As a small or mid-sized business, hiring a quality Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant or agency can be expensive and a painstakingly tricky terrain to navigate. Guiding and effectively managing SEO consultants is equally challenging. What questions do you ask them? What tactics are working? How were results achieved?
Here are 10 do-it-yourself SEO tips that business owners or marketing managers can try before hiring an SEO agency or consultant.
1. Understand your Online Market and Target Customers
Having an offline, real-world understanding of your market and target customers is only half the story. Habits and behavior often differ online in comparison to the offline world. A prominent offline presence does not equate to a dominant online presence. A leading national store that stocks and sells curtains and blinds, for instance, might have much tougher competition from the online-only curtain and blind retailers.
Search online for products and services you offer and take note of the most prominent websites. Study their customer reviews and benchmark their social media presence and activity. You will likely find businesses you have not come across.
2. Master Keyword Research
You probably understand your industry jargon and are aware that your customers might use different terms than your trade colleagues to refer to your services or goods. The process of keyword research provides a rounded understanding of key phrases, search terms, and also online demand for products or services.
All business owners and managers intending to market online should know how to run keyword research.
Also understand your industry’s head key-phrases (general and highest search volume) and long-tail key-phrases (varied and more specific key phrases usually over four words).
Consider printing out and sticking your keyword research on a notice board as a constant reminder of your online focus.
3. Plan your Site
Now that you have an understanding of the most searched keywords and the most relevant long-tail words, you should have an idea of what pages on your website address those search queries.
Having a list on paper or a spreadsheet of all top, mid, and low-tier web pages and their corresponding keyword focus forms the basis of your website’s architecture. Each high and medium priority keyword from your keyword research should have a corresponding page on your site.
Long-tail keywords should be used in blog posts and FAQs.
4. Build your Site
Now that you have an idea of the pages that should be on your site, the next step is to build the best site in your industry with the help of a professional web designer or agency and with user-testing focus groups.
Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, advises site owners to build great websites that users love and want to tell their friends about — sites that users visit over and over again. Any website built in 2013 should be mobile responsive to cater for smartphone browsers. WordPress is terrific for most small and mid-sized businesses due to its simplicity, flexibility, support, in-built SEO features, and access to a vast library of free and premium plugins.
5. Start Blogging or Producing Regular Content
You don’t have to start a blog, but start publishing your own content on a scheduled basis. I am not advocating turning your business into a publishing company by posting content every day. Scheduling weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly updates is my recommendation — consistency is key. Also, bear in mind that content does not necessarily need to be text — for example, an architectural firm could publish professionally taken photographs of its projects or Realtors could publish weekly video bulletins. Publishing content that is tailored to the content consumption habits of your target audience is the goal.
6. Build your Social Media Network
Join Google+ and then figure out one or two other social media platforms to hone in on. You have lots of options to choose from, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. Social media enables you to connect with your customers, publishers, and an audience for the content that you produce. Understanding and nurturing these relationships would swiftly produce results and help your SEO in the long run.
7. DIY Public Relations
Public relations plays a key role in off-page SEO. You should know how to:
Establish and tell a compelling story about your brand;
Get media attention;
Pitch not just to journalists but also bloggers and social media influencers;
Use social media to establish relationships and promote your brand.
8. Understand Google Analytics
Have a basic understanding of Google Analytics. Understand the type of reports each Google Analytics tab covers — Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, Conversions, and Real-Time.
This will help you appreciate the concept of traffic and its sources as well as let you read monthly or weekly reports provided to you by your SEO or web design agency.
The importance of analytics in digital marketing is akin to financial reports in accounting.
9. Read at Least One SEO Blog
Familiarise yourself with SEO by reading a factual SEO guide and then subscribing to an SEO blog — time permitting. Here are my key recommendations.
The top free beginner guides to SEO are Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO, Search Engine Land’s SEO Guide, Google SEO Start Guide, and KISSmetrics’ guide to SEO.
