Jul 202012

Conversion optimisation – the factors behind visitors buying on your site or deciding to look somewhere else

SEO is increasingly becoming integrated with other aspects of online marketing – social media, online PR and conversation optimisation are all interdependent and designing a coherent integrated strategy is key to online marketing success.

Driving traffic to a website is only half of the journey, as you would  ideally want visitors to convert. So how do potential customers make decisions and what is behind those decisions? Let’s get scientific for a moment:

The decision making process can be illustrated using the following formula:

C=4M+(3V+xI)-(yF+zA), where M is Motivation, V is Value proposition, I is Incentive, F – Friction and A – Anxiety. On the other hand, x, y and z are priority coefficients. Based on this representation, potential customers make their mind up on whether to buy or not on your site. There are a few practical considerations and ideas that result from the above – minor changes can result in significant conversion rate improvements.

To start with, it’s a good idea to ensure the message which is the first point of contact between your business and the customer is not an intrusive one – avoid asking for personal information at the very beginning in order to keep A – Anxiety – to a minimum. Instead, a good offer to motivate potential buyers should ensure they stay on your site and buy your product rather than you competitors’.

Another common mistake is to have too many calls to action, which confuses the visitors. No call to action is equally bad, but having a good call to action in the right place – usually at the top and top left of the page – can significantly improve conversion rates.

From design to call to action, multiple factors influence conversation rates on a site, but even with minimum effort and by correcting some basic mistakes it won’t be long before you start seeing an improvement in results.

 July 20, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Conversion optimisation: why people buy
Jun 142012

In the light of the recent updates, the ever-changing link metrics have shifted again – which options are acceptable now?

Link valuation is probably the most ambiguous part of SEO, and to add to the confusion, regular updates from Search Engines constantly change the goal posts. The chess game between Google, site owners and SEOers shapes the digital marketing landscape and determines what is officially acceptable and what is considered ‘black hat’.

I have previously written about Bad links vs weak links, but since October last year many things have changed in the world of online marketing and particularly SEO. The gist of the October article was centred around the idea of weak links being different from bad links – weak links used to have little or no impact on rankings, whereas bad links were defined as potentially harmful. However, following the recent Penguin update and other developments, weak links can easily be classified as bad for your link profile.

Let’s see why – the recent updates have mainly been directed at web spam, and many links from blog comments for instance fall into the category of weak links – even if they do not automatically turn into links that can damage your link profile, links in comments, particularly on irrelevant sites, are certain to look suspicious and potentially attract unwanted attention from Google and soon possibly other search engines.

The ‘contribution’ of links from suspicious backgrounds will remain unchanged: bad links will still damage you link profile, but the main change seems to be centred around what we used to label as ‘weak links’: too many of them will no longer be harmless in a big to rid the web of spam. Well, as much as possible.

So which links can currently be labelled as ‘good’? Judging by the recent dynamics on the internet, links that are not site-wide, from a reliable source, and that reliability includes social proof, links within a relevant context and original content – all seem to be the new standard for link building. Let’s not forget that officially, search engines consider all link building that is deemed ‘unnatural’, therefore most off site SEO work, unacceptable. If we contextualise link building within that, it’s easy to see why the algorithms are updated so often and rules change as the game is played.

On the other hand, Social media generated links and Brand-based link building strategies have gained in importance and reputation, in line with Google’s focus on brands in general.

Quality content has also grown in importance and is central to any positive signals of a site, so a strategy based around good content, brand and social media seems like the best current bet in digital marketing.



 June 14, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Are weak links becoming bad links? Up to date link building options
Jun 072012

How to stay in the SEO game or the big SEO party is over

I know people have been trying to bury SEO for a long time, but what actually happens every time major changes to algorithms are made is SEO has to change, and it does change because it has no choice. Following the Penguin update, Panda 3.5 and deindexing of numerous blog networks SEO is changing again, and this time on a scale we’ve rarely seen before.

First, when many sites lost rankings around late March it wasn’t a penalty – blog networks got deindexed and as a result the sites that used to benefit from incoming links originating in these networks lost positions in SERPS. As simple as that, Google clumped down on link-selling blog networks in a bid to rid the internet of paid links, which according to the web spam team lead by Matt Cutts distorts the ranking reality. More on that later, but there were quite a few cases where results on the first page of Google were similar to 1998 Alta Vista style random lists of weak sites.

