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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

by niall 4 Comments

What Is SEO?

Many of the businesses that have registered with BookingHawk.com have asked about how they can make their website appear higher up on Google searches. The practice of doing so is known as SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. The better optimised your site is for search engines (Google / Bing etc), the higher up it should appear in a search. For example, if you are a mechanic in Galway, you would hope that when someone searches for ‘Mechanic in Galway’, your site will be listed as number 1.

Optimising your site for search engines is not a one item job. There are many small contributing factors that Google consider when deciding where to rank you. Despite what people say, nobody (Google aside) know exactly what these factors are.  However, through trial and error, the industry now has a reasonable idea. With that in mind, if somebody promises that they can make your site appear first in a Google search, you should be very wary of them. Firstly, Google may at the drop of a hat, move the goal posts and decide that in order to rank well, all the things that have worked in the past are now obsolete. Secondly, there are ways to try and trick Google into giving your site a good rank. Google is getting smarter at automatically detecting these ‘black hat methods’. If Google suspect you are attempting to trick them, they may black list you and your site may never appear in a search again. Therefore, it is much better to hear someone say that they will do all they can to improve your websites performance with Google.

When Google crawls your site, it is trying to decide what your site is all about. So, if you have loads of fresh original content, Google may decide your site is relevant for a whole range of searches. Obviously, you want to be appearing in as many relevant searches as possible. So, Google crawls ‘Galway-Mechanic.ie’ and decides that this site is claiming to be relevant for people searching for mechanics in Galway. It does this as it finds the content (words/text) on the site are all car/mechanic related and Galway and its hinterland is frequently mentioned.

Google doesn’t just crawl your site once and decide where to rank you. Google is constantly crawling your site. Therefore, Search Engine Optimisation is not a once off job. Your site should be updated regularly to meet with Googles latest algorithm changes.

Quick Changes That Should Help Your Websites SEO

Below I have listed eleven (it was ten but I thought of another!) things that your website should do to encourage a good ranking. This list is not exhaustive, merely an example of contributing factors.

 

1. Have fresh, original content that contributes to the internet. Google likes you to make the internet a better place. So if you are a good citizen and producing content that people want to read, it will probably look more favourably on your site. This is why many business sites have blogs.
2. Embed Google software such as Google Maps or YouTube videos (YouTube is owned by Google)
3. Have a number of other relevant websites linking to your site. The text that they link to your site with is important. For example, instead of having ‘Click Here’ to read about mechanics in Galway, where ‘Click Here’ is the link. It is better if the keyword is the link. So, a better link would be read more about Mechanics In Galway, where ‘Mechanics In Galway’ is the link.
4. The type of website that links to you carries weight. For example, there is little value in having ‘Tims Newsagent Wexford’ linking to ‘Galway Mechanics’ as they have nothing in common. There is much greater value in having ‘Honda Europe’ linking to ‘Galway Mechanics’. For one, Honda Europe will have a great Google rank and will be trusted by Google. Apart from that, both sites will be talking about ‘cars’, ‘car servicing’ etc – ie, common keywords that Honda and Galway Mechanics would like to rank well for.
5. Using well written and structured code to render your website – this is largely out of your control unless you built your own website and have a certain level of coding knowledge.
6. Using images that have populated and relevant alt tags set.
7. Having a page that loads quickly.
8. Having a mobile version of your website.
9. Have meta keywords and a meta description set in your website code.
10. Have social media integration (Facebook / Twitter / YouTube)
11. Submit a sitemap.XML file to Google.

How Can BookingHawk.com Help With My Websites SEO?

BookingHawk, although new, is doing quite well in Google rankings for our keywords. This is down to all of the things in the above list being complete and more. As time goes on, and more sites sign up to BookingHawk.com, this ranking should improve further. Therefore having a link on BookingHawk.com to your website should help your search engine score.

If the aforementioned Galway Mechanics has a BookingHawk.com page, when Google crawls it (BookingHawk.com business profile page), Google will discover a link to ‘Galway-Mechanic.ie’. It will also crawl the text on Galway Mechanics BookingHawk.com business profile page which will be talking about ‘car servicing in Galway’ etc. So now Google has the original Galway Mechanic site claiming to be relevant for ‘servicing in Galway’ and now it has another page, on a well ranked and trusted site (BookingHawk.com) backing up Galway Mechanics claim, and linking to the Galway-Mechanic website. This should reinforce Googles opinion that Galway Mechanics is indeed a mechanic based in Galway and therefore contribute to a better rank.

Getting Help With SEO

There are many companies that make a living from improving their clients Google ranking. Finding good ones is as easy as doing a Google search. After all, if they cannot rank their own site well how can they be trusted to rank yours well? My advice on the subject is to agree on certain key performance indicators with whomever you hire to carry out the work. For example, if after a couple of months, your page is still not ranking well, you should be entitled to a percentage refund. Ask the company, if they have any of your competitors as their customers, if they do, you must decide if this is a conflict of interest. The company you hire should be feeding back reports to you at least once a month on how your site is preforming and what they are doing to improve things.

