How to improve your local SEO rank in Ireland – SEO Ireland

Some basic SEO tips for sites Ireland

When someone carries out a search in Ireland for a product that you sell, the purpose of your website is to attract the persons attention so that they engage with you and ultimately you make the sale. There are three main component needed to make this happen, namely you website, your ranking on the search engine (i.e. does your result show up on the first page of the search results?) and your call to action (what you want people to do on the site once they get there).

It is like the classic sales funnel for the web. Your site is at the top and exposes your products or services to everyone on the web. Next your search ranking (SEO) for Ireland brings visitors to the site and finally your calls to action engage with the visitors and turns them into paying customers. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Your Website (the starting point)

Your website is your voice on the web. The web is a big place and websites are visible not only in your target location but (almost) anywhere on the web. You may not want to target the entire world with your site, you may only want to target clients in one geographic location. This article provides some of the basics of optimising your website for a target location (Ireland in this case).

This article assumes that you have already own a website and that you want to get your website to work for you, for your business or for your club. For the purpose of this article lets suppose that you have a website that advertises umbrellas which you stock in your store in Dublin, Ireland. Lets also assume that your website is relatively new and that a search on Google for ‘Umbrella shop Dublin’ does not show your business on Google’s first page of the search results. Finally lets assume that you want to attract clients primarily from anywhere in Ireland.

This scenario highlights the need to optimise your website for Ireland and to tell Google all about your business the products you offer in Ireland. In other words you need some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for Ireland.

Improve your Ranking (Search Engine Optimisation – SEO)

There are number of consultancies that offer SEO in Ireland but SEO can be expensive because the iterative process of optimisation can be quite time consuming and consultants usually charge by the hour. So why not start by getting the basic SEO right before you call on a consultant?

Getting the SEO right for your infrastructure

Your target clients are based in Ireland and therefore, you may want your products to rank in Ireland. Your website is likely to be hosted by a provider in Ireland therefore, your IP address of your site then should be in Ireland and this lets Google know where your site is physically located. Here you have an advantage over the major stores who may be hosted outside Ireland as they are targeting a number of locations. Next, if you have a domain that is registered with the Irish domain registrar and ends with .ie then this is a further marker for Google. On the other hand, if you have a .com or dot-something-else then this is not the end of the world, but you will need to work on the other other SEO Ireland markers in order to rank well.

Make sure that your contact details are included on the site. Have a contact page and include your full address including ‘Ireland’ in the address. If you have an Eircode, then include this and if you list a phone number, then include the Irish code (+353) in the number. All of these are further markers for Google. I believe that it is a good idea to include a telephone number in the header and the footer of the site, not only does this assist with localising your site, but as many searched are now done on mobile phones, your logo and telephone number will always be the first thing that your visitors see when visiting the site.

Also, it is important to register your company with Google Business where you can include your business location on a map, a phone number and a written address for your business.

The content on your pages

This in itself is a big topic, so we will stay with the very basic concepts.

Think of your website as consisting of a number of distinct silos. In our example, ‘Umbrellas’ would be a silo and if we also sell ‘Wax Jackets’ then this too could be defined as another silo. All the pages on your site (apart from the home page and the contact page) should fit into one of the silos that you defined. While there is no limit on the number of silos that you can have, try to keep this number a low as possible. A small to medium sized business will probably need no more than 3 to 5 silos.

Next decide on the search phrases that people are most likely to use when searching on the web for your products. Ask other people what they would type to find your products and combine these phrases with your own. Rationalise this list to between 4 and 8 key phrases for each silo. Phrases should not be single words, they should be phrases. For example ‘umbrellas’ would not be a good search term, better terms would be ‘printed umbrellas dublin’ or ‘coloured golf umbrellas’.

Now you can write content specific to each phrase or you can adjust the content that you already have for a phrase. Be careful not to optimise any single page for more than 2 of your phrases. Some guidelines for your content:

  1. Ensure that every page has a title and a description.
  2. Include the key phrase in the title and in the description of the page.
  3. Keep the title shorter than 74 characters and the description shorter tan 156 characters
  4. Has one and only one <h1> header on the page and include the key phrase in this header
  5. Use other headers <h2>, <h3> etc.
  6. First paragraph is the most important (and determines whether visitors read on)
  7. Keep sentences short and descriptive
  8. Use bullet points where necessary
  9. Incorporate all key terms, variations and related terms
  10. Think information rather than sales pitch / discount, then go back and add the sales pitch

Measure and Improve

Measure your performance for your key phrases by looking at your ranking on Google.ie over a period of time and adjust the content if necessary. Also, look at the sites that rank in the top positions to get ideas on how to improve your ranking. Al the clues as to how they got to the top are on their page for you to see, but never copy their content because you will be penalised by Google if you have the same wording as that used on another site.

