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Google Search Changes and Google Analytics 'Not Provided' Label

Published on November 11, 2011
Tags: SEO

You may remember a few months ago, when Google released the Panda/Farmer update and a significant percentage of search results were affected because of it. That update had a big impact on quite a lot of websites – and it seems Google has once again made some changes that are going to affect lots of people.

This time, the change involves their encrypted search feature. This is something that Google has had running for a while, but now it has altered its systems so that if a user is logged-in (to Gmail, iGoogle, Google+ or another Google platform), they are automatically redirected to encrypted search. Unlike in the past, they are no longer told that they are using this feature; the ‘http’ in the address bar simply changes to ‘https’. That is; https://www.google.com

The impact of this is that the search queries made by those users will be kept secure. The argument made by Google in its favour is that encrypted search is especially useful when using unsecured Wi-Fi networks and that it helps to protect ‘personalised search results’. 

Arguably, this is a smart move on Google’s part as it shows a concern for security and protects users’ data – something that is naturally of concern to many people. However, on the other side of the issue are webmasters, web designers and developers who rely on search information to analyse which of their campaigns are the most successful, who is clicking onto their sites and the terms people search for when they find their websites. 

With Google encrypting logged-in users’ data, it’s thought that around 10% of previous information will no longer be available to the people who typically analyse it.  It isn’t hard to see how this might have an impact on online marketing and analysis: with 10% less data, there’ll be less information to utilise and so campaigns won’t be targeted quite so successfully and their impact will be harder to measure. Around 10% harder to measure, to be precise.

This essentially means that when you log in to Analytics or another keyword tool, you’re likely to see a ‘not provided’ entry fairly high up in your keyword traffic list, where that 10% of data would normally be. 

Luckily, Google has put in place some measures that mean you will still be able to access some information: if you use Webmaster Tools, it will show you the top 100 search terms for your site. Granted, this doesn’t give you the complete picture or go into much detail about search traffic, but it at least provides something to work from.

The good news, really, is that your traffic shouldn’t be affected by the changes that have recently taken effect, as the alterations don’t have an impact on search rankings in the same way that Panda/Farmer did. However, one aspect of the changes that has caused some controversy is the fact that paid-for results are unaffected. This means that if you’re paying for Google’s services (such as for PPC campaigns), you’ll still be able to see which search terms bring in the best conversion rates.

This suggests that Google has put a price on information: if you use its free analytics services, logged-in users’ privacy takes precedence, but if you pay then their privacy is overlooked. It might sound a bit sceptical, but it does seem like there is now a choice to be made between favouring privacy and making money – and, when you consider that Google is selling this change as being in favour of users’ privacy, the sceptic starts to grow.

Of course, Google is designed to be a business. That’s its purpose, so we probably shouldn’t be too surprised when it makes changes that make things easier for itself but not necessarily for everyone else. The CEO of Google recently said of the company: ‘we understand what you want and can deliver it instantly’. Arguably, that ‘we’ is telling. Google knows what you want, but by implementing changes such as this, it makes it harder for webmasters and others to know exactly what people want.

This has a knock-on effect for keyword campaigns and other types of online marketing – and unless you are willing to pay Google for the information, it will continue to be difficult.

Google does a lot of good things, we can’t deny that. Its search engine services are excellent, its other services are mostly very good and it still provides good analysis tools for web designers and others to make use of. Plus, the balance between user privacy and the business of the web is always a hard one to get right. Perhaps these changes will work out for the best. However, in the short term at least, it does seem like things are going to be a little trickier for many webmasters.

By Chelsey Evans

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London Olympics 2012 What Can You Do For Your Business?

Published on October 7, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

2012 is set to be a big year for London and the rest of the UK. Not only is it the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June but, not long after that, it will be time for the 2012 London Olympics. Ideally, businesses should already have started to prepare for the big event so that they can make the most of the visitors coming to London: it’s thought that around 500,000 people will be visiting the country during the event.

It’s also likely that many of those people will be doing some research online before they come to find out what services are available in London. So, if you run a London business, now is definitely a good time to start thinking about your strategy for the Olympics and beyond and to be ready!

What’s Your USP?

If you are hoping to promote your business online for the Olympics, one thing to consider is your unique selling point. What sets your company apart from the rest? Why should people use your services rather than those of your competitors? These are things that should always be taken into consideration with your web design and content, but issues such as your USP become more important than ever at a time when the majority of London businesses are likely to be competing with each other (maybe they could include it as an extra Olympic event).

