Google Fine Digital Marketing

Following a seven-year investigation by the European Commission, it was revealed today that Google will be fined a record-breaking £2.1 billion for abusing its power and dominating search results with its own AdWords-driven shopping services. This is the largest fine to be given out by the EU for a monopoly abuse case.

The case concludes that Google has been favouring its own comparison shopping service and the products on Google Shopping in the SERPS, thereby demoting competitor sites. Under EU antitrust rules, this is classed as illegal and a distortion of the market. The European Commission believes that this practice has denied other companies the ability to compete based on their merits, as well as denying consumers an accurate choice of products and services.

Google fervently denies these claims and stands by their opinion that their method provides consumers with the best shopping experience, making it easier for them to find the products they want.

However, despite their denial, Google has been given 90 days to cease these practices or face further penalties.

So, what could this mean for Digital Marketing?

Well, if Google have to change the appearance of its search engine results, something that they've systematically changed to dominate the online advertising space, then surely this will have a huge impact on their income streams, and on how we advertise websites! Google have 90% of the search market share in Europe alone, and whilst this form of advertising is becoming more and more expensive with its auction-style bidding, there's unfortunately no getting away from the fact that it works, and many businesses rely on it heavily for their businesses.

At the moment, Google generates a massive amount of its income through its advertising platform, and this fine whilst seemingly huge and record-breaking, is nothing compared to the loss they would incur if they had to stop using it. It's hard to see how they will get around this anti-trust ruling, but it will surely have an effect on millions of companies employing the advertising platform, and all those companies like ourselves who are work very closely with it.

Year by year, Google Ads are becoming more of a priority to Google, with the current number of Ads standing at 4 at the top of each SERP. This, along with the introduction of Google Business and local services, means that no organic search results are shown to users ‘before the fold’.

Google Ads

As can be seen in the image above, the entire right-hand side of the page is dominated by Google Shopping adverts. These are also paid for adverts, as can be seen by the small ‘sponsored’ badge at the top of the page. Due to this, most of the SERPs are dominated by adverts which have been paid for by those advertising companies. Google Ads even appear at the bottom of the page, meaning only the middle 10 results are organic. From this, it is easy to agree that consumers may not be provided with the best possible choice when it comes to shopping on Google.

You have to take your hats off to Google for their genius. Where else in the world can you find an example where a business owner pays an advertising company hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds in advertising spend, where you can't speak to anyone, you can't get any loyalty discounts, and you even have to rely on their own statistics about the click costs, click stats, fraud clicks, etc. They absolutely dominate this space, they most definitely monopolise, and they do of course favour anything that earn's money for Google! But, is this unfair practice worthy of a fine, or just a phenomenally intelligent advertising platform?

It is unsure what changes Google may make to the world’s most popular search engine, but if they do impose changes it is likely that they will create a new way to fill the gap left by the favouritism of its own Google Shopping channel. Digital Marketers may need to change their methods to fit in with the changes and come up with new marketing strategies. It will definitely be interesting to see where this goes.

However, there is also a chance that Google will not impose any changes at all and just pay the higher fine after the 90-day period. This fine is the first in the three-pronged investigation into the companies practices and so over the coming months, we may see the super-power fined for other anti-trust practices.

For more updates on this story, you can follow our Twitter or our Facebook here!

In this modern day, the influence of social media is becoming increasingly important. Your friends are on it, your family is on it, your dog might even be on it - but more importantly, businesses are on it. With 42% of marketers reporting that Facebook is critical or important to their business, it's clear to see why so many companies invest time in their social media content strategy. 

However, though using social media for your business may seem like the right thing to do, it may be time to consider whether it is actually right for your business. We’ve looked into reasons why social media might be right for your business and reasons why it might not.

Social media is right for your business if: 

  • Social media is right for your business if you’re looking to engage with your consumers on a more personal basis.

    Social media is one of the best ways of gaining an almost friendship like relationship with your customers. By providing your customers with content they will appreciate, such as useful information, discounts, and insider info, this will create a loyal following of consumers from your social media channels.
  • Social media is right for your business if you want to show the human side of your company.

    Social media is an effective way to show the people behind the business. Photos of the office eating cake for someone’s birthday or a recent company achievement really displays the human aspect of the business. Consumers react well to stories, so by telling your businesses story through social media, you will be able to gain their trust.
  • Social media is right for your business if you have a limited marketing budget.

