SEO for Bloggers: Myths Busted & Questions Answered!


SEO for Bloggers: Myths Busted & Questions Answered by Sam Charles of Float Digital

Sam Charles from Float Digital sheds light on the confusing world of blogging and SEO.

*This is a guest post contributed by Sam Charles*


Whether you're just starting out or have been blogging for a while and are looking to boost your 'Google Game', you've probably found that the blogging world is surrounded by SEO myths and unfounded rules. 

Below are some questions I'm frequently asked about when working with bloggers and businesses trying to boost their search ranking by blogging...

Q: How long will it take for my blog to rank on Google?

How long it will take for your website to rank in Google depends on a number of factors. Gaining first position in the search results heavily depends on how competitive your industry is, how well your website is optimised and your overall SEO activity.

Generally, websites take between three to six months to start ranking in Google. Initially it’s a slow process appearing in the search results, however as your website gains both authority and trust from search engines, visibility will increase.

Q: Do social media posts with links count towards my search ranking?

This is a heavily debated topic, but social media activity has zero or a minor impact on search engine rankings, and the links themselves do not provide any value.

The process of increasing a website’s visibility in Google and increasing organic traffic is based on a number of factors. Firstly, a keyphrase strategy must be devised to ensure that the correct terms are being targeted. Secondly, the website must be search engine ‘friendly’, as well as optimised with key terms. Thirdly, lots of high-quality content is crucial for appearing in the search results. Last but not least, links from other trusted websites (acting as endorsements) increase your authority, thus increase rankings.

With this in mind, people presume spamming social channels with links will have a positive impact on their rankings. This is a myth, and sadly it won't impact your rankings whatsoever.

Q: What is the best practice for declaring sponsored posts and links?

The Advertising Standards Agency reminds bloggers and marketers that paid-for or incentivised posts must be declared clearly on your website. Not to mention, it’s worth being honest with your readers too, right?

Declaration on The Cornish Life blog

Declaration on The Cornish Life blog

Declaration on InTheFrow.com blog

Declaration on InTheFrow.com blog

With regards to links, ‘link schemes’ are against Google’s guidelines. The search engine can actually kick you off their results if they feel you’re manipulating the system.

- WHAT IS A LINK SCHEME?
"Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site."
Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

There are a large number of link schemes, such as 'excessive link exchanges', however there is one that is highly relevant to bloggers - buying and selling of links.

Q: What is the difference between a nofollow link and a dofollow link?

When a PR company or brand asks you to add a 'dofollow' link to your blog in exchange for something, they are asking for a link that passes PageRank. As defined in the Google Quality Guidelines:

"Buying or selling links that pass PageRank: This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link."

By default every link is dofollow, and passes equity from one website to another. It is a type of link which has a potential to improve the ranking and credibility of a website in Google.

You can prevent PageRank from passing in several ways, such as adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the <a> tag to the link that has been paid for. Want to learn more about nofollow links? This guide on nofollow links outlines when and how to use them.

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.

Q: If I get something sent to review for free, do I still have to declare it and use a nofollow link?

Yes, if you’ve been paid or incentivised (for example, you've been given a freebie or complimentary item/service in exchange for a review or link), you should declare it and the link should be nofollow.

Q: Is reposting blog posts on other websites and blogs bad for my SEO?

If somebody has asked for you to write a piece of content for their website or to re-post your content from your website, tread carefully. If Google crawls two pieces of content that are duplicated, it will consider it spam and it can have a negative impact of your website.

To avoid this happening, you can ask the webmaster to include a canonical tag to their page. This tells Google where the original article was posted, and will pass on the SEO benefits to the original site. If you’re not familiar with a canonical tag, I’ve included an example below:

<link rel="canonical" href="YOUR-URL" />

If the webmaster isn’t willing to include a canonical tag, then don’t allow them to post your content on their website. Instead you can rewrite the content so it isn't duplicated, or post the content on the other site only, instead of on your own website.

Q: If I leave a comment on a  blog with a link back to my site, is that good or bad for my SEO?

