More South Coast SEO wins (and SEO fails!)

By | Batemans Bay, Bega, Bermagui, Canberra, Narooma, Narooma and South Coast, Search Engine Optimisation, South Coast, Web Design, Wordpress

Winning at Search Engine Optimisation

Commit to content and a long haul

I’d like to showcase two case studies of customers on our search term monitoring software. We built both websites, and optimised them for a range of website keywords.

Both sites were:

  • Built using similar on-page optimisation methods
  • Optimised for similar locality keywords (e.g South Coast, Batemans Bay, Narooma)
  • Hosted on the same high speed servers, on the same I.P address range
  • Enhanced with the same performance tweaks – caching, image optimisation, etc
  • Filled with great, well structured content, headings, page titles etc

A good start right? 

A very good start. In fact, we find in general, using the above points and a good content creation program that over time a website will be ranking on page one for not only for competitive keyword phrases, but a broad spectrum of “long tail” phrases within months (and sometimes weeks). Depending on the competition, if you adhere to a strategy where you deliver great content to a schedule, over 6-12 months you’re starting to look at #1 and #2 positions for these keywords. It’s not guaranteed, but the premise is pretty basic; it’s a long haul where provided your website is built well, content is king.

So without further ado, let’s look at some real results…

Customer #1

SEO WIN - South Coast search optimisation results chart

Good content, no quick fixes

The above image shows our clients rankings. Some key pointers – look at the column 2nd from the right, “Initial Rank”. This is the first value recorded for these search words before we began optimising the new site. Compare those to the “Current Rank” to see what the work has done. Loads right? Page 1 city!

Search term rankings are always in a state of flux, which is why we have “Current Rank” and “Highest Rank” to keep track of where we’re at. You can see here, the positioning for most terms is relatively stable, and mainly in the top 1-4 positions on Google.

 

Customer #2

SEO Failure - chart of rankings by competitor

Don’t try quick fixes…

The above image shows our other client’s rankings. Uh-oh.

This site was new, and had a new domain name – which admittedly gave it a tougher start. However, it was well on it’s way to ranking on page 1 – needing an estimated 2-3 months work to do so.  Unfortunately, the client was lured in by an email claiming to boost search rankings, and the client paid the down payment.

In this case, look at the “Highest Rank”. We’d placed the site on page 2 (some other, less common terms were on page 1) within weeks, for a brand new site and new domain (older sites with history rank with less effort). Now, in the last few weeks – after months of “optimisation” by an offshore SEO team, take a look at the Current Rank. They now have 90{7cc85a26184ee315c5bd7accd1f336d9c65e0bf9730b6541f835ca07ee6d1945} of the keyword terms sitting at page 9, 10 or beyond. That is what I would call a massive failure and waste of money. I don’t need to, but I’m tracking this so that I can provide my customer some evidence of this failure so that they can hopefully recoup some money one day.

Many of these search optimisation ‘experts’ have similar traits and do similar things:

  • They spam your email box
  • They cold call you
  • They are offshore
  • They offer zero accountability
  • They have aggressive sales tactics and techno-babble consumers
  • They spam the internet with dodgy content to boost your rankings – Google is not fooled
  • Their backlinks come from obscure sites and offer little value
  • and worse still, they might
    • register a new web address (because.. reasons, uh huh)  and redirect to it
    • build a new “optimised” site… unnecessarily
    • put you on some hosting plan, and trap you in
    • be mysteriously unavailable when you try to bail out

Sounds great! Where do I sign!

The crazy thing is, looking at the new, new site prepared for my client, I can see they removed all of the great built in optimisation we already provided, and the client had already paid for. To quote Gwen Stefani, this sh*t is bananas.

Moral of the story? Stick to a local provider who appears to know what they’re doing for your local keywords. And one that is actually accountable for their actions.

Ahem!

SEO chart - Fisse Design rankings

 

Local South Coast search engine optimisation wins

By | Batemans Bay, Narooma and South Coast, Search Engine Optimisation, South Coast, Web Design, Wordpress

Not another search engine optimisation article!

Oh yes – the internet is absolutely littered with search engine optimisation articles; there’s how-to-guides, theories and debates about hidden meanings in every word Matt Cutts from Google utters. There’s articles about doing it the right way (White Hat search optimisation) and the fraternity that goes to the dark side (Black Hat) who go to extensive lengths to trick the system for good rankings. All of us web designers and digital agencies keep up to date with all of the latest news in this field and we’re constantly tasked to evaluate new things to stay ahead of the pack. There is no doubt that all of my web designer colleagues on the South Coast will agree with this!