Shortly after that, Panda 3.5 punished many sites thought to be affected by duplicate content issues and the dark cherry on the Google-served cake came on the 24th of April with the release of the Penguin tweak to the search algorithm. And we all had no choice but to swallow that cake, from SEOers to site owners to users. I wrote about whether this could be called fair or not in this post, so I will focus on other things here, such as how to continue in order to stay in the SEO game.

For link building, the exact match phrases will have to be considerably reduced, and of course this means results will take longer to produce. Unnatural link profiles where main keyword density was above 50% got hit by the recent updates, and anchor text distribution will have to be carefully managed. Less links from more reputable sources and up to a maximum of 35% exact match for big money keywords seem to be the current recipe for link building, although this can and most probably will change in the near future.

What that means is that the big SEO party where almost everyone could show up without being invited is all but over, and SEO will be based around brand promotion, online PR and generating rather than acquiring links. Good SEO will still be priceless, but twice as hard.


 June 7, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Link building strategies – how to stay in the SEO game
May 252012

The world of SEO after the Google spring updates – winners and losers

Compared to my last post, this should make easier reading. The dust has started to settle after the last major Google updates and at least we know what’s generally going on, which is a step in the right direction from the chaos that followed the 3 major changes to the search algorithm that caused so much shifting in the SEO landscape and the whole of online marketing.

It has to be said it is quite rare for several major updates to be released at the same time – normally we got used to one every few years, but the recent developments have broken this pattern – 3 major updates within a month or so is certainly new in the world of constant change that SEOers have to work in. Also, for previous changes updates were first implemented in the US, then Central and Eastern Europe, whereas this time around changes affected sites regardless of geographical location , all at once.

Matt Cutts himself came forward to apologise for some inaccuracies that affected ‘innocent’ sites, which, at least in theory, should have recovered by now. A site of a friend of mine that was initially hit hard by the Penguin update – traffic went from around 200 visitors a day to about 10 (!) – has regained most of its rankings. Apart from removing some site descriptions that we thought might be seen as ‘keyword stuffing’ – although it was merely a description of what to expect on the site – nothing else was done as far as the content or link profile are concerned. So keyword stuffing out of the way, plus one major site wide link removed and rankings came back about 3 weeks after the initial disaster.

At the end of March, Google deindexed many blog networks and as a result many web sites who used to rely on networks and purchase links experienced dramatic losses in rankings and implicitly traffic. Notably, private networks, where outsiders (spies working for Google :)) couldn’t get in and buy links, were left untouched, at least for now. Then, the latest Panda and Penguin updates finished the job which saw the digital marketing landscape significantly reshape. Among the confusion, it took almost a month for some conclusions to surface. So what now?

Brand-centred marketing, careful (mostly on site) SEO and social media. These are the most likely solutions for online marketing specialists. And of course PPC – after all it seems this is what Google wants and that’s why affiliate sites are loosing ground – sooner or later businesses will have to consider paid search as an alternative to SEO and affiliate marketing if these continue to become unpredictable.

So conclusion – cleaner SEO! It’s as simple as that, more to follow.



 May 25, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters 2 Responses »
Apr 282012

The recent Penguin update, according to Matt Cutts, was introduced to penalise low quality sites and target spam, but have innocent web sites also suffered as a result? Having seen a few examples, I’m inclined to think that not everything went as smoothly as intended (or not?) by Google.

I noticed that the PR of sites hasn’t changed as a result of this update, even in the case of those who seem to have been penalised. And there seem to be a few types of sites who suffered after the 24th of April 2012: some have been blown out of the index altogether and some  only lost in rankings, although considerably. Even sites with great quality, original content, have come under fire for having exchanged links with others in the niche, which makes me think there is more than just keyword stuffing and cloaking that was punished in this update.

