Category Archives: Search Engine Optimisation

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.

Ask an SEO – Jason Dexter on technical SEO

Jason Dexter

Jason Dexter

Most SEOs have a particular specialism, a secondary skill. This could be content marketing, PR or social media. In this piece, I caught up with Jason Dexter. Jason’s specialism is good, old-fashioned technical SEO.

I asked him about all of the technical issues we should be looking out for, as well as life at his agency Prototype SEO.

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

A) My interest in web marketing started during my final year of college, where I developed a website for a business that sold number plates. The design was made by a friend of mine, but I worked on a system where you could type in your reg number, it would update the number plate in the correct format, you could change the style, overlays, at country flags etc. This sent it to the printer and it would be sorted there. We launched it and….nothing. Barely any orders or use of the system. I’d never considered HOW to get people to the website. Here I had a website I was proud of but nobody saw it. Moving onto university, I created a website that was an amalgamation of various social networks. Nice website, it worked, launched it on a domain and hit a stumbling block; no traffic. So I read up about how to get people to the website through social media, paid advertising, SEO and blog writing.

So over a few months, I’d got this passion (albeit with a small amount of knowledge) about search engines, how they work and how you could drive traffic to a website. My SEO skills weren’t setting the world alight but I’d optimised my website for some crazy long tail phrases that drew no traffic. But I was proud! Over the summer, I got a job with a a national paintball company, looking at their national websites and the websites of over 27 owner-managed websites across the country. Whilst I wasn’t experienced in commercial search optimisation, my job was overall management; image uploads, articles on the website, social media and SEO. The knowledge I gained from this job was huge and didn’t just focus on SEO. Working with 27 owner-managed venues, I essentially had 27 clients to look after, helping me build knowledge of client needs, management, relationships and internal politics. Things rapidly progressed, I contracted and freelanced for 3 years until became Head of Search for a design agency, rapidly building up their digital marketing clients and working alongside the social media department the create a multi-faceted search company.

Q) Tell us a little bit about your company, Prototype SEO?

A) The company is made up of 11 staff members, a mix of designers, developers, social and search. We’re an awesome team land theres some great talent here. It’s a relaxed environment and everyone is self motivated. We get our heads down, we get results. But because of the range of talents, there’s some crazy development work going on, or stand alone design. We’re based in South Yorkshire so our approach to work is no-nonsense, no-fuss and no-BS. Because of that, we’ve got some huge brands and companies on our roster.

Don’t underestimate local search!

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

A) Never underestimate local keywords. Ever. With that in mind, I’d look at Local Business on Google Plus. I’m cheating as it’s not a single task as such, but having a verified local listing can be incredibly powerful for a SMEs.

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

A) Generally speaking, we have two entry points into our search campaigns; we’ve built a website for them or we haven’t. If we’ve built a website, the search and social teams are involved from the very beginning. The heads of Search, Dev and Design sit down and go through a brief. My involvement here is usability, conversions and search optimisation. Every website that is built by these guys is in the best shape it can be pre-launch.

Typically, a campaign is segmented into content, technical and marketing. So whilst we could say duplicated content problems are related to content, it’s usually a technical fault with page management. Doing this also helps us create a 3 pronged approach, each having it’s own set of KPIs. Content could be user engagement and conversion increases through split testing, revenue increases. Technical could be lowering page load times and the lowering duplicated content issues. Marketing KPIs could be brand mentions, inbound traffic and (although I should say this and not focus on it) links. Each one is then split even further; content is then optimisation AND article generation AND conversion rate optimisation. Each of these subsets have their own KPIs and mini campaigns within them We try to be as granular with these campaigns because it makes management a gazillion times easier and we can see which areas need slightly more focus, which areas are performing the best and simply become much more proactive.

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

A) Set fee. We have an extremely stringent checklist for anyone looking to pay for performance related or ranking-based KPIs and we’re yet to work with a website any other way. Without wanting to offend people, it doesn’t attract the right clients either. Search optimisation is a risk, much like any other marketing channel. We typically find that if a client is happy with work, they ramp up the spend. If they’re not, they’ll tell us and we sort it out.

Q) If you could name 5 things on a technical SEO checklist, what would they be?

A)

  • Duplicated content
  • Internal linking structures
  • Robots.txt
  • Page Speed
  • Schema/Snippet

Q) Following Panda 4.0, what technical issues should we be looking at?

A) Duplicated content. There are a lot more issues at play with Panda, put talking purely technical then I’d duplicated content. We recently sat down with a website and ran a crawl analysis on it and it came back with 86,000 pages. Around 60,000 of those were duplicated. We found urls duplicated through variables in the URL and poor management. We’ve added canonical tags on every page and used rel=next/prev to manage pagination. The number of pages indexed plummeted and their search visibility is climbing. We’re still waiting for the next ten day roll out of Panda to see the full affects but it is a great way of showcasing that more pages isn’t better. More quality is better.

Q) What are your favourite SEO tools?

A) DeepCrawl – Amazing and powerful crawl data. The reports could do with a better design, but overall this is a bit of kit I couldn’t live without.

SEMRush – Great monthly overview of search traffic, great for competitor analysis and keyword research.

Ahrefs – Backlink analysis. Pretty self-explanatory but great for link building.

SearchMetrics – Their search visibility tool is awesome and it’s my favourite. Doesn’t always pick up keywords a client is ranking for, but a top-level view is solid and is essential to our reporting.

Q) What metrics in Webmaster Tools should I be most concerned with from a technical standpoint?

A) Index status and crawl errors. The first allows you to compare to your site map and diagnose problems there. 100 pages in a site map and 10,000 indexed shows a huge problem. Crawl errors is not only a great way of finding issues with your website, but can be powerful for link building; pull off a list of 404 pages, run a back link check on those pages and work your way through the list starting with the pages with the most powerful links. 301 them to relevant pages and you’re not missing out on the link equity.

Jason’s dream SEO client, Paddy Power

 

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

A) Here to stay. The name will change, like everything else in SEO. Just like conversion rate optimisation is now called growth hacking by most. The concept will be around for a very long time and I’m happy with that.

Q) Who would be your dream SEO client and why?

A) Paddy Power or Brew Dog. Their brand personalities are awesome and they’re not scared of trying anything completely insane, it’s part of their culture. The level of traffic they’d get also means we could work wonders on conversion rate optimisation as well.

Dave Naylor of Bronco

Q) Who are your favourite SEO rockstars?

A) Rand Fishkin – That beard.

Dr Pete @ Moz – His tweets range from laser-focused research to his wife questioning why there’s dinosaurs on his presentation. He seems a great guy.

David Naylor – I love Bronco and the work they do.

James Agate – His business drive is pretty awesome.

Scott Delong – Not an SEO, but simply because of what he has achieved with ViralNova.

Neil Patel – A clever man and some great content. I admire what he does.