    One of the best aspects of social media is that it is 100% free. For a small business, the kind of exposure free social media platforms bring is invaluable. Paid for social media advertising is a fantastic way of gaining more conversions, but not every business has the budget for this kind of marketing. This is why social media is right for any business looking to gain exposure without spending too much money.

Social media is not right for your business if:

  • Social media is not right for your business if you’re only going to promote your products.

    People mainly use social media to get the latest news and to be entertained, and it seems constant product promotion is quite simply not interesting. The typical rule of thumb is to post 3 informative and helpful posts for every product promotion post.
  • Social media should not be placed on your website if you do not want customers to get distracted by it.

    If your social media buttons are at the very top of your website and are big enough to be distracting, there’s a chance a possible customer may decide to look through your social media rather than your products. If your social media is active and well maintained, this could be a good thing for your business. However, if it is littered with infrequent posts and possible bad reviews, it may be best to remove these click through buttons from your website.
  • Social media is not right for your business if you do not know how to use it.

    Leading on from the last point, social media is not right for any business which does not know how to use it correctly. For example, if you do not have the knowledge that links do not work in an Instagram post; Instagram is perhaps not right for your business. Furthermore, if you do not know what kind of content to post on your social media or how you can benefit your customers with it, it may be best to take a step away from the platforms or hand them over to someone who does have a good understanding of social media.
  • Social media is not right for your business if you spend too much time on it and do not gain enough feedback.

    Finally, social media is not right for your business if you find yourself spending hours upon hours on it but gaining little to none feedback. Especially if you are creating original content, such as images and videos made solely for social media, it may be best to put that valuable time into something that can provide you with solid feedback such as paid advertising. Paid advertising will be able to provide you with clear data on what works and what doesn’t for your business, so this could be more beneficial in the long run.

In Summary

Social media is great for connecting with people, but social media posts are not the best organic marketing strategy for sales or driving in enquiries. If you have a genuine desire to communicate with consumers, alongside providing informative, entertaining and advisory information, then social media platforms can be great for this. However, posts are not an effective way to promote products or services, so if this is your main aim them we would advise that you focus your efforts elsewhere, such as advertising on social media, which can be very beneficial if done properly. We will take a look at this in our future article about how you can get the most out of advertising on social media platforms.

If you think social media might be right for your business or you would like someone else to do it for you, our social media experts can help. Get in touch with us today to request a quote

Snapchat has always been ahead of the game when coming up with new ways to allow marketers to take advantage of social media. Not only can you take a selfie that makes you look like a dog (the future is really here it seems), but advertisers can get closer to their customers than ever before.


Following the success of Snapchat stories, which in the following years was copied by Instagram and Facebook, it can only be assumed that the same may be the case for Snapchat’s new mapping system. Snapchat continues to evolve the way businesses can use social media to promote their brand, so here’s a look at its newest feature.


What is the mapping system?

(https://www.snap.com/en-US/news/)


Snapchat’s mapping system (created by Zenly, then bought out by Snapchat) allows your friends to see your current location, letting you to see if they are near enough to hang out with in person. The feature also heat maps places where people are most actively posting stories, such as festivals or sporting events. Although it does seem quite like Big Brother is always watching, you do have the option to hide your location in Ghost Mode. Basically, the future looks a lot like more dog filters and letting everyone know your every move.


On their blog, Snapchat explains how this feature allows users to “See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure”.


What does this mean for Advertisers?

Social Media Phone


Snapchat is rolling out this feature initially for the users (and a few sponsored celebrity accounts, such as Ed Sheeran), but it wouldn’t be surprising if advertisements soon reach the UK. Snapchat has had a clever history of easing in their customers so that ads seem less intrusive. This was true of its snapchat stories which allow the user to take or leave their sponsored posts.


However, with this new mapping feature it is possible that brand-related location will play a part, creating a new method of advertising via the app. It would potentially enable advertisers to target customers who are in their area, letting them know if they have a sale or an event on near them. Brands could pay snapchat to promote their event within the snap map, gaining attention from users that are in close enough proximity to take advantage.


This seems like an opportunity to advertise local deals that would actually pique customer’s interests. As the new feature has only just launched we are unlikely to see this development in the next few weeks, but it seems like a natural progression for the app.


Social media continues to change the way businesses communicate with their customers so it’s important to be on top of your game. If need help using social media to benefit your business, we are here to help! Contact our social media experts today.

