What is your bounce rate and why is it important for SEO?

If you’re a small or medium-sized business owner you may not have come across the term ‘bounce rate’ or you may have noticed it on your Google Analytics web stats. The reason why bounce rate has always featured so prominently on top line web stats is because it’s a key indication on how engaging your web pages are to visitors. And this has an impact on SEO.

Bounce rate explained

The bounce rate of your website – or a particular page – is the percentage of users who leave the web page they landed on without any kind of interaction with it. No clicks; they simply arrive, decide it’s not what they wanted to see and leave, looking for a more suitable resource.

For this reason, bounce rate is a measure of the quality of a user’s visit and a high bounce rate indicates that the pages people are landing on – your ‘landing pages’ – aren’t relevant to them.

A website’s bounce rate is displayed as a percentage: the total number of sessions viewing the site and leaving without any interaction is divided by the total number of page views for a given time period. In simple terms, a high bounce rate is bad and a low bounce rate is good!

In Google Analytics, you will see an overall bounce rate for your website displayed in your top line stats and a report that shows which pages have the highest individual bounce rates.

Bounce rate vs. exit rate

Bounce rate is different from exit rate because it measures people who leave without visiting any other pages on your website. An exit rate for a page refers to visitors who leave your site from a particular page, after coming to that page from somewhere else on your site.

A common example of a bounce is someone who lands on your home page from the search results and hits the back button on their browser pretty much straight away. If they clicked on your products page then left the site, the visit would show as an exit from the product page and not a bounce because they’ve visited two pages on your site.

What counts as a bounce?

You may be surprised what counts as a bounce. We’ve already mentioned clicking the back button but there are a number of things a user can do which will also count. If they close the window or tab, that counts. Typing a new URL in the address bar does too. So, does clicking on a link to another website from within your page. They are all ways of leaving your website without interaction.

How it impacts SEO

Google uses a complex set of metrics when ranking web pages but its own user data is pretty critical.  Both bounce and exit rate are strong indicators of a web page’s quality and ‘stickiness’ – and Google’s primary aim is to serve up the best quality and most relevant pages in its search engine results pages (SERPS). If your pages have a high bounce rate, it means they’re not relevant to the search terms users typed – and will be less likely to rank well. Conversely, if the bounce rate is low, it means users are spending time on your page, finding content to engage in and exploring your site further.

What is a good bounce rate?

Every industry is different so we can’t give a blanket answer to this. Instead you should compare your web metrics with other sites in your industry.  Shopping websites tend to have lower bounce rates as people are more inclined to browse products, whereas a specific geographical landing page for a service industry which contains all the information users need on that page will have a significantly higher rate. This also applies if your website is a simple one-page site. As a guide:

  • Retail sites should aim for 20-40%
  • Service industry sites (e.g. Financial services) should aim for 10-30%
  • Content sites should aim for 40-60%
  • Landing pages should aim for 70-90%

What can I do to improve my website?

As a first step to improving your website bounce rate you should identify which pages on your website users land on most frequently. You can do this in Google Analytics. These are the pages you should focus on to do the following things:

  • Ensure the content on the page is relevant and engaging – you may consider rewriting it, breaking it up, adding images or video and links to other relevant content. Ensure there is enough detail for users if they want it. If you’re worried about having too much visible content on the page, you can use ‘read more’ links.
  • Ensure the design of the page is engaging – clear layout, easy to read font, clear journey through the page and jumps off to relevant content. Perhaps get someone who’s never seen the page to take a test drive through it.
  • Ensure any links to external sites open in a new window by using the target=”_blank” attribute in your links.
  • Link to a glossary that explains industry terms or a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
  • Ensure the page loads quickly. We recommend aiming for a 5 second page load time. To measure this, use a tool like GT Metrix or Google’s own Page Speed Checker (NB this will check your mobile page speed as Google now looks at mobile ahead of desktop).
  • Get rid of any pop-up ads – they annoy users.
  • If your page has adverts, consider where they’re placed. Too many, too prominently on the page are a turn off.
  • Check that your site navigation is clear and the user journey through the website is planned out.
  • Include plenty of internal links to other, useful pages on your website – e.g. similar products and services, customer reviews, relevant blog or news posts and contact page
  • Include clear calls to action (CTAs) as buttons or banners to prompt users to click on them.

If you implement the above points on your key pages, you will not only improve your bounce rate but also the SEO for that page – and in turn should see more users from organic search. But remember, nothing happens overnight so keep checking those web metrics every month!


Why keywords are still the key to your website success in 2019

The purpose of this post is to give an overview of why keywords are still so important, for business owners or marketers without a detailed SEO knowledge.

