Improve your website’s SEO performance in 3 simple steps

Okay, so this title could be a little misleading.

Yes, there are simple steps you can take to improve your website’s search engine performance, but they usually take some time, thought and persistence to pull off.

But first, let’s look at why you might want to improve how well your website performs in searches:

  • The majority of web traffic is conducted via search engines.
  • If you want to be found, you need to be on the first page for relevant searches.
  • In-bound leads are easier to convert than out-bound leads.

It’s a no-brainer. You can either take your share of the most lucrative leads, or you can leave them to your competitors, while you struggle to persuade sceptical prospects on your long list.

Search engine optimisation consists of three strands of activity:

  • Structural and technical search engine optimisation
  • Content optimisation
  • Offsite link building activities


Structural and technical search engine optimisation

In simple terms, this means making sure that your website is coded in a way that Google can interpret. You want to be sure that Google can scan your entire website.

Google wants to recommend the best and most relevant websites for every search query. So in addition to creating good content, you need to be sure that your website is also:

  • Secure – with HTTPS enabled. Google prefers sites that use this secure web standard.
  • Slow websites are less likely to be recommended. You can test the mobile speed of your website with Google’s Test My Site app []
  • Web designs that adapt to any screen size are typically faster to load than their unresponsive counterparts.


Page organisation and breadcrumbs

Creating a well-organised website can also help Google make sense of your business – and understand which pages are most important.

Make sure that your pages are logically nested (e.g.

Hidden content

Is any of your content hidden from Google?

You might have pages that can only be accessed using searches or through filtering, which Google cannot see.

Check that Google can see all of the content that you want them to find.


Content optimisation

What does it mean to optimise your content?

It means to look at every word, image and video on your website through the lens of a search engine.

Google uses software to ‘read’ your website. While humans have the ability to read between the lines, correct your mistakes and patiently sift through your waffle, the search engine software can only interpret the words you include.

Ultimately, your entire website should be reviewed so that important elements include relevant keywords.

Important elements of your website include:

  • Page titles (an HTML element that appears at the top of the browser tab)
  • Page descriptions (an HTML element that appears in search results pages)
  • Headings (using the HTML elements H1,H2,H3 in a logical order)
  • Body copy
  • Links

As well as adding keywords to your page titles, descriptions, headings, body copy and links, you should ensure all of these elements are front-loaded with the most important details. This means putting the key details first so they catch a customer’s eye.

For example: “Cases and accessories for iPads” would be better (in most cases) as “iPad cases and accessories”.


Keywords – choosing the optimal search terms

Which words do people use when they’re searching for a business like yours?

Let’s imagine you make pens.

You don’t stand much of a chance of appearing on the first page of Google for ‘pens’.

This is true for many business cases. If your business niche is at all competitive, you will likely struggle to dominate the search results without a major effort.

However, there is a simple solution to this conundrum.

Instead of targeting the most competitive keywords, you start with less popular queries, such as:

  • Retractable recycled pens
  • Pens with penguins
  • Pens made of cardboard

This approach can be used for any business. For a freelance copywriter, you would target specific niches, such as:

  • Freelance digital copywriter
  • Freelance copywriter Poole
  • Freelance web copywriter Dorset

For a software company, the examples might be:

  • Custom industrial software development
  • Cloud communications software consultancy
  • Bespoke software developers B2B

While the traffic for these niche search queries is undoubtedly far less than their mainstream counterparts, they offer two advantages:

  1. You stand a chance of appearing on the first page for a niche query. Being seen means being found – and that means a chance of making a sale.
  2. These long-tail queries may represent more active buyers. After all, who goes looking for a “cloud communications software consultancy” unless they need the help of one? A significant percentage of the huge search volumes for general queries may represent researchers, tyre-kickers and competitors – not buyers.


Consider synonyms and regional keyword variations

A common mistake with keywords is to focus on the wrong terms. When it comes to search engine optimisation, we must put aside personal preferences and use data to guide our decisions.

You might call your main product a widgette, but everyone else calls it a widget. You might be factually correct, but you’re actually wrong, because in SEO the market and the majority define reality.

You can use the Google Keyword Planner to check the search volumes of different keywords – and to get additional keyword ideas.

You want to know which keywords capture the most searches, but as we discussed above, it’s worth looking at less popular searches because you may be able to land on the first page for these long-tail search phrases.


Offsite link-building

Google assumes that every time another website links to yours, they are suggesting you have something of value. Links are like a vote of confidence. More links = better websites – at least in the eyes of Google.

This is why business owners go to great lengths to get other sites to link to theirs. These links – or backlinks as they are known – are hugely valuable in the battle for traffic.

