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Has SEO become an ugly term?

 

Just over two years ago, the term SEO, or search engine optimisation, was a relatively unknown phenomenon banded around in world of online marketing and understood simply as “making websites work”.

Online marketing has in recent years really started to take precedence as marketing evolved further and further into the online realm. To some, it was a complicated sounding process that was often assumed to be just about trying to make your website rank higher in Google. As a result, ill-informed brands sought a quick-fix at a low cost without realising what was actually being done to their own website.

Then, Google changed the way it wanted websites to behave, or be seen, and a lot of websites suddenly began to suffer. The backlash caused SEO to swiftly turn into a taboo terminology, striking fear in the hearts of those who had previously employed people to ‘do’ SEO on their websites. It also meant the good, reputable SEO agencies were suddenly landed a whole lot of backlink analysing, and ultimately bellyache.

In the wake of the latest Penguin update in October 2013, hundreds of websites that had unknowingly employed naughty “black hatters” to work their inconsistent techniques discovered their site had suddenly disappeared from search results. Black hat SEOs had been furiously busy, buying endless bad links and listing in useless online directories in their hundreds, in order to accelerate site ranking in search engines. Literally overnight, companies were finding themselves off the search engine ladders; no longer recognised or appearing in search results and with no clue as to why. With very little knowledge about what had happened, companies began to review their previous SEO strategy and discovered their backlink profiles had caused them to be penalised. Many companies received a message from Google themselves; warning of their unnatural website links and heavily suggesting they address their strategy and online behaviour moving forward.

As with everything in the fast-paced internet world, the demand to be top of Google’s listings quickly meant there was a growing market for spammy techniques and fast results. Businesses paid low prices to bad SEO companies and inexperienced freelancers to ‘do’ some SEO in order to get them higher than their competitors online. The organic, “Fairtrade” SEOs who had ethical online marketing backgrounds and focused on long term strategies, rather than quick-win ROIs, were being snubbed simply because their work couldn’t deliver as quickly as their naughty industry rivals. It is due to the unethical acts of the smaller “black hat community”, that the term SEO quickly gained a very negative reputation within the online marketing world.

Although Google rolls out these updates to assist both users and businesses with websites by making browsing the internet a simpler process, it has meant innocent businesses and their sites have suffered. Businesses have even begun to stop using the word ‘SEO’ for their employees looking after the in-house website, and even marketing agencies who would previously have hired ‘SEO co-ordinators’ have begun using different terms to describe essentially the role of an SEO account manager. All of these actions signal that people are wary of using the ‘S’ word within our industry and question what an ‘SEO expert’ can bring to their business.

The last few months have been all about the recovery process for many online businesses; the clean-up operations after months of negative SEO work. Although search engine optimization rapidly became a bad term to some, people recognised they still needed help to get their website back on track. This is where the “white hat” online marketers have stepped in and have started to correct the shoddy work of their questionable counterparts. These are the genuine SEO gurus who have been following best practices organically for years. This means for example, working alongside a PR team and generating positive organic links with quality content. White hat SEO is the angel on the other shoulder to black hats’ cheeky devil, and where black hatters had previously promised to produce hundreds of links, potentially in a short period of time for a lower cost, white hat SEO’s were honest and transparent about their work and the timeframe.

Search engine optimisation is all about being ethical in the eyes of Google and growing strong authoritative links in smaller numbers, over time. Using quality content combined with social activity and off-site activity to influence how well your website can be read by the robots online are just some of the ingredients which make up a tasty recipe to successful SEO. Rather than building lots of links to poor quality sites and churning out over-optimised and keyword stuffed content.

This will be no means indicate the end of search engine optimisation as a marketing tool; any business with a website will need an ongoing online strategy to keep their website under the eager gaze of Google. What we do predict however is that those of us formerly known as ‘SEO experts will lose the perceived ‘ugly’ three letter term from our job titles and adopt a more generic ‘online marketing strategist/ website updater/ person behind the website’ title. Catchy, we know.