All the above, plus the warnings from Google received by some sites earlier in mid March, and we get a picture where the most used search engine seems to be at war with more than just what it calls ‘spammers’, the recent tweaks to the system creating a completely new landscape for site owners and SEOers alike. First, Google targeted and de-indexed some blog networks, which was shortly followed by yet another Panda update, and finally the killer blow for so many in the form of the Penguin update, after which it seems the internet landscape has changed significantly, and not necessarily in favour of the users or site owners.

A significant change is that some search results have become reminiscent of the late 90s, many users laughing at them and labelling their quality as ‘1998 Alta Vista style’. In the light of this – surely the updates haven’t brought about a better user experience? Not to mention that is has become increasingly easy to harm sites by linking them to low-quality sources, something no one from Google has explained in any way.

All these sudden changes have caused significant financial losses and at this scale can potentially harm Google itself, with people looking for alternatives and literally hating what is now described by many as some kind of internet fascism, where Google is trying to get everyone to use ad words and increase its revenue – the days of Google helping the internet community by providing free tools and the like are long gone and all we’re left with is a monster brand that takes no prisoners.

Personally, I already switched from Google as my primary search engine, and millions will follow. After all, competition, even among search engines, can be a great thing for us, the users, site owners and many others. By mainly promoting big brands, Google is alienating the internet community on which it has built its reputation as a relevant search engine which puts its users and searchers on top of its priorities, and this is bound to have consequences.

There will be much debating before the dust settles following the Penguin update, and I won’t be surprised if later this is seen as a turning point in the world of search.




 April 28, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on The Penguin update – rewarding quality sites or internet fascism by Google?
Feb 232012

SubDomain vs SubDirectory: site architecture and SEO

It is universally accepted that SEO considerations should be part of any site’s architecture. We have several architectural options, such as multiple domains, sub domains and sub directories. As an example, we could look at and, and The most suitable option should be chosen depending on budget, scope, type of enterprise and volume of traffic.

Before starting my journey through the options and suitability, I feel I should point out that structure should be agreed on from the very beginning and changes should be ideally reduced to a minimum to avoid losing link equity and ending up with SEO-unfriendly sites. Unless absolutely necessary, major changes should be avoided in order to minimise losses to link equity and site authority. Once a site structure has been agreed, you need to map targeted keywords to relevant/chosen pages. It is important to remember all these measures are part of the same picture rather than separate projects.

The above becomes even more relevant when we deal with large organisations, where agency loss and lack of communication where needed can erode both SEO and marketing efforts generally. More on this later, for now let’s get back to site structure and SEO. First, for smaller sites the SubDirectory option is a much more viable solution since it’s easier to manage and preserve link juice across pages. and so on is a very practical solution for site architecture that is based on smaller traffic numbers and resources. This site structure in turn serves as a footprint for link building strategies and off site SEO.

Then, separate domains are a good idea for geographical targeting, but sites have to be managed as separate SEO entities and before committing to such a project ensure you’ve got enough resources – link inventory, original content, funds etc.     Going back to our examples,, or are all examples of separate domains with geographical targeting.

And last – sub domains – and are somewhere in the middle, because if the main domain – – is strong enough, some link juice will be distributed to sub domains as well, as long as there are not too many of them. I have to mention all the above are presented as examples for illustration purposes only and I just write on :))

While all three options have both advantages and criticisms, an SEO-friendly choice of site architecture can be made based on the size, traffic and purpose of the web entity. Create well!


 February 23, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on SubDomain vs SubDirectory
Jan 202012

When keyword research is done and you get a feel for what the market and the competition are like, the next step is to work out a mapping strategy and associate your targeted keywords with the right pages. This process is fundamentally important for optimisation and if coordinated correctly, it will be the basis on which success is built. On the other hand, careless or incomplete research and keyword mapping or association will slow your SEO efforts down and generally compromise optimisation of your site(s). You might still get some results, but they won’t reflect the ambition of your investment of time and money.

There are a few factors to take into consideration when it comes to keyword mapping, which is the process of associating targeted keywords with specific pages following research and optimisation strategy. The most common mistake I have come across is not having an organised link building plan of action, which leads to keywords being randomly associated with existing pages on sites. As an example, if the same keyword – ‘chords’ for instance – ranks with the main page – – as well as, that probably means both pages loose positions in SERPS, unless this set up is meant strategically and the site is strong enough to rank with different pages for the same keyword, and rank well – at least on the first two pages. The right thing to do would be to direct links towards the page you are trying to rank for the chosen keyword – so for ‘chords’, if we choose (which is by the way randomly given as an example – not sure if it actually exists or ranks for anything), this should be the page that is optimised and promoted in SERPS, both through onsite and offsite optimisation.

