If you’re blogging on a business website, you want to make the most return on your efforts. Here are 5 tips to help your blog posts or news items hit the mark.
Blogging on your business website can bring all kinds of benefits – especially to your bottom line – but getting going is easier said than done.
This post is for you if you’ve wondered whether you should blog, have been told you should, or if you’ve always intended to, but never got going.
If you have a website, chances are you get bombarded with emails from Search Engine Optimisation ‘specialists’ offering to get you onto page 1 of Google. But can they really help your site do better in web searches? We look at the truth behind the claims of the SEO email spammers.
We thought we would take three of them up on their offer of a free report and website analysis.
For the test we used a hobby site of ours, ApriliaFutura.co.uk. The site isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough and most importantly sits at the top of Google searches for lots of the appropriate search terms.
It also gets probably one email a week from an SEO company touting for business, so we didn’t have to wait long for them to come to us. In a previous blog post we covered how another of these spammed us without first doing their homework.
Can they really help your website?
Unsurprisingly each of the companies found a lot wrong with the site and offered to do lots of totally unnecessary work to put right problems that didn’t exist.
Their claims – and the true position – are posted here so that you won’t fall for them if someone tries to tell you this is what you need.
All three reports we received insisted there were no links anywhere on the web pointing at our website – they included a screenshot of a Google link search – i.e. the result of typing link:www.apriliafutura.co.uk into Google.
The truth about backlinks and SEO
This method does not display all links pointing to the site but it’s a great way to make people think they have none at all.
In fact only the owner of a website can see how many links point at it, and that’s through the Google Webmaster Tools account. Actually there are 2,593 links pointing at the site.
We pointed this out to one of the companies and they told us they were talking about ‘Google backlinks’, which are different from ordinary backlinks. There is, of course, no such thing.
It’s true that links pointing to your site are important and can help your site do better in searches – but they have to be from the right places. Above all they should be relevant to the subject matter and ideally from a site Google thinks is authoritative.
For years SEO companies have seized on this as a way of pushing sites to the top by posting links on all sorts of sites. For a long time it worked, but Google can now detect dodgy backlinks and downgrades or even black lists sites that use them.
Creating backlinks remains one of the favourite tactics of dodgy SEO companies, and if you use them you may well regret it.
2. Dmoz listing
All three of our reports (two with identical wording) insisted that getting a link from Dmoz was essential as Dmoz is the ‘most authoritative site by far’.
So what’s Dmoz? http://www.dmoz.org, also known as the Open Directory project, was an early attempt to put all of the web on a directory. But while it was important when the web was young, it’s not these days.
The truth about Dmoz and SEO
These days a link from Dmoz isn’t really worth any more than a link from many other sites. Today most sites aren’t listed on it, yet still do fine in searches. But it’s a great way for someone looking to do unnecessary SEO work to find fault with your site.
As Google engineer Matt Cutts puts it: “It used to be the case that people would have a check list of the links they really wanted to get. And it’s not that there’s something special or different about the Open Directory Project. It’s a very well known directory, but it’s not a requirement. It’s not the sort of thing where you have to get a link from Dmoz.”
More information on Dmoz listings and backlinks
Google Webmaster Help video: What role does being in Dmoz play in rankings (this video also covers the backlink: issue)
Note: Dmoz was closed in 2017 but we’re leaving it here because this still crops up in dodgy SEO emails.
3. Yahoo Directory/Yellow Pages listing
Two out of three claimed we needed links to our site from both of these online directories. One also mentioned Alexa, another directory site.
The truth about directory listings
All these directories are seen as authoritative but links from them are not essential to do well in searches. Again, it makes unnecessary work for our SEO companies. Getting links from these sites won’t make much difference, if any.
4. Reverse IP
Our site currently shares its IP address with many others sitting on the same server. Two out of three of our SEO companies suggested the site should have its own IP and claimed search engines prefer this.
The truth about shared IP addresses and SEO
In short, this is totally untrue. There are reasons why a dedicated IP is necessary for some site that we won’t go into here, but SEO is not one of them. It has absolutely no effect on search and never has.
This is another great way of creating demand for your services as the vast majority of websites are on shared hosting and therefore share their IP address with upwards of 1,000 other sites.
It’s easy enough to look up and sounds technical enough to fool the average business owner.
More information on shared IPs
Other dubious SEO claims
Generally all the reports did their best to mark the site down with false statements and subjective judgements – remember this is a website that scores in the top of the first page for hundreds of relevant search terms.
