Category Archives: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Zero Spend on Marketing since 2008

money-for-nothingI quit a well paid, pensionable job in WIT in 2007 to start my own business.  I was a principle investigator / lead researcher on various projects in the TSSG and brought in lots of funding based on my ideas.

I left the TSSG and went on the SEEPP programme, which was ideal as it offered a level 9 qualification as well as time to develop an idea and a small grant to cover the cost of the day we spent on the course each week.  During that time I developed slang.ie (which needs an overhaul), a book entitled ‘For Focal Sake‘ and a business plan to take the enterprise forward and globalise it. Sadly, I didn’t get the grant funding I required to progress my business afterwards from Enterprise Ireland even though I won the best startup at the South East Enterprise awards that year. 

Slang.ie made some money from google ads and through book sales but it wasn’t enough to sustain a family in Ireland so I had to supplement this with other work so I began contracting out my web development skills.  I had done some work previously obviously with my own projects www.upthedeise.com and www.slang.ie so I knew my way around SEO and viral marketing over facebook.  So I set up UTD Web Design and Waterford Web Design.ie

What I had that maybe some others in the industry did not have is a keen insight into Search Engine Optimisation, and a process that really works.  I implemented a basic SEO plan for both websites and since then I have spent absolutely nothing on marketing and yet I am constantly getting leads through my site.  On many occasions I have turned away business.

What I did was got to the best position for my main key phrases e.g. Waterford Web Design and a many others.    I’ve also blogged on non-related topics that get people in and aware of the brand too.  Only a week ago a client told me they picked my service because I was in the top position (on the advice of  a friend).  They reckoned that if my site was being found so would theirs.

I suppose the disadvantage of not needing to advertise is that it means that I don’t engage as much as I should with local businesses at networking events etc. but I find that any spare time I have is better spent focussing on my own fitness and vitality because I need to stay fit an healthy to provide for my family for the foreseeable future, unless my next big idea really kicks off.

To be honest, I am earning comparable money to what I earned in research, but my quality of life now is 100 times better.  I am not chasing any sort of different life to what I have, I’m thankful for every moment of it, for being healthy, strong and being able to enjoy moments with friends and family every day.  I really appreciate my clients, old and new and most of them understand that if I’m not available, I’m probably up jumping into a lake in the comeraghs or lifting kettlebells or enjoying a coffee in Kilmeaden Cake Supplies or the Holy Cross, or working hard on a niggly bit of code for another client or doing my tax returns (grrrrr!).

I am so thankful.

Photobooth Hire in Ireland – SEO Testimonial

Primetime Leisure specialises in photobooth hire for weddings and other events in Ireland and until recently was way down the search engine results page.

I met with Primetime for a coffee and it turns out that there wasn’t much wrong with the site except that it wasn’t targetting the right keywords.

We spent some time identifying the right keywords for the maximum results and went about editing some target pages to incorporate these phrases.  I suggested some other things they could do to their site and regarding link building and at the time of writing Primetime Leisure is now in 5th position on page 1 for their major search term.  We also improved their keyword targetting within Google Adwords during the session.

Primetime contacted me thanking me for the help which is really positive feedback:

Just want to say thank-you for the help in getting my website on the pages of google. When we started if you put up ‘photobooth’ you couldn’t find me no matter how far back through the pages you went.

Since we met, my web site is steadily climbing up the results page. Something I honestly didn’t think was possible.

Once again thanks Cian for the help.”

Robert Nutt – Primetime Leisure

Search Engine Optimisation can Make you Fishers of Customers

boat fishing trolling panoramic rod and reels blue sea

I’ve met with some clients over the past few weeks regarding making their businesses more competitive on the search results pages on Google.

I always start the sessions with the phrase “It’s not rocket science” but like everything there is effort involved.  Nothing happens overnight.