Be patient!

Call to Action (Engage with Visitors)

Search engines can help to drive people to your site, but thereafter, it is up to you and your site to engage with the visitors. There are two things that you want to achieve namely

  • Keep visitors on your site once they get there (if they don’t see what they need on the page that they land on direct them to another page) and
  • Get the users to either buy something or to contact you.

You may have a Big Orange Button (BOB) that just has to be pressed or something very visual that gets the visitor to look further. There is no simple guideline for engaging with visitors, but generally, visitors do not like cluttered page or pages covered in garish colours. A simple well designed page that speaks for itself is usually much more effective for getting visitors to stay and ultimately to become paying customers.

Adwords or Organic Marketing

Organic Search is here to stay

There are people that advocate that the only reliable way to market your website is through Paid Adverts (PPC). These same people then come up with ridiculous phrases like: ‘Free traffic goes bye-bye‘ or ‘The savviest marketers know how to BUY advertising real estate better than their competitors. Squatters will always get evicted eventually‘. I don’t buy any of this and have deliberately not included a citation against these quotes because the people that come up with this nonsense do not deserve a back-link or any publicity from this post.

Both Organic Ranking and PPC have a place in Search

Google’s success is driven by the accuracy and quality of their organic search results. Paid search does not fall into this category, it is merit by quantity of available funds and not quality of content. Clearly Paid search ranking does have a purpose, it funds Google to do more of the good work and grows the Google share value.

Google are well aware of all this and the day that they push paid search above organic search is the day that you should very quickly sell any shares in Google (before they become worthless).

I would go so far as to say that Organic Search and PPC rely on each other and have a symbiotic relationship. Take away Organic and people will move to other search engines; Take away PPC and Google will no longer have the funding to justify search development.

Organic-Search and Pay-Per-Click will continue to live in harmony for the foreseeable future

CreatorSEO™

 

SEO in Ireland

Traditionally, business in Ireland relied largely on word-of-mouth and their private network for their success. Who you know and who they know was vital to the growth of your business. When you needed a service or a product, your ‘search engine’ was likely to be the advice of a neighbour, friend or family member and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in Ireland involved growing your network and getting to know the right people who then would share information and refer you to other and others to you.

Traditionally, business in Ireland has relied mainly on word-of-mouth and ‘the network’. Who you know and who they know was vital to your business success.

The growth of the internet and the accessibility of information has touched just about every aspect of society and business. Ireland is no exception to this. The internet has become a vital part of the fabric of business and search engines have become as important as who you know (if not more important). Word of mouth still plays a big part but the advice may now be which site to look at rather than who to go to. Search engines are consulted more often than neighbours, friends or family and if you supply a product or service, then SEO in Ireland is more about being found on the web than relying on others to recommend you.

SEO in Ireland has shifted from growing your (people) network to being found on the internet.

In the same way that Irish people have always understood the importance of ‘the network’, more and more Irish Businesses now understand the importance that achieving good ranking on the major search engines (like Google and Bing) can have on the success of their business. The most proactive businesses even have taken this a step further by realising the potential of using these electronic networks to extend their horizons and sell in countries outside of Ireland. This in turn extends their network of who they know and who to refer on.

Of course there still are the more parochial companies in Ireland that rely solely on word-of-mouth and don’t see any value in a website or the need for SEO to promote their services or products. These tend to be older companies where services and products are offered mainly to people located in the same area or visiting the area. These companies survive in the belief that there would be no value to their clients of looking on the Internet for the services or products that they offer. Only 10 years ago many of the now vacant shops in the malls would have thought this way, only to lose business to the on-line traders like Amazon who can offer a wider range at much cheaper prices. If only these shops had set up a web presence and used SEO to extend their reach and rank well. Being physically located in Ireland, they would have had an advantage over the general on-line stores and could have competed and possibly survived the changes.

