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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Q&A With James Nicholson

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SEO is a minefield lots of marketers are saying SEO is DEAD, its an easy bandwagon to jump on to get yourself noticed.

SEO is far from dead, it is however getting tougher as time goes on and Google gets smarter.  In this episode of “The Rocket Cast” we answer all your SEO questions.

Transcribed Version:

Welcome to the Rocket Cast – It’s time to Blast your Sales into Orbit! Hold on Tight! Here is your host – James Nicholson!

Hey it’s James Nicholson, and today I’m really excited to be going through the Search Engine Optimisation Question & Answers. So we put out on the Facebook Group – Advanced Business Growth – for you ask any questions that you had on Search Engine Optimisation and I’m really, really pleased to see that we’ve got some really smart questions from the members, so we’re going to run through those.

So these Q & A session are going to become more of a regular thing – we want to put out exactly what you guys need to know, so take advantage of these podcasts they will really help your business grow. We’re going to be panelling loads of different experts – it’s not just going to be me – we’ve got loads of different experts we’re partnering with over the next few months.

The next 8 weeks – just in these 8 weeks – we are going to be choc-a-bloc, we’ll have no more space for any more experts – we’ve got eight back-to-back sessions already booked, and I’m certain we’ll have even more as the year progresses so looking forward to sharing those with you. Just to say that, if you submitted a question already, we really appreciate that – we know you’re busy – and I was actually very impressed at the quality of the questions.

Seems like you guys are switched on and already have some sort of understanding on your marketing which is very, very important for growing your business.

Let’s jump straight in and start going through these questions.

The first question is from Jody Raynsford – of Jody Raynsford Copywriters – and this makes sense that this is the first question;

“Where do you start in SEO? What is the very first step you need to take?”

There’s no real right-or-wrong answer to this – there is various things that are easier than other things with Search Engine Optimisation. I’m not trying to be like a politician on this and dodge the question, but I think if I was starting totally from scratch, had limited time and wasn’t using an agency – because if you’re using an agency they’d probably going to do everything needs to be done – but if I was using this for my small business myself I would probably start with Citations first.

Citations are links to your site, from directories – and I need to be clear I’m talking about quality directories, not spammy directories, just quality ones – that’s important. Examples for good directories we would use for listing for our clients. I would look to get your site listed in Yellow Pages. Yell-dot-com actually has a free listing so all of you should be using the free listing in yell regardless of whether you advertise.

None of these sites I will share with you will give you any benefit paying for the premium listing, so just take the free listing and that’s plenty to get yourself registered and found in the search engine. Get yourself listed with the likes of Yell, there’s Qwipe as well; TripAdvisor (should business fit into that category); you’ve got Scoot; TouchLocal as well – all of these places are very good places to be listed because Google trusts them. In a place like Yell, a human checks through those listings and make sure the quality is really high; you’ll never find a spam listing there. Yell, Scoot, TouchLocal and TripAdvisor, if your business fits into that category.

These businesses will all try to call you up and sell you a premium listing, but you just need to deflect those calls – there’s no greater benefit being in there and if you have the money I would invest it somewhere else like Facebook Advertising, I wouldn’t invest in a premium listing in Yell; I don’t think you’ll be getting much of a return in that. Some might – some might have deeper pockets and market everywhere – but if you have 500-600 pounds they may charge you for, you’ve got better places to invest it, so you’d get a much better return putting that into Facebook.

Next question from Jody is ‘Backlinking – Important?’, but I’ll cover another question I have from Charlotte from Perring Properties at the same time, and she said;

“What is a Back-link?”

A Back-Link is when someone is linking to you from another website. Say your story was featured in The Times or The Telegraph, etc. They say ‘Perring Properties are Trail-Blazing in the Dorking-area and they’re growing their business at a phenomenal rate’ and they did some sort of feature on their website, and in that story they have a one-way link to your site – that’s effectively what we call a Back-link.