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me “can you get me to no. 1?” I wouldn’t need to do SEO ever again, but the answer is nobody can guarantee it.  You can pay to have an ad appear at the very top if you pay enough but it may not get you a return on your investment. To get to the top of the organic search results is possible, but it’s down to Google and how good your competitors are at SEO.

The beauty of it is that it’s like a sport, you get out what you put in, but the best thing about it is the rewards.  If you get to no. 1 you begin to get leads for your business for free.  A nice prize.

When you’re in no. 1 position, or even the first 3, and if there is business traffic for that key phrase you will get relevant traffic, and if your site does its job you will get leads.  Indefinitely.

Competitive business should learn to enjoy SEO as such and take the bull by the horns and learn the basics initially and then delve into the finer details.  You’d be amazed what a little effort can achieve, especially in local market places as most of your competitors will have done very little SEO.  As with everything the 80/20 rule applies.

I think of it like the old saying,

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

If you hire someone for SEO, you may get some extra business in the short term, but learn it for yourself and you can create something that potentially keep generating traffic for you indefinitely.

The fishing analogy doesn’t end there.  If potential internet visitors are fish, you website is the rod, and the keywords you use on your site are the bait.  You have to use specific bait for specific fish and that is the art of SEO.  Getting traffic to your site that is relevant and that will ultimately generate business for you.

If you need help with your SEO look to experts that actually achieve results, that have love for it and see it as a sport.  There are no tricks, nothing black hat about it, just do it right and the rewards are plentiful.  There have been updates to Google over the years that have removed sites from the results pages, but following a simple 3 step process of keyword research, applying the keywords to content and then sensible promotion through link building and supporting marketing activities will see you rise through the ranks over time.

 

Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers

Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers:A mistake that is commonly made by businesses is that they create a site and then leave it static expecting people to find it and purchase products or contact them for leads.  In terms of SEO, generally, the fewer pages on the site the less effective it can be and the less specifically it can match what people are looking for.

Another mistake then is that businesses put up loads of content up on their facebook pages, images, short messages, competitions etc. and though effective in the short term, they quickly move from the time line and there is no long term SEO benefit.  By following the strategy below you can get that quick win and also get some long term seo benefits.

The three key aspects of SEO are:

  1. Find out what customers are searching for
  2. Ensure the pages of your site match these terms
  3. Get links back to these pages

Finding out what people are searching for is pretty easy using tools such as the google keyword planner.  So once you know this you can then discover how many competitors you have and how well they are doing on the search results page.

With a standard site you can really only focus on key phrases related to the content on those pages and you are limited in terms of what you can target.  With a blog however, you can keep adding pages to your site, so following is a Simple SEO Social Media Strategy for Business Bloggers:

  1. Before you write the blog find out what people are searching for specifically
  2. Use that key phrase and slight variations of it when writing the blog, set the title to that, add it to the content, use it as the alternative description for images
  3. Be the first to share the blog entry on your facebook page or twitter account and ensure there are social share options on the blog so that they can share within their own networks.

You don’t necessarily need to write a blog about your business topics, though tips and tricks, guides, dos and don’ts can be helpful, but be creative.  One of the more popular blogs on this site for example is a ‘how to get to‘ type article.  This is very useful to people in my area and it will be potentially seen by someone looking to get a site done.  If they like what they read they may at a future date decide they need a website and they then are aware of or know about the brand and might feel like they can do business with me as a result.

The brilliant thing about wordpress is that there are plugins that assist with this functionality.  Plugins for social sharing, which facilitate sharing on practically all social networks and are highly configurable. Plugins for search engine optimisation, which provide keyword analysis, checklists and so on.  It can make life very easy indeed.

So in summary, before you make your next facebook post, think about whether it might be more beneficial for you to post it to your blog first and then share the link on facebook.

Top 10 Tips for Self Publishing a Book

10-tips-self-publishingI was asked recently on Linked In some questions about publishing a book. Maybe you’ve made a resolution to publish the book that you’ve always had at the back of your mind?

