Game changing trends in SEO for 2018

We are only in April and yet I have a prediction for the rest of the year. Now I’m not saying I’m Mystic Meg but with the recent changes of everything in the world of SEO it is not a giant leap to say I can predict where this is all heading.

SEO has always been a bit of a complex science and staying up with the game is just as challenging now as it’s ever been. Google has always said they want to lead the way to a safer and higher quality web. They want to give the best results to their users when they search.

For as long as I’ve been working in this industry (which admittedly is not that long) Google has been King and therefore where they lead others are bound to follow.

To help you understand and maybe even stay ahead of the game here are my list of top trends that I can see changing the face of SEO this year.

SERPs is becoming so much more!

Many people who come to me tell me they just want to be Number 1, because then they are getting the most traffic. Well, with the rise of the newest features to SERPs this is no longer always the case.

Features such as Local Packs, Knowledge Panels & Featured Snippets are changing the way people search. They are big and pretty and they are stealing searchers attention and clicks from organic listings.

Local Pack Rankings

We’ve had Local Pack rankings now for a while, that lovely little box you get at the top of search showing all the companies local to you or the area you specified that match your query. This is a great thing as you may have a hugely competitive market, or may be battling the big boys for the top positions. Local Pack will get to the top of search result even if you are not ranking Number One, and with a lovely little star rating showing next to your name.

Your Local Pack ranking are directly linked to your Google My Business account. A tool that I honestly love so much. It has been updated recently to have new features like posts, the more info you give it the better it will work for you. It also shows up when people directly Google your business on the right hand side which is a great little bit of advertising for you, all free of charge.

All these changes are great and give you even-more chance for your clients to see your brand.

Increasingly Personalised SERPs

Google, Bing and Yahoo are all personalising their search results in many ways. Search engines use information about the users such as Location, Search History and Interests to help tailor search results to them.

This can work in your favour, if you are getting traffic to your site and most importantly your articles. The search engine will remember the users that have been to your site before and will bring it up again for them when they next search another term relevant to your brand. Quickly you will become their preferred knowledge base.

Structured Data makes your pages more interesting

Now, I know that Google has never actually confirmed that structured data is a ranking factor, and let be honest in all likelihood it’s not. But lets just forget about Google and all its lovely algorithms for a moment, I know that’s not something I say very often, if all at all (Huge Google Fan-Girl) but just bare with me.

Structured data is a way of formatting the code of a website, HTML to be specific. It tells search engines how to display listing within SERPs.

In real terms, it makes things prettier.

It gives the searcher more information, meaning they are far more likely to click on your page. Rich Snippets controlled by structured data has been proven to improve click through rate by 30%.

To get this for your site, you will need be able to edit code or get in contact with your website designer. There are few different ways to do this but most SEOs,( myself included) go with schema.org

Link-less Mentions

Backlink collection is nearly the number one thing most SEO’s will spend their time on. But this may be changing soon. Though it has not been confirmed by Google as of yet, it certainly looks as though link-less mentions of your brand could end up becoming an off-site signal of huge importance.

Google and other search engines can easily identify a mention of a brand and use it to determine a sites authority. Currently this is no more than a rumour running around the SEO world but it seems there is good reason to believe Google really is paying attention to this.

Forget slow and steady, Faster is winning this race

Okay I admit it, this bit isn’t exactly a prediction.

We know it’s coming.

We’ve known for a while.

Google has told us so if anything I’m simply the messenger but nevertheless it’s important. From July 2018 Mobile speed has become a ranking factor for Google.

Three seconds! That’s how long your page has to load, anything more and your going to start seeing your rankings fall.

You can check how your site is performing with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It’s a great tool and even gives you a list of way to improve your speed, straight from the horses mouth.

RankBrain Updates are making it harder for the cheaters to cheat

Now it depends on who you are, as to how you will feel about this next one. But it’s getting harder to convince Google you have great content if you really don’t. And the the penalties are even harsher than before.

Google uses a number of way to assess content and determine if it’s “comprehensive”. By looking at billions of pages across the web Googles RankBrain learns which terms are related to one another. This means it begins to understand and know what to expect from content on any given site.

