Lets Talk About Microsites

Microsites, What Are They Good For?

SEO Liverpool have had a fair few meetings in recent weeks relating to this subject. Clients want to know why microsites or mini-sites have been used for different SEM (search engine marketing) strategies. Let’s examine the possible reasons to create a microsite.

1) You’ve a new product/offer you’d like to promote.

  • You’ve a new product or offer you’d like to promote. You don’t want to change your website just yet, and you may feel that this offer or product is outside your normal remit of business.
  • Changing a website and moving elements around can be difficult.  Maintaining a cohesive structure alongside your user experience design principals could mean you’ll potentially harm sales.
  • You may be forced to tuck away valuable information as adding new content requires a massive investment to recreate the site with the new product/s in the appropriate placements.
  • Sometimes, with the amount of internal teams having a vested intest in a large website e.g. webdesign, web-development, SEO and marketing, creating a microsite is often a quick and easy short-term solution.
  • The offer might be a limited addition, or may only be available or tailored to another market/country.

2) You’ve a new product/offer and you don’t wish to cannablise your own market

  • If you’ve an updated version of a product that could decimate your current market. E.g. Gillet are the masters of upgrading their razors and blades… whilst still selling older versions of their products.
  • You may want to create an offer in a different market and therefore wouldn’t want to upset your current customer base. Special introductory offer microsites are becoming ever more popular.

3) To maximize your PPC revenue in relation to quality score.

  • The most common reason for a microsite that we happen upon. If you want to reduce your PPC costs, quality score is key. Creating a microsite that displays all the relevant information and has the appropriate conversion points are key.
  • Measurement and multi-varient testing can also be much easier using a microsite. You can change and update pages and gather strong data about how customers interact with the brand in relation to keywords and information they want.

Hope this information is useful, as we’ve a lot of clients that either set them up for the wrong reasons, or don’t understand why you would ever need a microsite. If you want to discuss microsites with our SEO agency Liverpool, drop us an email.

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Update Negative SEO Is Possible

At SEO Liverpool we’re always testing, reading blogs and talking with others inside our industry about current optimisation issues. In previous posts we’ve discussed negative SEO. To clarify what we mean by negative SEO, it isn’t devaluing your own site through black and grey hat techniques that end up with small penalties, which may affect your rankings. We’re discussing factors outside of your control that could get you de-listed.

Many years ago, I was made aware of certain techniques that a skilled SEO could use to actually ‘burn’ another site. It was possible to go against influence Google’s search algorithm by pretending to be part of a particular site and through various, difficult and laborious techniques actually get a site delisted from Google. This would take a very long-time and was extremely difficult, more so to hid your tracks. We would never do this and just to be really clear we’ve have never heard of anyone actually trying it.

Google has pretty much always denied this is a possibility and has stuck to the belief that search engine factors that are outside the website owners control, can’t harm you.

The recent update to webmaster tools with their link disavow tool suggests their stance has changed!

How about a theoretical example.

We have a webpage that competes pretty well on page one for a particular key-phrase lets say ‘Halloween Masks’

They’ve a good content strategy, and link building is continuing at a steady pace. They’ve a good mix of both semantically linked websites and personal blogs with low PageRank.

It seems to me, that if Google have created a tool where you can disavow any link, then some links are deemed to be detrimental to website health. Therefore, if a competitor contacts a disreputable link-building agency and asked to place a few thousand links from a disreputable sites, link-farms and porn-sites, using our desired keyword, then the site in question will be penalised. Eventually and with continual bad link partners this particular site would not only be penalised but also eventually be removed from the Google index.

This would happen quickly and without the knowledge of the website owner, particularly if they haven’t yet signed up to a webmaster tools account.

You will get a warnings for inappropriate links, but thousands pointing at your site, from poor value web properties and link-farms will surly harm you.

There you have it. As an SEO in Liverpool, we’re convinced that negative SEO through no action of your own is now possible.

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Google Updates & Help

Anybody involved in the SEO industry will know that the recent ever-present updates to the Google Algorithm have been thrown at us with ever increasing regularity.

Today we’re going to discuss two updates that I feel small white hat SEO’s may have had some trouble with.

We’re not taking about the very recent Penguin #3 — October 5, 2012 or the Panda #20 — September 27, 2012. We feel these have been sufficiently covered by the majority of blogs.