Are you going to do anything special for the event? If so, how will this be different and better from other businesses efforts? Last year, a survey for Deloitte found that while 95% of businesses wanted to assess the impact of London 2012 on their businesses, but most had yet to start. If you haven’t started to think about it yet, now is the time to do it.

Brush Up Your Branding

Once you’ve got your USP and aims for the Olympics, you need to make sure your online branding is as good as it can possibly be. With many foreign visitors having little more than websites to go on when they’re deciding what to do and where to stay in the UK, your website needs to stand out.

You might like to consider using the services of a web design company in London to brush up your branding. This doesn’t necessarily need to mean a complete overhaul of your web design but some fresh, up to date graphics and content could well make a difference.

Start thinking about SEO

Search engine optimisation is something else it pays to think about. Of course, it’s always important for your website, but the Olympics may well inspire you to target a specific or new audience. This is something that will need to be taken account of in your SEO strategy; getting the advice of a London web design and SEO company will be useful in helping you identify likely markets that you could target for the Olympics.

For instance, are there any keywords you could target that might catch people’s attention? One example could be foreign languages: with many foreign visitors coming to London for the 2012 Olympics, it could be a real selling point if your business is multilingual and you could build this into your SEO.

Location, Location, Location

The whole of the UK can benefit from the 2012 Olympics but, with London at the centre of things, there’s no harm in shouting about your London-based business. After all, how are visitors meant to find you if they don’t know where you are?

Targeting ‘London’ keywords in your SEO could be one option for increasing your online impact. Local search can also be useful. For example, social media sites such as Facebook allow people to ‘check in’ at local venues. You could set up a social media campaign where you reward people for checking in at your business by giving them discounts or extra services. This way, they benefit for using your business and you benefit from the advertising and their custom.

Registering with Google Maps and other services so people can easily find your address and directions to your business could be another part of your Olympics online strategy.

Sustainability of Strategy

Finally, what about the sustainability of your strategy? Getting your business ready for the Olympics through having a great web design, developing online promotions and SEO is one thing, but where do you go from there? Like any business plan, your online Olympics plan shouldn’t stop at the end of the event.

Thinking about how you want to carry your work forward and capitalise on it in the future could well benefit your business in the long run. One of the reasons London was awarded the Olympics in the first place was because of the focus on sustainability. This sustainability shouldn’t be confined to things such as the Olympic Park and getting more young people involved in sport. 2012 looks set to provide some great online opportunities for London businesses; don’t let them go to waste.

 

By Chelsey Evans

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Google and the Development of SEO

Published on September 30, 2011
Tags: SEO

Building a successful website relies on a combination of things. First of all, you need a good web design. If you want your site to appear on the search engines, you web design also needs to be ‘search engine friendly’, which means that SEO (search engine optimisation) plays just as big a part as the web design. To round things off, your site needs high quality, unique content to draw in and keep visitors interested.

No one wants a website that never gets noticed, especially if you are trying to promote and grow a business in a competitive market. This means that the aim of good web design, SEO and content is to get people to your website: persuading them that, out of all the websites around, yours is the very best. Arguably, search giant Google plays one of the most important parts in this. Even with the best web design in the world, if your site isn’t ranked highly by Google, you’ll find it hard to turn it into a success.

We’ve written before about recent developments from Google, such as the Farmer/Panda update, which have had a significant impact on how SEO and website ranking works. But where did this all begin? How did Google get to be so influential in the world of web design and SEO? Aren’t they just a search company?

Some of the answers can, perhaps, be found in some comments recently made by Eric Schmidt, who is the ex-CEO of Google. He said that the four most significant technology companies in the world right now are Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. On the face of it, these companies are very different. If you look a little deeper, however, you start to see that they are all moving in a similar direction, focused on information. For instance, all four of them focus their attentions largely on ‘ordinary’ people rather than corporations. They all do lots of work in what has become known as ‘the cloud’.

These two facts are interesting and can shed some light into the issue of SEO. In the case of Google, for example, their mission is to ‘organise’ the world’s information to make it more accessible. This makes a large part of SEO in relation to Google about collecting data; the more data that Google has, the more they are able to do with it and the better search results they are able to produce. Then, thanks to their improved services, more people will use Google, enabling them to collect even more data and repeat the cycle. As the world’s most popular search engine, it’s easy to see why this makes the company so important when creating web designs or developing an SEO strategy.

So, how does Google decide which websites rank highly and which are pushed to the bottom of the pile? It’s hard to give an accurate answer as search engine algorithms are closely guarded, but it’s possible to trace current ranking systems to something known as PageRank. This was invented by Google’s current CEO, Larry Page, and was based on the concept of scholarly citation. This means that the more ‘citations’ pages have, the better they rank. In this, we can see the importance of link-building in SEO and web design.