The biggest decision you have to make when you wish to publish a book is whether to self-publish or not.  If you decide to go with a publishing company, and your book gets accepted by them a lot of the work is taken off your hands but so too is a lot of the profit, and rightly so because work should be rewarded through sharing profit fairly.

As a self published author of several irish slang books, I wanted to share my experience of writing and publishing my own books. The first book that I published back in 2007 was a book entitled “The Deise Dictionary of Waterford Slang.”

Here is the list of steps that I went through to get the book published and my tips for each stage:

  1. Research with Passion: Before writing a book you must research the topic adequately and become passionate about it, otherwise the book will not be written because the effort required is far more than you initially realise.
  2. Make a Plan:  You’ve got to have a plan for the book, content, chapters etc. etc.  In order to formulate a plan you should talk to others too.  I had great help from Tom Fewer of Ballylough Books to help me plan my first book.
  3. Write it:  Open up your word processor and begin writing.  It probably helps at this point if you format the page size of your word processor to match the dimensions of the book you want to write.  There will be less fiddling about at the end if you do.  Consider margins etc.  Perhaps even talking to a printing company at this point might be a good idea!  They will provide you with exact page dimensions and optimum margin widths.
  4. Review it:  You should get several third parties to go through the book to help correct grammar and other mistakes.  If it’s a novel you’re writing, this is especially important.  For me the most important thing was consistency.
  5. Design it:  Once you have the content written you need to design a cover, and maybe get some graphic design work done on the inside pages too. It’s probably best to employ a freelance designer for this or perhaps your printing company will have someone that can do this for you at a good rate.
  6. Get an ISBN number:  You need to apply to Nielson to get yourself an ISBN number. When I bought them I received a block of 10 that I can still use.  You then need to convert the ISBN number to a barcode.  Generally you can employ a company to do this for you, they will charge maybe €50 and you can pass it on to your printing company.  There are free tools online to create bar codes such as: http://www.terryburton.co.uk/barcodewriter/generator/
  7. Print It: You then need to go to a printing company and get the book printed and bound. Go to several as prices vary quite a bit.  They will help you choose the right format, paper quality and will give you a price. Normally the more you print the cheaper it gets per unit.   Before you print the final copy you will need to go through a proof of the book and fix any last minute mistakes.  If you’re sending physical copies of the book across the globe, consider the weight of the paper too.
  8. Publicise it: Once the book is printed you need to publicise it.  Create a buzz on social media, send copies to local media, papers, get a celebrity to champion it. I asked my school friend and magician Keith Barry (host of Tv3 show Brainhacker) to launch my book, which he graciously did for me.  In my case it was picked up by local and national media, including Ryan Tubridy, which was fantastic for sales.  The Deise Dictionary created such a buzz it actually sold out locally that Christmas (2000 copies). I managed to get a second batch printed quickly, and it kept selling well into January which is highly unusual.
  9. Get it on Shelves: I suppose publicity and placement in shops are a bit “chicken and eggish”  it needs to be in the shops before you publicise but it also needs to be publicised before shops will take it.  When it is in the shop, try and ask the shop nicely to position it well.  It will sell far more if it is more visible.
  10. Sell it online.  There are lots of opportunities to get your book promoted online via blogs, news sites, social media, youtube, discusssion forums and so on.  Consider your target market and where they are.  This is where you need to be.  You could create a site to sell the book via PayPal or get it on Amazon and other book selling sites.

Generating Profit

To make profit from a self-published book is difficult.  In order to get it printed you are looking at a cost of maybe 20% of the sale price.  Then you will need a distributor.  Argosy and Eason charged me in the region of 50+%, which included the shops commission.  If you are distributing yourself, typically, a shop will charge 20%-40% commission to sell your creation.

My advice on publishing therefore, is:

  • If you are exclusively selling locally and you can distribute yourself, then if you sell all of your books you can expect to earn potentially 40-50% of the the sale price.  If you go through
  • If you are selling nationally you will need a distributor, in this case if you sell all of your books you can expect to earn potentially 30% of the sale price.
  • If you go international, through a publisher, a lot of work will be taken off your hands in terms of publishing, printing, distribution, but you can expect a lot less than 30%. You will still need to do a lot of the promotion yourself.