I was inspired to write this post, as I regularly see new clients’ websites that are missing the most basic keywords, even those who have previously hired an SEO agency.

  • Many things are written about the keys to a website search engine success in 2019, for example this blog post lists over 200 factors that Google considers.
  • It is worth taking a step back to look at the function Google provides. If someone types in (or speaks) their query, like “plumber in Brighton”; Google’s algorithm looks at all the web pages in its index and serves what it considers to be the ‘best’ results.
  • While Google looks at over 200 factors, if you are a plumber in Brighton, you are certainly going to make your job of achieving top ranking much harder if you do not have ‘plumber’ or ‘brighton’ written on relevant web pages.

So, despite all of Google’s advances since it was founded in 1998, keywords are still the key to websites’ success, here are the six reasons why:

1. People still search using words

Despite technology advances, people still search using words, whether typing on mobile, desktop or using voice search. Words are therefore the basis of every search.

2. Keywords relate to 11 of the 59 page factors that Google looks at for rankings

According to Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2018), keywords are directly related to 11 of the 59 on page factors that Google looks at when deciding where to rank your website in its natural listings. So, defining the right keywords in the correct places are still extremely important for your website’s rankings.

3. Google makes its money from keywords

In 2017, ads accounted for over 70% of Google total $111 Billion revenue, and 89% of this ad revenue came from ads in their search results.

The ads in their search results work on a keyword cost per click model. So, the advertiser will bid on a keyword they wish to rank for, and the more commercially viable that keyword the more they will bid. So, it is worth remembering that keywords drive Google’s income, so they are going nowhere!

4. Keywords help your website to clearly define what you are selling

The right keywords can help you to clearly and succinctly define your product or services, from the more general such as ‘plumber’ to the highly specific such as ‘Emergency boiler repairs in Brighton’.

So, for example if you where this firm of plumbers:

  • Home Page – this should include more general keywords such a ‘plumbers’ and maybe your locations
  • Services pages – you should have an ‘Emergency Boiler Repairs’ page and maybe your locations

For further details on how to structure your website, see: How to Create a Site Structure That Will Enhance SEO.

5. Keyword research helps you match your site to what searchers are looking for

Google provides data to the precise search queries people use. Tools like Keywords Everywhere make accessing this data quick and simple.

Knowing the number of searches for one keyword versus another can be extremely informative in how you write and structure your website.

Let’s say you are a firm of plumbers and you offer ‘boiler installations’ and ‘heat pump installations’ but Google tells you that there are no searches for ‘heat pump installations’ in your area, this tells you to focus more efforts on the ‘boiler installation’ content on your website. See actual results:

  • boiler installer brighton: 30 Google searches a month
  • heat pump installer brighton: 0 Google searches a month

For more information see:  How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide.

6. Keyword research helps you target more commercially viable search terms

As Google makes money from selling Ads and knows the price people will bid for specific keywords. This gives you as a website owner extremely valuable information as to the commercial viability of a keyword.

Let’s say you were considering two pages on your plumbing website, one about your Emergency Plumbing Services, and one about Small Plumbing jobs. But the cost per click for the two search terms where as follows:

  • emergency plumbers brighton: £12.74 per click
  • small job plumber brighton: £2.03 per click

This indicates that ’emergency plumbers brighton’ is a much more commercially viable term, and that your site will generate higher value enquiries if you spend more time optimising writing content for ‘emergency plumber’ related keywords.

For further reading, see Google AdWords: The Beginner’s Guide.

 

If you have any comments please leave a comment below.

Or if you feel that your business website is lacking good keyword targeting, call us on 01444 645018 for a FREE initial chat, or for more information see our SEO page.


Using PPC data to inform SEO

Traditionally, SEO and PPC have been seen as very separate entities – rivals competing a bigger slice of the digital marketing budget in any given organisation. Your company’s organic search specialists will argue that SEO is a long-term strategy with better value for money and lasting effects that make a difference for your business. But those interested in paid search will counter: PPC is immediate, and it always gets results.

Of course, they are both right: SEO and PPC can each be effective strategies and can often work harmoniously for a holistic approach to digital marketing. But it is perhaps not recognised often enough that aside from working together – there is actually much that SEOs can learn from PPC practice and data.

Lack of communication between SEO and PPC specialists can be a hinderance to the success of a business. So, in this blog we will take a look at how your SEO department can utilise PPC data and insights effectively.

Learn faster than SEO

As has been mentioned, PPC is typically seen as a ‘faster’ form of digital marketing. This is due to the fact that while the SEO work you do on a website can take months before you see a significant improvement in your rankings (and therefore, traffic and sales), PPC ads can bring in customers in minutes.

