Category Archives: Search Engine Optimisation

Ask an SEO – Jonathan Argile of twentysix

In the first Ask an SEO feature of 2015 I chatted with Jonathan Argile. I asked him about his role as Head of Search Operations at twentysix and the SEO trends we can expect to see in the year ahead.

Jonathan Argile

Jonathan Argile twentysix.

Q) Hi Jonathan, could you start by telling us how you got into SEO?

A) My history is not the typical “agency” SEO background you would expect.  I actually started working across SEO in some form or another during my university placement year which was a client side marketing role and then further developing in additional Digital Marketing roles client side before moving to agency. These roles however also included working across other digital marketing elements such as email marketing, paid search and aspects of development.

I only started working in a pure SEO role once I moved agency side back in 2012 with a role at Stickyeyes, before moving across the City Centre to start at twentysix in the summer of 2014.

Q) Tell us a bit about your agency, twentysix?

A) twentysix is a full service digital marketing agency with offices in Leeds, London, New York and Singapore. Our services within the Search area of the business include SEO, PPC, social media, affiliates and CRO making up over 40 members of Staff with a further 60 plus staff members working within the Development side of the business which includes Mobile & Website Development and our UX team.

twentysix is a fast paced, passionate agency where we have a real hunger to drive the best ROI for our clients.

Q) Leeds has a thriving digital marketing community, what’s it like to be part of it?


A) Leeds is a fantastic hotbed of search agencies with great pool of talented individuals which is ultimately pushing the industry forward, especially in Yorkshire. twentysix itself has some really strong competition from some great rival agencies which means we are pushed regularly to be one of the best and consistently develop and enhance our proposition.

Media City Leeds

Media City Leeds

Q) What is the first thing you do when you start a new SEO campaign for a client?


A) It really depends on what our client’s objectives are and what the scope of work is. This can be anything from technical analysis to data gathering and analytical reporting or even pure outreach and creative campaigns. But what we take real pride in is our complete immersion within a client and their activities; we are ultimately as an agency an extension of their company and so should be fully integrated and up to speed with everything that they are.

Q) As an agency, what are the metrics and KPIs that campaigns are measured against?


A) We focus on real world results. Rankings and search visibility are great, but there are far too many inaccuracies and uncertainties within third party metrics such as Moz’s domain authority, which means as an agency we can use these as comparison metrics but not alone.

We work to bottom line figures; we’re driven by the client’s KPIs and their business needs to drive the best ROI. Reporting, accountability and transparency are the core to our approach.

Q) What has been the most significant change in your time in SEO?


A) There have been so many changes across digital as a whole from the rise of mobile search to the launch of Panda, Penguin and Pigeon algorithm updates, but “not provided” has been a real game changer for not just agencies but clients themselves. There has been a real shift from having SEO KPIs purely based on rankings to incorporating traffic, revenue and overall organic visibility of brands and that ranking for “Golden” high volume terms are not the be all and end all of SEO campaigns. There is so much more that agencies should be focussing on such as the actual monetary return on investment for clients and showing a clear bottom line progression.

Q) What are your SEO predictions for the year ahead?


A)  SEO evolves so fast that most predictions within this industry are blown out of the water with something completely new and unthought-of by the end of the year. What I really see in the year ahead includes:
•    The further development and refinement of the recent Pigeon update within the UK market.
•    A real focus from clients on the closer unity of SEO within the digital marketing mix. How SEO impacts and reacts with the other marketing channels.
•    Further refinement from Google on the Penguin algorithm and the manipulation within a sites backlink profile.
•    A significant change within mobile search from how Google interacts with un-optimised sites.
•    A better understanding from Google on user experience and how this differs between markets and industries, UX is not one size fits all and certainly isn’t determined by Google but remains with the user.
•    The rise of new technology – the game isn’t just desktop, mobile and tablet, welcome to smart watches and many more devices.

Watch out for more Google Pigeon updates

Watch out for more Google Pigeon updates

Q) What are your top SEO tips for sites with little/no budget?


A) As a business clearly define realistic key organic search objectives and make your agency work for you not the other way around. Be realistic in where you are and where you want to be, if you have clear objectives you won’t get led down the wrong path. Be aware that search engine optimisation is not an off the shelf product or one off buy, it is a continual process of implementation and development which should be involved and integrated with all of your marketing activities.

