Our SEO team have noticed some changes on google as of late. It seems there has been 3 updates within the last month. Good article here – It’s a bit techie – but with good comments on google spamming algorithm and various monitoring tools in use.
So search engine optimisation has now gone international?
Yes believe it or not, like all traditional marketing techniques, businesses and organisations competing in different geographical locations need to apply their SEO strategies with an international mindset. Like any global expansion, an international SEO initiative requires a higher degree of expertise and an influx of resources. Furthermore it is imperative to understand that a website that performs exceptionally well in one search engine (e.g. Google UK) may not optimally rank in search engines serving different markets (e.g Google France). Organisations that want to do business in ‘foreign’ markets need to develop an international SEO strategy that will serve multiple markets. This blog entry will discuss the different options available to an online organisation with international or global aspirations.
The best way to explain the different options associated with international SEO is through illustration. So let’s take a fictional fashion e-tailer (Asossy) operating in the UK as our international SEO candidate. The organisation has seen exponential growth in the domestic market and has decided to expand their eCommerce platform to other European countries (France, Germany and Ireland). The digital director and his team have been tasked with ensuring that the website optimally performs organically in the identified foreign search engines. The website is currently hosted on the .co.uk domain and is performing exceptionally well in Google UK for relevant search terms. So we need to figure out what is the best strategy to employ in order to replicate this search engine success in other markets.
Before addressing the different strategic international SEO options, it is important to give some background to the domain and URL structure. When it comes to domains there are two top level domain types:
- gTLDs – generic Top Level Domains (.com; .biz; .org; .net etc)
- cTLDs – country Top Level Domains (.co.uk; .ie; .fr; .cn etc)
We would always encourage organisations to buy up the vast majority of top level domains in order to future proof the business, from an expansion point of view, and to essentially protect the brand. The minimum top level domains an organisation must tie down is the .com domain and the country specific domain of their primary target market (e.g. .ie for an organisation targeting the Irish market). Now that we have clarified the TLDs, we can identify the international SEO options available to asossy.co.uk.
Separate Domain Websites
This involves setting up separate country top level domain (cTLD) websites to cater for individual geographical locations. If Asossy decided to opt for this solution, the organisation would have to invest in three new websites:
This means Asossy would be able to offer each market a unique experience and tailor the content and offerings to suit the audience. Furthermore Asossy would be able to host the websites in the relevant regions thus indicating a clear geo target to search engines. However this is a very expensive solution that requires a vast amount of resources in terms of separate SEO campaigns and separate web admin up keep.
Fleetmatics is an example of an organisation that adopted this international web strategy.
Separate Sub domains within website
This approach involves creating sub domains within a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). If Asossy decided to go down the sub domain route, they would need to set up the primary website as asossy.com and create several sub domains within that route domain. For example the sub domains may be categorised by language:
This would give the web admin the ability to offer unique content to different regions and target markets. For example the de.asossy.com sub domain would offer German content and products and offerings available to the German market. However SEO authority does not spread from sub domains in fact dilutes the SEO authority of the route domain. This is because sub domains were created for major network websites like university websites with different faculties full of diverse and deep content. In fact WordPress is an example of a multi-domain or network as every blogger gets there own sub domain web address. Sub domains are not suited one track websites so to speak.
The final avenue that we would be recommending to Asossy, would be to create sub directories or sub folders within a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). This would involve creating several sub directories to cater for different regions and languages. For example:
Again Asossy would be able to offer unique content to different market. For example, a user in France would be redirected to www.asossy.com/fr based on IP address recognition. The good thing about using sub directories is SEO authority or weight leaks or spreads throughout the different folders. Therefore one strong SEO campaign on the /en sub directory will have an indirect positive impact on the other sub directories active within the gTLD. However one domain means one server location. Basically this means the domain can only be hosted in one region (e.g. UK), therefore may be at a disadvantage against competitors hosted in France, Germany and Ireland in terms of local SEO.
International SEO Plan
Tune in soon to find out what recommendation we give Asossy…..
Landing pages are web pages designed for a specific purpose. For the most part the primary goal of a landing page is to encourage a visitor to take an action such as request a quote or make a booking. Landing pages are goal orientated and should be designed to funnel visitors toward achieving that desired goal. However a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy is imperative to launch a successful landing page campaign. Let’s discuss the key components of such a strategy…
The first step is to create a landing page template that will be designed in a goal orientated fashion. This template should be available in the content management system (CMS) from where the web admin can simply add a new landing page to the website and input the content accordingly. The design of the template should structured in an accessible format peppered with diverse content such as text and multi-media. In essence the landing page should guide the user to the integrated call to action (CTA) – e.g. contact button or sign up form.
