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How To Avoid Bad SEO Companies

There Are A Lot Of Shady SEO Companies Out There

Yes, sadly a lot of the SEO services being touted around the UK are of a very low quality, being carried out by a new wave of “digital marketing consultants” and agencies who simply don’t have the knowledge or experience to implement an SEO strategy but they sell it anyway and market themselves as experts. This results in businesses being sold false promises then becoming disillusioned and sceptical about SEO, devaluing the industry for all of us.

So, how can you weed out the bad ones and make sure that you only deal with genuine SEO agencies who can provide real value for your business? Well, there are some very common red flags that most bad SEO companies share and once you know what to look for it can be quite easy to separate the fakes from the pros. Here are a few red flag to keep an eye out for:

Look For Case Studies

This should be the first thing you look for as a prospective SEO client. You need to see real-life case studies which detail the goals of the campaign, the work that was carried out and the tangible results that were achieved. If you can’t find any on their website then that’s probably a good indication that they don’t get great results for their clients.

Ignore On-site Reviews

Reviews can be largely faked. Many of these dodgy companies reviews come from family and friends, if not themselves using different emails. Reviews mean nothing. Look instead at the companies on their client pages and make contact with them yourself. If they have done a good job they should be more than happy to provide a testimonial for you. Also, look closely at what the review is for, a web design company may have lots of great reviews for the sites they have built but how many are actually for their SEO services?

Beware Of Generic Packages

This is an immediate red flag. No genuine SEO agencies will have a one-size fits all type packages list on their website. That’s because they will need to review your website, understand your goals and look at the competitiveness of the industry before being able to quote you a price. If these packages mention X amount of directory submissions or citations for a monthly fee then run a mile.

Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

This is an old saying but it’s very apt for the SEO industry. If you pay an SEO agency £200 per month, how much work do you really think they’re doing for you? That isn’t to say that you should always go for the more expensive option. In fact, part of the problem with SEO in the UK is that a lot of the big agencies are charging ridiculous monthly retainers for their SEO services and in a lot of cases all it’s paying for is swanky offices and bloated staff levels. You want to find the middle ground where you will get a genuine, well-planned, well-executed SEO strategy at a price that’s within your budget.

Avoid The Keyword Stuffers

If the website you’re visiting has a url along the lines of seonorthernirelandservices.com then that’s usually a sign that they are a less than quality service that will try to game Google and get rankings using dubious tactics like keyword stuffing and paying for PBN links. They might even get some short-term results, that’s until the next Google update and your site gets hit with a penalty and disappears without a trace. These sites are easy to spot as they will have their keywords placed in nearly every header, even when it doesn’t make sense e.g. “The Best [enter city name] SEO Agency”.

The truth is the successful agencies that are doing great work for their clients are getting the majority of their work through referrals and their reputation, so they don’t have the need to risk plastering nonsensical keywords all over their website.

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

Are they promising you instant rankings, 100 links a month guaranteed, X amount of sales? Yeah, that’s all crap.

What’s Their Experience?

A quick look at what the website is mainly promoting should tell you where the expertise of the company lies. If they are a web design company with an SEO page in their services section then do some research to find out if they have an actual SEO specialist in their staff who will be working on your campaign. LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Often you will find that there is no one who specialises in SEO within the team, so who exactly will be working on it? Hiring a web designer to work on your SEO strategy is like hiring an electrician to do your plumbing, they are completely different skills. Also, take a look at their experience, have they worked in SEO related roles for other agencies or in-house for a company or have they suddenly moved from an unrelated role to the Director of an SEO agency?

Just Because They Can Talk, Doesn’t Mean They’re Good

There are a lot of knowledgeable SEO experts in the industry providing great insights on the latest techniques and strategies and generally providing education to businesses and marketers alike and that’s all great. But there has also been an influx of professional talkers in the Digital Marketing industry over the past few years with far less value to offer. They are usually pretty generic “digital gurus” making presentations to business owners in business centres on basic topics like “how to set up a LinkedIn page for your business” or “how to set up Facebook ads”. Naturally business owners might assume that they would be the best choice to help them with their SEO strategy but I would urge you to take all of the previous points into consideration to determine if they are the right option. In fact, a lot of them don’t even have a website which should make your decision pretty easy.