Truth is though, the best way to know how it works is to be there for the long haul, have a long established sense of how it has worked over time and have an understanding of the impact of some of the more recent changes (most obviously, the Google Penguin update a few years ago). It’s most certainly not, but for me search optimisation almost becomes a feeling – it flows through in your copywriting style, with a good sense of keyword density, the code optimising you do and the new things you try outside of what you’ll find already written for you on Google.

While I am not the Obi Wan Kenobi of SEO with some kind of search optimisation mind-trick wizardry, we’ve got an excellent understanding of what actually works and doesn’t, what can be done in a practical sense and what can be done if you’ve got a higher budget. Good optimisation is not trying to follow some magic formula, because if there were an optimum one it’d change too frequently… not only that, it can be a vastly different exercise on a case to case basis.

My first foray into search engine optimisation was when Altavista was still around and it was the very early days of Google. Working with my colleague Rob Joyner, our small multimedia firm – Lime Multimedia – ranked #1 for the term “Sydney Multimedia” and sat around position 3 or 4 for “Sydney Web Design”. We were very young, early 20s – if only we knew the true potential of what we were sitting on! For these kinds of terms these days, it can be a massive undertaking to rank well and really it’s the realm of multi-million dollar business. This is why, for smaller businesses with a lower marketing budget, localised search terms are a winner. These are normally words that convey your industry or service combined with suburb names or town names. This is where you can have some great wins and truly start to see increased traffic to your website.

We’ll follow up on this article next week with some practical search engine ranking optimisation methods that can be accomplished from home, or through the help of a web developer.

Our search engine ranking wins – South Coast region

We’re confident in our ability to improve your search engine rankings. The proof’s in the pudding though… so here’s some keywords we’ve measured over various sites (results accurate as of 20/09/2016). These are just a few sites we’ve built, maintained and improved upon.

Batemans Bay Web Design - Batemans Bay Cycles

Batemans Bay Cycles | batemansbaycycles.com.au

Overview – we rebuilt an outdated, unoptimised site and included our basic search optimisation service

An improvement over 2 weeks, with everything singing within 1 month. This site ranks #1 for over 5 key terms, and within the top 4 for most other bike/cycling related terms for the Batemans Bay locality.

  • #1 Batemans Bay Bike Shop
  • #1 Batemans Bay Bikes
  • #1 Bike Shop Batemans Bay
  • #1 Batemans Bay Bike Hire
  • #1 Batemans Bay Bike Service / Batemans Bay Bike Servicing
  • #3 Bike Trail Batemans Bay
  • #4 Bike Riding Batemans Bay
  • #4 Cycling Batemans Bay

Narooma Building Services - Trades & Building websites

Narooma Building Services | naroomabuildingservices.com.au

Overview – new site build with a new domain name and absolutely no search engine presence.

Within 4 weeks it started to rank, and around 2 months page one results.  This site is over 2 years old and it’s rankings are starting to slip, however it still ranks on the front page for most of the original terms:

  • #1 Narooma Construction
  • #2 Narooma Builders
  • #3 Narooma Renovations
  • #7 Narooma Commercial Builder

Island Charters Narooma Website Design

Island Charters Narooma | islandchartersnarooma.com.au

Overview – low budget search optimisation.

Starting point was most terms being found at the bottom of page 1, or on page 2 and 3. We rebuilt the site and gave some practical tips to keep the rankings up. Now we have over 20 keyword phrases at #1, #2 and #3, including:

  • #1 Narooma Diving / Diving Narooma
  • #1 Scuba Diving Narooma
  • #2 Narooma Snorkeling / Snorkeling Narooma
  • #2 Narooma Charter Tours / Narooma Charters
  • #3 Whale Watching Narooma / Whale Watching Narooma
  • #3 Fishing Narooma
  • #3 Montague Island Tours

South Coast - Tilba Web Design

Tilba Online | tilba.com.au

Overview – over 40 keyword phrases at #1, including:

  • #1 Tilba
  • #1 Tilba Accommodation
  • #1 Book Tilba Accommodation
  • #1 Tilba Holiday Accommodation
  • #1 Tilba Farm Stay
  • #1 Tilba Holiday
  • #1 Tilba Stays
  • #1 Things to do in Tilba
  • #1 Tilba Tilba
  • #1 Central Tilba
  • #1 Find Tilba
  • #1 Tilba Map
  • #1 Tilba Wine

And there’s more…

We’ve plenty more sites that have performed well that we’d be happy to show you in person. So if you’d like to discuss your digital marketing options please feel free to call us on 1300 799 688 and make an appointment.

