Local SEO

What is local SEO?

Local SEO refers to the process of enhancing your local online presence in order to attract more business from relevant local searches. It can be classed as ‘the practice of optimising your brick and mortar business for location-focused keywords and search terms’; such as “web design Barry”.

These searches can be performed across several different search engines, but with 90%+ market share in the UK alone, these searches are typically performed on Google, with the hope of being included in something called the ‘Google Snack Pack’.

The Google Snack Pack, also known and referred to as the ‘local 3 pack’ or ‘map pack’, is the boxed area that appears on the first page of Google search results when a local online search is performed. The Snack Pack box displays the top 3 local business listings most relevant to the search query and contains it’s very own search algorithm and set of rules. But why is it important for local businesses to appear in the snack pack? Let’s find out!

 

Why is local SEO important?

Optimising your local SEO means increased website traffic (if you have a website), leads and conversions since your efforts are placed into becoming more relevant to your base of local customers. It is a way to help smaller businesses compete more effectively against larger national organisations who have significantly greater amounts of resources at their disposal. By focusing on specific local SEO tactics, smaller firms are able to limit the impact of these bigger businesses that often optimise content for broader keywords and search terms and rely on brand recognition, rather than value offerings, to bring in footfall.

Further strengthening the case for local SEO are the fascinating stats that surround it. 46% of all searches performed on Google have ‘local intent’ (SER), “near me” searches are increasing 150% faster than traditional, local-based searches (Google) and 29% of all Google search engine result pages contain a snack pack in the results (RankRanger). 

With all of the advantages and buzz around local SEO, it comes to no surprise as to why so many businesses are battling it out to be included in the local 3 pack. So, what can you do to get in there? Here are the best ways to optimise your business for local SEO.

Improving your local SEO

1.       Create & Optimise Your Google My Business Listing

First things first, to get started with local SEO, you’ll need to create a Google My Business listing. For no charge, this establishes your business’ online presence and means you will appear on Google Maps. Not only will your business appear in search results across a variety of devices, but if Google authenticates your listing as a legitimate business, it could also appear in the sidebar space of a Google search.

 

There are several ways in which you can optimise your GMB listing to ensure Google not only sees your business but chooses it to appear in local search results. These are:

  • Keeping everything consistent between your listing, website & other online listings
  • Filling in every data point available i.e. Name, Address, Bio and Shortname
  • Keeping crucial business data updated such as opening hours and holidays
  • Get more reviews and engage with any that you do get

 

2.       Gain Regular Reviews

The last point that we made above is an important one. Getting your customers to leave glowing reviews about your business doesn’t just help to optimise your GMB listing and presence, but it also encourages more local customers to buy from you. The more footfall that your business experiences can lead to further positive reviews which then helps to build more signals to Google that your business is legit and worthy of ranking highly in local searches. Some tips to encourage your customers to leave positive reviews are:

  • Respond to existing reviews in a professional way, addressing any negative reviews that you may get and thanking reviewers for sharing their positive experiences
  • Asking for a review in-person after a sale has been made
  • Send post-purchase communications asking customers to leave reviews

 

3.       Optimise for Voice Search

Voice search has been rapidly growing over recent years, especially in terms of SEO. Therefore, it is crucial to optimise your content into a voice search-friendly manner, focusing on the way people ask questions when they speak rather than when they are typing. When performing voice searches using specific devices such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home or a voice assistant such as Siri, searchers opt for more long-tail keywords compared with regular search. As a result, you’ll have to adjust the SEO of your content to fit the more conversational tone of someone talking. A good tip here is to focus your efforts on traditional question starters such as who, what, when, where, why and how.

 

4.       Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Online mobile searches have also grown in popularity over the last decade with the increase in accessibility to mobile devices. In fact, in 2017, Google released its mobile-first indexing search results that prioritised mobile-optimised content over non-optimised content and even made it their primary index. This confirms the strategy behind optimising websites and content to be mobile-friendly, not just for local SEO, but for SEO as a whole.