Clearly, then, there is an opportunity for SEOs to learn where they need to target their next campaign. For example, if your business is moving into a new product area, using PPC ads can tell you very quickly the kinds of products and pages that work successfully. Test product pages individually to see which ones perform the best. Long-term SEO can then be planned around these pages, as there may be more potential for conversions in them.

Understanding the metrics

PPC data can provide you with an absolute gold mine of useful information on how pages perform. Click through rate and conversion rate are two vital metrics that can be extremely easily tracked through a PPC campaign – you can take many insights from the campaign.

Look for pages with a high click-through rate but a low conversion rate. It may be the case that the advert here is misleading, so when visitors click through, they don’t find what they are looking for. Alternatively, it may be the case that the advert piqued the interest of the visitor, but the page failed to live up to expectations. These can offer great opportunities to improve these pages.

Check how your high click-through/low conversion pages fair through organic traffic – if the conversion rate is low here then the problem is clearly with the page. Low quality pages can be a big problem for long-term SEO – and simply by comparing the PPC data with organic data you can learn whether a page is a problem, or if the issue is elsewhere.

Useful reports

It was once easy to understand which search terms were generating the most revenue for your business. However, updates to Google Analytics made it far more challenge to access this data in a meaningful and useful way. It has become necessary for SEOs to effectively take an educated guess in order to establish the best converting keywords for their site.

However, if you are also running a PPC campaign then there is no need to guess. A PPC specialist will be able to easily obtain a search term report for your account that will include a full range of useful metrics including, impressions, CTR and, yes, conversion rate!

You can then take this useful data and understand which terms are the most effective. This is just one example of PPCs sometimes having access to information that a pure SEO specialist might not realise is available.

Practical examples for how you can use PPC data to inform SEO

There are plenty of practical of examples of things that the SEO team can start doing immediately in order to benefit from PPC insights.

  1. Faster A/B testing – we have already mentioned that one of the major benefits of PPC over SEO is that it works faster. This gives you the opportunity to carry out any important A/B testing at a much faster rate than what would be possible for SEO. While SEO A/B tests might take weeks or even months to come up with preferred options, PPC campaigns can find out in days.
  2. Use best performing ad copy to inform meta titles and descriptions – it is also worth noting that when a particular PPC advert works well, it can be sensible to use this to inform meta titles and descriptions. If a PPC ad that mentions ‘award winning service’ and it is performing above better than other ads, then it is definitely worth using this phrasing in your meta description.
  3. Calls-to-action – getting your calls-to-action right can make a huge difference to the success of a site. PPC ads tend to use a much broader variety of CTAs than standard pages, so they are constantly testing their effectiveness. Take a look at which CTAs convert best, and then roll them out.

But… be aware of the pitfalls

Of course, there is the potential to be ‘false positives’ within PPC data that, when applied to the site generally as an organic search tactic, will not be effective. There can be many reasons for this – perhaps visitors coming to your site through CTA-heavy adverts are more primed to convert than a visitor casually searching on a term you rank well for.

The best advice then is to take ‘too good to be true’ data with a pinch of salt. What works for PPC often works for SEO but it is not always the case. You can use high performing PPC ads to inform content strategy, but be aware that organic search comes with its own challenges so it is always advisable to work with specialists.

If you would like to work with a digital agency with leading technical staff across both SEO and PPC, Artemis would love to hear from you.


9 Simple A/B tests you can run to improve conversions

A lot of website owners think that the most vital part of their online business is getting traffic. While this is, of course, pretty essential, there’s actually something far more important to work towards – converting that traffic into paying customers.

It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in metrics like search engine rankings and page traffic and forget about what’s actually making you money!

A/B testing

When it comes to boosting conversions quickly and effectively, A/B testing is the answer.

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is where you make one small change to a web page (or advert, or marketing email) and run both the new and original versions simultaneously, to see which one brings in more customers. Rather than just assuming that a bigger button is better or having “a hunch” that a simpler banner will boost click-throughs, A/B testing provides solid evidence.

Here are some examples of really simple A/B tests that can have a surprising impact on your conversions – just remember to only change one thing at a time, so you can clearly see which options are more effective.

