Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Is Keyword Stuffing Really a Big Deal?

Keyword stuffing has been one of the biggest grey areas of SEO for some time. If not, the dictionary definition of a black-hat tactic to avoid at all costs.

But when considering the endless complexities of SEO from a 2022 perspective, is keyword stuffing really such a big deal? Does the overuse of keywords have any negative effects, or does it simply result in the keywords you use being ignored by Google?


 

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Putting an exact definition to keyword stuffing isn’t easy. This is because depending on what it is you are writing about, it may be absolutely necessary to include a specific keyword or term throughout your copy.

Keyword stuffing refers to the deliberate overuse of a specific target term, with the goal of tricking the major search engines into handing out higher rankings. Irrespective of whether these keywords are visible or concealed, any signs of deliberate overuse will be picked up and acted upon by Google.

What’s the Problem with Keyword Stuffing?

Google’s job is to recommend websites and pages that deliver the best possible user experience. Where keywords are deliberately overused for SEO purposes, it has a major impact on the quality of the copy in question.

Consequently, these are exactly the types of pages Google does not want to recommend. Keyword stuffing is a sign of desperation on the part of the publisher - not an indicator of quality or relevance.

Increasingly, Google’s crawlers are scrutinising the overall UX of a website with remarkable sophistication when handing out rankings. If there is clear evidence of the overuse of keywords, it indicates a substandard user experience.

In which case, the efforts of the publisher to get ahead through the excessive use of keywords will almost certainly backfire.

Are There Any Real Consequences to Keyword Stuffing?

Attempting to take these kinds of shortcuts almost always proves counterproductive. Where Google makes clear its attitude and approach to a low-road tactic, it makes sense to listen.

“Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context,” as spelled out in clear terms by Google.

In practice, keyword stuffing can (and often does) result in a major fall in the rankings. Take things too far and you could even run the risk of your pages being delisted entirely.

Of course, this only applies in instances where keywords have clearly been used excessively without justification. If there’s no alternative but to use the same terms dozens of times - such as in a technical post or academic piece - Google will pick up on this and you won’t be punished.

In all other instances, it’s a case of following a few basic guidelines to get your keyword game in order:

1. Always ensure your keywords are included in your copy naturally

2. Focus on one primary keyword and several secondary keywords

3. Write content in a way that prioritises the user experience

4. Optimise in other ways and don’t rely too heavily on keywords

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

How One Page Websites Can Achieve High Rankings, Google Confirms

 In a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, John Mueller was questioned on the hotly-debated topic of website authority. Specifically, Mr Mueller sought to address the age-old question of whether a website needs to become an authority in its niche to rank well.





The short answer is, apparently, no - it doesn’t.

But what was even more interesting is how Mr Mueller confirmed that even a one-page website can climb the rankings to prominence. Meaning that not only does a site not have to be packed with thousands of pages of content to rank well, but also doesn’t necessarily need to be an authority site.

Here’s what Mueller said in response to a post on Reddit:

“I think you can make good one-page sites. So from that point of view I’m not too worried about that.”

“I think the Reddit post, as far as I remember, was something along the lines: ‘I created 30 blog posts, and they’re really good, and therefore my website should be authoritative.”

“And from my point of view, you going off and creating 30 blog posts does not automatically make your website authoritative.”

“And especially for the higher or the more critical topics, it’s something where you can’t just create 30 blog posts on a medical topic and then say: ‘I am a doctor I’ve written 30 articles.’ So that was the direction I was headed there.”

He went on to emphasise how smaller businesses need not concern themselves with becoming a market-leading authority, simply to rank well and pull in traffic from their main target audience:

“For a lot of websites, it’s not that you need to be seen as an authority. You essentially put your content out there. If you’re a small business you’re selling something. You don’t need to be an authority.”

“And especially things where like one page websites they’re often very focused on this one thing and you don’t need to be an authority to do that one thing.”

“To sell, I don’t know, an ebook, or to give information about opening hours for a business. It’s like, it’s just information.”

“So from that point of view, having a one page website, I think it’s perfectly fine.”

Of course, Mr Mueller was keen to highlight the point that while a one-page website can be fine, it’s better to use it as a basis to grow and develop a deeper site:

“With regards to starting out with a one-page website, I think that’s fine, but I would think about where do you want to go from there at some point.