So if you are sticking to your brands identity and writing quality articles about the things you do and nothing else you will be rewarded, but if you are trying to cheat the system and write low quality, high key-worded content you are more likely to fail than ever before.

Voice Search is Listening

You may not have even thought about it before now, but it’s here and getting bigger than ever. With 25% of all UK homes now having a smart hub, that’s a whopping 16 million users. And that’s just Smart Home devices. Google reports that 55% of under 21’s and 40% of adults use voice search on their devices every single day – meaning Voice Search is the real deal.

Learning how to rank within Voice Search can be somewhat of a learning curve for most people but it’s not as difficult as you may think, though it will mean integrating some new keywords specific to that area. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you do Keyword Research, my preferred one is SEO PowerSuite, it has a great bit integrated within it that allows you to find common questions people are asking search engines.

So that’s it that my predictions for 2018. Good Luck with your ranking and remember to watch this space!

Why a ‘website coming soon’ holding page is not necessarily a good idea

Whether you are having a brand new website designed and your old one is down or you have yet to have a website put up at all you should never put out a ‘website coming soon’ page.

You might think that with your brand new all singing, all dancing site on its way it’s best to let your users know and put the old site out to pasture. But this is really not the case.

They destroy user experience

While your old site might be unattractive or simply awful to use, putting up this page is even worse. While your old site might be terrible it could still hold value, still allows your users to read a little about your or find your phone number etc.

But when users are instead dumped in front of a single page with just the words “Website coming soon!”, they grow frustrated. While those words may excite you, they certainly do not elicit the same feelings from your potential client.

Google doesn’t like it

Not only do they destroy user experience and add absolutely no value to your business whatsoever but they completely nuke your SEO.

Google will index this page of just three words and it will not be impressed. If you previously had a site full of content and now have a single page any rankings your held will not only fall through the floor but will be incredibly difficult to build back up again after the new site is finally launched.

Google wont care that the new site is much prettier than the last, it will only care that you had single empty page for so long and will penalise you for a long time after for that fact. You will have to start from zero all over again.

What about new companies?

There is the misconception that as a new company you need to put something up as soon as possible, to let people and search engines know you are now around, but this is not true at all.

A ‘Website coming soon’ page will simply not rank and would you really want to point any potential clients toward it anyway?

If you haven’t ever had a website before and the first sign of your company, Google sees is a practically empty page it will be none to pleased. You will rank at the bottom of page 5000 and even when the new site goes live you will be unlikely to move much from that place. To Google, not only are you brand new, but for months you had nothing but a single page, you are hardly going to be it’s most favourite website.

As a brand new company you may – maybe – could – might, get away with having a ‘coming soon’ page but it is hardly going to help you, your company or your rank. But if you are absolutely convinced you want on just make sure it is pointing towards your Social Media pages and that those pages are buzzing with useful content for your clients.

Latest Google Algorithm – 8th March 2017

Penguin is dead! Long live Fred!

“Fred” (Unconfirmed) — March 8, 2017

Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update on the 8th of March 201. Widespread reports were heard from across the SEO community of the impacts of this update, with many sites effected with huge crashes in their user ship and lost in website revenue.

Google Spokesman Gary Illyes jokingly refrred to the update as Fred in a Twitter exchange with SEO blogger Barry Schwartz, and from there the name stuck.

Based on the evidence and data taken taken from the most affected sites, it appears the update targets ad heavy or link heavy, low value content and affiliate sites.

Our Advice:

So keep your content relevant, useful and interesting.
Avoid having more than 5 outgoing links on each page unless absolutely necessary.
Don’t write about the same subject over and over, find new things to blog about.
Keep your site up to date,
But most importantly make sure your website is as appealing to users as possible.

All Hail Fred!

7 Reasons why Online Marketing can benefit you

Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, SEO, it all can seem to much when you already have a business to run and yet the importance of it all is growing more every day, as more and more potential clients head online to find the services they need.

If you’re unsure of what Online Marketing really is, or have already had bad experiences with it there are plenty of factors to consider before ignoring one of the largest growing digital industry entirely. To help, we at Clockwork Moggy thought we’d share a few of the top reasons we recommend every company big or small use Online Marketing.