The world of SEO is full of con artists that have the potential to severely effect the traffic that comes to your site, which will directly effect your sales. Therefore you must choose your SEO partner wisely.

Niall

If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow! As a thank you, I will help you out with some advice on your website / SEO / Tech Support.

Additional Reading:

Adding A Business To Google Maps

Google Ranking Factors

My Experience With The Local Enterprise Office

by niall 0 Comments

Earlier this year, I sent an email to Meath Enterprise, more or less to the effect of:
I am working on a software application. I believe that it will be successful and although I do not need any financial support or otherwise at this moment, I thought I should get in touch in case there is anything I should be aware of.

I received a prompt reply suggesting that I drop into their offices in Navan for a chat. Initially, I was wary as I assumed that I knew everything (far from it) and that there was little gain. After speaking with Peter from PaydIn (another Meath-based software startup), I decided that it could be worthwhile. Peter said that his meetings with the Meath LEO office were overall worthwhile.

At my initial meeting, I spoke with Lorna. Lorna and I had a high-level conversation about BookingHawk.com. Lorna informed me of the various supports available. As I was not looking for investment at that time, I told her that I would be interested in speaking to somebody that had successfully launched a software product as I had some specific questions relating to that subject.

Lorna suggested that I apply for the Local Enterprise Office Mentoring Program. If successful, the program entitles the applicant to three meetings with a suitable mentor. The subsidised price of which is €50. The application form asked the following questions:

  1. Business name and address.
  2. A brief description of the business idea (online appointment booking).
  3. Year established.
  4. Turnover / Profit (both zero in my case)
  5. The number of staff if applicable.
  6. A brief paragraph about the applicant (Your CV in a paragraph)
  7. A paragraph about who your product/service is aimed at.
  8. Three issues you would like your mentor to specifically address.

All of these are straightforward and are intended as a means of the local enterprise office assigning you the most suitable mentor. Meath Local Enterprise Office assigned Paul Murtagh to mentor me.

 

Paul Murtagh – My Mentor

The first thing I did was to look Paul up on LinkedIn and check out his credentials. I did not think that Meath LEO would have anyone as experienced or qualified as Paul clearly was, working as a mentor. I then took a look at Paul’s website and was satisfied that he would be worth listening to.

A few days after acceptance to the mentor program, I received a call from Paul. The call lasted about twenty minutes. Like any founder, I was eager to talk about my product but it became clear, that Paul was more interested in talking rather than listening. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with this. Once he understood my product from a high level, he did not need to hear any more from me at this stage. After all, the whole point of the program is to learn from the mentor. The conversation touched on a number of topics including new customer acquisition. Paul did not try and steer me in any particular direction. Instead, he listed off options for me to research and decide the best fit for myself. We arranged to meet a few days later for a coffee (tea actually) in The Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells.

Meeting One

I demonstrated BookingHawk.com to Paul and once he understood it completely, we talked about a range of useful topics. Again, I was happy that this was a listening exercise. Topics discussed included:

  1. Potential New Features – Paul was a fresh pair of eyes and it was useful to get his opinions on how to add to the site. I did not agree with them all but it is always useful to get feedback.
  2. Competitive Advantage – Paul explained how it was important to know who and what your competition is, both direct and indirect. He explained the difference in these two and how to go about measuring up both in comparison to BookingHawk.com
  3. Market Quantification – Who is my target market, how big is this market.
  4. Do The Numbers Add Up – Paul suggested that after I do my homework on points 2 and 3, was BookingHawk.com viable? For example, to have a competitive advantage over my competitors, do I need to charge less. If so, and my target market size is 500, can I make a living from charging 500 businesses 10 euro per month.
  5. Cold Emails – Paul talked about what I had been learning the hard way. The art of the cold email and how low the responses would be. We talked about strategies to improve responses.

At the end of the meeting, Paul suggested I do my homework on the above topics and we agreed to meet again 3 weeks later.

Meeting Two

Meeting two allowed me to go over the numbers which I had come up with. Paul looked at the numbers in depth, talked about the interest already shown in BookingHawk.com and the number of trialists on the system. We talked about the grants and supports available through Meath Local Enterprise Office. I was surprised to hear that the success rate was as high as Paul stated. Although this meeting is a few months back, I think Paul said 3 of the last 5 applications were accepted. Paul talked about promotion avenues and how to promote BookingHawk.com. Finally, Paul spoke about how to value a business and how investment works.

After the second meeting, I felt I had enough information to proceed for a few months without further contact. Apart from a phone call to Paul about copyrighting, I have not been back in touch with the Meath LEO. However, I now know of the supports available and when the time comes, I have no doubt that I will be contacting Paul once again.

Overall I found the meetings with Paul and Meath Enterprise to be very informative and worthwhile. I would recommend that anyone starting a business in Ireland makes use of their L.E.O.

