the art of blogging

A snip of a snippet

Google rich snippets are the new way forward for good presentation and higher positioning on the infamous search engine.

What are rich snippets? No one knows, they are closely guarded secret known only to a few warlocks found only on the mountains of Lotharious where full details of these snippets are found carved in four millennial old treated beechwood plaques written in the ancient language of Griddorian Moot for which there is no translation.

I know what you are thinking, how can Google use these things then if only a few Warlocks actually know what they are. There is a greater suspicion within the technical communities that Google itself employs these warlocks within its organisation and only the senior management actually know who they are.

There is a vague and unfounded rumour that one warlock serves teas and coffees both within and without the Google empire and feeds back much of the tittle tattle and gossip that eventually forms much of their search engine content.

Of course it is just possible that Snippets are, in fact, HTML highlighted text ‘snippets’ of content within a website that Google uses as a descriptor under a specific search term.

Personally, I prefer the first explanation.

But the importance of using snippets cannot be under-stated. In any Google or any other search engine for that matter, the list that comes up after entering a search term should proudly display the search link, usually the page title being referenced, then the ‘snippet’ which is the descriptive text that will appear under the link.

This link is usually drawn from the content of the site or more specifically the ‘meta-description’ built into the referenced page. If you fail to provide a ‘meta-description’ then often the search engine will pull what it feels is the most pertinent content from your page, usually the first paragraph up to a defined number of characters.

It therefore makes sense to detail and create your own descriptor or ‘snippet’ to better seduce searchers into visiting your page.

A typical search result would look something like this:

Timber Yorkshire Decking | Railway Sleepers | Yorkshire
Welcome To TimberClick Yorkshire. Timber Merchants delivering to Yorkshire, Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and the York area. Decking stockists, Railway …

With the top being the title link and the bottom the snippet. An incorrectly formed snippet can result in the search pulling the first html search reference content it finds such as alt-tag information or header text.

So getting this right can be a crucial factor in achieving better search engine positioning.

Unless, of course, you know where to find the warlock.

Backlink concept

The Constant Struggle to market online

To many people, marketing is ongoing struggle.

You manage through hard work and diligence to be able to get your site within the top five of your chosen keyword on Google after months and months of hard effort, only to move onto the next project and begin the process again with a new site, then to return to find that your hard work has been destroyed by your competitors who, while your back has been turned, reviewed your site and done additional SEO work on their site, building even more content into to knock you off the first page.

SEO is a relentless and time consuming exercise in futility where the businesses with the biggest resources and manpower have the greatest advantage. All the while you feel as though Google are sniggering at your efforts and just waiting to press a button that will see ACME Corporation jump into the space that you spent months and months of serious effort to attain.

The simple fact is SEO is a mugs game. Unless you are possessed of an endless pot of money and the staff to write copious amounts of significant and relevant trending content it is unlikely that you will be able to compete with the major multi-nationals on any level.

Site titles, page titles, meta descriptions, content and media are all for nought if you do not possess the resources to be able to then market throughout social media, advertising, affiliate building, back link building network creation and standard physical marketing processes.

The content and titles just do not seem enough or relevant when compared to major TV campaign where you can offer a free Ipad to everyone who can name the 2 Dwarves whose names start with the letter ‘D’.

Suddenly the internet is ablaze with the competition and link on link explode across the inter-world that provide your competitors with the kind of backlink PR nirvana that you can only dream of.

So how do you compete?

There is no easy answer. Ultimately you have to look to provide something that your competitor can’t. Inside knowledge, a tool for measuring the widget that clips onto the thingamabob that you sell.

But be prepared to do this in the full knowledge that within a few weeks your major competitor will have produced a better, slicker and more effective version, knocking you off your spot once more.

There is no doubt that money talks in the marketing game and SEO is a constant struggle that few SME’s can afford to compete in. The only thing we can do is try to be smarter and more innovative, in full knowledge that your ideas will be stolen by the enemy.

Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks

How Social Media platforms impact on small retail businesses

Social media platforms have completely changed the way businesses can get in touch with their customers through social marketing. There is no other media channel which allows your business to access over 1 billion people instantly and initiate direct contact with them. Whatever the size of your business, you should consider social marketing via Facebook and other various social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Facebook has provided a diverse platform where you can reach customers who are geographically and demographically placed for you to access in order to make online sales, discuss how they view the product and what improvements they would like to see, address their concerns and complaints quickly and promptly, and allow them to spread the word about your brand and company amongst their family and friends.

With the increased popularity of people shopping online through mobile devices, this new buying habit has created revenue opportunities for various small retail businesses. Facebook has provided an online market platform for both large and small businesses. Large companies are spending significant budgets on this social commerce and marketing trend, but this doesn’t mean that small businesses cannot benefit from this phenomenon. They too can leverage the new social marketing trend to generate increased revenues. Here are top 5 ways to benefit from Facebook as a small retail business:

1. Be more personal
Large companies might not be able to provide individual attention to every customer on their social media page. They might appoint other individuals to stay in touch with customers, but transparency and quality control in the way they handle customers can be uncertain and inconsistent. On the other hand, small retail businesses due to their size can pay attention to individual customers and be more personal with them by taking time out to address each and every concern they have. Effective dialogue and genuine engagement is what creates long-term and loyal customers and gives rise to a robust social marketing campaign. You can encourage and motivate customers to share their experiences and take the opportunity to resolve their issues in “real-time”, bringing you much closer to them as compared to a large corporation.

2. Keep customer service first
For many people a company Facebook page is a platform where they can voice their ideas and feelings about the company and its brand. Therefore, you wouldn’t like them to share any negative experiences since this page is being followed and “liked” by millions of people. In order to avoid such situations, it is best to stay on top of your customers. A proactive behaviour will help you resolve all queries within 12 hours and provide customers with a rapid solution to their issues, resulting in an effective social marketing approach. Large corporations have many other things to consider and might not be able to concentrate on what issues the customer is voicing. As a small retail business your company can provide a personal and individual service towards your customers which will make them feel valued and looked after.

3. Optimise your Facebook page
In order to run your company’s Facebook page it isn’t necessary for you to have significant IT knowledge. A simple review of your page and effective feedback from your customers will help you optimise your page. Also by concentrating on what you expect to generate from your Facebook page will keep you on a straight path. Differentiate between whether you are interested in boosting online sales or attracting “likes”.

If you are looking to boost online sales, then your Facebook page will act as an advertising platform for your business. This involves creating external website ads, which when clicked on, will direct the customer to your web page. On the other hand if you are interested in created a viable and robust online presence you might be looking to attract substantial “likes” from your Facebook page. This encourages interaction between customers and your company. It gives you greater opportunity to talk to them about your product, arrange polls/surveys and other activities that will keep them engaged.

Whatever your reasons might be to promote your company online through social marketing, creating a Facebook page is essential for any size and type of business. There are various ways this and other social media platforms can benefit your company, whether you have a geographically dispersed customer base or a local customer base; either way it can help you generate revenue and boost sales. A great example about how Twitter can help small retail business is www.timberclick.com who use it for the promotion of special offers and timber stock clearance.

Hercules

New beginnings – an SEO herculean task

This next few months we are undertaking a Herculean task!

As with that muscled monster of myth we have 12 Labours, or in this instance 12 websites to promote and redevelop. The marketing is a fundamental key to their potential success so we need to plan an effective web marketing campaign.

Yes, we will be using the standard mix of content, social, linking and promotion that all websites are expected to take but this time I shall be opening up the techniques and tactics for each task we undertake together with explanation for the strategic decisions we are making.

Principally the intention is to evaluate the website, its market, its reach and its long term goal before we undertake any marketing development.

The first Labour is already underway:

Girlings Personal Injury Claims Lawyers specialise in securing the best possible financial conclusion for people have been injured or disabled by the inadequacy or incompetence of others. With this client we have inherited and will have to deal with the standard ‘black hat’ old technique of creating doorway pages to promote the principle site www.girlingspersonalinjury.co.uk.