1. Press You Control

As a business owner you have so many channels that you already own. Be it your own website through blog posts, Facebook post or Google reviews. All these channels give you the position to showcase the benefits of your services or products better than ever before.The ‘Press’ you create is followed by the customers who already love and trust your business making your post updates, discounts codes and major announcements made through social media even more effective.

2. Customer Support

This is the biggie for any modern company. Customer service is more important than ever. Now that clients from all over the world can see you, your business and your services at a click of the button. They expect you to communicate so much more. With properly managed social media not only are your customer able to ask you question about products and services but you are also able to ask them what they think about products, pricing or updates. It is a much more efficient way to communicate with you client base, after all Social Media is public so other potential clients can see just how helpful and friendly you can be. Besides responding to a Facebook comment or sending a tweet is far easier for clients than filling out questionnaire on their experiences.

3. Tracking your Competition

Spying. Okay so it’s not quite James Bond, but Online Marketing is a great way to keep an eye on what the competition in up to. The fact is, a modern customer is likely to look you up numerous times though hundreds of different channels before ever actually making contact with you. If you don’t have the right online assets the odds of them not only finding you but making a sale with you is next to none.
The trick of course that any Online Marketer will tell you is to launch campaign and makes sure you SEO is up to scratch and lastly make sure all your clients are giving you shining reviews everywhere they can.

4. Return on Investment

The return-on-investment for a full online marketing package is incredible. Most companies will charge you a few hundred pounds a month and for that you can spread your company’s brand reach to thousands more customers through organic Google search and Social Media, talk with leaders in your industry through blogs or LinkedIn and ultimately build up a stronger market base.

Better yet, online marketing can be monitored. This allows online Marketers to quickly move with the times and leave behind anything that is not working for you or your business. Allowing you not only see how effective your assets really are but also drop any that are not working.

5. Opportunities

Most company use a combination of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, blogging and the perfect search engine for them give their marketer more to work with than traditional advertising would. Allowing for more clients to see them, more clients to interact with them and therefore more opportunities at a sale.

6. Targeting your preferred Market

If you have a strong online presence across multiple platforms and a strong direction with your online marketing, you will be able to target specific groups of customers. Facebook and Google allows you to promote your business page to certain cities and demographics. Meaning the people most likely to buy from you are the people that are seeing your brand the most. Another reason why online marketing can have a much higher return on investment for smaller, local businesses than traditional marketing would.

7. Positive Brand Awareness

Lastly but probably the most important one of all, brand awareness. Businesses that have a strong online marketing strategy can position themselves higher up in search results in places that make a difference to their business, appear more professional to customers and fully reach out to the markets that really matter to them, all the while building a stronger brand.

We hope this helped explain the importance of online marketing for any modern business for more information or a help with your own online marketing, check out our service page or feel free to contact us.

Google Fix AMP Reporting in Analytics

Given Google’s intent to make the internet mobile-friendly, the company has been a long time fixing the reporting feature for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in Analytics.

However, the search engine giant has now announced an AMP filter has been added to Analytics so marketers can test the performance of all AMP pages on mobile devices.

Google did add an AMP filter to its free Search Console Analytics tool back in May. But strangely, the metric did not include the core results. It only reported on the lead stories that appear in the top carousel section.

Reporting on Top Stories only allows publishers to follow news stories, which made reporting on AMP pages practically useless for most marketers. The feature should yield better results now you can filter AMP article results across the board.

ampWhat is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is an initiative led by Google to speed up load times for mobile phones users. Because many mobile handsets are not typically connected to fast internet connections, wait times increase.

One of the reasons a website loads slowly is because it has too much code. Every action, feature and graphic requires a code. These are programmed using either HTML, CSS or Javascript.

Whenever you visit a website, each code has to communicate with a server. So the more codes, the longer the communication takes. Hence, websites with a lot of codes take longer to load. In essence, codes disrupt to the performance of a website and negatively affect the user-experience.

To help avoid these problems, Google initiated the AMP Project which is an open source platform where developers can access stripped down HTML codes that do not require as much communication with servers. The result is faster loading websites.

