Wading through the muddy waters of Lake Google can be a troublesome task at the best of times, particularly when it comes to SEO.

Regular algorithm changes habitually move the digital goal posts, making the ability to adapt and react a vital part of the job for any self-respecting online marketing with an eye for SEO.

Naturally, the sheer volume of competition makes it difficult to swim to the surface of the SERP rankings, leaving you to jockey for position in an extremely crowded pool.

While it can be tempting to take shortcuts, the purest approach is often the one that has the longest lasting effects and they don’t come much purer than White Hat SEO.

So, dust off your ivory caps, mount that high horse and head for the moral high ground, as we take a look at the ins and outs of White Hat SEO.

 

white hat seo,white hat seo tips,white hat seo techniques,what is white hat seo

 

What is White Hat SEO?

If you read our last blog on Black Hat SEO techniques, you should know all about what not to do and which SEO tactics to avoid. From keyword stuffing to invisible text, it’s a dark art and one that can also be pretty risky.

This underhanded approach of manipulative methods and sneaky shortcuts will only work for so long before you inevitably get found out. The resulting penalty can see your site plummet down the search rankings and possibly even banished from the SERPs altogether.

On the other hand, there is White Hat SEO. The Ying to the Black Hat’s Yang, White Hat SEO offers Google-approved SEO strategies that play by SEO rules and regulations. White Hat SEO tactics are the best way to create an ethical online listing that isn’t in danger of falling out of favour.

 

Examples of White Hat SEO Techniques

Now we’ve identified what White Hat SEO is, it’s only fair that we paint a full, snowy picture to completely illustrate its squeaky-clean, albino goodness.

To help keep your SEO plan righteous, virtuous and, most importantly, effective, here are a few examples to keep you on the White Hat straight and narrow.

 

Keyword Research

Like any job, doing your homework before you jump in can reap many rewards and SEO is no different. Modern KW technology makes it relatively simple to identify a laundry list of keywords for you to sprinkle within your content in order to keep it ranking and relevant.

However, it’s important not to go overboard. There’s a fine line between keyword inclusion and keyword stuffing, and overuse of keywords could see the former become the latter with seamless ease.

Additionally, try not to choose keywords that are hugely competitive. The greater the demand, the less likely you are to rank. Instead, target long-tail keywords for a better chance of hitting the jackpot.

 

Quality Content

In the world of SEO, content is truly is king and quality content will rule the roost long after it’s first penned (especially if its evergreen). As such, creating well-written content that’s readable and engaging is one of the most effective White Hat SEO techniques there is.

While it can be time-consuming, providing original content that is relevant and useful to your site visitors can translate into serious results. The top 10 blog listings on Google typically comprise of 2000 to 4000 words, so don’t be afraid to dive deep into the subject matter.

Creating unique content about topics you fully understand and have expert insight to can help establish you as an authority on the subject, making your content both original and sharable. Which leads us nicely to…

 

Link Building

Backlinks are Google’s main indicator of which site page is most reliable and relevant to the search term, and therefore most worthy of a high SERP listing. As a rule of thumb, the more backlinks a page has, the higher it will rank on Google.

Backlinks can be gained ethically by writing testimonials, guest blogging and creating partnerships with other sites. Meanwhile, creating original, authoritative content that’s sharable is also a great way to organically bolster your backlinks.

 

Business Listing

In its never-ending quest to provide increasingly accurate results, Google also takes into account the location of a business when displaying SERPs. This can particularly helpful for those looking for local services.

For example, a Brummy on the hunt for a restaurant in Birmingham probably isn’t going to be interested in a steakhouse in Birmingham, Alabama. As such, Google weeds out the irrelevant and reports back with the most applicable geographical results.

Adding a Google My Business (GMB) listing for your company is a great White Hat technique in ensuring local SEO. Meanwhile, it could also attract additional traffic through Google Maps’ “near me” function – a tool used by 82% of overall smartphone users (rising to 92% for Millennials) according to figures published by Uberall.

