Wow, what a year. One thing’s for certain, 2020 is one year that will never be forgotten. Covid, Lockdown, Furlough, words that have been added to the canon of speech this year. And, to cap it all, Christmas is just around the corner and the world is still full of massive levels of uncertainty.
Whether you are working from home, #WFH, working in an office or still out and about I know that as Christmas approaches the big wind-down starts to feature in our minds.
Nothing wrong with looking forwards to Christmas but it’s important that you don’t allow your Cyber Security guard to fall too.
Why not? Simply because the hackers and cyber criminals won’t – if anything they’ll be upping their activity because they know that our minds will be on other things. In previous years we’d have been looking forward to Christmas Markets, Christmas parties, gifts, food, television and everything else that’s associated with the season of goodwill.
Our vigilance MUST remain high, both in the office and when working from home. Keep your eyes open for suspicious looking emails, especially those coming from unexpected quarters, with messages that promise much, such as tax refunds or deliveries of items you don’t remember ordering. Also beware of emails with links to websites that look OK but in reality will do harm.
It’s also a good idea to take a fresh look at your password security. Turkish researcher Ata Hakcil analysed more than 742m passwords that have been revealed in data breaches (hacks) that turned up on the Dark Web. Ata went on to make a worrying number of discoveries.
Of the 742m only 169m were unique which just goes to show how frequently we reuse passwords and how many passwords are used by a lot of people.
Worst passwords of 2020
Unfortunately, not a lot has changed over previous lists
1/ 123456 (same place as 2018 & 2019) 2/ 123456789 (up 1 place) (same as 2019) 3/ passwords (up one place on 2019) 4/ qwerty (a fall of one place on 2019) 5/ password (slips two places) 6/ 12345678 (up 1 on 2019) 7/ 123123 (a new entry) 8/ 111111 (up from No. 10 in 2019) 9/ 1234 (yes, I kid you not, 1234) 10/ 1234567890 (a new entry in this Top 10)
Disturbingly, at least 1 in 10 people have used at least one of these poor passwords – I hope you’re not one of them.
Data breaches are inevitable. To be as secure as possible you need to use strong, unique passwords for each individual account that you have. This makes the theft of one password much less of a disaster than if you use the same (or close variant) across all of your accounts.
What’s a Strong Password?
A strong password isn’t a word at all. The best ones are passphrases comprising of a random combination of words with 12 characters or more, using mixtures of alphanumeric, UPPER & lower case characters and symbols.
Think of a nonsense phrase, or even a line from your favourite song. Science Friction Burns My Fingers for example. Noe, run the words together, use hyphens, underscores and number substitution.
That’s one password – you need a unique one for EVERY account that you have. Now, that’s a challenge to remember so you need a password manager. Because of my work, I have access to 789 accounts of one sort or another and I have 789 different passwords. Obvious there’s no way I could remember all of those – I struggle to remember 4 important ones which his why I use a password manager. Not only does it store all of my passwords in a safe place it also generates new, random, ones for me.
Top 10 Password Managers
There are loads of great password managers out there. I use LastPass because it was one of the first to integrate with my browser AND be available across all of my devices, desktop, laptop, Chromebook, phone and tablet.
TechRadar recently reviewed Password managers and their top 10 free and paid-for password managers is as follows
You can read TechRadar’s reviews here. And don’t forget, your web browser probably has a password manager built in and may even generate new ones for you but it may not synchronise across all of your devices
And PLEASE, if this applies to to you – STOP USING PASSWORD or 12345678 and use one of the above instead
Have a great Christmas, a happy new year and I look forward to communicating with you in the new year. If you need any help, please, just ask. You can reach me by phone – 01793 238020 – email – firstname.lastname@example.org or just hunt me down on Social Media.
Podcasting is simply the audio equivalent of blogging. It’s where you create an audio recording and share it across the internet
Why should you podcast
There are many reasons to podcast. Let’s start with learning types. We all have differing ways in which we acquire knowledge and information but the three primary ways are through the written word, through pictures and video and through listening. All three are equally valid and have their own, unique, benefits and co-exist comfortably alongside each other.
There’s been a huge increase in the range of podcasts over recent years, both the number of pods that you can find and the wide range of platforms that you can listen to them on. You can find Podcasts on Spotify, Apple platforms, Google and elsewhere – they are a simple way to reach a wider, different audience to those who may not receive your email newsletters, watch your videos or tune in to your social media.
How to podcast
You don’t need a sophisticated recording studio. Just a quiet room, a recording device and a decent microphone.
The easiest way to record a podcast is to simply use your phone with some audio recording software – there’ll be loads to choose from in your App Store.
It’s worth remembering that your phone’s microphone is optimised for phone calls and so may not give you the best quality. To overcome this it’s a good idea to invest in a better quality microphone – even more so if you are planning on including other people in your podcast. Tie clip, also known as lavalier microphones are a good place to start. Just make sure to buy one that has the right connection for your phone.
Although a phone is great for recording when you are out and about it’s not the easiest platform on which to edit your audio and my preferred route is to do the majority of recording on my PC and I use free software that’s called Audacity
If you have a laptop, you have a device with a microphone. If you use a webcam on a PC you have a microphone. However, these may not be the best microphones available simply because your recording quality will be heavily influenced by the room that you record in, and in a lot of cases your recording will sound as though it was recorded in a cave. Have a listen to the following clips to hear the difference a decent microphone makes to recording quality.
Once you have recorded, and edited, your Podcast you need to find a way to make it available on the internet.