Why do you need AMP?

Google ranks websites based on a number of metrics. Some of the most important metrics are user-engagement. Therefore, if visitors to your website are not hanging round and exploring your online store, search engines will determine you are not providing a good user-experience and rank you lower in search results.

Google says that over 50% of searches are performed using mobile handsets. This means there is over a 50 per cent chance your website will be performing slowly on mobile devices. And if it is, you compromise your ability to climb search results.

Furthermore, Google plans to introduce a mobile-first search index in the early part of 2017. The new directory will rank websites based on their performance on mobile phones rather than desktop PC’s.

This news is a forewarning to online businesses to ensure your website performs well on mobile handsets. And that includes using AMP codes to ensure your webpages load promptly on mobile handsets.

The switch to a mobile-first world will be disruptive. However, online businesses have little option other than to take prompt action – otherwise you risk losing the search engine standings you have worked so hard to build.

What Impact Does Product Packaging Designs Have On Purchasing Decisions?

Packaging designs have a huge impact on the psychology of consumers. People are drawn to certain colours and designs, and well-packaged products are more appealing than simple cellophane wrapping.

The quality of the packaging design can affect the performance of a product in a retail environment. When products are stocked on the shelves against competitor products, it is often the packaging that stands out to buyers.

The packaging design you choose for your products should reflect your brand identity and be consistent with the colours of your logo. You also have to consider the structure and size of the packaging together with the information you include on the outside.

Why is packaging design important?

Consumers resonate with colours, shapes and patterns. They are typically drawn to products that have packaging that is most agreeable to their tastes. The features of your product packaging should therefore reflect your brand image and the audience you want to attract.

For example, if your product is at the higher end of the market, the packaging design should exude an air of sophistication, elegance and style. The look and feel of the outer layer projects the perception a buyer will have of your product.

If you wrap a product in packaging design that suggests it is expensive, but the product is intended for customers at the lower end of the market, you will lose faith in the buyer and they will not trust you as a brand.

What information should packaging designs include?

The packaging of a product should also reflect the type of product that is inside and what purpose it serves. Most packaging states exactly what the product is, and often includes an image to give customers a visual aid.

The visual images can also affect purchasing decisions. As part of the design, high-quality images can catch the attention of customers and compel them to make a purchase on the basis they like the box the product comes in.

Other than information that has to be included on packaging as a legal requirement, you could also add a tagline. This can be a statement or play on words that suggests a benefit or feature of the product.

The detail you include on your packaging can appeal to impulse buyers that like the design, and careful shoppers that are looking for something specific in the product. How the information is presented is important as you need to catch the eye of customers so your product stands out above the competition.

There also needs to be a balance. Too much information can negatively impact a buying decision because the box is too busy and shoppers are unable to work out what the product is at a glance. On the other hand, you may have an exclusive product that is packaged with a plain, unassuming design which raises curiosity.

Given the number of similar products available on the market in the modern age, product packaging designs have an extremely vital role for attracting customers. So make sure your product packaging appeals to your target audience.

Inspiration: Design Ideas For New Projects

It can sometimes be difficult for graphic designers to find inspiration for new clients – especially when it is an industry you have not explored much in the past and have little knowledge about.

Looking for inspiration for your graphic designs can also be a time-consuming task and eat into your fee. Sometimes it’s a better option to think abstract and see what surfaces. Here are some ideas we’d like to throw into the ether. See how these work out for you.

Use geometric shapes

geometricGeometric patterns are nature’s own design. There are five principle shapes from which all other patterns can be made from – square, circle, triangle, cross and spiral. Because they are natural patterns and often symmetrical, the human eye instinctively finds them appealing and they communicate to the subconscious.

If you are designing a logo, always use geometric shapes. These are the building blogs to the most effective logos – which is why all the major companies use geometric shapes, usually inspired by the artwork of ancient alchemists.

Designs from world cultures

Design concepts inspired form other parts of the world can do wonders for your graphic designs. Some people will be drawn to a symbol from another culture because they are familiar with, whilst others may be curious to know what it is. Other cultures can appear exotic and intriguing.