Introducing the Narooma-Mobile

By | Narooma, Narooma and South Coast, Rally Car, South Coast

The Narooma Mobile – a purpose built car for charity

The Narooma Mobile is a modified 1995 Ford Falcon that is currently being built at Fisse Design R&D headquarters (Narooma Taxi base). Complete with a functioning rooftop lighthouse and miniature Montague Island on its roof, this car is set to turn heads. The bonnet and sides will feature a whale graphic, while the rest of the car will be available for further artistic touches in a Narooma theme – and of course logo placement for our various sponsors.

The aim of this vehicle is to raise funds for various causes supported by rallies and variety bashes. It will also promote Narooma (on the South Coast of NSW) and its local businesses – an area that we’re proud to live in and be part of.

We’d like to thank John Byers of Narooma Taxis for helping us source a suitable vehicle, and providing us with a hoist and endless source of parts from old taxis. We’d also like to thank Mick from the Farnboro Motel in Narooma who’ll be help us prepare the vehicle for its maiden voyage at the Riverina Redneck Rally in March 2017. You guys are awesome – cheers.

You can read more about the car, fundraising, and keep track of updates here.

While you’re at it, if you feel strongly about the cause and think you have a few dollars to spare, it’d be lovely if you made a donation.

fisse-design-narooma-rally

2 WordPress myths and costly pitfalls of custom CMS systems

By | Narooma and South Coast, Sydney and Melbourne, Web Design, Wordpress

Recently I’ve come across web development shops that have an aggressive stance towards open source content management systems, such as WordPress and Joomla – touting that they are somehow inferior, slow and confine the output of the creatives designing and developing their product within the boundaries of pre-built themes.

In practice, these are baseless myths and they’re perpetrated by an increasingly isolated bunch of developers that promote their own, home-grown content management systems. Thankfully we don’t get a whole lot of this on the South Coast but we do see it coming from various agencies in the big cities.

While we don’t use it exclusively, we use WordPress a lot – and one reason is because of its sheer popularity with our clients. In this post, I provide some examples that debunk a few myths surrounding WordPress, and later I’ll explain why anyone would want to convey this message.

Myth #1 – Using WordPress means your creativity is hampered by a pre-existing theme.

Decent web developers don’t use pre-built templates or at the very least use them out of the box. When we use WordPress, for many lower budget sites we use a range of frameworks or themes that speed up the development process and we’ll work upwards from there.

Most of the time, this literally means we can have very basic page layouts – (like our own site for the moment!) – with headers, navigation, sidebars and footer layouts in place. Sometimes, it means we can whip up a rough, working prototype website for clients that need a feel for the site, or run it past a focus group before any serious design work ensues.

Normally, we’ll go through a wireframe and design process until it is approved. Good web design businesses focus on the client, their needs and craft beautiful designs without thinking about any constraints. On approval, we apply those designs, details and extra functionality into the WordPress theme framework we’re using that’s suitable for the project – and that will require coding with HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP.

So does using WordPress mean you’re stuck with the design or functionality of a theme? No way. Only if you’re doing it yourself or you’re using a web designer with no coding skills.

Myth #2 – WordPress is slow, and so are pre-built themes

With any site on any framework, it’s as slow as you make it. If you fill up an HTML site with multiple CSS files, multiple javascripts, massive unoptimised images and loading fonts and these types of resources – then yes, it will be slow.

There’s another part to it though, and that’s behind the scenes. WordPress contains a heap of processes for functionality you may not necessarily use on your website. This can mean the database is not 100{7cc85a26184ee315c5bd7accd1f336d9c65e0bf9730b6541f835ca07ee6d1945} optimised for speedy operation and there are redundant PHP processes that slow things down server side. The practical workaround, that’s effective for millions of sites around the world, is to use caching. And it can be done really well.

We can cache database objects so its not working hard, cache theme resources and cache pages so they’re rendered from HTML files.  With javascript & css minification the number of resources loading on a page at once is reduced. Of course, reducing the amount of unnecessary CSS and code so you don’t have a bloated theme in the first place is a given. At this point, the difference in reality becomes harder and harder to determine.

Using a clean, well coded theme and optimised images, we put a WordPress site to the test using www.pingdom.com’s speed test utility… and we put it up against a web design agency’s site that uses their home-grown CMS system. The results?

