Top Tips to Make Sure your Website is Search Engine Friendly

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Source: Pixabay

SEO is surprisingly not all about keywords, there are other factors which need taking into consideration. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to make sure your website is search friendly

Introduction

You could be mistaken for thinking SEO is just about keywords but you’d be wrong, there are lots of other factors which need consideration. You see search engines don’t see web pages like us, an all singing and dancing site built with Flash may look amazing to you and me, but here’s the thing; there is unlikely to be enough information for the search engine bots to index and this could have a negative impact in local search results.

The best websites needs to be designed for both humans and search engines and here are some tips to ensure your business website is search friendly.

1) Content

Most of your content should be in HTML text  that’s because search engines read text much easier than images, JavaScript or Flash, which is largely ignored. Of course, nobody wants a website which is just words, even if they are written by a professional like myself.  They are unlikely to capture the user’s attention on their own and anyone involved in digital marketing will tell you that images, videos etc are vital for a great website. Here are 5 ways to ensure your website’s visual content can be recognised by search engines.

  1. Always include text on pages that contain Java or Flash plug-ins.
  2. Add navigation or crawlable links to your search boxes
  3. Upload transcripts or closed captions to video content which will make them searchable
  4. Assign “alt attributes” to all your images,  while the search engine bots cannot recognise an image they can recognise a text description.
  5. Use HTML5 instead of Flash

Another essential feature of your  web content is; it needs to be unique. Google loves original material their ultimate aim is to provide the user with the best online experience possible, which means giving them variety, choice and relevant information. Duplicate content doesn’t do this, it will not improve your ranking and you may even end up being penalised.

(For 100% original content writing contact ukcontentwriter1@gmail.com) 

Duplicate content does not necessarily mean plagiarism, You may have lots of it within your website without even knowing as it can be caused by several things including;

  • Tracking parameters
  • Session IDs
  • Scrapers
  • Printer friendly pages
  • Www and non-www websites
  • Comment pagination

Now this may all sound complicated for the average business owner, however, one way you can check if you have duplicate content is to use  Google Webmaster Tools. Don’t worry if you do, there are ways of removing it just have a chat with your web designer

2) Title Tags

Title tags are considered one of the most important elements of SEO and getting them right is vital in making your website search friendly. The aim is to create a title that does 2 things; captures the user’s attention while making the search engine sit up and take notice too.

Title tags should be under 60 characters inlength so the user can view it in its entirety meaning they understand what the content is about, They should contain your main keyword, usually at the beginning and where possible a benefit, which could be just giving the user information

Having a meaningful title tag for every page of your website will make it much more search friendly

3) Sitemaps

blank sitemap

Source:Pixabay

A Sitemap is a fantastic way to have all your website’s pages indexed by the search engines. It is an XML file that lists all the URLs your website has, with additional metadata about every one. All websites and even blogs should have a sitemap because it informs the search engines of any changes to your pages and enables the crawlers to follow links to all your pages. This means you need to rely less on external links bringing them to your site.

Implementing a sitemap is simple and involves 3 steps

  1. First, you need to generate the sitemap, some sitemap generators include

2. Secondly you need to upload it to your website

3. Finally tell Google about it, by adding the site to your Google Sitemaps account. This useful guide tells you how.

Rich Snippets

When you conduct an online search, you are often presented with reviews, locations, ratings and pictures for a particular site, which is acheived by using rich snippets. Rich snippets are structured data mark ups that web designers include in the HTML that help search engines understand the information contained on the page.

example of rich snippets

Source:Flickr (image credit Martin Hepp)

 

Transfer this to practically any business, a nice image, good reviews, and detailed information, electricians, for example, could mark up; free estimates, customer ratings,  location, 24 hour call outs,  all things that would make someone more likely to click onto their website.

Using Schema markup to implement rich snippets will help Google deliver a better experience for users and studies have found that sites using Schema markup rank around 4 positions better than those without.

Despite a relatively low number of businesses using this great tool, Google presents schema-derived markups in approximately  36% of results. If the search engines can read your page clearly, this will be passed on to the user, resulting in your page ranking higher. A Win Win situation!

Remove Hidden Text

In the past, “Black Hat” tactics were commonly used by  webmasters who used hidden text to stuff keywords onto pages

However, Google put a stop to this, programming its algorithms to penalise websites that had hidden text. Great, you may think, cracking down on sneaky “Black Hat” tactics is good, right?