 

For more information on White Hat SEO techniques and how to avoid Black Hat SEO, drop us a line on 01446 339050. Alternatively, drop us an email using the button below.

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Any business owner or content provider will be well aware of the importance of SEO when it comes to online visibility. The better the SEO, the stronger your page will be in terms of SERP rankings.

However, like any arduous process, there are always going to be those who seek out shortcuts in the hopes of getting from A to B quicker and with as little effort as possible.

Welcome to the world of “Black Hat SEO” – the black market of page ranking; the seedy underbelly of content manipulation; where businesses go to achieve digital dominance by any means necessary.

If you’re thinking of going rogue and donning a black hat in your quest for SEO supremacy, you may want to think again. It isn’t without its risks and short-term gain could very easily result in long-term heartache.

 

black hat seo, what is black hat seo

 

What is Black Hat SEO?

In the halcyon days of the western cowboy movies, the heroes and the villains were commonly distinguishable by their choice of headwear. For the purpose of black and white cinematography, the colours of choice were logically monochrome: the good guys wore white, while the bad guys wore black.

So, perennial silver screen hero, John Wayne, would typically be found sporting a milky Stetson, while someone like Lee Marvin would don an inky, villainous crown. For a more recent example, see Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma (FYI: top film!).

From an SEO standpoint, the same rules apply: “white hat SEO” ethically relies on human audience behaviour as opposed to the search engine’s, while “black hat SEO” focuses on manipulating the search engine and breaking the rules, all while showing two fingers to search engine guidelines.

 

Examples of Black Hat SEO

The dark arts of Black Hat SEO come in many forms, from the glaringly obvious to downright devious. Here are a few examples of the most common offences and how to spot them.

 

Spam Comments

If you’ve ever read a blog or online article with a comments section at the base, chances are that you’ve come across comments comprising of nonsensical fluff that’s completely irrelevant to the preceding post.

The comments section is a veritable playground for Black Hat SEO tacticians and typically filled with more spam than a war-time lunchbox.

While this was somewhat effective in the mid-2000s – resulting in follow links and flowing pagerank to your site for the priestly sum of zero – this process has since been found out, making the minimal benefits hardly worth the bother.

The net is now largely wise to these tactics and spam comments now offer no follow links, while many websites have removed the ability to embed comment content altogether.

Nevertheless, playing the law of averages, the more spam comments of this nature, the more referral traffic you can expect to receive, albeit of a questionable nature of varying quality.

 

Duplicate Content

Content created in a copy/paste manner can be used to deliberately manipulate search engine rankings in order to generate more traffic to a chosen site. While this can not only negatively impact the user experience, it can also detrimentally affect the original site.

Search engines universally prefer unique content to duplicated text and typically won’t show multiple forms of the same content in the SERP. As such, twin copy replicated elsewhere can become problematic and leave certain pages omitted from the results page.

Duplicated content can confuse the search engine, making it difficult for it to know which result is more relevant to a given search. In turn, this can have an adverse effect on ranking and a knock-on effect on traffic as a result, while it can also dilute link equity as well.

 

Keyword Stuffing

As the name suggests, keyword stuffing is the process of overcramming certain buzzwords and phrases into your page in order to maximise its visibility for those particular terms.

While, on the surface, this may seem logical, it can quickly degenerate into a smorgasbord of spam that not only seems unnatural but, at times, can become almost unreadable.

Spamtastic copy often makes little sense and, needless to say, is not user-friendly, negatively affecting your user experience, tarnishing your credibility and ruining the professional presentation of your site.

 

Invisible Text

Perhaps the sneakiest of all the examples on this page, invisible text takes keyword stuffing to another level.

This method uses coloured text on an identically coloured background, camouflaging it from visible view.

As a result, the site still ranks for the chosen keywords present in the hidden copy, yet the text remains unseen to the site visitor.

 

Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid

Naturally, Black Hat SEO tactics aren’t without their risks. Playing against the rules is essentially playing with fire when it comes to your website ranking. While you may get away with for a while, it’s only a matter of time before you face a serious burn.