Q) What are your favourite SEO tools and why?


A) As far as I am concerned, SEO is all about variety, there are some fantastic tools in the market from link analysis tools such as Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs to visibility and ranking platforms such as Searchmetrics and Brightedge but never forget Google’s continually developing arsenal of testing and reporting tools within Webmaster tools and analytics. Working in SEO, we should always test and try new tools in the marketplace because we are always pushing the barriers and can never stand still.

Everyone's favourite SEO Rockstar - Rand Fishkin

Everyone’s favourite SEO Rockstar – Rand Fishkin

Q)Who are your favourite SEO ‘rockstars’?
A) The SEO community is such a diverse group of professionals with varying knowledge, expertise and advice. Personally I am open to listening and reading to as many peoples and agencies opinions as possible. I have a tweetdeck specifically set up to follow blogs, agencies, SEO and digital marketers which is constantly updated when I come across interesting new information which I could test and implement across my clients.

For any person wanting to develop their knowledge of SEO the UK has some great events and conferences such as Searchlove and Brighton SEO, which really highlight the quality the UK has in SEO professionals, but I would also highly recommend following guys like Bill Slawski, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz and of course Mr Matt Cutts.

Read up on sites like SearchEngineLand, SearchEngineWatch, SEORoundtable and read the detailed information across Moz’s Blogs and guides. But don’t forget the UK market is a very different animal to US so take some information with a pinch of salt!

 

Are you an SEO with a story to tell? Email help(at)copify.com to be featured.

Ask an SEO – Mark Preston on SEO for SMEs

One of the biggest barriers to SEO for small and medium sized businesses has been its unpredictable nature and the rising cost of doing the things that actually make a tangible difference to rankings.

Mark Preston of Wildshark SEO is aiming to change that, with a low monthly cost service, starting from £74pm aimed specifically at the SME market.

Mark Preston

I caught up with him to ask him about the proposition, and his tips for doing SEO on a budget.

Q) Could you start by telling us about your background, how did you get into SEO?

A) Way back when I left school I went to college full time for three years to become a qualified mechanical engineer then went back to college for another three years to become an agricultural engineer. I worked within this industry for many years until around 15 years ago when family health issues forced me to take a hard look at my career. I needed to have a job that was flexible so I could take my daughter to hospital appointments as and when required so I decided to go to night school and gain an IT qualification. I then set up my first business selling web hosting. Like any online business, I needed to drive potential buyers to my website so I started testing lots and lots of different online marketing methods. I learnt a lot during this time, including what NOT to do.

The way I saw it was – I would look at all the major competition and work out what I could do to be better than them instead of just copying what they are doing. I started setting up website after website to test different online marketing methods. This way if something did not work then it would have no impact on anyone. I ended up having about 120 websites in lots of different industries from a flatpack builder website to a music video site, most of which was ranking at the top of the search engines making me a very good monthly income in affiliate commission.

My big break came in 2007 when I confirmed a large contract worth multiple six figures per year. This allowed me to setup a digital company with qualified staff. Over the next three years, work flooded in and I had offices in both Inverness and Cheshire.

From here I went in to the white label industry, providing white label design, development and marketing services to UK digital companies until the launch of Wildshark in 2013 where I decided to concentrate on helping small business owners sort out their online presence and try and build a little trust back in to the SEO industry by telling people the truth.

Q) Tell us more about your company, Wildshark

A) Wildshark is one of the UK’s top white label SEO suppliers, providing quality SEO packages to web design and digital agencies throughout the UK at trade prices. We also offer our packages to small business owners at the same trade price our white label partners receive.

One question we get asked all the time is – “how do you manage to provide quality SEO packages whilst keeping everything in-house at such a small monthly fee?”

Most SEO agencies either outsource the work off-shore or they have large sales costs. At Wildshark we are in a unique position where we do not have any sales people working within our company so we do not have the marketing expense our fellow SEO agencies have. Our white label partners are our sales team which provides us with a constant flow of residual orders. Our own website is also ranked highly for hundreds of targeted phrases which bring in a constant flow of direct enquiries and orders.