5 reasons to give your website an update (even if it's only a couple of years old!)

New Website Design

How old is your business's current website? One year old? Two? Three? Older?

You may feel like your website is as good as brand new, but things move quickly in the world of web design, and it's a good idea to rethink your site every couple of years. Why, you ask? Well, for a start, it's important to keep your website in line with all the latest guidelines and best practices from the likes of Google, but you also need to ensure that it's frequently reviewed from a usability perspective as well as from a performance perspective.

Over the past 12 months, there have been a huge number of changes to the way in which Google, Bing, and other search engines source and deliver their results. Additionally, voice and mobile usage are changing the way we browse and interact with the Internet in general - search engines have adapted accordingly, but has your own website kept up with new behaviours and technologies?

Today we'd like to highlight five relatively recent changes that, even if your site already has a modern look and a smooth UI, may convince you that it's time to think about a new website design...or at least a bit of an update!

1. HTTP to HTTPS

Back in August 2014, Google made the following announcement on their Official Webmaster Central Blog:

"Over the past few months we've been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal."

Since then, Google have been giving HTTPS websites increasingly preferential treatment in their SERPs; in other words, your website will have a better chance of ranking highly on Google if you switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

Last July - approximately 2 years on from the original Google announcement - Moz.com published some numbers illustrating just how much Google now preferred secure HTTPS websites. They found that, prior to August 2014, only 7% of first-page results used the HTTPS protocol, whereas in June 2016, over 32% of first-page results were HTTPS-secured.

Google want to keep their users as secure as possible online, and over time, there'll be less and less room for non-secure (HTTP) pages within the top results. Switching to HTTPS will safeguard and future-proof your site's ability to rank, and it will give your users a little extra peace of mind too.

Further reading: Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

2. Mobile-Friendliness

Did you know that the majority of Internet usage now takes place on a mobile device? If your website was designed for desktop users and can scarcely be used on a small screen, you could well be missing out on a lot of business (since mobile users will likely abandon your site in favour of a mobile-friendly competitor).

Mobile's share of the market will only continue to increase as desktop computers become less commonplace and handheld devices insinuate themselves still further into everyday life. Furthermore, Google started prioritising mobile-friendly websites in its results last year, so you risk losing organic traffic as well as revenue if you do not have a responsive design that provides a mobile-friendly experience.

We recommend using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to assess the mobile-friendliness of your website, then switching to a responsive website design if you score poorly.

Further reading: What is a Responsive Website?

3. Structured Data

A good web developer will use schema tags on your website to help the likes of Google understand the contents of each page. There are loads and loads of different schema tags, but here are some of the most commonly-used:

  • The Product tag is used to identify a product or service.
  • The Review tag is used to identify a review or rating.
  • A tag such as startDate or DateTime may indicate when an event is scheduled to begin.

Using schema tags (also called 'structured data') enables Google to embellish your search results with additional pieces of information known as rich snippets. Rich snippets look like this:

Review snippet

In this example, Google is able to display a rating and a price for the product in question thanks to the website's use of structured data.

Or like this:

Events snippet

Here, schema tags allow Google to display a list of events (complete with dates and venues).

Rich snippets increase the visibility and usefulness of your website's Google results, and there's a chance that Google may one day give websites that use structured data a small ranking boost. If your site doesn't already use schema tags, you should strongly consider adding them in as part of your next redesign/update.

See also: Google's Data Highlighter Tool

4. Featured Snippets

Whereas rich snippets are dependent on your website's code, featured snippets (also known as rich answers) are dependent on your website's content. Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet - What is a web sling?

A featured snippet may also include bullet points, a table, or - as shown below - a numbered list.

Numbered list snippet - How to remove your oven door handle

If you phrase your Google search in the form of a question (e.g. 'where was lord of the rings filmed' or 'how do antibiotics work'), the top result will very often be a featured snippet. This applies to voice search as well as to traditional text searches - for instance, a Google Home device will usually respond to a question by simply reading out the featured snippet for that keyword phrase.

Google is showing featured snippets for more and more searches as time goes by (we've even started seeing them for non-question queries like 'safety goggles'), and if Google starts displaying your competitor's content in a big box at the top of the SERP, there's a very good chance that your organic traffic will plummet as a result.

For this reason, it may be worth rewriting some of the copy on your site with question-type keywords in mind so as to snag as many of those 'featured answer' spots as possible.