Black Hat tactics can result in notable damage to your page’s long-term performance, while repeated offences can see your site banned from certain search engines entirely (although this punishment is admittedly quite rare).

More typical ramifications commonly result in a site receiving a serious demotion in the search rankings, nullifying the Black Hat tactics in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, the risk of digital banishment is an ever-present danger if you repeatedly stray to the dark side.

To avoid your Black Hat strategy turning into Black List misery, we recommend steering clear of these short-term fixes and instead focusing your time and efforts on conventional White Hat methods that don’t draw the ire of the SERP police.

 

For more information on Black Hat SEO tactics and the effects of unethical SEO, drop us a line today on 01446 339050. Alternatively, get in touch using the button below and find out more about how we can help you achieve SEO results the right way.

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When it comes to implementing keywords into your site copy, blog content and social media, knowing where to start can be a headache in itself - particularly if you don’t have a good keyword research tool to help get the wheels in motion.

Sadly, many of the best keyword research tools are paid, subscription-based services – which is all well and good for big companies that can afford it, not so great for Aunt Lily and her humble, home-made cupcake business.

Luckily, help is at hand. More specifically, help is directly in your hands!

 serp seo

What is SERP?

Okay, first things first, let’s go back to basics – what does SERP stand for?

SERP is an acronym for “Search Engine Results Page”. This is where the web results of your search term will be displayed in list form, ranked by their relevance to what you’re looking for. This is also typically accompanied by additional paid ads that also relate to the terms you searched.

A high-ranking, keyword-rich site page, blog or post will, in theory, climb the SERP rankings and sit high on the list. Meanwhile, unoptimised text will find itself relegated to darkest depths of the bottom pages – where no man wants to be.

Think of your site as a magazine on a newsstand. Great SERP SEO will see your site taking pride of place, proudly displayed front and centre for all to see. Meanwhile, poor SEO would be akin to stuffing it at the very back of the top shelf, hidden behind a couple of dusty, old blue mags.

 

Using SERP to optimise content

To keep your content from dancing in the dark like an uncoordinated extra in a high school musical, it’s important to keep your SEO skills sharp. This will help shine a spotlight on your content and bump it up to the main stage of the top results pages.

How do we do that? We’re glad you asked! Some of the most relevant keywords and phrases are available literally at your fingertips – you just need to know where to look.

 

SERP-rising results

The art of manipulating SERPs is a great way to make Google do the all the leg work when it comes to SEO research. Better still, the process itself is virtually effortless.

Finding great keywords that are relevant to your subject matter can be as easy as hitting the “enter” key. Simply run a Google search for a term relative to your needs and watch nature take its course.

This process can instantly return a myriad of keywords and phrases that have already passed the Google green-light, leaving them ripe for the picking.

Say, for example, you run a dog food business. Typing “cheap dog food” into Google will immediately spit out a bowlful of meaty SEO results dripping in keyword Marylebone jelly.

Follow these three easy SEO tips to keep your content standing tall as top dog.

 

"People also ask"

The “People also ask” box is typically found towards the top of the results page when you enter your search requirements.

So, using the example of your fictional dog food business, a search for “cheap dog food” would return relative search questions along the lines of “What is a good dog food?”, “What is the best cheap dog food?” and “How much does a dog cost a month?”.

These terms can make for excellent headings in your blog and logical H2s that won’t seem forced. The queries are relevant, the subject matters are ideal and the answers can be seamlessly weaved into your content in a manner that also naturally promotes your product.

For example, if you were to include “What is a good dog food?” as a H2 in your blog, you could easily relate the accompanying content back to your products in smooth transition by saying:

“A good dog food should include a variety of key canine nutrients. Mut Mix 2000 includes all the vitamins and minerals your furry friend needs for a healthy, balanced diet.”

This way your copy remains relevant, you’ve plugged your product nicely and still included the keyword phrase in a high-profile position as a H2. Hot dog!

