Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Panda, Penguin, Pigeon – What Google’s 3 P’s can do to your Business

If you run an online business, own a website or market one on behalf of someone else you will most definitely have heard of (if not have a strong dislike of) Google’s Panda, Penguin and Pigeon algorithms.

Don’t let the cute animal and bird themes distract you as these labels represent some of Google’s main search algorithms – i.e. the complex set of factors that govern the way websites are ranked in the search results.  

So what exactly are the 3 P’s and why might they affect your business?


What is it? – The algorithm that assesses the quality of your backlink profile.  

Why might it affect you? - If you have built links in the past purely to manipulate your search engine rankings, this algorithm could cause Google to lose faith in your site.

penguin algorithm update
What can you do about it? – Chances are that if you were going to be hit by Penguin it would have happened already.  You will have noticed a significant drop off in traffic caused by loss of rankings.  However it is worth noting that the majority of sites that used any kind of SEO strategies, whether they intentionally built links to manipulate search or not, saw some reduction in visibility after the algorithm was first rolled out or following subsequent refreshes.  Thoroughly cleaning up your site links and waiting until the next rerun of the algorithm is the best way forward if you feel your site has been affected.

Is that enough? – Most certainly not.  Cleaning up your links will only get you back to square one – which may leave you in a state of zero visibility if you relied on these lower quality links to gain ranking positions.  Going forward you need to implement a solid online marketing strategy, making the most of your onsite content, blogs, social media and developing natural links to help your site to grow and gain in authority.

What’s the latest? We’re currently awaiting a refresh – this should be pretty monumental as Google have stated it is more a re-writing of the algorithm rather than a refresh and when you bear in mind it took them almost a year to release the first version, it gives you some idea of the scope.  Dubbed the ‘Next Generation Penguin’ this algorithm rewrite aims to make things better for webmasters and users, so keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground in the coming days.


What is it?  - First released in February 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm aims to lower the rankings of those sites with thin or poor quality content.

Why might it affect you? – If your website has very little content or what you do have is poor quality (i.e. written with only your prize rankings in mind) then you may have been affected by the Panda algorithm.

What can you do about it? Ensure your content adds value to your website, that it is informative and useful for the people using your site and not just plonked there to get the attention of Google’s bots.  Developing a solid content marketing strategy now will ensure you don’t fall into the Panda trap again.

Google itself has published guidelines on what makes a quality site so we’ve shared the best of these tips below to show you what you need to be doing if you manage your own online marketing or what your provider should be offering you:

  • Is the information trustworthy?
  • Does the site have duplicate articles with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Does the article have spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Would readers be genuinely interested in the content or is it purely there for search?
  • Is the article well edited?
  • Is it the sort of content you’d share or recommend to friends?

By asking yourself these questions before creating and publishing content on your site you can ensure that it is useful, informative and engaging for your site visitors and goes beyond the retro purpose of helping your site to rank for specific keywords.

What’s the latest?  The most recent version of the Panda algorithm dubbed 4.1 was released on 25th September 2014 and affected around 3-5% of search queries. This comes around 4 months after the major update 4.0 which affected 7.5% of queries and suggests perhaps a quarterly refresh programme.


pigeon algorithm
What is it?  Launched in July 2014, Google Pigeon is a new update aiming to provide more useful and effective local search results.

Why might it affect you?  If you used to rank for local keywords associated with the products or services you offer in your local area you may find your page one positions have been replaced by directories and review sites since July.  Changes are visible within Google Maps as well as web search results.

What can you do about it? Many local businesses have been in a state of panic since this update and have been somewhat infuriated at being usurped by directories that we all know consumers hate to use anyway!  It seemed that Yelp! whined about their lack of visibility and Pigeon took flight to the detriment of many local businesses who feel they have done nothing wrong but gain the local visibility they are rightly entitled to.  The one good thing to come out of all this was that internet marketers could seal the ranking report coffin once and for all as even local rankings now prove to be a useless metric.

What’s the latest? There have rumblings this week that the Google Pigeon update has been rolled back.  A study by a law firm (a sector hit hard by the update) seems to suggest that the update is being slowly rolled back but I have yet to see real evidence, especially as directories still dominate particularly around searches for manual trades – builders, plumbers and so on.

There are of course other updates notably hummingbird which paved the way for mobile search and came in the wake of the ‘Not Provided’ saga but as it doesn’t begin with a 'P' I don’t think we need to cover it here.