Leaving comments on other people's blog has a low impact on your SEO. In the past mass commenting on blog posts was quick way to gain links quickly. Google were savvy to this and introduced the ‘nofollow’ attribute to combat comment spam. That said, it is still believed that some blogs can continue to provide SEO value.

When done right, comments on some website may potentially increase trust and credibility, thus increase a website’s visibility in Google. That said, comments should never be used to spam other websites, as this can have a detrimental affect on a website. Leave the spammy comments at the door and you won’t have any issues.


Remember, improving your blog's SEO shouldn't be about trying to 'cheat the system'. You should always focus on creating great quality content that people want to read and will come looking for; Google AND your readers appreciate authenticity and good quality content.

Need help with your SEO? Get in touch with Sam and get 10% off her services if you mention byRosanna!


About the Author


Sam Charles of Float Digital

UK Search Awards 'Young Professional' nominee, speaker at Europe's largest search marketing event BrightonSEO and featured in The Drum's '50 Under 30', Sam is a Google certified SEO expert with 6+ years experience. Complimenting her evolving knowledge of search trends and algorithms, she is also an established content writer, published in high-end magazines such as Vogue. 

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn


Call to Actions: What Are They & How to Use Them


Call to Actions: What are they and how to use them

Tell your website visitors exactly what you want from them with CTAs!


It's a buzzword you may or may not have heard of before, but 'Call to Actions' (aka CTAs) are in fact one of the most important elements of any website or web page. Without them, your website is simply a list of information with no obvious 'next steps' for your visitors.


So what are 'Call To Actions'? 

Much like the name suggests, a Call to Action is an element on a web page (such as a button, text or image) that tells the reader what they should do next. If you want your website visitors to engage more with your brand by contacting you, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a PDF or viewing your portfolio, then you need clear CTAs on your website.

Below are some examples of Call to Actions on my clients' websites:

^ On the Guitar Box Company website, the Call to Action (email sign up) is right at the top of the page, because their top goal is to collect email addresses of interested customers.

^ On the Guitar Box Company website, the Call to Action (email sign up) is right at the top of the page, because their top goal is to collect email addresses of interested customers.

^ On JoAnn Pantoja's website, we are on her 'Coaching' page, and the first thing you see is a Call to Action to book. Then as you scroll down there is more information and another CTA at the botton of the page to 'Book' as well.

^ On JoAnn Pantoja's website, we are on her 'Coaching' page, and the first thing you see is a Call to Action to book. Then as you scroll down there is more information and another CTA at the botton of the page to 'Book' as well.


When Might you want to use a call to action?

As you can see, a Call to Action doesn't have to be 'salesy'; sometimes they are simply used to direct people around your website and be helpful. You might want to use CTAs for a number of reasons:

  • To create a clear journey around your website
    I've written before about creating user journeys for your website, but the key is to make it clear & simple for your site visitors to explore your site. For example, after people have looked through my portfolio, I want them to go to my Services page so they can see how I might be able to help them. Therefore, at the end of each portfolio item I add a button to 'View My Services' which takes them directly there.
^ On the ReNu 'About' page, we added a button at the end to show people where they should go next

^ On the ReNu 'About' page, we added a button at the end to show people where they should go next

  • To provide people with information in the clearest way possible
    Your website should always be the perfect blend of consistent branding & design, with necessary information. To keep things clean and minimal, sometimes you'll need to strip back the content to the bare essentials, but what if people need more? You could create a separate page on your website, or even a downloadable PDF that contains more in-depth information on a certain topic, and provide a CTA for people who want to know more. 
^ Also on the ReNu website, we kept each page minimal by adding extra information to a separate FAQ page. This was linked to directly underneath the service listings on the 'Services' page.

^ Also on the ReNu website, we kept each page minimal by adding extra information to a separate FAQ page. This was linked to directly underneath the service listings on the 'Services' page.