Well, yes, but unfortunately some websites could inadvertently have some hidden text for example if you use a free web host provider which includes adverts on your site or you have text informing people using a certain browser that they won’t be able to access some features of the site, because this can’t be seen on the other browsers it is classed as hidden text, maybe you have some text  in a similar colour as the background,  use third party scripts, or have a drop-down menu for navigation any of these may be perceived as hidden text.

If Google detects any hidden text it will have a massive impact on your website and it may even be removed but the good news is you can check for hidden text by holding down the “a” and “control” key on your keyboard

Conclusion

These are just the basics, once you’ve nailed this you can concentrate on the more familiar aspects of SEO such as short and long-tail keywords, fast loading times, local map listings and social media. Search engine optimisation can be a lengthy process but done correctly will increase traffic to your website, bring in more leads and help you rank higher in the SERPs, which will result in more business.

Our web content in Newcastle includes SEO as standard 

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HOW TO WRITE FOR THE PET INDUSTRY

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Us Brits are barking mad about our furry friends, with over 24% of us owning a dog closely followed by 17% being ‘owned by a feline’. Therefore, it’s no surprise the market for freelance writing in the pet industry is huge. New products are being launched every day and pet lovers are constantly looking for ways to improve the lives of their beloved furbabies.

The bonus, for a freelancer and pet owner like myself, is that it’s enjoyable writing about something you love and usually doesn’t involve too much research. Here are some tips if you’d like to write for one of the largest and most profitable markets out there:

Firstly, unless you have a dog like Marley or a moggy who’s changed your life similar to Street Cat Bob, nobody wants to hear about the antics of your pets in great detail, especially if – as a lot of people tend to do on Social Media – you give them language skills and weird accents. Dogs having a ‘wuffly barkday’ and cats being ‘purrfectly groomed’ are a big no-no! If you really feel the need to  turn your pet into a celebrity, stick to YouTube or Instagram. By all means, write about your experiences with a health problem, training tip or new product, but from your point of view, not Fido’s.

There are always new and innovative products for pets, so check out the upcoming trends. For example, this year has seen an increase in organic, and handmade treats and breed-specific diet foods. The popularity of teacup breeds has seen an increase in the sale of dog clothes and trendy designer bags for transport. All these products need descriptions, reviews, web content and blogs to make them successful in a competitive market.

Training is something every responsible dog owner should do. You don’t have to be Cesar Milan to write about it. Write about your own experiences or interview a local rescue centre employee to get their tips. There is a world of information on the net – try writing from a different angle. Consider different environments, seasonal aspects or situations that require special training:

  • ‘Training tips that could save your dog’s life in the city’;
  • ‘Dog Etiquette at the beach’; and
  • ‘How to train a Gun Dog’

There are also options here to write about the various methods of horse training for different sports – polo, dressage etc.

Healthcare is one of the most popular searches about pets, and, as mentioned, you don’t have to be an expert to produce work on a vast range of topics on every pet imaginable. From how to check a horse’s hooves, to why snakes shed their skin. Breed, or species-specific health issues, are always popular. Once again, try to approach things from a different angle in order to make your articles or blog posts stand out from the crowd.

Most owners have a profound interest in providing the best basic care for their pets, whether it’s how to clip your cockatoo’s claws without getting injured, how to build a playground for guinea pigs or how your pony benefits from a massage. Articles of this kind are unique – the writer explains what has worked for them. These are the tips that everyone is looking for to enhance the pet owner experience.

People love to spend time with their animals. Writing about activities and pet-friendly holidays can be a great income booster. Once again, try to mix it up, don’t just concentrate on local agility classes or cat-friendly hotels. What about, ‘How to Teach your Dog to Surf’, ‘Dog Dancing Classes’, ‘Rabbit Racing’ or ‘Yoga with Cats‘? (I kid you not!)

You can also integrate writing about equipment into this one. For instance, ‘The Top Ten Dog Sledding Harnesses’ or ‘Five Essential Items of Dog Equipment to take on your Camping Trip’.

