Would You Like Your Website To Rank Higher In Google?
Dear Website Owner,
My name is Stuart Langridge (read my LinkedIn profile here) and I am one of the leading Malta SEO experts. I generate thousands of visitors each month for my own and clients’ websites via the search engines, or more specifically, Google. Though I am originally from the UK, I now live in sunny St Julian’s, Malta.
I generate these visitors via a process called search engine optimization, known as SEO. As you may know, when changes are made to a website to improve elements that Google is interested in, it can be possible for the website to jump up in the rankings. The site will then receive more visitors and can hopefully generate more leads for the business, leading to more sales and greater profits.
I used to live and work in Brussels, so I have some clients that are EU organisations and the rest are much more local firms here in Malta. For example, I work with a law firm in San Gwann, a real estate agency in Gzira, a property developer in Sliema, an import/export firm based near the airport at Luqa, a corporate services firm in Naxxar, a computer shop in Mosta and on and on.
Since this is all based on maths, the process of SEO Malta is very similar, if not exactly the same, as elsewhere.
SEO is changing, fast
The world of search engine optimization can be rather opaque. An SEO company that has developed some sort of insight or advantage may not be well served by sharing this insight widely. This means that for many small business owners – who have to run an actual business and not just worry about Google SEO – the search related activities that they should be doing are not obvious.
In fact, having met lots of people at web design firms, including some based here in Malta, it seems as though many firms that operate within this business and provide SEO services are not clear on what they should be doing either. On top of this, most of these firms do not explain much – if anything – on their own websites about what they do to help you or what they might charge. Making any sort of decision is not easy.
This lack of information is partly because every situation and client website is different with different goals and technical details. But it is also because search engine optimisation is not an easy service to turn into a product, meaning that there are few click and pay options. Productised offerings require the client to be an informed and competent buyer – and there are not many of those, people are rightly too busy running their own firm to spend too much time worrying about Yahoo! or Bing.
Just doing a few quick online searches for Malta SEO services will produce some strange results, such as very short descriptions of services on scuba diving websites! These guys don’t exactly fill you with confidence and you have to wonder whether they actually have any Maltese SEO clients…
Then there are all the Indian firms that seem to email blast anyone with a website about their amazing services and super low prices. While their offers might sound interesting, you do have to ask what exactly a firm can deliver in a basic SEO package that costs just $50. That said, I have met a couple of business owners over the years that have simply told me that they want free SEO services!
It might be that internet marketing techniques – such as search engine optimization – might not suit your firm, or that paid traffic generation (known as pay per click or PPC) might be more suitable. My aim is to help you understand this arena a little better and help you make some of those choices.
SEO, whether in Malta or anywhere else, is a very complicated discipline (read this). It is something of a fusion between coding, a library, copywriting, marketing, mathematics and luck. The mathematical algorithm that drives Google’s search engine is one of the most complex business models in the history of humanity. There are a wide range of factors that can be used to influence how likeable a page is to a web spider, but beyond a certain point, luck becomes a factor.
In this video, Googler Matt Cutts explains how a search engine works:
There is also the potential for a small business to become caught in crossfire. You see, in competitive online markets (such as gaming, supplements and financial services) there is a lot of money at stake. Because of this, some companies are willing to spend huge amounts of money and take all sorts of risks to get a small advantage over the competition.
These aggressive tactics have been given a name all of their own – they are black hat SEO. This means that Google either frowns upon the approaches or actually penalises them. There are other less severe tactics that Google also frowns upon and are known as grey hat SEO. These ideas can provide some helpful benefit, but there is an elevated risk in case Google decides to punish them at some point in the future.
This means that the approved approach to search engine optimization is known as white hat SEO. On a general level, white hat SEO involves making your website flat-out awesome (almost certainly better than it is now) and using genuine and real methods to engage with your audience and bring them to your site. It is, without doubt, hard work and not easy, but it is possible for the companies that are willing and able to commit the time, energy and resources to it.
Unfortunately, the concepts that are considered to be best practices change from time to time. This is most problematic when inbound linking strategies change, as they have, because incoming links can be very hard to alter or change.
The history of search engine optimization is one of a battle between spammers and black hatters, trying to push their sites ever upwards in Google’s rankings to earn more money by using any means necessary, against the anti-spam team of Google, headed by Matt Cutts. As one tactic becomes frowned upon and then penalised, the spammers move on to the next approach in a fluid manner. However, some unlucky smaller and less knowledgeable businesses will be caught up in the middle. Typically, these companies had performed some task that is now looked down upon. This all makes search engine optimisation something of a balancing act.
Luckily, in many markets (especially geographic – known as “local search” or “offline”) the competition is not quite so aggressive, or high quality, so the rest of us mere mortals can rank our websites and receive lots of visitors and make some sales.
This is a good thing since most other forms of media (print – newspapers and magazines, radio and television) are becoming less and less effective as the years pass. Their readers are moving online in great numbers and using a wide array of devices. Life is becoming much harder for small businesses to generate sales leads and the focus is more and more online and on mobile devices.
Additionally, it used to be that most companies had some sort of geographic benefit. Clients that lived locally would do business with the companies in the same vicinity. However, you no longer need to visit Valletta, Sliema or St Julian’s to buy the things you want and need, or be unable to find suitable products because you live on Gozo, they can be purchased online and posted to you. As more delivery services pop-up, the overall cost to consumers will continue to fall!
Publish or die
When you add into the mix that there are so many e-commerce stores, auction sites, social media platforms, blogs, podcasts and video services, the future for local businesses is going to be tough. To quote renowned Venture Capitalist Marc Andreessen, software is eating the world (read this) and it is going to make life increasingly difficult for every business that doesn’t embrace it.