But they still managed to mark it down for quality of page content, a couple of errors in the code, keywords (which Google doesn’t even look at now) and even not having a live chat feature on the homepage of the site!
The interesting part came with the follow up email conversation where we asked one of the firms which search terms they would optimise the site for – something none of them had mentioned.
They came back with a list of terms most people wouldn’t use when looking for the information on the site, missing out on the most obvious ones, possibly because the site is already on page one for them!
How to pick a good SEO company
As we said at the beginning, if you own a website then you will have received emails from these SEO companies.
We know a few people who have fallen for them and ended up paying hundreds of pounds per month for no obvious benefit.
The site we had assessed is in the first page of dozens of Google searches because we followed some basic rules when building it – they are in Google’s SEO guide for everyone to see – and because it’s useful to the people it is aimed at, who helpfully post lots of links to it on social media. And because it’s relevant.
And here’s the key: Follow the basic rules, make your site relevant and useful and have some good links pointing to it and you won’t go far wrong.
There are plenty of good SEO companies to choose from, but most are too busy to send out masses of emails to random website owners.
A good company will ask you straight away which search terms you want your site to do well at, and tell you whether that is realistic. No-one will guarantee you a page 1 listing for any term you choose, especially if there is a lot of competition.
Search Engine Optimisation is a young industry and it seems there are plenty of companies ready to take advantage of changing requirements and confusion over what matters and what doesn’t.
Get your content right and the rest will follow
We mustn’t lose sight of the most important factor in search engine optimisation – content!
Good content trumps many of the factors our SEO companies picked on – and by good we mean relevant to the information searched for.
And in the race to get people to find our website we mustn’t forget one crucial fact: Getting people to the site should not be an aim in itself – it’s what happens when people get there that’s most important.
Google webmaster help video: How can good sites that don’t know SEO rank well?
Writing for the web is different from any other form of copywriting and needs special attention.
It’s not just a matter of taking your printed promotional material, grafting it onto your website and hoping it will do the job – because it won’t.
And going on at length about what you have to offer and expecting people will read every word will not work either.
Content marketers like to bang on about web copy that is ‘engaging’ and ‘grabs the reader’s attention’, but this is wishful thinking at best.
After all if your customers are on your website you already have their attention: The hard part is keeping it!
How to write website copy that works
So here are five tips to help you make the best of your business website. We’re not intending to cover everything here – just the basics of how to structure and lay out your website content.
1. Make your text easy to understand
Generally, people will arrive at your business website with a task in mind and want to know if you are the people to do it for them.
Also, most people do not sit and read web pages from top to bottom, savouring every word: They scan pages, eyes darting over the words looking for something that matches what they are looking for.
So your writing needs to be clear and concise, without complicated sentences with ambiguous meanings.
You also need to put the most important points at the top: If you keep people waiting to get to the point the chances are they won’t hang around long enough to find out.
Don’t try to be clever and throw in some puns or other ‘witty’ writing. That sort of thing can get old very quickly, but mainly doesn’t help get your message across.
Make it easy for people and they are more likely to stay around long enough to find out if you can help them.
2. Break up your text
Great big blocks of text are hard to scan and therefore hard to read on a website.
Everyone is time poor these days with a thousand different things competing for our attention. This makes us impatient and blocky text will be skipped over rather than read.
So you need to use short, succinct sentences and lots of paragraphs – ideally one sentence – and one idea – to a paragraph.
You’ll be amazed at how much easier a page is to read if it’s been split up properly.
You can also use headings (heading 1, 2, etc, not just bold text and bigger font size) to break things up, and if you use the right, relevant, words these actually help your page get found on search engines.
3. Go easy on the formatting
Another trap that people fall into is to try to emphasise different aspects in their text, but tests have shown the more you try and make something on a web page stand out, the more you end up hiding it!
Bold text, entire words in capital letters and random big text sizes can all be used to add emphasis, but once you start using them it’s difficult to stop.
If you find yourself doing this, then the chances are there is too much irrelevant stuff in your web page and you need to edit the copy down.
Formatting needs to be consistent and sparse. Don’t use italics (hard to read), underlining (easy to confuse with links), stick to a body text size and font and set heading sizes and use bold very, very sparingly.
4. Keep it short and stick to the point
Information overload normally goes hand in hand with trying to squeeze too much into a web page – it’s a very common problem on small business websites.
We often see business owners go into all kinds of detail their potential customers do not need to know. The end result is visitors are bombarded with too much information and end up taking in nothing.