  1. Rephrasing your Call to Action (CTA) – is “Buy Now” more effective than “Add to Basket”? Now you’ll know for sure.
  2. Moving your CTA button – you might find more people click on a button that’s higher up the page or is slightly bigger than your current one.
  3. Changing the colour of your CTA button – do your customers see the colour green as “go” or will red instil urgency into their click-through? What Only an A/B test will tell you for sure.
  4. Swapping images – will a photograph perform better than an illustration? Perhaps your customers would rather see a young entrepreneur than a picture of your product – or perhaps not. Play around with images to see how they affect your conversion rates.
  5. Refining your headlines – try using this title text to address your customer pain points or explain the benefits you bring them. Does it make a difference?
  6. Compare subject lines – if you’re running an email campaign, see how a playful subject line plays against an informative one, or whether asking a question yields better results than a short, simple statement.
  7. Revise your copy – this might be a bigger job than some of the others, but it can provide excellent returns. Can you make your text longer? Shorter? Punchier? More problem-focused? Chattier?
  8. Simplify your navigation – if your customers are getting distracted or confused by pages within pages, try changing the location of your navigation tools (and possibly the language they use) to make it easier for browsers to hit “buy”.
  9. Shorten your forms – you might think that you need all that data “for marketing”, but if it’s actually putting customers off, is it worth it? Split test long and short forms to see how much business they’re costing you, if any.

Keep in mind, a single A/B test is unlikely to revolutionise your business. It’s more about incremental gains that slowly but surely help your website to work as hard as it possibly can for you and your customers, making the most out of its excellent ranking and high volume of traffic. For friendly technical advice and more details about different ways in which you can increase your website conversions, give our team a call or leave us a comment below


Four quick daily Google Analytics checks

Here are four quick daily Google Analytics checks courtesy of Senior SEO Manager Jack Stonehouse. 

Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that provides insights and data for your website traffic. It has a vast amount of useful information that you can use to ensure your business is on track. It can however be quite overwhelming when you log in there are hundreds if not thousands of reports you can view and create.

Below are a handful of quick and simple checks you can do for your website. I prefer to change my date view to show the last 30 days or so, this gives me a better trend across the month. I will also review all the reports compared to the previous 30 days and the same period last year. Comparing year on year will help identify any seasonal trends.

What we are looking out for is any major change that isn’t in line with the normal trend.

1. Channels

The channels report is found by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. This report covers the main mediums that send you traffic. The key channels are:

  • Organic Search – This is all traffic from Search Engines (Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go etc.)
  • Paid Search – This is traffic from PPC ads such as Google Adwords
  • Direct – This is traffic that comes from users that type your website domain name straight into the browser, it is also a catch-all for traffic that Google cannot identify and is just placed in the Direct bucket
  • Social – This is traffic from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
  • Referral – This is traffic to your website from other websites
  • Email – This is traffic from Email campaigns

The key stats to check on the channel report are Users, Sessions, Bounce Rate, Conversion Rate and Revenue/Goals (Revenue for E-commerce websites and Goals for all other sites).

 

You can change the data that is displayed on the graph by using the menu/drop down highlighted red in the screenshot above.

2. Referrals

The referrals report is found by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. This report shows traffic to your website from other websites.

This check is just a quick one to see if there are any new websites that are driving traffic to your site. If there are you could potentially contact them to see how you could both work together to increase the traffic further. This could be through providing them content with another link back to your website, or if have an affiliate system setup, you could ask them to sign up.

3. Landing Pages

The landing pages report is found by going to Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages. This report shows which pages users land on when they first come to your website.

This is important to monitor for any vast changes in visits, some common situations for an increase in landing page traffic are if a social post goes viral, you get a good backlink that is driving traffic or a key term starts ranking in a high up position in the Search Engine Results Pages.

4. Ecommerce Overview

The ecommerce overview report is found by going to Conversions > Ecommerce >Overview. This report is just for sites that sell products and shows key information such as revenue and conversion rate.

You need to enable this report by adding ecommerce tracking to your website, it is also recommended you add enhanced ecommerce tracking so you get even more in-depth data to review.

Key stats to watch here are any drop in revenue or conversion rate, some reasons could be due to an item going out of stock or an issue with the checkout process.

For more detailed statistics you can also view the following e-commerce reports (once you have enabled enhanced tracking):

  • Shopping Behaviour
  • Checkout Behaviour
  • Product Performance
  • Sale Performance

If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch with our friendly team here.


Meta description FAQs – 5 things everyone wants to know

We see them every day on Google’s search results pages: meta tags – the title tag that specifies the title of a web page, and the meta description underneath. But what exactly is a meta description? Is it important to have one and how do you write a good one?

These and other questions pop up with regularity among SEO enthusiasts, both beginners and those who should really know better. Let’s take a closer look on the 5 questions everyone seems to be asking to see if we can shed some light.

FAQ 1: What is a meta description?

Meta descriptions are a fundamental part of successful website optimisation. It’s the first snippet of text that you see in search results, below the page title, and should provide a short summary description of the content on your site. When you type a search query into Google, the search engine will show the meta description on the results page including the keyword you used in your search.

Example:

 

 

 

FAQ 2: Why do you need a meta description?