Then there are the companies that pay for a website and expect business to roll-in; or companies that hope to get rich only by setting up an online store. Neither case is likely, unless the site or online store ranks well on Google (and/or Bing) for search terms that are likely to drive traffic to the store. Consequently, competition is fierce for the top ranking spots and it is important for these companies to invest some money and employ an SEO specialist in Ireland to optimise their web site and to achieve the best possible ranking.

Competition is fierce for the top ranking spots, there can be only one number 1 at any give time

While word-of-mouth will always be important in Ireland and a lot of business will continue to be passed through the ‘network’, more word-of-mouth is in the form of testimonials on a website and people are likely still to get a second opinion from an unbiased friend like Google.

About CreatorSEO™

CreatorSEO are one of the leading Search Engine Otimisation (SEO) companies in Ireland. Since 2008 we have helped many companies throughout Ireland with their SEO and are on the Enterprise Ireland panel of ICT/eBusiness Trainers and Advisors. We present on SEO at the regular Enterprise Ireland road-shows which are held throughout Ireland. We also have served as mentors to companies to help clients create a successful on-line presence in Ireland, the United States or the United Kingdom.

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Building Links

What are some effective techniques for building links?

Watch this video from Google with Matt Cutts. The methods covered are:

  1. Great content leads to links Controversy – write controversial articles and uncork a good rant once in a while;
  2. Participate in the community
  3. Answer questions – add value
  4. Original research – use a scientific approach to get good data and put this on a blog
  5. Newsletters to drive people to your website
  6. Social media – participate on the sites where people spend their time
  7. Lists – create article like 50 ways to…
  8. Get a blog and establish yourself
  9. Post images or things of interest
  10. Write how-to’s and tutorials
  11. Develop a service or a product and release it for free / open source
  12. Improve site architecture – can the site be crawled? can URL’s be bookmarked? can Google get to all the pages on the site?
  13. Make videos

Clicks, clicks, clicks…

Selections / Clicks for a typical Search Engine Query

Every day, millions of people use search engines like Google and Bing to find information. They type into the search query box ‘keywords/phrases’: what they are looking for and select “Search.” They then read down the page until they find a result that looks like it might contain the information they are looking for. Most people rarely go beyond the first page of their search results (usually 10 results). So for all companies, getting their offering on the first page of the search results for the selected search terms is critical.

The table below shows the percentage of selections/clicks for a typical search engine query way back in 2008 (source AOL, 2008: based on AOL-data.tgz):

Rank Number  Selections/Clicks
1 42.30%
2 11.92%
3 8.44%
4 6.03%
5 4.86%
6 3.99%
7 3.37%
8 2.98%
9 2.83%
10 2.97%
11 0.66%
12 0.66%
13 0.52%
14 0.48%
15 0.47%
16 0.39%
17 0.36%
18 0.34%
19 0.32%
20 0.30%
Other 5.81%

Other 5.81%

Your SEO objective should be to rank number 1 on SERP, as this receives 42.3% of all click throughs. The number 2 ranking only receives 11.92% of all click (that is about one quaryter of ranking number 1). Attaining the number position on a particular seach phrase results in nearly 4 times more traffic thanranking number 2.

As you move down the rankings for any search, the percentage of click throughs also falls. There is a slight increase however for ranking number 10, this is most probably due to users looking at the last ranking aswell as the top rankings.

Remember your SEO objective is:
Click Crowth for Revenue

Click Through Rates

The aim of SEO and internet marketing is to make sure that particular companies/websites rank highly on a search for specific key words/phrases on search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and so on. The better they rank, the more visitors/traffic they will have. The more traffic, the more sales they will have!

Click Through Rates Modelled

SEO experts should be grateful to Google…

Why does Google continually change the face of SEO? This makes the SEO field very difficult to master, so why should SEO experts be grateful?

Why would Google want to continually change the face of SEO? Surely it is in Googles interest to be transparent and to let people know what to do to get to the top.

Google have an interest in providing high quality search results (i.e. good relevant search results). However, Google don’t do this because they are nice people (though I am sure that they are). Google is a company, a business, an enterprise and their primary interest like any other business is to make money for shareholders.

Google’s main revenue stream is paid for advertising and they make an enormous amout of money out of this advertising!  Therefore, Google continually strives to increase the revenue from advertising and Google search is the primary vehicle with which to achieve this.

Search Engine Optimisation - SEO Google

As long as there is a secret element to the Google algorithm and as long as this Google algorithm changes, Google have the control they need to be able to sell more adverts. This will always be the case.