If you want to take your car in to be fixed by a mechanic you don’t want to know what make of spanners he uses, or for that matter anything about his methods. You just need to know that he is competent to do the job and how much it’s likely to cost.
Yet many business websites are marred by the business going on at length about how they do things when potential customers do not need this information.
If you want to make it easy for your website visitors (and that’s the only way they will stay), keep it short, simple and stick to your essential information.
5. Read it – Then cut it! (Then read it again)
If you are expecting others to read your carefully crafted web copy the least you can do is read through it properly before you press the Publish button. Sadly this doesn’t happen.
Everything that goes on your business website should be read by at least two people first, to make sure it makes sense and doesn’t contain grammatical errors. A spell checker is also a must.
If you can’t get someone else to read your copy, then take a break – overnight at least is good – and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to read through copy that has been printed out.
At this point you should be reading with a view to cutting it down by up to a half. And once you’ve cut it you’ll need to read it again.
If this sounds extreme it isn’t – once you get into practice it’s amazing at how much you can lose and every word you remove will be helping to make your copy more concise – and above all more effective.
Concise, SCANNABLE and objective: How to Write for the Web – Neilsen Norman Group
How to write for the web: BBC News School Report
If you want to hide it, emphasize it: Gerry McGovern – New Thinking
Shropshire Tree Services has more than 25 years’ experience of providing professional tree surgery services in Shropshire, Wales and Cheshire.
The company chose Moghill to build its new website after speaking to us and several local and national web providers about their aims for the site and what they wanted it to achieve for the business.[caption id="attachment_1109" align="alignright" width="450"] Shropshire Tree Services website screenshot[/caption]
The aim of the project was to create a website that will build awareness of the company and its services, win new customers and make it easy for potential customers to get in touch.
What Moghill did
We got to know and understand the business and its services from the point of view of what customers would need to know and offered the company straightforward advice in plain English
Therefore we emphasised the company’s professionalism, experience and expertise and boiled down its services into easy to understand sections based on what potential customers may search the web for.
We were greatly helped by a large stock of photographs the company had taken during various projects, which who chose the best of to help illustrate how the company handles difficult projects, such as felling a large tree in sections, or completely removing a tree stump.
With a lot of other tree surgery sites in the Shropshire area we have built the site to perform well against the competition in web searches.
The site is to be a standard desktop website without a mobile version but still viewable on a phone. We have also provided email services, taking on an existing account, and two other domain names which now point at the new site.
View the website: www.shropshiretrees.co.uk
What the customer said
Gareth Stephens of Shropshire Tree Services said: “Moghill were not the first company we approached to build our website, I only wish they had been.
“The service we have received has been first class from the first meeting to the point where the website was ready to go live.
“The professional approach of both Pat and Fiona has been superb! They made us feel that our website was as important to them as it is to us.
“Communication has been excellent throughout the process and nothing has been too much trouble. There are many pitfalls when choosing a web design company and many companies will promise you the earth.
“Moghill have offered the benefit of their technological knowledge and expertise to build our website and I would not hesitate in recommending them. Their straightforward and hassle free approach made the process of getting a website up and running stress free.”[button link="https://www.moghill.co.uk//blog/category/case-studies/" bg_color="#ba2e24"]Back to website Case Studies index[/button]
We are specialists in using the WordPress content management system because it allows us to build great websites at an affordable price.[caption id="attachment_543" align="alignright" width="300"] We love it! And so should you.[/caption]
But we are also experts at getting the best out of WordPress for you and your business and many of our customers come to us with WordPress sites that have been sadly neglected.
We can fix that for you and give your a site a complete makeover using the system you already have.
WordPress is one of the most popular ways to build a website in the world – never mind Shropshire – and with good reason.
- It’s free to install with no licence fee to pay
- It’s future proof as it updates to keep up with the web – your site can grow with you
- It’s easy to extend and customise, meaning your site can do whatever you want it to
- Google loves WordPress and gives your site a strong SEO basis to build on
- WordPress lends itself to displaying on mobile phones, especially responsive sites
The possibilities with WordPress are endless. We can use it for:
- Blog-based sites
- Simple brochure sites to more advanced sites with hundreds of pages
- Web shops
- Directory sites
- Online learning sites
It keeps us honest!
Another factor is that WordPress does not tie you to a particular host or web design company.
That means that if you want to move to a new provider you don’t have to start from scratch with a new site.
We see that as a good thing because web companies like us have to pay more attention to customer service and not hold customers to ransome.
Moghill and WordPress
When we start to plan a new website, usually we only need to consider WordPress as our solution for how to build it.
