This year Alex McIlvride celebrates 5 years as an SEO. He is currently working as a consultant for www.vanleasing.com who formed way back in 1992, making them one of the first van leasing companies established in the UK. Although based in Scotland they provide leasing across the UK.
Today we talk to Alex and ask him some questions on SEO and why even long standing companies still face marketing challenges and how to tackle those challenges in a fast pace changing world.
Q. What is the most common mistake people make when trying to optimise their own site for marketing purposes?
Understandably SEO can be expensive, so naturally people want to learn and apply the work themselves. The very first thing that people do is go on Google and read up articles containing the most recommended SEO tactics and apply them to their site. The issue here is that everyone else is also finding that same information and applying the exact same tactics. This means everybody is playing under the same rules, doing the exact same thing and therefore the results become very limited indeed.
It is very much like being the first shop opening up on the high street offering a lucrative product. Once others start doing the same, the supply becomes far more than the demand and you end up bust.
Q. So what is the solution to doing your own SEO?
I am not sure if there is a solution per say, as SEO at times can be a little complex, but what I would recommend for those who want to tackle SEO by themselves is to do the opposite of what you find on the Internet. I recommend this, not because the information online is incorrect, but because you do not want to be doing the exact some things that millions of other people are doing. You want to show Google that what you are doing to your site is different and once that is done, you will be sure to stand out from the rest and see some positive results.
Q. Can you give us examples of doing the “opposite” of what others do?
Hahaha are you asking me to reveal SEO secrets? OK, here is one example:
Often you read on the Internet that you should post blog posts as often as you can... the more content the better, right? Well, this is technically a myth, because if you do not have a strong authoritative blog site, all that content you have spent creating will be floating around Internet space never to be found (simply because the blog is not ranking).
Therefore, one solution could be to find someone else's article in your niche. Analyse that article to see how many other people have linked to it (or mentioned it on social media etc). Then write up a better, longer and more factual version of the article (in your own words of course). You will want to add more content (words), more facts, more images, a video etc, and once the article is live, you then contact those people who had linked to the other article and inform them of your new improved article. They would very likely be interested in it and link to you. It is those links that will power up your blog further and make it more authoritative and rank. So as a result, you do not need to spend all that time writing up articles, but rather write fewer articles and spend more time promoting them in order to gain authority, ranking and ultimately visitors.
Q. What do you have to say about SEO being dead, particularly with Panda and Penguin targeting website world wide?
I can whole heartedly understand why people think that, especially after the introduction of Panda and Penguin. In fact in 2011 Panda / Penguin had hit very hard that probably every SEO agency was struggling to understand what was going on (and let's be honest, many went bust because of it). But to answer your question, SEO is not dead and probably never will be, if anything it is stronger than ever.
You see, all Google are trying to do is eliminate low quality and spammy sites from their indexes and this makes complete sense if you sit down and think about it for a second. When someone types in a search on Google, Google wants that person to find information on that topic as soon as possible. But more importantly, that page must be relevant to their search and informative, otherwise the user leaves with a negative experience which ultimately reflects badly on Google. Imagine for one moment typing in “van leasing” and coming across the below website (by the way, that site was ranking very well on Google for that keyword but is slowly dropping), would you use Google again?
It is simply a question of giving Google what it wants, which consequently means giving people what they want read. Therefore, if you are writing an article in your niche, simply provide as much relevant information about your product or service, but be sure to structure the page nicely so it is well balanced and easy to read. Do not simply create a page that has big blocks of text, break it up with headers, paragraphs, images, videos, bullet points and links to other relevant pages (both internally and externally). Ultimately, you want to create information pages that people like and will want to link back to.
Q. What should organisations be looking for in an SEO consultant?
This is actually an easier question to answer than you may think. You may be surprised to learn that it is not uncommon for SEO consultants / agencies to actually turn down potential clients. Way too often, clients expect instant results due to a lack of SEO understanding, and those who are inpatient would become very disappointed very quickly while disrupting the work flow through constant questioning. It is for that reason you should expect your consultant to actually screen you as a client. He / she will advice you of a plan of action and explain that as clients you need to understand that it may well be a very long process and that results will not come instantly. Furthermore he / she may even question your understanding of SEO both off-site and on-site just to gauge your proficiency level.
Finally, look out for consultants who appear overly keen to take you on as clients, particularly ones providing vague answers to your questions. Bottom line, SEO can be very complicated and very time consuming work, so much so that a well established agency would not just jump in with both feet and be keen to accept you as a client without putting out feelers.... Oh and I am happy to say that vanleasing.com passed the screen test with flying colours :)
Q. What’s the biggest change in SEO you predict for 2016?
I would say the ratio between Desktop and Mobile users. We are seeing that more and more people are visiting website through mobile devices (particularly mobile phones). As mobile search continues to grow, we will see a change in the way we optimise our websites. There will be less optimising the pages for desktop users and more for mobile users. The issue is that mobile users are defiantly climbing rapidly and it is becoming harder to add all the page's features on a screen with limited real estate. This will probably result in higher bounce rates, less pages visited and less time on a page, so it will be interesting to see how experts will combated the problem.. I think it is going to be an interesting 2016 for the SEO community.
Alex McIlvride (SEO consultant for VanLeasing Group)