  • To encourage people to contact you
    For any service-based business, the goal of your website is probably to get people to contact and hire you! So it's important to have CTAs on your website giving your visitors little nudges and reminders to do this. There's no harm in adding a CTA for this purpose on all pages of your website, as long as it doesn't come across as desperate or too pushy (see tips below).
^ On the MSP Crashpad 347 site, we added a clear 'Get in touch' Call to Action which appeared just above the footer on every page, making it clear exactly what the website's purpose is.

^ On the MSP Crashpad 347 site, we added a clear 'Get in touch' Call to Action which appeared just above the footer on every page, making it clear exactly what the website's purpose is.

  • To encourage people to purchase from you
    If you're running an online shop, or are selling a specific product, then of course you want to encourage people to hit 'Buy'! Placing buttons or links to your shop around your site is a great way to direct people to the focus of your site. Depending on the abilities of your website, you could also go one step further and add 'featured product' sections on different pages of your website, with direct 'BUY' buttons there.
^ Featured shop section on the All The Frenchies home page

^ Featured shop section on the All The Frenchies home page

  • To get people to sign up to your mailing list
    These days it's all about building your email list! It's super important to have a base of interested potential customers that you're able to update with news and marketing materials. But you need to motivate people to sign up in the first place! I've written about building lists with opt-in freebies before, but placing regular CTAs is very important too. 
^ On the Jewelbox Cornwall site we put the email sign up CTA right at the top of the home page to encourage people to sign up and make a purchase with their 10% discount code.

^ On the Jewelbox Cornwall site we put the email sign up CTA right at the top of the home page to encourage people to sign up and make a purchase with their 10% discount code.

  • To get people to trial a product
    Software companies do this all the time; knowing that the best way to convert website visitors into paying customers is to get them to test the product out for themselves. Due to the high conversion of this strategy, clear CTAs around your website are super important!
^ On Packet Ship's website we added a CTA to the bottom of every service page to encourage people to trial the software first.

^ On Packet Ship's website we added a CTA to the bottom of every service page to encourage people to trial the software first.

  • To ask people to follow you on social media
    This may not be your number one goal on your website, but it's still a valid Call to Action. Many people put social media links in their blog sidebar or within blog posts as they want blog readers to have a way of following their updates.
^ On the Pompous Peasant blog, we put the social media follow buttons at the top of the sidebar to encourage people to get notifications from the blog updates.

^ On the Pompous Peasant blog, we put the social media follow buttons at the top of the sidebar to encourage people to get notifications from the blog updates.

  • To get people to comment or share your blog posts
    Similarly, if you want more engagement and traffic to your blog posts, you'll probably want people to comment and share your articles. So ask them to! Just adding a sentence at the end with a Call to Action can remind people to do this.
^ At the end of each blog post on The Cornish Life, there are share buttons to encourage readers to share the article with their friends.

^ At the end of each blog post on The Cornish Life, there are share buttons to encourage readers to share the article with their friends.


Tips for the most effective CTAs:

Prioritise & don't over-stuff

It's good to have at least one Call to Action on each page of your website, and in fact it's often necessary to have more than one, especially on long scrolling pages with several different sections.

But this is where prioritisation comes in; if your number one main goal is for people to see exactly what services you offer, put this CTA at the top of your Home page, directing people to go straight there. Your secondary goal might be to have people learn more about your company, or to sign up to your newsletter, in which case put this in a section below your first Call to Action, and add a button or link there. 

^ As you can see on my own Home page, I have prioritised my Call to Actions at the top of my website to lead people to my services, and my secondary CTA on the Home page is for them to 'View my Portfolio'. 

^ As you can see on my own Home page, I have prioritised my Call to Actions at the top of my website to lead people to my services, and my secondary CTA on the Home page is for them to 'View my Portfolio'. 

The main goal is to make it more clear to your visitors what you want them to do, not to overwhelm them with options and leave them unsure which step to take next.

Make it bold but add whitespace too

You want your Call to Actions to be clear and obvious, which is why coloured buttons always work so well! However, to avoid overwhelm and keep your design aesthetically pleasing, whitespace is really important - it also helps draw the eye to the focal point point, ie. your CTA!