For keeping up to date with SEO changes (especially if you are time-strapped), the two video channels I suggest are Moz’s Whiteboard Friday and the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.
If you have more time on your hands and are keen to follow the SEO industry, then subscribe to Moz, Search Engine Land, and Matt Cutts’ blog.
10. Ask Questions
Anytime you are stuck or need answers, jump into SEO communities to ask questions. Google’s Webmaster Forum offers the largest SEO community on the web. Another good community is the Webmaster World Forum. Others I recommend are Moz’s Q&A Forum, SEOChat — which is where I started learning about SEO, SEO Round Table, and Search Engine Watch Forum.
These communities are also good places for hiring SEO consultants or agencies.
I hope these 10 steps help you save money, get better rankings, and avoid throwing money away. They could also help you become a better SEO client by asking the right questions and utilising the agency or consultant you hire to its fullest potential.
Hope this helps,
With 2018 just around the corner, we look at 11 web design trends you should consider using. Balancing aesthetics with functionality is a difficult act, but get it right and you’ll set yourself up for increased user engagement and higher conversion rates. Find out how you can improve your online presence with these 11 actionable tips.
1. Making Mobile a Priority
According to Statista, “In 2016, 43.6 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 35.1 percent in the previous year.” It’s true that the importance of mobile-friendly web design has been increasing for the past several years, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Now, in the first half of 2018, Google will be rolling out its new Mobile First Index, placing more importance on the mobile version of your website by making it the first to be seen in the search results. This means that your website must have mobile-friendly design.
In 2016, 43.6 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 35.1 percent in the previous year. – Statista
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are also becoming more important. If you haven’t already heard about AMP, it’s an open-source coding standard for publishers that allows them to load their sites quickly on mobile. Traditional mobile websites can be a bit clunky, but AMP ramps up the mobile experience by stripping down code, using external resources for media files and running scripts in parallel to allow pages to load instantly.
Whether you are designing a brand-new site or retrofitting any existing site, AMP is a must for 2018. No potential customer likes a page that loads slowly, and you don’t want to push prospects to one of your (faster) competitors.
2. Irregular Grid Layouts
Grid layouts provide an easy way for designers to tie all of the elements of their web pages together, giving each page a theme and making it easier to navigate. This design theory has been around forever, but there’s been a shift in the way they’re being used.
Many content management systems, including popular platforms such WordPress, use grid design as the basis of their templates. In March 2017, CSS grid was introduced to provide designers with more options. In 2018, we’ll see a shift toward designers using more neutral space and more irregular grid layouts for an ultra-modern design style. Simple styles that include the use of whitespace (or negative space) makes content stand out so that it’s easier to read and navigate. These styles are also easier on the eyes, encouraging users to spend more time on your site.
3. Bold Fonts & Bright Colors
To complement these modern design styles, you’ll need type font that stands out. Bold font styles help users focus on your content, while the whitespace makes it easier to read and skim through. Together, they’re a perfect complement. Because people typically only spend a few seconds, up to a couple of minutes, looking at your pages, you need to catch their attention with colors and designs that stand out. The goal is to create an easy and enjoyable experience for the user to keep them on your site for as long as possible and eventually convert them into paying customers.
In 2018, we may also see these fonts and colors taking the place of images. This makes sense for mobile especially. Unlike images, which slow pages down, scaling the size of your typography won’t impact performance. It also creates cleaner lines on your page that helps your calls-to-action pop. Large buttons, hero images, and clickable images are going out of style and making way for large typographic expressions.
4. Increase in Micro-Interactions
Facebook and other social media networks have made micro-interactions extremely popular. Users love the ability to contribute a variety of reactions to posts and private messages, from the traditional “liking” of posts, all the way to a flurry of animated hearts you witness when you share the love in private Facebook messages. These micro-interactions allow the user to interact with others without reloading the page.
