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27
Apr

4 Blogging Tools That Will Boost Your Business

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Promote your contentBlogging is still one of the best ways to generate interest in your business. A good blog can turn an otherwise uninspiring corporate website into a customer focused information source that will be shared across social media and the web. Blogging is also the best way to build internal links to your product pages. (more…)


13
Apr

Why SEO Audits Are Important

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When starting a new SEO campaign one of the most important initial steps is to carry out an SEO audit. If you read SEO blogs or attend digital marketing talks you will have seen examples of website reviews and audits, so let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they help your business grow.

Before you read on, it’s important to understand that this gives you an overview of SEO audits. When we take on a new client, we carry out a comprehensive health check that attempts to highlight every possible problem with a site. This guide should be treated as a good starting point, but it will not highlight all problems and opportunities.

Web Traffic Audit

The first part of a quick SEO audit is to carry out some traffic analysis. One of the fastest ways to get a quick overview of a website is to use SEMRush, which provides information on organic and PPC traffic, top performing keywords, major competitors, and location of traffic, along with a few other stats.

To carry out the traffic audit simply enter your domain into the SEMRush search box and press “Search”. Look first at the organic traffic graph by time. The default view will show All Time traffic. Has the traffic risen sharply, or dipped dramatically, at any time? If there has been a change in traffic, see if there is a corresponding Google update (denoted by the G on the time axis) and familiarise yourself with the details of the update.

Next, look at the Competition Graph in SEMRush and compare how your website is performing against its closest competitors. If they are all outperforming you, this is a clear sign that you need to raise your SEO game.

Check Your Site In Google

Next, review your SERP health in Google search, using your company name, or if you prefer, your brand name, and again using your location too. For example, you will search Google for:

https://www.google.com/#q=Brand+Name

https://www.google.com/#q=Brand+Name+Location

If your domain appears as the first result, you are already doing a good job. If another website is appearing first, there is certainly some work to be done. Sometimes, a social media page or an old directory listing can rank above a poorly indexed company website.

If you have site links (the list of internal pages that Google sometimes lists) then your site is in relatively good health. If you do not, this is another sign that Google is not very interested in your website yet.

Finally, search the first few pages for any indexed pages that may hurt your reputation. Review sites, social media mentions and negative news stories can all be picked up in search, so check what people are saying about you. If there are negative pages indexed, you know you need to work hard to push these further down the SERPs.

Finally, in Google, carry out a site: search command, by searching for site:domain.com in Google. This will show all pages that Google has indexed. Are all your pages indexed? Read all indexed titles and descriptions – are they all correct, do they make sense, are they engaging enough?

Quick Technical Audit

Technical SEO is the most complex part of an audit, and an area where we really like to focus. There is too much to cover here, but as a starter simply click through your website on as many platforms as possible to check that it is working properly – it always amazes us how often a website simply does not display properly on some devices.

Check your site in Windows PCs, Apple Mac, Chromebooks, also check on multiple browsers, and check on as many mobile devices that you have access too. If the site loads slowly or appears broken, this could be hindering your SEO efforts, so get you web developer to improve your site.

Content Audit

Google loves good quality web content, so a comprehensive content audit is needed. Check your site navigation works and includes all important pages. Look over your blog, if you have one, and see how long it’s been since you last posted – you should publish something at least once a month for best results.

Make sure all important company information is easily found, and that there are no broken links.

How Social Are You?

Finally, check your social health. Although social does not have a direct impact on your website’s organic listings, strong social pages on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google will rank in search, and this helps you look more authoritative and also provides you with a way to direct more traffic to the core business.

This audit should not take you more than 10 minutes to complete. If you find any problems that you cannot resolve, contact one of our freelance SEO consultants who will arrange a more thorough SEO health check along with an SEO strategy to help get your company’s digital growth back on track.


