The benefits of working with a local design agency are many, but I’ll admit it – in nearly 20 years in digital, I’ve had the pleasure of working with people all over the world. Database consultants and clients in Canada, designers in The Netherlands. CMS experts in Australia, plugin developers in the U.S.A. and development teams in Brazil, China, India and some in Russia too. I ran one project that alone spanned 26 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with websites in 15 different languages including Arabic and Greek with close colleagues being Italians working in Switzerland.
But nothing beats working with a local design agency. Why?
As a client, one thing has so many benefits – and that’s simply being local.
The first benefit is that you and your local design agency are, very obviously, in the same time zone. Anywhere in the United Kingdom, you’re in the same time zone as your design team, so it goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning so that it can be really appreciated.
When I had a dev team in China I could be in the office at 9am in the morning but it would be 3pm for them. Just as I was starting my day, so they were finishing theirs. So there was an overlap of just a couple of hours. If you add into the mix your flexible working hours and daylight savings, then there can be times when there’s the possibility of not being around at the same time as your team. There might be days when you can’t see or speak with them, so it really depends on how crucial your project is.
At the other end of the scale, there have been team members in the United States and that’s a country spanning a number of time zones. For Brits, east coast USA is OK, with Boston, New York and Washington D.C. all being just 5 hours behind. However, clients in San Francisco are 8 hours behind, so planning a meeting with them, you’ll catch them as they get into the office just as you’re supposed to be leaving.
So, in the grand scheme of things, having a local web designer or graphics team is just brilliant.
So, by time zone standards, Lands End and John O’ Groats are on the same time. The only problem is that they’re at opposite ends of the country. Surely you can get more local than that?
And that is another thing – exactly how local is local?
I live in the suburbs of my town and within a mile or two are a few pubs. The nearest one I’ve not set foot in for years. It’s not my cup of tea. Then there are a few more mediocre ones, a really nice pub and then “my local”, The Prince of Wales – my pub of choice is 2 miles as the crow flies but nearly 3 miles by road. It’s less than 10 minutes drive there or a 40 min walk home. That, to me, is local.
From where I live, Clever Marketing is local. It’s about 15 miles away and a 30 min drive by car, so that’s local. I live in Farnborough, Hampshire, but work for a design agency in Surrey. And that’s fine by me. I could have stayed in Farnborough and only ever been 10 minutes away from home, but leafy Surrey isn’t hard to get to.
It’s the time that it takes to get to your design team that’s important – there’s the initial meeting to thrash out the design brief, then the additional project meetings when things need clarification in person and also the training sessions, inspecting the work, sending design proofs over, delivering finished product etc. By being local to your creative advisors, you can be at each other’s doors in no time. In Woking, we have a mainline to Waterloo, so the capital is less than 30 minutes away. What’s more, clients can save on “London prices” because we have lower overheads and no table-football in our studio.
All that said, I am visiting an SEO client in Essex on Thursday. Whilst they are on the other side of London, the trip around the M25 should only be about 90 minutes each way. So, that’s nearly half the working day spent travelling and you need to decide if that’s OK to maintain on a regular basis. If you’re taking on the services of a top digital marketing agency like Clever, then that should be well worthwhile.
Any business in Woking is within 5-10 minutes of the Clever Marketing office/studio. Be aware that the massive Woking town centre redevelopment can add a little time to that right now, with road closures and traffic redirection, but if you can walk to our offices, that’s good.
Guildford too, is close to our design studio, within just half an hour’s drive, as are Addlestone, Aldershot, Bracknell, Camberley, Chobham, Addlestone, Farnborough, Fleet, West Byfleet, Weybridge… So the counties of Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey are all really close.
The advantages of a local agency are:
Paul Mackenzie Ross, Digital Marketing Manager
Searchmetrics released its annual study of Google’s top search ranking factors recently. This is used as a comparative benchmark for webmasters, online marketers and SEO’s to identify patterns and trends. The company’s historical database contains over 250 billion pieces of information such as keyword rankings, search terms, social links and backlinks with global, mobile and local data covering organic and paid search plus social media.
The full 63-page report can be downloaded here. We thought we’d take a look at the key takeouts from the report which measure the top 20 search results for 10,000 keywords:
Much has changed over recent years with universal ranking factors certainly a thing of the past. These days each individual search query has its own ranking factors that are continually changing. Benchmarks like the Searchmetrics annual report, which provide key insights, can be used by search specialists to understand what impact Google’s evaluations will have on its clients’ rankings.
We all know content is king with the main challenge for SEO’s ensuring each post is relevant to users. Word count continues to be important with the top ranking sites exceeding an average of 1000 words. Continuing to write content specific to your readers and on a regular basis remains of prime importance. Search queries can vary enormously however so the more specific the content is, the more likely it is to be found and shared.
User intent is an essential part of the mix for SEO’s. Regularly studying the SERPs for a brand’s basic keywords will help uncover what people are looking for. Likewise, customer data will keep SEO’s up to speed with industry developments while focusing on user intent, rather than just keyword research, will help enhance search queries.
