08
Oct 17

How to Future Proof Your SEO | How To Prepare For Voice Search

SEO and Search marketing are critical foundations to good marketing these days. We all know how often search marketing techniques can change over time. Too often though we look at the minutiae of campaign strategies, rather than the broader picture of where the world is moving. In this video, I take the broader picture approach, look at where thee world is going and from there, offer some tips regarding your content strategy, which should feed into future proofing your SEO strategy. I hope you find it useful.

Future Proofed SEO Strategy

Transcription:

Good morning everyone! Enjoying a beautiful spring morning, this morning at Burleigh Heads on Australia’s Gold Coast.

And the point of this video today is, I thought I’d share an experience that I had last week, where I attended a digital marketing conference in Sydney and just some of the insights that I got out of one of the presentations at this conference. Particularly around search marketing and the future of search marketing, where search marketing is going or seems to be going in the future. The point of this is to help you consider your strategy with your content, with your strategy with your SEO campaigns, and how to future proof them based on the way that technology is starting to impact our behavior online.

When we talk about technology, specifically we’re talking about technology in regard to search, specifically we’re talking about the rise of technology around artificial intelligence and chatbots. Good examples are Siri and Cortana how they’re changing the way that we actually, they’re changing the way computers and devices facilitate search.

One of the key points with this is, searches isn’t just search engines anymore, if you actually look at everything you do on your PC or on any device you’ll find that there’s basically a search box everywhere. So you know, this search boxes on obviously social media but there’s search boxes on your e-mails, there’s search boxes in the word processing facilities, and the office facilities and the spreadsheets that you use. You know there are search boxes everywhere. You know just on your PC, there’s a search box on your phone and quite often now that these search boxes are facilitated by some type of mechanised or artificial intelligence style of robot or bot that processes the search for you.

Looking at the history of search, one of the things that we see now is that, you know search for the last ten years or so has been based on keywords. Which is something that we’ve had to learn to do. It wasn’t a natural, it’s not a natural way for humans to search based on keywords. You know, we search rather on concepts or questions and so that’s a habit we’ve learned. But with the introduction of concepts and tools like Siri and Cortana and chatbots and so forth, now we’re actually being given the opportunity to go back to how we’re supposed to and how we’re wired to operate and you know, search based on questions.

So for example when we’re using Siri we don’t say “Gold Coast weather” as keywords and expect Siri to come up with an answer for us. We’ll ask Siri “Hey Siri, what’s the weather going to be like on the Gold Coast tomorrow morning?” and Siri will use that phrase to generate a list of search results for us.

Another example could be if we’re looking for a recipe tomorrow, previously, we might write a search phrase “Chicken rice stir-fry” and that would give us a bunch of different recipe websites that would give us potential options to cook dinner tomorrow night. Whereas, rather we’d ask Siri “Hey Siri, what’s a great recipe for a chicken stir-fry for a dinner party I’m having with four guests tomorrow night?” and we get search results for that and then we find a recipe that we like. Then we might ask Siri “Hi Siri, what’s a good accompanying wine for this specific meal that we found?” So we’re actually asking questions rather than keywords.

So what this actually means as far as the future of search is that, we’re moving away from this idea that search is based on keywords or search phrases and rather we’re going back to the way we used to originally search for things, by asking questions. Building this into your search strategy, particularly around SEO campaigns, start thinking about how you’re creating your content strategy. And how you’re structuring your blog posts and your articles, so you know obviously some elements of blog posts are super important for search results such as:  your title, your headings, you know your h1 h2 h3 headings, the URL, that kind of thing.

Start creating content based around answering the questions that your clients or your, if you’re a digital marketing agency, the clients of your clients are asking. So instead of writing content to optimize for keywords, write content that asks and answers questions. Because you know I’ve actually been saying this for a long time in my career in digital marketing is that, you know if your clients are asking new questions, it’s likely that they’re asking those same questions to Google. In the past they might have structured those questions around keywords but now going forward, the search questions are actually going to be structured around questions. So when you structure your blog posts, make the question your title and you’ll notice with this video that that’s how I’ve structured the title of this video, and write a really good piece of content based on answering that question.

If you’re stuck for content ideas, a great place to start looking (and this is a tip that I’ve offered for the last ten years) is in the sent folder or the sent box of your e-mail software. So go to your sent items because your sent items will be full of you answering questions that your prospects and clients have asked you. You’ll have all the content there so create your content out of stuff you’ve already answered. You can probably even just cut and paste a lot of it and then just you know, fine tune it up to make it more readable or make a video about it. But that’s a great place to find questions that you can create your content on, to facilitate a search strategy that will bulletproof your business going into the future with the rise of the new technologies around search.

I hope you find this kind of information helpful because business isn’t just about today, it’s about tomorrow also and this is sort of a like it’s a great insight into where search is going and how to create proper strategy around that for the future.


06
May 16

SEO Business – Value and Client Expectations

I had an interesting day in the world of SEO yesterday.

On one hand I met a business owner who had spent 7 years doing SEO with one of the major Australian digital marketing companies, paying market rates all the way, and has left with 1 page 1 result and all but 2 of his priority keywords going backwards over the seven years. Many of these rankings went from page 1 to beyond page 10. This company continue to invoice him every month for this “value” they are providing.

In contrast, I had one of my long term clients, whose services today are discounted to the extent I am just above break even, where we are tracking over 100 keywords (for the price of a 10 keyword package), where 30 of his priority keywords hold the top position on Google, call me 3 times, then call the office and spend an hour on the phone with a staff member as I didn’t drop everything I was doing to help him immediately.

These two experiences contrasted so distinctly as they happened so close to each other. If they happened on a different day I may have missed it. It made me really think though about “Value in Business” – and in particular value in the business of SEO.

It was interesting as in the former example, the major agency continue to call their client each month telling him how well its going and the value they are providing. I looked at the report and felt sick – as I know it is this type of activity that gives our industry a bad name. The bigger players don’t seem to care. In the latter example though where there is clear over-value being provided, its a battle each month to have this acknowledged and there is a continual need for hand holding, over-administration, based on a one sided attitude of entitlement.

In a business sense where we have the opportunity to learn and get better every day, what is the lesson here? For me there are three parts to what I learned from this experience. These are:

  • Make sure you are creating value with what you are doing – if you don’t and try and “BS” your way through your lack of value – you are actually destroying an industry. Take responsibility. Do things right. Take ownership of fixing things that are not working
  • Value needs to be perceived for it to be of worth. As business owners we can forget this and forget that our clients, who are not in our industry, may need to be reminded and shown what the value is that we are providing. They may just not know or see it.
  • We need to be clear and firm on boundaries. We can learn when we let ourselves down in this regard and tighten up with this in our own businesses. In the second case for example, my standard services are turning into full on consulting gigs for which I’m not getting paid. Either the boundary needs to be made clearer or the price must be adjusted.

Ultimately business works well when the value we create is real, perceived and rewarded. When any of these things doesn’t work, business doesn’t work and it all falls apart. In my personal case I think I need to work on the third point, that’s my weakness and where I can improve my business from self improvement.


09
Mar 16

SEO, Ethics and Business

Lets be honest, SEO as an industry has a pretty bad name. Its probably a function of the fact that the industry is unregulated, there are no cohesive and professional industry bodies that guide its members around ethics and there are no tertiary level education requirements to enter the industry. Given the amount of demand for our services too, there is plenty of work for everyone so it does attract people with different standards of professionalism.

Over the last 3 years though, I have seen some absolute shockers. So I thought I’d write a post with some guidelines around what I see as ethical behaviors, behaviors which should be common place in our industry. I know, I know, it seems pretty common sense. Its disappointing though when we see simple things being missed – or deliberately omitted – causing degradation of reputation for the whole industry. I’d love to hear your thoughts. this is my opinion only based on recent experiences I’ve seen.

Always Try Your Best and Add Value

As part of your business you should have a clear vision about the value you personally, and your business is adding to your clients. Always try hard to add honest value to your clients. Your retainer is payment for that value. However the value of your services to your client should exceed what you get paid. That’s the only thing stopping them from employing someone internally to do your job.

The simple fact in our industry is that if you add value and communicate effectively, you’ll never lose a client.

Be Honest

Be honest in all your dealings, be honest about how you represent yourself (IE. don’t claim roles in other people’s companies and experiences that never happened) and be honest in how the industry operates.

Don’t try and blind your clients with confusions and jargon. Don’t try and cover up things with a web of lies. Don’t try and win sales through bullying, deception or misdirection.

Take Responsibility For Your Mistakes

Business isn’t perfect. We don’t get out of bed thinking today we will deliberately make a mess of something. Sometimes things don’t go our way though and we make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes happen out of our control. Other times we missed an opportunity to prevent a controllable mistake and accidentally messed things up. It happens to everyone.

The mistake isn’t the point. The point is how you deal with it. It has always worked well for me to front up with those impacted, be honest about the what and why of the mistake and present a plan to rectify it. There is actually a word that covers all this. Its “guarantee”.

The worst thing you can do in the face of a mistake is try and cover it up.

Don’t Set Up In Competition With Your Clients

If you see one of your clients has a good business, add value to them by supporting them with your SEO services. If you do a good job, you’ll find it pays back into your business with a client you never lose and through referrals and recommendations. This is how every one wins.

Don’t be tempted to replicate their business model for your own benefit though. Its stupid and dishonest. It will tarnish your reputation and create a massive distraction to both your businesses. And YES – setting up in your girlfriends name, or behind another family member is the same thing. This is something that just shouldn’t happen. If you can’t see this as the huge breach of trust it is, you shouldn’t be in any kind of business.

Don’t Defraud Your Clients – Give Them What They Paid For

If your clients are paying for a 20 keyword package, this is what they should be serviced with. Reducing their packages to maintenance or a 5 keywords package, even for a couple of months is actually fraud. Sure – it may save you some costs in the short term, but its a recipe for a jail term. It also leaves a footprint and is easily uncovered by the next SEO company pitching to your clients.

Like the previous point though – this should be a no brainer. If you believe its acceptable to reduce clients’ services while charging them for full service, maybe you’d be better in paid employment where you don’t have the discretion to make these types of decisions.

Don’t Try and Claim Other People’s Value As Your Own

If you are responsible for mentoring people and they start doing well – whether it is due to you or in spite of you, the correct thing is to bask in the glory of a job well done. Don’t try and claim the rewards of their efforts as your own. You’ll lose friends and all credibility in your working circle.

Learn Everything You Can About What You Are Doing

Our industry is very fast moving. There are lots of things outside of our control, like for example, the major platforms on which we base our services and the way in which they evolve their businesses. Even though these things are outside our control, it doesn’t make us powerless. Learn all you can about strategies today, the direction of the powerbrokers, likely shifts in strategies and ideas for tomorrow.

This will make you an expert, one who can add real value to your clients. This will also enhance your reputation – as you are the guy people will start saying “knows stuff”. So they come to you for advice – then give you their business.

If You Collect Money In Trust – Don’t Use It For Other Things

If you collect money “in trust” from your clients, remember it is not yours. The only thing it should ever be used for is the purpose the client intended.

The easiest example in our industry is collecting AdWords or FaceBook advertising budget on behalf of a client and paying Google or Facebook direct as part of your services. If you do this, this money should be put aside 100% for this advertising. It should never be used to cashflow other parts of your business (no, not even unplanned for legal proceedings) even if your intention is to “pay it back”.

Money collected in trust for clients should never be touched, other than for the purpose it was collected for.

So they are my key points. As I said, it all looks pretty common sense. It is in failing simple ethical standards like these though that our whole industry is tarnished. And that is even before we look at the skills and execution side of things.


27
Jan 14

SEO – Its Not Really About Google Rankings

I am writing this post at the risk of condemnation from both clients and industry peers, to offer some perspective on the SEO game. The inspiration behind this post is the habit we can get into, of “watched potting” our search engine ranking positions (SERPs), while holding unnecessary expectations and creating unnecessary anxiety. As the saying goes – “a watched pot never boils”.

SEO is NOT really about your Google ranking.  We tend to forget that quite often. SEO is actually about slowly building a predictable steam of targeted traffic to your website, through the search engines. So you should not really be measuring the success of SEO by rechecking your Google places every week, day, hour (you don’t do you…? Oh dear) – rather you should measure the success of your SEO by viewing your traffic statistics in Google Analytics. (and Google Webmaster Tools)

SEO is like all good marketing too. Its not typically an instant success, rather a gradual build of work, which increases the awareness and authority of your brand. So you should not look for big spikes in your organic traffic, rather a slow build. A gradually building level of SEO organic traffic really is the best outcome for any SEO campaign.

So, by changing your perspective about what SEO really is about, (if you missed the point of the article – its traffic) you may also be able to shift your perspective about how to market your entire website. In doing so, you may lose your dependency (to the point of desperation?) on Google to get people to your website. IE. If SEO is just about getting people to your website, we all know that there are many other ways to achieve this also. SEO is not the only way to get your website in-front of people.

With that in mind – and with the change of plan putting your SEO campaign on the slow-build, (rather than rocket) what else can you do to build traffic to your website and business profiles? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Pay per click advertising
  • Get active in social media
  • Run an advertising campaign on a social media platform
  • Create a targeted and optimised YouTube video
  • Have an offer and call to action on your business cards
  • Create an email database and run an email marketing campaign
  • Write some articles for the big ezines

There are so many opportunities out there to put your website in front of people, and the real interesting thing is often when you do these other things, it actually helps your SEO also.


20
Sep 13

What Exactly Is SEO

I am writing this post as there often seems to be confusion regarding what exactly SEO is. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. What it means simply is optimising your website’s structure, content and appeal for the search engines. The process is targeted to specific search queries (the words people type into Google) that are relevant to your website (and by extension your products, business and industry).

A well run SEO program will see you website listed on the top half of page 1 on Google for the most important search queries people use, when looking for your products and queries. On top of this, a well run SEO campaign will ensure your website provides search engine users with the information they are looking for, when they use Google. IE. Your website content answers their search questions, so the person on Google does not have to keep looking for what they need.

These results can be observed by a Google search and typically by an increase in website visitors. Once this result has been achieved, your SEO partner should be shown gratitude for a job well done. If you would like some help with your SEO, please leave your details at the Ocean Feather website, we’d love to help.

What SEO is not though is an increase in conversions. Sure, an increase in visitors to your website should naturally lead to an increase in enquiry, it does not always happen that way. If you have a really bad website, it just might not convert visitors into enquiries. A well run SEO campaign will really highlight this to you, but it won’t help with conversions. If this is the case, its time to look at your website. Does it present professionally? Are your contact details obvious? Can people find the information they need easily? Does it work well on smart phones? Do you have a clear offer and call to action? There are many other things that can impact conversions on a website.

As a business owner, you should be reviewing all these questions regularly as part of your ongoing marketing, but if your website is not converting despite successful SEO, don’t beat up your SEO guy, he has done a good job for you. Work with him instead and see if he has any website conversion advice, or knows someone who does.

SEO isn’t a fix for a bad business either. IE. If your website is making sales, but your sales are not profitable, all SEO will do is send you broke faster. In this case, you should probably stop SEO immediately and rather spend your money on business coaching.

So thats it for Friday afternoon. A quick lesson on what exactly SEO is. You can go and enjoy your weekend now.