Category Archives: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Tips when Picking an SEO Consultant or Firm

If you haven’t built a site yet, then make sure you talk to SEO experts before building your site! SEO should not be an afterthought!

Lately, I’ve been asked to assist companies more and more with their Search Engine Optimisation. The first thing I ask is why they are not consulting with the firm that built their website? In most cases it comes down to price but also they want to independently verify the work that was done by their web development firm.

The first thing I tell clients is that they shouldn’t expect their website firm to have done much SEO work if they didn’t explicity ask/pay for it. Invariably it is the case that the minimum will be done and sometimes they just don’t have expertise in the area. Most firms put some basic effort into SEO but beyond that, nothing is done. However, if companies charge for it, I’d expect a little bit more and a report of what has been done.

If you are not happy with your site’s SEO and you are seeking an SEO consultancy firm then I suggest you follow these tips:

  1. Understand the basics of SEO yourself, read books, go online, do some research before meeting a consultant
  2. Ask your business networks do they know SEO consultants that have made a difference for them
  3. Ask SEO consultancy firms for the best examples of their work
  4. Be careful that the SEO firm doesn’t have other clients in your niche area, would there be a conflict of interest?
  5. Make sure the service they are providing is clear and what they will need from you
  6. Make sure and get clear reports based on your analytics data
  7. Make sure the price is not ridiculous. In Ireland I’ve heard of some companies charging 1500 per day! That kind of spend would get you a lot of clicks through PPC advertising

In my professional opinion an SEO consultant should be able to assist you with the following:

  • Keyword Analysis
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Website Audit
  • Suggest or make changes to your site (sometimes they might not be willing to update the site)
  • Link Building or Link Suggestions (sometimes best to do link building in house)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Advertising Advice
  • Deciphering Analytics and Monitor Improvements

Most of these tasks can be done in house at a fraction of the rates an SEO consultant will charge you, so in my opinion, do what you can yourself based on your SEO consultants advice, however if you do require expertise to fulfil a specific task outsource that aspect of it (e.g. link building, site re-build etc.)

What is Internet Marketing?

Internet Marketing is a buzzword thrown around today like an old basket ball. It’s important if you have a business website to understand the basics so that you can score three pointers on your competitors.

Essentially it is any activity performed online that promote your product or service.

Here is a list of the top most critical Internet Marketing Activities:

  1. Search Engine Optimisation: You have to ensure that your website has the correct keywords embedded within it to have a chance of being shown on the search engine results page.
  2. Google Pay Per Click Advertising or Google Adwords: Using Google Keyword Research you can pay for your site to appear on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Be careful here as you can pay a fortune for ads that aren’t optimised and remember to ditch terms that aren’t giving you a return. These ads can also appear on websites that use Google Adsense.
  3. Facebook Pay Per Click Advertising: Facebook advertising is very exciting for certain businesses as you can target customers by age, location, sex etc. It can be expensive but if you get a customer to join your facebook page you have access to them potentially indefinitely.
  4. Affiliate Marketing: Often there’s a website out there that provides information to your target market. It might be worth offering them a percentage of your profit if they can generate significant sales for you. There are many third party services that link affiliates with merchants such as TradeDoubler. If it’s a niche you could update your site to track who has generated sales for you.
  5. Social Media interaction: It is important to engage with your consumers in a non-salesy way so that they learn to trust you. Building up this kind of relationsip will influence a customer when it comes to future purchase decisions.
  6. Add facebook like button to your site: If people like what you’re offering they may well share it on facebook if you make it easy for them to do it.
  7. Google Places: Don’t forget to add your site to Google Places otherwise know as Google Local Business Centre. When people do local searches these results often do better than regular SERP entries.

There are lots more things that you can do to market your product or service online. This is just a taster of some of the more important Internet Marketing techniques that I use on a daily basis.


Top 5 SEO Tips for 2011

Here are my top 5 SEO tips for 2011.

  1. Get a Clear Picture: The very first thing anyone performing SEO should do is get a clear picture of the current situation. The best way to do this is by installing Google Analytics.  After running Analytics for a month you will see some patterns emerging and you can determine how much traffic is coming from search engines.
  2. Filter out seasonal trends: There’s no way you can identify gains and losses unless you figure out the seasonal trends.  You can use a tool such as google trends to do this if you do not have your own data.
  3. Find Opportunities: As with any marketing exercise you need to determine if there is a market.  You need to identify the key phrases that people will use to find your site, but there’s no point in doing this if there is huge competition.  Find the best keyphrase volume you can that has poor returns on the search results page and target that.
  4. Apply Research Effectively: Once you have the keyphrases identified using tip 3, apply the keyphrase to your site naturally in key areas such as titles, headings, links and body text. Don’t over do it. Find out how many times your competitors use it. As always it is no harm to build links to pages.
  5. Measure Results: Using analytics, measure how many hits these keyphrases are generating for you as a percentage against your search engine results position. Tweak your page slightly each month to see if it positively or negatively affects your position. Link building may also affect your position positive and should be an ongoing task.