Maybe you do want to create more pages and try to find a way that you don’t paint yourself into a corner by saying, well, I have to put everything on one page all the time. But rather expand when you see that it fits.”

Still, confirmation that a quality site with just a single page has every potential to climb the rankings and pull in a ton of qualified traffic.

Friday, 11 March 2022

Reciprocal Linking is Not Necessarily Bad

Quite some time ago, Google made its thoughts on unnatural link exchange schemes perfectly clear. The long and short of it being that swapping links for reciprocal benefit was not conducive with quality SEO.

A stance which stands to reason, as reciprocal linking paves the way for black-hat SEO. Where two or more sites agree to link to each other for mutual SEO benefit, they do so without having technically earned these backlinks.
                                     



Backlinks which could be placed on sites of no direct relevance to the other sites included in the exchange scheme.

More grey-hat than black-hat SEO, Google has nonetheless made it clear that backlinks earned through merit are really the only backlinks worth bothering with.

But what about reciprocal linking that takes place following the placement of a link earned through merit? If a relevant business within your niche posts a link to your website, can you return the favour without fear of reprisal?

When Reciprocal Links Are Perfectly Justifiable

Somewhat backtracking on the whole issue, the latest comments direct from Google suggest that reciprocal linking is not always a bad thing. In fact, it is perfectly natural to host a link to a site that links to yours, if the original link was indeed relevant and credible.

Google’s John Mueller took the opportunity to set the record straight last week, during a recent Google Search Central SEO office hours hangout.

Mueller was quizzed by an SEO on Google’s approach to this type of link exchange, and whether it was best avoided to preserve backlink value. Or to put it another way - is it ok to link back to a site that links to you, or is it better for your SEO profile to leave things be?

In response, Mr Mueller offered the following advice:

“That’s perfectly fine. It’s also kind of natural. Especially if you’re a local business, you link to your neighbors. Or if you’re mentioned in the news somewhere you kind of mention that on your website like ‘I was featured here in the news’ and essentially you’re kind of linking back and forth.”

It all comes down to the way in which Google’s crawlers are sophisticated enough to decipher between a synthetic link exchange scheme and natural linking. Which in turn means that if reciprocal linking activities are justified and valid, they are perfectly fine.

“It’s kind of a reciprocal link essentially, but it’s a natural kind of link. It’s not something that’s there because you’re doing some kind of crazy link scheme. So from that point of view, I think it’s easy to overthink it. And if you’re doing something naturally, if you’re not kind of making weird deals, behind the scenes, then I really wouldn’t worry about it.”

In a nutshell - reciprocal links do not always contravene Google’s webmaster guidelines.

It is entirely down to their relevance and value - the natural, 100% organic exchange of relevant backlinks is permitted.




Friday, 7 January 2022

How to Turbocharge Your TikTok Strategy

 By early 2019, TikTok had already chalked up more than a billion downloads from the world’s two biggest app stores. Today, it’s the number-one social media app on both by a clear margin.





TikTok is renowned for its viral marketing potential, attracting the attention of small and large businesses from all over the world. But with such a frenzy of competition from all corners, running a successful TikTok strategy is far from a cakewalk.

Ultimately, it is the quality and relevance of the content you publish that will determine the outcome. Other than this, the following tips and guidelines could help you take your TikTok strategy to the next level:

#1 Use the Right Hashtags

The hashtags you attach to your videos will play a major role in determining which viewers are sent your way. Your job is to find the right hashtags to represent your content - i.e. those that are both relevant and trending at the time. Avoid the temptation to overuse hashtags, or use those of questionable relevance to your content. Tactics like these will only ever prove counterproductive.

#2 Research Your Audience Continuously

The key word here is ‘continuously’, given how the preferences and habits of all social media audiences are constantly shifting. Irrespective of who you are targeting on TikTok, you need to develop the deepest possible understanding of them. Never view audience research as a one-time-only task, but as a continuous and cyclical process.

#3 Keep it Casual

TikTok is not the platform people head to for anything too serious. Instead, it’s with a head for cheap laughs and casual entertainment. Keeping things casual and light-hearted is therefore the way to go. Unless, of course, doing so would be inappropriate for the topic/video in question.