The team here at Enhance web design carried out some detailed research into the surrounding SEO elements and best practices associated with landing pages. From our understanding there is no negative connotations associated with landing pages for SEO. However we would stress the landing page must be designed and mapped out optimally and the content must be relevant and engaging, as a high bounce rate on the landing pages will adversely affect the organic search performance of the overall website.
In the world of SEO, landing pages are a key tool to capture long tail search queries. Therefore keyword generation and density are two key components of creating an effective landing page. So we would suggest incorporating distinct keywords throughout the on-page content, in the key headings and even match it up with the image and link anchor text. This combination will provide a strong foundation to attract the right users.
It is important to ensure that a landing page is not a cul-de-sac so to speak. Both internal and external linkages are key from a navigation perspective and from a search engine perspective. Linking off to relevant internal and external relevant content will provide the user with a chance to extend their journey. Furthermore such links make the web page much more accessible to search engines.
So you have put all this effort into creating landing pages and running several campaigns, how do you assess the performance of the landing pages and SEO drive? Well the great thing about landing pages is the extractable analytical data! Landing pages are created for a sole purpose therefore it is relatively easy to create a conversion goal associated with a landing page and derive key stats from the page activity.
Find out more…
If we have sparked your interest and you want to find out more how landing pages can work for SEO read this blog post on seomoz – ‘Landing Pages for SEO‘ by I, Brian
Search Engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are constantly updating their algorithms or ‘rulebook’ so to speak and as we all know these dynamic algorithms are a tightly kept secret. Search engine optimisation professionals and website administrators are constantly trying to play by the rules and implement SEO techniques that search engines reward or more importantly don’t punish. This is particularly relevant with the Link Building element of SEO. For example the highly publicised Google Penguin update, which identified black hat link building techniques such as participating in link schemes, purchasing unnatural links, linking to irrelevant websites etc, was a direct move to try and punish those attempting to manipulate Google and the Google user by receiving ‘cheap’ link juice.
Since the Penguin update of 2012 SEO professionals and anyone immersed in the online world have been developing new white hat linking strategies that are Google friendly and so boost rankings. One very relevant and strong tactic we have been researching ourselves here at Enhance web design is the theory of spreading your link juice throughout your domain. Most external links (back links) to most websites will generally link to the home page of that website. So if 90% of the back link profile is feeding into the home page of that website the rest of the domain will be neglected resulting in a lower overall domain authority. Online marketers and Link tacticians need to strategically identify pages that are relevant to the proposed external or back link. Furthermore attaching authentic, personable and original meta data to the link will diversify the back link profile of the website and make it stand out from the crowd so to speak. Ultimately it will make the link profile much more natural. Tip: Allow the admin of the linking website to create the meta data.
So let’s put this theory or link building strategy into context. Here at Enhance we are primarily a web design and development agency. We have designed and developed significant amount of websites for a diverse range of clients. For the most part we will embed a link to our homepage in the footer of the given client’s website. For example check out the footer on Apache Pizza. The meta data attached to the majority of our external client links is usually the same, something along the lines of “Web Design by enhance.ie”. We have recognised that this generic linking to the home page is seen as lazy and more importantly irrelevant to an extent. We are currently in the process of formulating a strategy to spread our link juice across the domain and make our back link profile more authentic, relevant and diverse. We are creating ‘industry’ portfolios where we will categorise or group our clients by their industry or type of business. For example we have developed the web presence for a number of non-profit (or charity) organisations. We will be grouping those specific clients in a ‘Non-Profit’ category portfolio on our website. The external link from the non-profit websites will be directed to this portfolio page and each link will have a tailored and unique piece of meta data attached. This is a relevant opportunity to spread our link juice throughout the enhance.ie domain. It will also benefit us from a search query point of view. For example, if a Google user enters the search term ‘web design for charities’, our portfolio page will be in a strong position to feature due to the specific nature of the portfolio page and diverse and relevant back links established.
The SEO experts here a Enhance web design have recognised that the spreading of link juice across the domain will require a major body of work and effort in terms of content generation and web design implementation. However it is something we are prepared to undertake to solidify and improve the overall search engine optimisation of the enhance.ie domain. We would recommend employing a similar strategy for any link building initiative especially for websites with healthy back link profiles. To find out some more about this strategy check out Matt Morgan’s article ‘Using Footer Links to Diversify Your Backlink Profile’.