The short answer is that it’s good SEO practice to have effective meta descriptions on each of your web pages. While Google is adamant that meta descriptions don’t actually affect search engine rankings, they are still an extremely useful tool to help drive traffic to your site.

In fact, the whole point of a meta description is to give the user a good reason to click through to your site. A good description will give an overview of what the page is about and be written in an appealing way so that the user wants to find out more. Given the competitive nature of online marketing, a well written meta description may make all the difference between web traffic going to your page, or to a competitor page.

FAQ 3: How long is a meta description?

In theory, a meta description can be any length but do bear in mind that if it’s too short, the description you give may not be useful enough, and if it’s too long, Google may truncate your snippet. It’s not an exact science and Google likes to increase or decrease the limit now and again while conceding that, in fact, ‘there is no fixed length for snippets. Length varies based on what our systems deem to be most useful.’

At Artemis, our best practice is to write meta descriptions that are just under 155 characters long, making sure the most important messages are communicated with the first 120 characters just in case the displayed snippet does get truncated.

Example:

FAQ 4: How do you write a good meta description?

In order to convince someone to click through to your page from organic search results, you only have a short snippet of text to convey the right messages, which is why it’s worth putting in the effort to craft good copy for every unique meta description. Think of it as the equivalent of writing ad copy for Google Adwords for Pay-Per-Click.

While the content of each meta description must accurately reflect the content of the page it points to, it should be written in a compelling fashion to appeal to the reader, generate interest in your page and ultimately increase click through rates.

See if you can tell the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ meta description in these two examples:

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQ 5: What are some top tips for writing a meta description?

So, how do you put all the above into action when it comes to writing your own meta descriptions? Commercial content writers use these top 5 tips and tricks of the trade to create great copy, including irresistible meta descriptions.

1. Write for people, not for bots – meta descriptions are primarily aimed at the user, not the search engine. While it’s important to include the main keyword(s) in the copy, don’t stuff your description full of them – it looks spammy and will put people off. Instead, make your description informative and easy to read, written by humans and for humans in an effort to get them to engage with the snippet and click through to your site.

2. Include structured content – for product pages in particular, users will be looking for information such as a detailed item description, technical spec, optional extras and, of course, price. It is highly likely that a click through to your website will be triggered by this highly relevant structured content rather than persuasive advertising copy, so make sure it is included in the meta description.

3. Feature rich snippets – you can increase the appeal of your meta descriptions by adding additional information such as star ratings or customer ratings, product details, events and much more, using the latest schema markup code. If you’re not familiar with the concept, ask your SEO consultant to explain how this can enrich the information displayed in search results.

4. Use an active voice – advertising copy is always aimed directly at the readers, with the ultimate intention to get them to do something (e.g. make a purchase). Rather than providing factual but dull information, write in an active, direct voice using imperatives (‘read this’, ‘click that’), giving clear direction towards clicking on the title tag.

5. Don’t forget the call-to-action – the ultimate aim of your meta description is to drive click-throughs to your site, so the more compelling the reason given to the user to do just that, the more successful your meta description will be. ‘Find out more’, ‘Read our blog’, ‘Book a free consultation’, ‘Shop the sale’, ‘Buy now’ are all important calls to action inviting the user to visit your website for a specific purpose.


Four SEO quick wins every site can implement

In general, SEO is much more about building for the long-term, rather than quick wins. At Artemis we take a measured and engineered approach to optimising sites, but we understand that getting results is what’s truly important. There are some things that almost every website owner with limited time can do that will make a big difference to rankings, performance, and, ultimately, sales. Here are four quick wins that virtually every website can implement today.

1. Optimise your images

Page loading speed is still an important factor in search rankings, and given that there are so many things that anyone can do to improve their page speed, there really is no excuse not to make changes. One of the best things that you can do is to optimise your images and compress their file sizes – you’ll still have stunning images, but they will take a fraction of the time to load.

This is even possible with large banner images, which you might typically think of as being very large file sizes. Take a look at our blog on how to successfully compress large images for a real quick win for your page loading speed.

2. Make mobile your priority

Mobile search is a big deal. In 2017, mobile accounted for more than 50 per cent of all web traffic generated across the world. And yet the vast majority of marketing and digital staff interact with websites at work through the use of a desktop or laptop. This can give you a skewed perspective on how your site looks and performs.

The important move here is to understand your Analytics data. If your website receives a higher proportion of traffic to its mobile site, then you should be spending more time working on the mobile version, rather than the desktop. To get into the habit it can be a great idea to have staff spend a whole day of work accessing the site and working exclusively through tablets and smartphones. This can provide a huge insight into how user-friendly the mobile version of your site is which will give you countless ideas for how to improve the site’s usability.