12
Apr

Using Analytics to Develop Digital Marketing Strategies

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Digital Optimisation

With the increase of internet availability, an increase in digital marketing has come about. The data aggregated from these channels can provide insights as how to better shape their content, target certain customer personas and modify current campaigns. Because the digital marketing scape is now so vast, it’s in this area, SEO and SEM specifically, where Big Data is having the largest impact on marketing programmes. Big Data has made it possible to keep track of and analyse keywords, mobile and on-page optimisation, backlinks and content marketing. However, because search engine algorithms are constantly changing, typically every day, the Big Data available must constantly be evaluated and analysed to best predict insights, in this case strategies to affect SEO rankings.

Using Big Data

The customer journey through a purchasing process is increasing drastically with the availability of data becoming more readily accessible. Shopper studies found the average number of data sources being utilised for a purchase increased from 5.3 in 2010 to 10.4 in 2014. With the likelihood of this still increasing, using and analysing customer data is becoming increasingly influential within marketing strategies.

A recent poll of marketing professionals found that all respondents believed that successful brands must use customer data to drive marketing decisions; however, results from a CMO summit poll suggest almost two thirds of marketing teams don’t have the capability to utilise data and predictive analytics effectively.

It’s also been found that 48% of Big Data “use cases” within businesses were from marketing teams developing customer analytics. This suggests that marketing teams are using analytics to aid the development of their strategies, and if you’re not… you should consider doing so, so your competitors don’t progress ahead of you.

Analysing your Customers

For data analytics to be most effective within a marketing strategy, it should be used to target the entire customer life cycle, instead typically of just awareness, customer acquisition and ROI as superior priorities. From persona development and lead scoring within the discovery stage, through offer optimisation and up-selling opportuning models within the exploration and purchasing stages, to loyalty and reward models in the post-purchase engagement stage, effective data analytics will deliver intelligent, predictive insights as to how your business should develop its marketing strategy.

objective data analaysis graphic

The figure above, taken from a whitepaper on “How Analytics Drives Customer Life Cycle Management” by Forrester, shows how the value of analytics develop over a customer life cycle. Most noticeably, it suggests that the greatest value of analytics are during the retention phase of the customer journey.

If you are looking to improve customer retention, or increase conversions, get in touch with Freelance SEO Essex today to learn how we can help your business grow.


07
Apr

Is Outreach The Biggest SEO Challenge Today?

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Website outreachThe single most persistent concept of SEO is link building. Although PageRank now runs alongside around 200 other ranking factors, it is still a vital part of any SEO strategy. Without good links, a website will never rank brilliantly in Google. To get good links, good outreach is needed. So, what is it, and why is it so hard?

What is SEO Outreach?

Outreach is the original digital marketing method – back in the day before we had search engines, the only way websites became connected was from people linking to each other. The connections were often made through direct contact – people at the same university or working in the same field of research would link to each other’s sites, and this was usually arranged over a coffee while discussing their websites. In short, people only used to link to sites when they knew the owner pretty well. This is why PageRank was so effective – well-linked sites were those that were run by popular people! So, what changed?

After Google published its PageRank paper in 1998, webmasters realised that they could game the search engine by creating links to their website. The SEO consultant was born. This eventually led to link building automation and link farms. It worked great, until 2012 when Google launched the first of its spam-link killing algorithms – Penguin.

So, here in Google’s 20th year, we are finally going back to basics – communicating directly with relevant websites to win quality links. But, now that the Internet is 20 years older, this poses a huge problem – there are thousands of other people in any industry doing exactly the same. Most website owners and now blind to requests for links, and the whole industry is flooded with fake email accounts sending requests on behalf of cheap SEO companies, a vast majority of which end up in either the spam queue or the bin.

Effective SEO outreach now needs to be tailored to your specific business. It is no longer possible to win links with outreach email templates, instead every communication needs to be personal and very relevant.

Our outreach services are bespoke. We take the time to understand your market, your customers, your business partners and your competitors, and connect with site owners within your industry to collaborate on the creation quality content that they will want to publish and share with their own audience.

By building trust and demonstrating to other businesses that we are not “just another SEO company” we can help you grow your digital presence and become more connected on the ever more competitive web.

