Boing, Boing, Boing. What’s the Bounce Rate?

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

Website traffic Sources in Google Analytics
Website Traffic Sources in Google Analytics

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

  1. CPC = Google Ads
  2. Google Organic = Google Free Search Results
  3. Direct = Either Google can’t identify the source or people have entered the URL directly in their browser
  4. Bing Organic = Traffic from Bing (Microsoft search)
  5. UK Search Yahoo Organic = Traffic from Yahoo UK
  6. Yahoo Organic= Traffic from Yahoo
  7. m.Facebook = Traffic from Facebook on a phone or tablet
  8. Google.com = Traffic from Google.com
  9. Traffic from a third party website
  10. 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

Visitor Demographics

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.

Mobile Issues

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.

Site Speed

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

Google Analytics page speed performance chart
Page Speed Report – blurred to protect the company

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.

A web page speed test waterfall chart
A web page speed test waterfall chart

Summary

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.

And Finally

Don’t forget that you can book a FREE 40 minute consultation with me.

Find me: https://seo.enterprise-oms.uk/  |  andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Follow Me: Twitter ¦ Linkedin
Phone Me: 01793 238020 ¦ 07966 547146

Black Hat SEO – Keyword Stuffing

Black Hat SEO spelled out with Scrabble letters

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.

An example of keyword stuffing
An example of keyword stuffing

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

Keyword Stuffing – Level 3, nearly invisible stuffing

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.

Keyword Stuffing – Level 4, totally invisible stuffing

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 (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) 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

14 SEO Myths that could ruin your chances with Google

Myths about SEO

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

Headstone with the words "RIP SEO"

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.

#UseMorePictures

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

Find me:         https://seo.enterprise-oms.uk/  |  andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Follow me:     Twitter ¦ Linkedin
Phone me:      01793 238020 ¦ 07966 547146

Staying in touch with clients and teams – the digital transformation.

For years, technologists have been promoting digital transformation but corona virus, lock-down and working from home has really pushed many businesses to take a fresh look.

Lock-Down means that a lot of us are having to work very differently, working from home, whether from a home office, the dining table, the kitchen table or a bedroom dressing table or a shed at the end of the garden it’s all quite new

There’s no doubt that as a result of this forced, rapid, transition, many of us will find that continuing to work from home is far better than commuting to an office, warehouse, workshop or other business location. And, in the long term, everybody wins. No commuting means time saved, no travelling to meetings means time and travel costs saved and no travelling is much much better for the environment too.

One to one video conferencing

There are a number of platforms that will help you to do this. Simple platforms such as Skype and Messenger are familiar to a lot of people, Google Hangouts and Microsoft teams are also in pretty common use but they often lack some of the features that make video-conferencing much easier.

Video Conference Options

Video Conference comparison

The key features that I look for include

  • Maximum permitted meeting length
  • Screen sharing – so that I can share presentations etc.
  • Recording, can the session be recorded so that I can share it with the delegates for them to refer back to?
  • What services do the free accounts NOT have?

As an example, Zoom, which has really increased in popularity over the last couple of months has a Free account that allows video conferences of any length with 2 people but this drops to just 40 minutes for 3 or more but does permit screen sharing. However, there are concerns over the security of Zoom.

To overcome this, the Zoom Pro account at £143.88 + VAT annually increases the meeting length to 24 hours and provides 1Gb of cloud storage,

Webex, a Cisco product, is more secure. The free account limits the number of people in your call to 100, places no limits on meeting length but does not offer any recording and does not offer screen sharing.

The Webex Small Teams account, £135.00 + VAT PA adds screen sharing and recording to the free account.

Other providers of similar services include

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) 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

SEO is for life, not just for Christmas

I am frequently asked “when should I stop doing my SEO?” I suspect that this is because people are looking to stop either working on their website or paying somebody else to do the SEO on their website

The answer, which might not be easy listening for some, is that you can only stop when either you have taken over all of your competition, when all of your competition cease to exist, or Google stops updating the way it ranks websites and your business website sites at the top of Page 1

I agree that it would be great if one could create a website, ensure that it is fully search optimised, click “publish” and watch the magic happen as people flock to the website and make purchases or submit enquiries.

And a lot of businesses still think that this is the way that things should be done. Great thought, and money, is invested in the design, the content, the logo, the colurs etc but SEO tends to be at the bottom of the list.

