Be In The Know – Google Manual Actions

It’s vital, when dealing with a Google Manual Action, to understand why you have received a penalty, the consequences and most importantly how to address the issue and resolve it.

In general, manual actions aren’t largely a common thing and they are reserved only for serious offences so it’s safe to assume that when they are applied, it’s not a mistake, human error or a false positive.

Simply ignoring a manual action should be avoided at all costs as it can have huge consequences on the performance of your website in the long term. Even if you don’t see a difference immediately, the effects will show over time and the longer you let it run its course, the more difficult it can become to recover from that position – particularly if you begin to stack multiple violations. You don’t want to become a repeat offender.

Of course, receiving a manual action doesn’t mean the end of your site and its successes. Any manual action can be revoked and Google doesn’t hold grudges against websites that have received a manual action in the past. With that said, here are a few tips when it comes to handling manual penalties:

What makes a manual action different to an algorithm update (like Panda or Penguin)?

Manual penalties are just that; they are applied manually by the Google Search Quality team, as opposed to an algorithm or machine calculating ranking factors and adjusting your position accordingly. Algorithms don’t apply penalties as such, they simply calculate and adjust.

When is the right time to apply for reconsideration after receiving a penalty?

You should only apply for reconsideration after you have fixed the reason for the penalty, and have done so in a manner that means the issue won’t arise again. You should also be in a position to adequately provide the Google team documentation that includes the steps you have taken to fix the issue.

What can you do if your reconsideration request is rejected?

There is no limit to how many times you can submit a reconsideration request, so if your original application gets rejected, you can start the process again and ensure you have fixed the issue as above and provided the correct documentation to back it up.

What can you do if your site has dropped in organic searches, but you don’t see a manual penalty warning in Google Search Console?

There are a large number of factors that result in losing organic search positions. The only reliable method to finding the culprit is to conduct a full SEO audit.

How quickly does Google process reconsideration requests?

There is no official guarantee given by Google in this case and unfortunately no way of predicting how long it can take. In some cases, it can be processed in a matter of hours, in others it can take weeks.

4 Reasons Your Checkout Page Isn’t Converting…

When it comes to conversions, your checkout page is an extremely vital part of the process. This is the part where you ultimately close the sale after your visitor has been all the way through the “conversion funnel”, but even after that process a conversion or sale is not guaranteed even at that point. It’s a phrase that springs up time and time again when looking at conversion optimisation – abandoned carts. Your customers may get to the checkout stage or a few steps into the checkout process and still close the page without completing their purchase.

Research has shown that, on average, abandoned carts happen at a whopping 70%. This figure is largely made up of visitors who simply change their minds and this can be unavoidable. However, there is a considerable portion that are caused by certain things the online retailer has done and mistakes they’ve made in the checkout process that leads to lost customers and ultimately lost revenue.

Let’s look into some common mistakes that you could be making on your checkout pages and how to avoid them.

  1. Hiding Extra Costs Until Checkout

The number one reason, according to research, for people to abandon their carts is because of the extra costs that are added on at the checkout stage. In fact, 61% of people abandon their purchase because the extra costs are too high. These can include delivery charges, VAT or other fees not previously shown on product pages.

It’s important to be transparent in this case and make sure the customer is aware of any charges that may be added on way before they reach the checkout page. An option to get a delivery estimate at the product page stage is a good place to start, and showing your prices inclusive of VAT is handy too. This cuts down the chances of the customer changing their mind when they reach the checkout page.

  1. Making Visitors Register An Account

Making visitors create an account before they can complete their purchase is the second most common reason people abandon their online purchases. For some visitors, it may be an inconvenience for them to create an account, particularly if there is the added step of having to authenticate their email address before they can finish their purchase.

The best way to combat this, is to offer your visitors a choice. By all means, it’s important to have the facility for your customers to make an account, but giving them the option to check out as a guest if they want to covers both grounds. This means brand new customers can finish their purchase quickly and easily.

Another popular and effective route is to let your customers sign in / create their account using social media. This way, they can sign up with a click of a button… assuming they use social media that is!

  1. No Trust Factor

When it comes to online purchases, ensuring your customers can trust you is vital. People simply won’t buy from websites that they don’t trust, and can you blame them?

An SSL certificate is a must, but sometimes that just isn’t enough either. By adding trust symbols, secure payment processing logos etc, you can assure your customers that their personal information is going to be safe. Even if the customer doesn’t have an in-depth knowledge of how these security systems work, you will be surprised just how more comfortable they will feel in the checkout process. In fact, adding trust seals and logos has resulted in a 14% increase in conversions in some cases. Can you really afford to miss out on that?