To answer Jody’s question – yes – Back-links and link-building are still important to your business and to your ranks BUT Google has had a number of updates -They had a major one called the Google Penguin Update, that has multiple editions that hits poor quality links. So when you’re getting those links you want to make sure your getting them from places like news outlets, the directories – the Citations – that we mentioned answering question one. When looking at these sites you need look at whether its safe to link them, does it have benefit to me for linking from this site – if not, then you need to avoid them.

Sometimes you go on sites and they have a large number of adverts crowding it and it just looks spammy. You’ll think it’s not a proper business site, and it’s more than likely been built to manipulate search engine results and it’s just there to make money and it hasn’t got editorial quality control on the content. Avoid these kind of places but, overall, the back-linking is still key, but you have to be very careful.

It was about the quantity of the links you could get, but now it’s about the quality of links you’re able to get. If you’re able to get links from the BBC website that’d be amazing or the Daily Mail and that kind of link would be very worthwhile pursuing and you can rank well getting hold of those.

Jody is asking if there is anything else to focus on – the user experience and the quality of the content on the page is very, very important – obviously being a content writer, Jody has no problems there but others should focus on quality of content first, and then people will naturally link through.

We’ve got another good question here from Jody;

“What will KILL your ranking with Google?”

The Number 1 thing that will kill your ranking is, in-fact, these Back-links. I know it’s strange with me saying you need these quality back-links but I need to emphasise the quality is very very important – so if it’s a local or national newspaper, a big blog those are great places to get links; YouTube, too, is a good place as well. Social Media is good but be wary of spammy-looking articles because they will get you banned by Google.

So what will damage your site and rankings is poor quality link-building – also poor quality content as well is a reason you could be banned. Google has the Penguin Update in relation to links and the Panda Update in relation to content. The reason they do that is because lots of small business owners (particularly tradespeople) were stealing other peoples content. if you were in London as a Plumber and you wanted to rank No.1 on Googles front page ‘Plumber London’, you’d look up ‘Plumber Manchester’ on Google and basically steal all their material, changing the bare necessities like company name and contact details.

Now that’s theft and plagiarism, but it’s also not good for the user experience and many people were doing that with all sorts of content back then. If you steal other peoples content or don’t put the time into writing good quality content then you can get hit by the Panda ban. If all your content is unique and high-quality, however – by employing copy writers to ensure your quality is high – that will help maintain Google rankings and conversions.

Next question is from Neil Dudman from He is asking;

“Should I have a Blog? Will that help with my Search Engine Optimisation?”

It really does – having a blog is really really good for your business, for a number of reasons. Google gives sites that provide quality service high rankings, so if you’re like Neil and own a nursery and your providing parents on how to entertain their children over the summer holidays, how to help them learn quicker etc you’ll be seen as an authority in your industry and not all the nurseries will be doing that. Parents will be coming to your site, you’ll get more visitors and clients and Google will see your site as a hub – rewarding you when it calculating your ranking for different keywords and phrases.

A Blog also shows you’re ‘alive’ – many businesses build a site, and then never update it. There’s sites out there now that have not updated themselves for over 10 years! These businesses can still be trading and all things are well but Google has no way to know that’s the case? If you haven’t put any fresh content on the website, how do they know you’re the No.1 plumber, estate agent etc with no indication, and Google have to tread with caution in that regard.

The reason for the blog is positioning yourself as an authority and expert in the industry and will help you generate Back-links. People are more likely to link to blog content (links are what are going to help your rank) rather your home page or pricing page (it’s not very exciting to link to a nursery pricing page).

Seb Greenwood, from Ideal Result asks;

“Is the length of the content important?”

Now’s there’s mixed messages that come from Google on that point – a lot of people say that you need 500 words-or-more – and you do see generally, for tougher keywords and bigger amounts of traffic; the more content they have the higher they will rank. Again, that’s due to people creating 100s of pages on their sites with two-to-three paragraphs to meet the requirements for hundreds and hundreds of keywords. Those pages weren’t valuable to anyone – they were ‘doorways’ for enquiries; a numbers game.

