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No Money, No Problem: 17 Free Ways To Boost Your Website’s SEO

Sure, you can hire out your SEO work. But why spend so much of your hard-earned money?

Jayson Demers

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SEO is a popular online marketing strategy, and therefore, competitive, but I’m consistently amazed at how many business owners and marketers opt not to engage in an SEO strategy because of its perceived limitations or drawbacks.

One of the biggest misperceptions is that SEO is expensive, and it’s driven by the fact that some agencies have higher-level packages that cost tens of thousands of dollars per month.

Yes, SEO can be expensive for hyper-competitive, national-scale businesses, but that doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable for the average business owner.

Related: 17 Free Online Tools to Help You Grow Your Blog to 1 Million Visitors

In fact, there are dozens of simple strategies you can execute yourself, for free, to better optimise your site for search engines. These are just some of the major ones:

1. Find better keywords

Optimise for keywords that are closer to your niche and have fewer competitors. Google Trends and Google’s Keyword Tool in AdWords are free tools that should give you all the data you need. For help, see this article.

2. Delete duplicate content

Google Search Console will display any instances of duplicate content it finds on your site. Usually, these are the result of canonicity errors (not plagiarism), but you still need to correct this to keep your site in good standing.

3. Fix 404 errors
404-error-page

These errors are like dead ends, and nobody likes dead ends. Again, refer to Google Search Console for help, and set up 301 redirects where necessary to close the gaps here.

4. Write a unique title tag for every page

Every page should have a title tag, of under 70 characters, that describes the page, features the desired keyword and is unique from every other title tag on your website. For a more comprehensive guide on on-site optimisation, see this article.

Related: 6 Free Online Classes For Digital-Marketing Beginners

5. Write a compelling meta description for every page

Every page should also have a meta description, under 160 characters, that more elaborately describes the page. The meta description probably doesn’t play much of a role in your actual page rankings, but it certainly affects click-through rates.

There’s evidence that click-through rates affect rankings, though, so ensure that your meta descriptions are unique, concise and compelling.

6. Clean up your URL structure

Your URLs should have a breadcrumbs trail and feature readable indicators of the content on the page, such as the page title. Avoid using numbers or random strings of text in your URLs.

7. Update your blog often

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More content, as long as it’s valuable to readers, is never a bad thing. Google recently released an algorithm update that seems to favour fresh content, so keeping your blog updated is more beneficial than ever before.

8. Include H1, H2, H3, etc. headers in your content

Your content should be logically divided into subsections, with headlines and sub-heads. These need to be marked with html tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to help Google process and understand the intent and organisation of your content.

9. Add internal links

Linking together the relevant pages of your site is good for user experience, and helps Google better understand relationships between pages on your site. If your site is on WordPress, there are plugins that can automatically help, such as SEO Auto links.

Related: 4 Digital Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to Right Now

10. Optimise your images

Your images should be optimised for SEO too, and that task is relatively simple – title them appropriately, add descriptive alt tags and keep them in the proper format.

11. Reference authoritative outside sources

Google pays attention to what you link to in an article. Citing authoritative sources to back up your claims will make your content more credible and trustworthy to Google as well as to your readers.

12. Include social media integrations

Every article on your site should be accompanied by social share icons; social shares serve as indirect ranking signals, giving you the opportunity to earn more inbound links, which pass authority back to your site.

13. Optimise your website loading speed

User-experience

This can be as simple or as complicated as you make it; there are several ways to make a site faster, such as reducing image sizes, adding a caching plugin, switching hosting providers and deleting unnecessary plugins.

14. Optimise for mobile devices

The majority of Google search now occurs on mobile devices, so if your site doesn’t display attractively for mobile users, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of traffic. Also, Google will not display your website prominently in mobile search results if your website isn’t mobile-optimised.

Related: With These Apps You Will Absolutely Rock Instagram Marketing

15. Earn some links

As a consistent strategy, link-building demands heavy investment, but if you’re just getting started, you can earn some links by:

  1. Getting active enough in your community to earn media coverage
  2. Publishing an opinion about a controversial topic you’re qualified to write about
  3. Reaching out to a publication in your industry to secure a guest posting opportunity.

These days, there are really only three viable strategies for link building; this article covers them.

16. Remove bad links

Use Google Search Console to download a list of links to your website. Then, evaluate your link profile and identify “bad” links from low-authority sources. Remove them manually or through an email request to the webmaster.

17. Syndicate your content

You’re writing lots of great content, but what are you doing with it? Take a moment to syndicate your content through social media channels, which increases the likelihood that it will earn rank-boosting links to your site.