You Don’t Have To Go Local

It’s a habit of a lot of local business owners to only want to work with agencies within their own town or country. If you can’t find what you’re looking for locally then don’t be afraid to look further afield. There are no shortage of SEO agencies around the UK and if you look for the signs above and carry out your due diligence you will be able to find the right agency for you at a price that suits your budget. We will often refer people who we feel we aren’t the best fit for or don’t quite have the budget for us to be able to achieve their goals to agencies all over the UK.

So now that you know the tell-tale signs of dodgy SEO companies, what should you be looking out for to identify the best ones?

Some Questions Should You Be Asking
  • Can you show us examples of results you have achieved for at least 3 clients (with a break-down of the strategy you implemented)?
  • Can we see some examples of the links you have earned for them?
  • Who will actually be working on our campaign? Will it be yourself, an intern or will it be outsourced?
  • How will you be reporting and how often will the strategy be reviewed?
  • How will you be measuring the success of the campaign?
  • What will be expected of us? This is an important one, SEO is a partnership so you will be expected to do at least a little work on your side.

Geniune SEO companies won’t mind answering these questions. You should also expect to answer some questions yourself as a good SEO agency will have a similar set of questions to determine that you know what you want to achieve from the campaign, that you are willing to do the necessary work at your end, you understand the timescales involved and that you’re generally a good fit for them.

There are lots of great SEO agencies and consultants out there getting fantastic results for their clients and now that you know what to look for and what to avoid hopefully you will be better placed to sort the good from the bad.

Measuring Website Performance: An Essential Guide

Nowadays we expect every business to have a website. In fact, a study conducted in 2017 found that 30% of consumers won’t even consider purchasing goods or services from a company if they don’t have a website; even if they have other social media pages that outline what their business does. This figure is likely to be even higher if the same study was conducted today and shows just how important a functional and attractive website is to a business, no matter how big or small.

Part of running a successful website that helps drive your business forward is measuring its performance. That said, this is no mean feat. Some larger businesses even hire whole teams of professionals to monitor their websites and keep improving them. But as previously stated, size isn’t important, whether you’re a growing business or an individual trader, you need to know how to measure the performance of your website effectively to ensure the best results for your company.

The guide below is going to take an in-depth look at why this is so important, exploring what metrics you need to be measuring and how to do this. It will also look at how KPIs should guide you and other tools you can use to help you keep track of your website’s progress. Read on to find out how to effectively measure your website’s performance.

Why you need to measure your website’s performance

The main reason you need to measure your website’s performance is to ensure that it is having the desired effect, whether that’s getting people to buy your goods or services, encouraging people to engage with your brand or helping to spread your message. Your website is your chance to showcase your products, make sales, generate leads and sell your brand to consumers.

By measuring and analysing metrics such as traffic, bounce rates, goals and conversions, you can map the user journey through your site and find out how and why people are using your website. This will help you to see if there’s anything you can improve and how to truly make the most of your website so that it helps your business to progress.

Using KPIs to help measure performance

Nowadays there are so many platforms and tools being used to gather data that this can become overwhelming and distracting. For this reason, it’s best to focus on the KPIs of your business to help you measure your website’s performance. If you’ve not heard this term before, KPIs are your Key Performance Indicators. These are the goals you set for yourself and the metrics that determine the success of a business.

For example, if one of your KPIs is to generate more leads through your website, you might want to look at traffic to the site and the time each visitor spent on your page. This way you can work out if people are engaging with your brand and products. By having your KPIs in mind at all times, you’ll be able to decide which metrics are most important to your business and how you can measure the performance of your site as a result.

One thing worth noting is that you may have more than one KPI. Measuring the performance of a website can be a full-time job! There are so many aspects to get just right, like you might want to increase sales, but also improve the content you post on your blog. For this reason, it is entirely possible that you may have a range of goals in mind and will therefore use a number of different tools to measure the success of your site.

Which tools are best for measuring performance?

Now we’ll look at the most popular tools for measuring your website metrics. There are a number of ways you can measure website performance and a number of platforms you can use to do it. We’ll look at each of these in detail below, then we’ll outline the best tools to use based on your KPIs.

One of the most useful tools out there is Google Analytics, as this can be used to measure a huge range of metrics. You may or may not already have this set-up, if not then you should it’s straightforward and provides a wealth of information.