In simple terms, there are two categories of backlink-building strategies that I advocate:

  1. Creating significant content or resources that others will want to share
  2. Taking advantage of natural link opportunities (directories, community initiatives etc)

Let’s examine these two ideas in a little more detail.

Create significant resources or content

This approach is not quick or easy, but it does help you build genuine connections within your industry. This can take many forms, and is only really limited by your imagination and your capacity. Examples include:

  • Surveys
  • Guides
  • Whitepapers
  • Calculators
  • Contracts
  • Templates
  • Reports
  • Analysis
  • Events and conferences
  • Meetups
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Research groups
  • Webinars
  • Tutorials
  • Lists


Take advantage of natural link opportunities

There are loads of easy links available:

  • Business directories
  • Professional associations
  • Location-based listings
  • Local groups
  • Social media
  • Comments and forum posts
  • Contributed articles and guest posts
  • Interviews with peers


Quick SEO wins you can implement today

There are three simple things that you can do to improve your search engine optimisation today:

  1. Update your website title
  2. Fix blog post titles
  3. Publish one massive blog post that perfectly addresses a key search query

1: Update your website title

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is to put pride before profit and use their website and page title to repeat their company name – instead of telling people what they offer.

Your page titles are a vital SEO asset. They tell Google what’s important on your site. If you use this space to highlight your company name, you aren’t giving Google any additional clues; you’re only going to improve your chances of appearing in searches for your company name.

If you only want to be found by people who already know about you, then carry on. But if you want to find new customers, then you need to make better use of your page titles.

For example, if you were selling stereo equipment, the following page title would be a huge missed opportunity:

Davidson’s HiFi | The best independent store for audiophiles in the southwest

Far better to focus on the keywords that people use to find a store like yours:

Stereo Equipment | Home Cinema | TV | Davidson’s HiFi

Here’s another bad example:

Hunt, McDermitt & Simon | Dorset

This firm of solicitors may as well don camouflage and lurk in some bushes. Again, it’s far better to use the page titles to focus on the keywords that people use in searches:

Solicitors in Poole | Conveyancing | Family Law | Hunt McDermitt & Simon


2: Fix blog post titles

Not every blog post is designed to be found. Some articles are ‘of the moment’ or just a commentary on something short-lived.

But when you write articles that are designed to be helpful, then you should make sure that the titles are descriptive and specific enough to be picked up by search engines.

Let’s look at some bad examples of blog post titles and how they can be improved:

Removing dust

This doesn’t tell us much about the environment or the specifics. It’s unlikely to be returned in search results because it is far too vague. A better title would be something like:

Removing dust from electronic equipment safely and effectively


How to remove dust using cleaners and products you have in your home

Or even

How to remove dust in your home if you have allergies


Choosing a development partner

This also fails to explain the specifics. The authors have assumed, rightly, that the people on their blog know what kind of development they mean. But when this content is divorced from the blog, and thrust into the sea of blog posts, it means nothing, and is unlikely to appear in many search results.

A better title would be more specific:

Choosing a development partner for your bespoke software


How to choose a software development partner for your communications company


3: Publish one massive blog post that answers an important search query

Perform a search for your most important keyword or key phrase. What do you see in the results?

While you may see some of your major competitors, you may also see smaller sites that have written blog posts addressing a common question relevant to the keyword.

Among your most important keywords, there may be questions that your business can answer. For example, if you sell wallpaper, you could write articles about how to compare different paper brands and types, or how to understand the terminology. If you sell design services, you could produce a guide to the different approaches that design agencies take – either from a service delivery perspective or in terms of design ethos.


Any suggestions?

I hope you’ve found this interesting. Have you got any top tips of your own? What have you found helpful in optimising for search engines? Please comment below.


Keywords: Research vs Guesswork

Jelly Beans In Focus at 3/10 sec.

There are two main approaches to choosing the keywords that you use within your site:


You ask yourself, “what would I type into Google if I was looking for myself?” and write down everything you can think of. Job done?


You analyse competitors, take your ‘guesswork’ list and put it all into Google’s Keyword Tool. You make a giant list and then weed out the chaff. You think carefully about which words are relevant, which are worth fighting for, which are too competitive and which are essential to your business.

The Importance of Keyword Research

If you’re knocking together a site for your chess club or your sister’s Barbie archive, then feel free to use the guesswork approach to keywords. But if your site is for business, it’s worth being more scientific when choosing keywords. Researching keywords means checking which keywords are important – so your choices will be based on reality, rather than a hunch. Keyword research doesn’t take long, it doesn’t make you a spammer and it does make a great deal of sense for the average business.

Build good links: free guide to SEO basics

The good link guide - screenshot of PDF

Want to outstrip your competitors and take over the world? Or would you just like to have a website that appears in relevant search results?