#4 Keep it Concise

Likewise, TikTok is also not the kind of place people go for long-form content. Instead, it is where they head with instant gratification in mind. The most engaging and shareable videos on TikTok are those that get the job done in a matter of seconds. The quicker you can get your point across and hook the viewer, the better.

#5 Prioritise Authenticity

Avoid the temptation to jump on every bandwagon that comes along, simply because it is trending at the time. Everything you share on TikTok needs to be authentic for your brand and relevant to your audience. Or in other words, be true to the genuine voice and personality of your brand, rather than putting on a fa├žade in hope of influencing TikTok audiences.

#6 Reach Out to Influencers

Last up, even a brief mention from an established influencer can be all it takes to hit the big time. However, influencers are not in the habit of chasing down potential partners to recommend and represent. If you want to get influencers on board - which you should - you need to do the legwork and outreach.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Email Marketing FAQs: Key Questions Answered

 An effective email marketing strategy has the potential to deliver an ROI that goes beyond any social media marketing campaign.


In this post, we’ll be taking a look at a series of frequently asked questions on the subject of email marketing, which may prove particularly helpful for smaller businesses starting out for the first time:

Q1. What rules do I need to be aware of regarding the legality of my subscription list?

Different rules apply in different parts of the world, so you need to ensure you comply with the corresponding regulations accordingly. A few examples of which include:

• United States: CAN-SPAM Act

• Canada: CASL

• European Union: GDPR

• Australia: Spam Act 2003

Q2. How often should I review my email marketing list?

Ideally, it is advisable to conduct an email ‘scrubbing’ exercise at least once every six months. During which, you should take steps to identify inactive subscribers in your list, found out why they disengaged with your brand and attempt to re-engage them. Those that cannot be brought back should subsequently be deleted.

Q3. What do I need to do to ensure maximum engagement with my emails?

A strong and appealing subject line plays the biggest role in determining whether or not your emails will be opened by the recipient. After which, dynamic content of genuine value that feels personal to the reader is essential. Keeping things brief is also advisable, as an email with too much content is more likely to be ignored than a concise communication.

Q4. Is it a good idea to send attachments?

The short answer is no, for the simple reason that they are commonly associated with malware and viruses. In addition, emails with attachments are often automatically blocked, or sent to spam folders. Where possible, attachments should be avoided.

Q5. How about including a video clip in an e-mail?

This can be a much more effective strategy. Estimates vary, but some studies have shown that video content can reduce unsubscribe rates by as much as 75%, generate 96% higher click-through rates and significantly boost the amount of time a person spends viewing the content of an e-mail.

Q6. Is email automation a good idea?

To a degree, but it is essential to ensure that automation does not completely erase the human aspect from your strategy. Every mail needs to be interpreted as personal, relevant and of some kind of value to the recipient – not something automated, generic or bot-generated.

Q7. Should I bother with an unsubscribe message?

Yes, but not necessarily for the purpose of attempting to convince the subscriber in question to stick around. The biggest benefits of an unsubscribe message is the way in which it offers invaluable insights into why people are choosing to leave your email list in the first place.

Q8. Is it worth buying a mailing list from an email scraping service?

In a word, no. The use of harvesting bots not only tends to produce epic lists of spam email addresses of no value, but email scraping is actually against the law in some countries. Making use of such services could therefore pose a risk to your business that really isn’t worth taking.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Ecommerce Operators in the UK Bear the Brunt of Brexit


It was never in any doubt that Brexit would bring devastating economic consequences for many businesses across the UK. Cross-channel export and import complications are already hitting merchants hard, and experts believe the worst is yet to come.

One of the hardest-hit sectors of all is ecommerce, with a full 94% of online brands in Britain saying that Brexit has cost them customers in the EU. This suggests that since the transition period ended on December 31 last year, at least nine out of 10 UK ecommerce businesses have seen a fall in sales.


 

Ecommerce platform ChannelAdvisor junction with research firm CensusWide reached out to more than 300 UK businesses selling products online. The aim was to assess the extent to which Brexit had disrupted cross-border sales and customer relations, along with potential issues regarding additional tax obligations and shipping delays.

The overwhelming majority (94%) said that they had lost some customers in the EU, while 66% said that EU customer numbers had fallen ‘significantly’ due to Brexit.