 

"Searches related to"

Much like the previous section, another great area of inspiration is the “Searches related to” list. This can be found at the bottom of the SERP, comprising of eight similar searches related to your topic of choice. This is essentially a mini list of searches that Google believes the user may find helpful, should they wish to expand on their search.

The results can range from alternate searches to more detailed queries into the same term; for example, that “cheap dog food” search could return “cheap dog food online” or “dry dog food” in the “Searches related to” section. As Google has already identified these terms as relevant to your search, they logically warrant inclusion in your copy.

Meanwhile, the octet of “Searches related to” results can also provide businesses with valuable market research of what your customers are actively looking for in relation to a product. Related searches – such as “cheap dog food 15kg” and “cheap dog food in bulk” – give an insightful glimpse into what your target audience wants, as well as their buying habits, so it’s worth keeping that in mind if you don’t already provide such products.

 

"People also search for"

This next batch of insider info is a little trickier to come by as it doesn’t immediately appear in your search results; however, it’s still fairly straight-forward to access.

Simply type in your search term and click on one of the relevant results. Once through to your site of choice, navigate back to the SERP to trigger the “People also search for” box. This should now appear below the aforementioned site listing in the SERP.

This box typically includes six highly relevant results that mirror your search and, by proxy, mirrors the behaviour of your customer/target audience. This is very similar to the “Searches related to” list yet still a useful and insightful tool nonetheless.

If patience isn’t your strong suit and bulk lists are what you’re after, there a number of programmes, plug-ins and extensions readily-available online that enable you to simply extract the list of “People also search for” phrases in one go (such as this). These allow you to effectively harvest these lists for SEO purposes without the need to meticulously scour Google.

 

So, there you have it: three easy ways to optimise your content at the click of a mouse without parting with a penny. For more SEO tips, check out our Simple SEO Tips for 2019 or drop us a line using the button below.

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When most of us want to buy something, find a location, or get the answer to a question, we go to Google, right? We like the results, we’re used to how it works...we even use the word 'Google' as a verb to mean 'search for information about'. No wonder Google is the go-to search engine for the majority of Internet users.

Today, we'd like to take a look at whether this pronounced user preference for Google might wane due to the ever-changing appearance of their results pages, or if - on the contrary - these changes have helped to make the search engine even better. Before we can answer this question, we first need to understand which aspects of Google have changed and the effects of those alterations.

As you probably know, the pages that appear when you search for something in any search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are known as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Over the past year or two, Google have repeatedly changed the way their own SERPs look, and the compounded effect of their changes - particularly in the last year - has seen the traditional organic results pushed further and further down the page.

In this article, we’ll attempt to assess the impact of the changing face of the Google SERPs on organic results.

So How Have Things Changed?

More Ad Space

Firstly, there are now more paid adverts at the top of the SERPs than ever before. In February 2016, Google began to show as many as 4 AdWords ads at the top of the SERP, where once there were only 2 at most. This inevitably began to push organic results further down the page. (Interestingly, up to 3 ads now appear at the bottom of the results page too.)

At the present time, paying for ads through Google AdWords is the easiest way to gain visibility on the SERPs - provided you have a big enough budget, of course! Google place their adverts before organic results because it's in their financial interest to do so - they get money every time somebody clicks an AdWords ad. Google ads have been around for many years and most users are more than used to seeing them at the top of the SERPs, and so it seems unlikely that people will stop using the search engine because of this change; however, if Google continue to increase the number of ads displayed before their organic search results, the number of people clicking on those organic results will likely get smaller and smaller.

Here is a typical Google SERP in which the ads are prioritised and take up most of the space above the fold (the point where you have to scroll down to see more). Notice that the only non-paid search result displayed above the fold is the location of a nearby retailer. 

Google SERP for 'tiles'  

Note also that each individual AdWords ad takes up quite a lot of space by itself - this is due to the addition of 'ad extensions' such as review ratings and additional links.