You probably just need more links.

Discover how to build good links with The good link guide (link opens a handsome PDF in a new tab).

Or read it all here:

The good link guide: build better links to your website

Links are good. Links bring people to your website, and they tell search engines that your website is popular. Link-building is one of the primary tasks of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are many ways to get links, but it’s important to understand the elements of a link so that when you get a link you know how to make it a good link.

When assessing links, search engines consider:

Location. How good is the site containing the link? Is the linking site relevant to the site being linked to? How prominent is the link?

Content. What is the anchor text of the link?


Not all links are good. If your website has a hundred links from illicit or disreputable websites, then search engines will put your website in the same category.

Once you’ve found a good website to give you a link, think about where your link will go. A prominent place on a popular page is worth much more than a lowly link in the footer of an obscure, rarely-visited page,

For example, links from web directories are easy to obtain, but they’re much less valuable than a home page link from a highly-regarded blog. A highly-regarded blog that’s connected or relevant to your website is even better.

Anchor text

Anchor text is the words that makes up a link. In this link: Jam Jars the anchor text is Jam Jars.

When search engines scan web pages, they read and follow links. Because my link to the website of Freeman & Harding has the anchor text Jam Jar, search engines assume that Freeman & Harding has some relation to Jam Jars.

This is a crucial point. Use your keywords in anchor text.

Anchor text example

Good link: View professional range of hairdressing products

Bad link: View hairdressing products

The good link’s anchor text contains relevant keywords. The bad link is a wasted opportunity, unless you are hoping to appear high in search results for something as generic as products (which would be insane).

Key points:

  • Search engines consider many factors when assessing links.
  • Seek links from good websites.
  • Aim for prominent links on key pages.
  • Links from relevant or related websites are a bonus.
  • Use your keywords in anchor text.

Is SEO evil?

I read this post yesterday: Spammers, Evildoers and Opportunists by Derek Powazek with much interest.

Derek discusses SEO, and suggests that anyone offering SEO services is a conman and that SEO practices are damaging the web. While I think the first assertion is false (because many websites need a dose of SEO before they get significant traffic from search engines) I do agree that SEO practices are filling the web with trash.

The way Google works is damaging the web.

I’ve thought this before, and have blogged about the pointlessness of web directories (web directories are a large subsection of the web that seem to exist purely to provide links to other websites, while adding no real value to anyone).

But how do we fix the system so that people aren’t encouraged to ‘game’ the system, and add junk to the web in their quest for more links?

I always encourage clients to look for ways to add value to the web. If you want to be found, try being useful. Rather than adding junk for the sake of links or fresh content, try adding useful information.

How to Do More on the Web – Part 4

See also: P1 / P2 / P3

Part 4: Helping Searchers Find Your Site with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

People are looking for you. Every day, they go to a search engine (like Google, Yahoo or Ask) and type in the words that reflect their query. The search engine scans the internet, and offers a list of results that match their query.

If your website appears high up the list, the searcher may click on your site. If your site is the 120th result in the search results, you will probably not receive a visit from that searcher.

An overwhelming majority of people never make it to the second page of search results. This means that if you’re not on the first page, less than 20% of people will even see your website, and even fewer will actually click through to your site.

Clearly, it’s crucial to appear as high as possible in the search results whenever people are searching for an organisation like yours.

Getting Started with SEO

A good place to start is keywords. Keywords are the words that people use when searching. Your keywords may be your:

  • Company
  • Industry
  • Products
  • Services
  • Brand names
  • Activities
  • Key people
  • Common questions that people ask

Pretend that you are a potential customer. You are looking for yourself. Now think: what keywords would I use when searching for the things I provide? Make a list of all the words that you would use.

Think laterally, and remember that not everyone uses the same words to describe a thing. Consider every synonym and possible way of approaching a query.

Now, go to the Google Keyword Tool, and type in your list of keywords. Google will provide you with an extended list, including every similar term that it thinks is relevant. Bear in mind that Google is just a computer, so it may produce a few bad results.

Google’s Keyword Tool is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it helps you consider all relevant keywords, and may suggest a few that you hadn’t thought of.

Secondly, it shows the monthly volume of searches for each term. This means you can see exactly how many people are searching for each keyword – which means you can decide which keywords are worth aiming for.

A Note on Selecting Keywords

Because ranking highly in search results requires a concerted effort, you should prioritise the search terms that will bring you people who want to buy something.

So if you’re a hairdresser, there is little value in attracting a million people who are searching for hairdressing advice. Those people are not likely to be buying anything. A more profitable search term is hairdresser Brighton, as this suggests the searcher is looking for someone to cut their hair.