Some tips for making your website more mobile-friendly are:

  • Ensure your website loads quickly
  • Use images and website copy only when needed and avoid filler content
  • Use bigger fonts that are easy to read
  • Implement an enhanced user interface for a great experience

 

 

5.       Greater Focus on Local Keywords

One of the most obvious ways to rank for local search results is to focus on local keywords, right? Of course, it is! Google’s own Keyword Planner allows you to filter keyword searches based on location, so you can get a better idea and understanding of the popular search terms for a specific area. This enables you to form a list of relevant local keywords that you can target to give yourself a better chance on ranking. Once you have these keywords, you can begin to implement content, meta tags and URLs to match.

Another great tactic that you can implement to increase local SEO results is to include mentions of location-specific landmarks and hotspots in your site’s content. For example, if your business offers web design in Cardiff city centre, including references such as “web design near Cardiff castle” could also bolster rankings in local search results.

 

6.       Implement Location Pages or Location-Focused ‘About Us’ Pages

If your business operates in more than one location, then location pages are a must. These pages allow you to target very specific location-based keywords around a main keyword e.g. “Cardiff decking” and “Slough decking”. At the minimum, each of these pages will need to provide the following information:

  • Opening hours
  • Name, address and phone number
  • Reviews
  • Promotions
  • Google Maps location

When adding these pages to your site, it’s important to remember that standards SEO rules still apply and content should be unique.

If your business only operates in one location, then having an ‘About Us’ page that focuses on local, relevant information is imperative. If you run a coffee shop, for example, your About Us page is the perfect place to provide information that you supply the coffee and cakes for local fundraisers each year. This reaffirms your commitment to your local community and provides potential customers near you with confidence in your business, which can lead to increased levels of business and many of the aforementioned benefits such as positive reviews.

 

7.       Take Advantage of Online Directories

Websites such as Yell, Yelp, YellowPages and Foursquare are online business directories that help to get your business name, address and phone number (NAP) on the web, which is one of the most important, if not the most important element of local SEO. NAPs act the same way as backlinks do to a website and let Google know that multiple places on the web are talking about or mentioning your business. The key thing to remember when adding your business to these online directories is to ensure that all information remains consistent.

Online business listing should include the following basic information:

  • Accurate business name, address and phone number which is consistent across all directories
  • A backlink to your website if you have one
  • A thorough description of your business

 

8.       Build High-Quality Backlinks

According to Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors study, ‘link signals’ were ranked number one and number two respectively in the most important factors for ranking in local organic rankings and the local pack and snack pack. Link signals are backlinks that point back to your website, so it’s important to get as many of these as possible, however, you do need to focus on their quality more than anything. The more relevant and authoritative the backlink is, the greater the signal is going to be to Google that your business is legitimate and also relevant to the local search being performed.

Some tips that you could follow to create high-quality backlinks to your website are:

  • Guest blogging on reputable websites that have a high domain authority
  • Produce high-quality content on your website that others want to link to
  • Engage with local businesses and influencers to link back to your website

 

SEO is a fast-moving and ever-changing industry, so you never know when Google will introduce new and innovative features to its search engine results page for local searches, but they are more or less guaranteed. Therefore, it is vital to keep on top of changes that can impact your local SEO. By starting off implementing the above eight points, you will ensure that your business not only takes advantage of lucrative local search opportunities but builds a solid platform that can be taken forward and progressed further when new and exciting local SEO features are announced.

Want to know more about how Designer Website can help your business with its local or national SEO, be sure to visit our search engine optimisation page today to see the professional and quality SEO services that our team of experts can provide. You can also get in touch with us if you require anything else!

 

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Creating high-quality video content can hugely improve your audience engagement, boost your Google ranking and increase sales. In this blog, we discuss why incorporating video into your website is important if you want to appeal to a modern market and compete with other brands online.