Hopefully you have found this blog a useful and easy to understand insight into the main search algorithms and can plan your online marketing is the most beneficial way moving forward.  Why not share this content with someone else who might find it helpful?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Can small business SEO really make a difference in today’s world of paid advertising?

Several things have happened in the last few months which suggest the only way to get ahead online these days is to buy your way there.  Firstly there was the loss of keyword data in Google analytics last year which means sometime soon there will be a figure of 100% ‘not provided’ in the keyword reporting section of your Google Analytics account.  This move to take keyword data away means online marketers are left in the dark in terms of the specific and long tail phrases that drive traffic towards a site – encouraging more businesses to instead invest in Adwords where specifics would be given.  Secondly, there was the change in Facebook’s algorithm at the end of last year which meant even though people liked your page they might not necessarily see your latest updates in their news feed.

Google and Facebook are clearly both out to make money so where does this leave the smaller organisations who cannot afford to spend thousands on paid advertising?  Does small business SEO still work or will the SME lose out to the big boys with bottomless pockets?

SEO for small businesses

Well the answer is yes and no.  Sorry for not going one way or the other but there are valid arguments on both side of the fence.  Let’s take the pro side of the argument first and say that SEO still has a place in the marketing budget of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).   

Search Engine Optimisation is not so much a luxury as a mandatory part of small business marketing.  There are still slices of the pie to be had provided businesses concentrate on optimising for the specific keywords and phrases that will drive targeted traffic to their website.  There is no point wasting money on the generic, high traffic, ludicrously competitive keywords that the big brands are optimising for – chances are Google will never give the small, local business with the new website any authority around these terms so it is better instead to reach for those specific, local keywords that are actually represented by the content on the website.

Small business SEO can be successful but only when combined with the other elements of online marketing that help to build up an increased presence online.  I refer here to blogging, social media marketing, online PR and email marketing – all of which can be done within a small business budget if you find the right supplier.  By utilising the most important online marketing channels, small businesses can build their brand online so that when potential customers are at the point of making a purchasing decision, they will consider this brand.

So how can this be done successfully?  Well first of all the business needs to move away from reliance on keyword positioning in SERPS – by repeating the mantra that ‘rankings are vanity, traffic is sanity’.  Page one positioning for very niche specific keywords is nice but in reality with only tens of people actually searching online using these terms, these rankings are unlikely to deliver noteworthy traffic.  Instead the business needs to build brand awareness and visibility around a large amount of semantically linked keywords, focusing their efforts on broadening their reach and maximising brand visibility.   They need to ensure their latest news is publicised both online as well as offline by utilising the services of online PR specialists who can ensure the organisation’s latest news is put under the noses of relevant journalists, bloggers, magazine editors and news wires. By taking advantage of social media channels such as the visually engaging Facebook, the news-style feed of Twitter and the all-important Google+ (important because it is owned by Google and thus deemed very worthy), the online marketing strategy really takes on momentum as great content from the client’s blog, website and PR can be broadcast across social channels to further increase brand awareness and encourage engagement.

So SEO for small businesses does work if you can find the right supplier that can cover all the important digital marketing channels effectively and within budget, right?
Well, not always and I’ll give you a very good reason.  Good coverage online now simply cannot be achieved without some degree of paid advertising.  If you want to rise to the top without waiting for decades to build your natural authority you’ll need to pay to get your content, brand and marketing message in front of a receptive audience.  

The powers that be such as Google and Facebook are leaning increasingly towards paid advertising.  Consider that if you have an Adwords campaign you get full data on the exact keywords people have used to find your ad and click through to your site – the same can no longer be said for organic searches.  Consider also that Facebook updates are no longer guaranteed to feature in the news feeds of those who like your page and at some point businesses will need to consider paid advertising to reach their target audience.
Pay Per Click paid advertising

Whilst SEO for small businesses can help improve organic presence, it will not be the only factor in driving targeted traffic to a website and increasing brand awareness.  The internet is simply too big for small businesses to be able to cover all of the bases on a budget of just a few hundred pounds a month.  Therefore, it can be argued that the smaller organisation is being priced out of the market.  Paid advertising through Google Adwords is becoming more expensive with the costs per click of even the more obscure and niche keywords increasing continually so unless businesses can comfortably set aside a four figure sum per month and utilise a PPC expert to fine tune their campaign and eliminate negative keywords, they may eat up all of their budget without getting the return they are looking for.