Pursue the keywords that will bring in relevant traffic. If a hairdresser appears #1 in search results for hair loss, there is no real benefit. The hairdresser would get lots of visits, but the visitors would not be looking for hairdressing services – making the visit pointless and without value.

Using Keywords in Your Website

Google ‘reads’ the pages of your website. If you use words like hairdresser, hair, products, beauty, conditioner, shampoo and styling, then Google will know to offer your website when people search for a hairdresser.

There are a few important places that keywords should be used:

  • Meta keyword
  • Meta description
  • Page title
  • Headings
  • Sub-headings
  • Body copy
  • Links

Meta Data

Meta data is information contained within the code of a website. It’s invisible to human visitors, but readable by search engines. Think of meta data as a signal to the search engines.

Every single page on your website should have a page title, meta keywords and a meta description. These are all opportunities to tell search engines what that page is about. Don’t be tempted to stuff keywords into these areas – just be honest and use keywords that relate to the content on that page.

On-Page Keywords

Headings and sub-headings are deemed to be important carriers of information by the search engines.

How does a search engine know what text is a heading? Because web developers put headings inside heading tags. The main heading is encased thusly:

<h1>Main Heading</h1>

The second heading uses <h2> and so on.

It’s important that, wherever possible, your headings include relevant keywords for that page. Using keywords in this way does not have to mean artificially stuffing keywords into every space available. It’s often perfectly logical to include keywords in relevant pages, because they help your human visitors to scan a page quickly, and know that it contains relevant information.

Once you have written headings and sub-headings that contain keywords, ask your web developer to make sure they are contained in heading tags.

Body Copy

The text beneath your headings is known as body copy. It’s important that this copy also contains your keywords. Don’t worry about how often your keywords are used.

Providing that your copy is clearly about the subject you are hoping to appear in search results for, and you use the language that other people use when thinking about that subject, Google will be able to interpret your website correctly.

Links and Anchor Text

It’s important to understand how search engines interpret links in your website’s pages. The important thing about every link on your website is your choice of anchor text.

Anchor text is the text that makes up a link. In this link: Jam Jars, the anchor text is Jam Jars.

When search engines ‘read’ your web pages, they read and follow links. Because my link to the website of Freeman & Harding has the anchor text Jam Jar, search engines assume that Freeman & Harding has some relation to Jam Jars.

This is a crucial point. It is very important that you understand how search engines interpret links. Every link on your website has multiple benefits. Links not only help your visitors to navigate your site, but they help search engines understand where your links are pointing.

If you use anchor text without keywords, you lose an opportunity to guide the search engines’ interpretation of your website.

Link Anchor Text Example

A hairdresser might have a link on their Home page, leading visitors to their Products page.

Good: Now view our professional range of hairdressing products

Bad: Click to view our hairdressing products

The good example contains relevant keywords, and gives search engines some context. The bad example is a wasted opportunity, unless you are hoping to rank highly for something as generic as products (which would be folly).

Links to Your Website (Backlinks)

Search engines use complicated mathematical models to calculate the relevance of websites to a searcher’s query. One piece of the equation is the number of links to your website from other sites.

These links are also known as backlinks. Search engines consider every link to your site to be an indicator of quality, on the assumption that nobody would link to your website if you had nothing good to offer. The more links your site has pointing to it, the better the search engines’ perception of your site.

This is why many website owners will beg, steal and borrow in order to gain good links to their website. Good links are valuable, and can have a significant influence on your site’s performance in search results.

Good Links, Bad Links

Not every link is good. A link to your website from a ‘bad neighbourhood’ – a part of the web populated by spammers – is not worth much, and could even lower your site’s reputation.

Links are good when they are placed in good, reputable websites. Good links are also those that use keyword-rich anchor text.

If somebody wants to link to your website, ask them to use anchor text that reflects the keywords people use when looking for you.

Developing Good Links

It’s not easy to gain links. The best approach is to offer things that other people want. Then people will want to link to your website. Without some kind of useful content, it’s hard to justify links to your site.

Guides, tutorials, resources, interviews, articles and blogs and are all good, honest ways of providing useful material that people will want to link to.

One effective strategy is to write articles for other websites. Many blogs request contributions from outsiders – and these normally offer authors a by-line (a one-line bio that says who you are and what you do) and a link or two to your website.

Writing one-off articles for good, well-established blogs takes time, but you will gain good links from a quality website. The alternative is…

Article Marketing

An article marketing industry exists which purports to help people gain links by offering their articles for free to any website owners who want them. It’s a nice idea, but the reality is that the only site owners who want these generic – often poorly written – articles are spammers or people with low-grade blogs. So you might get a few links, but they will be from such poor sites that they provide absolutely no SEO value. Good links come from good sites with at least some PageRank.