But if you if you’ve taken the time, and you’ve put really good, well-written and thought-out content onto your page and people are reading with it and staying on your page then Google will reward that. They will take the time a visitor spends on your page into consideration, so if they are on the page for long periods of time then obviously there will be a benefit from that as well. So – yes – longer content is the ideal – obviously more difficult, but if you have something that’s short and to the point then don’t draw it out without a point; it needs a reason to be long.

Adrian McGibbon owns an electrical gates company, and he’s asking a great question for us;

“What tools are you using for your SEO?”

There’s loads of tools for SEO, but one of my favourites is called A.H. Refs, which is a Back-link Checker. You can check your own links, and how your link profile is building over time and what the search engines are seeing and thinking about your site, but you also get to see your competitors. For example if you wanted to rank for ‘Plumber London’ and you’d build a site around plumbing in London – the site theme would based around that – and you’d do some on-page tweaks. That’s you telling Google you are related to that thing.

After that you need the links and they are the key here to get higher ranking (but remember the quality is important). Sometimes it’s hard to find out where you get links – if you use A.H Refs you can go into Google, type in, say, ‘Plumbers London’, find out whose No.1 (probably Pimlico Plumbers) and see where they have their links and see if you can get listed. There may be some real niche plumbing directories you could get listed in – perhaps there are some plumbing news sites that you can reach out to. The idea here is that you’re getting yourself all the links from all the relevant places that they have and obviously there’s a reason why they rank Page-1 on Google – A.H Refs is really good for that.

We use another company called Link-Research Tools, and that tells us whose got bad quality links to the site. Like Jody was asking how you can get penalised by Google; bad links are the key reasons you’ll get banned by Google. Link-Research Tools allows you to run through all the links you’ve got to your site and it’ll tell you which of those are deemed ‘bad’ in Googles eyes, so you can act before Google does and get to removing those links.

That’s the key here; if you’ve got bad links, don’t sit on it and go get them remove – so use Link-Research Tools to figure it out. It’s not perfect (not being Google itself) but it’s effective and for us, any new agency client we take on for SEO services that is one of the first things we will do on their audit; check for bad links. Many people come to us for SEO and they aren’t quite up-front about having used an SEO company before and that company have used old-school tactics that have got them banned. If that’s the case, sometimes we just can’t work with them because if the site is crammed with loads-and-loads of bad links then it’s hard for us to make any significant improvement on their ranks and it’s not the kind of project I’d want to work on anyway.

Another question from Adrian;

“How do we help sites that ‘aren’t’ on Word-Press and are still in the Dark Ages?”

I’m guessing your site is built in HTML or some-such, so you should be able to do the on-page optimisations still, but if you haven’t and your site ‘is’ in the dark ages and you can’t update landing pages and stuff like that there’s no real solution for that – you need to get your site rebuilt in something like WordPress or somewhere. I would just start again, honestly.

For all the marketing we’re talking about here like Facebook Advertising etc it’s worth the investment to have a website that is responsive, for one – that works on mobiles, for instance – and the developer can update things; add analytics, Facebook pixels etc and if your site is that old then you really will have to look into getting a new website rebuild going.

Charlotte Perring asks;

“What is the Best way to decide on Keywords?”

A really good question, particularly because Charlotte works in an Estate Agency along with ourselves working with a lot of Estate Agents and they all choose the wrong keywords. A lot of Estate agents think they should rank for ‘Estate Agents Dorking’, for instance. They would probably get only 100-200 in terms of searches – not a lot of traffic. Where the searches actually are, would be in ‘Flat for rent Dorking’ or ‘House for Sale Dorking’ and you’d find the results going from 100-200 to nearly 10,000. In nearly every town there’s tens-of-thousands of searches for houses and property searches are massive in Google – huge search volumes on these portals; one of the biggest for local businesses, anyway. You want to make sure your in front of the right keywords. If you’re an estate agent, you might want to work on ‘Estate Agent Dorking’ because it’s easy and you can get to it quite quickly but you should work on ‘House for Sale Dorking’, ‘Flats to Rent Dorking’,‘Houses to Rent Dorking’,’House to Let Dorking’ – those sort of phrases.