There are many sites that you could consider. I use Podomatic – it has a free account that’s a good place to start. It also provides an RSS feed.
Click on the link if you want to understand more about RSS feeds but the reason why one is important is that it makes it relatively easy to get your podcast published on all the major podcasting platforms that include
And best of all, there’s no cost. It’s all FREE so all you have to do is market your podcast through your website, Social Media and every other platform that you use to reach your clients.
If you need help recording your Podcast – just get in touch. I can provide advice, help, support and even have a small Podcast studio. Just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email email@example.com and we’ll take it from there
Believe it or not, this post was inspired after listening to an ad on the radio. I’ll let you know which one right at the end (if I remember)
Imagine the scenario. You’ve popped out to lunch and drop in to Costa/Starbucks/favourite coffee shop. Food’s on the way, your lovely Espresso/Cappuccino/Cortado/super sized hotta mocha choca machiato is in front of you and you realise that you’ve not replied to a very important email.
You get your phone out and remember that, despite all the fuss about 5G, your town hasn’t even sorted 4G but you’ve been here before and know the cafe has free Wi-Fi.
You remember that the Wi-Fi’s called “Stephen’s Wi-Fi Network” so that people can find it easily. You search for it, find it and don’t worry that you log-in seamlessly although you do notice that the signal is a little stronger than normal.
You open the email app on your phone, find the mail that really needs the reply and peck one out on your phone’s keyboard, hoping that the message in your phone’s email signature, saying that this was sent from your iPhone, will help overcome your mistypes and slightly terse language.
You’ve still got some coffee left and it’s pay day so whilst sat down you decide to check your bank account to make sure your pay has gone in. It has, and you have more than you thought. Enough to buy that gift for your lovely partner. For security’s sake you haven’t stored your card details in your phone. Out comes your wallet and you add your card details to the order screen. Click “confirm” and the order’s on it’s way
As you get up to leave you spot the homeless looking chap in the corner. He’s got a really tatty looking laptop and you feel sorry for him, until you see he’s got a huge grin on his face – you walk on by and head back to the office.
At the end of the day and you’re shutting everything down when your phone rings. It’s your partner – you’re puzzled, they don’t normally call you at work
You answer and hear tears at the other end. They’ve been shopping, found a lovely winter coat and decided to buy it but their card, which is on a joint account with yours, was declined.
You are confused. When you checked the account at lunchtime there was more than enough to cover the cost of the gift you ordered and this coat………where did all the money go?
You log in to your account and it’s empty. You can see your gift order but have no clue what all the other transactions are, you’ve not ordered anything else – and neither has your partner.
The Man in the Middle
What’s happened is that you logged in to the wrong Wi-Fi network and your data has been stolen. No, it wasn’t the homeless looking chap it was the chap you never really paid attention too because he looked like a businessman. And he was, its just that his business was theft, theft of credit card details like yours.
He had set up his own Wi-Fi network using a portable hot-spot, hidden in his backpack and connected to his laptop AND the cafe’s network to provide the broadband. He’d given it a name that was so close to the one that you were used to that it was easy to log on to it, rather than the “real” one.
The cafe’s Wi-Fi was “Stephen’s Wi-Fi Network” and the “man in the middle’s was “Stephens Wi-Fi Network” so when you logged in, all your data flowed through his hotspot to the cafe’s Wi-Fi network and on to the internet. With his laptop he was able to access everything that passed from your phone through the hotspot, including your card details when you made your purchase and off shopping he went.
How to avoid the man in the middle
Either be 100% certain that the network you are connecting to really is the network you want to connect to or avoid Wi-Fi hotspots like the plague. I do………unless there’s no other alternative. And in this scenario I only ever browse the web.
When I started using the internet to access the world wide web, back in the early 90s I had a 14″ monitor with a 640×480 resolution. That’s 640 pixels (dots) wide and 480 pixels high, smartphones did not exist and connection was made via a modem (US Robotics) and a dial-up (phone line) connection.
Then I started working for an IT company and moved up to a 15″ screen with a 800×600 resolution and could get more on my screen. I was really excited when I moved to a 17″ screen with a 1024×768 resolution. Not only could I be more productive but we moved to an ISDN (digital connection) and the world was a better place.
Although I had been using a smartphone for a while (I am a bit of a geek) the adoption of a phone with a screen really took off in 2007, when after 2 years of development, Steve Jobs announced the very first iPhone.
This introduced a problem for web designers and developers. Screen resolution was 420 x 480 and sites developed for traditional monitors tended to not work very well on Smartphone screens. Monitors were wider than they they were taller – SmartPhones were taller than they were wider and so a lot of horizontal scrolling was required. And this was just horrible.
As a consequence, web developers started to design mobile only websites. A bit of code on the home page would identify whether the site was being visited by a desktop (or laptop) PC or by a mobile device and the visitor would be seamlessly forwarded to the relevant site. The mobile site would commonly be identified by an m. so the regular site would be www.website.com and the mobile version would be m.website.com.
However, this meant that web developers had to build two different sites, which took time and money so wasn’t an ideal solution.
By 2008 work was well underway developing a technology that would overcome this and allow a single site to be developed. One that would automatically change its size depending on the device being used to access it. Initially these were called by a variety of names, “flexible”, “fluid”, “elastic” and “liquid” being the main terms used. In May 2010 the word “responsive” was used for the first time, by 2012 “Responsive” was #2 in Top web Design Trends by .Net magazine and 2013 became the Year of Responsive Web Design according to Mashable. In the same year Google announced that it was going to reward responsive designs with improved rankings and the flood gates opened.