Google Analytics

Another important way to measure website metrics is through your CRM (Customer Relationship Management). There are a number of platforms you can use for this such as Zoho or Microsoft Dynamics, or you can even create your own CRM if you have the resources to do so. After this, you might also use ATSs (Application Tracking Systems) or usability testing tools such as Optimizely.

Source: www.optimizely.com

There are also some much simpler ways you can measure the performance of your website. You can use online surveys such as Survey Gizmo, to ask your customers or users for feedback. You can also use basic platforms such as Microsoft Excel for logging and analysing data.

Survey Gizmo
Source:uk.pcmag.com

This is a very brief introduction to these platforms, but if you’re unsure which tools are best for your business there are a number of guides out there which outline the best services to suit your needs. If you’re unsure how to use these tools you can take online courses which will guide you through, for example there are a number of great Google Analytics training courses online. You can also ask for training from the service provider.

What to measure and how best to do it

In this section we’ll look at what metrics to measure based on the different KPIs that your business might be focusing on. It’s so important that you don’t waste your time focusing on shallow or weak metrics that really have no impact on the success of your business.

What we mean by this is that it’s senseless stressing about traffic and/or followers, if none of this helps you increase your conversion rates. Below we’ll look at each KPI individually outlining which metrics are best for tracking the performance of your website and why you need to invest time in monitoring your site in this way.

  1. KPI: Generate more high-quality leads

It’s all well and good driving traffic to your site and creating potential leads, but if these are what we call ‘low quality leads’ that are unlikely to convert to an actual sale or positive interaction then you could be wasting your time. Instead, using your chosen CRM you can track the quality of leads you’re driving to the site and keep track of how many high-quality visitors you have.

Then, using marketing techniques you can work to improve the quality of these leads, ultimately resulting in a more effective website which is actually helping to drive your business forward.

  1. KPI: Increase brand awareness

If increasing brand awareness is important to you, there are a number of metrics you can use to monitor this. Firstly, there’s a lot you can learn from Google Analytics about whether or not people are engaging with your brand. Look at average time on page, particularly if you have a blog or share useful content online. From these metrics you can determine if people are reading it and getting real value from it.

Another thing you can do is put out a survey to both existing and prospective visitors asking about your brand. Using sites like Survey Monkey you can find out how much people know about your company, what they think of your branding and whether they’ve ever purchased your goods or service before. From this you can decide if you need to update your site or give your branding a makeover.

  1. KPI: Generate more sales

Are you hoping to boost your revenue through your site? When it comes to monitoring sales made through your website, Google Analytics is going to be your best friend. Use this to look at E-commerce, revenue, completed goals, product performance and average orders. Armed with this knowledge you’ll be able to better understand whether your website is effective for making sales and this can help you to increase conversion rates. It can also push you to update your site if you’re not generating the sales you need.

  1. KPI: Improve conversion rates

Conversion rates are when visitors to your site take the desired action you’ve set out for them, be that signing up to your newsletter, filling in a contact forms so you can reach out to them or purchasing your goods or services. In order to monitor conversion rates, you’ll need to use Google Analytics to analyse visitors, traffic and most importantly, your goal rate.

This allows you to look at how many visitors actually convert to a sale or complete your desired action. Once you know this you can begin looking into why some customers leave the site or fill their basket but don’t make a final purchase. Armed with this information you can make changes to help your site perform better.

  1. KPI: Improve customer satisfaction levels

Customer satisfaction is the key to a successful business. And one of the best ways to measure the performance of your website, and to work out how you can improve it for your customers, is simply to ask them. Using survey tools, you can ask your visitors what they do and don’t like about the site and put real changes in place. This can be one of the most effective ways of improving customer satisfaction levels because you are taking their feedback on board directly and making the changes they want to see.

  1. KPI: Improve web content

Another one of your key priorities may be generally improving the content on your website and blog (if you have a blog connected to your site). When it comes to monitoring how your website is performing in regard to your content, you have a few options. Google Analytics can be helpful for looking at bounce rates and how long people are spending on your pages. If it’s not long this could be an indicator that your content isn’t good enough.