How you go about finding the good ones is by using Googles own tools. Get yourself a Google Adwords account, you can create one here (you don’t have to spend any money on this) but if you Google ‘Keyword Planner’ – if you’ve got an account with Google already you should be able to get into this anyway – and it’ll log you into their Adwords platform.

Type in the keywords or phrases you ‘think’ you want to rank for, and Google will give you a report back about how many searches there are for each phrase. You’d be surprised at how many people are bad at choosing their own keywords – even we get it wrong sometimes because we get a little lazy sometimes and don’t check for the keywords we want to rank for ourselves – so run through that and check for what keywords are ideal for you. It isn’t worth working on hundreds of keywords all at once; choose 5-to-10 and get solid ranking positions and move on to new ones. The Google Keyword Planner is the way you find out what are the best keywords, then get working on those.

Another way you can do this is the Google Predictive Search. You type something in the field and it starts predicting what you are searching for. Use that and you can come up with all sorts of keywords. For example if you put in ‘Flats in Dorking’ it may come up with different results like ‘Flats in Dorking, Surrey’ or ‘Flats in Dorking Town Centre’ and you can get longer-tail keywords which is a good strategy to use.

Ryan Shore runs a business where they reunite people with their long-lost relatives, and you may have seen him on TV due to having a show on the BBC. Ryan wants to know;

“How important is your website set-up for your SEO?”

I would say it’s very important; I would always prefer to work on a WordPress site. WordPress has loads of plug-ins already and they are very useful; The community is just already there. A great plug-in to use is SEO-Ultimate. One question we’ve gotten (from Barry Alloway, I think) was about what the best plug-in was for WordPress and it is SEO-Ultimate for me. Someone else also mentioned a plug-in their using called Yost – both are as good as each other (it’s apples or apples really) so it’s up to you.

Now regardless of which one you choose, both SEO-Ultimate and Yoast allow you to input meta descriptions and title tags very easily into your pages – you don’t need a developer – you just click, write what you want and put it in. A fantastic tool, so overall I would prefer to have the right set-up. We work all kinds of sites working with in the agency and some kind be an massive pain in the arse – for instance we hate Druupla and Druuple: they are just way too complicated.

If you got you a standard HTTML, like it sounds Adrian might have, then it’ll be hard for him to do updates and be reactive – to change his title tags etc – so WordPress would be the one I would go to.

Another question from Ryan Shaw;

“Where does Google Webmaster Tools fit into your SEO Strategy?”

Just for those that don’t know what Webmaster Tools is, it is a free tool from Google that you should all set-up on your all your sites. What it does is it gives you loads of information that you can’t get otherwise from Google Analytics or from other tools. It will tell you things, for example, that the keywords you might be ranking for – it will show you details like how many impressions you got in the search results so you can see if you’re, say, ranking No.1 and you’re getting a 1000 impressions and only get 5 clicks there’s a real problem and something is going wrong; the meta description or something is stopping people going to your site.

One reason I use the Webmaster tools is that I can see thousands of keywords that Rocket Marketing Hub ranks for – there’s literally thousands; all sorts of bizarre things. I interviewed Frank Kern recently, for instance, and I can see we get around five people that search for Frank Kern spelt ‘K-U-R-N’. That doesn’t appear on our end anywhere on our page but we are receiving that traffic regardless. I can see that we’re ranking for something like ‘Frank Kern Pricing’ and various random phrases around Frank Kern – about 10-20 Frank Kern related phrases we rank for just related to one blog posts we’ve got.

If any of those keywords jump out at me, and I think ‘that’s a good keyword and I want that traffic’ and if that traffic is good for me then I can work on adapting that page slightly and getting some links in relating to that and pushing it higher up the search because it may be I am nearly ranking or have a particularly good rank for certain keywords.

Also I might be getting traffic to my site – just need to improve the page because the lack of opt in. We’re working on things like ‘SEO Checklist’ and ‘Facebook Advertising Templates’; new keywords we’re going to be ranking for ideally by the end of this year. We can see when we do start getting the traffic we can start looking at if we’re getting enough opt-ins and we may already have loads of people coming through to pages that we need to make a lead magnet that is relevant to what they’ve searched for. You don’t get all this information in Google Analytics, you only really get the search terms that people search for in Webmaster Tools. So in summary, the Webmaster Tools are good for finding keywords and making amendments down the line.