These tactics alone won’t guarantee you a top ranking for a competitive keyword, nor are they suitable to manage a campaign in the long term, but they will give you a strong boost and a good foundation to build an ongoing strategy. Building a full campaign from scratch takes time, effort and patience – and you’ll probably run into hurdles.

In addition, money is the substitute to addressing these problems – it spares you the time and effort of doing the work yourself, and connects you with experts right away. But even then, you’ll be paying for a return. Remember: This isn’t an expense, it’s an investment.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a content marketing agency, as well as EmailAnalytics, an email productivity monitoring app for Gmail and G suite. Contact him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Online Marketing

How To Choose The Right Digital Agency

The need for specialised digital marketing has inspired an increase in digital agencies and the hunt for the right digital agency is on.

Darren Mansour

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Finding a digital partner is crucial. Many business leaders find digital marketing challenging as they are spread thin when taking on their own digital marketing efforts, resulting in half-baked digital campaigns that can often do more harm than good. The need for specialised digital marketing has inspired an increase in digital agencies and the hunt for the right digital agency is on.

So, how do you choose the right agency?

1. Understand Your Needs & Budget

The better you are able to establish your digital marketing needs the better the conversation will be with potential agencies. Consider your website, SEO, advertising, social, and design needs in order to understand the costs involved.

Set and lock down your budget accordingly. It is important to remember that there is no set price, but, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. A great digital marketing specialist will be able to work with reasonable expectations and within a reasonable budget.

Related: Crisis Management In A Digital Age

2. Demand Transparency

A lack of transparency is an immediate red flag. First, take a look at the agency’s website. If location, about me and profiles, client and agency lists, and testimonials are nowhere to be seen, then move on. If it looks like something is being hidden, it more than likely is.

Be wary of big promises on delivery, at the most affordable rate, as it is not always the best option as a large amount of new clients choose agencies with little to no experience. Full transparency should be top of your list when it comes to partnering with the right digital agency.

3. The Importance of Credibility

How credible is the agency you’re looking at and what kind of experience do they have under the belt? Dig a little deeper and read through online reviews and client testimonials. Ask yourself if it all seems authentic. If there are no client references on their website and Linkedin, ask for them.

If the agency allows contact with clients where it didn’t go too well it should be perceived as positive. There is no such thing as perfection and it shows transparency while adding to credibility. Consider the agency’s website and how well it appears in search results. Look at the agency social pages to get more insight into what you can expect.

Related: Is Your Content Golden Enough?

4. Implement The Beer Test

The connection between the business and it’s creative team needs to be based on more than the marketing of a brand. Do the beer test by inviting the key players from both sides around a table for coffee, tea, a drink, or a meal, and test to see if you can work together.

It helps when the people who work together can get on with the work and each other. Choose an agency who is aligned with your brand, persona, and availability. A brilliant business partnership goes beyond the company. In business today, it is a totally acceptable concept to buy into people. Great working relationships contribute towards producing outstanding results.

Get in touch with So Interactive to set a beer test and discuss your digital needs.

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Online Marketing

Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Here are some general guidelines on how to create a digital marketing campaign that has a real impact on your bottom line.

Darren Mansour

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Innovative ideas work only if there is a plan in place. In order to grow your brand and your industry it is important your planning focuses largely online, since digital campaigns provide valuable data, feedback and results that can help you stay agile, thinking ahead, and reactive in an increasingly volatile market space. Here are some general guidelines on how to create a digital marketing campaign that has a real impact on your bottom line.

Establish Your Mission

Define your overall business and marketing objectives. Your digital marketing mission needs to fit into your grand plan and business strategy. What are the goals you want to achieve through your digital marketing efforts? This is your mission.

Analyse Your Past & Learn From Mistakes

You shouldn’t go into the planning phase with your eyes closed. Do your homework. Analyse your digital marketing strategies, your past successes, and your failures in order to focus on setting reasonable KIPs. Set a time period you would like to look at, it is often best to make it the same length of time as the campaign you are planning. Establish if you are going to analyse a 12 months period, the previous year, a quarter, or any given month in the past year. This data is all priceless.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Know Who You Are Talking To

Determine your target market, personas, and audience. You need to put your audience at the heart of your marketing strategy and campaigns. Once you’ve identified personas, focus on their emotional needs and strive to satisfy specific desires. Develop accurate personas by considering demographics and consumer market research.

Ask yourself what the problems are that you can help your target persona solve. Establish the emotional desires, goals, likes, dislikes, and what resonates with your target persona. When you have your target persona down it is the best time to identify your influencers.