There is three elements to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):
- Structural SEO
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
The web build or development is all about structural SEO. It is imperative that the website is structurally built to with optimisation guidelines in mind. This is the first foundation or building block associated with website development. We would recommend building a new website on a content management system that is structurally optimised to the hilt! For example, WordPress is a highly optimized content management system (CMS) and performs very well search engine rankings. However some web agencies have developed their own CMS platforms, for example the team here at enhance.ie have developed a tailored CMS which on par with WordPress in terms structural SEO. So make sure you address the different options in terms of content management systems with your choose agency or developer.
Here at enhance.ie we come across a lot of clients who are ignorant to the fact that a website is only a small part of a bigger picture. Too often, the detrimental factor when deciding what agency or route to take in relation to a web build, is PRICE. However we feel it is imperative to understand that a website is part of an overall online strategy. I would recommend going with an agency or other party who is willing to offer the whole package and create a lasting relationship.
More often that not you will run into some technical difficulties and need to call on a reliable source, a committed agency will be able to offer the guidance and advice you need. We deal with a lot of clients who are left in the lurch by a rogue developer who has vanished off the face of the earth. This is a reoccurring theme in our industry. So do not let the price be the significant or only factor determining your choice.
When approaching a web design agency or developer with your proposed web build ensure that you have a clear picture of what goals you want the website to achieve. Many people and businesses set up a website for the sake of going online and really do not know what they want the website to achieve. Here at enhance.ie we advise our clients to identify at least three clear goals to accompany the web creation request. Example of website goals would be:
- build brand awareness
- increase revenue
- increase footfall to offline store etc.
Ideally you should be able to work with your agency on developing and tracking the progress of your goals. Furthermore we would recommend discussing conversion strategies with your agency or developer during the web build. For example if you are a service provider and your main action button on the website is ‘request a quote’ – ask your agency about different conversion strategy tests (e.g. A/B testing) and how you can improve these rates together.
Content Management System
The Content Management System (CMS) that your website is built on will be an important element to your online progress. When you are discussing the different CMS options with your web design agency or developer make sure you trial the CMS and see if you like the look, feel and overall functionality of it. The agency should be willing to give you a quick demo or guide. WordPress is World’s favorite CMS. Originally WordPress was built for blogging and the blogging community i.e. content people, non-techies. Therefore the usability and accessibility has always been at the forefront of the WordPress development. The content management systems we offer here are at enhance.ie are similarly built to allow users to easily update, edit and maintain their website.
Focus is a crucial aspect of any website development project. Everyday here at enhance.ie we have calls from different people (‘entrepreneurs’) who have a fantastic idea and want to know if we can make it happen for them. More often than not the individual has done very little market research and wants to offer a web solution to everybody and anybody. The features and functions are sometimes endless. So my advice here is too make sure that you know your target market before you decide to build the website and do not try to cram everything into the intial build. Tailor the features and functions back to ensure that the core of website is built correctly and runs smoothy. Remember the modern day CMS is extensible and new features and functions can be added to the website when necessary.
Finally the last but certainly not least is communication. It is imperative that you remain in constant contact with your agency once the web development process has started. Web agencies have a vast amount of clients and your web development progress could easily be hindered by other projects. Once you have chosen web design agency or developer the key to progress is constant interaction. Make sure that you stay in constant contact with your account manager and make an effort to provide them with everything they need ASAP. For example if you receive a wireframe or design sample make sure to give instant feedback to move onto the next stage.
Keyword optimisation is one of the main foundations or building blocks to successful SEO. Here is a little secret – people/organisations find your business online through KEYWORDS. Therefore keyword building, analysis and implementation are crucial for rankings.
5 Point Plan
- Clarify what your business offers in short bullet points
- Gather employees to brainstorm on possible keywords
- Determine keywords and use strategically
- Make use of the Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) element of the Google keyword tool – basically this allows the Google search engine to recognise synonyms -using the tool Google Keyword Tool type in the keyword and scroll to bottom of results page and integrate Google’s synonym suggestions.
- Incorporate the keywords into your website – Ensure keywords that are in the title tag and Meta description match up – offers a much stronger case to Google
Looker V’s Buyer!