By 2014 mobile web access exceeded desktop access for the first time and in 2019 Google switched focus from desktop first when evaluating websites to taking a mobile first approach.
Now, barely a website is built unless it’s “responsive” but this brings it’s own set of problems.
In my experience, most companies who request a Responsive site rarely take a detailed look as to how quickly the responsive site loads, how it looks and how easy it is to use. They quickly check on their phones and, provided the site looks OK, they accept the design they have been given.
And that’s where the problems start. It’s very easy to build a Responsive website, especially in WordPress, and even easier to make it slow to load (remember, you have less than 3 seconds to get your site open and just 2/10ths of a second for the visitor to understand what’s on offer)
Lots of sites still use carousels, those scrolling images that feature at the top of web pages (you can read about my dislike of carousels here). This means that all carousel images have to load first and the worst responsive sites with a carousel simply display all the carousel images, stacked one above the other.
Although people can scroll easily on a phone, they have to understand what they are scrolling for and a lot of people simply won’t bother, especially when faced with 2 or more images.
How good is your website when viewed on a smartphone?
How do you know that people don’t like the Responsive version of your website? It simple, log in to your Google Analytics account and look at the initial “quality” metrics for the three device types, desktop/laptop, mobile and tablet.
Three Quality Metrics
For a quick site performance overview I always look at the average length of each visit to a website, at the average number of pages per visit and the Bounce Rate – the number of visitors who reach your website but leave without clicking on anything. By navigating in Google Analytics to Audience/Mobile/Overview you’ll see a chart, similar to the one below,
Remember my simple Bounce Rate scale 0 – 20% = Excellent (and very rare) 21% – 50% = Average +51% – Investigate
In the above example you can see where the problem lies, Desktop and Tablet Bounce Rates are comfortable, around the 40% mark whereas visits from Mobile devices have a Bounce Rate of nearly 64%. That means that 2/3rds of ALL visits from users using their phones leave without doing anything. Totally wasted opportunity and even if the company increases it’s marketing to attract more visits, this will only continue unless action is taken.
What should the site owner be doing
It’s really simple.
You need to fully understand the goal of your website. I know that sounds simplistic but so many people have a website because they feel they need one but don’t really have any specific goals.
Your site should have clear goals and it should be immediately obvious what those goals are. Do you want visitor to your website to
Place an order
Subscribe to a newsletter
Make contact to ask a question
Now all you have to do is open your site on your phone and take a good look. How fast does the site open? How quickly can it be used? How obvious is the primary goal? How easy is it for a visitor to carry out the primary goal.
Make notes about the performance and have a conversation with your web designer to sort everything out and if you need help, you can always get in touch for a chat (no cost, no obligation) or you can leap straight in and book a website review – Saving £50 in my autumn 2020 Special Offer.
I can provide advice, help, and support. Just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take it from there
I’ve been a fan of Google’s web metrics tool (Google Analytics) since it was introduced in 2005. For most businesses, it’s free to use. The necessary tracking code is easy to add to your website and provides a wealth of information about your site’s performance but the Bounce Rate is one of the most powerful metrics, a powerful insight into the minds of the people who are visiting your website.
And yet all the Bounce Rate does is record the percentage of people who visit your website but leave almost straight away without doing anything more than viewing the page they landed on.
With 15 year’s experience, my view of the Bounce Rate is as follows
0-20% – Phenomenal. In 15 years I think I’ve only come across 4-5 sites with a Bounce Rate in this area and one of those was only because the site hadn’t installed Google Analytics correctly.
21-50% – Most of the sites that I work with fall into this region. One where between 1 in 5 and 1 in 2 visitors leave the site without doing anything
+51% – Any website with a Bounce Rate of 51% and higher really needs the reasons investigating. These sites are hemorrhaging visitors and, more importantly, opportunities but HOW do you go about analysing a high Bounce Rate and turning things around.
Remember, a 51% Bounce Rate (BR) means that over half of the people that you have persuaded to visit your website, whether that’s by SEO, Google Ads, Social Media (And Social Media advertising), e-mail and video marketing or simply word of mouth are just leaving without doing anything meaningful. If your website were a shop, they’d be sticking their head through the door, shrugging their shoulders and moving on. As a consequence, this has to be worth investigating. After all, if you invest in more marketing, all that’s going to continue to happen is that over half of those you attract will just do as the 51%+ have done before – and leave.
Working to reduce the Bounce Rate. Where do you start?
First, ensure that you have a really good understanding of your website because if you don’t know what you want your website to do for your business how do you know whether it’s doing it – or not.
What are the goals of your website? Here are some common ones.
To sell something
To attract newsletter subscriptions
To encourage inquiries
To allow people to download something
If your website has a high Bounce Rate where do you start looking? There are many ways to approach this, but I always like to start by taking a look at the website itself. What message is it sending to visitors?
Let’s say, for example, that you sell widgets and those widgets are used to attach the engines to an airliner.
Having a large photo of an airliner at the top of your home page probably looks good to you. And, because you know that your widgets play an important part then it sends a message – to you, and you alone. To everybody else all it actually says is “here’s a pretty picture of an airliner”. Questions that could come into the visitor’s mind might be “is this a travel company?” “do they make the whole airliner” – not – “aha, these are the guys that make the widgets that hold this airliner’s engines on”.
Remember, although you may have 3 seconds to get your webpage open in front of your visitor that’s an eternity compared to the 2/10ths of a second that a visitor takes to “get” your website……..or not!