In addition to having relevant content, web pages need to provide a smooth user experience and being fully optimised. Ensure your website is mobile first as these sites will always rank higher in Google search than those that are not. Tips on how to make your website mobile friendly can be found here. You should also review how quickly your site loads and how large the files are as well as performing your on-page technical basics. Nearly half the pages in the top 20 of the Searchmetrics report were encrypted using HTTPS.
Google has a wealth of data generated from its search results, browsers and analytics. As such it’s able to identify how satisfied a user is with their search results with an evaluation created in real time. Top ranking factors include click-through rates, time spent on a site and bounce rates. The average bounce rate for websites on the first page of Google is 46%, with the time on site for the top 10 sites being 3 minutes 10 seconds. Websites in positions 1 to 3 typically have an average CTR of 36%. When working on your keyword research and user intent, also consider local search as well as the topic.
Although a website with an established link structure should never be underestimated, links are less influential when it comes to search results. There has been a dramatic drop over the past 12 months with relevant content and user intent ranking above. It’s now possible for a site to have a higher Google ranking than a competitor even if it has fewer links. While this is topic dependent, typically it’s come about as mobile searches have rarely linked even if they’re shared or liked.
Backlinks do form part of Google’s algorithm but they’re certainly not the driving force they were previously. Penguin is now a factor in the algorithm too, which means less stability: websites can move up and down rankings quickly as a result of other’s efforts. While you should ensure you keep your backlink profile clean, it’s important to continue with your outreach activity too. Links pointing to your website with a high domain authority will ensure you are seen as an authority in your niche.
So to summarise, we can expect content and user intent to increase in importance with technical also a key driver in search results. Backlinks are on the decline and now just one of many contributing factors in a site’s visibility.
For further information, complete our contact form today or call our Digital Marketing Manager Paul Mackenzie Ross on 020 3146 4341
If you have a great website and you’re generating regular content but not getting discovered by prospective clients, it’s likely you’ll need to improve your search results. The most effective way to achieve higher visibility is to seek out the services of an experienced SEO agency. But what do you need to consider when selecting the right agency? And how can an SEO agency achieve the desired impact on your natural search results?
First of all, before you start to consider what an SEO agency can do for you, you need to establish what you need. Typically, there are a number of factors to take into consideration such as the technical side that incorporates the structure of a site, on page optimisation (through keywords, labels and meta data for example) and off page optimisation through backlinks from other sites. If you’re not sure what you need, think about the task – is it about increasing your page rank, local search results or sales growth?
As with any industry, experience is key. Who have they worked with previously? A quality SEO agency will have a portfolio of clients – either in a single category or across a range of categories. If the breadth of an SEO agency’s client list is predominantly within a specific category, this demonstrates expertise in that field with a more varied client spread highlighting their ability to adopt varied SEO tactics. Regardless of their clients, both current and historical, any SEO agency must be willing to share success stories and testimonials.
It’s important to understand the tenure of an SEO agency’s clients too. How long have they worked with this SEO agency? Typically clients that have remained with the same agency for a period of time, either retained or on a project basis, will have great trust in each other, ensuring a better partnership which in turn leads to a more measurable return on investment. On the flip side, SEO agencies that do not deliver results will have a low retention rate.
It’s important to have realistic expectations and goals when looking for an SEO agency. Agencies offering a guarantee they can get you on page 1 of Google, not adhering to Google’s webmaster best practices and not willing to share methodologies should be avoided. You can always do your own research and see where an SEO agency appears in search rankings. It takes time to climb search engine results and it’s competitive. Think about the size and locality of your SEO agency too as they will dictate fee level. Fees should be transparent so find out exactly what you’ll get for your budget.
Looking for SEO management services? Get in touch and discover why Clever Marketing is the right SEO agency for you…
An SEO agency should have a clearly defined process that is implemented following strategic thought based on an analysis of your needs – not an ‘off the shelf’ solution. An agency of note should be able to talk you through their approach and how they’re going to achieve your objectives. Their methodology should leverage all SEO angles such as the structure of your site and on page optimization like keywords, labels and meta data to off page backlinks which raise awareness of your content on other websites. Find out if the SEO agency has expertise in maximising visibility at a local level too.
Your SEO agency should agree measurable KPI’s with you. These should include SEO campaigns goals you agree on with a technical review at the outset. Performance and ROI should be reported regularly (ie; monthly) using the likes of Google Analytics to track improvements. If there’s a drop in search engine rankings, this can then be tracked with measures put in place to push it back up. Search strategies often require frequent content updates so it’s important your SEO agency is accessible and able to offer guidance where required.
An SEO agency plays a vital role in that it should educate and inform, providing you with a greater understanding of the process. In turn enabling you to work closely to ensure overall objectives are achieved. A good SEO agency will also be able to help develop external relationships such as other site owners and influencers.