Directory Submission

Many people believe that submitting their site to hundreds or thousands of directories is the easy way to gain links. While you will gain plenty of links, those links will be buried in the depths of dusty directories, far from the eyes of man and a long way from anywhere valuable.

DMOZ is the most important directory, closely followed by Yahoo (which you will have to pay for). Join a few other directories, but don’t invest a huge amount of time in this. Very few people use directories to search for businesses.

Further reading: Bad SEO: Polluting the Web


There are many ways to advertise on the web. Advertising can be costly, but it can also be very effective. A well-judged ad in a well-chosen space can drive significant numbers of qualified visitors to your website.

Google Ads

If you decide to run a Google Adwords campaign, one of the most important things to do is to run two different adverts for the same product or service. Monitor which ad is more successful, then replace the less successful ad with something better. Running a split campaign allows you to constantly refine your ads.

Because Google Ads are very small, the copy must be used with care. Every word counts!


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A note of caution

It’s easy to spend lots of money with Google Adwords. They can be very successful, but make sure that the return warrants the investment.

Writing for Your Customers – Your Web Copy

The words on your website’s pages are what do the work of selling, persuading, inspiring or communicating. Graphic design, imagery and clever web technologies like Flash help to create an impression, but it’s the copy that talks to your visitors*.

(* Unless you’re offering complex or novel software or web applications, in which case a professional screencast may be the best way to demonstrate your offering. Not sure what a screencast is? Ask me – I can recommend a professional screencaster.)

At the start of this guide I asked you to think about your customers. When you come to write copy, draw on your findings. Your copy must appeal to your visitors. It should start by telling them quickly and clearly what’s on offer. Then it should explain why that offer should interest them.

Make sure your copy details the features of your products and services. Then, explain how those features provide benefits to the user.

Further reading:
Writing for the Web – A Quick Guide on What to Write and How to Write It
10 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Marketing Copy

How do Your Customers Think About Your Products?

What language do they use? Make sure you use this language in your copy. Your internal corporate language may be jargon-rich, and intimidating or nonsensical to outsiders. Don’t try to sound clever or ‘professional’ by littering your copy with fancy words that only industry-insiders will understand.

Good copy is conversational and uses words that everyone understands.

Bad copy is cold, formal, and distancing.

Good copy brings people into your world.

Bad copy creates a barrier.

Short sentences are good. Contractions (can’t, don’t) are good.

Simple, plain English is good. Clarity is good.

When writing copy, aim to deliver a message. As soon as the message is delivered you can (and should) stop writing.

Ask a friend or colleague to review your copy. The best reviewer is someone who is unfamiliar with your products, services and industry.

Ask them if, after reading your copy, they understand your offer enough to consider buying something from you.

Provide Detailed Information (for Those Who Want It)

While it’s important to deliver information carefully, in a controlled manner, don’t forget that visitors to your site may have many questions. You need to answer their questions.

Ensure that detailed information about your products, services, working methods, company structure, key personnel, qualifications, contact details, clients, experiences, attitudes, world-views and waist measurements is available to those who want it.

Obviously, the key thing is to make this information available, but not unavoidable. Don’t litter the path of the fleet-footed – the nimble visitor who wants a modicum of information before they decide whether or not to contact you.

Calls to Action

Your website exists to achieve something. Whatever that may be, it probably requires your visitors to take some kind of action. Now, if you want somebody to vote, or buy, or register, then you must ask them to do so.

The simple of act of asking a visitor to take a course of action is called a Call to Action. It’s as easy as writing:

  • Order now
  • Subscribe here
  • Register today

This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. The Call to Action is an essential ingredient in successful websites.

Social Proof – Evidence of Previous Interactions

Because the web is fertile ground for spammers, con-artists and thieves, web users are naturally cautious and suspicious. If you want to sell on the web, you’ll need to address this issue. How can you build trust with just your website?

One very simple and honest tactic is to harness the power of social proof. Social proof can be provided in the form of testimonials, client logos, a portfolio of past work – anything that proves that your organisation has done real work with real people.

It’s good to get into the habit of requesting testimonials from clients. If you’re shy, try LinkedIn’s interface for requesting recommendations. This way you don’t have to put anyone on the spot.

If possible, display testimonials with links back to the person or company who provided it. This gives your social proof depth and authenticity.

Giving It All Away

Offering a sample or some kind of free trial is a good way to begin a business relationship with your new customers. Free samples are another way to overcome the problem of trust: by sampling your goods or services for free, people can evaluate your offering without any risk.

