SEO for a new website, where do I start?

A new website SEO should never be built unless the business foundations have been addressed first.

Any or marketing activity aimed to promote a website should always have the above statement addressed first. After that, an SEO strategy will target both the search engine and the business ideal audience.

A new website SEO – Indexability & Crawlability

By default, Google can crawl and index any site. To keep an eye on website errors, register your website to Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics will track the incoming traffic and website activities, while Google Web Console will report any crawling and indexing errors.

A new website SEO – Speed & Device Compatibility

According to recent Google Ranking Guidelines, the website should be loading fast (less than 5-7 seconds) and compatible on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile.)

Analyse your site speed on PageSpeed Insights and aim for (at least) a 70% score. This software also analyses the site’s compatibility on both desktop and mobile devices. Even in this case aim for a 70% score.

A new website SEO – Meta-tags & Visibility

To address both the search engine and audience visibility, meta-tags should be provided. Meta-tags as help the crawling spiders index your site more quickly while encouraging users to select your site over your competitors when the site appears in SERP.

How to craft great Meta-tags: Title and Description

First, avoid unrelated or over the top titles and description. They are scored low by search engines and might even look like click baits to potential users. Instead, craft a title that is truthful to the page’s identity. And use the meta-description to support the meta-title statement.

Second, the landing page should answer the question by displaying expertise, knowledge and authority or E-A-T. Wondering if your page is E-A-Ty enough? Do a quick Google search for page related keywords. Click on the first SERP result. Is the page written with a higher level of expertise and knowledge? Is the website or author an authority? If the answer is no, consider tailoring your page for higher user experience by including better graphics elements (background, text colour, font size) and/or additional content elements (longer text, higher image quality, video tutorial, supportive quotes and references, relevant links.)

Budget & SEO Tools

In terms of budget, I employ scalability. First, I search for free options. Only when a free option is not available or sufficient for achieving the expected result, I scale up to a paid one. So, I would encourage any new business to explore free options first – as most of them can accommodate small businesses. Only when such an option becomes insufficient, consider upgrading to the next available option.

New-website-SEO-Freemium-example
Slack employs a freemium business plan. Consider upgrading to any plan only when the cheaper option is not enough to satisfy business requirements.

Google Analytics & Google Search Console

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are mandatory for any online enterprises. On Google Analytics, even an unskilled marketer can keep track of incoming traffic. Go to the main menu and click on Acquisition. From the new menu click on All Traffic and then on All Channels. A graph and table will load showing the incoming traffic in the selected time period (one week by default).

Google search console will get notified when something goes wrong, such as indexing issues or incurring penalties.

Yoast & SEO optimisation software

Yoast SEO can be installed for free on WordPress. It helps to identify common readability and SEO issues. Again, as anything else described in this blog, Yoast SEO is a guideline. The software doesn’t keep into consideration the topic complexity or the technical knowledge of your audience.

Keywords tools

Personally, I’m not a fan of keyword tools. If you want to understand the type of keywords your customers will look for, talk to them. No keyword planner will ever be better than your customer. My strongest recommendation would be to talk to your sales team, clients, and anyone who might be your ideal customer. If you are just starting out, ask family and friends, explore social media channels, or any “ask a question” platform such as Quora or Reddit.

Link Building & Domain Authority

Having spammy links pointing from and to your site doesn’t affect your ranking score. However, if you are worried about backlinks, have a backlink audit once a month. Ahrefs or any other (free) backlink checker are good options to identify spammy sites pointing to your site.

Keep up with your technical SEO

Finally, I would recommend an SEO audit software such as BeamUsUp or Screaming Frog. These plugins can crawl any sites and report SEO issues such as 404 pages, missing or duplicated meta-data, slow responses, or non-crawlable pages. Screaming Frog is free up to 500 pages – that should satisfy the majority of small businesses.



Content Strategy: a simple plan you can follow starting today!

As die-hard marketers, we all know the importance of looking at data to come up with a strategy that will bring results in line with business objectives.

However, looking at historical data might be overwhelming and we can easily miss important information or misinterpret data.

Personally, I like to have a to-do list that helps me go to each stage of developing a content strategy.

Here is my checklist for creating and measuring the success of my content strategy:

1- Content audit

Content identity – basic questions

To begin with, I start looking at the content in its entirety. Digital content should easily answer these questions:

  1. Who was the target audience for this post/page?
  2. What was the post/page about? Was it in line with the target audience?
  3. Does the content match the user’s intent?
  4. Does the page/post answer the user’s question?
  5. Was the post/page shared and amplified?
  6. Does the page satisfies basic SEO scores?
    1. Meta-tags have been added
    2. Images and videos are present for a media-rich experience
    3. URL links point to internal and external resources
    4. The text legth is enough to provide a high-quality answer
    5. The headline is clear, catchy and on-topic

SEO Infographics to download

Content goals – What the business wants to achieve

Then, I consider the goal each piece of content aims to achive.