I have lost count of the times that I have been asked to optimise a new website and spent time with the owner discussing the changes that are required to ensure that the site can be efectivly optimised, rather than just paying lip-service to the requirements.

Sometimes a root and branch rebuild is the only way forwards.

The reality is that SEO should be as an important part of the website planning, development and build as the thought put in to the logo, the colours used, the pages required etc. It should be there, from the beginning – not considered an afterthought.

And once optimised, many website owners think “that’s it, site optimised, job done”.

The problem is that it can take several months for the SEO to have an impact (see “how long does SEO take” for more info). And you will probably find that your site ins’t in the hallowed top spot on Page 1. Your site might not even be on Page 1 so more work will be required.

And while you are doing this, so will your competitors – they’ll be trying to beat your website and working on their sites so you will have to keep working on yours.

And then there’s all the changes and updates that Google makes to the way that it measures and ranks websites – you need to be on top of those in case any changes made by Google have a negative impact on your website. And Google makes, on average, 9-10 changes PER DAY, every day

You should ONLY stop your SEO when one of 3 states is reached

  1. You take over ALL of your competition and prevent new startups from competing with you
  2. Your business is so good that all of your competitors fail
  3. You have reached the top of Page 1 and Google stops changing things

Daily changes to Google Search

In 2018 Google ran over 654,000 experiments. These will have been carried out by Google’s AI engines, trained external Search Raters and live tests. The outcome being 3,234 improvements to search, or 9 a day

We’ll never get to know, and understand, the majority of these improvements because most of them will be tweaks to the system. However, significant changes are often announced by Google or can be tracked by businesses interested in Google’s updates and quite a few people have published lists of known algorithm updates such as herehere and here.

The Competition

Carry out any search on Google and you’ll be presented with millions of results. Even a search for “jumpers for rats” returns over 6m results.

Google search for "jumpers for rats"

And we know, or should know, that a Page 1 result is all that really matters.

Why do Page 1 search results matter so much

That’s really simple to answer. Research shows that just 50% of Google users ever make it from Page 1 on to Page 2 of the search results and just 10% make it on to Page 3

Chart showing how many visitors to page 1 of Google and beyond.
Image credit Backlinko

Maintain, Maintain, Maintain. Keeping your site up to date

Once launched, your website is never “finished”. You need to be constantly checking to make sure that it’s performing as required, and investigating where it is performing poorly and put solutions in place.

You need to be frequently adding fresh content (a blog/news page for example), an “un-maintained site is a doomed site” as they say – and Google emphasise this on its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

Some websites are not maintained or cared for at all by their webmaster. These “abandoned” websites will fail to achieve their purpose over time, as content becomes stale or website functionality ceases to work on new browser versions. Unmaintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.

In 20 years of SEO I have only had to re-skill myself about 20 times to stay current and up to date. The ONLY thing that hasn’t changed is that SEO is always changing. If your website fails to stay current then your website will wither on the Google vine.

The good sites will prosper, the poor sites – owned by lazy businesses – will be left behind. SEO is not just for Christmas

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) 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

Find me:         https://seo.enterprise-oms.uk/  |  andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Follow me:     Twitter ¦ Linkedin
Phone me:      01793 238020 ¦ 07966 547146

Have you heard of The SMOG* Test?

It’s nothing to do with clean air but IS all about the readability of your website.

Did you know that the average reading age in the UK is 12-13 years and that a significant number of visitors to your website may have English as their second language?

If you haven’t given this any thought then you are probably losing visitors and business because your words could act as an impenetrable barrier and you could be losing custom.

Not only that but Google take more than a passing interest in readability.

There is a simple tool that you can use to calculate the reading age of your site and you really should apply this RIGHT NOW.

All you have to do is go to www.read-able.com, copy some text from your website that you want to test and paste it in to the “TEST BY DIRECT INPUT”Readability Test at read-able.com

Your pages will be parsed through 6 different tests [including the SMOG* test] and the individual results will be displayed together with an average.

Take a look at the Readability Test results

Readability test results

As you can see, the test results for the text that I pasted show that the reading age is 15-16 years and so a little owrk is required.

The results are provided in both age and US Grade Levels and you can find a simple Grade to Age comparison here.

Alternatively you could also try the “Drayton Bird test” by reading your content out loud. If it sounds like one side of a conversation the you are probably on the right track, if it sounds stilted and disjointed you need to go back to the drawing board!