Featured Snippets

Another relatively new feature that pushes the traditional organic results further down the SERP is the featured snippet, which is now considerably more common than it used to be. In short, a featured snippet is a brief extract from a web page that Google thinks will serve as a handy, concise answer to the query you entered. Although these are organic rather than paid, they still take up a fairly large chunk of real estate near the top of the SERP.

Featured snippets are a game-changer for the simple reason that, when they appear, they appear above all traditional organic listings. For some searches, all that's now visible above the fold is a featured snippet and the paid ads section, meaning that these snippets are now arguably more valuable than the coveted #1 organic position. (Some people have even called the featured snippet slot 'position 0' or 'rank 0'). The introduction of featured snippets has changed the way people use Google as they provide users with answers without even requiring them to click onto a web page.

Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet for 'what is a web sling'

Click here to find out how to gain the featured snippet spot for your keywords.

Rich Cards

Rich cards are another way for Google to give you information in the body of the SERP itself (instead of requiring you to click through to a web page). For example, if you search for the title of a film, a rich card with the movie poster, release date, ratings, et cetera will all appear in the form of a rich card:

Rich card for the movie 'Titanic'

Other types of rich cards may be displayed when searching for courses, recipes or events: Google will supply a list of what it finds on offer, rather than having the user manually compare lots of websites one at a time.

As with snippets, this feature allows Google users to get the answers they need without ever having to click onto a website. Rich cards and featured snippets have definitely made things easier for the user, but whether they have made things easier for business owners is a different question.

Local Results (Map Pack)

The map pack is what we call the group of localised results that appears when Google thinks you're searching for a business or a location in a specific place. For instance, if you search for 'tile shop' and Google sees that you're currently in Dinas Powys, your SERP might include a map pack like this one:

Map pack

This is a vastly useful feature for Google users as it allows them to see what's around them at a glance. These results are organic (not paid) and display business information clearly and concisely, so it is a useful feature for business owners as well. The only thing you need to do to be included in this section is to provide your business information to Google through Google My Business.

Shopping Results

Google Shopping Results

AdWords ads aren't the only paid results you might see within the Google SERP these days. There are also Google Shopping results: product-specific listings that appear when your query indicated a desire to buy something. Each Shopping ad includes a price, a picture, and the name of the product in question, along with the name of the website that sells it. Once again, this has definitely improved the experience for the user as they can view and compare an array of information right there on the SERP.

However, as the size and volume of these Shopping ads increase, the organic search engine results are getting pushed further down the page and becoming more visually unappealing compared to the snazzy product images. This decreases the chance of organic search results gaining clicks/conversions, while potentially increasing the number of businesses that might wish to start using Google Ads.

AMP Results

Google AMP result

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) results appear when a website has stripped their pages down to the bare necessities so as to improve loading speed on mobile devices. This means taking out unnecessary styling, formatting, bells and whistles while compressing image files and the like to make them as small and as speedy as possible. When a search occurs on a smartphone, Google may prioritise AMP results as these will theoretically deliver a superior user experience.

Many sites are now striving to make their web pages as lightweight as possible using Google's AMP technology. This may mean that non-AMP pages are increasingly left behind as users learn to favour organic results that load more or less instantaneously.

Less Space

With all of the above features and listings jockeying for position, the competition for space on the Google SERP is tougher than ever before. Even if a business ranks towards the top of the traditional organic listings, it will now be much lower down the page overall.

 Google SERP

In this example, not a single traditional organic result is visible above the fold. Instead, the screen is filled with AdWords ads, map listings, and Google Shopping results.

What is the impact of these SERP changes?

As you can see in the image above, paid ads now dominate the top of many SERPs (particularly where the search term is popular and highly competitive). The face of the Google SERP is in constant flux, but it's a fairly safe bet that AdWords will continue to be prioritised. This means that businesses who rely primarily on organic Google traffic may be in for a rough time; for instance, ranking in the 6th organic position for a popular keyword might have driven a lot of traffic to your site in the past, but that #6 slot may now be so far down the page it scarcely receives any clicks at all.

However, it's not necessarily all bad news. Although the traditional organic listings have been pushed down, there is still plenty of organic opportunity above the fold in the form of featured snippets, rich cards, and the map pack.