We pride ourselves on not being geeks but in the case of WordPress we’ll make an exception: We love Wordpress!
But now we’ve got that out of the way we also work with Joomla and Magento! If we have to.
NRG Direct Mail had a WordPress website that had been built by another company several years before, but it did not address the needs of the company’s customers or the company itself.
It also emerged that the website was running an out of date – and vulnerable – version of WordPress and all its plug ins were also out of date and the site was not being backed up.[caption id="attachment_1048" align="alignright" width="450"] NRG Direct Mail’s new responsive design website[/caption]
The company had been considering running a Search Engine Optimisation campaign but we successfully argued that the same results could be achieved by
- Targeting the site better towards the needs of customers
- Making it more concise, focussed and to the point
- Implementing a new responsive design, which re-sizes itself to display better on mobile phones and tablet PCs, such as iPads.
What Moghill did
We set about overhauling the current website design, content and SEO completely: An illustration of what can be done within WordPress without changing the website platform.
NRG Direct Mail had already implemented Google Analytics statistics on their website, which meant we already had a wealth of statistical information to draw on about how people were using the website and finding it on web searches. This established that most visitors to the site were not new customers.[caption id="attachment_1051" align="alignright" width="450"] Original NRG Direct Mail website homepage[/caption]
We also looked at the major search terms appropriate for the company’s services and the competitors for those terms.
We interviewed staff about the number of enquiries received via the website and general customer response to it.
Finally we looked at the content and structure of the website as was and produced completely new content much better suited to customers and what they would be looking for.
We also added calls to action and quick contact forms which made it easy for customers to get in touch with the company and a new blog.
We were able to build the new version of the site in a test area while the old site ticked along and until the company was happy with it. Then we moved everything across over a weekend when web traffic was at its lightest.
We then handed over the website, providing training on how to use it and on web writing. We now maintain the site software so that Wordpress and plug-in versions remain up to date and secure and run regular back-ups of the site.
View the site at www.nrgdirectmail.co.uk
What the customer said
Nick Chavasse, NRG Direct Mail Managing Director said: “Patrick and Fiona are a great team and have empathy with their clients.
“I liked the fact that they took the trouble to understand our business and then blend the creative aspects and appropriate web text with the Search Engine Optimisation work.
“An excellent result and already on Page One of Google. You cannot ask for more than that!”[button link="https://www.moghill.co.uk//blog/category/case-studies/" bg_color="#ba2e24"]See more website case studies[/button]
A few days ago I received a spam email from yet another Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) company offering its services for one of my sites. If you’ve ever received one of these emails yourself then you need to read this.
Though better worded than most it was the same old story: An SEO ‘expert’ offering to get much more traffic to my site and increase my sales, and return on investment by improving its position in Google etc etc.
The site in question is www.apriliafutura.co.uk, one of the first sites I built for myself as a hobby for a motorcycle I used to own. The site is an online reference for owners of what is a rare bike and I keep it going because it’s still useful to people – I’ve never made money from it: That’s never been the point.[caption id="attachment_513" align="alignright" width="300"] Look! I’m top and I don’t need your rotten SEO services![/caption]
It’s not perfect by a long way and I haven’t changed it for years, but the main thing about it is that if you do a Google search for Aprilia Futura or most associated terms it’s top, even beating Motor Cycle News and Wikipedia.
For most other associated terms it’s in the top three or four results.
I don’t think you can get any better search engine optimisation than that and that’s good enough for me.
But apparently it’s not enough for these search engine optimisation ‘experts’ – I get at least one email a week for the Aprilia Futura site.
So how does this company (who shall remain nameless) think they can improve the search engine position for my website when it is already top of the pile?
Here’s what the email says:
“I’ve noted down some important things as I looked at your site. I see you have Google analytics installed, which is excellent, but there are lots of things I would recommend you do to increase the number of visitors that find you in Google.”
ApriliaFutura.co.uk gets maybe 600 visitors a week from all over the world, not bad since only 4,000 or so Aprilia Futuras were ever built. There are only 80 registered in the UK. This is a niche market!
Further down the email gushes:
“If you like I can analyse your competitors with our in-house designed software which will give you an instant insight into how easy it would be for you to achieve a dramatic increase in website visitors, and a matching increase in your business. I can tell you a few sneaky facts about your competitors and see how many people are searching Google for exactly what you do.”
Errm. It doesn’t have any competitors, it’s not a business, and if people search on Google for ‘exactly what I do’ they find my site. How can you improve on that?