How to make your text easier to read

If you need help with making your text easier to read you could turn to the free Hemmingway App for help.

Hemmingway App

In the screenshot, above, you can see that the App has highlighted areas for improvement, and as you make edits you’ll see the reading age on the right-hand side of the page reduce, and the highlighted text will start to disapear.

After a “first pass” you can see that the reading age has already come down. And if I paste this text in to Read-Able you can see that the reading age has fallen to 12-13, much closer to the target, and achieved without any Dumbing Down

Read-Able test results

And if you need any help with your website, search engine optimisation, social media, email marketing or any other form of online activity then all you have to do is #AskAndyP

Ring Me:      01793 238020      07966 547146
Email Me:    andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Find Me:      Linkedin     Twitter
Visit Me:     Bowman House, Whitehill Lane, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wilts, SN4 7DB

*SMOG – Simple Measure of Gobbledygook

Another Google Update

Google my Business

Last week there was a lot of talk across the SEO network about changes to results for Google Maps/Places/Google MyBusiness.

Some businesses seem to have suffered massively impacted by the changes. 

The way that it works is that a business sets up their GMB account and lets Google know of the areas that they service and so, when a Google user searches for a local business, Google looks at where the person in searching from and displays businesses based on those that are located in an (approx) 10 mile radius of the searcher although competitors up to 60 miles away might be shown.

This latest update now seems to have reduced the radius to just 5 miles with competitor activity limited to 17 miles.

There appears to have been some “bounce”, some businesses dropped out totally but a number then subsequently recovered as Google tweaked the algorithm although the tweaks now seem to have ended so where you are is where you will remain.

It would appear that the number and quality of reviews are not having an impact and the update affects all business sectors.

What can you do?

Not a great deal. Just make sure that your GMB profile is as complete as possible and make regular posts/updates and if you are unhappy about the outcome you can complain to Google using their “Business Redressal Complaint Form

And if you want to discuss this, or any other SEO/Google Ads, issues please don’t hesitate to give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or make contact via Twitter or Linkedin

How Google’s BERT help catch a cow fishing

Google logo

I know, I know, you can’t really catch a cow when you go fishing, can you? Well, you can when you realise that a cow is actually another name for a large, striped, saltwater game fish.

And BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a major update to the Google search algorithm that has nothing to do with Transformers films or toys.

What does BERT do?

Google has been consistently trying to understand the context of the words used in Google searches. In the early days of Google they just searched on the words used in the query without attempting to understand the context. So, if you wanted to go on holiday to Majorca and wanted a hotel with a swimming pool you might search using “Hotel Majorca Swimming Pool” for example.

However, your results might include the Hotel Majorca on Swimming Pool Road in Lowestoft or a hotel on Majorca Avenue in Andover or other results based on any combination of the words without understanding the real nature of your search.

Next up came semantic search which was Google’s first attempt to understand context of searches but my experience was that it wasn’t really that much of an improvement on what went before.

And this is where BERT comes in, BERT is a “deep learning algorithm that is related to natural language processing” and it helps a machine to actually understand what the words in a sentence mean, and can take in to account all of the nuances that are included in human speech.

Roger Monti of the Search Engine Journal was looking for a search phrase that he could use to demonstrate how context was interpreted and settled on “how to catch a cow fishing”.

Before BERT, Google returned a lot of results based on livestock and cows in particular. However, following the BERT roll out Google used “fishing” to understand the context and the same search ,conducted by Roger, at the end of October was full of striped bass and fishing related results.

A striped bass being held by a fisherman
A Striped Bass

Do I have to do anything on my website?

Not really. You just need to make sure that you continue to deliver quality, focused content and continue to use synonyms where relevant and appropriate.

BERT is currently rolling out globally and so may not have reached a Google Server near you, yet,

If you DO need some help with your website, search engine optimisation and/or your social media and email marketing you can always get in touch for a chat – 01793 238020 or andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

Where do you get your pictures from?

You need pictures for your website, your blog or your email marketing. Pictures helps make it look nice, showcases your products and services, breaks up your text, helps with your SEO and each picture is worth a thousand words, according to the old Chinese proverb.

And Social Media demands pictures. I’m not just talking about Instagram and Pinterest but Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc because using pictures helps you post stand out from the crowd. Does anyone even read a “boring” text update these days?

But where do you get your pictures from?