Improving Your Search Engine Performance by Providing Useful Content

A popular strategy for getting more visitors is content. If you are an accountant, your website may not be very interesting. You can reasonably expect people to visit your site when they want an accountant. Everybody else is going to ignore you.

Clearly, if you’re an accountant and would like a more lively website, you’re going to have to add something more interesting. If you provide useful or informative information – in the form of guides, articles, calculators, widgets, links, tools or advice – then people will visit your site. People will also link to your website, which will help your search engine performance.

A great example of providing useful content to customers and website visitors is

Creating a Journey through Your Website

Every page of your website should have pathways. Always give your visitors places to go. Each page should lead logically to the next. Gradually lead each visitor through your website – enticing them with your product’s benefits, explaining your product’s features, answering all of their questions about the ordering process, reassuring any concerns they might have, and finally asking them to place an order.

Contact Details

Make it easy for people to contact you. Don’t hide email addresses – you may be worried about spam but a good spam filter will prevent 99% of junk getting through. Have a contact form, but also provide an address, a phone number and all relevant email addresses. Websites that only offer a contact form appear to be distancing themselves from their audience, or just plain hiding.

Further reading:

Gaining Trust on the Web

Social Media

‘Social Media’ means blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, forums – any media that involves or allows social interaction. Social media allows a website to exist in other spaces. Social media allows you to appear before new eyes – finding a new audience and expanding your reach.

Social media is difficult for businesses to use well, because these are largely social spaces, not commercial. The people who inhabit social spaces often resent organisations that burst in with a marketing agenda.

If you want to explore social media, and how it might help your organisation, step in cautiously – listen, look, and contribute gently. Represent you first and your company second.

Further reading:

Twitter: Make the Most of Every Tweet (You Receive)

Corporate Twittering: A Marketing Mess in a Social Space?

Why Twitter? – Method in the Mayhem

Twitter – the Simplest Little Big Complicated Website in the World


One of the most crucial aspects of a successful website is clarity. From any page, at any point in your website, it should be immediately obvious where you are, and what is being offered.

A strapline, tagline or slogan is the short sentence that accompanies an organisation’s logo at the top of their website.

The strapline is a good opportunity to increase clarity, and explain exactly what you do.

Good straplines are descriptive and short. Bad straplines are witty, clever or vague, such as: Creative solutions for business.

The End

That’s it for now. I’ll compile all of this guide into a PDF for you to download. As I probably said at the start, I wanted to put down a few ideas for selling on the web – a few basics that website owners should know.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything significant!

How to Do More on the Web – Part 3


Part 3: Thinking About Your Website

Websites are versatile, powerful extensions of an organisation. Your website can do many things, but not without your help. You may have expected your website to take care of itself, to run quietly in the background, pulling in customers and generating new business.

You might not have a Website Manager, or Webmaster, or Weblord, or someone steering your website through the crowded digital seas. But to find success on the web, somebody (probably you) will need to start thinking about your website. And that somebody will need to add and remove content, make changes, update information, spread the news and find an audience.

Left to their own devices, websites do absolutely nothing. Without human involvement, websites are lazy, good-for-nothing cash-sponges.

Working Out Where You’re At

Before you think too much about where you’re going wrong, or what you should change, look at your website’s traffic statistics. You should be able to see things like:

* Daily visitor numbers
* Popular content (what people are looking at)
* Traffic sources (where people came from)
* Length of stay
* Bounce rate (percentage of people who leave your site immediately after arriving, without viewing a second page)

If you don’t have access to this information, ask your web developer to provide it.

If you have this information, spend some time looking at it. Analytics data can highlight many things. Such as:

Misleading inbound links

If your website appears highly in searches for cheese pizzas, but you only sell cheese cloth, then people may come to your site looking for something you don’t offer. As soon as they realise their mistake they will leave. If lots of people do this, your bounce rate will be high.

A high bounce rate could also indicate that nobody likes your website. Is it ugly? Offensive? Poorly constructed? Horribly written? A hideous website could be turning customers away. Ask a few trusted friends and colleagues for a brutally-honest critique of your website.


Look at the most popular exit page. This is the page that your visitors look at before leaving your site. If the most popular exit page is a contact form, or the sales/enquiry page of your site, then people are doing what you want.

If you find that an unusual page is popping up as a frequent exit route, check the page for any suspicious activity. Is there something wrong with the page? Does the navigation work, and are visitors offered a next step on their journey?

Unusual Traffic Sources

The list of traffic sources can be revealing. Sometimes visitors come from unexpected places. And sometimes this can show a new way of finding people.

Unusual Keyword Choices

Scan the list of keywords that people have used to find your site. Any surprising choices? Keep your eyes peeled for anything that suggests people are searching for you with keywords that you hadn’t considered. It may be worth integrating these keywords into your copy a little bit more.