  • Top of the funnel goal – Brand discovery/awareness.

In this instance the prospective user is unfamiliar with the brand and its product offering. This is the discovery phase, when users familiarise themselves with the brand and start building a connection. During this phase a brand needs to provide enough value to make the customer trust the brand – a legitimate business- and its product offering. Some ways to connect with their potential customers, include producing content that:

    • Entertains and inform – but still in line with the brand identity
    • Shows the brand’s expertise – Leader in their industry
    • Satisfies the social media presence – Creates a social response

Content Strategy - Lead-gen example from Netaporter
An example of content marketing from the luxury online store Netaporter. The article combines street-style photos with an editorial issue and a product list.

  • Middle of the funnel goal – Turn visitors into leads, the nurturing stage.

At this stage the user has interacted with your brand and build a sense of trust. But not enough to turn the user into a customer. Independently from the industry you are operating, you can showcase your expertise by producing content such as:

    • White papers – guides, articles, editorials, product notes
    • Media – webinars, podcasts, courses, videos, tutorials
    • Checklists – Infographics, excel sheets, product lists

These can be uploaded as gated content in exchange for an email address) or shared only with people who subscribed to the newsletter. As this is a nuurtuing phase, this type of content should be shared only with users that bypassed the discovery phase.

Content Strategy - Nurturing
Appboy shows its expertise in mobile marketing by offering a free ebook to get anyone mobile-ready.

  • Bottom of the funnel – Turn marketing leads into customers.

Now, we need to turn these nurtured leads into customers. At this stage, these potential customers might be already engaging with your customer support team, your sales executives or your live-chat. Are all these human and automated teams ready to answer all your potential customers enquiries?

In terms of content, consider generating flyers, brochures, and emails that satisfy the users questions. Any roadblock to purchase should be addressed at this stage.

Want to make the entire process easier? What about a friendly-to-use QandA page?

Content Strategy - Conversion optimisation
Example of McDonalds QandA page that addresses common questions from customers.

2- Engagement metrics

The content strategy also needs Engagement metrics or KPIs identify any roadblocks the customer might find along their journey from discovery to purchase.

  • The discovery phase

Does the content provided during the discovery phase satisfy the user needs? In short, did the user consume the content? In this case KPIs would be:

    1. The number of clicks
    2. The percentage of page scrolled
    3. The time spent watching a video
    4. The bounce rate or number of exits
  • The nurturing phase

Does the content provided during the nurturing phase satisfy the user queries? In short, did the user strengthen their bound with the brand? In this case KPIs would be:

    1. Returning users
    2. Frequency  and Recency of interactions
  • The conversion phase

Does the content provided during the awareness and nurturing phase turn visitors into customers? In short, did the marketing strategy help generating sales? In this case KPIs would be:

    1. Number of marketing qualified sales
    2. Number of sales

3- Business outcomes

Finally, what is the business result? First, consider how many customers consumed the content before making a purchase. And if the content helped to shorten the purchasing journey, increase the average order value and turn occasional customers into brand ambassadors.

Simply compare orders from customers who were exposed to the content versus orders coming from users that were not brought in by the content marketing strategy.

Questions?

For any questions regarding this blog, my services or freelance work, feel free to contact me.

Local SEO Can Be Simple – Six Tips Any Business Owner Could Follow Today!

In today’s world, everyone is online. From smartphones to laptops, we are constantly connected. We work, have fun, build relationships and learn new skills on our devices.

With the rise of machine learning and personal assistants, we have also become accustomed to type more complex queries among which the “near me” stands as one of the most popular. From restaurants to gyms, everyone is searching for a business on the go.

If you are a business owner looking for new ways to grow your business, targeting the local “near me” search is a powerful tool for driving more customers into your brick-and-mortar store.

But how does this translate into local search and local SEO?

Over the years, Google has made information more and more available to users; from personalized search results to various types of featured snippets. These rich answer boxes have reduced the need for consumers to click through to websites to get the information they need.

For local businesses, information is displayed in a knowledge panel called “local snap pack” which is controlled by Google My Business (GMB). When users are looking for a store, Google displays the top three best results in a framed box on top of the page. Due to its increased visibility, appearing in the local snap pack means more clients for the featured businesses.