To avoid ‘careless’ link building, it is a good idea to have a clear map of keywords, pages they are mapped to and the resulting html that is used for link building. This is particularly useful when delegating specific tasks and building coherent link profiles. Of course some internet properties have strong enough profiles to rank #1 and #2 or in any other productive combination, and rankings also depend on the competition for the chosen phrase, but it is rare to optimise and map the same keyword to more than one page.

Another thing to bear in mind is the way links are semantically indexed. If you optimise for ‘casino’ and ‘casino online’, it is definitely worth mapping them to the same page, since the anchor text for ‘casino online’ also optimises for ‘casino’. At the same time, if you could separate ‘casino online’ from ‘online casino’ and map them to different pages, that would make a lot of sense in terms of you keyword targeting strategy. Needless to mention, any offsite optimisation has to be syncronised with the way things are structured onsite.

Overall, in the near future SEO will only become more competitive, and because of that having separate landing pages per keyword or  a maximum of 2-3 keywords for not so competitive niches  is a good way to stay ahead of the competition.

 January 20, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Having the same keyword rank with two different pages – not a good idea! (unless you strategically plan so)
Jan 032012

Social sciences and SEO – a personal take on search engine optimisation as a discipline

It is quite common among both professionals and amateurs to debate on the nature of SEO as well as what the best approaches for optimisation are. I expressed my own opinion on another page – What is SEO, but even so I realise that my own approaches vary according to the task and circumstances I work in. One thing which is certain though is that SEO professionals bring inspiration from other disciplines and use their own background to come up with successful ideas and techniques for SEO.

Generally, there is no absolute truth when it comes to approaches for SEO. To me, search engine optimisation is something between a science and an art, which is why I feel so passionate about the subject. But on the other hand, having studied Social sciences for many years and being interested in Sociology particularly, I see the internet as a virtual society of humans interacting on line. Like any other society, the internet social setting has its rules, patterns and values. One thing that distinctively places the internet in a league of its own is the speed at which things develop and the evolution of the on line community. For us the SEO enthusiasts, this means we have to keep in touch with everything new and anticipate potential developments in order to direct our efforts the right way.

Very often, there are no clearly-defined patterns of interaction in societies, and the same idea is valid for the internet. But one way of finding out what the unwritten rules of a society are is to break them and that way boundaries of the permitted/forbidden become clearer. It of course means an experimental approach shouldn’t be applied to important sites/clients, but rather to purposefully designed on line properties. In Sociology, this approach is known as Ethnomethodology, and although we needn’t go into sociological detail for the purpose of this SEO matters post, I recommend some further reading on how the human society works and how sociological theory can be applied to SEO, both as a science and an art. When dealing with things such as link profiles, neighbourhoods, natural increase of links over time, sites’ authority and so on, social sciences and Sociology in particular can offer very inspiring ideas for anyone willing to adopt a less invoked source of inspiration.

In SEO, experience is of great importance and the more experience anyone passionate about optimisation gains, the more a certain feel for the whole linkscape of the internet develops. There is ‘no substitute for real miles’ in SEO too, but as long as the passion for the constantly shifting sands of on line marketing is there, the results will follow. The key is to look for inspiration where others don’t even consider, that way you will stay clear of the crowd, and with this particular niche being so competitive, staying ahead of the crowd is both satisfying and rewarding at the same time.

 January 3, 2012  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Social sciences and SEO
Dec 022011

SEO benefits – rankings, new visitors and brand awareness

There are many benefits of SEO, and some sides of search engine optimisation are often overlooked. Mainly, these can be categorised into three groups: improvements in rankings, which naturally lead to more visitors and clients from organic sources, visitors arriving via the links placed as part of SEO link building campaigns, and depending on the sources this can be a valuable addition to the total of visitors to a site, and benefits for brand. As an additional point, it’s worth adhering to relevant sites when link building, that way the potential for visitors, as well as better rankings, will be improved.