At the beginning of this article, we looked to address whether all of these SERP changes will impact the way people use Google. To answer that question, we believe Google works to make their SERPs the best they can possibly be for the user (while also endeavouring to maximise their own profits in the process). Google users can gain information quicker than ever before and the SERPs help them make shopping decisions more easily by comparing multiple websites' offerings at a glance. Increasing the number of AdWords ads at the top of the SERP seems to have been chiefly a money-motivated decision, but to be fair, the increasing prevalence of Shopping ads is arguably a user-motivated development, making it easy for searchers to view and evaluate lots of different products in seconds. Businesses may have been adversely affected by the decreased focus on standard organic results, but at the end of the day, Google are more interested in satisfying the people who use Google to search than in placating the business owners who use Google to drive traffic to their websites.

What can businesses affected by these changes do? 

The preference for paid ads over organic results doesn’t look like a trend that will reverse any time soon, meaning that businesses must continue to work harder at their SEO to appear towards the very top of the organic search results. To boost organic traffic and CTR, try to write content that targets the featured snippet box, and make sure you're listed on Google My Business so that you show up in the map pack.

Inevitably, it may also be time to review your paid marketing strategy (or indeed implement one for the first time). If Google AdWords and Google Shopping continue to dominate the top of the SERPs and it is your goal to be a part of that space, budgeting more money for paid advertising may be key. Ultimately, it is a good idea for businesses to try to appear in both the organic and paid results to maximise their visibility, so refreshing your content and paid advertising strategies is the key to staying relevant in the ever-changing SERP landscape. 

Need help driving organic or paid traffic to your website? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - our experts will be more than happy to assist you!

Google SERP

Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) have changed a lot in recent years. Once upon a time, you could type just about anything into Google and you'd only ever get ten blue links on the results page:

Ten Blue Links SERP
Pictured: a dying breed.

Nowadays, it's very rare to see a SERP that's exclusively populated by blue links. The modern Google SERP is a far more colourful place to be, often incorporating some combination of the following:
  • AdWords ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Featured snippets (also known as 'answer boxes')
  • Image results
  • Video results
  • Map results (for local businesses)
  • News stories
For example, take a look at the results you get if you perform a search for 'wedding ideas' - there are some standard organic text results (the blue links) but they share the SERP with AdWords ads, a row of images, and even some recent tweets from Wedding Ideas magazine!

Wedding Ideas Results

This is all part of Google's ongoing effort to give every searcher exactly what they're looking for as quickly as possible. Hence, if you type in 'how much does a Kodiak bear weight', the answer (1,500 pounds) will appear right at the top of your SERP, and if you Google 'Kristen Stewart' or 'Brad Pitt', you'll be greeted by a smorgasbord of different media - including photos, news stories, movie posters, quotations, and biographical titbits - that Google has collected from various corners of the Internet in the hope that one of these things will be what you were after.

What does this mean for website owners?

Google's increasingly diverse results pages are something of a mixed blessing for webmasters. On the plus side, there are now numerous different ways to appear on the first page of Google results for certain juicy keywords: even if your site doesn't rank among the top 10 traditional text results, you may still be able to achieve some level of visibility as an image/video result or a dot on the map in certain locations.

On the other hand, many websites that previously received a lot of hits from organic Google searches have seen a noticeable decrease in traffic since the SERPs started getting smarter. Securing the #1 slot in the blue link list no longer means that you will necessary appear at the very top of the SERP - your link may be pushed down the page by adverts, featured snippets, and/or image results if Google decides that these things will result in a higher level of user satisfaction.

This issue is exacerbated in the ever-expanding world of mobile search, where SERP real estate is scarcest of all. For example, B&Q's website www.diy.com occupies the #1 organic slot for the term 'garden decking' at time of writing, but because Google prioritises its own Shopping and AdWords results, you have to scroll quite a long way down before you even come to that supposedly 'top' result:

Decking SERP

This iPhone user searched for 'garden decking' using the Google app, and only reached the top organic result after scrolling past a row of Google Shopping ads and 3 AdWords results.