  1. Restricted Payment Methods

Providing your customers with multiple options for making payment is key here, particularly if you cater for a variety of different countries. There is an array of research and data out there that outlines the preferred methods of payment in each country – China for example much prefer eWallets and online bank transfers, whereas a vast portion of Germany chooses PayPal over other payment methods.

Some research even suggests that eWallets will overtake traditional credit card payments by 2019. Whilst many people still like to use traditional credit card payments, you must ensure that you offer options so that you customer can pay in the way that they prefer.

Is Your Checkout Page Not Getting The Conversions it Should?

Conversion optimisation is a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to the general perception of SEO and online marketing as a whole. User experience plays a huge part here, and knowing the research, data, facts and figures behind e-commerce conversion in particular is crucial. If your e-commerce website is under-performing and you’re out of ideas of how to fix it, let our experts take a look and finally get your online shop making the sales it needs to.


Don’t Be Haunted By These SEO Techniques

With Halloween just around the corner, let’s not add extra ghouls and gremlins into the mix in the form of “what could have been”. Here are 5 SEO strategies that may come back to haunt you if you ignore them.

Schema Markup

Googles ultimate goal is to serve its users (its customers) with the best possible search results. This is achieved through the use of its algorithm and machine learning, which gives users the most relevant and user-friendly pages to their search query.

You can help Google understand your content by using schema markup code. Schema markup lets you define and organise your content and give Google a better indication as to the type and topic of it. It’s not really something that affects end-users, but is more for Google’s bots and (creepy) crawlers.


Google has begun showing warnings on websites that aren’t secured with HTTPS. Don’t spook your visitors with it! Google also gives a small ranking boost to sites that are HTTPS, so you really don’t want to miss that boat or you may find it coming back to haunt you later.

Voice Search

Google has stated that 20% of searches made via its mobile app and android devices are voice searches. Now, optimising for voice search is a whole different ball game and it could be a vital piece of the (pumpkin) pie that you’re missing out on. You may want to start looking at your content and tweaking it to be optimised for the way your customers are searching via their voice.


Only 43% of SEO profs always perform a site audit for their new clients. That really does give us a chill down our spines. By not performing a full audit, you’re practically walking into the dark without a torch! In order to fully understand the SEO project you are taking on, a site audit is vital, and you can achieve it quite easily with most major SEO tools on the market.


We know, most of you think that Google+ is as dead as a graveyard. But whilst it’s true that Google+ may not be the most popular platform, it is the platform that people are most satisfied with according to research.

Oh, and did we mention that every single post you make on Google+ has its own unique URL that can be indexed in search results? That’s right, by posting good quality, keyword rich content regularly on Google+, you can improve your rankings.

Why Your Link Building Campaign Isn’t Getting You Results…

Link building is no easy task, but it can be a constant uphill battle if you don’t get your strategy and foundations right in the first instance. It really is quality over quantity in this case, so going out and getting masses of backlinks isn’t exactly the best practice.

By all means, link building isn’t the magic formula to having a successful website, but it certainly helps supplement a good organic SEO strategy, and if you’re going to put time into it, you want it to be right.

Here are 3 quick tips as to why your current link building strategy might not be as fruitful as you want it to be.

Targeting Uncrawled and Old Pages

There really is little point in getting a backlink on a page that is archived, outdated or unvisited. For the most part, these pages hold little to no authority and aren’t regularly crawled by Google.

Targeting pages and websites that are fresh is a far smarter strategy. As a rule of thumb, try to avoid pages that are more than 3 years old – you can easily spot this in the Google search results by looking at the publish date.

Targeting Pages With No Authority

Much like the above, fishing for pages that don’t have high page authority, trust flow or URL rating simply isn’t worth it. Use the tools that the likes of Moz and Ahefs provide to determine good targets for link building.

Targeting Irrelevant Pages

These days, content reigns supreme in most aspects of SEO, and link building is no exception. Once again, take the quality over quantity route, and target pages that have good quality content that is relevant to the topic of your own website / page. Try to avoid dropping links on ‘one-off’ blog posts where a website doesn’t usually generate content about your industry or topic.

Put some time into looking for pages and website that, overall, are more in line with your content.

To summarise

When looking at your link building strategy, you may want to put some real thought into the following:

  • The websites and pages you’re going to target
  • Your approach to earning backlinks
  • The quality of your own content and that of the target site

Even these quick tips and tweaks can make a big impact on your link building campaign for the better.


Google AdWords Gets a Facelift

Google has confirmed that the brand new interface for AdWords is available for all advertisers and boasts upgraded visuals, improved speed and even more tools for management. Whilst not necessarily brand new, as the update begun rolling out from August of last year, the roll-out had continued right up until the present.