And besides, this convenient wording ignores one thing – you can get an increase in website visitors but that counts for nothing – it’s what those visitors do when they get there that counts.
Official Google search engine optimisation guide
That’s not all. Our SEO ‘expert’ says:
“If you’d like a copy of the official Google SEO (search engine optimisation) guide that we normally only send out to clients I’d be happy to ping you back a copy”
Actually, the official Google SEO guide is available to anyone. Here it is: Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (PDF download)
The email goes on to say:
“Alternatively do a google search for “optimising my website for google” and you’ll find all the details you need.”
The implication is that you’ll find the company responsible for the email’s page. Now I can never resist a challenge so I did exactly that. You can do the same.
The first two places are taken by web design companies who had received the same spam email and had decided to make a point of it. Obviously, this blog post is a shameless attempt to do the same.
And what of our search engine optimisation ‘experts’? Where are they when you search for ‘optimising my website for Google’?
They are half way down page three – i.e. nowhere.
So what do we learn from this?
To be honest I’ve given up on being offended by these emails but aside from mocking these countless SEO ‘experts’ sending out thousands of emails a week there is a serious point here.
If you have a business website and you feel you need to get your site further up the rankings this sort of offer can no doubt sound very attractive.
But often their claims do not stand up to scrutiny. Only last week we came across a website owner who paid an SEO company around £200 per month with no effect.
Search engine optimisation is not rocket science!
The truth is that SEO is not rocket science as you can see from the Google guide. Just follow a few simple rules and make sure your site is relevant and you’ll be well on your way. You do not need to pay thousands for this.
But most of all these emails always claim to have looked at your site and claim they can offer all sorts of improvements in performance and search engine rankings.
However if they had bothered to do that – for example by Googling Aprilia Futura – they would have realised they could not improve my site’s search engine position.
Also if they had really looked at my site – even for a second or two – they would have realised it’s not a business.
And finally it doesn’t say much about their abilities if they tell you to Google them and they are not even on the first page!
Louise Hudson set up in business as an independent chartered accountant and business advisor in 2012 and needed a website that reflected her friendly and approachable ethos.
She wanted a website that was simple and uncluttered as well as modern, and we suggested that she adopt the new responsive technology that would allow her site to be viewed as easily on a desktop computer as it can be on a mobile phone or iPad.
What Moghill did[caption id="attachment_1060" align="alignright" width="450"] Louise Hudson’s responsive design website[/caption]
We took the time to understand Louise and her business aims so that we could produce a website that got the basics across without being stuffy in the way some accountancy websites can be.
We used images and a logo supplied by Louise and created a simple site that is user-friendly and modern with text that is short and to the point yet friendly in tone.
We also integrated the site with Louise’s professional social media profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn.
View the website: www.hudsonlm.co.uk
What they said
Louise Hudson said: “It was a pleasure dealing with Moghill in the construction of my website.
“The website was designed in the way I requested – Fiona and Patrick took time to understand and listen to my requirements and provided a personal, user-friendly and cost-effective site.
“My queries are dealt with promptly. I am also very pleased with the responsive design which allows my website to be viewed easily on a smart phone.”[button link="https://www.moghill.co.uk//blog/category/case-studies/" bg_color="#ba2e24"]See more website case studies[/button]
SEO companies are everywhere – cold calling, emailing and offering to do wonderful things for your site.[caption id="attachment_506" align="alignright" width="300"] “I don’t care about your mission statement! How much do you charge?”[/caption]
They say driving traffic to your website will magically increase your sales.
Many will throw lots of figures about page rank, keyword analysis, backlinks and optimisation for good measure.
But while these things are important, a lot of these Search Engine Optimisation companies miss the big picture:
Getting more people to look at your website is not an aim in itself.
Fine, you can get more traffic, but what will these people do when they get to your site?
If your site lacks focus, is badly written, unnecessarily complex and difficult to use then the chances are the increased traffic will only lead to more people leaving the site almost as soon as they have arrived.
You might as well just throw your money down the drain.
The point of your business website is to bring you new customers and sometimes to serve existing ones, but if your website is difficult to use or lacks professionalism then you could end up putting people off.
So take a look at your website from the point of view of a prospective customer who has never seen it before and knows nothing about your business.
Answer their questions
What questions will that person have in their mind? Have you answered them? Is it easy to get around the site? Does it really create the right impression for your business? How effective is it at getting your key messages across?
Search engines, and Google in particular, are placing increasing weight on the relevance of a site as well as its quality. In other words, good sites do well in searches.
So if you get the quality right, you will not need to spend a fortune on SEO consultants.