Further reading: How to Gain Featured Snippets

5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are Google's solution to the increasingly prevalent expectation that online content should load instantaneously - especially on mobile devices. Website owners can now create 'accelerated' versions of their pages specifically for mobile users, and this is definitely something to bear in mind if you're determined to deliver an outstanding mobile browsing experience.

An accelerated mobile page is essentially a stripped-down version of a normal web page that is specifically designed to load very quickly. AMP pages were originally available only to well-known publications like the Telegraph and the Independent, but the technology is now open to all, which means that you can create lean, fast-loading versions of your key pages in order to please mobile users and (potentially) rank more highly in Google's mobile results.

Using AMP on your wensite will significantly improve the speed with which your website is delivered to users. It may also give you an advantage on the Google AdWords platform to boot.

Does your website need an update or a redesign? Request a FREE quote from the Designer Websites team!

New SunSpaces Website Design

SunSpaces is part of Greensquares, a family of businesses specialising in high-quality, low-maintenance outdoor products. We've already revitalised Greensquares' porcelain tile and composite decking websites this year, and we can now add SunSpaces - the company's contemporary garden room brand - to that list.

Last week saw the relaunch of www.sunspaces.co.uk with a brand new design that we think will help the SunSpaces brand to really make an impact on the increasingly popular garden building market. Large, attractive photographs now dominate each page, and the improved user interface makes it far easier for visitors to browse and compare the various garden rooms, verandas and glass extensions available from the SunSpaces team.

As with PrimaPorcelain and TimberTech (the other Greensquares websites that we have recently redesigned), SunSpaces has also been switched from HTTP to HTTPS - click here to find out more about why we're recommending this to our clients right now.

Need a new look for your company website? Request a FREE web design quote here.

Web design is constantly changing and adapting and as we are now halfway through 2017, we thought we would delve into the world of web design and take a look at the trends which are currently dominating the design sphere. From simplistic to bold, the web design trends of 2017 are certainly something to marvel at. 

Material Design

Whichever part of the web you’re browsing, Material Design is a web design trend that is everywhere in 2017. Developed by Google for Android in 2014, Material Design’s sole purpose is to provide users with a clean and accessible interface. An evolution from Flat Design, Material Design brings some of the usefulness of skeuomorphism (such as layers and depth) back to web design, while still maintaining the simplistic and usable nature of Flat Design.

With its Material Design concept, Google has provided rules for what type of style, layout, pattern, usability a material website or app should contain. These guidelines ensure your website will look both neat and eye-catching at the same time.

Material Web Design 

(https://www.android.com/)

 

Vibrant Colour Designs

While the past couple of years has seen designers opt for the safer colour pallets, 2017 has watched vibrant colours become a popular web design trend. With the popularity of material design leading to criticism that many websites are beginning to look similar, bright and bold colours are a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Vibrant colours can also freshen up an older website or can be incorporated in small amounts, such as adding a strikingly vibrant image to your website. Bright and bold typography can also be used to add this web design trend to your website without changing the entirety of it.

Vibrant Colour Web Design

(https://wellingtonzoo.com/)

Minimalism

Minimalism is a concept that has been around for many years, but this year it is becoming one of the most important web design trends. As it can be assumed from the name, minimalism is a web design trend which focuses on minimal elements on the website and removes any unnecessary elements from the design.

In previous years, minimalism has adopted a reputation of simplistic black and white colour schemes, but this year we’ve seen a turn for the best with websites that adopt both the minimalist and vibrant colour web design trends as shown by R magazineFlatsLife is another beautiful example of the black and white nature of traditional minimalism. 

Minimalist Web Design

(http://www.flatslife.com/)

Brutalism

Although not technically a web ‘design’ trend, Brutalism is definitely a web design concept to keep your eye on this year. Known as the antithesis of web design, Brutalist Design aspires to defy all the traditional rules of web design. Some say it is based on the giant concrete buildings built in the 1950s-1970s – designed to do only its job.

To create a brutalist website, the general rule is to not follow any rules. Colour clashes, text which doesn’t fit in the box, gradients, hard to find links – these are all acceptable in brutalist design and some of the biggest names around are using it. Bloomberg, The Outline and Balenciaga are all examples of brutalist design, and the Instagram redesign has been quoted as ‘paving the way’ for brutalist app design.

Brutalist Web Design

(https://theoutline.com/

By looking at just four of the key web design trends this year, it's clear to see that 2017 has brought a variety of different websites to fruition. We predict these web design trends are here to stay and expect to see them once again in 2018. 

