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Do you know the difference between white hat and black hat SEO? If your website has ever been penalised by the search engines then the chances are high that some form of black hat SEO practice is at fault. In this article, we’ll define white hat and black hat SEO and take a look at some of the black hat SEO tactics that you should be avoiding.

What is the difference between black hat and white hat SEO?

White hat SEO is a term used to describe the practice of using techniques and tactics that are in the spirit of the search engines published guidelines. These focus on the needs of the user and providing them with the most relevant information possible. White hat is associated with ethical SEO and building long-lasting results for businesses.

A tactic that uses aggressive SEO strategies for the sole purpose of improving rankings is known as black hat. This is a common strategy used by businesses that are looking to get short-term results and who are not bothered about being banned. These techniques go against guidelines published by the major search engines such as Google. The only way to guarantee that your website is not penalised by the search engines is to use white hat SEO.

Common black hat strategies

Black hat practitioners are always on the lookout for ways to game the search engines to get better search rankings. And while the methods they use are constantly evolving some of the common strategies remain the same. To help ensure you don’t fall victim to these we’ve listed some of the most obvious black hat strategies for you to avoid.

Keyword stuffing

One of the easiest tactics to spot is keyword stuffing. This is where your content is filled with keywords in an attempt to get the page to rank. The text is often poorly written as the sole focus is on getting the target keywords on the page as many times as possible. While for some queries this tactic may work initially, the rewards will be short-lived when they are spotted by the search engines.

Hidden text

If your page is suffering from keyword stuffing then another thing to look out for is hidden text. This is content that is hidden from your normal site visitors but is shown to search engines. Examples of this practice include white text on a white background, placing text behind images, or aligning text off a user’s screen.

Cloaking

The practice of cloaking can be difficult to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. Cloaking involves showing one piece of content to normal website visitors and an entirely different version to the search engines. Use Google Search Console to see how Google is seeing your website using the Fetch as Google tool and make sure that the search engines see the same things as your website users.

Link farms

A link farm is a collection of websites that have been put together for the sole purpose of link building. These websites link to each other and contain hundreds of pages with spammed keyword rich content which then links out to customer websites. Most link farms are automatically created by computer programs and generate thousands of pages and links. They are commonly the tactic used by businesses who sell links offering hundreds of links for a low price. If it sounds too good to be true, then it almost certainly is, especially when it comes to link building.

Scraping

Scraping is a black hat SEO tactic which plagiarises content from another source. It may seem like a good idea to take content from another website and publish it on your own site but this practice is simple for the search engines to spot. It is often used by businesses to run Google AdSense campaigns and other advertising to try and get traffic to their website to boost advertising spending.

Blog comment spam

Another way that webmasters try to game the system is by gaining links via posting comments on blogs and forums. This practice no longer has any benefit as the major search engines simply discount these links passing none of the link benefits over to the target website.

Conclusion

There are many different tricks and tips used by black hat SEO practitioners, if in doubt always ask what tactics your SEO company is using, and if they appear to have something to hide then maybe it’s time to walk away.

The post How to avoid black hat SEO tactics appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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Do you know the difference between a 404 and 503 server response? Or do you struggle to understand when you should use a 301 redirect compared to a 302 redirect? In this article, we’ll take a look at all of the common server response codes and help you understand what they mean. Understanding what these codes mean can help you see when your website has a problem and what action you need to take in order to resolve it.

What is a server response code?

A server response code or status code as it is more commonly known is an HTTP response provided by a web server to a customer’s web browser. The aim of a server response code is to inform the web browser if the page exists, if there is a problem with the page, or if there is a problem with the server.

200 Server Response Code

Unless you are inspecting the HTTP response codes of a website you are very unlikely to see a 200 server response code on a webpage simply because this is used for a successful response. A 200 server response means that there are no problems with the page or the server and the request to load the page was delivered as expected.

301 response

A 301 response is a redirection status code that shows that the requested URL has permanently moved to a new location. There are many reasons to use a permanent redirect on a URL from an item on an ecommerce store being permanently removed to a website moving to a new domain name, or a page to a new directory. A 301 redirect shows that this change is permanent and this helps to pass any link juice from the previous URL to the new URL.

