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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

ChezRoberts services blog SEO

If a website is ranking among the top websites in a category on search engines, it tends to be an optimised website. Often though most websites don’t rank well even though they are good, containing quality content relevant to their business. Therefore the owners of these websites need to think about what is holding back their website ranking. To assist there are many online SEO score checker services available (e.g. https://seositecheckup.com/ or https://smallseotools.com/ ). These will run your website page through a checker based on their best estimate of what the search engine algorithms are and then report back suggestions for website amendments to help improve ranking.

Google "G" is the most popular and used search browser today with c.85% of all searches in the UK, followed by Bing c.11%, Yahoo 3%, MSN c.0.6% and DuckDuckGo c.0.3% (source.statista Jan 2018). Consequently understanding how "G" examines websites can not be underestimated.

"G" website crawler/bot visits every website and examines the following:

  • Website Title: The website title must be relevant to the content of the website and should not exceed 65/70 characters.
  • Meta Description: The meta description contains a narrative of the major contents of the website (generally no longer than 160 characters). In case a website does not contain a meta description, "G" will pick up a cut (in most cases words from the first paragraph) from the first page of the website.
  • Meta Keywords: are the major keywords that "G" has in its vast library of keywords. It checks if any of the keywords have been used in the website's content. [Meta tags at one point were used by "G" in ranking websites, typically due to competitive human nature - they became misused as everyone attempted to get the highest ranking, so "G" stopped evaluating meta tags.].
  • H1 Headings: are the top heading used for the page content.
  • Keywords Test: The density of keywords in the content of the website is checked. If keywords are overused, "G" will frown on them and might mark them as stuffing and penalize/blacklist the website.
  • Backlinks: "G" checks the backlinks that a website has and follows the backlinks to ensure that the backlinks are genuine and to legitimate sites. It is always useful if you are a member of a professional body/organisation to include reciprocal links between sites to give visitors access to relevant resource.
  • Domain authority (DA) and Page authority (PA): Domain Authority is a statistical measure which is used to find out the reputation of a particular website provided by SEOmoz (Moz). It is a statistical number from 0 – 100 which was developed by Moz in order to determine how does a domain rank in results of Google search engine. The difference between PA and DA is rather significant as PA is the ranking potential of a single web page whereas DA tells us about the overall ranking potential of the entire domain or subdomains.
  • Social media links: High-quality and engaging content is the core of any winning website, but Social media can’t be ignored as it is important for brand awareness and the exposure of a website.

"G" will save this website information in their database and then rank it.

"G" wants visitors to be shown pages listing websites that are relevant to their search. To provide this "G" uses strict and secret evaluation methods when examining websites (no single person in "G" knows all the rules that are used in the site evaluation algorithm).

So using a good SEO score tool helps in evaluating what is lacking and can be improved on a website. Not every recommendation generated by SEO tools will apply to website. The recommendations are meant to be generic, best practice and some will be out of control (external resources) or may simply not apply to your page. ChezRoberts Services endeavours to utilise such tools and then weed out the relevant items to provide website owners appropriate advice on adopting improvements; or if appropriate, adopting them on their behalf.

Often some websites owners have content or particular features which in themselves can undermine good SEO. For example, impacting page download speed through poor leverage browser caching, missing expiration headers etc (such as Facebook links, Google analytics etc). At the end of the day, if you have interesting, relevant content or provide a service people simply want which you promote through numerous channels anyway, then people will find your website whether it is ranked high or not - so don't panic (well not immediately at least).

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance

ChezRoberts services blog GDPR compliance

A number of ChezRoberts Services clients have moved from other web service providers when they discovered even though they were eligible for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification i.e. the padlock in the address bar reflecting your website offers a secure connection for users, it was still not active or even worse they were being placed in a queue. Another client was even quoted a significant fee to initiate the migration. At ChezRoberts Services we endeavour to be rather more customer focused than that, hence we offer all websites with free Let's Encrypt SSL certification.

With the advent of GDPR, businesses need to have SSL certification otherwise they can not suggest that they are providing data protection when the means of online transmission they offer is itself compromised.

Please read the following document from Information Commissioners Office (ICO) on Preparing for the GDPR - 12 steps or visiting their website: www.ico.org.uk

In the news there continues to be interesting information on the state of GDPR, such as these articles from the BBC.

Using Social media to improve your web presence

ChezRoberts services blog social media

Improving your web-branding and presence.

Once you have your website up and running, you will need to promote it and that involves both your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and an increasingly effective use of Social media.

There is debate on how influential Social media is on a website’s rankings, but any form of promotion/advertising will have a positive impact. Remember the real goal of online marketing is increased website traffic, becoming a brand of choice and subsequently improved revenue.

What’s the theory then?