Some more tips on selling your book online:

for-focal-sake-thumbThese days you can sell your book online also.  Consider creating a web page or blog to go along with your book and selling it online via PayPal.  For one of my books “For Focal Sake-A 32 County Guide to Irish Slang” I created a website to collect Irish slang from across the country.  I then published the book on the site and it’s promoted to this day via search engine optimisation.  If someone searches for a slang term and finds slang.ie, they are possibly someone in my target market.  Through this I have managed to sell this and my other slang books quite successfully.  Of course paypal take a small cut of the sale price and you have to add on shipping costs, but generally you can absorb these costs a bit better for your customer because you are not paying a large comission to get the book onto a shelve and you don’t have to worry about distributing, besides sending the items at your local post office.

If your book is something that people can relate to and you can provide extra information on a blog, some of your content could potentially go viral through social sharing (like button, pinterest pin, linkedin share, google+ etc).  This is a really good way of getting the word out there, but it isn’t easy to be successful.  You have got to find a niche and it has to be sharable, and you need to find a way to get the sharing process kickstarted. Also, once your book becomes popular, don’t forget channels such as Amazon for selling and getting reviews.  Send your book to popular blogs in your target market for review.

Happy writing and best of luck!

Don’t lose web traffic when moving/migrating website

This article might help you avoid and SEO disaster when moving / upgrading your website.

A client came to me last week disgusted that he had moved from no. 1 on google for his search term to nowhere after his website had been “upgraded.” He also noticed his traffic and leads were significantly down and was amazed that this could happen.

This can happen quite easily if you move from one platform to another, perhaps your old side used .htm pages for the various pages of your site e.g. contact.htm, services.htm etc.  When you move to a CMS like wordpress the new url for the same page might be /contact, /services etc. as the pages are generated dynamically and do not need the .htm extension on the file name.  The result is that Google had indexed your old files and when you moved it has to re-index the new pages and all the links and weight these old pages had are lost.

If you have employed the services a responsible and experienced web developer they will not miss this trick and they will add code/a file to your web site to redirect all these old urls (web addresses) to the new urls so that Google also knows that these new pages are upgraded versions of your old pages. The strategy normally taken is to place a .htaccess file on your web server with rules to perform a 301 redirect from the old page web address to the new address.

In addition to setting up redirects, the pages should be SEO optimised also to ensure that they are at least as good as the old pages.  Ensure titles are unique, headings are in place and content contains keywords etc.  Also ensure meta information is as before or better.

If you migrate to wordpress, there’s a nice little tool called Redirects, which essentially does the same job as a .htaccess redirect file and often works fine for small sites that are being migrated to the wordpress platform.

In conclusion, if you decide to upgrade your site, make sure that you ask your developer to ensure that they do everything in their power to ensure all your efforts in terms of promoting your site are not lost when they perform a site migration by putting in place a redirect strategy.

 

How Much Does a Website Cost in Ireland?

“So, how much does a website cost in Ireland?” I’ve been asked this question a lot by potential clients and the honest answer is, ‘how long is a piece of string!’ and depending on who you go to the costs can vary wildly.  I’m posting this really to give people an idea of what to expect and to understand what questions to ask when getting their site designed and the costs involved.

The question to be answered really is ‘How long will it take to build what I want?’ and this is what will dictate the cost as an agency generally charges based on an hourly rate / daily rate.

Hourly / Daily Rate

Most web agencies have this worked out based on staff. E.g. if a project is broken down into 2 days design, 3 days coding, 5 days content, the bill might be broken down separately as the hourly rates might be different according to skill levels required by the staff. In my experience you will get a daily rate of anywhere between €100 and €1000, depending on the agency you go to.  More often than not these will not be like-for-like as no agency with professional staff and bricks and mortar establishment could afford to hire their staff out at €100 a day.  Realistically, it will come in somewhere in the middle, just be careful of this.