This approach also keeps good SEO experts in business because the only way to keep up with changes is to do this as a full time, dedicated occupation and there is a huge amount of work just keeping up and rolling out the changes. Site owners therefore have little option other than to pay for adverts or employ a competent SEO person if they want to be found on the web.

The roll out of the Panda update was a clear example of Google flexing its muscles and changing the SEO space. Also, the strong suggestion that agility to change is key and that site owners need to keep up with the continual changes Google is making proves that change is here to stay and there will never be a ‘perfect algorithm’ (even if it was possible).

Clinton Dickerson

Does more web traffic lead to higher ranking?

The question is whether having more traffic to your site leads to an improved search engine ranking (SERP) on the major search engines (Google and Bing in particular).

The logical conclusion must be that higher traffic to a website suggests:

  • that there is more interest in the site;
  • that the site is considered to be relevant;
  • that there are more incoming links to the site.

However, to complete the picture, the bounce rate also should be considered. Higher bounce rate implies that visitors are less interested in the site or perhaps that the site is not all that it is made out to be. Therefore if higher traffic is a positive indication, then this needs to be offset by bounce rate (or something similar).

Then of course, more traffic may be due to the successful efforts of the SEO team to optimise the site. If this is the case and traffic leads to improved SERP, then we have a ‘chicken and egg’ situation where the number of visits is related to the ranking which is related to the optimisation which is related to the ranking and so on…

Watch your analytics

Watch your analytics – measure traffic and bounce rate and try to improve both.

If traffic is important then we also need to consider how the search engines would measure this traffic and this bounce rate. If the web site does not have Google Analytics installed, then can Google get these measures?

Taking all of this into account, I can only conclude that web traffic has little impact on search engine ranking, but is an important measurement and should be monitored by the site owner.

DMOZ – what is wrong with the Open Directory?

DMOZ or the open directory was intended to organise the web. This directory is owned by Netscape, maintained by a community of volunteer editors and was reported to be ‘supported’ by Google.

The submission rules for getting listed on DMOZ are strict and while it may be considered to be good for SEO to be listed on the Open Directory, it can be very difficult to be get listed in the appropriate category on DMOZ. In recent years, there has even been the suggestion that DMOZ has become insignificant and is of little value to SEO.

So what happened?

Initially Google ‘supported’ DMOZ by using information and links on DMOZ to supplement the Google search database. There even was the belief that listing on DMOZ is a factor in the Google ranking algorithm. Consequently, website owners considered getting listed on DMOZ to be essential for search engine ranking position (SERP). In 2000 Google created its own directory and used DMOZ as the main source for the Google directory however, a decade later (late 2010), the Google directory was shut down and Google stopped supporting directory search. The impact of being listed on DMOZ for SERP diminished and as Google is by far the primary player in the search sphere, DMOZ became less relevant.

Aside from SERP, have you ever tried to be listed? It can take years to be listed on a more popular category even if this is the most appropriate category for your site. This is especially the case if the editor doesn’t take the volunteering task seriously or is overwhelmed by the number of listing requests received. Therefore, the ‘volunteer’ nature of the editors of DMOZ is most likely to be the biggest contributor to the loss of popularity of DMOZ and may ultimately lead to its demise.

The ratio of websites to volunteers has increased over the years and inclusion requests can easily become burried in the editors inbox. Web site owners are likely to give up on submitting their sites if these are never listed and if DMOZ is unable to keep up with the new sites and newer more relevant sites are not listed quickly, then DMOZ itself becomes nothing more than a huge list of sites that is difficult to search and is not entirely relevant.

Is this a real effect?

Visitors to a site are always a good indicator of the popularity of the site and it is fair to say that a reduction in the number of visits is a good indication of a loss of popularity. Alexa provides a number of metrics that you can access for any site including DMOZ (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/dmoz.org). Below is a chart from Alexa showing the estimated percentage of visits to DMOZ from a search engine. If you don’t like this metric, try the other options on DMOZ. Either way, you are likely to come to the same conclusion, namely that DMOZ is becoming less popular.

DMOZ Visit Trend

DMOZ VisitTrend – there goes our popularity. Surprised? If you ever tried to get listed, I am sure you aren’t.

The bottom line…

The bottom line for me is that, whether or not DMOZ is important for ranking, the effort in chasing a ranking is not worth the return for SEO and therefore, I therefore consign DMOZ to the waste of time SEO bin after the first submission.