That’s it.  The basics are simple enough, do them right and you can’t go too far wrong.  It’s that final 20% that’s the most painstaking and most difficult.  Keep at it and you will get ahead of most of your competitors within a realistic time frame.

Why should I set up a Blog?

There are various reasons why you should set up a blog, maybe you have thoughts in your head that you just want to share with the world, maybe you  are the public relations officer for a group and you want to disseminate information, maybe you are a story teller or an amateur reporter who wants to comment on topics relevant to the world today.  These are all valid reasons for setting up a blog but the no 1 reason people should set up blogs in the business community is to help them generate revenue, be it directly through advertising products on the blog itself or by indirectly advertising their own products or services through friendly advice. For example this blog, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that this blog was set up to help me promote my business.

So how can blogs help you earn money?

A regularly updated, well constructed blog will be monitored by Google and other search engines, therefore every blog entry you write has the opportunity to capture more visitors to your site. It is therefore important that the title of your blog and the content in the first paragraph and throughout the entry targets the keyphrase that you know users are searching for.  For example this particular blog entry is called “Why should I set up a blog?” If we look at the Google Keyword tool, 18,100 people each month search for “set up a blog” which is contained within the title of this blog.  This means that if someone types in “Set up a blog” into google it could potentially match this page.  Of course other factors such as page popularity, region etc. come into play but the potential is there.

The great thing about blogs is that you can endlessly post pages to your site, unlike on your business website, which displays your products and services.  There’s no way that you can cover every topic that someone might type in to search for your products and services on your business website, it would just get too messy and customers would not enjoy the experience.  Your company site is about converting traffic into business. Your blog on the other hand and delve down into very specific issues and can have a personal touch.  People reading blogs are looking for the solution to a problem or a author’s opinion on something so when you are constructing your blog think firstly, what would a user search for and then solve or comment on that problem. You should look at the Google Keyword tool to help you make that judgement.  Once you have your topic and the correct keywords write your blog naturally and just make sure you mention your key phrase once or twice throughout. Your new blog entry then essentially becomes a lead for your business.

What you are trying to achieve is to get new visitors to your site based on long tail key phrases.  These are key phrases that consist of several words that further qualify a key phrase e.g. “Cars in Waterford” could be a considered a relatively generic search term, whereas “Honda Civic Cars Waterford” is much more specific or long tail.  Long tail phrases may get you less traffic on their own but combined over time they will lead to significant, and more importantly, more focused traffic to your site. In other words, if a potential lead is typing in a very specific search phrase and their search turns up your site, they are likely to have found what they are looking for. It’s about casting your fishing net further, wider and more accurately than your company website ever can.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia regarding long tail keywords:

” These phrases individually are unlikely to account for a great deal of searches, but when taken as a whole, can provide significant traffic. The long-tail is unlikely ever to exceed searches for a brand name if the brand name is reasonably well established, but the volume of converting traffic these terms can generate by nature of their specificity and relevance is worth investigating.

“Comprehensive long-tail keyword research can be a highly effective strategy, since people making long-tail searches are arguably further along in the buying cycle, so conversion rates can be higher. Recent long-tail keyword research has found that long-tail searches often exhibit a higher conversion rate by up to 200% compared to short-tail keywords, and can be extremely profitable for search engine marketers in terms of a lower cost per action and higher return on investment.”

If a blog entry is good it may be linked to or tracked by the blog community or commented on which is the ideal situation (this means it is being read).  Sometimes you will hit the jackpot and get tonnes of visits, other times you will see nothing but tumbleweed blow across the screen.  Over time if you consistently blog, it will average out as more visits to your site each month so once you start blogging, make sure you keep blogging!!!

How do I set up a blog?

There are a number of ways of doing this. You can host the blog on your own server or you can use an online blog service.  WordPress is probably the best known blog software in the world and you have both options here.  You can set up a blog on their server and you might get a domain such as or you can download wordpress from and install it on your own server (you might need a web developer/designer to help you with this).  There are other online blog solutions such as blogger and livejournal. One advantage of using a hosted service is that you get a free link back to your main domain which will help your SEO.

So that’s pretty much it really, set up that business blog and start telling your customers what they want to hear through sensible advice and providing potential solutions to problems they might have. Oh and at the bottom of each blog entry you could also end with a gentle ad for your business.

E.g. for more information on setting up blogs or if you need a blog set up and managed for you please contact


Should I use Multivariate testing?

Short answer is yes!

Google provides the facility to test the conversion rates of more than one version of a homepage, however I needed something more specific for a particular client.

Basically the site was getting a large amount of relevant traffic through organic search and google adwords but the coversion rate could be higher. The site has a predominantly red design and we had the apply button in the same colour which meant that it did not stand out as much as it should. However it was very prominent so we didn’t think it the colour would have much impact.