The Complexities of Web Analytics

Web analytics is a large and complex field. Explore it as much as you feel is necessary. For many small organisations with a website to keep alive, a weekly perusal of the statistics will suffice.

Of course, don’t just gormlessly look at a few numbers: think about what they imply. Draw meaning from the numbers. Consider what those numbers say about the people who visit your site. When looking at website analytics, you’re looking for insight into the minds and behaviours of your potential customers.

Gathering Web Analytics – Use Google

Google Analytics is a free program that provides fantastic traffic stats. If you don’t have it, or something similar, ask a friendly web developer to install it for you. If you don’t know a friendly web developer, ask me – I know several very charming geeks.

Getting People to Come to You

The biggest problem that any website faces is invisibility. The web is stuffed with great websites, and if you want any chance of being seen, you’ll have to fight for people’s attention.

Websites do not automatically generate traffic. Without a good reason to visit your site, nobody will visit your site.

If you want a healthy flow of human traffic to your website, you’ll need to purposefully cultivate that traffic.

In Part 4, we look at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

See also:

Part 1: A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Web Success

Part 2: Thinking About Your Products and Services

SEO: Simple Skills Everyone Can Use

In my freelance work I regularly encounter two misconceptions about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):

1. Our website doesn’t bring people to us now, so it won’t in the future.

This is like saying that because my toe is broken now, it will never heal. Or like saying that because I can’t ride a horse, I can never have riding lessons.

If you have an un-optimised website you have the most to gain by optimising your website. If you’ve neglected your website and left it to fester, don’t feel bad; feel happy, because you’ve got so much potential for improvement!

2. We can’t afford SEO / we can’t afford to perform well for our keywords

Not true. If your business is operating in a crowded market, with lots of big players with well optimised websites, you might need to think carefully about how you approach SEO (maybe targeting long-tail or niche keywords instead of pursuing the obvious ones). And if you have a limited budget, you probably won’t be able to employ a slick agency to do all the work for you.

Either way, you can benefit from optimising your website. And SEO is definitely something that everyone can do.

If you’re new to SEO, have a look at these very useful resources:

SEO: Patience is a Virtue

Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing process of refinement.

However you tackle your website’s optimisation, it’s important to understand that you’ll need to maintain and update your website if you want to keep up with your competition.

After making changes to your site’s SEO, you’ll have to sit back and wait to see the effects.

So don’t expect changes to be immediately noticeable, and remember that great websites need to be nurtured and coddled on their way to the big time.

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:


Thanks to the following for their suggestions:

Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.

Bad Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Polluting the Web


SEO Trash

Caveat: Understanding Search Engine Optimisation is vital if you want to succeed online. An un-optimised website is a wasted opportunity. Pursuing higher rankings is a logical goal for most organisations with websites.

However, some SEO practices are not essential, not very effective and create a web of trash. Article marketing is a good example of a deeply inauthentic, junky marketing process that clutters the web with endlessly duplicated content.

Link-exchange sites and directories are also examples of eco-systems that exist purely for SEO purposes.


I tried article marketing. It seemed like a good idea – a way to share content and gain links. In reality, article repositories are dumps that only seem to be used by spam-merchants. (Feel free to tell me if you feel differently…)

Google’s View

I asked Google’s Matt Cutts what he thought about article marketing and web directories. While not damning, his views suggest that these SEO tactics aren’t the best way to approach SEO.


The Right Approach to Article Marketing

Article marketing is a very useful web marketing technique – providing you don’t use article repositories. With article repositories, your article will probably be reproduced on many low-grade websites with low (or nil) PageRank. The benefit in SEO terms is negligible – especially if Google decides to penalise you for duplicating content.

It’s also worth pointing out that because many spam-blogs will reprint your articles, you’ll have a bunch of links to your site from so-called bad neighbourhoods.

If you want to use article marketing to gain links to your website, and get your name in front of a new audience, then contribute fresh articles to quality websites. While this means more work, it will give you a genuine, high-quality audience and links from reputable sites that you can hand-pick.

Bad Content: for the Sake of Content

SEO wizards realised that because Google loves content, and people love content, they should bulk up their websites with content.

The result? SEO companies pay students £10 (or less) to write generic articles about their clients’ businesses.

The result? Sub-prime content – not interesting, not relevant, not readable. This kind of content is aimed at search engines and link-building. It’s for robots, not humans.

Quality Content

The alternative to junk content written by anonymous students is authentic content created by an organisation’s own people. This is the difference between meaningful, interesting content and cheap, hollow filler.

Good SEO?

