad Ali Hummingbird

Of course, you don’t need to know. That’s what we’re here for. Google Hummingbird has been in use by the search engine since late August, although its launch was only announced on the internet giant’s fifteenth birth, on 27th September. Hummingbird is designed to render Google’s search process even more user-friendly, and ape the way in which humans think and find.

In order for computers to appear to think like humans, you need an awful lot of clever code and mathematics. Google is a past master at this sort thing. Their search engine has always been based on a particular algorithm – essentially a staged mathematical calculation – which helps it understand a search term and then deliver results which are relevant to the user.

In an interview with the Guardian at the start of the year, the company’s head of search said: “Ultimately I view Google as a way to augment your brain with the knowledge of the world.” As radical as that sounds, Hummingbird is part of Singhal’s journey to that goal.

Hummingbird is now a very significant part of the ‘recipe’ by which Google bakes the cake of your latest search: it focuses learning and understanding the particular meaning of words and how humans use them, in order to make search results more accurate. For instance, if you google for ‘iPad’, Hummingbird will not just match that particular word – it will know that an iPad is a type of tablet, and also deliver to you comparable products to you.

Likewise, Hummingbird is trying to be ahead of the curve on ‘voice search’. This is the relatively new means of using Google via mobile devices, simply by speaking your search. People talking are more like to say, “Where can I find an iPad for sale?” than they are to type “iPad for sale”. Hummingbird is about suiting Google to this future of search.

What does this mean for you? It means your website needs to understand your customers more than ever. In the past, web designers have sort to encode keywords into a website – ‘iPad’, for instance. Now, we’ll need to be smarter: your website will need to be clear that it is the right destination for users wanting to learn more about tablets, but also clear that people asking where they can buy iPads should also make a visit. That imposes a lot of demands on your designer, but it’s important that they meet them if you are now to retain or achieve a positive Google ranking.

There’s a lot of jargon about this: ‘semantic revelance’, ‘market segmentation’, ‘content marketing’. But what it amounts to is the idea that your website needs to be built and populated in such a way that it proves your authority in your area, and meets as clearly as possible the needs of your audience. To repeat ourselves, then: that’s what we’re here for.

Blogging: If You Build It, They Will Come

May 28th, 2013 in Marketing, Web blog blogging blogs tumblr yahoo

Last week’s news that Yahoo has bought the blogging tool Tumblr was greeted with a lot of commentary. These things matter to those of us working in the digital world for reasons it’s worth exploring. It’s also true that previous Yahoo takeovers, such as that of the photo-sharing service Flickr, have gone less well, and Tumblr users are already satirising the buy-out as only bloggers can. But in the main, all the coverage is the product of a simple truth: blogging is important.

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You’d expect us to say that, perhaps. Given you’re reading this on our own blog, the idea that we think the medium is useful may not come as much of a surprise. Still, it’s not just us. Everyone seems to have been converted to blogging, from the BBC to every armchair pundit in the country. The reason is simple: it’s a quick, easy way to publish content direct to a platform with a potentially huge audience. The best blogs build that audience over years, and construct a fanbase around useful and entertaining content.

The implications of this for your business are clear. You already know that your present and future customers are interested in the service you provide: were they not, they wouldn’t be your customers in the first place. That means they are probably also interested in you: who you are, but also the advice you can give.

Blogs are superb ways of converting an occasional customer into a long-term visitor of your website. They offer you a means of providing new and regular content to an audience of enthusiasts, giving them a reason to return to you, your website, your products and messages, on a much more regular basis.

In case you suddenly realise you’re being hoodwinked by this very post, there’s also something much less cynical to blogging. By promoting regular visits and an open conversation with customers, you can achieve better rates of feedback and more productive client relationships. That is, blogging doesn’t just capture an audience – it gives them to chance to speak back. Blogs don’t just sell your company; they improve it.

There are all kinds of blog platforms on the market. Some, like Tumblr itself, focus on allowing you to share content such as photography and videos; others, like WordPress or Blogger, emphasise the written word. Twitter is known as a ‘microblogging’ service; older services like LiveJournal mix blogging with a forum-style interface; and exciting new platforms are being developed all the time.