With paid advertising you have the opportunity to refine marketing strategies to reach a more specific and targeted audience.  For example, with Facebook you are able to choose demographics such as the age range of your audience to focus your message on those who are more likely to be receptive and actually want the products or services you provide.  Adwords too gives users the opportunity to choose their exact keywords and the specific locations or areas that they want to target.  Surely with this level of enhancement the outcome is a better rate of conversion?

Well it all depends – on a lot of things really.  Firstly, on your ability to conduct organic and paid advertising in house or the suitability and quality of the external providers you choose.  Secondly it depends on your budget – if you don’t have enough to commit to full scale SEO and organic content and social marketing you are unlikely to have the budget to put towards a viable paid advertising campaign.  Yes paid advertising is more guaranteed to deliver results but once you commit to it you have to keep up the momentum or the leads, visits and sales will simply dry up.

Finally, as this is often a point that gets overlooked in online marketing strategies – you need to have something worth converting.  If your prices are high, your product inferior or your website poorly constructed and difficult to navigate it doesn’t matter how much you spend on driving traffic and raising brand awareness (whether organic or paid) you will not turn this interest into sales.
Food for thought?  If you want to find out more about paid vs organic online marketing you can visit seo-it-right.co.uk or if you just like this article and want to share it please feel free to do so.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Why SEO is no longer just about SEO

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO for short is far more well-known nowadays than it was a few years ago. But whilst some of its principles still hold true today the very practice of SEO is so much more than backlink building and keyword rankings.

Effective SEO is really online marketing - think social media marketing, online PR, email marketing and content creation and you might have some idea of what we mean by the overall phrase ‘online marketing. The only reason it is still called SEO is that people have finally got to grips with the name and the concept so calling it something else would be like going back to square one.

So SEO should instead stand for the overall online marketing strategies that will involve optimisation up to a point but also other digital disciplines and channels that contribute to building up the visibility of a product, brand or business online. You cannot ignore the fact that Google has huge power over websites in terms of its algorithms and rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket and relying on organic search alone, or the traffic that is delivered by one or two keywords that are ranking on page one, you now need to cast your net a little wider and look to generate traffic from referrals, from social media channels and from a diverse range of semantically linked keywords.

Yes, gone are the days when you should be building a marketing strategy around 5 or 10 key phrases. There are still plenty of SEO companies out there who are charging per keyword but these strategies are old fashioned. After all, how many of us when searching for a builder in Birmingham would only consider typing builder Birmingham into Google? What about the many other possibilities such as builders in birmingham, birmingham building company and birmingham builder not to mention the fact that some of us will look on Facebook to search for a local company or perhaps act upon information shared when one of our friends retweeted?

If you want to truly build a lasting presence and help your business to grow online you need to accept that SEO is no longer just about SEO and that only an online marketing company that talks about innovation and implementing social media, online PR and other elements will be capable of getting you where you need to be.

Posted by Frances Berry

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Good Time To Embrace Content Marketing

Content marketing is by no means a new concept but one that is taking even more precedence since the latest algorithm update.  If you have got by thus far without content marketing quite frankly you haven’t been doing SEO.  Google has always loved new content and more and more I am seeing that sites with lots of great content, good onsite SEO to back it up with and some sort of added value for visitors (rather than in-your-face selling) have a stronger online presence.

Google is increasingly placing more value on great content and this means going back to your website and making sure that you have the content to back up the keywords you wish to optimise.  Gone are the days when building copious amounts of backlinks would deliver rankings around many tens, hundreds or even thousands of keywords – now you need content to back up every single little thing.

So many times I have seen businesses that want their website to rank for local keywords but they have absolutely no mention on their website that they even operate in these areas.  If they are not based there or do not serve customers in that area it is pointless trying to optimise around these local keywords as you will never deliver traffic.  Everything has to be relevant to what the business can offer and where.

So where do you need to create this great content?  On your website in the form of updating existing pages and adding new pages to make sure your site covers all the aspects of your business you wish to promote, on blogs in the form of updating people with relevant news and info and in social media through status updates, profiles, landing pages and rel-authored content.

In short if you don’t have someone in house who can do this for you, you’ll need to engage content marketers to create this for you and help you to protect your site from future search algorithm updates.  This won’t just be an exercise in Penguin proofing your site but also ensuring that you deliver the best user experience possible.  

Posted by Frances Berry