When you are using symbols and cultural visuals from other nations, you do have to be careful to avoid stereotypes or use the symbol out of context or it could offend people of the host nation – and cultural appropriation is hot gossip that can reflect negatively on a brand.

The stitch-in-text effect

stitched-effectIf you need to go for a modern design that requires an edge of sophistication, but appeals to a wide audience, the life-like features of the stitch-in-text works very well. You do need to choose this design wisely though.

It obviously works well with fashion, but may be considered too cliché or even a clash, so why not use it more artistically and create a brand label for a client you can imagine wearing on your clothes as a statement of expression such as a food item or sport – something that represents a person’s identity. To design a stitch-in-text check out this tutorial.

Transparent backgrounds

We’re big fans of transparent backgrounds. They are a cheat sheet for making bright and busy designs look less confusing and easier on the eye. When images are feature-rich and overwhelming, they need toning out a little.

For example, let’s say your client wants a colourful floral arrangement in the background or multiple items that cause visual chaos. These type of feature-rich displays can be masked over by using a semi-transparent second layer. It doesn’t hide the main features, but tones down the glare.

If you do need inspiration for your graphic designs on a regular basis, we recommend checking out Pinterest – and if you want to follow particular designers you feel drawn towards, check out these tips from the guys over at canva.

What is Google’s Core Algorithm?

There was another flurry of activity in the SEO community this week as online businesses witnessed a dramatic twist in their organic search results. Yes, seems as though Google has launched another major update to its core algorithm.

As usual, the search engine giant rolled out another snow ball and as it rolled down the hill it took out some passersby. There are always winners and losers whenever Google update their algorithms.

But given Google is so secretive about how its core algorithm affects search results, recovering a drop in organic rankings is not always straightforward. The best way to avoid being penalised is to understand how the core algorithm works and work with it.

hummingbird4Hummingbird

The bulk of the core algorithm is known as Hummingbird and uses semantic text that understands the concept of content on a page. When Google launched Hummingbird in September 2013, it was the first sign the search engine was moving away from relying on keywords and steering more towards user-intent. Earlier this year, Google announced they added Penguin and Panda to the core algorithm to support Hummingbird.penguin5

Penguin

Penguin upset a lot of web owners when it was first launched, but they only have themselves to blame for trying to manipulate search results with ill-gotten links. Penguin digs our spammy links pointing to your website from third party sites and also broken links or links to unrelated topics. When embedding internal links, do not use exact-match anchor text. Use categories, related topics and hierarchies for anchors.

pandaPanda

The Panda algorithm relates entirely to content, or more specifically high-quality content. If you are publishing content that is well-written and in-depth, you will not be harmed by Panda, but promoted up in the ranks. Pages with thin content, badly written content or content visitors are not engaging with, do not get ranked.

Panda also supports Hummingbird in trying to match user-intent with keyword relevancy. The core algorithm takes keyword searches and looks for text that matches search terms exactly. If there are no exact keyword matches, Hummingbird determines the context of a page and throws up results it thinks should satisfy user intent. To improve that function, the final piece to the algo-puzzle is RankBrain.

google-rankbrainRankBrain

RankBrain is a machine learning piece of the algorithm which considers search terms that have never been used before and tries to determine what the user actually wants. When Hummingbird and Panda can’t meet user-expectation it is hoped that RankBrain will.

But RankBrain is also designed to understand natural speech patterns of humans in order to second-guess what users actually want. Once the algorithm has matured there is a strong possibility the core algorithm will be able to cope with voice search. We are not far off search through speech being the norm.

Understanding how search engine algorithms work gives you a better insight into how your website will perform better in search engines. But as you can see from the core algorithm, visibility in search engines predominantly resolves around high-quality content.

Photoshop Tips for Lighting Effects

Effective lighting on digital images can have a massive impact on an audience. And Photoshop is a great tool that gives designers numerous options of creating stunning lighting effects that give images visual dynamics.

Lighting plays a vital role in artwork and helps the finished product look visually engaging and feel more alluring. Whether you are using lighting to enhance images, highlight features or just tie a piece together, here are a few ideas you might like to try out.