The Online Buying Experience

When looking at the current consumer market, there has been a dramatic shift towards people shopping online rather than heading to their local high street stores to shop. Why? Because shopping online offers an entirely different browsing and purchasing experience that is often more convenient. Customers can:

  • Shop from the comfort of their home & at any time of the day
  • Quickly and easily compare similar products from different brands or suppliers
  • Access honest reviews from other customers who purchased the same product

But one thing online shopping doesn’t allow consumers to do is see the product in real life. That’s why videos are an invaluable tool for digital marketers and something that customers expect to see when they shop online. When people intend to buy something, particularly something of high value, they want to know that it’s exactly what they're looking for before parting with their money. Research shows that after watching a video about a certain product, people were much more likely to buy it than if they hadn’t watched a video. Why is that?

Videos not only showcase a product or service, but they also present information in a way that is engaging, easy to share and most importantly, easy to digest. Videos enable you to:

  • Offer customers a 360° & up-close experience
  • Demonstrate how the product or service works
  • Highlight & talk about the technical elements
  • Show how your product or service is better than others

Let’s take a look at an example of a video that showcases a product/service effectively:

This is a video that we created for one of our clients, Sweets in the City, to advertise their Letterbox Treats product. So, why is this video effective?

  1. It shows people the name of the brand & product name clearly
  2. It demonstrates exactly how to order and personalise your order online
  3. It shows the complete product & how it will be delivered to you

After watching this video, the potential customer has everything they need to make an informed decision about their purchase.

Another great way that video can be utilised in digital marketing is in explaining and providing information in a visual way that sometimes words and text cannot convey in an engaging manner. In the video below, we provide information on 'composite decking vs plastic decking' for UK composite decking supplier TimberTechUK.

Here you can see a comparison of the two types of decking board with important information spoken in a voiceover. Providing a combination of both visual and audio elements that make what would be standard text information, a lot more interesting to take in and understand.

SEO Video Benefits

While creating videos to advertise products can greatly increase sales, this is not the only way that video can improve your business.

Search engines like Google consider videos to be ‘high-quality content’. Used correctly, videos can dramatically boost your rankings. When bots crawl your site and come across this ‘high-quality’ content, you can expect that your site will receive a ranking boost, moving you closer to that all important #1 position. Some examples of videos that add lots of value to your site include interviews with experts, reviews or gifs - to name a few.

Google often shows a selection of video results (a video pack) close to the top of page one in response to a particular search term or query. That’s because Google wants to give its users the best possible experience, and some users will find a video response most useful.

For example; someone searching ‘how to change a tyre?’ might want to see somebody changing a tyre and talking them through the process rather than reading a long article or trying to piece together a series of images. To get maximum SEO benefits from your video content, you should:

  • Ensure your video is high-quality and relevant to your business/product
  • Target relevant keywords in your video title
  • Write a detailed meta-description that also incorporates relevant keywords

Social Media

In recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, incorporating new and interesting ways to share video content. Learning how to harness the potential of features such as; Live videos, stories and Instagram TV etc. will be key to long-lasting customer engagement in the future.

Sharing entertaining video content on social media platforms can also broaden your customer outreach exponentially. We’ve all seen a funny or interesting video online and tagged our friends or shared it with our own followers. Think about how this same principle can be applied to your digital marketing efforts - create original, eye-catching and entertaining content with your product, service or brand at the centre.

How can we help?

If it isn’t already apparent, incorporating video into your digital marketing efforts is very important if you want to remain successful in the current climate. At Designer Websites, we offer a number of services that will help you bring your brand to life including, videography, drone footage, 360ۤ° video and street view.

Click the buttons below to have a look at these services in more detail, or give us a call on 01446 339050 and we'll be happy to discuss your ideas & give you a quote - free of charge!

Videography >                                   Drone Footage >                               360° video & street view >

 

Should You Outsource Digital Marketing Strategy

Marketing your business online is a multifaceted task that often takes place across many different platforms. Nowadays, a typical digital marketing strategy might include any or all of the following:

  • Responsive website (fast, mobile friendly, optimised for search engines)
  • Conversion optimisation (tweaking content and layout for performance)
  • AMP development (faster mobile pages)
  • Blog posts and other content (including infographics, videos, etc.)
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc.)
  • PR and link outreach (e.g. articles, external blog posts)
  • PPC advertising (e.g. Google AdWords, Bing Ads)

You may also choose to combine the above strategies with more traditional avenues such as TV, radio and/or print advertising.