3. Fix 404s immediately

Site errors can be a huge problem for SEO. For example, a 404 page error is a guaranteed way to increase bounce rate and is a terrible user experience for customers. Unsurprisingly Google and other search engines see 404 errors as a red flag and even just a few of them can see your whole site tumbling in the rankings.

Use a site crawling tool such as Screaming Frog regularly to find rogue 404 errors and fix them as soon as possible. You might be surprised at how many you have if you have never taken a look before.

4. Refresh your content… even if it performs

We have known for a long time that Google loves to see fresh content going up on a site. But what do you do if you’ve had a page for a time and it’s still doing well, even if the information isn’t quite as good as your competitors?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but even your top performing content needs to be regularly refreshed. The crucial aspect here is keeping the content as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Google loves to see content that is well received by users and provides answers to their questions.  As Google begins to utilise artificial intelligence more and more in its analysis of pages, it will become better at understanding whether your content is actually useful and engaging for your customers. This will increasingly affect rankings. Improving your content now can help to ensure that you keep your position or improve.


Artificial Intelligence and Search Engines. Part Two: Changing SEO

In Part One of our series on artificial intelligence (AI) and search engines, we looked at how AI is changing the way the users search and how search engines function. Welcome to Part Two, where we will be taking a closer look at the ways in which the SEO industry will have to react to AI and what it will mean for your website rankings on Google.

For as long as there have been search engines used by millions of people, there have been advantages for those websites and businesses that have been able to influence the rankings in their favour. As early search engines used relatively crude methods for determining results, it was historically relatively easy to optimise a site. However, over the years, algorithms have expanded and become more complex. AI is just the latest factor in this constantly evolving process. And to understand how AI is changing SEO, we need to first understand how SEO has evolved over time.

How SEO has evolved – a brief history

Today, SEO is big business: companies are willing to spend significant portions of their marketing budget to attempt to rank above their competitors in Google’s search results. The earliest recognisable search engines emerged in 1994 and the algorithms they used in order to rank the websites were fairly basic. Factors such as how many times a website used a specific word, whether that word was in the URL and the meta data, were crucial in determining where websites would be placed. This meant that a website owner simply had to ‘stuff’ their pages and their URLs with keywords to rank well – early SEO was simple.

The first major advancement in the intelligence of search came when they began to factor backlinks into their algorithms. When Google launched in 1998 it was revolutionary in the way it ranked pages because it looked at the internet as a whole, not just the content on the one website. It was able to see which websites were linking to others, and it recognised these links as an important factor in determining the importance and relevance of a site – akin to the way that a university essay cites sources. However, initially the algorithm worked on a relatively basic premise – the more links that a website had pointing towards it, the more valuable and powerful was deemed to be.

early Google search

This led to a situation in which if websites wanted to perform well in Google’s search results they could continue to utilise keywords, but also boost their site further by building a huge number of links, regardless where these links came from. For a period of time this was standard practice. However, when Google realised that many businesses were using these sorts of underhand tactics to receive an artificially-inflated ranking, they deciding to do something about it. This saw the launch of two large scale updates to Google’s algorithm: Panda, promoting the value of high quality content, and Penguin, punishing sites with large numbers of links coming from poor quality sites.

This is where SEO became a far more complicated and delicate process, and website owners and SEO specialists had to think very carefully about everything they did to a website to ensure it wouldn’t fall foul of the new rules.

A more advanced algorithm

The fallout from Penguin and Panda was enormous, and it indicated that Google was going to be continually refining its algorithm to attempt to make it impossible to manipulate or artificially enhance a website’s position. The next major update, which was known as Hummingbird, focussed on a shift towards natural language.

While webmasters and site owners had become used to using text and content to serve a purpose (to drive sites up the rankings), Hummingbird placed a greater preference for sites that used ‘natural’ language. This meant that websites that were filled with useful and interesting content ranked higher than those that simply contained a good density of relevant keywords.

There is no doubt, then, that Google’s algorithm was evolving and becoming more advanced with each change. But at this point they all had in common that there were ideas that were programmed into the algorithm by humans. However, this changed with the deployment of RankBrain.

The rise of RankBrain

Google began using RankBrain as a factor it is search results in 2015. It is an AI system that is considered to be the third most important ranking factor, behind content and links. RankBrain uses AI to analyse words and phrases that it has never seen before – it can then make a guess at the meaning of the phrase based on similar phrases. This means that it is extremely effective at showing relevant results even if it does not necessarily understand the query.

As search has become more conversational and in the form of long-tail, complicated questions, this AI is designed to help the algorithm translate the questions into something it can understand and provide search results for. Data from previous search queries is fed into RankBrain and it is uses this data to learn how connections are made between topics. It is also able to spot patterns between searches that might appear unconnected.