We’ll almost certainly return to the subject of blogging and how to do it well in future weeks – there’s a reason to keep returning! – but, in a nutshell, that’s why last week’s news was so full of reaction to Yahoo and Tumblr’s new relationship: because blogging tools give you the power to make new relationships, too.

Why Web Design Is Like Parallel Parking

May 7th, 2013 in Bespoke, Design, Marketing Branding Design marketing SEO

James and I were over in Belfast last week meeting with a client. Instead of boring you with a field report, though, I thought you’d find this video more interesting. Filmed in Belfast, but nothing to do with us, we only watched it for the first time when we got back home. Put the kettle on, grab a tea or coffee, and settle in: this one takes a while.

You have to feel sorry for the poor woman (and let’s not make a point about her gender, lads – we’re all above that). She’s obviously just found herself in that zone where nothing you do quite works. We’ve all been there, and nothing’s worse than being watched while you’re in that kind of mood. It only makes things worse!

But you also have to kind of admire her. Not for her parking skills, maybe, but certainly for her persistence and refusal just to give up.

We were in Belfast about a website – of course. We build these things all day every day, for all kinds of different clients selling all sorts of different products to all kinds of different people. The one thing all these sites have in common, though, is the need to keep working on them. Whether it’s an e-commerce site or a blogging site, a straight brochure design or something more bespoke, there’s a simple rule of thumb that works for every site we build: keeping going back, don’t give up.

Sites are like anything else. The first draft might not work. You might put it up and not get the traffic you like. It might work brilliantly for a year or two and then suddenly no longer suit your business. The trick is to understand that a website is always a work in progress.

The powerful thing about the internet is that it’s always changing, constantly updated with the latest information. That means that your website should be tinkered with almost daily – and that it’s worth persevering to ensure you get things just right.

Growing your business and your website together doesn’t just make sense – it’s easy once you get the persistence bug. Change your colour scheme with each marketing campaign; tweak your copy so that search engines direct users to your site more regularly; tweak the design so that it looks its best on every platform. Keep going back, don’t give up.

So, like the lady parking that car, you should keep at it. The Image+ team promise not to turn up at your offices and make a YouTube video about it – but over the years we’ve become adept at helping ease your website into the right space.

Statistics and Sales: Getting the Most out of your Website

April 19th, 2013 in Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Web analytics marketing SEO statistics

They say cliches only become so popular because they have a grain of truth. So while we like to avoid them in our marketing materials, there’s one old saying which we think has a lot to recommend it in marketing circles: practice makes perfect.

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I risk over-using a tired old saying because constantly monitoring your activity is the best way to ensure your return on investment is as high as it can possibly be. Like learning to play a musical instrument or improving your golf handicap, tailoring your website is an activity to undertake over time. Practice really does make perfect.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing our attention on the Sleepeezee website, paying detailed attention to the statistics of each and every one of the site’s pages. By going back again and again to these pages and these statistics, we’ve been able to increase their hits by twenty-seven per cent. On our own site, the same attention to detail has seen our ‘bounce rate’ reduce from 63% to just 4%.

But what does all this mean in plain English? The ‘bounce rate’ is simply the percentage of visitors who enter a website and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site. A high bounce rate is bad news: it means people simply aren’t lingering for long on your pages, reducing your chances of converting eyeballs into paying customers. The only way to rectify this problem is to look closely at your pages, and figure out what it is about them that is failing to capture your visitors.

So practice makes perfect. At Image+, we capture, monitor and interpret the usage statistics of our client’s websites, and use this process to improve bounce rates. We can identify which of a site’s pages have the worst bounce rates, and analyse their content to ensure that it is more engaging; once we’ve tweaked that content, we can again monitor the page’s statistics to see the changes – and repeat the steps as many times as it takes to improve and perfect the way in which you site communicates with your potential customers.

This process really is essential if you are to get the most out of the website in which you’ve invested so much time and money. If you hardly ever pick up that guitar, or never manage to get any time on the course, you’re not going to become the next Jimi Hendrix or Seve Ballesteros; likewise, if you don’t pay detailed attention to your website, and spend time tailoring your pages on the basis of active and passive user feedback, your website won’t work for you as it should.

Put it this way: purging your sales copy of cliches is a great way of helping to keep your visitors’ attention; but in doing so you’re proving one of the oldest ones in the book. Practice makes perfect.