The social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, GooglePlus etc. monitor and generate metrics on human interaction, often termed “Social Signals” in the form of: likes, dislikes, shares, votes, +1s, pins, views, retweets, etc. These recommendations from web users in the eyes of search engines such as Google, Bing etc., all help illustrate how popular a specific piece of content, brand or webpage maybe. Effectively providing search engines a trusted “recommendation” that can be used in a SEO.

Research into the correlation of Social Signals and SEO rankings are mixed; however the importance of social signals can’t be underplayed and is undoubtedly increasing with time. Especially when you consider the ever growing volume of media sharing that takes place on the social media platforms.

How do Social signals improve rankings?

Obviously if you have a significant number of: Facebook likes, Facebook shares, Twitter followers, tweets referencing your brand or website link, or people in your circle (e.g. Linkedin), these will all have an impact on your rankings. Be mindful that there are over 1.5 billion websites (admittedly 75% are likely dormant domains), so making an impact in such an environment requires a good digital presence (even just to be found).

Intuitively therefore understanding and adopting social signals represent a great opportunity for you to improve the search rankings of your website; simply by just doing regular social media activity.

Below is a table illustrating some social platforms and their social signals which will undoubtedly impact your search rankings either directly or indirectly.

The Social Media signals that can affect your site’s rankings.

ChezRoberts services blog social media facebook
Facebook
Total number of Shares and Likes of your content
Number of Comments on your posts
ChezRoberts services blog social media googleplus
Google
Total number of +1’s
Popularity of content, i.e. number of shares.
ChezRoberts services blog social media twitter
Twitter
Total number of followers, Mentions and Retweets.
Level of engagement with your followers and the authority of the users who retweet your content.
ChezRoberts services blog social media pinterest
Pinterest
Total number of Pins and re-pins.
The number of comments and interaction with followers.
ChezRoberts services blog social media instagram
Instagram
Total number of posts, followers and following
The number of likes and comments on your posts.

Ten strategies for improving traffic via your social media signals

Post daily: Actively taking part in social media is essential if you are to benefit from the value that social signals offer – your target audience is more likely to find and stay engaged with you if you’re visibly active. Regular posts are a great opportunity to build up a network that can help spread (share) your content, site and brand. Web users can only share your content if they can find it!

Good content: that informs, inspires, and entertains your customers, is more likely to be shared and as such, natural links will occur and result in increased rankings. Daily/weekly blogging is ideal although remember to make sure articles are useful and original.

Also the more content you have on your domain, gives that domain more opportunities to rank for related search queries and accrue inbound links, which, in turn, strengthens the authority of the domain as a whole.

Use images: Images increase interaction rates for all social media types. All the major social media platforms, give added weight to the use of images in ranking website content. It’s a very useful way to dramatically improve your brand’s visibility and social engagement, especially because web users love to share images. Video and animations elevate web standing even more.

Monitor: There are several free social media marketing apps which track shares, re-tweets, likes and keywords associated with your brand. Use Google Analytics to track the impact of your social media traffic. Monitoring this information helps you discover where to focus your efforts in social media.

User engagement: Listen to what people are saying about your brand and respond to critique and suggestions in a constructive and positive way. Adopting a blog is promotes traffic and a good blog with images, relevant keywords and social share buttons will remain in search engine results long after initial publication.

Competitions: competitions and free giveaways are a great way to increase interest in your brand as they encourage social followers to share, like and comment, thereby improving the activity on your platform.

Embed plugins: for your social media platforms into your website. This helps you boost the engagement for your content. Visitors to your website can like your platform without leaving the site (great for improving your rankings). They can also join in the conversation directly from your site too.

Connections and link building: Share links and produce original content with other popular brands. Make social sharing easy by embedding social share buttons in your website and blog – each share/link is considered an endorsement or recommendation by the search engines. This is particularly important for ecommerce websites.

Saturation: Cover all the social media bases by producing content for all of the top social media sites. Simply having a presence at each social channel creates inbound links and helps to establish the credibility of your brand. Think of your brand’s social media platforms as targeted distribution channels for your content, with each piece of content you post containing links back to your website.

Mobile optimisation: ensure your website is optimised for mobile users. A quarter of global web searchers and content shares are performed on mobile devices, such as a mobile phone or tablet. Notably with Google’s last major update, Hummingbird, sites that are not mobile-friendly are downgraded in rank and search visibility. (Source: Paradigm Blog. com)

Handling Google Reviews - the bad and the good

ChezRoberts services blog Handling Google reviews

Google reviews allow customers to share their experience about a business, service or product. Reviews are also what potential customers read first when they are considering engaging with a business, booking a service or buying a product. Reviews provide insight on which products and services customers liked and perhaps those that require improvement.