Our in-house team is made up of top SEO professionals who complete the analysis and technical tasks and our team of IT apprentices complete the day to day manual tasks. As we secure new orders we just take on another IT apprentice to make sure we can handle the work load. This business structure allows us to grow, provide solid customer service, keep everything in-house and ensure our package prices are kept to a minimum.

Wildshark SEO

Wildshark SEO

Q) How do you convince skeptical company owners to invest in SEO over other channels?

A) I would never recommend that any business owner invest 100% of their marketing budget in SEO only. The SEO strategy should be a part of their complete marketing strategy so when you ask me about convincing companies to invest in SEO over other channels, I would not.

As our company does not do any telesales, we do not have to convince anyone. By the time they come to our website and contact us, they already know they need SEO. All the convincing is done through the copy on our website.

Q) You offer a number of different packages, could you briefly explain the difference between them?

A) In order to provide a solid service and ensure results at affordable prices, we offer the following four packages:

On-Page SEO Package (£39 one-off) – From time to time we get approached by small business owners who wish to perform all the off-page activities themselves but just want to make sure their website is fully optimised with no on-page issues.

Local SEO Package (£74 pm) – Our local package is ideal for businesses who want to attract more custom from within their business location. The types of businesses who purchase this package are florists, bakers, pizza delivery and builders amongst others.

National SEO Package (£129 pm) – As the name states, our national package is ideal for small business owners who wish to promote their business throughout the UK or any other English speaking Country.

National Plus Package (£195 pm) – Our local and national packages are all about getting your website ranked at the top of Google for multiple targeted phrases but our National Plus package goes one step further by helping you increase your online conversion rate.

Q) The cynic in me would question how much value am I going to get for £74/Month, how do you manage to deliver value for such a small monthly fee?

A) The value is determined within the research and the results. The research completed will demonstrate that when the results are achieved then the return will be provided. Even though our packages are priced low, our white label partners are easily reselling our packages for around £500 per month building a very good residual income.

We manage to deliver exceptional value for money by having a really good business structure and making sure we never offer any bespoke services. We do not profess to be a master of everything and instead prefer to be an expert at one thing – SEO. If our clients require any services that are not contained within our packages then we try to point them in the right direction – usually, one of our own white label partners.

Q) With tactics such as article marketing and directory submissions becoming increasingly ineffective, what are the scalable and cost-effective methods of link building you carry out?

A) One word – outreach

When we secure a new client we make sure we explain to them that we need them to work with us to make sure people actually want to link to their website. We then point people who we have already established an interest in our clients industry in the direction of their website, press release, blog etc… Depending on the industry will depend on how many natural links is gained.

If a business owner is serious about their business growth then they should stop using outdated link building tactics now!

Q) How do you work with clients in terms of KPIs?

A) The honest answer is we don’t work on any key performance indicators. Wildshark offers cost effective SEO packages to small business owners who wish to get their website ranked at the top of the major search engines. If clients sign up to our National Plus package, however, we do help them to increase their online conversion rate as well.

Panda strikes again

Q) What does your typical client campaign look like in terms of activity each month?

A) As we provide set packages, we are up-front and state on our website exactly what we will do and what they receive. This way there is no confusion. We do tweak the contents of each package from time to time to make sure we are constantly providing a strategy that works very well.

When we receive a new client it is important that we first look at the history of that website and ensure the on-page is perfect then move forward with generating brand awareness and building authority on a monthly basis.

Q) Have many of your clients been impacted by Panda 4.0, if so, what actions have you undertaken to recover?

A) This depends – we do get new clients coming to us that have seen a drop in rankings around the time of the Panda 4.0 release but as we make sure we clean everything up during the first month then I can state that not one of our existing clients was negatively affected by Panda 4.0. In fact we saw an increase in rankings on many campaigns.

Q) If you could advise an SME with little time or budget on one single task they can undertake to improve SEO performance, what would it be?

A) This is a good question as there are so many things but I would have to say that it is very important that their website is free from the basic SEO mistakes (lack of meta tags etc), displays quality unique content and is fully optimised for attainable keywords.

Q) Content marketing, short-lived fad or here to stay?

A) With the increased exposure of inbound marketing, it is defiantly here to stay but people need to change the way they think about content marketing. Writing a blog post and posting it on Twitter once is not content marketing. It is time that people started writing about subjects their audience actually want to read.