Niall

If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow! As a thank you, I will help you out with some advice on your website / SEO / Tech Support.

3 Reasons To Participate In Quickest Fox Marketing County Hours

by niall 0 Comments

First off, I have no affiliation with Quickest Fox Marketing. However, after a couple of moths of benefiting from their famous County Hours on Twitter, I thought it would be no harm to express some gratitude.

Daddy, Whats a ‘County Hour’?

As the kid in the old Cadbury ad wondered what a Euro was, you too may be wondering what a County Hour is. A County Hour takes place on Twitter. It has a host and a county. For 60 minutes, the host is the Ceann Comhairle and tweets to all participants with the designated hash tags (more on them anon) for that hour. So for example, every Wednesday from 8pm-9pm is Wicklow Hour. It is a chance for all SME’s in Wicklow to tweet to each other and get their business into the limelight. To take part, all you need to do is send your tweet and include the designated hash tags (I’m getting to them). Once you do this, the host of the hour (the person running the @WicklowHour twitter account) will re-tweet your tweet and hey presto, you are now in the conversation.

Designated Hash-tags

There are usually two hashtags that you must include in your tweet. The first is the name of the hour that you are participating in. So for Wicklow Hour, the hashtag is #WicklowHour, for Dublin Hour, the hashtag is #DublinHour and so on. The second hashtag depends on if the hour is sponsored or not. So, in the not too distant future, when Booking Hawk gets a marketing budget, we will sponsor a county hour. For that hour the hashtags will be #CountyNameHour and #BookingHawk. This will then give us more exposure to everyone in the chat. Who knows, if there are enough participants in the chat, #BookingHawk might even start to trend nationally, which will drive more people to BookingHawk.com to see what the fuss is about.

3 Reasons To Get Involved

Now that you know what a county hour is all about, here are 3 reasons to get involved.

1. Make New Friends

I have not been tweeting in county hours for long, but even so, I now consider myself a twitter pal (Twal??) of some business owners around the country that I have never met in person. For example, early on I noticed an account named The Brand Geeks (@thebrandgeeks). Without any hard selling on either of our parts, we learned some more about each other businesses. So much so that The Brand Geeks referred BookingHawk.com‘s latest client, Healing For Well-being. Healing For Well-being is run by Olivia and is primarily based in Kerry. There is no way I would have ever met Olivia had it not been that The Brand Geeks were mutual Twals (that might be a thing now).Apart from the referral, I hope that BookingHawk.com’s latest feature will be of use to The Brand Geeks. But that’s for another day.

2. Learn Some Twitter Etiquette

When I first set up the Twitter account for Booking Hawk, I was hard selling the face clean off myself. Why wouldn’t I? I have a great product and the world should know and care about it! Wrong. Although Booking Hawk is a superb system for taking commission free on line bookings for your business ( That’s for you Google!), hard selling it on Twitter is like trying to have a conversation with Larry Gogan by shouting at the radio. Yes, it will keep you occupied, but poor auld Larry is never going to take any notice of you. From observing other accounts taking part in County Hours, and in particular @blocalcard (blocalcard.com), I learned that having a two-way civilised chat with other accounts is much more productive. Both from the point of view of letting it be known what your brand/business does and also, learning what other businesses/brands are all about. It helps that @blocalcard is a great idea which helps promote Irish business (I would never have known that but for county hours), but more important is that they have a great image and brand on Twitter. If they are that sound on an internet full of angry Journal.ie commentators, they must be twice as sound in real life.

3. Win Prizes!

Long ago, someone famously said that there is no such thing as a free lunch. They obviously lived in a time long before County Hours. For you see, any county hour with a sponsor usually has a prize put up by that sponsor. At the end of the hour, the host (eg, the @WicklowHour account) creates a raffle comprising of all the twitter accounts that participated in the county hour. The host then draws a winner. Booking Hawk has had the privilege of winning two such draws. The first was back in October when we participated in @WicklowHour. That particular hour was being sponsored by @TheBridgeTavWW  – where none other than the bauld Conor McGregor steps out. The prize, lunch for 4 in The Bridge Tavern. I can tell you that not only was this a free lunch, it was a damn fine free lunch. Then, as if to hammer the point home to our prehistoric oracle chum (him of the no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch), a couple of weeks ago I was participating in @GalwayHour. That evening, Fahey Financial Solutions  (@FaheyFinancial) were the sponsor and dinner for two with a bottle of wine in The Ardilaun was the prize. I have yet to enjoy the voucher, but I can tell from the high-class look of the Fahey Financial Solutions stationary that it was delivered in, it is going to be a thing of beauty.

So there you have it, 3 reasons to get involved in County Hours. If they can prove an age old saying like ‘no such thing as a free lunch’ wrong, what’s next? Was Rome actually built in a day? Is there a bird somewhere that can fly on one wing? It would be foolish to say either with any degree of certainty.

If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow! As a thank you, I will help you out with some advice on your website / SEO / Tech Support.