Of course, outreach is still not a guaranteed way to build links to your website. Some weeks our efforts result in nothing but a few polite refusals, but over time, we build up relationships with businesses who are happy to engage with the wider web community. Outreach and link building is very much alive and well, and when done well, it helps you build the best quality links that will persuade Google to rank your site at the top if the results pages.

Contact Freelance SEO Essex today to learn how our personalised outreach services outperform the cookie cutter approach every time, and help build our customers reputations within the industry and ultimately, help generate more website visitors from Google.


21
Mar

Security Alert – Update Your WordPress Site Now

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We have recently learned of a serious WordPress vulnerability that allows hackers to delete your post content, deface your blog and change your URLs – the problem has been named the “WordPress defacement vulnerability”. Not only does this hack risk destroying your business reputation, it also damages your onsite SEO. Updating to the latest version of WordPress is highly recommended.

The Hack

The hack often goes unnoticed on many websites because all the hacker does is edit the content of a post on your website. The post title, content and URL are all changed, usually displaying a simple message, such as “Hacked by XYZ”. In most of the cases we have seen, no real damage has occurred. The first hackers to exploit this seemed to use it only for political propaganda, although in theory the same process could be used to insert links or adverts into content.

This is done by exploiting not one, but three new Cross Site Scripting vulnerabilities in WordPress:

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) via media file metadata.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) via video URL in YouTube embeds.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) via taxonomy term names.

Here’s an example which is currently live – note that the URL is /sh-html/ so it is not possible to determine what this page was originally about. WordPress has built-in 301 redirects so the original page will redirect to /sh-html/. Also, the hacker has not only replaced text, but hotlinked an image from wallpaperswide.com.

Naturelly hacked by Shade

Who is Affected?

It seems that any website that has failed to patch the vulnerability is at risk. We have seen the hack appear on every type of website, including government owned NHS websites. Sites with firewalls and other security plugins installed have been affected. In fact, Word Fence, which is one of the most trusted WordPress security plugins at the moment, issued their own update to help fix the problem.

Fortunately, only two versions of WordPress carry this vulnerability: 2.7.1 and 2.7.2. These were minor updates, which were released in January 2017. Basically, an error in part of the code opened up a vulnerability that was never previously in WordPress, and hackers soon discovered this and shared the details with each other.

Updating to the latest version, 2.7.3, closes the hole in security. However, just updating will not remove any hacked pages.

Finding Hacked Pages

There are several ways to find hacked pages. To find a simply defacement, just log in to your WordPress site, navigate to the Posts section and then search all posts for “Hacked” – many hackers are eager to advertise that they have hacked a page. Another way is to look through all your posts in the Posts section, and look out for titles that have obviously changed.

You can also search Google for hacked pages by using the site: search command, to see if your site has been indexed for hacked terms. Alternatively, if you have an automated HTML sitemap, just look through the list of posts and you should quickly spot anything that is out of line.

Searching in Google

There are many hacked posts out there already. If you search Google for [site:.uk “hacked by”] you will see results such as these:

Hacked pages in Google

How To Recover Your Lost Posts

So long as you have not disabled post revisions, recovering your lost content is easy – just navigate to the post revision page and select the previous version. In all the hacked websites we have seen, the hacked posts actually underwent several changes, presumably by different hackers exploiting the vulnerability.

However, WordPress does not provide a way to revert to the previously used URL. If your URL was automatically created by WordPress, based on the page header / title, then deleting the URL permalink and then updating the post will in most cases recreate the original URL used. If this process does not work, then the only way is to search through your own records, review your pages in Analytics and to see which ones have vanished, or use Google search to find the listed URL for that content.

Update Now

We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to update your website immediately. If you are running one of the vulnerable versions, hackers can easily delete all your blog content. One page is relatively easy to recover, but if you have hundreds of blog posts removed, you will have a huge task on your hands.

If you are not confident with analysing and fixing your own website, we offer a WordPress management service for just £25 per month. We’ll ensure your website is kept updated, install the latest security plugins and quickly fix any problems that arise so that they have minimal impact on your business.