My own feeling on it is €100 a day will get you a graduate level web designer, €350 a day will get you an experienced sole trader, €500+ will get you access to a professional within a larger agency.  Remember VAT will generally be charged also, so if you are a sole trader starting up and not registered for VAT, remember to factor that in as you won’t be able to claim it on a VAT 3 unless you are registered yourself.

Factors that affect price:

1. Design Quality: Some clients want a cheap and cheerful design, others want a slick professional look, others want a completely custom illustrated quirky site with all the bells and whistles.  You need to think about these requirements carefully as the perception of the site to your customers is critically important.  First impressions count.

Your options here are:

  • A template based website. This will be non-unique and can be purchased cheaply but  still requires customisation.  Guide time for template + customisation: up to 1 day
  • A custom designed but still relatively simple site design: 1-2 days
  • Top grade site design: 3+ days

Once the site is designed it needs to be converted to HTML + CSS and this can be tricky depending on the design quality.  In our experience you need to double the time taken to design the site to implement the CSS and HTML for the site correctly.

You might also require a logo, corporate branding etc.  If getting it all done together prices could be negotiated to your advantage.

2. Mobile Friendly:  Do you want a mobile friendly website?  If so then there are 2 options. a) Allow your website resize itself responsively using modern CSS techniques, b) create a separate mobile website using a technology such as jquery mobile.  Depending on the quality you desire, this can take as much time as desktop design.

3. Content Management System: Do you want to be able to update the content yourself.  It is my opinion that pretty much all sites should be content managed (unless you just want a holding page or the content will never be changed).  Why should you need to go back to your web developer whenever you want a simple update to the site.  There are a few options here:

  • Use an open source project such as WordPress or Joomla
  • Get a bespoke CMS developed
  • Use a content management system provided by your web host company
  • An eCommerce system

Bespoke CMS systems should be avoided in my opinion.  They do potentially allow for more flexible design but if you chose a system such as wordpress, it is future proof, has more features, has literally thousands of plugins and should in theory keep your costs down. It also has a built in blog/news system.

To install and customise wordpress should take in the region of 1-3 days to set up correctly.  The vast majority of time taken with any CMS is integrating it with the site design through the development of a site theme.

For other systems such as eCommerce systems, there is a bit more configuration involved so it could take slightly longer to set up correctly.

4. Bespoke Software Development

If you require something specific then there are times when bespoke development must be undertaken.  The cost of such development can be very expensive as there should be planning, development iterations and testing as part of the service. The time involved in this can only be estimated upon receipt of a software specification document.  If you can find an open source solution or something that fits your requirements off the shelf you should market validate your business in this way before making a very large investment in something that may not work.

5. Site Structure/Content Upload

The no of pages on your site and their complexity dictate the costs here.  Do you require custom graphics on each page, do you require photos/images.  Are stock images good enough or do you have your own professional images.

You are talking an hour or two per page in general and so the cost would be no. of pages X by hours involved + image / graphic design costs.  Stock images can cost in the region of €3 and €10 euro per image if purchased on a credits basis from well known stock imagery sites.

5. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

When developing a site, SEO should be considered from the beginning.  The site’s structure and pages should be created with keywords your customers are using in mind.  If the web agency does this for you, they will add another hour or two on per page uploaded to the site, and other work such as sitemaps, back links etc. may cost extra also.  If you don’t ask for this service you generally won’t get it by default. It is worth noting that wordpress has some excellent plugins for SEO, which is another good reason to chose this platform.

6. Hosting + Domain

This should cost < 100 euro for a decent package and a .com domain.  If you’re paying more than this you might be getting overcharged.

7. Other Features

Other things you should consider are getting analytics installed, integration with social media through like and share buttons, online ad campaigns on the likes of google adwords and facebook ads for example.  There’s also social media management if you want someone to run your facebook or twitter pages, however in general it’s better to manage this in house and perhaps get the right training.

