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SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Kev camera crop for blogDefining how to use SEO with reference to the procedure regarding a company called Mainston House.
Mainston House is a company offering Bed and Breakfast facilities in Northern Northumberland which is situated on the coast of North East England. The contact website used by the company is a five page mostly static presentation; the remaining four pages apart from the home page are dead links. The initial front page comprises a set piece of three photographs in an angular arrangement depicting the main building, one of scenery and the other of wildlife. Above this is the contact telephone number and below this is a textual presentation describing the location, amenities and sundry sightseeing opportunities. The contact number is again repeated immediately below together with an email address and a link to the Seafield Ocean Club. When this link is followed it continues to a parent company that collects emails for the purpose of sending a prospective subscriber a newsletter regarding holiday and booking opportunities in various other Bed and Breakfasts under its auspices.

As it stands, the website achieves its basic operational requirement. It gives a depiction of what it has to offer, a means of contact and its location. Our objective is to give the website and therefore the company greater visibility online. This greater visibility will increase yearly revenue due to increased visitor traffic to the website resulting in more bookings. After the achievement of greater site visibility the other objective would be to create a site that is also more user-friendly where customers can choose room sizes and facilities with comparisons in pricing and room aspect. An easily accessible booking form should be provided with the option to pay online 24 hours per day, or by supplying their credit card details by phone.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) will be initially utilised by changing the wording in the website’s URL address. URL means ‘uniform resource locator’ and is important for search engine location by prospective customers as this will direct customers to the keyword that they type into a search engine and it is more effective when the customer is searching for a specific topic. ‘Mainston House’ alone is too vague a keyword in a website address unless the customer has used this Bed and Breakfast before. Therefore we suggest the new website address be changed to ‘www.bedandbreakfast-mainstonhouse.com’ because the customer will likely type in the term ‘bed and breakfast’ when searching for this service and if they search for this term wishing to book it in Northumberland then Mainston House will appear in the organic results. The home page of the website will contain a new textual description of the services offered, descriptions of the facilities, local attractions and road and rail directions to the establishment itself. The new text would be optimised for higher search engine visibility by including the words ‘bed’ and ‘breakfast’ in the text not occurring more than 7% within the entire text. To increase this value the use of LSI keywords, meaning ‘latent semantic indexing’, will be employed. This is when the percentage of keywords used have reached their maximum therefore to increase them then words like sleep, meals, stay, small hotel etc. are used to suggest similar terms when customers are searching for keywords similar to bed and breakfast on a search engine.

Within the creation of the website all photographs will be given titles known as ‘meta tags’ and these titles will include the relevant keywords such as bed and breakfast, room, 1-2 bed etc.. This is another method to increase the keyword ratio of a site without it occurring in only the textual description section of the website. The number of pages on the website should ideally not be over five pages as all relevant information should be accessible to the customer above the fold. The first page should be the home page, secondly a room search page, a booking page and then a comments and feedback page, within this page could be included the company’s terms and conditions and also a disclaimer. Page quantity is useful for a website’s content ratio. Search engines penalise websites that contain relatively small ratios of content and also their keyword relevancy. Each page would also be keyword optimised using the methods described above. Above the page titles and below the title of the website would be situated the contact telephone number and email address. Toward the bottom of the page should be visible logos depicting various social media access buttons such as Facebook, Twitter and a blogging platform of choice. The creation of a company Facebook page will be used to increase awareness of the company and will invite customers to view previous customers’ reviews together with regularly updated posts on Twitter and the new Blog page which will all gain valuable backlinks to the company website further increasing search engine ranking and visibility. The contact number of the company should also be repeated below the fold when scrolling to the bottom of the website though this is merely pertinent for informational accessibility and not directly linked to SEO.

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How To Use Infographics Effectively

Infographics and SEO

 (author: Frank Loopmans, 2014)

Good Infographics: still stand the test of time 

Bad Infographics: Not Welcome Any Longer

Infographics[1]: conveying a data or fact laden narrative using static visual cues. These cues are often but not limited to: graphics, charts, bar lines, diagrams, illustrations, timelines, comic-like figures and even display banners can be an infographic etc.  They are great for communicating ‘facts in a nutshell’ that otherwise would take up 15 minutes of reading.

When infographics became the ‘hot thing’ in the digital landscape soon quality was traded in for quantity. Everyone was creating infographics, including a lot of ‘would-be designers’ who did not have the faintest understanding of design and thought of it as a viable strategy to generate traffic. First of all, it is not a strategy but a tactic, a tool to use.[3] Secondly, it is a craft. Just like marketing managers went to university to learn about business, so did graphic designers (or visual communicators as they are named today) to learn about colour, tone, contours or typography.  Content farms mushroomed and were churning them out ignorant of real and crucial information like goals and objectives. TIP: quality infographics can create loyal communities.