With the fight happening on so many different fronts, it's not hard to see why a lot of business owners decide to outsource some or all of their marketing to external agencies. Indeed, it's not uncommon to hire a different firm for each task: one company to design your website, another to write engaging content for your blog, another to handle your AdWords campaigns, and so on.

Outsourcing Digital Marketing

But is this a good way to get results?

The obvious benefit of this approach is that it allows you to hire a specialist for each part of your multi-platform digital marketing effort. You want a professional-looking website, so you hire an experienced web developer who's capable of providing this. You want to get your brand name in front of more people, so you pay a highly-rated PR agency to get the word out on your behalf. Nobody in your organisation knows the first thing about Google AdWords? No problem - hire a PPC expert to set up some campaigns for you.

On the face of it, then, choosing the best person or company for each job on a task-by-task basis seems like a pretty sensible tactic. The problem is that while PPC advertising, SEO copywriting, website design, et cetera are all distinct disciplines that require very different skillsets, they don't exist independently of one another. All digital marketing platforms are intrinsically linked, and trying to separate them all out can cause a lot of headaches.

Here are some examples:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a critically important part of website development that ideally needs to be taken into consideration at the planning stage. When building a new online home for your business, you might be tempted to hire a designer to create the website itself, then turn the project over to an SEO expert who can select the keywords and write the copy for each page. As a general rule, though, you'll definitely get far better results in the end if your website developer has a strong working knowledge of SEO too - that way, they can make suggestions from the get-go and help you to construct a highly-optimised site hierarchy instead of just hashing in some keywords as an afterthought. Optimising a website is significantly more than just content and keywords - it’s having a modern and responsive site architecture, handling URLs properly, hosting the website in a way that make it fast for the end user, and so much more!

  • If you're thinking of using Google AdWords to drive extra traffic to your website, you may be wondering exactly how much each click will cost you once your ads are up and running. The answer to that question depends on many different variables, but more than any other factor, the amount you pay when somebody clicks on one of your ads is determined by its quality score, which is derived from the combination of keyword, advert and landing page. The lower your quality score, the more you'll have to pay for each click (since Google don't like sending their users to irrelevant or low-quality web pages). But your average PPC manager can't achieve a good quality score just by fiddling around in AdWords - it requires collaboration between your web developer, copywriter and PPC manager to get those ads and landing pages just right.

  • Finally, let's imagine that you've hired a social media guru to grow your audience on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. In order to craft successful social campaigns and keep your accounts running smoothly, that person will have to co-ordinate their efforts with the person who writes your blog posts, the person who handles your PR, and possibly several other parties like your web developer, your sales team, and whoever is responsible for determining the overall direction of the company. That's a lot of plates to keep spinning!

The point is that - as the old proverb goes - too many cooks sometimes spoil the broth, and dividing up your marketing efforts can hugely diminish your results. Assigning each task to a different specialist opens you up to a lot of potential problems, especially if any of your marketers cannot see:

  • Accurate sales and traffic figures for your business
  • The growth plans you have in place
  • What everyone else is working on

Of course, there are numerous tools and pieces of software that can be used to co-ordinate several groups of people who are all working towards the same goal, but these solutions tend to only work as well as the people using them. No matter how you slice it, trying to synchronise half a dozen different agencies and get them all reporting back to you in perfect harmony can be a huge and frustrating task!

So is there a better way?

A simpler route to digital marketing success

You want to make life simple for yourself, but you're still keen to check all the digital marketing boxes and get your brand seen in as many different places as possible. How do you achieve both of these goals? Well, you could try one of the following:

1) Hire in-house marketing talent.

Instead of outsourcing your marketing efforts to external agencies, you may decide to hire your very own PPC expert, SEO guru, social media manager, etc. That way, all the necessary skills will be in your own office and on your own payroll.