This is one of the first examples of AI being used to improve search results, but this begs a question: how should website owners optimise their sites for an algorithm that is learning by itself?

This is good news for SEO!

It might seem as if the addition of AI to Google’s algorithm spells trouble for those in SEO – after all, as AI learns more about websites and what kind of content a user is searching for when they use a particular search query, it becomes much harder to manipulate or influence the system in any way. However, on closer inspection, this is actually excellent news for SEO – or, more specifically, those businesses using ‘white hat’ SEO techniques.

Reputable SEO agencies and experienced professionals already know the steps that they need to take to ensure not only that their site will rank well in search results, but also won’t fall foul of penalties under the algorithm: focus on creating the best possible content and achieving links that the website deserves.

However, it has always been frustrating for white hat SEOs when they can see competitors utilising black hat techniques and getting results without being punished. Not only will AI reward reputable and genuine SEO, it will make it easier for search engines to spot poor practice. AI is definitely bad news for those agencies and companies using underhand methods to artificially inflate their rankings.

SEO

What this means for content creation and link building

Let’s take a look at what Google itself describes as the two most important ranking factors in its algorithm: content and links. These will be affected by the rise of AI.

For example, Google’s is AI becoming better at recognising the difference between genuine high quality content and simply average, non-duplicated text. This means that those websites that create the best possible content that is genuinely useful and interesting to their audience will see the rewards. This effectively means that the best advice is to carry on with the same plan that Google has been recommending for a long time: create amazing content that answers the questions of your audience and provides value to the reader.

In terms of links, things have moved on dramatically from the early days when a link from any site would do. And yet, links remain a vital aspect of determining the quality of a website. This means that websites that focus on gaining strong, earned links from powerful and relevant sites will continue to see a benefit.

Additionally, as we have seen with RankBrain, Google is getting better at understanding search intent – what the user is trying to achieve with their search term. This comes from the AI being able to more clearly understand what a user means when they type in a query or use voice search. From an SEO perspective, you can take advantage of this by tracking how visitors use your site and drawing conclusions from the behaviour of those who convert.

How to prepare your site for AI

So, what should you do in order to prepare your website for the increasing use of AI in Google’s algorithms? The truth is that AI itself will not make any changes to the way that the algorithm operates – nor will it change Google’s priorities. The use of AI is to make it easier for Google to meet its main goal: providing the best possible search results for its users.

This means that to prepare for AI you simply need to follow the same advice that Google has been suggesting for a long time. Firstly, create the best possible content that is going to be genuinely useful and informative for the user; never has the phrase ‘content is king’ been more relevant.

Remember additionally that AI is constantly getting better at understanding natural, conversational language. This means that when you create your content you must always do it with a human reader in mind. Gone are the days that you could trick the search engine with content that was ‘optimised’ – if Google spots content that looks forced or unnatural, it will be able to tell the difference.

You also need to ensure that you are earning your links. With the help of AI, Google is getting better at noticing patterns and trends. So if you are still engaging in the practice of buying links this is something that Google will notice, more so than ever before.

Finally, it is more importantly than ever to stay up-to-date with what search engines are looking for from sites. As Google and others increasingly utilise AI it will make them more capable than ever to enforce their algorithms. So it is vital to stay ahead of the game. Working with experienced SEO professionals is crucial, as the development of AI in search is fast and it can be easy to get left behind without expert advice.

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We hope you have enjoyed our series on artificial intelligence and search engines. This is still very much an emerging field and an exciting part of the future of SEO. Please check back to the Artemis blog regularly as we will be updating our content which further specific developments in AI and search engines, as well as providing insight into all areas of SEO best practice.

And if your business could benefit from our SEO expertise please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us today.


London Big Ben

The big picture – what to do with bigger images

London Skyline Test Image - Original

In one of our recent blog posts, we took a look at image optimisation and some great online tools to reduce the file size of your images. In that post, we suggested that the ideal file size for images should be 100kb or below. This is because big images with large file sizes can slow down your website, which is a key factor for site optimisation – as well as keeping users from leaving your site to go somewhere else.

However, getting your image to this file size isn’t always achievable. In fact, there are some cases where you might not want to lower your image to 100kb at all. If you’ve got a big hero image that needs adding, then it is more than likely that reducing that larger image to 100kb will lower the overall quality of the picture.

When should images be 100kb or less?

So, you might now be wondering when you should actually aim to get your image to 100kb or less. Imagine you are working on a service page for your website, taking our previous blog post about image compression as an example. If you are putting an image in a content area like this, it doesn’t need to be very big. This includes the actual dimensions of the image, as well as the file size itself.