Who are you designing for and what is its purpose? Who is the target audience? What is your company culture? The effectiveness of infographics in digital marketing demands that these important questions are answered as they ultimately decide your infographic design and message. Would you create a cartoon-like infographic for financial institutions? Would you provide a hip audience with dull looking pie charts?  Casting a wide net and hoping to catch a shoal of customers is plain bad tactics. Content and visuals should relate to the brand, foster its equity and add value. Infographics are brilliant widgets of info to have in the digital toolbox. When executed to the highest standard they lend themselves to be marketed with success especially if one knows how to play the social media tools.

Conception, planning and research are still founding blocks of every successful project.

A couple of years ago digital marketers started to question infographics’ usability to reach set targets. The main reason put forth boiled down to the fact that they were not adequate to increase quality link building. Others maintained just the opposite. The truth? Well, for starters, search engines cannot read ‘infographics’ because they are basically a JPEG and every information written on them cannot be indexed as they form part of the graphic. Secondly, poor quality backlinks hampered ranking especially since Hummingbird chirped about it from every tree around. Some even maintain that today SEO punishes sites with infographics.

Matt Cutts affirmed that good infographics with relevant content and accurate facts still rank positively as long as its aim is not fishing for links[2].

Even though webgraphics (sort of interactive infographics) are a new modus operandi of presenting facts, I would not go as far as Rishon Roberts[4] who argues favourably to thread that way. ‘Her’ webgraphics are clever authoring tricks still laden with text.

No, then I think that video or motion infographics are something else altogether. But, to create those effectively and then present them efficiently requires an energetic team and money. In essence these little films, packed with graphics and data, are creative visuals that hammer the message home. And isn’t that what it is all about? Selling your brand, making the people want to consume your product.  Coca Cola did a great one even though it is aimed at business leaders and the media. That’s why it is quite long, but if you dissect the video then one cannot but be ‘enlightened’ by the crucial information  Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice-President, Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company disperses for free. It is all about content marketing nowadays. Telling stories, creating compelling narratives, entertaining visuals, facts. These constituents are the makeup of a good infographic. Widgets of information, that in the very near future, will be increasingly told through short snappy videos and motion infographics.

 

  Good and Bad Infographics Examples

 

Good example of a bad infographic[5] can be seen in its compressed format below.

Good video infographic[6] made by Coca Cola for its Liquid Content campaign.

EOY[7] produced an infographic that is factual and concise. The essence of its message is instantaneously grasped.  However, scrolling down to take in all the information is frowned upon. Carve it up or be more creative in designing the visual.

 

Tips on Infographics: Key Points To Take Home

 

  • Provide facts that are true
  • Make your infographic stand out, design well, use experts
  • Scrolling down infographics are a NO NO
  • Use little ‘chunks’ and post frequently (social media, multi-channel marketing)
  • Forget about creating links. If this is your purpose than you’re using the wrong tactic
  • If using legends ensure they correspond to all factual data. Too many omit explaining certain data (what are the numbers in grey conveying? Ie. Dublin 122, Cork 23?)[8]

 

Do you think that visual info will boom? Any suggestions or comments are welcomed.

 

[1] For lots of infographics and talk about it check out the two links below. See how some are packed with text and miss its punch while others are badly designed. Short, relevant to the brand or topic, factual and engaging makes for good ones. Park, L., (2011) ‘ Infographics: The Good, The Bad, and The Fluffy’. Available at: http://scattergather.razorfish.com/1013/2011/09/14/infographics-the-good-the-bad-and-the-fluffy/ [Accessed 20 March 2014]. Available at: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/39758409180406090/

[2](Cutts, M., (2012) ‘Google’s Matt Cutts Talks Infographics, Differentiation & More SEO Topics.’ Available at:http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2190942/Googles-Matt-Cutts-Talks-Infographics-Differentiation-More-SEO-Topics [Accessed 5 february 2014].

[3] Briggs, J., (2013) ‘Minimize The Impact of Infographic Devaluation.’ Available at: http://justinbriggs.org/minimize-the-impact-of-infographic-devaluation [Accessed 5 Febraury 2014].

[4] Roberts, R., (20130 ‘Infographics Are Dead: Why Your Content Team Should Stop Producing Them’. Available at: http://spinnakr.com/blog/ideas/2013/10/infographics-are-dea-why-your-content-team-should-stop-producing-them/ [Accessed 5 february 2014].

[5] Clifford, C., (2014) ‘Women Dominate Every Social Media Network – Except One (Infographic)’. Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/dbimages/article/1393972619-women-dominate-every-social-media-network-except-one-infographic.jpg [Accessed 5 February 2014].

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiwIq-8GWA8

[7] Available at: http://www.eoy.co.za/posts/the-state-of-entrepreneurship-in-south-africa-654/eoy-infographic/ [Accessed 10 February 2014].