We at Interdirect want to know your views on the word SEO; have you already adopted an alternative terminology within your agency? Are you now perhaps hiring for a ‘digital whizz’ and avoiding the term SEO altogether?

Leave your comments below or share your thoughts on our Twitter, @Interdirect.

Interdirect Shortlisted for Industry Awards

Interdirect is proud to announce it has been shortlisted as a finalist, in partnership with Whittlebury Hall, in the UK Customer Experience Awards 2014.

We have been shortlisted in partnership with the conference, training centre, hotel and spa in two categories; Best Customer Experience – Hospitality, Leisure and Entertainment sector and Best Customer Experience – New Product/ Product Improvement.

The shortlisting recognises the advanced accessibility and functionality of the Whittlebury Hall website, which designed and developed by Interdirect in May 2013, as well as a comprehensive email campaign implemented by the agency. The website and email campaign saw fantastic results since their implementation, and the awards recognise these digital developments.

Now in their fifth year, the UK Customer Experience Awards celebrate and reward excellence in customer experience with some of the nation’s best known brands listed as finalists in various categories, including Royal Bank of Scotland, Tesco, and Match.com.

This fantastic achievement follows a successful spell of awards nominations, after Interdirect was chosen as a finalist in partnership with Whittlebury Hall at the UK Digital Experience Awards, and became one of ten companies to be given the opportunity to win Global Review’s Award for Best Digital Experience.

“We’re extremely proud to be shortlisted in partnership with Whittlebury Hall for these prestigious industry awards,” saying Nicholas Mann, owner and mangaging director of Interdirect.

“The customer experience is at the core of all of Interdirect’s digital developments, so to be recognised for this achievement on a national level is an honour.”

Michael Stott, director of Whittlebury Hall said: “We are delighted to have made it as finalists in two categories for the UK Customer Experience Awards. It is a great opportunity to gain recognition for all of our hard work, alongside great customer experience results. It’s fantastic news and we look forward to the awards ceremony in September.”

Whittlebury Hall and Interdirect will present their entries to a team of judges at ExCeL London on 25 September 2014.

Interdirect Recruits: Online Marketing Executive

Interdirect welcomes Emily Isaac to the team

Interdirect is delighted to welcome Emily Isaac to the team as an online marketing executive. Emily joins Interdirect after working for a Cardiff-based SEO agency where she gained a thorough understanding of the ever-changing world of search-engine algorithms, as well as the importance of social media.

Emily hopes to bring a new approach towards SEO to Interdirect, and is enthusiastic about learning new processes and bringing her knowledge of working within this specific area of online marketing into a full service agency.

“Since graduating university,” says Emily, “I’ve managed to incorporate my love of the written-word, along with my love of blogging and the internet, into my everyday work life through SEO and I’m excited for this to continue at Interdirect.”

Outside of the office, Emily loves nothing more than to be just that…outside!

“Whether it’s snowboarding in the winter or running a half marathon in the summer I love challenging myself. Although don’t get me wrong, you’ll happily find me in a pub garden with my friends just as easily.”

 

Social media platforms: How are they different?

Social media sites are like fast food restaurants; to the untrained eye all fast-food places essentially offer cheap, sub-quality burgers, chips and too-large cokes, all have similar, if not the same, things on offer and are so convenient and readily available to everyone- just like social platforms. However, look a little closer and each fast food chain offers something slightly different, social platforms are exactly the same and have each their own unique selling point, a quality they offer that appeals to you, the individual user, which makes it the best option for you and your business.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are often used greedily by those that may not understand them as free tools to push content and endlessly broadcast products or sales messages. They are incorporated in an overall marketing strategy, with no real thought behind their use and immediately the business loses sight of their purpose- to be sociable. Social sites have their own individual identity and charm, they have been created to be unique and offer users an alternative to the already existing social media platforms that are available. Each time a new social site is created; it is bigger, better and often designed with a new purpose in mind.