Say you have taken a great photo of one of your recent projects, and you want to include a preview of that on your service page. The photo itself probably looks fantastic, but you don’t need to squeeze in print quality images from a HD camera into a small section like this. Take a look at the file size and the image dimensions before you upload it to your page. You can check this easily by right clicking and going to the properties and details section of the image. If it is really big, try and reduce this to fit the area it’s going to be put. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can use a free tool like Pixlr.com or GIMP.

When should images be over 100kb?

Again, you should always aim to keep your file sizes low. In some cases however, this is not an option – and as mentioned, reducing the file size can have an impact on the quality of the image. If you are adding a big hero image, or maybe a gallery of photos to show off a recent project, then the image dimensions and file size are naturally going to be bigger. Still, you don’t need to upload images that are several MB in size. This is going to have a notable impact on your site speed if you do.

Try some of the tools from our previous post to see if you can get your file sizes down. There are a lot of great, free tools out there on the internet that can reduce your file sizes. Some of them also include a handy tool that let’s you preview the image as you adjust the size. This way, you can see whether the image quality is getting too low for your liking. You should also think about the dimensions of the picture you want to use. Does it fit the section you’re trying to put it? Does it need to be several 1000 pixels wide by several 1000 pixels high? Reducing the dimensions can also help to reduce the file size.

Be smart

In summary, you just have to think about what’s best for the image that you’re uploading. Try and get the file size down as much as you can, but keep an eye on the quality of the image. See if you can reduce the image to an appropriate size. WordPress and other Content Management Systems might automatically scale down your images on the page itself, but it will still be loading the full-size image. A small image within your text doesn’t need to be several MB in size, neither does a larger image.

If you would like more advice on image optimisation, or any other SEO concerns that you might have, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.


Man on a laptop

How to perform a content audit

Man writing content on a laptop
Performing a content audit can be extremely valuable. It can help you to improve your website and plan marketing activity, and it is something that almost every business could benefit from. Here at Artemis we regularly carry out content audits for our clients – if you are interested in having one conducted on your site by professional content and SEO specialists, please get in contact with our team today. In this blog we look at some of the benefits of content audits and how you can carry one out for yourself.

What is a content audit and what is its purpose?

A content audit takes a look at all of the content on a website to assess its strengths, weaknesses and performance. It is an evaluation of data and key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you to understand how well content is doing the job it is intended for, as well as gaining insight into how content could be improved and to guide potential new content creation in the future.

More than just an inventory of the current content on a site, a good content audit establishes the performance of all aspects of content and helps to guide future marketing activity.

Understand your goals

To get as much as possible out of a content audit, it is first important to understand why you are performing it and to establish the goals you are hoping to achieve. There are many different reasons to carry out a content audit:

  • SEO – you may be conducting an audit to help you to identify areas of potential improvement for search engine optimisation (SEO). In this case it would be important to focus closely on aspects such as keywords, image optimisation, word count and current page rankings.
  • Content marketing – it could be that you want to gain insight into the success and failures of your content marketing. Here you could take a look at visit metrics, social shares and user behaviour.
  • Conversion rate – you might be most interested in improving the conversion rates across your site – a content audit can help to achieve this too

Create a spreadsheet listing your content

The first step in the actual auditing process involves finding all of the content on a website. This is where it can be useful to use a crawling tool such as Screaming Frog, as this will find all of the URLs associated with a site and provide them as a list, along with helpfully listing many of the relevant details about a page – such as its word count, headers and more. Many of these tools allow you to export the list in full, so this can allow you to easily create a spreadsheet with the content details you will be needing.

A more time consuming process could be to manually enter all of the pages and their details into a spreadsheet. Clearly for larger websites this would be impractical, but it might be possible if you are auditing a smaller site.

Analyse your data

Gathering relevant data is also an important aspect of your content audit. You will need to utilise various tools to pull in key facts. As discussed above, this will depend on the goals of your content audit, but you may wish to get data such as the last time the page was updated, how the page ranks on Google and how many conversions or goals that the page has achieved over a set period.

Once again, how you analyse the data is based entirely on the goals you are trying to achieve from your audit. But as an example, if you are looking at the conversion rates of your content you might be able to look at key metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate and completion of goals.

You can then see which pages are doing well, and which need improvement. It might be prudent to arrange the pages by those which get most clicks, so that you can focus your future content work on the areas of the site that are most active, but that convert at the lowest rate.

Look at the competition

You can take your audit further than the current content on your site by examining the content of your competitors as well as the most popular content found in the subject matter. Tools like Buzzsumo allow you to explore content in a niche to understand which is the most successful. No matter why you are carrying out your content audit, it is always beneficial to understand exactly what you audience is looking for.

If you would like to learn more about content audits or you are interested in having one carried out, please contact our experienced team today.