Exclusive features to the new interface include the new promotion extension, household income targeting and audiences page. You can take a good look at all of the new features and the interface itself through Google’s handy guided tour, to make sure you’re completely clued up on the new tools at your fingertips.

One particularly powerful addition is the devices card view, which allows you to see how your campaigns are performing across various different devices with ease. This of course is vital information considering the increasing focus on mobile optimised content from Google and the interface allows you to go straight through to adjusting your bids per-device.

There are plenty more streamlined actions and new functions that have been added, and our best advice is that you dive right in and try them out for yourself to see how they fit with your own workflow. One thing is clear though, it is certainly a big step in the right direction, but lets be honest, Google knows user experience like the back of their hand (does Google even have hands?).

It is possible, at least for now, to toggle between the new and old UI, which is comforting to know considering there are still a few features that are yet to be rolled out to the new interface. You may well find yourself still using the “old” UI for some time before extensively working with the new interface whilst Google builds on its updates, but it’s certainly worth a test drive in the interim as there are plenty of time-saving new additions that are readily available.

Soar, BMS Corporate & Word of Mouth

We teamed up earlier this month with fellow Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce member, BMS Corporate Ltd, to help them build their online presence and generate business on the web after their negative experience with another online marketing firm. Not only did we do a fantastic job for them (if we do say so ourselves!) but they have returned the favour by way of referring valuable business opportunities our way.

Based a stones-throw away from us in St Pauls Square, British Military Security Corporate Ltd are event security specialists, providing event and venue security, close protection, manned guarding and surveillance services for high profile clients. Their clients include The NEC, O2 Arena, Liverpool Echo Arena, Glastonbury festivals and they are the preferred security partner for British Athletics. We looked to take their prestige and experience and harness it in an online format to help boost their client base even further.

Our Head of SEO, Simon Foster, said “They needed urgent help. We built them a completely new website and it was live in a little over a week. We have the experience and we can respond fast.

“It was a pleasure to work with BMS Corporate Ltd. The website had to represent the business in the right way as a professional operation with a good reputation for delivering their services.

“BMS Corporate Ltd have already recommended us to a number of their associates which just shows that if you do a good job and deliver the best results for other Chambers members the word does spread quickly.”

Bruce Thomas, of BMS Corporate Ltd, said: “We approached Soar Online with some anxiety given our previous unsatisfactory experience of the web sector.

“But they did the business for us, it is a great site and we are very happy.

“Soar Online has won the contract with us, we are introducing them to our contacts, and already their hard work is paying off as our enquiries rise, a win-win situation.

“We are so pleased to work with a fellow Chambers member who is as professional as we are.”

It just goes to show that word of mouth is an extremely powerful marketing tool that remains relevant no matter how the online landscape adapts and changes. Through our introduction to BMS Corporate Ltd alone, we have seen a number of new, highly valuable clients by way of referral.

Getting Smarter With Content & SEO

As much as Google changes it’s algorithms, one thing remains constant – content is king. Good quality content is what ultimately drives your customer engagement and interactions and, of course, conversions. But, according to research, only 20% of B2C and around 50% of B2B content receives any engagement at all as a large percentage of marketers are unaware of what exactly makes a successful and effective content marketing strategy.

Luckily, there is a smart way to look at content and the proof is in the key word; SMART. SMART is a framework on which to set your goals, where S stands for Specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant and T for timely.

Specific content is king

Content isn’t always about what your business wants to say or the message your marketing team wants to dish out. What’s important is providing your customers and wider audience with content and information that is useful to them and what they want to see. SMART content focuses on delivering information targeted to a specific audience with their particular wants, needs and intent in mind.

It’s important that you get to know your audience through keyword research, geographic locations and user intent as well as knowing your competitors in the marketplace. Knowing your audience is the first step to creating SMART content.

Measurable content delivers on the metrics that matter

Content creators and marketers are constantly improving on how proving and tracking how their activities are benefitting businesses in terms of return on investment. But how can you ensure that your content marketing strategy can be measured?

Firstly you want to set KPIs that can accurately tell the true story of your contents success. Tracking site visitors, quality of leads, shares on social media, conversion rates and bounce rates are all good metrics to keep an eye on.

Actionable content is always on

Good quality, actionable content answers users’ questions and offers value even after the initial promotion and publication. Ensuring your content is always accessible is key here, particularly from a technical stand point; good internal link structure, mobile readiness, site speed and code errors are all notable factors.

Resonate with content promotion in relevant channels

The saying goes “build it, and they will come”. Unfortunately that’s not entirely true in the realms of online marketing. Visitors will only come if they are attracted to your content in one way or another in what is a highly competitive landscape. By targeting the right people at the right time and in the right places, you can increase your efficiency and manage your spends. Try experimenting on the likes of Twitter and Facebook with minimum promotional spends and see how your content is received by certain segmentations.