The drawback: Hiring your own marketing team will cost a lot of money and use up a lot of time. You'll have to do all the legwork - posting job ads, looking through CVs, interviewing applicants - yourself, and if you're hiring several people, you'll have to do it all multiple times. Successful candidates might need to be trained up, and they may take some time to properly settle into your organisation.

And that's assuming you can even find the talent you need. Unfortunately, most skilled digital marketing professionals would rather work for an agency (where they would get to work on a variety of different projects) than for an ordinary business (where they would have to the same thing every day). If you do choose the in-house route, you may find that scouting out a suitable candidate for each position is harder than you expected!

2) Find an agency that does everything.

Hiring an agency means that you don't have to face the hassle of recruiting new employees for your own company, and if you can find an 'all-in-one' digital marketing agency who know how to craft engaging content, build successful AdWords campaigns, get seen on social media, AND design a winning website, this will also make it far easier for you to keep your digital marketing efforts tidy, efficient and effective.

The drawback: Marketing agencies that do everything are hard to come by. It's fairly easy to find a company that's great at SEO, or at social media, or at pay-per-click advertising, but finding a company with the skillset and vision necessary to do it all - and do it well - can be quite a challenge.

Additionally, some business executives may be reluctant to put all their eggs in one basket by entrusting absolutely everything to a single company. Will they be vigilant, honest and communicative when it comes to reporting back and keeping you in the loop? And what if this other company were to go under? Where would that leave you, the client?

Clearly, both of the above approaches have their pros and cons. But there is a third option: simply take a little from column A and a little from column B.

3) Hire a skill-rich agency and your own marketing executive.

First, you hire a talented person to serve as your company's internal marketing executive. This person will need to have great communication and planning skills, along with a good deal of digital marketing experience, but they don't necessarily need to be an expert on everything. They won't necessarily be the one setting up AdWords campaigns and tweeting the latest blog posts - their main role will be to co-ordinate your overall marketing strategy and communicate with the people carrying it out.

Once your new recruit is in place and the two of you have come up with a digital marketing plan that identifies goals and highlights key areas of priority, the next step is to find a digital marketing agency that's capable of delivering on your aspirations. You should still look for a company with a diverse array of skills at their disposal - after all, our original point about the multifaceted nature of modern marketing still stands - but since your internal marketing executive will be working closely with the external marketers, you don't have to worry about drifting out of the loop.

This approach is superior to the others for a number of reasons. Yes, you'll still have to interview, hire and orient a new employee, but it's just one person rather than a whole team. Yes, you're still entrusting much of the actual work to an external company, but it is just one company - which should keep things relatively straightforward - and you'll have a dedicated employee of your own to hold them to account, answer any questions they might have, and track their progress to ensure that your overarching marketing strategy is moving in the right direction.

Internal Marketing Executive - Responsibilities:

  • Planning overall marketing strategy
  • Coming up with new ideas for the company
  • Acting as a point of contact for external marketers (and providing them with extra info if needed, e.g. photos, videos, sales figures)
  • Ensuring that all work is completed to a high standard and in a timely manner
  • Using analytics tools to track progress of marketing campaigns
  • Keeping you in the loop

External Marketing Agency - Responsibilities:

  • Putting your marketing executive's vision into practice (this could mean anything from scheduling Facebook posts to contacting journalists or creating and managing PPC campaigns)
  • Making additional suggestions that will boost your company's profile
  • Monitoring / analysing progress and results
  • Reporting back to the marketing executive

Done correctly, this approach will ensure accountability, straightforward two-way communication, and steady forward progress towards your digital marketing goal.

Designer Websites is a talented team of developers, designers, SEO specialists and digital marketing experts. No matter what you're looking to achieve online, we have the skills to help you do it - contact us today to discuss your requirements.

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!

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.

* * *

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.


At the INBOUND marketing conference 2016, Rand Fishkin of Moz, delivered an insightful speech about how we as SEOs, can keep up with the ever-changing demands of Google. While it may be impossible to truly understand the inner workings of the search giant, the data included in this presentation provides a useful insight into how Google itself, along with user demand, is influencing the way in which marketers can make the SERPs work for them.