We were very wrong.

What we did was created a simple cookie system generating a random number for individual visits to the site.  The system generats a number between 1 and 6 and assigns it to a visitor.  The system then selects a variant of the button based on this number.  We chose 6 very different colours that contrasted with the overall red colour of the site and also left the existing button in place as 1 of the 6 random numbers.

After a few hours there were around 100 instances of each random number recorded and there were no conversions on the existing red button.  However, there were 10 conversions on a yellow version of the button.  This is a truly staggering increase and shows the value of trying out various options on a site in a controlled way.

I look forward to seeing a larger sample set over the coming weeks so that we can extrapolate further findings and further increase the conversion rate.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

Often there is confusion between these two terms but the difference is stark and actually very simple.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing is any means by which a website is promoted through search engines including paid ad programmes or Pay Per Click (PPC) programmes such as Google Adwords, Map Results such as Google Local Business Centre (now Google Places) or SEO techniques.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is about the techniques used to improve a page’s position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).  Techniques used here consist of improving content on a page to better match what customers are searching for, and building up the popularity/importance of a site through link building.

Comments welcome.

Sensible Link Building Strategy

Here is an interesting blog from the Google Webmasters Blog:  Anyone interested in SEO should read the article carefully.

Here is a summary of the points made in the article:

  • Promote within your particular community and CONTRIBUTE to blogs and forums. This does not mean spam forums and blogs but actually share your knowledge and experience with the community.  Solving problems for people is a great way of doing this.
  • Use of humour can be good to get lots of hits quickly but that it shouldn’t be relied on as a long term strategy.
  • Beware of low quality directories and link sharing with random sites, these will ultimately damage your sites reputation
  • Another great tip is to make linking to your site easy through social bookmarking tools

So if you have quality link backs in mind, start sharing your knowledge today.

The New Google Keyword Tool

Last week I tried using the Google Keyword tool and it wasn’t working the way I expected it to and I thought to myself that this was the end of an era.

How could I survive without the trusted Google Keyword Tool?

Thankfully, when I logged in today it seemed to be back to normal with an improved interface.

For anyone that doesn’t know at this stage, the Google Keyword tool is an indispensable application for anyone who wishes to do keyword research on-line.  The tool allows you to put in a keyword or phrase and it will show you how many people search for this word/phrase and variants of it worldwide and also locally (i.e. your target area) for the previous month.  It also gives an indication of how many advertisers are paying for advertising off the back of these key words and phrases.

This information is critical to anyone who wishes to promote their site online.

From a Search Engine Optimisation point of view it facilitates decision making on what names to give pages on a website, what keywords and phrases to put on them etc.  I mean there’s no point in creating a page with a certain title if nobody is ever going to search for it.

It now also asks for a website address as well as a key phrase, which can be very handy to see what your competitors are up to as regards keyword targeting.

It is an invaluable tool for anyone who takes their on-line presences seriously.

Free Waterford Links Directory – Irish Links Directory

Just a short blog to let you know that has a new links directory at the following URL

Waterford Links Directory

This directory has an impressive root Google Page Rank of 5 and so anyone with a website in Waterford (and a bit of sense) should submit their site to it as soon as they read this!!!

Another free directory, which will soon become popular is, an Irish Links Directory

They are both moderated directories and so only quality links will appear on them which means your own site can only benefit from being on it.

Changing Domains and 301 Redirects

If you want to move your business to a new domain and you have a popular domain name with a decent Google Page rank you will most certainly want to redirect traffic from your old website to your new website.

There are many ways to do this. Some of the most popular are:

  • using meta tags: this is a client side method that redirects the browser after a certain amount of time
  • using a server side script: this could be a simple .php that redirects users from a page (generally homepage) to your new site
  • use a .htaccess file and a rule to redirect traffic to your new site


The meta refresh mechanism is quite simple, you insert code like this into the header of the page you wish to redirect:

<META http-equiv=”refresh” content=”5;URL=”>

This will redirect to your new site 5 seconds after the page loads on the viewer’s browser.  This method is simple and require no server side scripting knowledge.


With languages like php you can use the header function to redirect to other pages. Here is an example of how to perform a 301 redirect with php.

header( “HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently” );

NOTE: this code must appear at the top of the .php file as if the script echoes anything at all to the client the redirect will not work.

This method is good as it performs a proper 301 redirect so that your new site picks up all of the page rank associated with the old page, the only disadvantage here is that it must be done page by page.

This 301 has been tried and tested on and redirects to


This is the preferred method of performing a 301 redirect for all pages of a site but only works on Linux hosting. Here is an example of a .htaccess file with a 301 redirect rule for all pages of a website:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [L,R=301]

This .htaccess 301 Redirect has been tried and tested on Godaddy hosting for the website and redirects the user to