This is different to the traditional static website user experience, which requires users to reload pages to take action, such as submitting a review. Such a scenario may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it creates a speedbump for customers that will cause some of them to bounce from the page, meaning you lose out on potential conversions. Micro-interactions help level out these speed bumps and provide users with richer interactions.
Using micro-interactions on your site in 2018 will allow users to communicate real-time and increase the speed and connectivity that they have come to expect in a mobile-connected world.
5. More Advanced Scroll Triggered Animations
Scrolled animation triggers encourage users to keep scrolling down your website pages with specifically triggered interactive elements that increase engagement. Here’s one great example of scroll triggered animation from Apple. These animation triggers are nothing new, but they have begun to be used in a new way. The best scroll triggered animations are minimalist, educational and strategic, designed to increase conversions.
Scroll triggered animations can also clean up the look and feel of your website. Instead of having a collection of buttons and menus, your site will convey a true, interactive experience for your users.
6. Top Sticky Elements vs. Bottom Sticky Elements
You know your users read from left to right, but have you thought about the fact that your users are getting used to clicking at the bottom of their smartphones or mobile apps to navigate? Since mobile app design is so important to modern web design, website developers are beginning to make sticky menu items scroll from the bottom of the site, as opposed to the top of the site’s pages. Progressive web apps are somewhat responsible from this design evolution, as developers start to design for modern functionality.
7. Responsive Design
Responsive design is less of a trend than a principle, and it’s been around for a number of years. However, its importance cannot be overlooked. Responsive design is when your website is designed in a way that it resizes to look appealing across multiple screen sizes: mobile, tablets, TV, wearables or desktops.
Though the UX revolution has been happening for nearly a decade, it’s only recently been implemented on a wider scale. In 2018, we expect this design element will continue to expand to include new forms of technology such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
8. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
They may still sound like terms from a sci-fi film, but artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have hit the mainstream. In 2016, Google’s AlphaGo AI beat a skilled human Go player for the first time, a defeat that had long been sought after, and AI assistants like Siri are available on millions of devices. So it comes as no surprise that Adobe’s Sensei promises to make AI tools easily available to web developers around the world, while TheGrid has been offering AI-based web designs since 2014. As AI and machine learning continue to advance, we’ll start to see them make their way into webdesign in other, more advanced ways.
9. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs)
Although they are not new, in 2018 you can expect this graphic format overtake more traditional file formats such as PNG, GIF and JPG. SVGs are vector images, not pixels, which gives them many advantages. They are incredibly scalable (while maintaining their quality), meaning they won’t affect page speed when animated because they don’t’ require any HTTP requests. SVGs are essential to providing quality multimedia experiences for users in 2018 (360-degree views, 3D images and Cinemographs).
10. Progressive Web Apps
Apps make up a large portion of mobile media time, and web designers are started taking notice and blending the best of web and app behaviors. This hybrid creation is referred to as a Progressive Web App. In 2018, we’ll see a trend in upgrading websites to add elements such as animated page transitions, push notifications and splash screens. Some websites like Medium, are already there, offering apps that are easily accessible with a click. Such apps will continue to evolve to meet each user’s personalized tastes.
They are useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. As the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful. It loads quicker, even on flaky networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, and loads as a top-level, full-screen experience.
11. Internet of Things Connectivity
Connecting web services to the Internet of Things has been a huge trend in 2017, and it will continue on this path in 2018. IoT devices can include objects as simple as a refrigerator to as complicated as a tidal turbine. These “things” use sensor arrays and server-side processing to receive and act on their environments. APIs that allow web developers to connect and communicate with these devices are currently being created, leading to even more interconnectivity of the next several years.
Simple, Functional, Futuristic Design in 2018
In 2018, the focus will be on designing simple but powerful websites that are well optimized for mobile devices and heavily focused on user experience. These sites will feature new types of formats, styles and technologies. Is your brand’s website ready for what 2018 has to bring?
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