An Uptick in Domestic Ecommerce

The UK High Street was devastated by three consecutive lockdowns, resulting in thousands of stores and established chains closing down permanently. Meanwhile, ecommerce operators thrived during the COVID-19 crisis, as the UK public was given little option but to shop predominantly online.

Consequently, 92% of the businesses surveyed said that customer numbers had increased significantly since the Coronavirus pandemic hit. In addition, 82% said that overall sales are currently higher than they were before the pandemic, with 27% reporting a ‘significant’ increase in sales volumes.

Conversely, only 16% of the retailers surveyed said current sales were the same as those early last year.

Reassuringly, 93% of the CMOs polled said that they are more confident in their brand’s future today than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the domestic picture is predominantly reassuring, Brexit has had a dramatic effect on the ability of UK ecommerce brands to do business overseas.

A Significant Drop in International Sales

When quizzed on the effects of Brexit, 68% said that they had experienced a fall in international sales. Meanwhile, a further 22% said that international sales had fallen significantly, as a direct result of Brexit.

Only 15% indicated that international sales volumes had improved since Brexit, with 17% saying there had been no specific change in either direction.

Issues shipping items to shoppers overseas were the most commonly encountered problem among UK ecommerce operators (73%). Around a third also said that complications at the border had significantly extended delivery times and affected their operations.

“UK brands are enjoying a phenomenal period of growth and will no doubt play an integral role in the country’s post-COVID recovery. However, the last few months of Brexit disruption have caused a significant headache for the vast majority of these firms, thanks to delays and complications at UK-EU customs. Brands rarely become e-commerce giants without strong international sales and finding a solution to this border disruption will benefit all sides,” commented Vladi Shlesman on behalf of ChannelAdvisor.

“Leveraging expertise like a third-party logistics provider can overcome fulfilment challenges, or looking to new sources of demand could help plug the gap in demand. In the meantime, it’s inspiring to see that brands are enthused and confident about the coming year. After such a transformative time in the industry, I hope they continue to reap the rewards of e-commerce.”

Friday, 9 July 2021

Five Ways You Could Be Stopping Journalists to Publish Your Stories

Whether planning an outreach campaign or already in the midst of a PR distribution strategy, here are five more mistakes to avoid when reaching out to journalists:


1. Thinking You Have Creative Control

The moment your press release lands in the journo’s mailbox, it technically becomes their property. Not in the sense that they can alter the facts or general subject of the PR, but they’ve full creative control with regard to how the information is subsequently presented. This is where outreach campaigns often go wrong – those behind them attempting to take full creative control. Avoid the temptation to tell journalists how to do their job – trust them instead to do their thing.

2. Bugging Them with Reminders

Do journalists and publishers lose and/or forget about PRs on a regular basis? Of course they do. Does this mean bugging them with reminders is a good idea? No way. If it’s a time-critical story/announcement and the deadline is fast approaching, there’s justification for giving them a gentle ‘nudge’ at the right time. If there’s no real hurry and it’s only been a day or two, hold off a little longer. It could simply be that your PR is at the bottom of their list of priorities – reminding them it exists won’t suddenly inspire them to prioritise it.

3. Creating a False Sense of Urgency

Most experienced journalists know every trick in the book and aren’t in the habit of falling for them. In this instance, we’re talking the classic “I’ve also pitched this suggestion to X and Y outlets who are very interested, but I wanted to give you first refusal” or something along similar lines. You’re basically saying “take my fantastic story before somebody else beats you to the punch.” And it’s a tactic that doesn’t work – it simply screams of desperation and won’t work in your favour.

4. Failing to Refuse Rejection


Where a media outlet refuses to publish your story or content, it’s for a valid and obvious reason in their minds. In which case, attempting to persuade them otherwise is a waste of time. It’s also likely to cast aspersions on your credibility, while at the same time making it unlikely they’ll consider your future requests. Where faced with a rejection, it’s best to thank them for their time, walk away and approach them at a later date with something more relevant.

5. Going for the Hard Sell

Last but not least, any press release or piece of outreach content that smacks of pure promotion for your products, your services or your business isn’t going to work. Press releases are supposed to be informative in nature and in some way relevant/valuable to the recipient. They don’t exist simply as a means by which to sell your products and services without paying for conventional advertising space. If you want all future requests to find their way straight in to the trash, try pitching a post that’s all about the hard sell.