You could also send out a survey to ask customers/visitors what they’d like to see on your website. This way you can create content that offers real value to them. Finally, you can invest in usability testing tools to find out whether people are engaging with your web content, what is popular and if there’s any content that gets more views than others. Great content is crucial for a successful website and business, so it’s best to measure your performance on this front and ensure all web copy is up to scratch.

  1. KPI: Reduce time to complete tasks

In today’s world we’re used to everything being almost instant. Because of this people don’t like to wait too long for pages to load and they don’t want a difficult and time-consuming journey when trying to use a website. This means if it takes too long for them to complete the desired action then they’re likely to leave your site.

One important part of monitoring the performance of your website is making sure that your visitors aren’t kept waiting. You can do this by using Google Analytics to look at time on page or bounce rates. You can also make the most of usability testing tools to record user sessions. This can help you work on reducing the time it takes visitors to complete tasks on your website.

In summary

There is certainly a lot to take in when it comes to effectively measuring the performance of your website. You need to make sure you’re focusing on the right metrics and that these reflect your KPIs, so you’re better able to improve the performance of your site. You also want to make sure it is as user friendly as possible and that visitors trust your website and want to engage with your brand. But again, you need to choose the right metrics to be able to do this.

In this guide we’ve outlined some of the best ways to measure the performance of your website based on some of the most common KPIs. It’s vital that you’re careful not to fall into the trap of tracking weak metrics that won’t help you to achieve your overall business goals. Using the examples above as guidelines, you can understand how to best analyse and measure the data and performance of your website.

 

How To Create A Persona Character For Your Business

In today’s technological world, data is becoming increasingly important to businesses. In fact, in recent years data has actually become more valuable than oil, making it the most sought-after resource there is. The job of analysts and marketers is to use this abundance of data to be able to target the right people and ensure their message is reaching the right audience. This is mostly achieved through adverts and other online content.

But with so much data already out there, and with new technologies and platforms emerging all the time, it’s becoming increasingly difficult and costly to reach your target audience. The internet is a crowded place and consumers are constantly being bombarded with information. As such, one of the strategies that many businesses are implementing is that of buyer personas. This allows them to get better insights into their audience in the hope of getting their message in front of the right people and increasing revenue and sales.

But what exactly are buyer personas and how can you use them in your business? Our comprehensive guide below is going to look at the definition of a buyer persona and explain why they are so important. We also explain how you can create your own and use them to help drive your business forward.

What is a persona character and why are they so important to your business?

Many industry experts have tried to put together a succinct definition of a buyer persona, but with so much importance placed on what is essentially a fictional character, this does require a bit of explaining…

Perhaps one of the simplest explanations was given by the team at HubSpot, who define a buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s based on market research, actual data about your existing customers, and a few (educated) assumptions”. The persona is described as ‘semi-fictional’ because although the character you create will be made up, it is based on data from real people.

Taking our understanding to the next level then, each persona you create (and yes, businesses can have more than one buyer persona) is based on the background, needs, objectives and goals of your target customers. In order to be able to use your personas effectively, they need to be modelled around the behaviour, thoughts and buyer decisions of your target audience – this helps you to target them effectively with your marketing strategies.

So what is the importance of these personas?

Put simply they help you to understand your audience so you can relate to them. This makes it easier for you to market your products or services towards them. You do so by taking into consideration their daily needs, any challenges they may be faced with or any issues that you can help them to solve.

By using data to map out trends, look for patterns in their behaviour and pull together a list of similarities, you can create a generic character representation of your audience, no matter how niche. Having a strong understanding of this buyer persona then allows you to empathise with them and show them that you understand their needs and wants. This means you can adjust your messaging, advertising and content accordingly to appeal to them and offer real value to their lives. This will ensure they continue to engage with your brand.

In summary

Let’s quickly recap on what we know about buyer personas and why so much value is placed on defining them for your business. They are semi-fictional character representations of your target audience, created by analysing data to understand their consumer habits, behaviours, motivations and goals. By collecting this data and creating these characters businesses are able to target their audience with the right messaging, adverts, content and even have a better understanding of where to target them. This is the reason that creating these buyer personas is so important and beneficial for businesses and their marketing teams.

Creating your buyer personas

Creating your buyer personas doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, patience, a lot of research and thought. You need to be able to analyse your customers based on data and educated guess work, to construct the fictional character of your buyer persona. This needs to be a very methodical process and there are lots of elements involved. Below we’ll go into detail about what you need to know, how to gather the information and subsequently, how to create your buyer personas from this information.