302 status code

A 302 server response is very similar to a 301 but it is meant for temporary redirection. Search engines place less weight on a 302 redirect and may not pass link juice to the new URL. Where it is clear that the redirect is of a permanent nature, search engines may treat a 302 redirect like a 301 permanent redirect but this is not guaranteed. It is best to use a 302 redirect for situations such as a product that is temporarily out of stock on an ecommerce website.

404 page not found

This is perhaps one of the most common status codes that we come across. Ever visited a broken link, or typed a URL in wrong then the chances are that you will have seen a 404 page not found error. This means that the page or file could not be located on the server. For most website owners you’ll want to minimise the number of 404 errors that your website serves and make sure that these are redirected to live pages using either a 302 or 301.

410

A 410 response means that the resource or page has been purposely removed and that the page should be removed from search engine results. If your website has been hacked or you need to remove controversial content from the search engines, then a 410 server response is the one that you should be using.

500 status code

Where you come across a 500 error this means that there is a problem on your website server and something has gone wrong with your website’s database. 500 errors should be fixed as soon as possible as they will lead to lost traffic, lost links and the potential for a drop in search engine rankings.

503 server response

This most commonly is seen when the server is unavailable either due to being overloaded or a server outage. If you’ve just sent out a large marketing campaign directing traffic to your website and you seeing a 503 response on your website it means that your server can’t handle the traffic. A 503 error is normally a temporary issue and means that there are not enough resources available on the server.

There are many more server response codes but these are the ones that you’ll come across most frequently and the ones that you definitely need to know about when marketing your website. Feel free to share your thoughts using the comments section below.

The post Common server response codes and what they mean appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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Yes, we know that you want to get better search engine rankings for your business but writing content purely for the search engines is not the way to go. Instead of focusing on stuffing your web pages full of keywords, take the time to think what your users need. What are they trying to accomplish and how can you help them achieve it? Make your content focused on the needs of your users and you’ll create content that is not only useful, but that will rank well in the search engines.

Use empathy to get your users on side and whatever you do make sure that you use simple language. Don’t fill your text with jargon and long-winded sentences – get to the point and make your text easy to understand. While you don’t want to pump your content full of keywords you do want to theme your content so that it is relevant to your product and service and the needs of your users.

The post Write for humans and not robots appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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Link building is an important part of SEO and it is one of the most powerful ways to improve rankings for competitive search terms. One of the best ways to get more links to your website is to build relationships with influencers in your business sector. You can also use existing relationships with your suppliers and clients to build links through to your website. Some of the ways that you can use these relationships to get links include:

Testimonials – Where you have a relationship with a supplier why not offer to write a testimonial for their business which then features a link to your website.

Blogs – Offering to write an article for a respected blog in your niche is made much easier if you have built up a relationship with the author.

Networking – Do you attend networking events? Have you built up a big list of connections on LinkedIn; all of these can help get your business in front of the right person to get a link back to your website. Connections can also be used to get you introductions to influencers in your sector.

The post Build relationships and links will follow appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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We all hate it when a website is slow to load and according to research by Kissmetrics, 40% of users will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. So if you want to make sure your website doesn’t lose customers then you need to optimise it for speed. Here are the best ways to do just that:

Optimise images – Large high-resolution images may look great but the reality is that for most websites you can get away with cutting the size of these down to help improve the speed of your website.

Minimise HTTP requests – Images, stylesheets, and scripts are all elements that make up your page and are requested by the web browser from your server. The more requests you have the slower your page will be.

Combine files and minify them – Instead of having multiple CSS, JavaScript and template files consider combining these to help reduce the number of requests you make. You can also minify these files to reduce their overall size.

Load scripts asynchronously – A common problem is where scripts load synchronously which means that they load in order to the content of your pages can’t be loaded before the scripts have been downloaded. Asynchronous loading helps to solve this problem and load scripts together rather than in order.

Choose the right hosting – Many businesses often pick the cheapest hosting provider and don’t really give it much thought, this is fine when starting out but for optimum performance, you’ll want VPS or dedicated hosting as this will enable your website to run much faster.