What can be done?

DMOZ needs to re-discover itself.  It needs to find better more efficient ways of getting sites listed. If the human volunteer part of getting listed on DMOZ is to remain, then there needs to be more humans, better vetting tools, and improved checks on the volunteer editors. There needs to be visible metrics for each submission category. How about a measure of how many days on average for a site to be listed and/or the number of outstanding submissions.

In the new web world where engaging with people is central to any web experience, DMOZ needs to find some way of interacting / engaging with users and giving more than just some obscure listing somewhere in a mammoth database.

An improved perception for SEO

Based on comments from a number of website owners and people who were unfortunate enough to have had bad experiences with SEO consultants, I believe that many potential clients are doubtful of the value of SEO to their businesses.

No doubt this stigma attached to SEO has arisen from consultants who:

  1. Sell themselves as SEO experts but have little knowledge or understanding or
  2. Use ‘black hat’ or dubious techniques to increase their clients ranking or
  3. Promise more than they can deliver or
  4. Hide behind SEO being a ‘black art’ rather than a process or
  5. Claim for more hours than they spend.

This bad perception of SEO does little to help the SEO professionals who do not fit into any of the categories above.

How then can we change this perception?  Is there some way of exposing the fraudulent SEO practitioners? Do we need to create a new name for SEO? or is it all about educating the client base?

Top 5 SEO Practices

Everyone who has an insight into SEO has an opinion as to what are the best 5 things you can do to improve your Search Engine ranking.  I believe that any top 5 must not be absolute and should be defined in relation to the family of sites that are under consideration. For example, the top 5 SEO techniques for newly launched private web sites will be very different from the top 5 for well established sites in a very competitive business market.

Why the top 5 and not top 10, 20 or more? I believe that optimisation should be done in bite sized chunks and 5 is my ‘bite size’. So, these are my top 5 techniques for newly launched sites (Part 1). In subsequent articles, I will provide part 2 for new sites and will deal with other families of web site.

Before you start…

Before you can optimise any page on a site, you need to spend some time deciding which words or phrases you want the to achieve a high ranking on. Don’t only think about single words, think about search phrases because people search on phrases and it is easier to rank on phrases than individual words. Try to find 3 or 4 phrases for each page.

Top 5 techniques (New Web Sites – Part 1)

Use the title tag

While tags are not directly visible and there is a lot of debate over the use of keyword tags, the title tag is one of the most important components on the web page. The title tag is visible as the heading on the browser tag and the title tag is used by search engines to determine the topic of the page. Make sure that the title tag is distinct for each page on the site and ensure that the title tag is pertinent to the content on the page. Also, make sure that your most important keyword is included in the title tag.

Optimise your page content

The content on the page contains the words that search engines will use to index the site and to determine a ranking for the page in terms of these words. Consequently the relevance of the words, the word frequency, the proximity of different words to each other and msot important the position of the words on the page are factors that need to be considered when developing content for the page.  While it is important to develop your content with these factors in mind, you should not optimise your pages for search engines, they must be optimised for your target audience.

Don’t put too much information on the page

If your page gets too long, split it. Think of the page as a container. If you keep the contents of each container clearly defined, it will be much easier to find what you want in all your containers. The same applies for search engines.  If you find that it is difficult to restrict yourselt to only 4 key phrases, and you feel that you need more key terms or phrases then it is likely that you have too much on the page.  Too much information is likely to dilute your key messages which then may lead to a lower ranking for all your key terms.

Include links to and from your site

Include links to authorative sites from your page where this is pertinent. Also try to get yous site referenced from other sites.  However be careful not to use link farms of dubious sites that are prepared to link to you. You could even be penalised if you have too many ‘bad sites’ that link to your page. The value of the incoming link is only as good as the site that the link is coming from, so try to get authorative links. One approach to getting good links is to write articles or blogs on other unrelated sites and to reference (link back) your page from these articles or blogs. Bear in mind, when you link out from your page, you sould set the target to a new page so that you do not take your reader away from your page.

Avoid any black-hat techniques

Developing page content primarily for search engines is likely to lead to black hat techniques. Black hat techniques include repeating words too often (keyword stuffing or keyword spamming); invisible text on the page containing keywords; fake pages that transfer the user to some unintended location. Don’t be tempted by black hat techniques because these can penalise of disqualify a site from the major search engines.