Facebook was first created within the confines of an American university, for networking among students. Twitter was then created a few years later with a different approach; to instantly share micro blogs and connect users, mainly bloggers, from around the world. LinkedIn was created with the same thought process behind Facebook, but within the world of business networking and connecting corporate businesses, and so the list goes on.

Why should you identify them as individuals?

So why should you, as a marketing agency or small business, recognise their unique qualities in order to maximise your benefit? Just because they are free, easy to master and available to everyone, does not mean you should have a presence on all of them.

For example, if you own a shopping centre then your social engagement is going to be very visually-heavy; images and videos being the main posting content and written words will be at a minimum. Your main target audience will be female, and slot within the age bracket 18-50+ - all of these you will already know having done your market research, and these factors scream Twitter. As a shopping centre, Google+ may not be your first social site to try and gain a strong social audience, as your target audience are largely on Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest would be perfect for posting images of your stores, clothing and any competitions which are running in your centre as well as sharing your blog URL on. It is important you do not set yourself or your business up to fail on social sites. A failing or unsuccessful profile is hard to hide and your clients and customers will be looking for your social presence so hiding is not an option.

Decide where you think your personas will largely be and target that specific social site first. If you are a corporate business, LinkedIn would be ideal to start with Facebook adopted as a phase two approach. Recognising each social channel as its own individual and unique platform will ensure your campaign gets off to a good start and by realising where your target audience will socialise online, will mean you can supply them with engaging content they will actually want to read, watch or share.

Each social platform also has its own tone; Twitter is jovial, more light-hearted and often very tongue-in-cheek. This makes it more difficult for high-brow and corporate companies to interact and behave socially on. Facebook is all about large communities sharing content and opinions, longer posts allow for more in depth content and generally encouraging responses. Google+ is a harder platform to master as it is predominantly a blog-sharing platform, but it is great for localised SEO purposes so it shouldn’t be overlooked. Pinterest is all about sharing images and GIFs which encourages people to re-pin and ‘like’ your pictures. Again, this is a great way to increase your online presence, whilst remaining sociable and it’s relatively easy to gain a strong following on Pinterest without the daily upkeep.

Remember social sites are another investment into your overall marketing strategy and should be used wisely. Post regularly and try to balance your broadcasting posts with engaging content, behave socially and your profiles will reap the rewards! Treat each site individually and you will be on the way to running successful social campaigns in no time.

To find out more about which social media platform might be right for you, give us a call on 0845 121 5566 or email us on social@interdirect.co.uk.

Old vs. New; The Changing Trends in Online Marketing

The concept of online marketing and website optimisation is a fairly modern approach to marketing a brand or company. Yet since the introduction of search engine toolbars 14 years ago, to the development of the search engine and internet powerhouse we all know as Google, it has become an integral part of everyday internet use.

Ever changing algorithms help to determine how users access information from the internet and which sites should be ranked top in results listings. These trends, or ‘rules’ to play, by are constantly changing, and it is important to keep on top of the fast paced world of online marketing, SEO and social media.

Interdirect’s online marketing executive Emily Isaac reviews some of the changes we have experienced as marketers:

 

Use of on-page keywords

Then

This has perhaps been one of the most changeable features for websites when it comes to ensuring your website is search engine friendly and correctly optimised. In the beginning, keywords were essential - we couldn’t get enough of them! Every web developer was including additional boxes in their new websites, just to hold these precious words, filling every page with variables of their chosen words, in an attempt to see their site appear in the search results.

Now

The focus has shifted from keywords to content and whilst still holding importance, Google encourages websites to be mindful of their keyword density when optimising a website. What’s more, Google Analytics has recently limited access to keyword data on the most popular terms bringing traffic to the website, leaving users with just two words; ‘not provided’. This means that although data is restricted, the keywords that are displayed can give useful insights into bounce rates, dwell time and sessions.
 