Know Your Budget

It is crucial that you define your digital marketing budget based on your strategy. Establish your paid, unpaid, and earned digital media. Allocate a reasonable portion of your budget to the specific digital channel you want to use. If needed, be prepared to make changes while your campaign is running and rolling out. Should a particular element of your paid marketing underperform, revisit your strategy and budget, then reallocate that budget to the channel or channels that are bringing you the results you need.

Establish Your Channels

Determine which of the digital marketing channels you are going to use and which are most suitable to reach your desired target audience. Clearly establish what the digital channels you choose to use are trying to achieve, and the overall benefits of using each of them. Ensure you have at least one KPI attached to each of your digital channels.

Related: Dylan Kohlstädt Of Shift One Marketing Weighs In On Digital Marketing For Start-Ups

Plan To Be Flexible

Off the bat, no plan is perfect. Not every prediction is going to be spot on. And, although you have taken all the steps in the right direction by putting together a plan that is based on measurable data, results, insights, and analytics, you won’t know exactly how consumers will react, behave, and respond to your campaigns. It is essential that you monitor progress of all your campaigns and continually measure your performance, so that you can you can be flexible enough to adapt and change your marketing plan as and when need be.

Use a Digital Marketing Calendar

Take the time to highlight the key campaigns in your strategy, see which digital elements work well together, and allocate timeframes. Google calendars and spreadsheets are a great way to create timelines, share accurate production schedules, distribute information quickly, and effectively back up documents and data. Google docs allows you to share planning and scheduling with your team and make edits if necessary.

Read The Data & Measure Results

Read past reporting, analytics, insights, data, and statistics, when strategising, changing, and planning campaigns. Keep a record and create reports during and following each campaign. Create a measurement and monitoring plan aligned with your KPIs. Add required information as you need it and make changes when it is in the best interest of the brand and bottom line. Measure the success of your individual digital marketing elements, identify what is not working and what requires change. Create clearly defined KPIs.

Your Creative is Everything

Your creative is your brand voice, and it is vital that you are always on top form. Content being king is that marketing phrase that just always rings true. What you say, how you say it, and who you say it to forms an important part of how you market your brand, it’s a vital step in the process of creating powerful digital campaigns. Quality digital content is both affordable and when managed properly it’s completely priceless.

Get The Professionals Onboard

So Interactive is a leading digital agency based in Johannesburg. Get in touch to create powerful digital campaigns that push your brand forward.

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4 Key Social Media Mistakes You Might Be Making – And How To Avoid Them

Social media can revolutionise your brand presence, or do more harm than good, depending on your strategy and execution.

Terena Chetty

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Whether or not you’ve already embraced social media in your business, the facts can’t be denied. Not only is it the fastest growing global communication medium, but it’s completely revolutionised the way brands and consumers interact.

The problem is that for many businesses — large and small — it remains unchartered territory viewed with uncertainty and even a degree of suspicion.

SMEs in particular seem to struggle with social media. This could be due to a misunderstanding of the role that social media plays in business, underestimating the sheer power of it and not using it effectively as a business tool.

Here are four common mistakes many SME social media pages display and some of the solutions you can implement to overcome these shortfalls. Why should you care? Because social media is a relatively inexpensive way to really boost your brand presence — if it’s used effectively.

Let’s get started.

According to www.imagibrand.com:

“Social media marketing done the right way requires skilled talent. Your brand should never hand its social marketing over to an inexperienced marketer or marketing team without making sure there exist true capabilities and talent to develop, design, produce and execute the volume of creative needed to have successful social channels.”

1. Misconception and misuse of social media

The problem: Social media is often (and incorrectly) perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ but unnecessary by many SMEs. I’ve met many business owners who are sceptical about social media and its place in the business environment. Sometimes, the only reason that the brand even has a social media presence is because its competitors do.

Social media is also typically viewed as a platform for brand-centred content. Some use it purely for hard-sell advertising posts, while others use it as an online company bulletin board. Both are completely ineffective ways to use social media.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Why you should care: A lack of understanding often leads to misuse, and this is particularly true of social media. A vicious cycle results: Social media is already viewed as a waste of resources, but it’s still used (incorrectly) to push sales or publish fluffy content. These strategies (or lack thereof) do little to promote business goals, strengthening the view that social media has no place in business. An example of a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.

Worse still is the misconception that your social media pages are there to solely promote brand objectives. This could cause serious brand damage as social media users expect, no, demand, attention and value from brands. Failure to meet such needs risks losing current and potential clients that perceive the brand as being ‘self-centred’.