The post Optimising your website for speed appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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There are many different types of meta tags including title tag, meta description, meta keywords, and meta robots tag, but just how important are they for SEO. First up, your title tag is one of the most important SEO elements on your web page and should contain your target keywords in a useful title e.g. Local emergency plumber in Manchester.

Next, is your meta description, this tag doesn’t influence your rankings directly but it does help to make people click on your listing by giving them a description of what they are looking for so from the example below you may have “ABC Plumbing, 24-hour emergency plumbing services in Manchester with no callout fees. Call today on 01234 567890 to speak with an expert plumber.”

Meta robots are used to control how the search engines crawl your web pages and so are an extremely important element as they have the potential to stop Google picking up your website. Finally, meta keywords which don’t have any SEO benefit and can be ignored completely.

The post Why meta tags matter for SEO appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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There are several steps when picking SEO keywords for your business. And, while the end result is very different depending on your sector or niche, the process is largely the same and follows the steps below.

  1. Identify the goals of your website, is it informational, can customers purchase directly from it, do you want to promote your local shop?
  2. Think of what your customers are looking for, is your product or service well-known, or do customers need to be educated about it.
  3. Do some keyword research using tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.
  4. Pick a range of head and long-tail keywords with head keywords being shorter and generally more competitive terms than their longer-tail variants.
  5. Check out the competition, once you’ve got your target keywords then you need to check to see what the first page rankings are like for your keywords, if the front page is full of big name brands then you may want to check other phrase variants.
  6. Match keywords to your content. Your content theme needs to match the keywords you are targeting and for best results choose keywords that closely match the topics and content on your website.

The post How to pick SEO keywords for your business appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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If you want to get good rankings on Google and the other search engines then the first step is to make sure that your website is being picked up. We’ll give you 5 simple checks you can carry out to make sure your website is being indexed by Google.

  1. Robots.txt file – The first check you need to make is to head to your robots.txt file and check if the website is blocking all web crawlers with a line of code similar to: User-agent: *Disallow: /
  2. Robots meta tag – Another thing to check is that your pages can be indexed and that they don’t contain a robots noindex or nofollow meta tag.
  3. Sitemap – Make sure you have a valid xml sitemap file and that all of the URLs work.
  4. Google Search Console – Register your site with Google Search Console and check for any indexation problems
  5. Mobile-friendly – Google is now using the mobile version of a website for indexing which means that if your website isn’t mobile friendly then it might not be showing up in searches.

The post How to make sure Google can pick up your website appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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If you’re looking to reach a broader audience with your content, gain more links and raise brand awareness then content syndication could be the right strategy for you. For anyone who publishes a lot of content or just great quality content, syndication offers an option to get a better return from your content marketing. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the strategies you can use for content syndication.

What is content syndication?

Simply put content syndication is the process of re-publishing your original content on other publications including blogs, news sites and other trade websites. There are plenty of big-name content syndication websites around including Search Engine Land and the Huffington Post to name just a couple. Some publishers syndicate content without any input from you and often edit or take excerpts from an original article and link back to the full article for further information.

Why should you use content syndication?

Even if your blog has a massive following you will want to syndicate your content to help it reach a much broader audience. Content syndication offers an extremely low-cost way to get more from your content with very little additional work. If you’ve ever paid someone to write a blog article for your business or spent hours yourself labouring over each blog article, then you’ll want to make sure you get the maximum return from this effort.

Strategy 1 – Syndicate other people’s content

For businesses that want to have a blog on their own website but are worried about not having the time to keep it up to date why not syndicate content from other blogs and industry news sites. Ask news websites in your niche for permission to syndicate some of their content on your blog. You can also approach bloggers and offer them the opportunity to write a guest post for your blog, complete with a link back to their other relevant content and website.

While it is great to syndicate other people’s content we’d recommend that no more than 10 – 15% of your blog content is syndicated. You still need to make sure you write plenty of unique content that is first published on your blog.

Strategy 2 – Self-syndicate your own content

Want to get your content out there on places like the Huffington Post, well good news this is entirely possible for most people and simply involves applying to create articles. They very, very rarely check for credentials so as long as you have a link to your blog then you should be able to create an account and start writing content. Other places where you can self-syndicate your own articles include LinkedIn, Facebook Instant Articles, Medium and Business2Community.