Do you just go to Google, do a search, filter it by images and look for those that appeal? Do you look at other websites and think “that’s a nice picture, I’ll have some of that”.

Google Images selection of fast carsBelieve it or not, some people still believe that you can use any picture that you find on the internet. It’s OK because it’s there, on the internet, so it’s there for anyone and everyone – isn’t it? Do a Google image search, browse the web, find a picture you like, right-click and choose “Save As” and the picture’s yours to use in any (and every) way you see fit.

That’s the attitude that was very common in the early days of the internet. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.

sketch on a napkinEvery picture on the internet has been taken by a photographer or created by someone, frequently with a particular purpose in mind. As soon as the image has been created the copyright is automatically assigned to the creator. They don’t have to do anything, they don’t have to register it anywhere, mark it in some way or declare that it’s copyrighted. The mere process of creation automatically creates the copyright at the same time. Even a sketch on a napkin.

So where can you get pictures from

Google Image Selection Tool

Well, you can still use your Google Image Search, you just have to be a little selective.
Instead of just choosing the first picture you come across, you can filter the images by “usage rights”. Click on the “Tools” button and a fresh line of navigation appears. Click on the “Usage Rights” and choose “Labeled for reuse”.

It is still advisable to check the rights that the publisher has attached to the image but at least you’re looking at images that should be OK for re-use.

But why use a picture created by someone else or a photograph taken by someone else? Far better to create something of your own. That way, you can be sure that it won’t appear on any other website. Use the camera in your phone, use your digital camera if you have one. Just make sure that your pictures are in focus, well lit and focus on the subject.

Alternatively, if your budget can stand it bring in a professional photographer or use a graphic designer. You’ll be sure to get unique, high quality content and the cost may just be a lot less than you expect. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Of course, there are large libraries of stock images where you search for a picture that suits your needs. When you find one you’ll have to purchase a license to use it. Probably the most well known image library is Getty Images, a vast repository of high quality stock photography – but it’s not cheap. Shutterstock is another – and there are several more.

However, if you are working to a really tight budget, there are a number of stock photo sites that have a wide range of images that are actually free to use – here’s a small selection of ones that I turn to when the need arises

What happens if you get caught

All of the big stock photography libraries have software tools that are always crawling the internet. They are sophisticated enough to be able to tell whether you have cropped an image, flipped it left to right or carried out other forms of editing designed to hid the origin of the image – even if you have renamed it.

If you are caught using an unlicensed image you will be sent a letter from the copyright owner’s solicitor demanding payment. There is no way around paying; they will hound you remorselessly, like the Terminator. The demand will be based on how long they think you have been using the image so it could go in to the thousands of pounds. I have known people who have managed to negotiate the fee down, but they have never managed to negotiate it down to zero.

The whole tone of this email exchange in this regard can be very aggressive and unpleasant. Not good if you’re looking to keep your stress levels down.

Even if you “borrow” the image from a website you’ll never know. They may have bought a license to use the image but you haven’t – so you’ll have to pay up.

What’s the solution?

Ensure that you know where every single one of your images has come from and that you have the appropriate rights to use the picture and if you need any help – just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

What is “bad” SEO

SEO writing on a windowThe Art/Science/Discipline (delete as you see fit) of Search Engine Optimisation, aka SEO, has many branches. However, the first decision is whether you are going to use best practice or try to “game” the system, aka cheat, to get the search results you need.

The SEO practitioners who cheat are known as “black hatters” or “unethical” whilst the good guys are “white hats” or ethical.

Which you choose is up to you, however the impact on your business, if you make the wrong choice, could be disastrous.

How long does SEO take to have an impact on your website?
SEO takes time, months not days, not weeks but months. However, sometimes there are ways to “game” the system that can deliver results far more quickly. The downside is that doing this will be going against Google’s Best practice guidelines & will attract penalties from them.

Yes, your website might rocket up the search engine results but, once your site has been identified as using unethical techniques,Google will apply a penalty.

Google Penalties
Remember, Google does not have to list you anywhere, it’s of no real benefit to Google to have you in their listings and if you go against their guidelines you will be penalised.

Google is constantly checking results to make sure that the right sites are listed in the right place, to make sure that sites are not gaining unfair advantage and making sure that sites are not cheating the system.

In my experience, when caught cheating Google has three levels of penalty it can apply, depending on the seriousness of the “crime”.