Today at SEO Liverpool we’re discussing;

Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update — September 27, 2012

Officially this relates to ‘a change in the way it was handling exact-match domains (EMDs). This led to large-scale devaluation, reducing the presence of EMDs by over 10%. Official word is that this change impacted 0.6% of queries (by volume)‘.

So if you’re domain name is the same as the major keywords you’ve been trying to rank for.

e.g. if your domain is ‘www.low-cost-insurance.com‘ and you wish to rank for ‘low cost insurance’… then you’ll lose some value. Not a huge amount but enough to lose a position or two dependent on the keywords competition.

Should I panic

Absolutely not, all these algorithm changes are not set in stone, quite often Google tweaks the algorithm or even totally reverses it. So please don’t try and change your domain name. You’ll lose the value of domain age and possibly the value of incoming links if not properly managed.

I’ve seen this happen!

What Should I Do

The answer is nothing. Any attempt to change will, without doubt cause you more harm than good. It’s swings and roundabouts with updates. The next could catapult you back to your previous positions. The best course of action is to concentrate on the fundamentals – More unique content, more links (Good Value) and Social. Think of the Google Algorithm as a score next to each individual aspect related to a webpage. That devaluation will, more often than not be pushed to another aspect or shared out amongst a group of others.

If you concentrate you’re efforts in content, social and links, then you’ll claw it back. If you choose these particular aspects then it is unlikely you’ll receive any penalties or devaluation in the near future. As I’ve stated above, this change could be reversed and then your hard work will certainly pay off.

Page Layout #2 — October 9, 2012

If you have been penalised with this one then you’re in trouble… ‘Google announced an update to its original page layout algorithm change back in January, which targeted pages with too many ads above the fold. It’s unclear whether this was an algorithm change or a Panda-style data refresh.’

If you understand the implications then it’s easy to understand the solution.

Why Have I Been Penalised?

Google generates the majority of its revenue in search via Pay-Per-Click. In order to generate PPC monies it’s search needs to be trusted. If organically your website ranks high and doesn’t show a good amount of useful content above the fold or a even small area e.g. http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/ then you’re not that useful. This is irrespective of what your site is about. Importantly if any website has sponsored links or even worse Ad-sense all over the valuable real-estate above the fold on the website… from the search engines perspective, you’re not useful.

What Can I Do

Personally, and I can only answer this personally, you need a website update. Get rid of ad-sense… I mean unless you’ve got a serious amount of traffic you can only be making pennies! Reorganise the site so you’ve good content in the key areas and look sensibly from a UX point of view at your offer. You can still keep them but place them down the page or on separate pages.

I don’t think Google will reverse this one, so make the changes quickly. 100% of nothing is still nothing, so if you reduce your advertising by 50% and get those top positions back you’ll still generate revenue.

Hope this helps

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Even More Quick Hits

SEO Liverpool have been asked these particular questions many times in recent weeks.

‘If i could do one thing, what would it be to get my website ranked higher within the search engines’.

This is easy… Content. It’s king don’t you know!

If you want to let the search engines know you’re alive and kicking, then show them. The fresh content part of the algorithm is still very powerful.

If you regularly put fresh content on your key pages, you’ll encourage the search engines to index you and hopefully generate some links.

‘I get lots of emails where people would like a link from me’.

This is a standard SEO practice. Remember not all links are equal and some people will try to deceive you.  The best possible advice is to get them to link to you. Then evaluate the link using either firebug or the simple PageRank icon on the Google toolbar. If it’s good, then it may be worth following them. Any business that wishes a link from you should be willing to give one back.

A good link will have good page rank, it’s from a complimentary business or even from a business in your particular field. Make sure the link isn’t a ‘No follow’ (a way to try and devalue the link back to you).

‘How can i get more links’?

It’s like I told you, good content is an easy win. Create a widget or a plugin for websites with a link back to your site. Info-graphics, Tweet’s, Facebook and YouTube are also good ways to generate links.

‘How come SEO costs so much’?

Well, this is a difficult one. There are only 10 organic listings per page (although talk is this may shrink). Competitiveness of keywords, level of competition and the actual current state of the website are determining factors. Do you want to compete locally, nationally or globally?

Anybody that solicits to you is generally not going to be that good. Anybody who asks you to pay a small monthly fee, won’t give you the attention your site deserves. Any company that doesn’t care to know about each aspect of your business and your current internal resources won’t generally be good either.

SEO is complicated, constantly evolving and fairly costly. If a company can demonstrate a return on investment then they’ll usually be worth it.