Although technically this was Herc’s second task we will refer to this project as the ‘Many Headed Hydra’. There were nine heads on the Hydra…… there are 22 heads on this particular Hydra!

But that is fine. From the doorway sites we will be creating ‘satellite sites’. In essence, Google doesn’t actually mind that you have many sites as long as the sites have purpose and good relevant content and are NOT just used to falsely promote the main website.

So what is the difference between a ‘Doorway’ site and a ‘Satellite’ site. Quite simply a ‘Satellite’ site is a website that is complimentary to the main site but differs sufficiently that you would include it within the main sites web content.

A doorway site simply using keywords to create relevant backlinks with limited content and whose sole purpose is to try and push the main website up the search ranking. Google hates those.

So here is the real question, where would you use or want to use a satellite site? Easy, blogs, information resources, directories, project guides, diaries, videos……the list is endless. As a complimentary site the chances are the web will be more interested in the data and information that you would put onto a satellite site more so than your main site. Your main site is in effect your sales pitch. ‘Use us because we are simply Fab!’ Whereas on your satellite site you can actually give back to the users of the internet really useful information with the very clear direction that this information has come from your website which clearly proves that you are an expert in your field!

Instead of a doorway site you have provided the internet with a really and valuable resource and that resource then actively credits your main website and your company with the provision of the data – hence the more beneficial rating within the search engines.

Obviously it is not always as simple as that, so what we look to do is to take companies that want to promote their service in a highly competitive industry, like Personal Injury Claims Lawyers (see what I did there?), out of their comfort zone and give more of their expertise to internet users and yes their competitors.

This free provision of expertise, knowledge, services, skills is largely anathematic to highly qualified professionals who have spent a lot of time and money getting trained in specialised industries and don’t really want to simply ‘give away’ their knowledge for free. However, the web has shown that visitors are more likely to choose and opt for the more open and honest web site providers than those who insist on contact first and hiding charges or costs until they have you signed up to unbreakable contracts.

This makes the use of satellite web sites ideal for opening discussion and creating opportunities. After all you have just been more open than any of your competitors.Why wouldn’t you contact you?[/wr_column]]

This next few months we are undertaking a Herculean task!

As with that muscled monster of myth we have 12 Labours, or in this instance 12 websites to promote and redevelop. The marketing is a fundamental key to their potential success so we need to plan an effective web marketing campaign.

Yes, we will be using the standard mix of content, social, linking and promotion that all websites are expected to take but this time I shall be opening up the techniques and tactics for each task we undertake together with explanation for the strategic decisions we are making.

Principally the intention is to evaluate the website, its market, its reach and its long term goal before we undertake any marketing development.

The first Labour is already underway:

Girlings Personal Injury Claims Lawyers specialise in securing the best possible financial conclusion for people have been injured or disabled by the inadequacy or incompetence of others. With this client we have inherited and will have to deal with the standard ‘black hat’ old technique of creating doorway pages to promote the principle site www.girlingspersonalinjury.co.uk.

Although technically this was Herc’s second task we will refer to this project as the ‘Many Headed Hydra’. There were nine heads on the Hydra…… there are 22 heads on this particular Hydra!

But that is fine. From the doorway sites we will be creating ‘satellite sites’. In essence, Google doesn’t actually mind that you have many sites as long as the sites have purpose and good relevant content and are NOT just used to falsely promote the main website.

So what is the difference between a ‘Doorway’ site and a ‘Satellite’ site. Quite simply a ‘Satellite’ site is a website that is complimentary to the main site but differs sufficiently that you would include it within the main sites web content.

A doorway site simply using keywords to create relevant backlinks with limited content and whose sole purpose is to try and push the main website up the search ranking. Google hates those.

So here is the real question, where would you use or want to use a satellite site? Easy, blogs, information resources, directories, project guides, diaries, videos……the list is endless. As a complimentary site the chances are the web will be more interested in the data and information that you would put onto a satellite site more so than your main site. Your main site is in effect your sales pitch. ‘Use us because we are simply Fab!’ Whereas on your satellite site you can actually give back to the users of the internet really useful information with the very clear direction that this information has come from your website which clearly proves that you are an expert in your field!