Are you looking for a new website design? Our talented team of expert designers and developers can help you with that. Get in touch today to request a free quote.

ai in digital marketing

On the 25th of May 2017, Google’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s best Go player in a three game match. The highly complex strategy board game is known for its difficulty and huge set of possible moves, which is what makes this victory such an impressive feat for the champion gaming bot.

Increasingly, we’re hearing about the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence, with many of us encountering and interacting with this technology in our everyday lives without even realising it. With audiences becoming more and more attuned to traditional advertising methods, as well as using a huge variety of tools and platforms to consume and distribute information, it has become the marketer’s primary focus to harness the latest technological innovations in order to reach and engage users.  In addition to the demands of consumers, marketers are also looking to exceed the expectations of their clients by using tools and strategies that will allow them to deliver their services more efficiently.

When they’re not busy toppling board game champions, these rapid changes to the marketing landscape are being led by Google, with the tech giant already playing a huge role in shaping the use of digital technology for both businesses and consumers alike. In fact, their CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced a move from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘AI-first’ over the coming years, which gives a strong indication of how instrumental this technology will be in the future of search. The same can also be said of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose own investment into AI technology and machine learning has been well documented, as have the efforts of many other influential companies and emerging start-ups.

While AI is often discussed in terms of its future relevance, it is important to remember that this technology is already being implemented by companies throughout the world, across a variety of industries. To provide us with an introduction to some of the tools and techniques that are being used, and to predict where this may lead us in the near future, here’s a closer look at how AI is shaping the world of digital marketing:

Ads

AI is already influencing ad creation, targeting and measurement, which is only set to increase over the coming years. One of the most interesting examples of these innovations in recent news was the revelation that Mattersight would be using voice analysis to deliver personalised ads on home assistant devices. According to reports, Mattersight will be using their voice analysis technology in order to deduce speaker personality traits, allowing advertisers to target users based on this information.

In addition to ad targeting, companies are also using AI to gather performance data that will allow them to measure the efficiency of their marketing efforts, which in turn will also contribute to greater accuracy in future campaigns. Google recently outlined how they will use this technology to provide attribution precision to users of their Analytics, DoubleClick and AdWords services, debuting ‘Google Attribution’ at their annual marketing conference. The aim of this service is to give users a clear picture of their marketing performance across devices and interaction points, allowing the contributing sources to gain their deserved recognition, as opposed to attributing all credit to the user’s last click.

While creativity is often the most downplayed aspect of AI innovation, it has actually been used to create visual ads for quite some time now. Back in 2015, M&C Saatchi created what was dubbed as the ‘world’s first’ AI Ad for coffee brand Bahio. This was powered by an algorithm which continuously tested design and copy changes, gradually eliminating elements which failed to engage while reintegrating those which proved successful. In more recent times, the same agency has used IBM Watson to create ad campaigns for Toyota, using behavioural data from Facebook to personalise the content.

The biggest obstacle facing AI ad targeting is the objection to data use, which will be particularly challenging in the European market, due to new European Union laws which will come into place in May 2018.  Companies who use data in what is deemed to be a discriminatory or irresponsible fashion could face huge fines, demonstrating the barriers that technology will face as lawmakers seek to ensure that legislation keeps up-to-date with these advances.

Visual Recognition Tools

While their use in security applications may be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to visual recognition tools, they are also proving to be incredibly influential in the world of digital marketing, both in terms of user engagement and in data gathering. From live videos to memes, a huge portion of our online interactions take place in the form of images and video content, which means that we must have the tools to enhance these mediums and monitor their impact on audiences.

Visual recognition tools have played a vital role in the development and widespread use of augmented reality applications, which have drastically enhanced the ability of brands to engage their customers and cultivate user generated content. Crucially, these tools bridge the gap between ‘real life’ and digital experiences, providing marketers with greater control and insight into user journeys, and providing unique experiences which encourage addictive use (as is exemplified by the surge of business using Pokemon Go to attract customers in summer 2016).

The most recent example of visual recognition being used to enhance online search is the announcement of the ‘Google Lens’ tool at this year’s I/O conference. Combining image recognition and information about the user’s location, the tool uses the camera feature on Google mobile devices to provide detailed information about these locations or objects. This information ranges from simply identifying an unfamiliar object, to performing more complicated tasks, such as logging into a wifi network using an image of the password sticker on the router.