Once happy with the website the next place that I’d look would be at marketing activity. Are the messages being broadcast by the marketing actually delivered by your website? For example, it’s no good talking a two-for-the-price-of-one offer if there’s no mention of it on your website, or if the offer is difficult to find. Visitors won’t look around – they’ll leave (bounce) and may never come back
Now that the marketing messages align with your website, and your website is as good as it can be, it’s time to dive into the data provided by Google Analytics.
Using Google Analytics to troubleshoot the Bounce Rate
The first place I look is the source of your web visitors.
Google Analytics/Acquisition/All traffic/Source/Medium will answer this one
Traffic Sources Key
Any entry that’s tagged “/referral” is where a visitor to your site has followed a link published on a 3rd party website. This could be an indicator as to how your online marketing is performing
CPC = Google Ads
Google Organic = Google Free Search Results
Direct = Either Google can’t identify the source or people have entered the URL directly in their browser
Bing Organic = Traffic from Bing (Microsoft search)
UK Search Yahoo Organic = Traffic from Yahoo UK
Yahoo Organic= Traffic from Yahoo
m.Facebook = Traffic from Facebook on a phone or tablet
Google.com = Traffic from Google.com
Traffic from a third party website
Traffic from a third party website
For this particular website, you’ll see that the Bounce Rate is very high for the majority of traffic sources and particularly high for visitors from Google Ads. With the majority of sources having a high Bounce Rate it would appear that the problem either lies with the marketing that is attracting the wrong people to the site, the website is failing to meet expectations or the problem lies elsewhere.
Bearing in mind that one of the earlier exercises was to ensure that marketing was sending the right message it’s obvious that, for this website, the problem with the Bounce Rate lies somewhere else
Geographical Source of traffic
Navigate to Audience/Geo/Location in Analytics
Scroll down past the map to see the countries where the traffic is coming from. You’ll see the Bounce rate for each source country. If you are targeting the UK and your UK Bounce Rate is OK then the next step is to try to understand how your marketing is promoting your traffic outside of the UK.
It’s possible that your website is attracting visitors from markets that you don’t serve. I have seen a number of sites that have attracted a lot of visits from the USA. When American visitors have landed it becomes immediately obvious that the website can’t address their needs so they leave immediately (Bounce).
The reality is that there is probably very little that you can do about this but it’ll be a relief to see that the Bounce Rate for your target locations is OK.
For this site, the Bounce Rate is high for all countries so the answer doesn’t lie here and the hunt continues
Navigate to Audience/Demographics/Age in Google Analytics
Although Google can’t identify all visitors to your website it’s still worth checking the visitor demographics. You can check that your website is reaching the age groups that your business is targeting.
Again, for the website being used in this blog, the Bounce Rate is high across the board so the answer lies elsewhere.
Navigate to Audience/Demographics/Gender in Google Analytics
Some companies target specific genders and this enables you to make sure that your visitors are coming from your target demographic. Once again, with a high Bounce Rate for both genders, the answer isn’t here. The hunt continues.
Web Browser Issues
Navigate to Audience/Technology/Browser & OS in Google Analytics
Web browsers are complicated pieces of software and it’s not unusual for websites to hit problems with some browsers and not others. This screen looks at the browsers used by visitors to your website and the Bounce Rate per browser. If a particular browser has a high Bounce Rate, but only delivers 5% of visitors (or fewer), it’s not worth paying too much attention. The cost to investigate, and resolve, the problem probably outweighs the benefits
This website is performing poorly in all browsers so the problem isn’t here either and the hunt continues.
Navigate to Audience/Mobile/Overview in Google Analytics
We are all used to accessing the web on our phones, but how well does your website work on small screens. It’s possible that this is the cause of the high Bounce Rate.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Desktop visits have a Bounce Rate in the comfort zone (44.50%) whilst phones and tablets are well above 50%.
Take a detailed look at your website, using your phone. Try to act as a customer and see whether you can spot any problems. Is the site slow? Is the navigation poor? Is excessive scrolling required?
Ask friends, colleagues, family to do the same, and feedback their findings and thoughts.
Next, take it up with your web developer.
Navigate to Behaviour/Site Speed/Overview in Google Analytics
I think we have gotten to the nub of the problem. This is a slow website. Although the server is quite slow to respond (0.36 seconds) the technical elements (screenshot above) taken to find the website and start to open it on a device are still under 1 second so the problem lies with the content of the website itself.
Navigate to Behaviour/Site Speed/Page Timings in Google Analytics
This page looks at the performance of every page of your website and details the speed of each page as a + or – when compared to the site average. It helps to identify poor performing pages.
Navigate to Behaviour/Site Speed/Speed Suggestions in Google Analytics and Google will provide information and recommendations as to the actions you should take to improve the speed of your website. This might be a list that you take up with your web developer
Another way to identify issues is to put your website URL into https://www.webpagetest.org . This site runs a speed test three times and then displays the results as a waterfall graph, highlighting the speed of each element of a website, enabling you to identify problem areas.
So, there you have it, a detailed look into the Bounce Rate, and the ways that you can use Google Analytics to identify issues so that you can take corrective action.
Thanks for reading and you need more help with your website’s Bounce Rate or anything else to do with your web marketing all you have to do is get in touch. I’ll be only too happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Advertising of the Pay per Click (PPC) type has been with us for a while now. Yahoo was one of the first to offer it, quickly followed by Google and Google is now probably the most well-known provider with its Google Ads product (formerly known as Adwords).
You (the advertiser) design an Ad to fit the constraints of your chosen platform.
You agree to pay the host platform, whether Google, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. a certain amount of money every time your Ad is clicked on. This is your bid.