Social Media Sites

Then

When Facebook first launched in 2007, it was mostly embraced by teenagers and ignored by marketing companies as a fad. Twitter was seen as a site to share what you were having for dinner in 140 characters or less, and Instagram was just a filtered figment of someone’s imagination.

Now

Seven years on, social media platforms play a major role in a successful online marketing strategy for any company; whether it’s B2B or B2C, social media presence is as important as your website itself. Not only benefitting your site from good referral traffic, social sites are another form of building your brand online - like the modern day flyer or poster. Use them wisely and you will prosper; don’t ignore platforms that Google themselves have also become a part of. Google+ may not have hit the ground running compared to other highly successful social platforms like Twitter, but it is of importance when the search engine giant has developed it. Utilise your social media accounts by linking each one via social buttons on your main website, install social sharing on your blog posts and take some time to nurture your audience on social sites.


Content is king
Then

Any good marketing strategy, past or present, will be content heavy, even if that content was originally offline in poster or TV advert form. Content is crucial for any marketing campaign and online marketing should not be any different. Any company or business with a website should understand that there must be a few words on each page; even e-commerce sites that tend to be image heavy need some words to explain what the user is viewing. But few are aware of the word minimum required on each page or that there are content restrictions when it comes to websites. A few years ago it didn’t matter what type of content people put on their website, some would even leave pages blank, but in modern online marketing approaches content is King.

Now

Content needs to be relevant and interesting and regularly updated to your website via a news or blog section. Valuable content is imperative, the more authority in a certain topic or the higher quality your content is, it will assist Google in trawling your site. The use of longtail keywords in content strategies are assisting in identifying articles or blog entries as their own individual page, meaning Google is emphasising just how important and valuable good quality content is as it is willing to rank it above whole websites dedicated to the same subject or topic. From an SEO point of view, Meta content is also very important and any new content added to the site must also adhere to the Meta content rules. Page titles are a must, as are short and precise Meta description- all playing their own part in strengthening the page of content to allow Google to view it easily.

As the world of online marketing continues to grow, it is more important than ever agencies and experts keep up to date with articles and industry changes, in order to keep on top of the internet and its high demands.

To find out more about SEO, online marketing and social media from Interdirect call 0845 121 5566 or email seo@interdirect.co.uk.

Interdirect Wins Casinos' PR

Award-wining PR, marketing and digital agency, Interdirect, has been chosen by The Casino MK and Aspers Northampton to handle all PR activity for the two casinos. The appointment, which commenced in May, will cover PR strategy and management, media relations, social media and marketing consultation.

Interdirect won the new business through a competitive pitch process, which included a strategic presentation of recommended PR ideas tailored for each site in order to drive footfall to the casinos and raise awareness of their complete offering to new and existing customers in Northampton and Milton Keynes, as well as Luton, Bedford and Cambridge.

Launched in September 2013, The Casino MK is the UK’s second largest Super Casino, and the largest outside of London. With over 100 slot machines, 30 tables, a large poker room, a restaurant and two bars the Casino operates 24/7 to bring a variety of entertainment and gaming to Milton Keynes, and to date has attracted over 300,000 visitors. Aspers Northampton opened in 2008 and also operates 24/7 to offer 20 slot machines, 16 tables, a restaurant and a bar to a loyal customer base built through regular and engaging communication and excellent customer service.

Speaking of the account win, Nicholas Mann, owner and managing director of Interdirect said; “We are delighted to have been selected by the Aspers group to manage the PR activity for the two casinos. This is a fantastic win for Interdirect; it adds to our robust portfolio of local clients and helps cement our reputation as the region’s leading full service agency. We are excited to be working with both the Casino MK and Aspers Northampton and are looking forward to meeting each of their individual objectives.”

“In addition to this account win, we will be working with all four Aspers Casinos to support the PR and marketing activity for an exciting new launch, all of which will be revealed later this year.”