What you need to know

In order to begin collecting your data there are several questions you need to ask if you hope to make the most of this information. Below we’ll look at the sorts of things you need to know about prospective and existing customers, some of these are optional while others are more crucial to your research.

  • Industry: What industry do they work in? How long have they been in the industry? What is their job title?
  • Location: Where do they live?
  • Challenges: What challenges do they face on a regular basis? How do they overcome these?
  • Demographics: If appropriate ask their age, gender, marital status and if they have children
  • Shopping preferences: Where do they shop e.g. online? What was their most recent purchase? How do they talk to retailers or vendors if they have a problem or query? Do they research retailers before buying?
  • Education: What level of education do they have? What did they study? What are their qualifications?
  • Goals: What are their aspirations? What motivates them?
  • Activities: Have they got any hobbies? Where do they go in their spare time? What publications do they read?
Why is this important?

Asking these questions helps you to ascertain the demographics of your target audience, any common problems they face, how they prefer to shop and what motivates them on a daily basis. It’s important to gather as much information as you can because this helps you to create a more accurate buyer persona, which in turn helps you to better target your audience. Below we’ll look at how you can gather the data you need and how you can turn this into a persona.

Conducting your research and analysing data

There is no such thing as too much data when it comes to creating your buyer personas, and there’s number of ways you can gather the information you need. The methods you choose will depend on your business and what data you already have, but below is a list of ways you can gather this crucial information.

Interviews/surveys

Whether you choose to conduct face-to-face interviews or send out online surveys that can be completed from anywhere, it’s a good idea to quiz your existing and prospective customers. There are several platforms out there that allow you to create online surveys, and you can offer incentives to convince more people to take part. Alternatively, you can reach out to your network or post ads on social media and other sites looking for interviewees. Again, you might want to incentivise this and be clear that it is not a sales pitch. This will help you find a bigger focus group to interview.

Online forms

You can use online forms to capture data quickly and easily. For example, you might ask customers to sign up to your newsletter, at which time you ask them a few questions about themselves. You could also have a pop-up window on your site which invites visitors to answer a few quick questions. You may want to incentivise this as well to get more people filling in the form, for example offering a 10% discount if they answer some questions.

Phone calls

Depending on the nature of your business you could spend time making calls to existing and prospective customers/clients. This can take a bit longer and requires you to have the contact information of a lot of people. But speaking over the phone can be really beneficial for getting more in-depth information.

Analytics

It’s possible that you already have data from your websites. For example, if your company uses Google Analytics, you’ll be able to gain information such as the location of your customers and those visiting your website. You can also use the built-in analytics tools on a number of social media platforms to find out when most people are engaging with your brand, where they are based and how old they are. There are a number of useful analytics tools out there that you can use to help you build a better picture of your audience.

Google Analytics Map
Source: Google, ‘Analytics Locations Map
Creating your personas from the data

Once you’ve spent the time gathering as much data as you can, however you decide to do it, you need to make sense of the information you’ve collected. At this stage you’ll have a lot of information that you need to deal with. So to get started refer back to the original questions you asked yourself before you began your data collection and this will help you to start recognising patterns or trends.

For example, if you notice that most of your customers are males from London who work in the digital and media industries, this is your starting place for creating your persona. You can then drill down further looking at their age, family status, their key challenges and how they choose to shop. The more information you have the more you can add to your character.

That said, handling this much data can be overwhelming and sometimes it can be tricky to get started. To make things simpler, there are a number of downloadable templates out there that you can use to help you make sense of the data and create your personas.

Buyer Persona Template
Source: slidemodel.com

What’s more, some businesses even choose to have a digital image made up as a visual representation of their buyer. This can be really helpful when picturing your target audience and using this information to tailor your messaging and content towards them. It’s possible that you’ll notice a number of patterns, leading to the creation of more than one persona.

What can I do with my persona?

Now that you’ve invested your time and resources into creating your buyer personas, it’s time to put them to good use! There are a number of ways you can use your personas to help drive your business forward, build your brand and increase your revenue. These are outlined below.