You pay (an agreed) fee per click (every time someone clicks on your Ad). Because of the way that the bidding works, this is unlikely to be the full amount of the amount that you have bid
The amount that you have to bid is in your hands, the amount that you have to bid varies depending on whether you want to be at the top of the first page, the bottom of the first page, or elsewhere in Google search. Other variables that impact the cost you’ll have to pay include the number of companies competing with you AND the amount of profit in a particular sale. The more profit there is, the more you can afford to pay per click
I’ve worked on campaigns where we’ve paid a few pence per click and on others where the clicks have cost many pounds
The top three PPC platforms are Google, Facebook, and Linkedin, but which is the best?
They all work in pretty much the same way. You decide how much you are willing to pay every time someone clicks on your Ad and you set a maximum daily/monthly budget so that you have total control over costs.
There are no minimum campaign lengths and no minimum spends. Allied to the ability to start, pause, and stop your campaigns whenever you want/need to, your budget is totally under your control.
Where should I spend my advertising pounds, which is the best?
The reality is that there isn’t a “best” platform per se, the best is the one that most effectively reaches your target market.
If you are a Business to Business (B2B) supplier then Linkedin will be worth considering and if you are in the Business to Consumer (B2C) sector then Facebook would probably be your platform of choice
However, if you have a limited budget then the most effective option is probably Google Ads – and a quick look at the numbers demonstrates why
In 2019 93% of the UK had access to the internet. With an adult population of 52.5 million, this equates to a total internet reach of 48.82 million people.
Facebook has 32m active users in the UK and LinkedIn 27m. These are fantastic numbers. And you get to choose who your Ads are shown to. You can choose from a wide range of demographics to ensure that your Ads are properly targetted.
where they live/work geographically
their interests (Facebook)
the ages you want to target
the genders you want to target
job descriptions (LinkedIn)
However, there is no way of knowing who in your targeted audience is actually looking for the things you sell or the services you deliver but you are only paying when someone clicks on your Ad – so that’s OK then, isn’t it?
Are you Missing out?
As we have seen, the Social Media reach of Linkedin and Facebook is fantastic, as are the advertising controls, ensuring that your Ads are only displayed to those in your target demographic groups. But you ARE missing out.
Google is used by around 95% of the UK’s internet users, so that’s around 47m people, 15m more (nearly 50% more ) than Facebook and 20m (74%) more than LinkedIn,
And your Ad is only shown by people who are searching for the things you sell or the services you deliver.
Which makes Google Ads, in my opinion, the best place to spend your advertising money.
You might say that I am biassed but I actually manage campaigns across all 3 platforms and the results demonstrate that Google does provide a better return, provided your campaigns are properly managed.
And that’s the crux of the matter. Without effective management, you may as well simply send Google a cheque every month or just burn your cash because your campaign will just not work
With attention and careful management, however, you should be able to make a Google Ads campaign deliver a plentiful supply of new customers to your website.
But your website MUST be good at converting these new opportunities into leads, inquiries, opportunities, and sales.
Thanks for reading and remember, if you have any questions about PPC, need help with your PPC campaign or want help launching and managing one all you have to do is get in touch. I’ll be only too happy to answer any questions that you might have
When I started SEO in 2001 things were a lot simpler than they are now. Back then it was all about keywords. Keywords in the Keyword Meta Tag, keywords in the Meta Title and Meta Description tags and Keywords liberally scattered throughout the content.
Obviously people came up with ways to “game” the system, to effectively cheat the search engines into giving them a better result than they were probably due and Keyword Stuffing was one of the first.
Keyword Stuffing – Level 1, repetition
Based on the knowledge that the search engines looked at the number of times a keyword was featured on a web page, keyword stuffing became the thing to do. This simply involved the multiple repetitions of keywords at the bottom of the content. The problem with this was that it looked ugly.
Keyword Stuffing – Level 2, invisible stuffing
Level two in Keyword Stuffing was to set the font to the same colour as the background, making the stuffing invisible but leaving a great deal of apparently empty space at the bottom of each page. However, you could highlight the text with your mouse, if you were so inclined
Now, the search engines realised they were being gamed so if you were caught using fonts in the same colour as your page background, your site would be penalised. The SEO folk adapted to this by making the font a very similar colour to the background……a visitor would still not see the text but because it wasn’t the same colour the search engines were happy – for a very short time. And they changed the rules so if your keywords were in an identical OR very similar colour to the background you’d be penalised.
And the SEO folk learned from this changed the font size back to a contrasting colour and then set the font size to 0. So, the keywords were there, they were in a colour that stood out from the page background but the typical visitor to the page wouldn’t see them, they took up minimal space and all was good in the world of SEO
Until the search engines cottoned on again and amended their rules to penalise websites that used keywords in the same (or similar colour) as the background AND/OR had the font size set to zero
The above techniques to game the system (a polite way of saying cheating) became known as Black Hat SEO and it’s something that I avoided simply because I didn’t want client sites to be penalised.
Since those early cowboy days of SEO, many things have changed. The profession has cleaned up its game (although Black Hat SEO still exists if you want to cheat the system and eventually get kicked out of the Search Engine Results Pages – SERPs) and the search engines regularly update their algorithms – the software that decided where a website deserves to sit in the Results pages.
If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (email@example.com) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk. Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well
I started providing SEO services in 2001 and things were a lot simpler than they are now. Back then it was all about keywords. Keywords in the keyword Meta Tag, keywords in the Meta Title Tag and Meta Description Tags and keywords liberally scattered throughout the content.