Neil O’Brian is asking;

“What are the Priorities to get onto Google Page-One?”

I’d say first build the landing pages; identify the keywords you want to rank for in the Google Keyword Planner (not focusing on too many at once because it’s a lot of work) and choose 5-10 and then move on to more, ensuring you can get the rankings first. Get the pages built – if your an Estate agent and you want to rank for Houses for Sale in Dorking, you need a page that is about houses for sale in Dorking.

Neil’s an accountant, so if someone was searching for ‘VAT Returns Guildford’ (I think he’s around that area) you need someone to build a page set up about that or – something more relevant – ‘Book-keeping in Guildford’, so if someone is looking for ‘Book-Keeping in Guildford’ or ‘Payroll Guildford’, Neil needs those pages on the site. Because if you think about it if someone searches for ‘Bookkeeper in Guildford’, they don’t want your home-page – they weren’t looking for an accountant they were looking for a book-keeper in Guildford, so you need these landing pages and they are key.

So once you have these pages you need some quality content on there (if you can get some video – YouTube embedded perhaps – that’d be great) for instance we’re looking into podcasts and getting those embedded on our pages. That same podcast will be videoed, so that podcast will be on YouTube etc and it’s going to be about what the blog content is about so that’s going to be really helpful to our rankings because it’s going to be a multimedia page. Google likes that, and so does the user – think about it – if you came to that page and it was useful to you a video telling the viewer what the services are, a decent amount of content explaining what you do and the page is well laid-out then that’s only going to be helpful.

Following that – your a local business, Neil – I would move onto the Citations and look into getting listed with Yell, Scoot, TripAdvisor and TrustPilot as well should you be in services. These are great places to get links – Citations.

Ysvinder has asked;

“Do some Website Builders work better than others?”

I’m not-too-sure what you mean by ‘Website Builder’, but by that I presume you places like Mr.Builder as well as One-on-One Site Builder. We don’t like to work with these kind of places – oh, and Wix; Wix is a big-one – it builds really exciting and sexy-looking sites but they are crap in Google ranking and you never see them ranking Page-One.

If you can avoid it don’t use a Website Builder if you can, get a proper Web Designer and ideally use it on WordPress. It’s almost 50% of websites, it has a massive community and all of the plug-ins you could need for nothing – it’s free to set-up and would only really cost you money to get someone to make it looking ‘pretty’, but even then you can buy themes for around £30 so you don’t need to spend a fortune on putting together a nice looking site. If you want to go the extra mile or your business warrants that then, absolutely, call in a Web designer to go about making it look decent and have it fit with your brand. So, I would say that if you can avoid Website Builders than do so – out of all of the ones available, I honestly don’t know which one would be the best (I think their all poor, honestly) I wouldn’t use any of them; I would use WordPress.

So that’s it, guys! I think we covered all the bases on questions there – if I missed any I am so sorry but I will be doing this again! I’d love to hear some more from you guys, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below so let us know what you thought and keep letting us know what you need to know – what do you need to help your business grow? We’ve got the experts on hand – we can call upon our roll-a-deck and get some awesome people in to help you and your business.

If you’d like to know something in particular, please comment on the Facebook group – Advanced Business Growth – and give us a shout; we really do want to help you guys grow your business. I hope this podcast helped you and if you’re a full Rocket Marketing Hub member already, we are running a full SEO course that you can go through all of this on already.

If you haven’t please do – grab a membership – and you’ll likely find a discounted price or half-price deal we have active to get in on and we can get you into the SEO in detail on that course such as the meta titles, meta tags and descriptions; site-maps and link-building in general; a list of where to get all of your citations which I covered previously so, yeah, join up – we’d love to have you as a member – and feel free to ask us any questions at any time because we are here to be of service and help you guys.

So Thank you guys, I hope you got some value from this – it was really fun for me to share some knowledge with you guys there and we’ll see you soon!

Cheers guys; Bye!

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