Aside from the obvious ways in which these tools are able to enhance user engagement, they also provide tech companies with the ability to capture data and further enhance their learning ability. Despite the differences in how Facebook and Google are using visual tools to serve users, their aim to use them in order to understand and respond to user needs is fundamentally the same, as this Variety article points out.

Content Creation

If you regularly read news articles and reports online, it’s highly likely that some of the content you’ve consumed has been composed using artificial intelligence. The most famous of these tools is ‘Wordsmith’, a platform created by Automated Insights which turns data into coherent pieces of content. Wordsmith has been used by several high profile names in the industry, including The Associated Press, who have used it to generate sports coverage and quarterly earning stories, freeing up journalist time and extending their ability to cover multiple events.

To give you an idea of how prominent these tools could soon become, technology research and advisory firm Gartner estimated that by 2018, 20% of business content will be authored by machines, listing reports, press releases and legal documents amongst the range of content that could soon be produced using AI. This is supported by the number of content writing tools that have popped up in the past two years, one of the most recent being PingGo, a start-up which allows users to generate press releases based on answers to journalistic questions on their chosen ‘story’. The company was founded by Sarah Lee, the owner of a PR firm, with the aim of making press coverage more accessible to small businesses and projects that do not have the budget to invest in traditional PR.

Although most content writers are quick to point out that machines lack the ‘humanity’ needed to inject personality into writing tasks which require a high level of emotional sophistication, research shows that audiences are finding the content produced by bots to be increasingly informative and coherent, evidenced by Christer Clerwall’s study ‘Enter the Robot Journalist’. For now, computer-generated content still falls short in terms of its readability and persuasiveness, however, this could drastically improve in the coming years.

Another limitation of current content production technology is its reliance on human input, which is required in order to map out the content and provide the facts needed to produce it. This could change as computer intelligence improves, providing content bots with the ability to understand and produce natural language. Back in 2014, Google’s Ray Kurzweil predicted that computers would be more intelligent than humans by 2029. Considering the progress that has already been made in the past few years, it is not difficult to imagine that bots could become capable of highly sophisticated writing in the not-too-distant future.

While it’s safe to say that AI marketing is still a developing platform in the world of digital communications, it is far from being a distant, futuristic entity that has yet to be harnessed. Brands across the world are using AI throughout their campaigns, while tech companies are piling resources into pioneering the technology needed to facilitate these services for users and businesses alike.

Are you looking to work with a forward-thinking organisation who can provide cutting-edge digital solutions for your business? Get in touch with Designer Websites today to find out more about our bespoke website services.

Linking to your own website

When attempting to achieve high Google rankings, there are lots of different factors to take into consideration. For most keywords, you won't get anywhere near the first page unless you have a user-friendly website that is technically sound, loads quickly, and contains excellent content that is ultra-relevant to the topic in question and ultra-helpful for your site visitors.

If you've ticked all of those boxes, congratulations, but the bad news is that you're still not guaranteed a prominent position in the SERPs. There's another ranking factor that still carries a huge amount of sway: links.

How search engines use links

To search engines like Google and Bing, links from one website to another are like votes of confidence. If somebody links to you, then as far as Google's bots are concerned, they're effectively saying 'I endorse this website and believe that it is interesting, helpful and/or entertaining'. Even if the link was created because somebody was trashing your company on a forum, the link itself will still pass 'juice' to your website and therefore improve your chances of ranking in search results.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as 'more links = better rankings'. For one thing, some links are worth considerably more than others - you might have a hundred links from obscure blogs and local businesses, but if a competitor gains one link from a well-known, high-authority website (think BBC News, the Financial Times, a government page), they may well blow you out of the water overnight.

Furthermore, certain links can do more harm than good when it comes to your SERP rankings. Google's quality guidelines warn against creating manipulative links - this means that your website may be penalised (i.e. lose its rankings) if:

  • You pay for links on other people's websites (adverts should be marked with a 'nofollow' tag so as not to pass link juice)
  • You build a lot of links from websites that aren't relevant to yours in any way
  • You deliberately create links for the sole purpose of affecting your organic rankings
  • You participate in shady link exchange schemes, private blog networks (PBNs), etc.

Your rankings may also be adversely affected if you have a lot of links from spammy and/or low-quality websites. For instance, you probably don't want any online casinos or pornography sites linking to you (although this may not apply if your own website falls into one of these categories).