The lesson here is that, for many search terms, a high organic ranking is no longer the be-all and end-all when it comes to driving lots of traffic. If you want to maximise your website's search engine visibility, you need to be seen in all the other parts of the SERP too.

Not sure how to do that? Don't worry - the SEO experts from Designer Websites are here to provide you with your very own AAA pass. Read on to find out how to get your website showing up in four different parts of the modern Google SERP:

Introduction: Your Music Shop

Now, the SEO/SEM tips we're about to dish up can be applied to a broad variety of different businesses, but for the purposes of this blog post we're going to need a single, versatile example.

So, for the next few minutes, please imagine you own a shop that sells musical instruments. Your bricks-and-mortar store is located in Birmingham, but you also sell instruments online and ship them to customers all over the country. You take online orders through an ecommerce website that ranks well for terms like 'buy musical instruments', but it's recently become clear that your visually appealing, user-friendly website isn't getting anywhere near as much traffic as it ought to be getting.

And that's why you're reading this article - because you're trying to find a way to boost your music shop's visibility in the Google SERPs.

1. Google AdWords

As noted above, your website ranks reasonably well for the term 'buy musical instruments', but you're concerned that a lot of potential customers are ignoring your link in favour of the AdWords listings that appear at the top of the Google results for that query.

Musical Instrument ads

Google selfishly gives its own ads pole position in the results for this search term, so if you want to appear at the very top of the 'buy musical instruments' SERP, you'll need to set up an AdWords account and pay for some ads of your own.

Google AdWords operates on a 'pay per click' (PPC) basis, which means that you will be charged a certain amount of money every time somebody clicks your ad. The exact cost of each click will depend on how much you bid for each keyword - the more you bid, the higher up the page your ad will appear when somebody searches for that word or phrase.

Cost per click is also dependent on your page's quality score: when you create an advert, Google will look at your landing page and give it a mark out of 10 based on how well it 'answers' the query you're targeting. If you get a low quality score, Google will be reluctant to show your ad to users, and you'll have to pay more for each click as a result.

The key to running a successful AdWords campaign is finding the right keywords. You need to identify popular search terms that your customers frequently type into Google, but you ideally want to steer clear of ultra-competitive keywords with a high cost per click (since you'll have to pay a lot of money to consistently appear in a prominent position for these terms).

2. Product Listing Ads (Google Shopping)

AdWords ads aren't the only sponsored results that Google likes to display above the organic listings. Let's imagine you've got a lot of Yamaha keyboards in your music shop that you'd like to sell - how do you show up at the top of the SERP for the term 'Yamaha keyboards'?

Keyboard Shopping Results

Those links with images above them are called product listing ads. They tend to show up when the user searches for a specific product or type of product - think of them as Google's way of saying, 'It looks like you want to buy something...and we reckon we've got just the thing right here!'

Unfortunately, the guys at Google won't list your products out of the goodness of their hearts - you have to pay to appear in those shopping slots. Google Shopping operates on a PPC basis, just like Google AdWords, although product listing ads are arguably a little easier to manage than AdWords campaigns because you don't have to worry about finding the right keywords to target.

Here's a quick introduction to Google Shopping ads courtesy of the search engine giant itself:


3. Local Results (Google Maps)

Since you sell your musical instruments in a bricks-and-mortar shop as well as through an ecommerce website, you'll definitely want to be appearing in the Google Maps results for certain terms. For example, if somebody Googles 'music shop Birmingham', that probably indicates that they're looking to walk into a local shop and buy something in person, so you should absolutely be aiming to rank among the top results for that search term.

But once again, you'll have to jump through a couple of hoops to make that happen.

Google Map Results

The good news is that Google's local results are not sponsored listings, so this part won't cost you money like the AdWords campaigns and the product listing ads did. All you have to do is go to Google My Business and enter your shop's details - you will probably have to verify the business either by taking a phone call or entering a code that Google sends to your address on a postcard.