People came up with ways to “game” the system, to effectively cheat the search engines into giving them a better result than they were probably due. Cheating search engines in this way became known as “Black Hat” or “unethical” SEO and if you’d like to learn about one of these Black Hat techniques you should read my post on Keyword Stuffing.
Since those early cowboy days of SEO, many things have changed. The profession has cleaned up its game (although Black Hat SEO still exists if you want to cheat the system and eventually get kicked out of the Search Engine Results Pages – SERPs) and the search engines regularly update their algorithms – the software that decided where a website deserves to sit in the Results pages – to make sure that Black Hat SEO techniques don’t dominate results.
As things have changed, the number of SEO myths has grown and these are the ones that I most frequently encounter
SEO Myth 1 – It’s no longer about keywords
This has been around for a while now. Not only does Google examine more than 200 “signals” when ranking websites it frequently tweaks theses “signals” to ensure that you and I get the most relevant results for our searches. Every time something changes, a crowd of people claims that “Keywords are dead” or “SEO is dead”. Well, I’m here to tell you keywords are NOT dead and neither is SEO.
In fact, keywords are the fundamental rock on which all SEO is based. There’s no magic or mystery about them, they are simply the words you and I enter into our web browser when searching for something and so it’s critical that these words and phrases are embedded in your website, in the places the search engines look. This enables Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, etc to match searches to relevant websites
SEO Myth 2 – it’s ALL about keyword density
If you carry out a web search for “Keyword Density” you’ll find a number of sites telling you that the ideal keyword density is between 4 and 5%. This means that for every 100 words on your web pages, 4-5 of them should be keywords.
Please don’t pay ANY attention to this. If you do, you’ll fall foul of one of the cardinal rules of web development, that your website is for the visitors to your site and search engines are simply a tool to deliver those clients and prospects to your site.
If you focus on keyword density, and other SEO focused metrics, you’ll have switched content focus from creating great content for site visitors to creating content for the search engines and your content will suffer. I have worked with many sites that have fallen down this particular rabbit hole. Their site has ranked really well in the search results, the search results have delivered many visits but those visitors have left the site very quickly (Bounced in Google Analytics terms) because the content wasn’t focused on their needs.
SEO Myth 3 – it’s all about buying backlinks
Back-links, hyperlinks published on third party websites that bring people to your website are the foundations on which Google was built. Originally called “BackRub”, Google originally ONLY ranked sites based on the volume of backlinks. The thinking was pretty simple. If I link from my site to yours then I must believe that something on your site will be of interest/value to visitors to my site and, like any good democracy, the more votes (backlinks) your website has, the more popular and better it must be.
When Google was launched, backlinks remained a fundamental way that it ranked websites (and it remains so today). As a consequence, a whole industry built up around providing backlinks, including “Link Farms”. Web pages that just looked like phone directories, with each page simply featuring hundreds of links to websites. In the early days, this was quite successful and you could buy thousands of links for a few hundred dollars.
That was until Google realised that quality was far more important than quantity and started analysing where the backlinks originated. From then on, purchased backlinks became a major no-no. Backlinks MUST be relevant, so a link from your local butchers to a website providing marketing services is not relevant, for example.
For the butcher’s example above, it’s not likely to attract a direct penalty but will probably just be ignored by Google so the effort expended on acquiring that link will have been wasted.
If you take it to the next level and start purchasing links, Google WILL find out and your website will be penalised by being pushed DOWN in the results pages. This could be critical, with only 50% of search engine users ever going beyond the first page of results and just 10% making it to page 3 and beyond, a demotion to page 5 is almost as bad as being deleted.
Myth 4 – posting the same content on many different sites will boost your ranking
“Back in the day” it was common for a blog article to be posted on a number of websites that claimed to be regularly visited by journalists, and so promised a lot of “eyes on” fresh articles. The publisher’s dream was that they’d be contacted by journalists for more information. The goal being to be mentioned in an article that gets published by the national, mainstream, media amplifying the visibility of the business. The reality was that no journalists visited these sites and the actual goal was to simply build backlinks.
As Google improved its technology it recognised these for what they were, backlink building opportunities, and woe betide your website if you had had the temerity to pay to have your post published.
From here, another myth developed, that multiple placements of identical content will be penalised. Myth 14 explains this one in more details
Myth 5 – You have to write at least 1,200 words on every page for optimum SEO
If you read enough posts about SEO you will ultimately come across one that talks about the number of words contained on pages that come up in Position 1 on Page 1 of Google’s search results pages. (The holy grail of SEO if you like).
Typically they’ll tell you that top pages contain 1,200, 1,600, or even 2,000 words. That’s a LOT of writing, but don’t despair. You don’t have to write so many, or you can write many more. The reality is that there is no magic “ideal” word count that will get you on the first page of the search results. It’s much more about relevance and quality.
Look at it this way. If I tell you, or you read, that your page has to contain 1,200 words, you’re going to write 1,200 words no matter what. And if you only need 600 then your page is going to be so full of padding and filler that even were your page to feature highly in the search results and attract loads of visits, no one is going to read it.
And at the other end of the scale, if you actually need 3,000 words to get your message across and you’ve heard that the ideal page is 1,200 you’re going to edit the heck out of your content and you’ll probably remove most of the value. So, again, even if your page features highly in the results and you get loads of visits, most won’t stay because the content doesn’t make a great read.
What’s the solution? The simple solution is to write as many (or as few) words as you need to communicate your message and sell your idea. My only caveat, if you have to write a lot of words you either need to be a very good and persuasive writer OR hire a copywriter to do the work for you.