  1. If it’s a relatively minor digression then Google may simply stop monitoring your site. Any updates that you apply to your site will be ignored. This means your site will just slowly drift down the pages until your site effectively disappears.
  2. A more serious misdemeanour will see your site actively demoted, perhaps by 5 pages (for example). With only 10% of Google searchers EVER going beyond Page 2 of the results, if you are on Page 5 you may as well be on Page 100.
  3. Total deletion from the Google database. Remember, Google is under no obligation to you.

Google Search ConsoleThankfully, most issues tend to be (1) and (2) and Google will let you know before a penalty is applied and give you time to put a remedy in place. They do this through the Search Console. You do use the Search Console, don’t you?

If you click on the “Security & Manual Actions” link in the Search Console’s left-hand navigation menu, Google will have posted any penalties that it is looking to apply. You have about a month to resolve any which means that you need to be checking every fortnight, giving you a good 2 weeks to resolve any issues.

How to overcome a penalty
If Google advises you that you have done something that goes against their guidelines and that they are about to apply a penalty you need to put a solution in place.

The first step is to identify what has caused the problem. Contact your SEO company and ask them what they have done and instruct them to undo it, PDQ! If you have done it yourself then you need to undo the dubious SEO tricks that you have applied to your site.

If Google don’t tell you, how will you know that you have been the subject of a penalty
Over the 20 or so years that I have been doing SEO I have fielded a number of calls from business people (not clients of mine) which all went in the same direction.

“Hi Andy, I don’t know if you can help but yesterday my business was on Page 1 of Google search. Now I can’t find it, and I’ve gone to Page 20. What’s happened?”

What’s happened is that they have been hit, and hit hard, by Google and have likely been deleted from their database.

Another way to tell is through Google Analytics, if your web traffic falls off a cliff, for example – as shown in the Analytics screen grab, below.

Google Analytics graph hit by a Google Penalty

 

If you receive notification from Google that they are going to apply a manual penalty then you have time to reverse the activity that was the cause of this warning.

If, however, you are like the people that have called me, and your site has simply disappeared it might be better to bite the bullet, buy a new domain name, build a new site and start again.

In many previous cases, I have worked with businesses to identify what went wrong, put corrections and rectifications in place and then tried to convince Google to relist them. When, after 6 months, there had been no change, my recommendation was to start again.

However, the last time I did this was a couple of years ago so things could have changed

Types of Black Hat Activity
Cheating has changed over the years. Back in the (very) early days of SEO, all that was required was to add keywords multiple times in the Keywords Meta Tag and repeat them multiple times on the page itself. So you’d have a page of content and them across the bottom of the page you’d see the keyword repeated many, many times.

Keyword, Keyword, Keyword, Keyword. Keyword, Keyword

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it & the web developers realised that this looked bad so they changed the font colour to match the background so the visitor couldn’t see the text but the search engines could.

The search engines soon spotted this and didn’t like it so Black Hat SEO people simply made the font size 0. The text disappeared from the page, but was still visible in the HTML that could be read by the search engines.

The search engines spotted this too and didn’t like it so the SEO folks went for keyword “stuffing”. Cramming the keyword in to as many keyword places that they keyword possibly keyword could

The visitors didn’t like this and went elsewhere.

Next came Link Building and Link Farming. Buying back-links from websites that simply published lists of websites on thousands of pages, for a fee. These pages effectively looked like a phone directory where the only content was links to websites.

But Google didn’t like this and link farm users were likely to find themselves deleted

The next technique was cloaking. Your web-server can differentiate between you and I visiting a website and a search engine. Black hat SEO folks learned this and created content that was precisely what the search engines were looking for and only showed this content to the search engines. It was a bit like putting a honey pot at the end of the garden to attract the wasps when you’re having a picnic in the garden on a sunny day

But Google didn’t like this & users of cloaking were likely to find their sites deleted

How can you tell the difference between White and Black Hat SE Optimisers
If someone approaches you, offering to do your SEO and they guarantee to get you on Page 1 then I’d be inclined to avoid them. Nobody can guarantee this unless they are either

  1. Running a Google Ads campaign – but they should tell you this
  2. Running a Black Hat campaign.

If you ask an SEO agency how they will optimise your site, they should tell you what they will be doing. They should also tell you that they can’t guarantee results, just that they will use their skills and experience to move your site higher in the search results.

Avoid being hit by a penalty and do your SEO the right way. Give me a call to discuss ethical, White Hat SEO for your website on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk