WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

Last year I changed my blog over to the Generate Theme on the ‘Genesis framework’ offered by the guys at StudioPress. A number of people have asked me why I chose it, so today I thought I’d explain my reasons. Its also worth me saying that the links in this article are aff links because having had personal success with this combination, I signed up to help promote the StudioPress option to others. It’s important to say that I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t getting value from this myself.

Firstly, a wordpress theme actually sits on top of a framework and having done a lot of research into companies offering good solutions for both, I decided to take the recommendation of Chris Brogan who at the time, also used this combo. I believe he’s on a custom theme on top of Genesis now.

SEO: One of the main reasons I chose this framework was for its optimisation (SEO) value. Here’s an excerpt from the studiopress website explaining why it’s so good.

“State of the art code and smart design architecture make it easy for search engines to see what you’ve got. With automatic updates to the Genesis Framework, you never have to think about it again. Your code will always be up to date and fully optimized.”

And boy is it…Having added this article to my blog today, it was almost certainly appear in Google within a couple of days, sometimes I’ve seen it enter their index the same day.

Design: Once you run the Genesis framework you can use a number of what they call ‘child themes’ on top of it which means that I can have a different look for my blog without the need for a designer or developer at a touch of a button.

Support: If you need support then the guys over at StudioPress are second to none. That’s worth paying for in my opinion.

Security: In terms of security, they’ve employed security experts to help with locking down the insecurities that wordpress can suffer from. Obviously nothing is totally infallible but they’ve down what they can to make this the best they can.

There are also a plethora of other custimisation/widget options which I won’t bore you with today.

If you’re looking for framework to go with then I can definitely recommend genesis or any of the studiopress products. For more info on the themes they offer, make sure you check out their great theme chooser.

[Read more…]

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

Ladies and Gents, this post was originally written for my local paper – The Express and Echo. I felt the content was important to re-purpose for my blog.

I’m going to focus today on Search Engine Optimisation or SEO as it’s often referred to.

SEO is not a dark art. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you put the right things in place, you’ll start to see your rankings in major search engines improve. Where you might want additional help from your agency is when this is critical to your business and requires constant improvement to gain more and more rankings and therefore sales opportunities.

Here are five top tips you can do YOURSELF, today, to improve your rankings.

1). Add a blog to your site. Look at sites like www.wordpress.com which offer free blog software. You can download this and put it on your domain name (web address) and start to reap the benefits of blogging. A blog is given more respect from search engines due to the underlying software and fact that they are often updated regularly (Google loves fresh new content to sink it’s teeth into).

2). Ask for links. A link from someone else’s site to your own is seen as a vote for it. The more good quality links you have coming to your site, the better your rankings are likely to be. Ask yourself who you can approach for a link today – make a list and send them an email – now.

3). Create targeted content. You’ve installed your new blog so what do you write about now? Consider what you want to be found for in search engines. Is it XYZ product? In which case, you need to write about that product and give google and the others the chance to find multiple references of this product within your site. Try and provide value to the user – don’t just tell them why it’s great you’ve got this new product – sell the features and benefits of it for the user. Here’s a few suggestions for titles:

“Why the XYZ is so good in our opinion”
“5 great reasons you should consider buying the XYZ today”
“Review of the XYZ”

4). Page Titles. You see that blue bar at the top of your Internet Browser? That’s your page title. Every page can have and should have a different title. Lazy designers or those without the expertise will probably use the same title throughout your whole site. This is a huge waste and should be changed immediately. Consider again what you want to be listed for in the search engines and then try and make the title of that page match the content on the page as much as possible.

5). Google Product Feed. Ok so possibly not strictly SEO but as it’s part of Google I’ll include it here. If you’re selling products on your site and have a credit card system you can export these products into the Google shopping area. This takes some technical expertise but is well worth investing in, so ask your agency to look into this for you as soon as possible as it can lead to almost instant sales without huge investment. It’s also a great way to get a presence in Google if you’re struggling in the natural listings.

So there we have it folks, 5 lovely tips to take away and action today. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you start to implement these on your site today, you’ll start seeing the benefit very soon.

Image courtesy of Danard Vincente

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any great success stories from your hard work optimising?
  • If you had a top 5 list, would you add something I’ve missed into it?

How to be found in Google

How to be found in Google

When you type your name into Google what comes up?

Are you the 1st result? Are you 2nd? Please tell me you’re on the first page right? No? Really?

When I go for a meeting with anyone, when I listen to someone speak, the first thing I do is Google their name and if they don’t appear at least once on the first page that’s a report card on them I’m afraid. If your job is such that you need to keep out of the public eye then I’d understand but for those of you trying to build businesses and get yourself out there you’re going to need to get yourself out there. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this today.

1). Get yourself a blog. Don’t just add it to a free wordpress or blogger hosting account. Shell out a few pennies and have it hosted properly on its own domain. Consider buying a domain with your own name if it’s still available. If it’s not, then write a great biography page with your name mentioned in it.

2). Get active on Twitter and LinkedIn. These two sites are huge and very well respected by the likes of Google. When you signup try and choose a name which is something to do with you if possible. If not then make sure you at least give the network your full name where it asks for it. Create a biography page/section that describes you, your location (because people will use that to search too) and your interests if possible. Now get active on these channels. Engage with people on Twitter, link people to things of interest that you find and connect with people on LinkedIn – be proactive, don’t just wait to accept peoples invites and wonder what to do then.

3). Get listed on your company website – Does your company site have a team page you can be added to? Does it have a blog you could write for? Ask the powers that be how you can be featured more online and if you are the powers that be, make this happen :)

4). Write for your local paper or at least get them to write about you! Local papers are also well respected in search engines due to the amount of fresh content they are churning out and size of their sites. A few stories every now and again could see you getting listed in Google more often. If your story is good enough the paper will want it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get after all!

So there you have it, a few ways to start improving your ‘googleability’ (not sure if I just made that up or not). If you’re looking for the edge over your competitors this point should really be up near the top of your to do list.

Image courtesy of Molly Stevens

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any other suggestions for helping get listed in Google?
  • Have you used the search engine giant to do research yourself?

What’s your social footprint like?

What’s your social footprint like?

I consult a lot of small to medium sized businesses on ‘Social Media/Communications’. I’m not a self professed ‘social media guru’, it’s certainly not everything I do, but it does form a lot of the marketing/customer service/networking activity that I carry out for my own businesses. This post is about something I call ‘your social footprint’. The concept of the social footprint relates directly to Google and how I’ve witnessed huge changes in their SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) over the last couple of years.

Let’s go back a few years to 2006/7. Companies would come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation (SEO) and how important they considered being on the front page of Google for a few keyphrases, in fact, let me re-phrase that, they still come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation and being on the front page of Google BUT, and here’s the important thing, Google is a very different place to how it was two or three years ago. We now find ourselves explaining to clients that although search engine optimisation is very important still, it’s no longer the be all and end all.

A couple of years ago, searching on any key phrase gave you 10 ‘natural results’ that had been indexed by Google’s spiders, as well as the paid advertising (PPC) – many of the large SM sites had not been going that long so were not indexed that well. If you do the same search now, you’ll find that a huge proportion of the front page results are now social media sites, meaning if you want to compete in the SERPS and do not have a social footprint, then you’re going to find it very hard. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate my point:

Here is my name ‘Googled’ – Alastair Banks – Here are the results (at the time of writing of course). I’ve highlighted the results that contain an element of ‘social’

No1 & 2 – My Blog (Social Media)
No 3 & 4 – Websites relating to other people with my name (Non Social Media)
No 5 – My LinkedIn account (Social Media)
No 6 – My Twitter Account (Social Media)
No 7 – My Company – Optix Solutions Blog (Social Media)
No 8 – Another person’s Facebook profile (Social Media)
No 9 & 10 – Non Social Media sites

So on that search term, 60% of the results were SM sites – The fact is that if I wasn’t so active on these sites, there is a good chance someone else would have taken those spots – you gotta be in it to win it J

Let’s look at another example – A client of mine deals in Sony camera equipment. Here is a new piece of equipment from the Sony camp – A Sony HXR-NX5E – Let’s take a look at the SERPS for that phrase (again highlighting SM sites):

No1 – Shopping Results (You could argue these are social for the ability to review & rate)
No 2 & 3 – Sony’s own site – you’d kind of expect that
No 4 & 5 – Video from YouTube and Vimeo (Social Media)
No 6 – Sales Site
No 7 – A blog (Social Media)
No 8 – A community site for filmmakers (Social Media)
No 9 – A sales site
No 10 – Sony make it back in here again but with a blog J (Social Media)

So in this very real example, again 60% of the results are ‘social sites’ – This is why you’ll see my client becoming very active in the social world from this point onwards.

Given further maturity of the main social sites over the next few years, I believe we’ll start seeing 60-70% of the top 10 results in Google displaying SM based websites regularly. If you add a powerful brand you’re trying to sell in there, (like Sony in the example above) that’s another position gone, so there are far fewer positions to fight over and why agencies which used to simply carry out SEO or PPC for clients are now having to adapt into the social world for their clients. If you’re new to business or starting up, don’t get too carried away with just SEO, it’s vital you consider your strategy for social media sites as well.

Is your social footprint good enough or do you need to work on it? Do these changes to the SERPs worry you or do you think it’s a good thing that Google is becoming more socially aware?

Intelligence the Key to Taking E-Commerce That Step Further

Intelligence the Key to Taking E-Commerce That Step Further

Sorry for missing yesterday’s post folks. I referenced a mastermind group I’d setup with a few other business owners in Devon in my post earlier this year – well yesterday we descended on Bovey Castle on Dartmoor – a truely inspirational venue, perfect for reflection on business and setting goals for the future. I’m now fully energised again and ready to work at my optimimum level again.

This weeks post was originally written for The Web Squeeze a few weeks ago and has been received really well so I thoughtmy iambanksy readers might like to read it. Enjoy.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the driving force, the buzzword that gets e-commerce specialists excited, and the latest online market figures make it easy to understand just why.

2008 saw a single year increase in online sales of 16% across the market. Since 2000, Internet sales have risen by 3,500% to £42bn and it’s expected that by 2010 this figure will have climbed to a staggering £72bn.

Statistics like these prove that traditional concerns around issues such as security, limited or inaccurate product information and delivery logistics are on the wane and shows just how vital it is to business to put themselves in a position to capitalise to the full.

However, this is also about a seismic shift in consumer habits on the back of an ever more sophisticated online culture. Our confidence in, and dependence on, online technologies, from desktop computers to mobiles and handhelds, is greater than it has ever been before.

Forward thinking businesses are recognizing this and also realising that the disciplines of analysis and adjustment associated with CRO are techniques just as relevant in all areas of measuring the success of a web presence. Each business is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Nothing should be left to assumptions. Don’t assume something is working – measure, analyse and build until you are sure it does.

In a large competitive market, just a fractional increase in market share can represent a significant boost to profits.

The e-commerce ‘boom’ showed how incredibly easy it is to establish an online shop, just as the subsequent bursting of the e-commerce ‘bubble’ demonstrated the harsh realities of creating a success of one.

CRO is more likely to become achievable if a business understands that their online stores have a much greater value than simply being a means of processing direct online sales.

The key to making the very most of your online store is to make it ‘intelligent’. There are an ever increasing number of excellent analytic tools that can provide the sort of data and insights on customer habits and regular reviewing of this allows the online store to tell you its own weaknesses to be corrected and strengths that can be built on as part of ongoing optimisation strategies.

Those who treat an online store simply as a static sales point are missing a huge opportunity to generate fresh sales from new and existing customers.

The journey between an initial visit and a completed sale can yield a great deal of information about your customers, their habits, where they came from, their likes and dislikes and ultimately what their experience of engaging with your business online is like.

A clearly focussed and customer-driven online store is vital in building brand loyalty and staying ahead of the competition. The bottom line is that those who engage in the changing dynamics of selling online will generate more revenue than those who do not.

If analytic data from your online store is going to have any genuine value it must be built on firm foundations, in other words, the fundamental basics of an online store need to be in place.

Using analytics for conversion optimisation is about fine-tuning and development, and you can’t fine-tune or develop a model that does not work in the first place.

Begin at the beginning, even if you have a well-established website, or sites, already. Make sure that usability is and remains at the heart of it. A small adjustment that enhances your customers experience of using the site may pay big dividends. Again, we go back to the mantra – measure, analyse and build.

Product information pages and purchasing forms must load quickly and be easily navigated. Forms and payment fields should be clearly titled and constructed and display essential information on the likes of shipping and billing in a prominent, logical, and easy to follow way.

There should be as many secured payment options as possible and plenty of calls to action. There is no point in having fantastically engaging sales pages if the customer can’t find the ‘checkout’ or ‘add to basket’ buttons.

If the online store satisfies these basic requirements then the data it yields can give you genuine insight into your customer‘s journey though your online store. From it you can act on two distinct fronts; optimising conversion and increasing sales through some seriously targeted marketing.

The essence of conversion optimisation is no great mystery. The point is to guide as many people as possible all the way to clicking the ‘place order’ button as smoothly as possible, at the same time ensuring that by the end of the process your brand and products have been enhanced in the customers’ eyes.

If they have arrived via a search engine, knowing the key phrases they used to get to you is invaluable in building effective Search Engine optimisation strategies and content. If they have followed a link from elsewhere – supplier database, social network, customer’s website etc… – you should know exactly where and how.

There is no better test of the robustness of your sales process than looking at customer abandonment. Latest data capturing techniques can model the journeys of all those who visit your site and show you exactly at what point during that journey they jump ship.

Armed with this information you can revisit this part of the site, take some independent soundings as to why it isn’t working (sometimes you are too close to the whole thing to see what might be obvious to an outsider) and tweak as necessary until the results improve. Every obstacle removed smoothes the path to higher sales.

The data your online store can provide is also invaluable when it comes to joining up and targeting marketing campaigns and strategies.

A proven way of retaining existing customers is ‘right touch’ marketing – complementing online advertising by introducing new products or services to specific customers who have bought or registered an interest in related items. Think along the lines of Amazon’s highly success ‘Customers who bought this also bought these’.

Going a step further, you can also introduce VIP shopping for regular retail and wholesale customers, an excellent means of increasing sales while imbuing a sense of exclusivity in the brand.

New product or service launches can be targeted at an audience who have already demonstrated interest in a particular area of your business. All this information can be provided by your online store if you make use of the ever growing number of analytic tools that make it an intelligence gatherer and provider rather than simply a processor of credit card details.

—-

If you enjoyed this article you may well be interested in a fantastic article our head of development at Optix Solutions wrote on the use of voucher codes in ecommerce.