When building keywords it is very important to distinguish between ‘looker’ keywords and ‘buyer’ keywords. We will present an example in relation to an Irish US market entry firm. A ‘looker’ keyword would be something like ‘US market entry strategies’ – possibly a student looking for material or ideas whereas a buyer keyword may be something ‘New York Market entry assistance 2012’. This keyword example is a long tail keyword that is geo specific and time relevant. Making an effort to develop distinct long-tail keywords can really work well in a niche market where potential buyers usually know exactly what they require.
Building on the previous point, we would like to demonstrate the long tail theory developed by Chris Anderson. The long tail theory is a simple idea that segments keyword types into three categories:
- Long tail
The head of search is typically a one-word keyword that is generic – roughly 10% of searches relate this section. The mid section accounts for 15% of the action and long tail searches make up the remaining 75% of searches. Most people/organisations will try to target the mid-section, however these words are very hard to rank for competitive generic reasons. Longer tail keywords are much easier to rank and we would recommend that SMEs and niche businesses try to build up a pool of long tail keywords, which will result in substantial traffic in the long run. Furthermore long tail keywords tend to be buyer type keywords (user specifies needs in search)
NO NO’s !!
When optimising the website with keyword integration, do not use black hat tactics like ‘keyword stuffing’ in the title tag or meta description. Make it look natural and human readable. Google is constantly trying to make the search engine human comprehensive. This is something to keep in mind when updating your website and content!
Matt Cutts recently announced via Twitter that Google has made a minor algorithm update to reduce ‘low quality’ exact match domains. Basically Google is targeting and penalising low quality websites that are ‘piggy-backing’ off their URLs to gain high rankings in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for matching keyword queries. Traditionally if a Google user searches for ‘green widget’, the website [www.greenwidget.com] would appear highly in the SERPs based on the fact that the query term matched the URL exactly even if the website offers little value to a user.
This Google algorithm update is another significant signal that the user is the most important element of the search engine and that content and quality is king. In fact this is a vindication for the Enhance team. Although our URL does not specify our primary services (i.e. web design), we are pleased to see that Google is trying to disregard this and reward high quality user centric websites. Barry Schwartz, News Editor at Search Engine Land, released a concise informative piece on the algorithm update and highlighted that the update will affect 0.6% of the English-US search queries.
What does search engine optimization (SEO) and an endangered mammal, The Panda, have in common? Absolutely nothing! The Google Panda update was aptly named after the Google software engineer, Navneet Panda, the individual responsible for developing the Google algorithm update. This update has changed SEO forever and has reaffirmed that content is king.
Maybe you were not aware of this but Google is trying to develop an algorithm that is responsive to the human mind rather than a machine. In other words Google wants to present the best search engine results based on human perceptions and engagement. Panda is a major stepping-stone to achieving this ‘ideal’ search engine world.
Panda operates through a machine learning process. In simple terms, the process analyzes a bunch of websites using all kinds of different metrics to try and figure out why people like a website or more significantly why people do not like a website. For example, bounce rates would be a significant metric used by the Panda update. Basically if human users are consistently bouncing (i.e. abruptly leaving) from a website’s landing page on the first impression, a red flag will be raised and the website will subsequently be downgraded in the rankings. In essence the Panda update seeks to discover if a website evokes positive feelings from visitors and this can be measured through user engagement with a website.
So what has the Panda update really changed?
- The design of a website is now more important than ever. The Panda update has put a primary emphasis on the user experience. Websites that engage visitors and websites that are easily accessible and easy to navigate around are key to enhancing the user experience.
- As we all know Google penalizes websites that present duplicate content. The Panda update signifies another significant shift towards the importance of content in relation to SEO. When developing content for your website try to make it as unique as possible by using descriptions, anecdotes, photos, similes and humour etc. If you can create interesting content visitors are more likely to engage with your content and may even go as far as sharing the content. The Panda update will recognize engaging content and reward a website significantly.
- User usage metrics are now more important that ever. Website administrators should optimize their website based on key analytics. For example, Panda will rank your website negatively if visitors are bouncing straight off your website. Alternatively if the visitors continue to browse though the website Google will rank the website favorably. Furthermore low levels of click through rates (CTR) will adversely affect a website’s Google ranking. Optimizing the title of the landing pages, snippet and the domain name will go some way to ensuring that a website does not appear ‘spammy’ in search engine result pages. Panda will even examine the diversity and quantity of traffic coming into the website, for example geo-locations must be consistent and relevant to the website’s ‘target location’. Google analytics is a key tool that will help you optimize your website and keep up to date with Google and the Panda update.
Note: The Panda update recalculates the index metrics every 40 days on average.