The reality for many companies now is that they need to become a publisher in addition to their actual main task. It has always been the case that a professional, consultant or business owner or manager needed to be competent at their specific task, but also be a marketer, good at sales and able to run the firm. On top of that, the marketing element now requires firms to be publishers. If you decide to promote your firm via Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, eBay, Amazon, YouTube or another route, it is all web publishing.
This requires a different set of skills to those possessed in most firms. While your secretary may be a whizz on LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram, he or she now needs to be capable of using these services in a work context.
Additionally, it is becoming more and more important to understand design, user experience and conversion methods to help really make a website tick. The days of being able to operate simply with below average email marketing skills have passed.
What should you do?
It is certainly possible to do this work yourself. Everybody has to start somewhere. It will not be, however, quick or easy. There is a very steep learning curve in internet marketing and most people will not manage it.
Should you choose to do this work yourself, there are a number of SEO tools that will be vital to you. The first relates to tracking your SERP rankings. I quite like to use my.reach.ai which has a free version but is quite expensive for the paid options. It is designed to be used in the gaming and financial sectors which means that it has some high-end analysis functions.
Then, you will need to have access to some sort of back link analysis software. There are three companies whose tools compete for dominance in this market. They are moz.com, MajesticSEO and ahrefs.com. You should expect to pay around US$100 per month for the services you will need. Being able to understand the backlink profile of your site and the competitor sites that you will be ranking against is vital. Links are also an area where Google applies lots of penalties, so it is essential to really understand this topic.
It will also be important to build incoming links into your website. Depending upon the market you are in, you might need a few or a lot. There are lots of options that relate to building links. The best, as mentioned above, is to create super-awesome content that people really want to share. This isn’t easy, especially if you are a small firm with few staff and not budget, but hey, that’s the game!
Other options include buying or renting links. Google specifically prohibits this, but it is not easy for them to track or prove if done well, so many companies and SEO clients like this option. Typically, a link will be sold for US$200-$300 per year. Depending upon your niche, your site might need anywhere between ten and a few hundred. Finding locations to place links and negotiate to purchase them is one of the core SEO activities for many companies. As mentioned, it is outside of the rules, so likely to be punished at some point, but for firms looking to buy their way to the top, it can be an attractive course of action.
As a responsible company director you should be very wary of such methods. A key consideration is risk management and the risks of ever more links are getting higher every month. On one hand, the risks probably don’t seem that high, but many companies find that SEM can provide lots of leads at an affordable cost and then begin to unwind the rest of their marketing activities while building their company around this new lead generation channel. If those leads suddenly stop, as they have done for many millions of businesses, then the pain will be acute and probably lead to severe financial problems. Don’t let that be you – weight your risks carefully and employ an expert Malta professional SEO.
It will also help to have a very firm grasp of linguistics, mathematics and taxonomy. If you happen to be able to code in PHP or HTML that will be a real advantage as well. Obviously a search engine algorithm is a mathematical construct, so while you will never know what the algorithm is, it will help to be able to see patterns and spot opportunities.
Since the algorithm is analysing words, a keen understanding of linguistics will be helpful. As will taxonomy. Thinking of Google SEO as the world’s largest library will help to understand categorisation and analysis.
Once you have begun to generate some traffic, then your role will become converting those visitors into sales and leads more effectively. At that point, a solid grasp of sales and marketing techniques, psychology, copywriting and statistical analysis will be needed. For reasons of both ease and specialisation, each of these areas is now a highly specific role in the internet economy, with growth hackers and conversion rate optimisation specialists sitting atop the pile. For ease, it is best to presume that your business cannot afford either of these roles currently. I have heard of conversion specialists that charge upwards of US$20,000 per month and growth hackers (if they are good) are so valuable that they usually receive a wage plus an equity stake in the company. I have done some growth hacking myself and it is a very complex skill-set and to most businesses will be worth the money spent.
If all this sounds like too much, or that it might be too complicated for you – congratulations! You have just realised something that most managers have yet to grasp, that the web is different and you will need specialised consultants to make everything work for your organisation.
You get what you want online
I can recall reading a few years ago that in 2008, the average American business spent just 4% of gross revenues on marketing. I guess we can take that as a good heuristic for the rest of the world. As the internet and software make the commercial world much smaller and more competitive, that cannot last. More resources need to be targeted at marketing. The question is, will yours be one of the firms that survives?
The harsh reality online is that firms get what they want, whether they are Maltese or not. What does this mean?
Well, many companies put in zero time, effort, resources or money to making their online presence a success. Sometimes this works out for them, but generally they get back as much as they put in. Nothing. For those firms that put in no effort and somehow were lucky, their time will end sooner or later. Why? Everything online is evolving at an amazing speed and these firms have simply built a poor quality website several years ago. At some point Google and other services will see their site for what it is: poor quality, outdated and unworthy of attention (read this and try not to become frightened). There will be some big barriers to cross in those firms!
The big question then, is what would you like for your company? Do you want the internet to be a successful marketing channel for lead generation, or not? Do you want to continue to own and operate a successful business, or not? Are you trying to grow your operation quickly, or not?
It is, of course, just fine to answer those questions with a resounding “No”, but if you do, realise that someone else in your market thinks differently and you will find it very hard to compete with them in one or two years time.
Should you or your business desire to compete and have several hundred euros per month to spend to make it a reality, then you can! The web is a meritocracy and should you wish to expend the resources necessary, you almost certainly can rank more highly in Google. If you have the desire to generate leads and sales online, you are my type of person!
If you would like to speak to me about whether or not SEO in Malta can be beneficial for your business, please send me an email. You can reach me at stuart123567 @ gmail.com (just remove the spaces) and we can discuss your business goals.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.