^ It's very clear what the next step is after reading Jewelbox Cornwall's 'About' page; no distractions, just clear directions!

^ It's very clear what the next step is after reading Jewelbox Cornwall's 'About' page; no distractions, just clear directions!

Use Dynamic verbs and/or urgency

Using verbs in your Call to Actions makes it seem more dynamic and interesting that just writing the destination of your link or button (eg. 'Services', 'About Me'). Think 'Find out more' or 'Get to know me' etc.

This is even more important with newsletter sign up forms, because you actually want the visitor to hand over something as an exchange. You really have to motivate them to give you that email address! Instead of the boring 'Subscribe' button, try 'Sign me up!' or 'Yes please!' or 'Let's do this!'. Something active and encouraging goes a long way.

^ Doesn't that seem more inviting than if it just said 'subscribe'?

^ Doesn't that seem more inviting than if it just said 'subscribe'?


Is there anywhere you could add or improve Call to Actions on your website?


What Should You Look for When Hiring a Designer?


What Should You Look For When Hiring a Designer? | byRosanna

Tips for choosing the best designer for your business needs.


For many small businesses and startups, hiring a brand and/or website designer will be their first experience of outsourcing to a third party to help them, so naturally it can be a daunting process.

Below are some tips I've put together that can help you ask the right questions and get the information you need in order to feel confident choosing a designer for your business' specific needs:

1. First, consider exactly what you need help with

Your first thought might be 'I need a logo', or 'I need a website'. But there's actually more to those requirements than meets the eye.

Firstly, if you want to ensure your business is memorable, modern and future-proofed, you don't need 'just a logo'. What you actually need is a brand identity, which can include a colour palette, brand fonts, a logo, logo variations, submarks/icons etc. 

So if you do want to create a cohesive, professional-looking brand, you'll need to a 'Brand Designer', not just someone who can make a logo in a day for five quid....
Knowing this is the first step in finding the right person for you.

Read more:
What goes into a logo design?
5 Ways Inconsistent Branding Can Be Damaging To Your Business

Similarly, when you say 'I need a website', you need to then ask yourself a range of questions to help you find the right person:

  • Do I want a completely custom website?
    Websites can be made in two ways: from scratch with a custom design and developed for you, or using a template and customising it for your needs. Custom websites made from scratch are much more expensive (usually thousands of pounds), as they require a designer AND a developer (or someone who can do both) and they take longer to create. If you are a small business requiring and you need a fairly basic website, blog or ecommerce site, it's likely that you don't need a custom development job.
     
  • Do I need a developer or a designer?
    As mentioned above, if you want a completely custom site, you will need a developer to do this as it requires building the website in code. But for most small businesses reading this, it's likely that you just need a website designer! We customise existing templates to suit your needs, and many of us have some coding knowledge too to do more complex customisations if needed, but generally we are cheaper than developers because we aren't starting from scratch.
     
  • Do I want my website to be on a certain platform?
    If you decide you need a designer to build your website, you might also want to consider what platform you want your website designed on (eg. WordPress, Squarespace, Joomla, Wix etc.). If you have no idea which you prefer, move on to step 2 (looking at the designer's portfolio!), and see if you like what they do, and ask them to suggest the platform based on that. Many designers, like myself, specialise in one platform, so if you have your heart set on WordPress, for example, you'll want to check that the designer you like will accommodate that.
    Read more: Squarespace vs. WordPress: Which Should You Choose?
     
  • Do I want someone to maintain & update my website for me?
    Once you've decided you want a designer who specialises in Squarespace, for example, you'll want to check what sort of packages they offer and what's included in their design fee. Some may offer maintenance and update packages, so you pay a monthly fee and never have to worry about editing your website yourself! Or some, like myself, include a guide and video tutorials as part of the project so you have tools to make edits yourself and not rely on a designer.

2. Take a Good look at their portfolio

I'm not sure why anyone would ever reach out to a designer to help them without seeing their portfolio, unless perhaps they'd had several glowing recommendations - but even so! Just because someone has the skills you need, doesn't mean their style is compatible with your or your business.