[8] http://www.eoy.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/EOY-Entrepreneurship-Barometer-Infographic1.jpg

The Importance and Impact of SEO

The Importance and Impact of SEO

(author: Frank Loopmans, 2014)

IS SEO DEAD? WHY IS SEO IMPORTANT?

 

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is nothing but making your website look sexy to search engines so that your site ranks high on the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).

Bots or crawlers index a site and store this info into a database. A search query – “where do I find handmade wooden toys in Dublin?” trawls through its stored info to provide the best answer. To serve the searcher with the best possible answer results are based on relevancy and importance. Relevancy is not just finding web pages, PDFs or pictures with the right words or description. It is a more complex enterprise than that. Importance is greatly equivalent with popularity. Recent updates – Hummingbird – mean that Google’s SEO ranking embraces a set number of factors that determine which site or page will appear on top. Their carefully crafted algorithms comprise hundreds of components (more than 200 as of today!) called ‘ranking factors’. How those ranking factors determine one’s website or landing page’s ranking on SERP (visibility) is what SEO is all about. A lot of SEO marketers, consultants or companies seemingly disagree about what SEO actually is[1].

My definition is simple. SEO is a strategy to enhance the distribution or selling of products or services on-line to a specific target audience, using an array of tactics such as: paid search, banner ads, quality content, engaging information, keyword usage and increasingly employing the tools of social media to create equity and community credo[2].

SEO: TO DO LIST[3]

  • Building brand awareness in ‘Search Engine Universe as of 2014’ is crucial. However, spending lavishly on well-crafted logos, graphics, keywords or linking structures alone is not enough. Brand awareness now is nothing but ‘creating a community of engagement with your customers’.
  • Putting in place a strong social media strategy is highly beneficial to get engagement.
  • Popularity and relevance are dependent on the search term/query a user puts in. Hence, keywords – especially the long tail keyword – is still determinant. Hummingbird’s update ensures that UX is primordial, thus relevancy of content and compatibility of keywords with a search term becomes even more important.
  • Keywords remain high on the do-list except the focus is now on concepts or themes its purpose to augment the UX[4].
  • Quality content, authority and trust are important[5]. An expert in its field creates trust and becomes an authority. Authoritative quality publications benefit a company. Rather than encouraging your staff to post content, let one person become the authoritative voice or ‘influencer’ who will create a community of followers. Encourage loyalty. Don’t forget to use author tags.
  • Educative, factual, and resourceful expert information is a proper and organic way of creating inbound links. This ranking factor still features highly on the SEO do-list. (see footnote).
  • Well-written content (use of correct grammar and spelling) as well as articles that provide ‘deep content’ (not just fluffy little chunks of compressed verbiage). Deep content = 1200/1500 words.
  • Visual information: video, graphics, animation, pictures or infographics[6] are given a good ranking coefficient if proven to be relevant and factual.

WHY DO SOME DECLARE THAT SEO IS DEAD?

 

The simple answer is that no one really knows but those who declare this to be. With the past updates starting from Panda to Penguin and late last year Hummingbird, Google incrementally punished bad content, long infographics, poor internal structure and amongst others irrelevant links, including all the magic tricks SEO Black Hatters were performing.

It is perhaps a case that those guilty of Black Hat tricks are the ones who do the rooftop shouting. Perhaps Google wants ‘us’ to engage a bit more with some form of paid search.

They definitely want to increase the UX and this implicates a change of strategy and tactics for the SEO technicians. Finished are the days that a company merely won the keyword bidding war and rank high, even with poor irrelevant content!!! The various social media channels out there are not helping those poor site owners, on the contrary they will tell their friends to stay away from your site. In the future, we can be sure of this: links praising a site and coming from one of the social media channels will even become a more important ranking factor. The signs are there already. Google has given Google + more kudos, links to YouTube score well as FB or LinkedIn or Twitter does.

Creative marketers or the lack of it is perhaps another contributing factor to pertain that SEO is dead.  In sum, the statement that SEO is part art part science is true. SEO is not dead it just has changed with a focus on satisfying its customers – the searcher for an answer. Be relevant, be informative, be creative, be resourceful, be engaging and you become popular on Google’s search engine. Creative people and good content writers are needed and if they have a good analytical understanding well…


[1] Ken Krogue, (2012) ‘My Final Comment on my “Death of SEO” comments on Forbes’. http://www.kenkrogue.com/seo/my-final-comment-on-my-death-of-seo-column-on-forbes/

[2] There are more tactics of course. Video, graphics, infographics, link building, affiliate partnering, etc.

[3] The mentioned list is by no means exhaustive and is just an indication of crucial updates to take into account.

[4]Cyrus Shepard, (2014) The Moz Blog:‘Keywords to Concepts: The Lazy Web Marketer’s Guide to Smart Keyword Research’  http://moz.com/blog/keywords-to-concepts

[6] see blog on infographics