This isn’t the only information that Google uses, though. The behaviour of web users is one of the most important factors taken into consideration. For instance, if you click on the top search result only to immediately click back because it wasn’t what you expected, this tells Google that it wasn’t what you were looking for, helping it to refine its results for next time. If you click on a link further down the page and then don’t go back to the search results, however, this suggests that that website should be higher up in the rankings than it currently is. Similarly, if you have to refine your search terms because you didn’t get what you were looking for, this again teaches Google new information.

All of this means it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes a successful SEO strategy. One thing is for certain, though: Google is now the ‘go to’ search engine for the vast majority of web users. With so much information being collected every day, through the search engine and other Google projects (notably Android devices), this makes Google very clever – and powerful. In 1999, Google updated its web index once every three or four months. Ten years later, there were so many webpages on the internet that predicting a speed for how often the index was updated became impossible. Now, the index is updated as soon as things happen, with Google sometimes even able to reflect changes in the web index before events are reported on the news.

This makes the issue of SEO continuously evolving and a long term development as well as something that requires short term attention. The lesson in all of this? There’s a lot of information out there ready for analysis but, as Google has demonstrated, there is nothing more important than the web user. So, when you are developing your SEO strategy or updating your web design, don’t just worry about the search engines: make sure you create your website for your users, not just for Google, because if someone comes to your site and leaves immediately, that’s actually telling Google something about the quality of what you’re offering and you’ll get ranked accordingly.

By Chelsey Evans

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Choosing Keywords and Phrases for Search Engine Optimisation

Published on September 9, 2011
Tags: SEO, Web Design London

When you have a website, one of the things you may need to think about is search engine optimisation (SEO). There are quite a few different things that make up SEO, but arguably one of the most important components of it is keywords. For those not in the know, keywords are words or phrases that you choose to target on your website in order to boost your ranking in search engine results for those terms.

On the face of it, choosing keywords is a fairly simple task. For instance, Ampheon is a web design firm, and so one of the keywords related to that will naturally be ‘Web Design London’. However, when you type ‘Web Design London’ into Google AdWords, it comes back telling you that there are approximately 74,000 local monthly searches for that term. If you type ‘Web Design London’ into the Google search engine, it gleefully informs you that there are about 50,000,000 results in total.

This means that getting to the top of the rankings for a term like that is extremely difficult, but when you consider that research has shown that 40% of people don’t look past the first three search results that come up and that 99% of people never look past the first page of results, you can’t just rely on a single keyword or phrase – especially one that so many other websites are targeting, too.

Let’s take ‘shoe shop’ as an example. With 550,000 local monthly searches for the term ‘shoe shop’, it suggests that it’s going to be quite hard for a website to stand out using this search term. This means that it’s a good idea to look for other, relevant search terms that are useful for your site’s SEO but that perhaps aren’t quite so competitive. Helpfully, tools such as Google AdWords and Wordtracker offer you lists of alternative keywords as well as some helpful data to let you know details such as how many people search for those terms each month.

For instance, terms such as ‘shoe shops’, ‘shoe shopping’, ‘shoe shops online’ and ‘womens shoe shops’ are still popular but probably much easier to tackle in terms of SEO. Another trick is to add a geographical marker to your keyword terms. So, if your shoe shop was based in London, one of your key phrases could be ‘shoe shop London’, making the term more specific and hopefully appealing to an audience that is more likely to buy from you.

But does this mean you should ignore those popular terms such as ‘shoe shop’ and ‘web design’ entirely? Not at all. If those terms are relevant to your business, of course you should target them as keywords. After all, people will expect to see them on your site as that’s what your company is about – it would be really hard to write anything about Ampheon, for example, without using the words ‘web design’.

Also, SEO is not always about the quick fix. A good SEO strategy will have a long term plan, so while it’s unlikely a website will immediately break into the top results for a massively popular term, that’s no reason to assume that it never will. The search engines will still scan your site for those terms and, the more high-quality content you add to it, the higher your rankings should (hopefully rise).

This means that a combination of keywords is generally an effective strategy. Use popular terms, but also add other words to make them more specific. As mentioned above, adding the location of your business is one good option. Being more specific about what your company does is also a good idea. For instance, is your shoe shop just a general shoe shop, or does it specialise in certain types of shoes? Does it have a focus on children’s shoes or women’s shoes or extra wide shoes? All of these things would provide good qualifiers that can help you target more specific terms.

Finally, it’s important to do your research on keyword tools such as AdWords or Wordtracker. These can provide you with valuable information that can sometimes really pay off. There might be some keywords and terms that are specific to your business and are popular search terms, but they are still relatively niche and don’t yet have much competition among other websites. If you could target those words, you could be well on your way to success.

Overall, choosing the right keywords for your website is not an exact science. Some will be easier for you to choose than others, but as long as you keep in mind the fact that you’re playing the long game, there’s no reason to assume you won’t be successful. A combination of the right keywords, good content and a good web design really can make a difference. Some of it is going to involve trial and error, but in the longer term, if done properly, your business could thrive as a result.

By Chelsey Evans

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Are Spelling and Grammar Important on a Web Site?

Published on July 14, 2011
Tags: SEO, Usability, Web Design London

An interesting news report this week suggests that poor spelling and grammar on websites is costing internet businesses millions of pounds a week. It seems to be common sense that if you are publishing anything on the internet, you should – at the very least – run it through a spellchecker first to make sure there are no glaring errors. It appears, however, that lots of people fail to do this and it’s having a massive impact on businesses.

A large part of the issue here is about trust: if people are going to part with their hard-earned cash online, they need to feel as though they can trust the website. If there are lots of spelling errors and basic grammar-related mistakes, they might feel as though the site is not particularly professional and is therefore not worthy of their business (this is the point where we frantically read back through this blog post to make sure we’re not guilty of the same sin).

It isn’t just ecommerce sites that are affected, either. It seems fairly safe to say that the vast majority of businesses have websites so they can promote their work and grow their company; even if they’re not directly touting for business online, their website still forms an important part of their marketing portfolio. Plus, as more people turn to the internet to research businesses before they use them in the ‘real’ world, it is more important than ever that websites offer a good first impression.

The source of this news story about the revenue lost by online businesses is Charles Duncombe, an online entrepreneur. He makes the point that websites have about six seconds to grab someone’s attention, and that sounds about right. Web users can tell extremely quickly whether or not a site is of good quality. The overall look of the website obviously plays a part in this, but so does the quality of the content – if there is a stupid mistake in the headline (other than perhaps in a clearly ironic manner), it’s bound to put people off.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that internet sales in the UK are worth around £527m per week, which demonstrates just how big a business this is. Additionally, an online experiment by Mr Duncombe found that online sales were twice as high once he had corrected an error on a website. This goes to show how much money is being lost thanks to bad spelling.

There is also the potential for websites to be negatively affected in search engine rankings thanks to spelling mistakes and other indicators of poor quality content. We have previously written about the Google Farmer update, which has had the effect of pushing lower quality sites down in the search engine rankings – proving that it’s not enough to just target keywords: quality matters for all sorts of things.

It’s also worth noting that the reputations of businesses are at risk, here. A company could offer a fantastic service, but if it doesn’t sell it properly or it gets something fundamental wrong on its website, it could stop that company’s success in its tracks. Mr Duncombe makes the point that when you sell something on the web, 99% of it is down to the written word.

It’s vital to get it right, especially when you consider that things such as bad spelling and dodgy grammar are traditionally taken as indicators of an online scam. It seems safe to predict that every single person reading this blog will have been the recipient of multiple scam emails that have been riddled with basic written errors. It also seems safe to predict that you will all have immediately deleted the emails as a result (well, we hope so, anyway!). Imagine if people did that with the website of your business, simply because you didn’t proofread it properly or put quite enough thought into the copywriting.

So, don’t let your business’s website lose out because you’ve written “it’s” instead of “its”. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure the content on your site is of a high quality so your readers will trust it and – hopefully – give you their business as a result. They include:

  • Use a spellchecker. It sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t.

  • Remember your audience. It is fine to write in ‘text speak’ when you’re actually texting, but remember that your website is supposed to be a professional pitch as to why people should use your services. Imagine you’re a customer: would you be convinced by your site? If the answer is ‘no’, then you may have some work to do.

  • Get a copywriter. There’s no shame in admitting you need some assistance to help your website pack a punch for the right reasons. A professional copywriter will be able to make sure there are no grammatical slip-ups on your site and that the content is relevant to your business.

  • Proofread. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Even if you’re confident in your ability to write good copy, don’t post it online without checking it first. You never know when errors might have crept in without you realising.

By Chelsey Evans

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Disclaimer: The contents of these articles are provided for information only and do not constitute advice. We are not liable for any actions that you might take as a result of reading this information, and always recommend that you speak to a qualified professional if in doubt.

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