Occasionally a business will receive a negative Google review. Such reviews can greatly affect how potential customers may view the business, even so far as having them choose an alternative supplier or competitor and impacting the business’s bottom line. Bad reviews like good ones are there indefinitely (i.e. they can’t be removed from public record) unless they violate Google's guidelines. If they do, it would be reasonable to submit a request to Google to have these reviews taken down with immediate effect. If a bad review does not contravene any guidelines though, then they need to be handled appropriately. It is possible to convert a bad review into a better one.

Things to consider when handling bad Google reviews:

  • Don’t panic, evaluate the situation
  • The steps in handling a bad review
  • Provide a polite, prompt and professional response
  • Address the issue raised by the review
  • Assess if the review is fake and flag it for removal
  • Monitor the negative review regularly
  • Develop more positive reviews
  • Remember to answer the positive reviews

Don’t panic, evaluate the situation

You may feel like your business is under fire because of the negative feedback, but those bad reviews should be taken on board so that you can learn something from them. Instead of making excuses, stay calm, and keep in mind that customers are entitled to share their experience and have their say.

So, how do you deal with an unjustified negative review?

The steps in handling a bad review

Handling a bad review

Respond politely, promptly and professionally

The manner in which you respond to feedback speaks volumes about how you are willing to work on improving your product or service. Acknowledge your customer's views, care about their experiences, and that you're working on improving your products of services. In your response, endeavour to assure the customer that you'll do your best to make sure the problem won't happen again, and actually follow through with your assurance. It might be enough to convince them to give you a second chance.

Example reply to a legitimate but bad Google review:

Dear [name],
Thank you for sharing your feedback. We are sorry you had a poor experience. We make considerable effort to ensure all our customer experiences are amazing. Occasionally, mistakes occur and for this we are sorry. We will look into how this particular issue arose to prevent it happening again. Furthermore we’d like to hear more details about the issues you cite. Please contact us directly at [our office number], and we will be eager to address the matters contained in your review on the telephone.

If the customer responds and you have an opportunity to resolve the issue, you can provide an updated response to the review:

We are happy to have resolved your issue to your satisfaction. Thank you again for raising your concerns and bringing it to our attention with your review. It has helped us to improve our service [or product]. Now that we’ve resolved the problem, would you please consider changing your rating? We’d greatly appreciate it. In any case, I wish you all the best in your search towards correcting your vision, and please let us know if there’s any way we can help you in the future.

Assess if the review is actually fake?

Sadly there are many reviews posted that turn out to be fake. Malicious visitors to your site (trolls) that simply look to vandalise your reputation for a sense of self-importance; or even an unscrupulous competitor denigrating your reputation rather than competing against you on their merits. A clue to establishing whether a review is fake, is the name of the reviewer.

Check your records to see if the person leaving the review is, in fact, a customer.

If they are not, you could reply to the review with the following:

“Thank you for the feedback. We are sorry you are dissatisfied. Upon receiving your review, we immediately checked our records to identify you so we could investigate the issue. We did not, however, find your name in any of our records. Nevertheless, we are committed to upholding superior standards of customer service. Please contact us at [your office number], and we’d be eager to address the issues contained in your review on the telephone.”

Why respond at all, especially if you know the review is fake?

In a public forum, you are not just aiming to calm the reviewer (legitimate or not), you are also showing every person who sees this negative review how you handle customer complaints – so be professional.

Flag a fake Google review as inappropriate

If you think a Google review is fake, respond to it as above and then “flag as inappropriate” immediately. Always respond to the review, whether fake or not. It may take some time for Google to remove a fraudulent review.

You can also call Google and follow up on your flagged review status by clicking support on the Google My Business Homepage.

If the above does not work, and you can prove the review is slanderous and false, then you could complete a Google form for a legal removal request. It is advised you seek the advice of a legal professional to help you take this step, should it be necessary.

Monitor the negative Google review regularly

If the bad review was fake, did Google remove it? If the Google review was negative but genuine, was there any further dialogue you needed to respond to? Are you sure you’ve responded to every message appropriately?

Develop more positive reviews

Combat the negative reviews by increasing the number of positive reviews. Many people are sceptical of a perfect 5-star rating, so having a 4.0 or 4.5 rating can still be favourable.

Encourage past, happy customers to post a Google review? Try to target those who've had a good experience with your business, or those who use your services (or products) regularly. Remember don’t pressure them, customers are unlikely to provide good honest reviews if they feel manipulated.

Additional good reviews are not much of a consolation to you, however, in the face of a spurious negative review. As far as search placement is concerned, review scores outweigh review volume. Therefore it is important to make sure your customer service is as excellent as possible, even if your volume is low.

Good reviews result from a customer-service oriented culture, excellent training, and employee common sense and decency.

Remember to answer the positive reviews.

Take the time to thank the people who have posted positive reviews on your site. It'll show them you appreciate positive feedback, and that you're not just solely working on rectifying the problems raised by the negative reviews.