  • Custom CMS – load speed: 563ms load time. (nice, rapid!)
  • WordPress CMS – load speed: 695ms load time (slower, but rapid!)

Repeated tests yielded similar results. The site on the custom CMS loaded fewer javascripts and resource files, and was slightly smaller in total, combined file size. While smaller, it was faster, no doubt. By 130 odd milliseconds. To put this into context, throwing a few 200kb photos on your homepage might blow this out by another half second. So do we really need to say WordPress is slow?

No.  It’s just a weird kind of developer snobbery, and in practice it’s basically rubbish. 

So… if it isn’t slow, and you can design and build whatever you want… why say it?

Here’s why – and having worked at agencies around the place, it’s the oldest trick in the book. 

1. They’re literally forcing you to stick with them.

Yep. If they’ve got a custom CMS, that means they’ll be managing it on their own servers. And that means, in the majority of cases, your website will only work on their server.

If you have a disagreement, or they raise their prices, and you want to change provider – your website may as well be thrown in the bin. It can’t be hosted anywhere else – at best you could grab some text, images and HTML code and hand over to another developer to convert into your preferred open-source system. This can cost thousands.

2. They’ll make money through expensive hosting

Your hosting environment will be unique, and the agency will be monitoring it and managing this specific environment themselves. Having worked in this way for agencies around Australia, it’s a massive exercise and a costly one. How much do you think IT infrastructure support specialists and dedicated developers to support the custom CMS cost annually?

This generally means your hosting will be more costly. And not only will you be paying more than regular hosting, there’s nothing you can do about it – your website will only work on their servers. Sometimes the CMS’s advantages will be spruiked to justify the costs – whether it’s a special analytics interface or integration with a 3rd party API (WordPress can do all of that). Or it might be the costs are hidden; wrapped up in an ongoing maintenance plan or service level agreement.

Oranges for oranges though – it’s more expensive. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

At Fisse Design, our managed hosting services have no contract – you can leave at any time and work with your preferred supplier. We’re confident most developers can pick up where we left off, grab the website and place it on any old standard web hosting plan. We like to think that you stay with us because our service is good and well priced… not because you’re forced with us. That’d be pretty nasty.

3. Expensive website builds and upgrades

Because no one else in the world will be using the same custom content management system, no one else can build your site or manage design updates or functionality upgrades to your site. They probably wouldn’t even be granted access. Being specialised introduces costs, and why wouldn’t you – when you’re the only operators in the world building these specialised websites.

That’s why you’ll find the cost of entry, i.e. your first website build, is already more expensive. And if you’ve built say, a $15-20,000 website with them, how can you say no to $5000 worth of updates that in a global marketplace, might only be worth $1000. You’re stuck.

WordPress and other popular, open-source content management systems have millions of developers around the world contributing – building snippets of code that are available to use and reducing the development time on projects. This translates to a cost benefit to you – and that’s why as a general trend websites are cheaper compared to 90s and noughties.

So there you have it.

Next time you read about these mythical failings of open source content management systems, just have a think about why a salesman would need to do so (when selling the benefits of their own bespoke content management system). Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If it’s so good, why is no one else in the world is using it?
  • How much will it cost me for website updates?
  • Can’t these features be offered via an open source CMS, like WordPress?
  • How much will it cost me for ongoing hosting and maintenance?
  • Can I leave this supplier?
  • Have you talked with anyone else to guide your decision… or only the salesman?

Building custom websites on the South Coast!

Yes – and would you believe it, we can build you a custom website!

It will be custom, built completely from scratch if necessary. We can work out the functionality, layout, design – and you can have as much input as you want. Then, it can be built on an appropriate open-source content management system and hosted wherever you want. Click here for more info!

 

New gallery of featured South Coast sites

By | e-Commerce, Graphic Design, Narooma and South Coast, Web Design, Wordpress

New project localities sections.

With our recent rebuild we’ve been restructuring our website portfolio so they can be sorted by locality.

While we’re not quite there yet (soft launch!) – we’ve broken down some of our key projects into locality so you can browse through projects in areas near you. Hopefully this will help you discover businesses you’re familiar that we’ve done some work for. We hope you take the time to look at our designs here and browse through the various localities listed.

In the last 3 years, we’ve been lucky enough to complete work all across the Far South Coast of NSW – including Batemans Bay, Moruya, Merimbula, Bega and Narooma. Our focus will always be regional areas but we also handle projects in the big smoke from time to time! Click here for a downloadable overview featuring sample of our work from the region.