Why not just create a whole bunch of websites and link to yourself?

Genuine organic links from high-quality websites usually don't come along on their own, and link outreach (contacting other site owners to ask if they'll link to your page from theirs) is a time-consuming task that is by no means guaranteed to get results.

With that in mind, it's not hard to see why some webmasters - and some SEO/marketing agencies - have the following thought:

"Why bother begging other people for links when I could just create a few websites of my own and link to myself?"

Here's an example: if your main website is an online store that sells laptop computers, you might set up a blog on a different domain, write a couple of articles about how to choose the right laptop, and cleverly include a few links to your main site - your 'money' site - in the body of each post. You might then repeat this process a few times so that you end up with a number of different domains all linking to your laptop store.

From one point of view, this is a sound enough strategy. Whereas you can spend hours researching and emailing link prospects that you may never hear back from, it doesn't take long to create a simple site using Blogger or Wordpress, and you're guaranteed a new link at the end of it. But is this really an effective way to bolster your link profile and boost your organic rankings?

We'd argue that no, it isn't. Here are three reasons why:

1. It's potentially manipulative - and thus leaves you open to Google penalties.

At time of writing, there's nothing in Google's guidelines on link schemes and unnatural links that specifically forbids creating new websites and linking them to your main site. However, here's what they do say:

"Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site."

This statement is deliberately vague - it puts the onus on you, the webmaster, to judge whether your link creation tactics are manipulative or not. If you participate in any questionable linking practices, you're potentially opening yourself up to present and future Google penalties, and as anyone who saw their rankings fall when Penguin and Panda were first brought in will tell you, that's not a risk worth taking.

There is no doubt that the tactic of creating new websites for the express purpose of building PageRank-passing links to your 'money' site could be classed as manipulative. The new sites will likely add no value whatsoever to the web, and the links themselves will probably be a dead giveaway, making it clear that your satellite websites were set up for unnatural SEO purposes and not to serve any particular need.

2. The links will be practically worthless anyway.

Broadly speaking, it's good to have inbound links from a variety of different domains, and it's true that creating a dozen simple Wordpress blogs and giving each one its own unique web address is a quick and easy way to grow your list of linking domains. But here's the thing about links: quantity is less important than quality. As mentioned above, a single link from a high-authority domain is worth more than a hundred links from low-authority websites, and a brand new blog that was created in a hurry and doesn't contain any real content is about as low-authority as it gets.

In other words, you can spend weeks setting up new websites and linking to yourself, but any positive impact on your rankings will be minimal - you're better off spending that time looking for genuine link/collaboration opportunities that will actually benefit your website. (At least then you won't be at risk of getting hit by a thin content penalty!)

But okay - let's assume that you're taking a slightly more considered approach to this. Instead of creating a basic blog page, publishing one or two keyword-stuffed posts containing over-optimised links to your main site, then repeating these two steps ad infinitum, let's imagine that you've taken the time to create a high-quality website that really does add value to the web. You've written a lot of genuinely useful, insightful content; you've given the site an appealing design instead of just using a template; and you've only linked to your 'money' website where it's actually appropriate to do so, perhaps scattering a few other external links throughout the new site for balance. Maybe you've even done such a good job that several other people have linked to your new website, thereby boosting its reputation in the eyes of the search engine bots.

But here's the thing...

3. Why not put all of that effort into your main website?

Creating good content and building a website's reputation is extremely time-consuming, and if you're prepared to do all of the above to ensure that the links on your satellite site(s) will actually have a positive effect, it rather begs the question: why aren't you prepared to do that on your 'money' site?

Instead of using your time and resources to convince Google that your linking site is legitimate, it's surely better to create high-quality content for your main site that will drive more traffic and increase user engagement in the place where it actually affects your company's bottom line.

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One final clarification: what we're not necessarily saying here is that you should never link between two websites that you control. If you own two separate websites, each with its own independent reason to exist, then it's fine to link between them as long as there is a natural reason to do so.

For instance, if you have one website that sells laser printers and another that sells toner cartridges, it may well make sense to link from one to the other - not only will this potentially benefit your Google rankings, it will also provide a better online experience for your users (since someone who buys a printer will naturally want to know where they can buy toner for it in the future).

Worried about your website's link profile? Not sure of the best way to climb the Google rankings? Our SEO specialists can help - contact Designer Websites today to discuss your requirements.