Myth 6 – SEO is dead
At least once a year someone pontificates that “SEO is dead” and I worry about my future. Then I relax and realise that SEO has quite a few years to go yet. it’s a long way from being an Ex-SEO, left this mortal coil, kicking up the daisies and every other quote from Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch.
Work is required, and will always be required, to ensure that your website is as #SEOFriendly as possible so that it appears as high in the search listings as possible and drives sufficient traffic to your website
Myth 7 – It’s all about Social Media these days
It’s really easy to believe, that with over 2.3Bn active users, Facebook has removed the need for a website and so SEO is no longer required.
If you follow this path, you’ll be missing out. In the UK about 32m people use Facebook. With about 90% of the UK population using the internet, ( that’s about 58.5m people) you’ll be missing 26.5m people.
And that’s just the people who don’t use Facebook Lots of Facebook users (about 70%) still turn to search engines when looking for the things they want or need. So, it’s not all about Social Media, if you just do Social, then you are missing a huge audience.
Myth 8 – Pictures don’t do anything to help your SEO
Although the search engines are slowly rolling out Artificial Intelligence to help then understand the content of a picture, your images contribute greatly to the optimisation of a web page.
However, you need to optimise your pictures properly. The file size has to be small enough so as not to slow your pages down, need to have SEO optimised image names, AND have optimised Alt Tags. Sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive my free e-Guide to image optimisation.
Myth 9 – SEO is a secret magic masked by smoke and mirrors
When SEO was growing in awareness, a lot of people delivering the service hid their actions behind smoke and mirrors, making it appear as if it was something mystical, something that could only be implemented by members of some deeply secret inner circle.
I think the main reason for this was to mask their techniques (some of which may have been gaming the system for quick results but which would lead to penalties being applied) AND so that these cowboys could charge more for their services.
The reality is that EVERYTHING you need to know is “out there” on the internet if you know where to look and who to trust. But do you want to spend time learning about SEO, sorting the wheat from the chaff and then learning how to implement it on your website AND keep it up to date or would you rather bring in someone who knows what they are doing, leaving you to do what you’re good at? Running your business, converting leads into sales, and making a profit?
Myth 10 – It’s not a problem if your website is slow to load
It’s a HUGE problem if your website is slow to load. 3 seconds is the goal – why?
The internet has robbed people of their attention span. Most people simply won’t wait any more than 3 seconds for a web page to open. If it’s slow, they’ll simply go elsewhere.
And it’s worse than that. You have about 2/10s of a second for people to “Get” what your site offers and if they don’t “get” it almost straight away, they will head off elsewhere.
Because of this, Google will push slow sites down the results pages. After all, thee’s no point sending people to a website if all they are going to do is come back to their search results to go somewhere else.
A slow website is one of the reasons behind a high Bounce Rate in Google Analytics
Myth 11 – You Must have perfect SEO to rank on Page 1
With Google examining more than 200 “signals” to determine where your site comes up in the search results pages, and the majority of those being known ONLY by Google thee is no way that your SEO can ever be perfect.
And you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be better than your competitors. That’s why I’ll look at your competitors if I am working on your SEO to see what can be done to beat them.
And if you strive for perfection, you might never get anything completed. remember, perfection is the enemy of good
Joke 2 men in the forest were faced by a huge bear charging towards them. One gulps and says to the other “we can’t outrun this bear” and the other one says. “I know, but all I have to do is run faster than you……byeeeee”
Myth 12 – Running a Google Ads campaign will boost your SEO
Google Ads and Google Search are two totally separate parts of Google and there is NO interlinking at all so running a large (or small) Google Ads campaign is NOT going to improve your SEO.
It will, however, give you a quick opportunity to get your business to the top if the first page of search results (In the Ads section) if you need quick traffic to your website
Myth 13 – SEO is a one time thing
No, no, and thrice no. SEO is constantly changing and you (or your search optimiser) should constantly be looking for ways to improve your SEO. After all, if you started out and were better than your competitors (See Myth 11) and they improve their SEO, they will outrank you so you need to stay on top of things.
Myth 14 – Google will penalise your site for duplicate content
Myth 4 looked at the posting of content on a variety of websites with the aim of building backlinks to your website.
From this came conversations that if Google caught you doing this then they would penalise your website. This simply isn’t true. However, a very real danger of having multiple copies of the same thing is that it will dilute your search results because Google won’t know which is the most important page.
So, examine your content, and if you have more than one copy of the same thing then you need to let Google know which is the most important and the Canonical tag is the way to do this.
A canonical tag (aka “rel canonical”) is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs
Thanks for reading and remember, if you have any problems with your SEO please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll be only too happy to answer any questions that you might have
It looks as if we are looking not at the beginning of the end but at least at the end of the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. The government has slightly relaxed lock-down and hopefully will further relax things as the infection rate and number of deaths continues to fall.
There is no doubt that the UK government has thrown a vast sum of money at supporting businesses with the aim of helping them survive corona virus and ensure that they are able to restart and ramp up.
However, nobody knows how the economy will recover. There’s been talk of a quick return to business normality in a V shaped recovery.
Other wise minds think it could be a U shape return with the economy bobbing along the bottom until things pick up, a W shaped return might be the outcome should there be another peak of infection and even an L shaped recovery is possible, which would be no recovery at all.
With over 20 years of supporting small businesses I have been through a number of recessions and know that businesses that really WANT to trade, and even increase their market, can do so provided their business is fit and well and ready to return to the fray.