All designers have their own style, and you can tell this when you look through their portfolios. As you look through, take note of the types of businesses they've worked with; are the small or large? Highly professional or fun and edgy? And consider if you would fit in with this. 

If you can't see a portfolio section on their website, ask them to send you some examples of their previous work so you can see if you like their design style.

3. Read their testimonials

If they have a portfolio visible on their website, it's likely they'll have a few testimonials to go with them as well! Have a read to see what people have said about them and whether people mention what style they were going for etc. 

If really want to, you can always reach out to their previous clients and ask them how the experience was working with that designer if you can't find enough information.

4. Get to know them from their about page & social media

I think it's really important that you like and share values with the people you work with; especially with a designer who is going to be delving into your brand and goals as part of the project.

Read their 'About' page and see what they're like, or have a look on their social media to see what things they've been posting . Try to image yourself working with them - would you fit well together? Would you get along if you weren't working together and had just met at a networking event? If yes, go for it!

5. Check what files they provide you with

This one is important if you plan to be doing more with your brand and logo than just adding it to your website and social media. Most designers will provide you with web optimised files, but you should check that they also give you files that are optimised for print just in case you need it. 

If you're doing any larger print work such as posters or signage, you'll definitely need a vector version of your logo too, so make sure your designer will provide you with this.

6. Understand how their process & timeline works

By reading through what their process entails, what exactly they'll need from you and what timeline to expect is another great way to find out if you'll be happy working with this person.

For the perfectionist who likes structure, you may prefer working with someone who has a step by step process that provides plenty of options for you to feed back on and several revisions.

If you're more of a spontaneous type who likes to go with their intuition, you may find it more fun to work with someone who provides one, definitive brand and logo concept after an in-depth 'getting-to-know-you' process (yes there are designers who do this and I think it's awesome and brave!).

Designer Process

7. Check their availability

If you're in a rush or trying to work to a strict upcoming deadline, it's probably a good idea to check the designer's availability before you get too attached to the idea of working with them! Many designers get booked up months in advance, so it's a good idea to start planning who you're going to hire in advance of wanting to start the project.


Other commonly asked questions...

What are their qualifications?
Some of the most amazing designers I know are self-taught, and so am I. My background is in business and marketing, but I have no design qualifications. I personally don't think qualifications matter as long as you love their work and it's high quality!

Do they have experience working with businesses in my industry?
Sometimes I'm not sure this particularly matters either. If you have a very niche industry, it's going to be hard to find someone with that specific experience. What I think is more beneficial is if you look through their portfolio and see businesses with similar goals and values as your own, and a style that could be transferrable to your industry.

What tools do they use?
Brand/logo designers actually use a variety of tools! Many of us use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, while others use Gimp or other vector programs.

Again, as long as the results are high quality (and the file types you are provided with are correct to what you need), it probably doesn't matter what tools they use, unless you're looking for specific compatibility with your own software - but most of the files they produce are inter-usable.

Adobe Illustrator

Will they give me the editable source files?
Many designers do not provide the editable logo files for their clients. This can be because of copyright reasons (discussed below) OR most likely it is because of the risk that a client may make edits to the design, and still promote the fact that the designer created it. When this happens there is a risk that the reduced quality or altered style of the design can affect the designer's reputation.

Will they give me the copyright and full ownership of the brand files?
Whether a designer should hand over the copyright to the client or not is actually a pretty big debate in the design world. In my contract I state that I am happy to hand over the copyright along with the final design files after the final payment, but I also state that I have a right to display their project in my portfolio and use for marketing purposes - which is all I need!

Having a copyright of a logo often isn't a big deal for small businesses and freelancers, and many designers who keep the copyright state in their contract that the client is allowed to use the logo however the please. But for larger businesses and for anyone who is interested in registering their logo as a trademark so their competitors can't copy them, owning the copyright is required. Read more on the copyright debate.


Interested in hiring a designer? I'd love to help!