Teamwork.com

Teamwork.com

Q) What are your favourite SEO/project management tools?

A) I use a selection of SEO tools which I use to complement each other. The first and one that many people ignore is Google Webmaster Tools. We still get many small business owners sign up with Wildshark who do not have webmaster tools attached to their website. It is a must and provides so much very useful information that can be used. As far as other SEO tools are concerned, I would have to say Moz beyond any other is my number one favourite for many reasons.

As far as project management tools goes, I have tried quite a few but have to say that using TeamWork to manage all our clients’ campaigns makes life so much easier.

3 Tools to help you put social media on autopilot

Don’t have time to update your company Twitter, Facebook page or blog?

Here are 3 awesome tools that can take care of it for you!

Klout

Klout started life as a simple tool for measuring the effectiveness of your socal output, but now it actually helps you with that output as well.

Plug in your social profiles and some keywords which describe the subjects that you and your audience are interested in and it will throw up a feed with results that are relevant. You can then schedule these posts to go out at regular intervals.

Klout

IFTTT

I am a huge fan of IFTTT (If This Then That) which can automate pretty much any activity, from turning on your lights to organising your calendar.

In the case of social media, you can set it to ping out updates when selected sites add a new item to their RSS feed. Choose authority sites in your sector and every time they update, you update too!

IFTTT

 

Copify WordPress Plugin

The Copify WordPress plugin, when teamed with one of our monthly blog packages helps companies to automatically update their blog with quality, unique posts.

Give us your blog URL and some keywords and for a monthly fee (from £49/$69) we’ll deliver a number of posts each week. WordPress users can even have these posts pushed live automatically with an image!

A Blog using the Copify WordPress plugin

Link removal requests – throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

A few weeks ago we received a request from an SEO firm requesting that we remove a link to their client’s site from our blog. The post in question, a roundup of an SEO event I attended 3 years ago had a number of links in it, all of which were genuine and pointing to relevant resources which had been referenced at the event.

I linked to the page of my own volition as it was relevant and gave context to the article. I had no communication with the client prior to placing this link and no money changed hands.

interflora

So why was I asked to remove this link?

Over the past few years, Google has been cracking down on those who have been acquiring links in a way it deems to be unnatural. Those affected suffer penalties which can see their rankings drop, or in extreme cases, their domain drop out of Google’s index altogether.

One high profile casualty of this action was Interflora, who saw their entire site disappear from Google searches for not just generic terms such as ‘flower delivery’, but even the brand term ‘Interflora.’

Needless to say, many people have been spooked by these penalties and in a panic have begun sending out link removal requests – like the one I received.

What to do if you receive a link removal request

Unlike copyright, libel, or trademark cease and desist letters, there are no laws stating that you must remove a link on request. That said, however, unless you are receiving a high volume of these requests and they are difficult to remove, you would be well-advised to action any removals.

If the link isn’t removed, it could ultimately lead to a Google disavow request, in which the webmaster will instruct Google to ignore the link and no longer associate it with his or her site. It’s not yet known what impact this has on a site, but it’s reasonable to assume that numerous sites carrying out this activity will not reflect well on your site.

This is what an unnatural link warning looks like

What to do if you think you may have been affected by unnatural links

As I’ve already mentioned, the only definitive way to know if your site has been affected by unnatural links is to receive a warning like the above in Webmaster Tools. If this is the case, you would be well advised to consult with an SEO agency that specialises in Google penalty recovery.

If your site has seen a drop in rankings, this can be caused by multiple factors, not necessarily spammy linking practices. Don’t panic. Calmly carry out an audit of your links using the export function in Webmaster Tools. Add an extra column to the sheet that is exported, and mark each page you review as either suspicious or not. Once you have this data, you can begin the process of contacting webmasters.

Moving forward, if you outsource your link building, ask for regular updates on the links that are being built and audit these to make sure they comply with Google Guidelines.

Export link data from GWT

Export link data from GWT

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater

Wholesale link removal requests are likely to do more harm than good in the long run, and could undo a lot of very valuable work. Before you make a link removal request be as sure as you can that removing the link is the right thing to do.