And I also know that there will a lot of companies hunting for new business but a lot of them will just re-open and hope that what worked before lock-down will work post lock-down.
Pull ahead of your competition
Use this as a golden opportunity to pull ahead of your competition
And it’s not difficult. You can take advantage of one of the government support packages to give your marketing activity a boost. The coronavirus Bounce Back loan is perfect for this.
If you are a small to medium sized business that has been affected by the pandemic then it is highly likely that you will be eligible. You must be
is based in the UK
established before 1 March 2020
adversely impacted by the coronavirus
And that’s it. The loan is 100% backed by the government and so the ultimate risk to lenders is negligible.*
You can borrow between £2,000 and 25% of your turnover, to a maximum loan of £50,000
And here come the best bits
There is nothing to pay for 12 months, and during the fist year the loan attracts no interest either.
Then you pay the balance back over up to 5 years at an extremely attractive interest rate of just 2.5%
You could use the loan
to fund a completely new website
to fund some training
to pay for professional support and consultancy
to pay for your SEO
to fund a Pay per Click campaign such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads etc
to fund a complete rebrand
for printing of marketing collateral
for running a mail shot campaign
You could could mix and match any from the above – as the following example demonstrates
New website – £3,000
12 months SEO support – £2,160
Google Ads campaign – £500/month -£6,000 for a year
12 months Social Media management – £2,880
12 months email marketing support – £2,160
Total £16,200 + VAT
You would pay nothing for the first 12 months
Then just £303.75 per month for 60 months bringing your total borrowing in at £17,229.38 – a loan cost of just £1,029.38*
That’s just £14.30 in interest per month, over the lifetime of the loan
If you wanted/needed less, here’s what £10,000 and £5,000 loans look like
Monthly Cost – £187.50
Total Cost – £10,635.42
Total Interest – £635.42
Monthly interest equivalent – £8.83
Monthly Cost – £93.75
Total Cost £5,317.71
Total Interest £317.71
Monthly interest equivalent £4.41
Don’t delay, start today
But I wouldn’t put it off. Only the government knows when the loans will end and your competitors may already be seizing this opportunity. And as more companies take advantage the waiting list for your chosen professionals will be growing
Note that you are only eligible for one Bounce Back Loan so please make sure you have every eventuality covered.
I am yet to hit peak capacity but I’ve already had a couple of client take advantage of the Bounce Back Loan and have asked me to ramp up the marketing and coaching work that I do for them
So, don’t miss out – plan what you want to do. Get in touch for a quote, apply for your loan and then we can get started
Get in touch for an informal chat by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk. Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well
*I am not a financial adviser and you should take expert advice from your accountant, business adviser or other professional before proceeding. My figures come from the Lloyds Bank Bounce Back Loan Calculator
Enterprise Online Marketing Solutions accept no responsibility for any action that you might take after reading this post.
I am frequently asked whether Twitter can help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and my answer is usually a pretty vague “it depends”.
Your Twitter account DOES NOT have an impact on your ranking (the position your website comes up in the Google Search Engine Results Pages – SERPS) but it DOES have an impact on your visibility. Although this sounds contradictory, I hope the following adds a little clarity
Try this – carry out a Google search for your brand, for your key competitor brands as well, and see what shows up. For this example we’ll assume that my brand is my name simply because @AndyPoulton is my Twitter handle and this is what Google shows – my 3 most recent posts
Google’s Twitter Carousel
Back in 2015 Google did a deal with Twitter which gave Google access to the whole Twitter news-feed. The result is that where an account is active, and regularly posts content, Google will find this and display it as part of their search results.
By frequently sharing relevant, interesting content, Google will be keeping an eye on your Twitter account. Share little and Google will quickly lose interest.
Influencing Google’s Twitter Carousel
Grab the attention of new audiences by regularly posting (I post at least 4 times a day although I do use some tools and automation to manage this and make it a less time consuming task). And this is NEW posts, not replies or re-Tweets. Have a look at my “6 Steps to Social Media Success” to learn how I manage to do this,
Find interesting, relevant and timely topics to discuss, try to make them engaging to encourage people to “Like”, “Comment” and Retweet. Where possible you should reference your sources – they might Like and Retweet your content too – making sure that it reaches a wider audience. Use relevant #HashTags – TrendsMap shows you #Tags from around the world.
Promoting or over sharing
Twitter is like a waterfall. If a boat goes over a waterfall whilst you are looking, you get to see it. However, if the boat went over before you arrived, you’ll only find out about it if you go hunting for information about it (searching), or if you overhear someone talking about it (retweet) or if someone has filmed it. This means that the more times you share your news the more people will actually see it.
So, if you have created some great content, don’t share it just the once, share and share again. This is where tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer make things easier.
Make your Twitter Bio interesting
When someone is searching, it’s probable that your Twitter Bio will come up on Page one of Google. For maximum engagement make sure that your profile is descriptive, accurate, interesting, relevant and engaging.
Google uses more than 200 different “signals” when reviewing your website and where it deserves to appear in their search results. We’ll NEVER know what they all are so we can only work with those that Google tell us about and those which have been discovered through empirical research.
Your job, as a website owner, Search Engine Optimiser or Digital Marketing Professional is to understand everything you can and leverage every single opportunity that comes your way.
Remember, just like the two hunters faced with a hungry bear*, you don’t have to be perfect, just better than your competitions
If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (email@example.com) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well
*Two hunters were in the woods when they saw an angry bear rushing towards them. One of the hunters said that the bear was running faster than either of them could run.
The other hunter said that it wasn’t a problem, he only had to run faster than his mate to get away