Below are some local SEO tips that every business owner could apply today to drive more organic traffic and get displayed in the local snap pack (even without any prior marketing knowledge).

1. Take a N-A-P (Name, Address, Phone Number)

The first step any local business should do to impact its local SEO ranking is to claim and optimize its Google My Business (GMB) page. This tactic achieves a two-fold result: it gives Google a clear understanding of business and helps customers select a store at the expenses of its competitors.

Now, to increase local ranking, the information must accurate and consistent across all channels. This is why periodic checks should be made to ensure the information is up-to-date; it will increase Google’s confidence in the business and so the customers’.

So, if you haven’t claimed your GMB page, do it today! Don’t forget to include opening hours and driving directions included (as recommended by GMB Guidelines).

2. Let customers review your business

Let’s be honest here, who hasn’t checked online reviews before making a purchase or visiting a business? We all know that a positive review can often be the deciding factor.

Positive reviews have become such a powerful tool for attracting new customers (see data), that Google has been including reviews as a determining factor to the credibility of a business (see data and GMB Help Page).

But how can you convince people to review your business? Simply offer a small discount or gift in exchange for one. A small token of appreciation is nothing compared to the impact that a positive review can make to your business.

Someone left a negative one? Reply to the customer, offer to make it up for them. Once you have acted, you don’t need to do anything else. People will appreciate your commitment and discard the opinion of unreasonable people.

3. Showcase your local commitment

In addition to their online presence, many store owners connect locally with like-minded businesses, participate and sponsor local events. This proactive approach not only increases brand awareness in the community but also local ranking as upcoming events can be displayed on GMB pages.

Therefore, promoting local events is an effective way to show your dedication to your community and differentiate yourself from the competition. As Google strives to give users the most up to date information (Google trends, anyone?) showcasing an upcoming event could help your business being featured in the local pack.

4. Make GMB an extension of your website

GMB and your business website should work in sync as a single entity. One way to do this is to update both sites at the same time. This step is essential for keeping brand consistency and helping both Google and your customers to easily identify your business, no matter the site they are visiting (some ideas can be found here).

Therefore, if you are updating your website, I recommend updating your GMB page as well (or vice-versa). Such changes could include key business information such as opening hours or more branding-related updates such as photo galleries.

5. Be better than your competitors

Despite applying local SEO best practice, businesses might fail to rank high enough to be displayed in Google’s “local snap pack”.

If you find that your business doesn’t get displayed in the local pack when searching for business related queries, browse the websites that made the cut. Is their website easy to navigate? Does it load faster? Does it allow online booking? These are a few questions you might ask when analyzing a competitor’s website. For more ideas, check section 2 of this blog post.

6. Invest in link-building

A well-established business shows trust and authority. Online this means receiving inbound links from reputable, legitimate sites. Receiving links from high-quality websites is one of the most efficient ways to gain domain authority and rank higher on Google’s SERPs (high-quality is key here).

From a business point of view, building meaningful relationships is one of the most efficient ways to attract links. People will organically link back to your site when you provide value. However, there’s nothing wrong in asking another business for an inbound link. An easy way would be to write a high-quality blog post for another business’ site which contains hyperlinks pointing to your site.

If you implement these six local SEO tips, your business will definitely see a boost in local search ranking. And hopefully, a place in the “local snap pack”.

Who else wants to set up Google UTM tags for Pardot tracking?

As a digital analyst who knows the importance of efficiently recording and reporting marketing activities, there are moments where you feel overwhelmed.

You know that tracking is at the core of every marketing strategy (Avinash Kaushik anyone?), but at the same time, you are often full of doubts. Does this product update need a brand new campaign? Does this Facebook update belongs to the Social Media Campaign or the Product Launch Campaign? Possibilities are endless, your patience…a little less.

The frustration that I just described can become even more unbearable when results are expected to happen fast. Perhaps, when you joined a new company and want to impress your senior manager or when you want to pitch a new client. Or when you realized your predecessor never bothered tracking anything or that their tracking strategy took inspiration from the Memento plot!

Unfortunately, there is no choice, but taking a deep breath and start putting reason into the digital madness.

Luckily for you, I have already slain the dragon, and I’m here to show you how you can do the same. In few easily repeatable steps, you’ll always be able to track any campaign and effectively report your results to any client, manager or stakeholder.

Tracking and reporting will never be the same again.