Thanks for questions guys

 

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SEO Liverpool Blogging Tools We Use

At SEO Liverpool this week we thought we’d let you guys into the interesting tools we use for blogging and productivity.

Have a look at these and let us know your thoughts

InboxQ
This blogging tool I’ve been working with for a few months ago. InboxQ essentially helps you to come up with better blog topics. This tool helps you find questions people are asking on Twitter.

The Content Idea Generator
The Content Idea Generator (v2) is a Google Doc that will automatically find news and related stories for your blog from a variety of sources… everything from Google News to Reddit, from tweets to public Facebook updates and more. Just search for it in Google.

Focus Booster
Focus Booster is a tool that many bloggers use to increase writing productivity. I’m the first to admit that I have an incredibly short attention span. My creativity thrives in short spurts of activity with frequent breaks. With Focus Booster I can concentrate on writing and turning ideas into blogs.

StorifyStorify
Storify is a great way to curate articles and opinions on any given topic or capture reactions to an event in real time.

Storify can help illustrate a point with third-party content and comments or help bring to life an event by pulling in activity from the news stream or Twitterverse.  We’ve previously used Storify on our blog to share news and tweets during a conference.

We’re not saying these are the best tools, but they will help.

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Get Your SEO Involved Early On

Here at SEO Liverpool we recently had a call from a business trying to engage us for search engine optimisation. They had spoken to a few other companies before us and decided he knew what he wanted and more importantly, he knew what he wanted to pay.

The Situation

He had his website built based on his own webdesign ideas and from the look of the website had not employed anybody who understood UX (User Experience) design. If fact for our perspective, he’s missed this step and employed a firm of developers from India to build to his personal specifications.

Secondly, he had then decided to employ an SEO specialist to simply gain the page one, number one listing!

Finally, the potential client had decided what he’d like to pay, he knew the amount of clients he could potentially reach and that almost all would want his service.

His Offer

A small SEO fee on retainer then a profit share based on sales.

The reality of the situation

Unfortunately, even the most insular webdesign and development teams understand the nature of UX particularly in relation to conversion. Navigation isn’t simply decided, it’s researched using a number of techniques and systems such as ‘card sorting’ and ‘user journey analysis’. The message on the home pages should be succinct and broken down to manageable chunks. Removal of any psychological barriers should be a priority, otherwise you can derail customers from going on the user journeys you’ve planned and ultimately driving them to some sort of agreed conversion or at the very least data harvesting.

This website shown looked very pretty, didn’t fulfill any of the requirements for SEO. Content was mixed and design was unclear with conflicted messages.

If in the research piece keyword volumes for the particular services and ROI for such services were worthwhile, the current design would have already put us quite far back. A redesign would have almost certainly have been needed.

The client wasn’t prepared to do that!

The client wanted the majority of this SEO company UK contract to be funded by the percentage of sales. Unfortunately, if it was possible to get to number one, the conversions through the site would have been very, very low. It wasn’t until I had a chat with the business, that I understood the services, therefore it would be a difficult proposition to any site visitor.

Finally, the search volumes are low, the price of the service is low, and the profitability needed to cover costs wasn’t viable.

Needless to say, we aren’t working on the project.

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Getting SEO Support In House Part 3

The final part of our SEO Liverpool post on In House SEO.

This approach won’t work in every instance, so what do you do to keep everyone honest and enforce the need for your suggestions to be followed?

Use some of that influence you have at the executive level. This one goes way back to your days in the sandbox. Not Google’s, but that of your childhood school yard. The threat of “telling the teacher” was pretty powerful back then. These days, it’s not really cool to tattle, but creating metrics that show a company’s level of compliance to SEO rules across its products has value. The executive can clearly see how the various areas of the company/website are doing with regards to the investment in the area of SEO, and let’s face it, no product manager wants their product/area of responsibility shown in red on the chart.

It’s important that you use some of the influence you have with the executives who’ve gave the green light to the project. This one goes way back to your days in the school yard. The threat of highlighting to your teachers was pretty powerful back then. These days, it’s not really cool to tattle, but creating metrics that show a company’s level of compliance to SEO rules across its products has value.

This tactic can convert even the staunchest of hold-outs to rabid fans of your service. As an SEO agency Liverpool we know that even in the worst case scenario, they’ll listen to you and think about doing what you ask.