Good SEO is about optimising content (and ensuring a website is optimised for search engines) not about creating content purely for optimisation.

SEO can often suggest useful additional content – which is fine. But junk content created purely for search engines creates a web of trash. Entire corners of the web are now stuffed with rubbish, creating a kind of SEO echo-chamber.

Choosing SEO Strategies

When planning your SEO, it’s important to realise that many popular tactics aren’t as useful as they seem. While many people invest in article marketing and web directories, they don’t always provide a good return.

What do you think?

I realise these are contentious issues, so I’d love to know what you think. Do article repositories, link exchanges and directories serve any real purpose? (A purpose beyond supporting the SEO industry.)

(Picture courtesy of jdj150 via Flickr)

Web Directories – Does Anyone Use Them?

There are lots of web directories around – like Hot Frog, Carry On Surfing, Best of the Web, VivaStreet and Splut.

Now I know that everyone likes to submit their websites to directories because you get SEO-boosting links, but does anyone use these directories?

Who uses directories to look for a website or a particular type of business? If you regularly use web directories to find websites and businesses, please let me know.

Google isn’t everything: how Google doesn’t exactly reflect the real world

I’m going to say something that is bloody obvious, but bears repeating: Google’s search results do not always reflect real life.

What I mean is that many successful businesses have quite under-nourished websites, which appear on page 2 or 3 of any relevant SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). While a number 1 position in Google’s results may be the Holy Grail of web marketing, it clearly isn’t everything.

What’s my point?

I help my clients find success on the web. I use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and off-site tactics to drive people towards their websites. I look for ways to generate interest and income in and around their websites. But it’s crucial that my clients and I remember that the web is just a part of the business environment.


The web is a great place, and it’s very useful for businesses, but it should not be the only aspect of a firm’s marketing activities. A website makes a perfect platform from which to start and to focus marketing activities around – but businesses also need to stand up in the real world. Those who don’t risk being overtaken by their more active counterparts. You may be winning the war on the web, but what are your competitors doing in real life?

Web marketing services – fresh thinking & effective strategies

Web copy to web marketing

I write a lot of copy for websites. After writing web copy, the natural progression is to ask: what next? And:

  • How will people find this website?
  • How will the right people know about this website?
  • How will this website develop a life of its own?
  • How can we make this website sell?

In short, writing copy for websites leads to thoughts of web marketing. And quite naturally my work has slipped from pure copywriting into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and web marketing. I recently added additional pages to explain these services – read about my approach to web marketing.

Web design from a web marketing point of view

Being a marketing kind of person, I view things from the point of view of the customer. I put myself in the shoes of my clients’ customers. As with all marketing, it never hurts to consider the marketing of a thing when you’re deciding the fundamentals. So don’t be afraid to ask a copywriter for their thoughts on your project.

Why you should involve marketing in all your business decisions

I often get drafted in to write copy for projects that are nearing completion. Copy (supposedly) is the icing on many a corporate cake. I waltz in with a pen, release my prodigious vocabulary, then naff off. And often, that approach is just fine. But, to paraphrase NatWest adverts, there is a better way…

Everything in business should be run past a copywriter

I once worked for a company that designed and produced a large number of original products. The product development team was highly creative and highly effective, but on occasions the sales team would despair because unsellable products were produced.

The sales team knew, from their close relationships to their buyers, what would sell and what would not.

Eventually, the sales team were brought in to development meetings. From then on, product development was focused on products that would have a future.

It’s always a good idea to think about the details of selling a product before you make it. If a copywriter can write about your product, it has a better chance of success. Planning the marketing of a product or service will often suggest variations or alternatives to the original product.

SEO and product development

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) also plays an interesting role in modern product development. Performing a thorough keyword analysis often suggests under-exploited niches, which in turn may affect the products and services a company offers.

So if you know a friendly copywriter, give them a call now. (My number is 07790 748 243.) A copywriter or marketing professional may provide insights that open up profitable new markets.

Shame about the name

Product naming is another area that copywriters can help with. Copywriters will be thinking about products on shelves, words on websites, and what those things will mean to the public. Don’t name a product without carefully considering the details of selling it. Even better, ask someone from outside your company for a second opinion.

SEO success – climbing up the search results

As a copywriter who specialises in web copy and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) I’m pleased to be able to report that my own website has been steadily climbing up the search results.Climbing Man is now

1st for “brighton copywriter”

3rd for “brighton copywriting”

6th for “web copy brighton”

and 10th out of 479,000 results for “freelance copywriter”.

Of course, the secret to a successful SEO strategy is perseverance. So I’ll keep trying to push my website higher in the results.

If you’d like help getting your own website to appear more prominently in search results, give me a call.

(Picture courtesy of Nate C)

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