7. Ongoing Support

A site should never be truly finished. If you want it to do better on search engines, convert more customers you should always be tweaking things.  Support can be given at hourly rates, and discounts in the form of bonus hours are generally applied if purchased on a retainer basis.  Ideally, you should, over time, be able to manage this in house.

Grand Totals

As you can see there are a lot of factors to consider so below I’ll give you 2 potential examples of cost:

Example 1: Straightforward site with 8 pages of content and no SEO

Design: 1 day
CSS+HTML: 2 days
Wordpress CMS Config: 1 day
Content Upload: 1 day
Stock Images: €50
Hosting+Domain: €100

Cheapest quote to expect: 350-500
Most expensive: 2-3K+VAT

An average charge might be approx. €1450+VAT for this type of site

Example 2: Top level design, mobile friendly, 50 pages of SEO optimised content

Design: 3 days
CSS+HTML: 3 days
Mobile Friendly: 3 days
CMS Config with SEO plugins, security etc: 2 days
Content Upload: 70 hrs
SEO: 50 hrs
Stock Images: €250
Cloud Hosting+Domain: €160
Support Contract: 1 day per month

Cheapest quote to expect: 3K
Most expensive: 15K+VAT

An average cost might be in the region of €7,500 for this type of website based on our hourly rate.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss your project.

How to search Google.com from Ireland

If you’re like me and you want to check out how your site is doing on Google.com Google.co.uk or any other version of Google Search, this blog entry might be what you’re looking for.

Why would I want to search another version of Google?

For example, in Ireland, if you type in Google.com into your browser address bar you will be redirected (in most cases) back to Google.ie.  If you do a Search within Google.ie, it will bias your searches towards listings in your region.  This is not ideal if you want to check how your site is doing in other countries especially if you have an international customer base.

Google NCR

All you need to do is type in http://www.google.com/ncr to go to google.com and not be redirected to your specific country region.  Google NCR stands for “No Country Redirect.”

Examples of Google NCR:

Happy days!

Search Engine Site Explorer

We’ve created a new tool for small businesses and individuals with sites < 50 pages to check their sites for common SEO mistakes.

Please find the SEO Site Explorer Tool Here: http://www.waterfordwebdesign.ie/seo-tools/siteexplorer.php

Simply enter your websites URL in the box provided and our tool will scan your site and report back detailing your page title, meta description, h1 tags.  It will tell you if there are repeated titles (a big no no) and meta tags, and whether any of the titles exceed the recommended lengths specified by the W3C and Google.

Another handy feature is the fact that it shows all inbound links to these pages and the anchor text shown on them which is another important SEO fact.

If you have a content management system you should be able to make these changes and re-run the tool again to verify that your site has been updated.

Please note that we do not accept responsibility for any changes you make to your site based on the recommendations of this tool. It is a guide only but at the very least it will give you a snapshot of your site as it currently stands and will highlight potential areas for improvement.

Feedback very welcome.

FREE SEO Test For Your Website

If you want to evaluate whether a webpage on your site is optimised for the main keywords customers are using to search for your products or service, we created a handy little tool for you to try here: Free SEO Analysis Tool

Basically what it does is searches for the keywords you specify within the areas of your page that Googles evaluates content too such as title, headings, images, meta description and so on.  It then generates an indicative score based on this evaluation.

Embedding the keywords people are searching for is critical to the success of your site.  By not having the keywords people are searching for on your site means that Google has little or no way of matching your site with a search phrase.

It is worth noting here that there are other factors too in SEO terms that can affect your site’s position on the results page including:

  1. Competition
  2. Back links to your site
  3. Trust
  4. Social networking likes
  5. Age of your site
  6. Overall quality of your site content
  7. Your site’s link structure

This tool is intended as an initial evaluation tool for a single page on your site and is no substitution for a full in-depth SEO analysis.