Once that's done, you can customise your listing with photographs, add an enticing description of your music shop, and display your opening hours for everyone to see. You will also be able to collect reviews from Google users who have visited your store and want to tell other potential visitors about their experience.

4. Featured Snippets (The Answer Box)

Google seems to be displaying featured answers for more and more queries with each passing day. They're designed to provide digestible answers to question-type searches, and they look like this:

Google Answers
These snippets are great for the sites they're culled from - being featured in Google's answer box means that your link gets pushed right to the top of the organic results and given an extra wallop of visual emphasis that really helps you to stand out.

In order to rank as a featured snippet, you'll first need to identify a frequently-asked question that's relevant to your business and to your specialist knowledge. Here are some examples that could drive some good traffic to your hypothetical music shop's website:
  • why do guitars go out of tune
  • easiest instrument to learn
  • how to stop drumsticks breaking
All of these are examples of search terms for which Google might reasonably serve up a featured answer. And if you want that answer to come from your website, all you have to do is write one!

This is a really good use for a company blog - answering popular questions that are specifically related to your niche or industry. Simply pick a question and make that the title of your blog post; aim to provide a short, simplified answer in the first paragraph of your blog (the idea being that Google will use this excerpt for their featured snippet), then use a few more paragraphs to explore the question in more detail.


We hope you found this blog post useful and that you enjoyed reading it. Remember, the Designer Websites team can help with all your search engine marketing needs - get in touch today to discuss your requirements with us!

A few days ago, we found out that Google would be removing all PPC ads from the right-hand side of the search results page; an announcement that has since sparked widespread debate amongst SEOs. The search results page now has 4 paid ads displayed at the top of the page, which means that it takes longer for users to reach the stream of organic results than it would have previously. While Google have attempted to compensate somewhat by adding a greater number of organic listings below these ads, with 9 blue links being displayed, there is still  a great deal of concern from those who rely on organic rankings.

Previously, side adds would have been more obvious to viewers due to their positioning aside from organic results, which helped to highlight the fact that they were ads. Reserving them for within the list of organic searches means that they viewer has to look through these ads, making it more likely that they will get clicked. This has come as an unwelcome change to many SEO professionals, who are concerned that Google is prioritising its commercial gain over the experience of its users. Results that would once have appeared near the top of the page, have now been pushed closer to the middle, giving an almost entirely new meaning to the prospect of coming out 'on top' in organic rankings. 

Naturally, there are both positive and negative aspects to these changes with regards to the user, which will depend largely on how aware the specific individual would have been of paid results previously. The more street-wise internet users may be irritated by the fact that they now have to scroll through even more paid results, while those who pay little attention to ad markers may even find the new layout refreshing in comparison to the somewhat cluttered appearance of the previous format. The users least affected by this will be those who conduct their searches largely by mobile devices, on which side ads were not present prior to these changes. 

This change has also led to much debate amongst paid search marketers, who fear that the loss of side ads will drive up the price of PPC campaigns, as the competition for the top position becomes more intense.However, some have been quick to dismiss these fears, due to the fact that these ads were already accounting for a low percentage of the total click volume. Wordstream founder Larry Kim also notes that all ads will now be able to use additional add-ons such as sitelink, location and call-out extensions, allowing them to take up a larger area, and providing them with a chance to stand out amongst their competitors. Additionally, he also drew attention to the fact that desktop now account for less than half of all searches, suggesting that perhaps these changes would have had a gradual impact over time regardless, as people gradually migrate from desktop to mobiles.

Whether you view these changes as a positive progression towards better quality ads, or see them as an inconvenience which serves as proof of Google's prioritisation of financial gain over user experience, there is no doubt that you will have to adapt your approach to suit these new developments. As with any updates and alterations in the world of SEO, it is doubtful that the affects of these changes will be felt straight away, however, it is important that people start to examine new strategies straight away to avoid being left behind.

To find out how we can help to improve your visibility in search engine results, or assist you in targeting the right audience with your Google ads, get in touch today.