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!

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.

How To Enhance Brand Image By Promoting Brand Culture

Modern consumers don’t want to be sold stuff. If they want to buy something they will make their own decision. And the choice of company they choose to purchase from is the brand they resonate with the most.

It is therefore important to establish and a brand identity, and to build your image it is important reveal a brand culture. Let customers know what is happening behind the scenes and introduce them to your company in the real world rather than a faceless corporation with a snazzy logo.

Brand personality

To win over the attention of customers, you need a brand personality. This comes across in the voice of your content, but can also be promoted through branded content that provides customers with an insight to your business activities and events.

When you have a party, post pictures on your social media accounts with some witty captions that make people chuckle. Show your customers that you are responsible, but know how to have fun. Obviously make sure the images and stories reflect your brand so choose a suitable setting to host your party.

Introduce your staff

Although it is a good idea to introduce the key members of your team on the about us page, the little blurb box does not reveal too much. So showcase your staff in blogs with interview and news reports. You may even want to make a short video.

By that we don’t mean generic posts that say, “Hello, I’m Sam and like to walk my dog.” There has to be a story to tell. Concentrate on achievements and celebrate special events. If someone is running in a marathon or doing charity work drum up interest before the event and get your audience interested to know the results.

Show a humorous side

When people read content, they want to be entertained, so throw a few witty remarks or anecdotes into your blog articles and make the read more enjoyable.

Get customer feedback

To promote a brand culture, you need to be active on social media. So fish for feedback by asking your customers what they want to know about your company.

You can even involve customers to promote your brand culture and your products by asking them how they are finding your product. This could more risqué if the customer has a bad experience so you will need to be confident you will get plenty of positive responses.

Tell your company story

Every company has a story to tell. How did you get to where you are today? Where did you start? A brief history that reads like a Wikipedia entry is boring, so go into more detail and make it interesting.

Talk about your failures and how you overcame adversity or found solutions. When you show you have got grit, determination and ambition, customers will respect and trust you.

It is important that you create a brand image for your online business that people can identify with. Highlighting a brand culture is an effective way to support your marketing efforts and invites your customers to get to know you better.

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.

The Psychology Of Marketing To Millennials

Millennials use the internet more than any other online generation and are subsequently changing the way brands express themselves and communicate with customers. Having grown up with mobile phones and computers in their life, the majority of millennials are much more tech savvy than most the previous generation X.

It is obvious that millennials are more inclined to shop online, stream video content and use social media networks. Yet understanding the consumer psychology of generation Y is more difficult than you imagine.

On the surface, there appears to be a conflict in terms. For example, millennials do not trust traditional advertising and prefer brands that show authenticity. Yet 82% interact with brands or retailers and 49% are happy to follow their favourite companies.

Millennial-social-media-tipsBrands with social responsibility receive a high percentage of the following, but millennials are also more inclined to discover new brands with 38% actively searching for experiences from undiscovered brands.

Generation Y are also more influenced by blogs and use brand content as a top media source before making a purchasing decision. They have little interest in TV and magazine ads and are not persuaded by marketing that feels deceptive.

What brands appeal to millennials?

Brands will find most millennials through mobile devices although consume more content across multiple devices than any other generation. The favourite hang outs are social media networks and 62% report they are more inclined to purchase from brands and become a loyal customer when there is engagement through social networks.

So what content is generation Y mostly drawn to? They prefer content that is personalised towards their own interests – both in-store and on digital platforms. This is why consumer data is vitally important to analyse and act upon. Misplaced advertising is treated with contempt as millennials do not waste their time with brands that send them offers for products they have no interest in.

The reason for that is because millennials are particularly cash conscious and can only afford to spend money on things they need; clothes, foods and services, although socialising is where a good percentage of their money goes. They have little left for luxuries.

Brands that offer economy rates and good value for money can capitalise on the psychology of young shoppers, but the most successful brands targeting this age bracket are companies that produce goods with social or environmental benefits.

One of the biggest surprises is that millennials are not persuaded by advice given by industry experts. Their purchasing decisions are mostly influenced by family, friends and strangers on peer review sites and celebrities, particularly when it comes to lifestyle choices and apparel.

The consumer buying habits of generation Y is changing the way marketers have to consider marketing strategies and the type of content you publish. Whilst millennials look inwards and prefer personalised services, they are also highly conscious of the world around them and care about social and environmental issues.

Zuckerberg Delivers Small Businesses Another Kick In The Facebook

Restricting organic reach to a measly six per cent is not good enough for Facebook. To be fair, many digital marketers tagged it ages ago, but organic reach on the world’s most popular social media network is now practically down to zero. 

Will it remain the world’s most popular network. Probably not with businesses. Unless you shell out for paid advertising, some are saying that marketing your products and service on FB is a waste of time. The best use businesses will get from this particular social network is an idea of consumer behaviour. And isn’t consumer analysis so much fun!

But there is a method to the madness that is Facebook. And you have to give credit to Zuckerberg for trying to establish the core values of the company.

As Vice President Adam Mosseri succinctly explains in his announcement of the new algorithm changes Facebook put “friends and family” first, but does want to be considered as “a platform for All Ideas.”

How Facebook plan to go about re-evaluating its original brand promise is by tweaking the News Feed algorithm and preventing accounts from becoming a mishmash of marketing videos, memes and ads. Unless you pay to advertise of course. 

Essentially Facebook want to make their service more personal to the user and deliver more posts from friends and family members. The change has been prompted by a lack of sharing, comments and likes given the amount of marketing content users are receiving.

More power to users?

facebook-likeFacebook held a referendum to ask what type of content their users prefer to see. The vote was for more “user-generated” content and less corporate news – which means family and friends get the nod over businesses. 

The key issue for FB users is essentially to remove the clutter they don’t want from their algorithm feed.

This feels a little awkward. When Facebook prevented organic reach based on user-behaviour, they restricted users from getting updates from friends they don’t engage with so often. That looks as though it may change, but we have’t noticed that in our news feeds yet. But it’s early days.

Although it appears certain content will be excluded from Facebook feeds, what happens to articles from publishers users want to read.

Mossier explained that users will be granted more power over content they receive from brands based on independent sharing – content they share directly from the publishers site rather than content that appears unceremoniously in their newsfeed. 

Will this also apply to sponsored ads? It doesn’t seem plausible that Facebook will shoot themselves in the foot, but they do already give users the option to see fewer posts based on certain topics which exclude brand content based on user preferences. 

It has to make you wonder just how well Facebook algorithm actually serves its users. On the one hand the social media wants to share “All Ideas” but does not want users to be inundated with content that is not relevant to them. Surely encouraging users to make their own choices rather than twerking algorithms is the sensible and beneficial approach.

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.

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