Here are a few key points to take a closer look at:

1.) Ten Blue Links are now the ‘Endangered Species’ of the SERPs

This is far from big news to us, but the figures go to show how hard it is for marketers and users alike, to discover a results page that’s free-from Google products and promotions.  In fact, MozCast put the figures for result pages like these at only 3% (excluding obscure, long tail queries), making them a highly rare opportunity for SEO professionals.

While this does make life harder when it comes to the vast majority of queries, for those who are able to identify these terms, they provide valuable spaces for targeting untapped sources of potential traffic. 

2.) Google is Cutting Your Clicks 

Data showed that a whopping 40% of searches don’t result in a click, which is naturally due to the fact that Google answers many of our questions, without the need to click through to a page for more information. In addition, Google’s own properties take up 49% of clicks, in the form of Youtube videos, Maps, Ads and more. 

3.) Your Traffic Sources Should be Diverse

Chrome allows Google to keep track of how traffic flows, so if your site earns the majority of its traffic from Google, they may begin to question and scrutinise your model more closely. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that your site earns its traffic from a diverse range of sources, in order to avoid becoming completely reliant on Google ranking. 

4.) Social Remains a Small Factor When it Comes to Driving Traffic

Data from Similar Web showed that direct traffic remains the biggest source of online traffic at 43%, followed by search at 27.79%, and referrals as 21.13%.

Perhaps the biggest shock in these results, is that social media remains such a small influence on website traffic, accounting for a mere 5.81%.  This goes to show that while they may have an ever-growing influence on our online habits, their influence in driving visitors to your website is still minute in comparison to search.

5.) Target Alternative Search Engines

While the presentation was primarily geared towards strategizing for Google itself, Fishkin made a point of highlighting the importance of targeting alternative search platforms in your SEO strategy. This included the likes of Youtube, which while being owned by Google, is a recognized platform in its own right, and is the second largest search engine after its parent site. Fishkin was also right to mention Amazon as an incredibly underrated search engine, with a large portion of ecommerce related searches taking place here, and not on Google.

For marketers, the ability to target a variety of platforms can be a great way to enhance the diversity we already discussed in point 3, and will also help you to compete and differentiate yourself from your competitors. In the presentation, Fishkin discusses the use of search tools to investigate current traffic sources for you competitors, but it can also be highly valuable to lead the way, by targeting a platform that isn’t already populated with competitor sites. 

6.) Answer Boxes Can Make or Break Traffic 

Single column formats that mimic mobile results are becoming more and more common, particularly in relation to questions and area-focused queries. This means that the vast majority of organic results will fall below this, making these key areas to target and work with going forward.

The important thing to remember, is that while these results can provide a much needed boost to your traffic, allowing you to outrank competitors by appearing at the top of the page, they can also prove to be incredibly damaging in some cases. Pages pulled into carousel results, for example, have lost upward of 50% of their traffic due to these changes, which would prove to be a huge blow to any previously ranking site.

7.) Keywords: If you Wouldn’t Target it in Paid Search, Don’t target it in SEO

Fishkin highlights the rarity of SERPSs that aren’t dominated by Google at the very beginning of his presentation, however, he goes on to demonstrate how profitable these results can be in terms of generating a good click through rate for pages that appear here. The analogy used in the presentation is simple:

Why pay X amount for two ads, knowing that one is getting half the clicks of the other?

This means that relative click through rates should be a far bigger focus point when performing keyword research for SEO purposes, in order to identify the potential not only to appear, but to be clicked. 

8.) Keyword Matching is not Enough!

While keyword targeting is far from being irrelevant, it is no longer a competitive advantage when it comes to ranking for your chosen search term. The growing sophistication of Google’s ability to analyse and interpret content (as well as its desire to satisfy searcher intent), means that content comprehensiveness and quality are now a vital part of modern SEO. This means that while intelligent keyword targeting remains important to ranking ability and click through rate, marketers also need to consider how they can exceed the value being offered in existing search results, by creating a page that considers all possible aspects of the target searcher’s intent.