Creating the right messaging

Your company website, logo, slogan, mission statement and advertising all need to carry the same message. This is where your buyer persona comes in. You can use this to help you create the right message that resonates with your customers and target audience. It’s crucial that you get this right as soon as possible if you hope to take your business to the next level.

Target your ads

Having a strong idea of who your customers are will help you to target them in the right places. For example, if you know where they spend their free time you can target them there, if you know how they spend their time online you can choose targeted adverts for those particular sites. Similarly, if you know how they get to and from work or where they do their shopping you can target them on their commute or in the supermarket. Armed with your buyer personas you can tailor your advertising to ensure it reaches the maximum number of people.

Google Targeted Ads
Source: Google, ‘Display Ads’
Adjust your content

By understanding the challenges of your buyers, you can create content that will add real value to their lives. This could be by the way of advice articles or blog posts. Using your personas, you can also tailor your social media content, the articles or news you share, and your messaging to appeal to your target audience.

Conclusion

As you can see, creating buyer personas takes time and careful thought. To get started spend time collecting as much data as you can and analyse your findings to identify your target audience. After creating your persona, you can use them to effectively tailor your advertising and content to appeal to your target audience. This will help you to increase sales of your good or services, as well as building your brand.

Want to find out more about how you can take your online marketing to the next level and get your website in front of those who really matter? Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help.

Startup Marketing Budget – Where To Focus

How you market your startup can make or break your business. After all, how will people purchase your goods or services if they don’t even know you exist! But successful marketing is no mean feat, especially in the early days when you may have a smaller budget to play with. Therefore, you need to make sure that you’re spreading your marketing budget effectively to ensure the best results.

But where do you start? It’s unsurprising to learn that many startups cite budgeting their marketing efforts as one of the hardest parts of starting their business. With so many options out there, which should you prioritise? In order to put together the best marketing strategy you’ll want to split your budget between a number of tactics and you’ll need to make sure that you’re analysing the results in order to see which is most effective.

To help you focus your budget effectively, our guide below will look at some of the top marketing strategies for businesses and why these could be the most beneficial to your startup.

Set yourself goals

Before you begin doling out your budget, you first need to set your business goals. This will help you to decide on the most effective marketing strategies needed to achieve them. Spend some time considering whether you’re trying to build an email list, grow your social media following, build an online presence or rank highly on search engines (side note: in the end you’ll want to be doing all these things!).

Once you have a good understanding of what your main goals are, you’ll be able to better understand the best tactics to use and the best way to analyse the results. Here are some of the most effective and important marketing strategies for startups.

Produce great content

One of the best ways to build your brand and market your business effectively is by creating and sharing great content online. As such, part of your budget needs to be dedicated to doing so. This can be done by way of blog posts, opinion articles, whitepapers and any other form of content you can share over the internet. In order to engage your target audience you should create content which offers tips and advice, share updates from your business and provide them with something that benefits them in some way. This will make them more likely to engage with your brand and share your content with their connections.

Utilise SEO

A huge part of producing great content is optimising it for SEO to ensure that it’s reaching your target audience. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) allows consumers to find you online when they aren’t directly aware of your brand or company name.

This makes SEO arguably the most important marketing strategy, so you’ll want to kick-start your efforts early. Otherwise you risk facing potential problems and a lot of work further down the line. You can start simply by ensuring all your content (including your company website and/or blog) use the right keywords. Make sure these are related to the topics and search terms your potential customers will be searching for. You should always have SEO in mind at each step of your online marketing strategy as it really can drive traffic to your site and increase sales.

What’s more, as you’ll be spending a portion of your budget on your SEO efforts, you want to make sure these will yield real results. A trap a number of new business owners fall into is trying to to trick the search engines with out of date or spammy tactics. All this is going to achieve is to cause you trouble in the long run. Instead it’s best to invest in a good solid SEO strategy from the start, so you can build a strong and organic online presence.

Get on social media

In the earlier stages of your business, using social media as a key marketing strategy can be very budget-friendly. After all, there are so many ways you can utilise your platforms for little to no money. When you’re starting out it’s best to select one platform to be your core focus and put all your efforts into building a good following on there.