Unless you have direct control over implementing the changes that need to happen, setting up a responsibility grid might be your next best bet. You can clearly list each item that needs work, who it’s been assigned to, and when they think it’ll be done. Put those points on a PowerPoint deck destined for executive review and folks will do their best to look their best.

The final point here is that you, SEO project leader, needs to be confident enough in your direction and directives to pull the trigger on with this course of action. You won’t earn many friends in the short term, but long term, when everything is moving forward as planned, and the kudos are being handed out to those who did the work, they won’t forget that their success in reaching their goals was directly helped by your team.

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Getting SEO Support In House Part 2

Continuing our the SEO Liverpool post on In House SEO.

In reality it maybe simpler, in fact so simple you may have overlooked it.

Most of the time, employees are simply busy! This could mean a couple of things

  1. People do not take kindly to new work being added to their work flow.
  2. People may not wish to be told they’ve got to learn new things.
  3. People have their own goals which measure performance, they want to meet their own targets and goals, not yours.

So what is the simple solution? Well, it’s a combination of listening, clear thinking and detailed planning.

Listening

This relates to goals, everybody needs their own goals to meet. In your case, you rely on others to perform tasks to meet your own goals. The likelihood is you’re not the person updating code or delivering and changing content. So through the goal may be stated simply enough (increasing inbound traffic) getting to it is absolutely a team effort.

In my experience the best way is to listen to people and help them achieve their goals. Then plan a way that shows how your effort will help them reach or exceed them. e.g. How the marketing mangers support will result in them exceeding targets and tapping into more markets, or using online marketing to gather data that will prove invaluable in offline campaigns.  This type of motivational approach won’t work in every instance, so what do you do to influence the rest of the teams, and make sure your tasks are undertaken?

So, we’ve covered the listening and we’ve touched on motivating others to implement your suggestions. We’ll cover the more in Part 3

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Getting SEO Support In House Part 1

Here at SEO Liverpool, we provide SEO training to small and medium sized company’s with the resources in-house to implement a home grown SEO campaign.

If you’ve started, or considering the same…

You’ve decided, quite sensibly to start your in-house SEO programme. It was probably a very tough sell to convince the directors, line managers and other associated company directors to take on board your idea. Firstly, they probably didn’t understand the requirements first time round. You’ve been asked to provide your projected return on investment, which as every full time SEO understands, is very difficult. Factors outside of your control, such as algorithmic updates and other companies that already have a robust SEO strategy and varying budgets, dictate that you can’t stress any rewards against definitive time scales. You may have only been given a meeting or even a couple of slides to really engage the teams. Everybody was probably really shocked when you spoke in terms of years instead of months, regarding investment.

… It was a very tough sell—but you did it!

You’re project gets the green light and you’ve been busy stressing the benefits and long-term returns. It’s consumed you since you came up with your SEO plans. You’re basically a 24/7 SEO strategist, you live the successes and bang your head against the wall when you hit the barriers. But you’ve done it, it’s up and running, people in the company no longer thinks SEO is a fallacy, and things are going well.

Or are they?

In recent months you’ve been feeling that things aren’t moving. Your bosses are inevitably looking for results, even more so since the substantial investment of time and money you’ve put in. You’ve hit a serious bump in the road, but with your superiors and department heads making the right noises you convince yourself you’re past the worst.

Now you’re seeing the reality of the situation, the support is nice, but those who implement your suggestions are slow to respond. The planned work, the prioritisation based on the projected R.O.I is not making it into the work flow. You hear that everybody wants to do the work but it’s a matter of resources.

What Do You Do?

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How To Keep Up With SEO Changes

As we discussed in the previous posts, search engine optimisation is in a constant state of change. As the search engines evolve, so does the web landscape and therefore SEO.

We have no classrooms, universities and no single website, conference or book that 100% keeps you ahead of the SEO curve.

Reading blogs, press releases and various other sources of information can help provide some insights about SEO changes.

Here at SEO Liverpool we feel that forums, conferences and social networks help filter out the rubbish, collective testing and best practice sharing are the only sure fire way of ensuring a technique is viable. It’s not easy and sometimes you’ll be taken in by the nonsense. It’s not easy to distinguish between good advice and less reputable companies that just want to sell a product or service. Our advice is simple…

READ, READ, READ… TEST, TEST AND THEN TEST SOME MORE.

If you’re a a little more advanced we’d recommend patent filing blogs. These detail recent patents by the search engines on how the may handle data and can therefore be of benefit. Although this may be considered a little advanced even for established SEO companies

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