Category Archives: Hobo

Caring about the client

I was just reading this comprehensive guide to redirecting old web pages on the Hobo blog, and once again, it brought home to me how badly served we are by many web designers. The article demonstrates what a complex subject web indexing is, and I’m not surprised that most web designers don’t want to get involved with it. But like so many aspects of website management, it’s not good enough for them to ignore the topic and hope that the client won’t be knowledgeable enough to even know the issue exists.

At the very least, every new website should be delivered with a list of things that the designer has not done, with a recommendation that the client engages SEO or coding experts to finish things off. Naturally, this doesn’t happen, and the client gets left with serious problems which may not materialise for many months. Any return to the web designers will be met with: “that sort of thing’s not us, it wasn’t in the job specification” …which is true, but not very helpful. Or professional, to be honest.

Last week we started work with a company that had launched a new website two months before, and now wanted to start promoting it through PPC advertising. I obtained access to the Google Analytics account, and discovered that all tracking had stopped when the new site was launched. The Google Analytics code from the old site simply hadn’t been transferred over to the new one.

We contacted the web design agency – quite a professional-looking outfit. What had happened? Could they please reinstall the Google Analytics code? Their response was: “That’s the sort of thing which marketing people do. We don’t normally get asked about that.”

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe caring about the client’s business just isn’t good business practice. Unfortunately I can’t change.

How do you find out where to start in SEO?

Anyone looking to prioritise performance in Google search in their 2016 marketing objectives should probably start with a thorough “SEO audit”. There are many companies offering such a service, and I’m often asked to recommend one, so I thought I’d see what’s available at the moment. My friends who work in SEO recommended a few between them, so I combined these suggestions with my own requirements that the audit is (1) from a well-respected consultant, (2) up-front about the cost, and (3) based in the UK.

In the end, just one passed the test, so here it is: the SEO Audit by Hobo Internet Marketing in Scotland. Although I haven’t used the company’s service myself, and don’t have any connection, they come recommended by someone who I respect a lot. The audit is a very reasonable £300. If you give it a go, let me know what you think, and if you’re one of our clients, I’d also be happy to go through it with you for free.

Link building: vital, but not a black art

This week I was going to write some serious articles about link building, and its relevance today, but in doing my research I found a recent article which more than covers anything I can tell you. If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, reading Shaun Anderson’s Free Link Building Tips For 2014 will tell you everything you need to know, and probably much more besides.

Getting links to your website – and particularly to individual pages on topics for which you’d like to be found – is still important. What’s got link building a bad reputation has been the “SEO consultants” who went out and generated their clients hundreds of fabricated links from irrelevant sites, only to find that Google decided not just to ignore these, but to penalise sites with lots of them. But good links from good sites are still what gets your site up the top of the Google results.

In the article, Shaun recommends the following. Firstly, sort out your own site. Yes, internal links are important too. If you want a page to rank in Google for “blue widgets”, make sure other mentions of blue widgets in the text on your site are links to that page. Then, somehow, start to work out a strategy for getting links from really authoritative, branded sites. Sure, the BBC site would be great, but in reality, you’re going to be targeting the news sites within your industry sector – in other words, getting good old fashioned PR coverage.

Also look at any established, trusted website which might link to you, such as academic sites. There are probably many ways you could get a link; don’t waste any opportunities if you’ve done any collaborations with schools or universities, or sponsored anything there. And testimonials are great: if you can’t get a customer or supplier to mention you on their site (with a link), then perhaps you could write something for their site saying how proud you are to work with them.

Everything else is probably of lesser importance. Links on social media don’t count for much (if anything) nowadays, but they do spread the word, and get you unexpected links. For example, this blog has had links from people I don’t know, who came across the article which they linked to by following a link on Twitter

Then there are the “don’t do it!” links, which are still widely chased after, despite it being fairly common knowledge that they can lead to penalties – yes, they’re actually counterproductive. These include “comment spam”. I run a music website, and this gets over 100 comments a day of the type: “Mmm, this is a great blog, well done, plumber in Chicago“. Just don’t do this. Also, don’t do massive directory submissions, because this is such an easy way for Google to spot artificial link builders. There’s nothing wrong with appearing in directories, unless you appear for the first time in 1,000 directories overnight.

You’ll infer from all this that there’s nobody better at getting links for your company than you. No “SEO consultant” will have the day-to-day industry experience which could spot the opportunities out there. It’s not a black art, really it’s not.

Further reading: Free Link Building Tips For 2014 on Hobo.

Image Alt tags: how long is a string?

Images on your web pages should all have “alt tags” in the code, which describe what the images are. This is for those who can’t see them, either through physical impairment or because their browser doesn’t show them. However, Google does index the content of these tags, so there’s also an SEO reason for ensuring your images have alt tags. If you use a content management system of any sort, it should allow you to specify the alt tag for any image as you insert it into a page. If your site is just a collection of pages created in something like Dreamweaver, you’ll need to add the appropriate code to each image.

The excellent Hobo blog has recently been looking at the maximum length of an alt tag. In How Many Words In ALT Text For Google, Yahoo & Bing? the author concludes that 16 words of 7 + 8 characters each seem to be indexed by Google, which I reckon means it stops indexing at around 130-140 characters. Plenty of room then to get your important search terms into the tag as well as describing the image. Remember though: don’t spam the alt tag with nonsense. It’ll come back to bite you.