Choose the platform that is most suited to your industry be that Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also opt to have one or two other accounts to share your content on, but these should take far less of your attention until you have mastered your chosen platform. There are a number of ways you can use social media for free, or as things pick up you might choose to set aside some of your budget for paid-for posts or advertising. These can be very effective, but they are not totally necessary when you’re first starting up.

Set up an email marketing campaign

Email marketing can be another great way to reach your target audience and generate leads for your startup. But how do you get started? There are a number of affordable (and sometimes even free) programmes out there that can help you to manage your email campaigns, so it’s a good idea to research which is going to be the best option for your business.

Through your website and social media you can encourage potential or existing customers to sign up to your mailing list. This allows you to send them targeted emails or promotions in order to drive leads and make more sales.

Don’t forget offline marketing

It’s undeniable that online marketing has taken the world by storm in recent years, causing many businesses to reduce their offline budgets. However, there is still a lot to be said for offline advertising efforts and there are a number of ways you can set aside some of your budget to market your startup in this way.

You might want to attend industry events, or perhaps smaller local events if you haven’t got a huge budget behind you. You could also have some physical adverts or marketing materials (such as leaflets) made up to give out at events or to share around the local area. If you’re unsure where to place these marketing materials, consider where your target audience are most likely to frequent. For example, are you targeting gym-goers, busy mums or career-driven millennial’s? This will help you find the best placement for your offline advertising.

So there you have it, some food for thought for how best to allocate your startup’s marketing budget. If you want to set a solid SEO strategy in place for your startup get in touch with us and we’ll help you get the ball rolling.

Canonical URLs: A Quick & Easy Guide

If you’re reading this then you are probably wondering what exactly canonical URLs are and why they are important for SEO. It’s quite simple really, if you have 2 pages with the same or very similar content the canonical URL is the one that you want the search engines to show users and the rel=“canonical” code is just a means of telling the search engines that.

For example, we often see that there are several versions of a website’s homepage i.e.

www.thisisanexample.com

thisisanexample.com

www.thisisanexample.com/index.html

A canonical URL is the one that you tell Google (and the other, let’s face it, less important search engines) is the correct, standard, single, original, established and or the most relevant URL.

Here is an example of rel =”canonical” in action:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.thisisanexample.com>

You should add this piece of code to the head section of each of the non-canonical versions of the URL (the pages that you don’t want users being brought to).

Product Pages

Canoncial URLs are particularly useful if you have an ecommerce website with lots of products. The product pages may have different urls depending on the path a user takes on your website to find it and that’s where our old friend rel=“canonical” is there to help. A potential duplicate content issue can be avoided by simply telling the search engines to ignore page A and regard page B as the preferred one.

Why Are They So Important?

Google was the first search engine that made this tag known to webmasters. The primary reason for it was because it is very difficult for a search engine to determine which is the more relevant and authoritive of two different URLs that contain the same content.

When content is available in two different URLs, search engines view it as duplicate content. Since search engines have made it very clear that they do not want duplicate content, a web page that copies another’s content can be devalued, even if it’s on the same website. Canonical tags, in this sense, have contributed a lot to SEO because they have made it much easier for search engines to index the right piece of content that the webmaster wants their audience to find.

There are 2 reasons why canonical tags are important:

  1. It resolves any potential duplicate content issues
  2. It improves your user experience as visitors to the website will be shown the preferred page

In terms of the search engines it makes it much easier for the indexing of your website, which in turn will make it easier for you to start building authority on the chosen URL. The first rule of authority building is making sure that each variation of the page redirects to the canonical URL.

Although it isn’t the ranking factor that it once was, having keyword rich URLs is still a recommended best practice for SEO but only if it makes sense to do so. A handy tip for things like that is to look at it from the point of view of a user; will it help them to include keywords in the URL?

If you have a website with many pages it’s important that you have a descriptive URL for each page. When you apply canonical URLs in your website, keep in mind that internal links are valuable signals. All your links should be pointing to URLs labelled as canonical in the head tags to avoid sending conflicting messages to the search engines. You can use redirects to solve potential duplicate content issues but nominating a canonical url is pretty pain free and it allows you to keep the less important pages on your site.

Brad Millar gives a good analysis of the pros and cons of 301 redirects vs canonical and the take away from it is that although there are many cases in which a 301 redirect is the preferred method, canonical is the most sensible choice in instances where you have product pages or if there are multiple URLs for the same piece on content.