Instead of a doorway site you have provided the internet with a really and valuable resource and that resource then actively credits your main website and your company with the provision of the data – hence the more beneficial rating within the search engines.

Obviously it is not always as simple as that, so what we look to do is to take companies that want to promote their service in a highly competitive industry, like Personal Injury Claims Lawyers (see what I did there?), out of their comfort zone and give more of their expertise to internet users and yes their competitors.

This free provision of expertise, knowledge, services, skills is largely anathematic to highly qualified professionals who have spent a lot of time and money getting trained in specialised industries and don’t really want to simply ‘give away’ their knowledge for free. However, the web has shown that visitors are more likely to choose and opt for the more open and honest web site providers than those who insist on contact first and hiding charges or costs until they have you signed up to unbreakable contracts.

This makes the use of satellite web sites ideal for opening discussion and creating opportunities. After all you have just been more open than any of your competitors.Why wouldn’t you contact you?

Don’t get bitten!

New algorithms used by google mean don’t put link backs in your footer areas.

The new algorithm is actively penalising misused keyword links on websites, specifically where that keyword link is used for the purposes of promotion and keyword marketing.

Rules are now just provide a site link with a brief explanation or better attach a no follow instruction to google bots!

How is it possible to get noticed?

Having spent £300 and a week of time promoting a website for the term conservatory film, including everything from on site advertising, forum posts to Google adwords. The simple fact remains that the best promotion is word of mouth and announcements.

Twitter is a useful gimmick used for social commentary but in terms of marketing it is a poor substitute for well formed content, complimentary links and targeted wording.

The fact is that those who have the time to spend and get the most out of Twitter rarely are the type of individuals who would be potential customers. The nature of its construction also means that the backlinks created on Twitter are either hidden behind a membership requirement or are shortened for practical purposes which provides no search engine benefit for the link.

So, the Conservatory Film supplier UVShield is better to use Twitter purely for the purpose of creating followers and a network of potential customers by word of mouth.

So do you know anyone who can make our conservatory cooler? I know of a company called UVShield who supply conservatory film that reduces the heat by 40%! They mentioned on Twitter just last week!

As with your website, it is not what you say but how you say it and to as many people as possible.

Have you Spotfluxed yet!?

Internet security is a contentious issue at the best of times and none more so than currently, when so many people want to access your personal and confidential materials for nefarious purposes.

It goes without saying that while social media can benefit even the smallest of businesses, it also represents a bigger security threat.

Recently Twitter was hacked and 250,000 user accounts were compromised, or at least the official line is that only 250,000 accounts were compromised. In actuality the figure only represents those accounts that have been identified as having been compromised.

The simple truth is that modern technology is designed to make life considerably easier and easier for us to use and provides greater connectivity and integration than ever before and the cost for this is reduced security.

How many sites do you use that simply plug into your Google, Facebook or Twitter account to login and register?

So if anyone suddenly had backend access to your social media site details that means they also have full access to related sites and personal details.

The other appalling aspect of this is that many users tend to stick with the one password combination and never change, so long term hacking is extremely easy to achieve.

A username/password hacked over two years ago would probably still be accessible.

So what is the answer.

Bearing in mind we like life to be simple, you could use any number of products to better secure your online experience. Dashlane for instance will store and strengthen your passwords for you and can even cloud store your access login’s in case of hard drive failure. The only thing you need to be sure of is that you don’t lose the Dashlane login detail!

The other option is to properly secure the internet. Spotflux is a free to use security bolt-on that masks your online identity without compromising your internet usage. It means that even if you access a site that has been compromised, it will not allow malicious code to penetrate your Spotflux security and your Anti-Virus/Firewalls.

This extra level of security means that even if something nasty got past the gate the hacker would have no idea where and who you are while you deal with the infection.

For simplest security you should consider keeping a notebook of passwords and changing them regularly. It may sound like daft security, but most thieves will steal a computer and hackers will steal data, but rarely would they be able to steal both.

As for your notebook, keep it secure and hidden when not in use. As the old saying goes, if you want to hide a tree, put it in a forest.