3-cosmic-lightsLight Streaks

Light streaks have a real digital, futuristic feel to them. They are also versatile and can add drama to images, or when used more subtly will draw attention to detail that you want the viewer’s eye to catch.

All you do to add light streaks is select the pen tool and draw a path for where you want the lines to go. You can find a full explanation for how to include light streaks in your image designs in this tutorial.

Eclipse effectsolar-eclipse

When you want to include a design that is out of the world, the classic eclipse effect is a great choice. Mesmerising, impressive and just downright cool, the eclipse effect is a great design skill to perfect.

The process of designing an eclipse effect may be a little more complicated than other lighting options you have in Photoshop, but for dedicated professional and curious learners, it is worth the effort. Check out this tutorial to learn how.

cool_space_lighting_effect_by_drkzin-d4b9ju8Space lighting effects

If you want to take the space theme one step further then check out these amazing ideas for inspiration. With little application, designers can create images from outer space and design any world you can imagine.

Photoshop enables designers to create planets, exploding nebulas, star systems and any other intergalactic image you like. If you really want to impress your audience, space lighting effects work a treat.

Luminescent lines

Luminescent linesAnybody that has used a computer is probably familiar with the luminescent lines on screensavers, but designers can put them to much better use by including them in ads or on web designs.

Glowing energy lines give glossy ads a powerful effect that make the image stand out and guides the eyes of the viewers to the features you want them to notice. Luminescent lines are an effective mechanism and not difficult to produce in Photoshop.

Abstract lightingAbstract lighting

An engaging background adds depth to your designs and abstract lighting effects can enhance artwork in various ways. By using Photoshop’s brush tool designers can create an illusion that inspires, excites and intrigues.

There are many ways to design abstract effects in Photoshop and you will find lots of tutorials and ideas to get you started around the internet.

The ideas above are just a few snippets of inspiration you can get for lighting up your next Photoshop design. Although many of the examples are intended to be eye-catching, it is worth noting that using lighting effects serve a function, so use lighting appropriately to enhance artwork, and not destroy it.

What Is Brand Image and Why Is It Important?

Branding is one of those sly little tactics companies use to seduce customers. Actually, it’s not sly. A brand image is a necessity. This is how you bond with customers and build lasting relationships.

In our line of work, we come across many small business owners that are sceptical about branding. To a degree, this view is understandable. Many small business owners do not feel as though they can justify the expense for branding.

However, our experience of developing brand images gives us an insight business owners don’t always have. Branding pays for itself. It is through your brand image that you draw a line under what your business is about so your customers know you are right for them.

What is brand image?

A brand image is the perception you want to give customers about your business. There is an element of courage required as you need to define your target audience and then communicate effectively with them.

But essentially, your customers need to feel an emotional bond with your business. They need to feel your business fits their ideals and life style choices and that you can provide benefits that will make their life a little bit better.

You also want your customers to know which of their friends or work colleagues will appreciate your products and services. Word of mouth advertising still has the most pulling power and ideally you want to overhear a conversation that goes something along the lines of: “Ooh, do you know who will like this place…”

Developing a brand image

ZC-portfolioThe first rule of developing a brand is to determine what your clients want. So write out a list. The first item on your list should be trust. The second should be experience.

Consumers are more inclined to purchase from brands they trust and if they enjoy the experience they are more likely to return. This is where the bonding process we touched on earlier comes into play.

A brand image goes beyond products and services. It should encompass your entire business including the colour scheme, pricing, messaging, sales and everything in between.

You therefore need to be clear about who your audience is, what you want to say to them and how you should say it. Developing a brand personality in your online voice and offline appearance has an important role to play in defining your brand image.

Communicating your message

Communication in the modern world comes in various forms. Online platforms such as websites, social media platforms, industry magazines, review sites, mobile apps, SMS, landing pages, face-to-face interactions etc all contribute to your brand image.

You need to be clear about how you want customers to perceive your brand image as every communication shapes their view of you. Therefore, your brand image should always be reinforced so that opinions about you do not change. Remember the trust factor?

You have more to gain by developing a brand image than you have to lose. If you haven’t already considered branding or you’re not sure where to start, get some help from branding experts.

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