What you should be doing: Social media is a powerful business tool and should be treated as such. It has the capability to serve as an integral component of your organisation, and as a key catalyst for growth. For SMEs, social media holds incredible value, including the options of extensive audience reach, detailed consumer targeting and sales generation. Effective, well-strategised use of social media is the path to achieving these tangible returns.

From a content perspective, the main point to remember is this: It’s not about you. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, nobody cares.

Social media is all about the user experience. When creating a post, view it from an audience perspective to ensure it has user-value of some sort. Ask yourself these questions: Is it informative? Is it interesting? Is it useful? Is it entertaining? If you can’t answer yes to at least one or two of these questions, don’t post it. Research your audience and craft posts that they are likely to engage with (i.e. like, comment and share).

According to dreamgrow.com, 46% of users will stop following a brand’s social media platforms for sharing too much promotional content.

2. Assigning management of platforms to junior and/or untrained staff

social-media-marketing-advice

The problem: Most SMEs view social media management as a non-essential, non-priority task. The general practice seems to be assigning this role to junior and/or untrained staff, such as interns, receptionists or any employee that happens to be available.

Why you should care: Consider this. A social media page is potentially the single most impactful touchpoint for a brand, making it a highly critical, powerful and very public portal. And then consider that many SMEs assign complete management and control of this critical contact point to junior or untrained staff. Can you spot the reason for concern?

Not only does this open you up to risk ranging from an undesirable public reaction to an unsuitable post or response, but in serious cases, could also result in legal action.

Aside from such drastic situations, poorly or inadequately managed social media pages generally lead to a negative consumer perception of the brand as a whole.

What you should be doing: Treat the position of social media manager the same as any other role: Assign it to an individual with the required knowledge and experience. As most SMEs are unlikely to already have a social media expert within their team, this could mean recruiting a new employee or agency.

While this sounds like an awesome solution, it may not be practical for SMEs with budget restrictions. In this case, consider ways to use current resources. For example, get managers of different departments to provide input and suggestions for content, as well as approve relevant posts. If possible, assign non-critical tasks to junior staff as a means to free up time that senior staff can then dedicate to social media.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

3. Not using paid advertising

The problem: SMEs often allocate little or no financial resources to their social media activities, such as Facebook paid ads. Instead, they rely on organic reach or inbound audiences.

Why you should care: For someone to see an unpaid post, they would need to actively search for your page themselves. This is the equivalent of leaving a stack of printed flyers on a table in a corner and hoping that people would stumble across it.

The recent Facebook Feed change further necessitates the need for paid advertising — the new algorithm restricts the organic reach of business pages. This means that the only way to get any real exposure is through paid promotion.

What you should be doing: Paid advertising means that you actively distribute your message to consumers. Your content appears directly in users’ content feed — they are exposed to your message even if they have never heard of your brand. What’s better, targeting means that you can restrict this to your desired demographic — it’s like handing out those above-mentioned flyers to a room full of people who have already indicated interest in your product or service offering. The result? High conversion potential and little to no wastage on irrelevant market segments.

(At this point, you may be shouting that you don’t have money for paid advertising. But keep calm and read on.)

Social media advertising is highly affordable. For example, Facebook promotions start from as little as R100 a post. Even though realistically you would need to invest a bit more to get decent results, the point is that it’s accessible even on a shoestring budget. Important: Read up on the dos and don’ts when attempting paid advertising for the first time (especially regarding setting spend limits).

4. No structured social media strategy

The problem: The vast majority of SMEs have a social media presence that lacks any sort of structured strategy. This is evidenced by a number of factors, including erratic frequency of posting, unclear purpose of posts, and even content that holds little relevance for a brand.

Why you should care: Without a planned strategy, your social media activities lack purpose. Any business task that serves no clear function or purpose is a waste of resources. It’s no wonder that decision-makers are reluctant to invest in social media as a result.

“Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic.” — www.smallbiztrends.com

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

What you should be doing: Rather than being an isolated function, social media activities have to form part of an integrated strategy linked to core brand objectives. The starting point is to identify priorities across your entire organisation, and then list key focus points. For example, if you have a current promotion, you can drive sales by targeting consumers through a paid social media ad. If you are looking to grow brand awareness, you can create user-centric content crafted for high reach and engagement. If your current focus is on product development, send out a poll to gain insight into consumer preferences.

Once planned, content then has to be crafted and scheduled to form a well-balanced strategy. This then needs to be tactically executed accordingly, incorporating a budget for social media ad spend to realise tangible results.

A result-driven strategy means that you can now measure return on investment. This includes social media generated stats (such as engagement rates and brand reach), as well as business data (such as sales volumes or leads). And once the numbers are out, my prediction is that decision-makers will become much more willing to allocate resources towards social media activities.

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