First things first – SEO benefits from organic search results are at the centre of optimisation and if done well, link building can bring great results. Including keyword research, competitor analysis and link building strategy, off site optimisation can be hard to manage because so many factors have to be considered. Depending on the competitiveness, keywords progress in search results, but since most visitors concentrate around the first page and the first three positions, considerable traffic is only achieved when ranking in the first three and, of course, when ranking #1, which attracts about 45% of visitors for that keyword or phrase. Search engine optimisation, when approached professionally, is a great source of customers for any business or enterprise.

Apart from the more or less obvious benefits from improved rankings, visitors coming through the links placed as part of off site optimisation are also an important source of customers. They are not tracked the same way affiliate links are because affiliate-type links don’t work for SEO, but if placed on relevant sites can bring a significant number of visitors interested in your site. This takes us to the broader topic of optimising for people rather than search engines alone and seeing the internet as an on line community, but more on this in another post.

The last of the three already mentioned benefits of SEO revolve around brand promotion and awareness, namely making your brand visible and accessible to a wider audience and customers you wouldn’t otherwise have reached. In heavily regulated markets, particularly in gambling-related industries, SEO brand promotion might also be one of the very few available ways of e-marketing a product. Overall, rankings, additional referred visitors and increased brand awareness and promotion are the main SEO benefits that could gain your business improved exposure to potential new customers and markets.

The main difference between SEO and other sources of marketing is that potential customers are looking for your business/products rather than the other way around, and that makes SEO a less intrusive marketing approach – interested surfers find your business through search engines’ results at their own initiative. With the number of internet surfers growing, SEO will only gain in importance, but expect competition to grow just as much.

There are several SEO benefits ranging from an increase in traffic to your web site to brand awareness, the best thing to do is to establish what SEO priorities are right for your type of site and then optimise according to your objectives and presence on the internet.


 December 2, 2011  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on SEO benefits – rankings, new visitors and brand awareness
Nov 222011

Long tail SEO – how to approach it in order to get the most out of optimisation

Optimising for specific keywords varies according to the type of target to be optimised. There are three main types of targets when it comes to optimisation: short tail, mid-tail and long tail SEO.

Optimising for short tail requires more link building and normally up to three words are used. As an example, ‘guitar lessons online’ will automatically work for both ‘guitar lessons’ and ‘guitar lessons online’ because of the way search engines semantically index links. There will also be a weak connection between ‘guitar’ and ‘online’, so if you were also to optimise for ‘guitar online’ you would also benefit from the initial link building on ‘guitar lessons online’. Unlike long tail SEO, this kind of link building is used for links in blogs, forums etc, and competition is usually higher for these keywords. As a result, more links are needed to achieve good rankings.

Next, mid tail includes more words and is often an entire phrase – such as ‘how to play casino games’, ‘how to win at poker’ and so on. Some people say phrases like these can be considered long tail SEO since they are formed with more than three words. And after this, any other phrases that users employ to search for things on the internet, very often randomly, could also be categorised under long tail SEO. For such areas like sports-related searches, long tail is very common because it if often generated by content and very specific combinations of words. Because they are more specific, long tail searches tend to have a much lower bounce rate and are usually good sources of customers for businesses.

Depending on the business, website and so on, a certain type of ‘tail’ is usually chosen, and often optimisation professionals employ a combination of both short and long tail SEO to get results for the right keyword or combination of keywords . It has to be mentioned that a certain degree of onsite optimisation has to be done before offsite work is carried out, but this is valid for most web sites on the internet. Regardless of business, one thing will also be valid: do the right keyword research first! Good research will suggest whether short or long tail SEO is better suited for your niche. Getting to know your competition and what they rank for is another great idea – you might decide to study the first ten results on the first page to get a good idea of what is needed in order to rank. It’s worth also adding a lot of the long tail SEO is randomly associated with sites and content by the search engines’ algorithms.

Whether short or long tail SEO, there is no getting away from the fact that good optimisation requires a lot of work and the area will only become more competitive as the internet increases in sophistication.

 November 22, 2011  Posted by  SEO matters Comments Off on Long tail SEO
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