Strategy 3 – Create a syndication partnership

Another way you can syndicate your content is to have an agreement with a blog, industry site or niche website in your sector and work with them to syndicate your existing content as well as creating specific content for them. They benefit by having unique content created for their blog or website and you benefit from getting your content in front of a much larger audience as well as increased brand exposure. This also then makes it easier for you to get your content syndicated in bigger publications when people can see existing publishers who are already syndicating your content.

What about Google’s duplicate content penalty?

This is definitely nothing to worry about. Google will not penalise your website for syndicating content and will not penalise you for having your articles or blogs featured on other websites. Google is pretty good at determining who the original author of a piece of content is so you don’t need to worry about publishing content elsewhere and that website getting all the credit and value of the content you create.

Content syndication is very much a part of content marketing and it is a great way for all types of businesses to reach a much larger audience and raise brand awareness. We’d love to hear your thoughts on content marketing so feel free to share your top tips in the comments section below.

The post Simple strategies for content syndication success appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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Are you interested in influencer marketing but not sure where to start? Do you think that only big brands are able to attract influencers? Or, are you convinced that influencer marketing is only for beauty or lifestyle brands? In this article, we’ll take a look at why you should be using influencer marketing as well as how to find the right influencers for your business. So sit back, grab yourself a nice hot drink and let’s dive into the world of influencer marketing.

Who are influencers?

The simplest explanation is they are similar to a celebrity in that they have influence over their audience. The classic example would be a celebrity endorsement of a brand by using their products and being featured in their advertising campaigns. Of course, modern-day influencers aren’t necessarily celebrities in the traditional sense but they are people who have a large audience who religiously follow them.

Today’s bloggers, Instagram stars and vloggers are more relatable than big-name celebrities simply because their lifestyles are more similar to our own. This is one of the reasons why influencer marketing works so well for businesses, regardless of what niche you are in. Find the right influencer and you can connect with your audience in a way that other channels simply can’t offer.

How do you find influencers?

One of the first steps of the process is to start researching influencers based on your target audience. A common mistake businesses make when looking for an influencer is assuming that their target audience follows influencers in their own sector; this may not be the case. Try asking your customers who they follow on Instagram, what videos they watch on YouTube and who they connect with on Twitter to try and gain an understanding of who their influencers are.

As well as asking customers you can also use social listening tools to help you find the right influencers. Some of the tools that you can use include: Tweetdeck, Crowdfire and Buzzsumo to name just a few. There are many social listening tools out there so take a look at a few and see which one has the features you’re looking for.

Influencer evaluation

Following your research, you should now have a list of potential influencers with vastly different follower numbers. Remember that just because an influencer has a lot of followers, it doesn’t mean that these followers are real. It’s important to look beyond the numbers and look at the actual engagement that they get from their posts. If they have a lot of followers and yet their posts only get a small number of likes, comments and engagement then you need to look elsewhere.

Campaign goals

Another thing to consider when vetting potential influencers is the main objectives of your campaign. If you are looking to get the maximum exposure for a one-off event such as a product launch then you may want to focus on influencers with a large audience. For those with a smaller budget or anyone who wants to focus on longer-term exposure then micro influencers may be the better choice for your business.

Working with influencers

There are many different ways to work with influencers from paying them to create and share content about your products and services to offering them free products in return for them sharing content about these on their social media platforms, YouTube channel or blogs. Once you’ve decided on who you want to work with it is best to treat your influencer as if they were a freelancer doing some work for your business. This means that you should give them a brief, outline what you are looking to achieve and what sort of content you would like.

Again you need to think about your objectives for your campaign and openly discuss these with your influencer to agree the best way to help you achieve your goals. Remember to agree on deadlines, payments and what will be delivered in writing to ensure you get what you need.

Conclusion

Using these tips you should have the confidence you need to start working with influencers and promoting your business to new audiences and potential customers. Just remember that in order to be successful your influencer marketing needs to focus on the right audience and help you achieve the right goals at the right price.

The post Influencer marketing – A simple introduction appeared first on FirstFound, Manchester, UK.

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