Step 1: Set up your campaign structure

Independently from the business, you will run a certain number of marketing campaigns throughout the year. Those might include:

  • Product launch [to introduce a new product to the market]
  • Newsletter [to communicate to your clients]
  • Seasonal promotion [offers and discounts]
  • Product promotion [to promote a product that is not selling]
  • Events and workshops

I would recommend having a brainstorm at the beginning of each financial year, to determine how many types of campaigns the team will be running. To come up with ideas, I would suggest to include questions such as:

  • Will we be running discount & promotions?
  • Will we be launching new products?
  • Will we be attending social events?
  • Will we be running affiliate programs?

Continue reading Who else wants to set up Google UTM tags for Pardot tracking?

Are your webpages grabbing visitors’ attention?

Generate more traffic. Increase user engagement. Generate more leads. Repeat.

If you are like me someone that deals with digital marketing, SEO and website development on a daily basis, you are most likely very much familiar with the above mantra.

However, despite promising ourselves to dedicate an equal amount of time to each phase (traffic-engagement-leads) we end up spending most of our time and energies in generating organic, high value traffic. As we feel that our number one priority is to bring more people to our website, we dedicate most of our efforts to generate witty email campaigns, unmissable special offers, strategic Google Adverts, engaging social media updates and white-hat SEO implementations.

But what about the journey of a user from first-time visitor to potential customer? Are we sure that everything is so perfectly optimized that we can just ignore that phase between first visit and final purchase? Are we totally sure we are not missing out on something? Maybe something as vital as more customers?

Let’s find out…

First thing first: Google Analytics

As always Google Analytics should be our first stop. GA is packed with great insights just waiting to be discovered. In this specific case, we are interested to discover what is the abandon rate of our site.

Let’s look at our most visited pages. Are people visiting other pages or do they exit from the same page? Are most of the people leaving when reaching a specific page?

If that is the case, we should consider the following questions…

1. Is our page visually appealing?

On the internet the competition is fierce. To win the battle for users’ attention, a site needs to stand out both in terms of content and style.

Good content should:

  1. Have a clear goal, stated in the title
  2. Be Clear, concise and accessible to the ideal user
  3. Be Educational, engaging and comprehensive
  4. Be unique (speak your mind and use your voice)
  5. Contain high quality images and high resolution videos as visual aids

Good style should:

  1. Present a clear title that stir emotions: be bold in bold!
  2. Contain a body text that is at least 16px and divided in paragraphs
  3. Present italic, bold and underlined words to help readers

2. Is the loading speed causing people to leave the site?

If a page takes too long to load, visitors might have already pressed the back time before the website page has even started appearing on their computer screen. To find out if the loading page is killing future leads, we need to run PageSpeed Insight test. If the final score is high enough (above 50/100 and highlighted in green), the site is good to go. If the final score turns out to be below 50/100 and highlighted in yellow or red, it is time to get busy. Luckily, the website gives suggestions of what should be implemented to load faster, from images and CSS minified to browse cache.

3. Are we suggesting users what to do next?

It might be that after visiting a page -even a good one- our users are not given a reason to stay. It is therefore our responsibility to give users a reason to stay by carefully implementing a call-to-action, or CTA. The idea is to turn passive users active. An example of great CTAs?

  • Ask users to leave a comment…yes, ask them!
  • Recommend users the benefits of watching a video or downloading a PDF
  • Encourage users to subscribe to a newsletter
  • Encourage users to visit more pages by adding hyperlinks

4. Could we take advantage of personalized CTAs?

The idea behind personalized CTAs is to create a call-to-action relevant to any stage of a customer’s journey; from first time visit to first time buyer. If someone just landed on our website and it is still in the process to evaluate our site, offering a free download could help turning an occasional visitor into a potential customer. Conversely, someone thinking already about purchasing could be more interested in contacting a customer support helpline or taking advantage of a first time purchase discount. Whatever your CTA consider using:

  1. A clear title that exemplifies what the benefit is about
  2. A subtitle that adds some extra clarification
  3. Visual aid to make your CTA appealing
  4. A button that encourages conversion

Is your page F-shaped?

According to a study conducted from the Norman Nielsen Group in 2006, people read a webpage in a manner that resembles a F-shaped pattern. People focus mostly on the top part of the page, scroll through the middle and skim the last section. By keeping this in mind, you can structure your page by positioning your key elements along the F-shape.

Add a sprinkle of self-promotion

Show people that your customers trust and love your brand. Add a touch of self-promotion by showing:

  • Logos of companies that benefited from your services
  • Testimonials in the form of feedback that vouch for the great experience
  • Awards and excellent reviews from your industry
  • Affiliations to show your business integrity
  • Social followings to show your niche’s leadership