9.) When it Comes to Link-Building, Prepare for Short-Term Failure 

According to Fishkin, modern link building should combine the best of new (contend-led) and old (short-term hacks) link-building practices, in order to provide a strategy that delivers long-term results. It should also be noted, that quality link building is often a time-consuming practice with very few ‘quick-fix’ results, which means that there is often a long period of disappointment before positive outcomes are noted. When positive results do come in, however, they tend to work in a ‘flywheel’ fashion, leading to better positions and increased opportunities in the future.

10.) Machine Learning is Growing, so Keep Your Users Engaged 

Engagement data is playing an increasingly important role in how content is ranked, as Google’s algorithm experiments with results to understand which pages satisfy, or fall short of the searcher’s intent and expectations. This means that engagement is likely to become even more important to marketers going forward, which means delivering a great user experience in terms of both technical functionality, and content quality. 

Watch the full presentation below:


Are you looking for help with your SEO strategy? Our team can provide strategic analysis and high-quality content to help you achieve search engine success. Read more about the services we provide here, or get in touch today!

Christmas is often a highly stressful time for businesses and customers alike, which makes it an ideal opportunity to earn year-round loyalty, by going the extra mile for clients and consumers during the festive period. Whether you’re a retailer or B2B service provider, we’ve put together a few tips to keep in mind before and during the Christmas holidays, which point out ways in which you can use your marketing channels to be a helpful business this year:

Christmas Gift Guides & Quizzes

Gifts are one of the biggest Christmas dilemmas for most, which means that it's highly likely that many of your existing and potential customers will be actively looking for this type of content. This can be provided in the form of blogs, infographics, quizzes and more, depending on your resources and how creative you'd like to be. Gift related content can work well for many types of businesses, but of course, is particularly effective for retailers who are looking to market a specific range of products. It can also see you through to the very end of the buying period, if you're able to target last-minute shoppers who are frantically looking to find a suitable gift.

Advice-led Content

Along with gift guides, there are many other ways that you can tailor your content and services to suit the festive season, whatever your business may be. To do this, you’ll have to consider how the Christmas period affects both your organisation and your customers, in order to create resources that are both useful and engaging. For example, if your business provides financial services, it may be useful to publish advice on topics such as spending and budgeting, which is a prominent issue for many during this time of year. This content can be tailored to suit virtually any sector, and will depend on both the services you provide, along with your target demographic. When properly executed, it can provide a welcome boost to your SEO efforts, and work to improve or renew customer confidence in your product/services.

Social Media Engagement

It's common knowledge that you should be using social media to extend your marketing efforts and customer service all year round, however, these efforts should be reassessed in time for Christmas. This relates to both your own outreach endeavours, as well as customer contact, both of which carry additional weight in the case of online retailers. In terms of outreach marketing and promotion, you should be on the lookout for relevant hashtags and commonly asked questions, in order to make the most of the useful resources that you’ve spent time putting together. You should also be keeping a close eye on your inbox and brand mentions, in order to address customer queries and complaints as quickly as possible. 

Email Updates

Email marketing is particularly important for retail businesses in the run up to Christmas, naturally in order to promote deals, but also as a direct means of sharing the resources we mentioned in our first point. In addition to it's value as a promotional tool, however, email is also vital to the process of aiding and informing your customers, allowing them to plan their holiday spending and activities efficiently. For example, email allows you to provide customers with stock updates, which inform them when an item is close to selling out, or is back in stock, allowing them to plan their purchases more efficiently. In addition to this, it's also the most direct way to share information about your closing times and altered Christmas hours,  to ensure that you make every effort to avoid confusion. 

Rewards

Christmas rewards are the most simple but effective way to make your customers feel appreciated at Christmas, and can be executed on almost any scale, depending on your resources and budget. One of the most simple way to reward customers is by providing free resources, much like those discussed in our first and second points, although this can also be extend further than tips and guides. One example, could be free printables, which can be offered as a one-off resource, or even as a daily offering in the run up to Christmas. This would work particularly well for businesses in the creative industries, as well as those targeted at families with children, who may offer craft and learning resources to keep little ones entertained in the lead up to the big day.