In contradiction to my earlier comment, about nobody wanting to read the day-to-day antics of Floppy the rabbit or Fifi, the neurotic poodle. This changes when an exceptional event occurs or the human/pet relationship is extra special. There are numerous heroic pets that have a story to tell, working as military or search and rescue dogs. There are even ‘Therapy pigs and ferrets‘. (Once again, I know, unbelievable … right?)

Pets have amazing senses and can often recognise illness early and prevent seizures, actually saving lives. These stories are the ones readers are interested in.

Whatever you choose, be it a breed profile or the story of a puppy adopted by a lion, the possibilities are endless. You can overlap the topics, write seasonal articles or interview experts. Not only will you find the writing enjoyable, but, because we all love our pets, you can be sure that someone out there wants to read it.

© Donna Hepburn 2016

 

 

 

 

FREELANCE WRITING – HOW TO SUCCEED IN A DOG EAT DOG WORLD

 

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You’ve made the decision, for whatever reason, that you want to make a living as a freelance writer. But how do you get that perfect gig and start to see money rolling in? It can be intimidating when you realise just how many writers – both good and bad – are in competition with you. Here are some tips to help you get started and avoid the pitfalls.

Mass Platforms. Inevitably, you will have checked them out. The big players, thousands of jobs and even more bidding on the projects advertised. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sent proposals for projects on these sites, which have developed into regular work, but they’re few and far between.

As a newbie, you can spend half your day trawling through the ads – not making money – a lot of which are extremely vague. Don’t! If you must use them, only apply for jobs with a detailed brief. Clients usually want you to check out their website/blog to attract writers who can provide exactly what they’re looking for. “I need a Writer,” is a definite No No. Not only will you waste time applying, they will usually accept the lowest bid and a £5 article is never going to be quality work. ‘Paying peanuts gets you monkeys.’ Jargon, cliché, an old saying, yes. But true! Only apply for projects that you are perfect for, be it travel, lifestyle, legal. You can then show your skill, writing for that particular niche.

Develop a Niche. Niche markets are a great way to start. Not only are you writing about something you know about (always a help), but writing this way keeps you motivated and enables you to produce articles at a much faster rate. Who isn’t happy writing about something they enjoy? You usually don’t need to do as much research and you won’t get bored. Joining industry associations and forums are a great way to find work like this. Social Media is also a useful tool as you can follow companies who are in the niches you prefer.

Stand out from the Crowd. You’ve  found the perfect job ad, but so have hundreds of others. How do you make the potential client want to work with you? It’s important to check out their style. Writers who apply for jobs using the same cover letter template are boring. Inject your personality into the pitch. Writing in the company’s style immediately makes you stand out and shows you have bothered to look at their online presence. This is your one and only chance to impress, so sell yourself, as well as the knowledge and passion you have for the subject matter (including examples of similar work) if you have them.

Be Professional. You’ve had a bid accepted, now’s the time to get a regular customer or a least, a glowing testimonial.

Reply to any communications promptly.  Waiting days for you to get back in touch will not create a professional image.

Think about the questions you need to ask about the brief and send them in one email, not 26. Busy people don’t have time to spoon-feed you with information. It can be helpful to create a template for this, including word count, style, keywords etc. I also have a ‘looking to the future box’ so I can contact individuals/companies down the line with additional services.

Be clear on your rates from the beginning. If you are promoting a special offer, make it clear further work will be more expensive but don’t increase your prices because you think you’re on to a good thing. Finally, always produce your work to the deadline. Clients are not interested that your friend called round for coffee or your cat is sick. If you promise work for a particular time or date, make sure you deliver!

If you have a number of clients, keeping track of work is vital. “Oh, I forgot!” “Sorry, how many words was it?” will not win friends and influence people. Keeping track of clients also builds a database that you can frequent from time to time to see if they have more work.

Prices. It’s tempting when you see people offering cut-price work to try and compete. This makes you resemble a bargain basement outfit. Be confident in your ability to provide thoroughly researched and quality content. The client is working with a professional and that fact should be reflected in your rates. On the other hand, don’t be greedy, start adding extras and talking about increased prices before you have built a relationship with the client and provided them with the quality piece you have been commissioned to.

In conclusion, fishing in a small pond is more likely to hook a decent catch. After that, it’s up to you to provide reliable, engaging content, hopefully developing a sound relationship that ensures future work.

© Donna Hepburn 2016