This also extends to gift vouchers and competitions, which can be integrated with both your social media and email marketing campaigns. The channel you choose, will largely depend on how exclusive you would like your reward to be, and whether you are simply using this as a gesture to all existing and prospective customers, or as a way to reward your most loyal followers. 

Would you like help with your content creation, social media or email marketing strategies? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today to find out how we can help, or follow us on Twitter for more digital marketing news and tips!

If you're having trouble generating relevant site traffic that will convert into paying custumers, then you should very much consider using infographics as part of your content marketing efforts. With a huge number of tweets and videos being uploaded to social media every day, getting your content noticed can be a difficult task, so what you need is something that will stand out and grab the attention of your target audience - something like an infographic.

Infographics are a way to visually represent information and data and make these things easy to comprehend. Rather than displaying a page full of written information, infographics break down that information into an image-based format, making it easier for the user to digest.

It's been scientifically proven that the human brain loves infographics. Your brain can process information very quickly when it's illustrated using an image - certainly a lot faster than when you're reading through lines and lines of plain text. And infographics aren't just great at displaying data; they're also a great way of gaining natural links. A well-designed, well-targeted infographic will be shared all over social media and on relevant websites. This is the type of link building that can earn big rewards from Google in the form of improved SERP rankings.

If you're thinking about incorporating the use of infographics into your digital marketing strategy, here's how you can ensure that your infographics will stand out from the crowd and provide you with plenty of engagements and conversions:

Keep it Simple!

The reason why infographics are so beneficial is because they display info and data that is easy for the user to consume. Therefore, it's extremely important that you create an infographic that is both visually appealing and easily digestible. If there is too much going on with your graphic, then the person viewing it will lose focus and they will not be able to understand the message you're trying convey.  Stick to one style, limit the number of colours and fonts, and ensure that there are clear visual connections between the various sections of your graphic. Above all, aim to keep things simple and clear.

Make it Stand Out!

Your infographic needs to stand out from the crowd - there are plenty of infographics out there, and consumers are unlikely to engage with it if it's similar to the hundreds of others they've already seen. Your graphic needs a design that will grab the user's attention and stand out from the rest; in other words, it needs to pack a punch. As with a news article or blog post, if your infographic's headline doesn't provoke the consumer's attention then they're probably not going to interact with it. If your graphic isn't unique and attractive, consumers and other websites are less likely to share it. Remember that the main purpose of an infographic is to display information and data that is easily digestible in a way that will attract the target audience's attention.

Be Relevant!

The infographics that are most likely to drive conversions are ones that appeal to the target audience's needs and concerns. One mistake that many people make is creating an infographic that aims to be universally popular rather than targeting a specific audience with specific interests. Your infographic should be interesting for your target audience, rather than for the whole world. Figure out what content your audience shared the most and drove the most traffic recently, and then you'll be able to come up with a topic that will interest your audience and gain conversions.

Make Sure it's Easy to Share!

An infographic works best when it's being shared across social media platforms (like Twitter or Facebook) and other websites. Of course, this can't happen unless you make it easy for people to share it. Once you've created your graphic and posted it to your site, you should share it across your social media accounts and make sure you're using a social sharing widget to allow readers to easily share it on their own accounts (this will help your infographic to reach people outside your own follower base). We also recommend that you make the graphics HTML code easily accessible so that other websites can display the graphic whilst linking back to your original post. This is an excellent way to build high-quality, mutually beneficial links - the website sharing your graphic will benefit from hosting your engaging content, and you'll benefit from the inbound link.

If you take all if these points into consideration, you should be able to create an infographic that is engaging and will result in a healthy number of conversions for your business.

Need help with your content creation or social media strategies? Whether you need us to create an infographic or an entire website for your company, we at Designer Websites are more than up to the task - contact us now to request a quotation!