An often underused platform is email. 86% of users want to receive emails from the businesses that they are interested in, even if just a monthly broadcast. With strong calls to action pointing to your content, you can harness a lot of traffic to your site in the form of users who are genuinely interested in the content you have on offer. Some of you reading this right now have probably landed here via one of our own beautiful emails! It really does work!

Tangible business results are derived from SMART content

Whilst the KPIs we mentioned above are fantastic for measuring how your content is performing from a search and social standpoint, you really need tangible results to prove how valuable your activities have been – Make sure to embed tracking facilities for site traffic and conversions for a good. Don’t underestimate customer testimonials either. Not only are they valuable content in their own right, they also provide social validation and real consumer experiences.

How SMART is Your Content?

Sometimes it can be difficult to take a step back and audit the content you already have. But don’t worry, we can take a look for you; just fill out our handy tool below to get started.


Delving Deeper into Google Maps Q&A

Last month we wrote about Google’s New Q&A Feature For Maps and now we’ve had more time to look at the new feature, here are some key points you should know about when looking to use it for your business.

#1 – You may need to update the app to see it

The new feature begun rolling out in August, but if you have automatic updates disabled for you apps, you may need to manually update via the Play Store in order to see and use it.

#2 – Customers don’t receive notifications (at least not yet!)

At this point in time, if a customer submits a question and the business responds to it, they won’t receive a notification. This contradicts Google’s initial statement: “When you get an answer, we’ll notify you through Google Maps.” It’s more than likely that this will be fixed in an update soon.

#3 – Businesses need the Google Maps app to track questions

To receive notifications of customers submitting questions, business owners are required to have the Google Maps app installed on their device, linked to the account that they also use when managing their Google My Business listing. At this point in time, notifications from Q&A don’t show in My Business, so you really need to be using the Google Maps app to see when a potential customer has asked a question via a push notification.

#4 – The name and profile of customers who ask questions is visible

By clicking on the submitted question, you will be able to see the information of whoever asked it, including their name, photos and number of reviews. This information won’t appear on the initial list of questions however.

#5 – ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ answers should be avoided

Google My Business Top Contributor Tom Waddington has stated that there is the potential for yes and no answers to be exploited by way of the customer editing the initial question. To avoid embarrassment, make sure your answers are detailed and contextual.

# 6 – Up-voting affects how questions are shown

Google, in their initial statement, described how “upvoting makes popular questions more visible.” This means that questions with a number of likes will appear more prominent in the actual business listing, meaning that users don’t have to click through to see it. This will be quite valuable for your most common and important questions and answers.

To summarise, the Google Q&A feature in Maps is a powerful and interesting new tool for businesses, but it will take close monitoring in order to use it properly. Be pro-active with managing questions and give detailed answers to get the best out of this exciting new feature!

4 Common Domain Name Misconceptions

Here are 4 common misconceptions about registering a domain name.

1 – Registering a domain name is difficult!

You can purchase or ‘register’ a domain name in as little as 5 minutes these days. There are plenty of registrar websites that function like clockwork and are designed to be as simple as possible. They offer the tools to search for available domain names as well as offer suggestions for others if the specific one you’re looking for is already registered.

Our personal favourite is, but a simple Google search will give you many, many alternatives to try out and it generally comes down to personal preference.

2 – I only need one if I have a website

There are more reasons to own a domain name than just for hosting a website. Many people register a domain so that they can utilise a professionally branded email address, or as a way of pointing visitors to elsewhere on the web, or they register it prior to even building a website just to ‘reserve’ the domain before someone else does.

It’s a smart move to purchase a domain name ahead of time, so that when you’re ready to build a website, you have peace of mind that you already have the domain you want secured.

3 – Registering a domain is expensive

Depending on the extension of the domain and the period of time you want to secure it for, some domain names can be registered for as little as 99 cents for a year. It’s quite common for businesses to buy domain names in bulk to use in a portfolio or overall marketing campaign. There are some “designer” domain names out there that cost in the thousands (and even millions!), but for the most part they are extremely affordable.

4 – Registering a domain = owning a domain

When you register a domain, it’s more akin to renting it than owning in. Domain names are purchases usually in annual increments and once that period of time has passed, you have the choice of renewing the registration or letting it go back on the market. It’s not uncommon for other businesses to swoop in and take your domain if it becomes available, particularly if it has attracted a lot of traffic previously – so it’s important to keep on top of renewing your domain if you wish to ‘keep’ it!

How To Predict Your ROI From SEO

SEO, and online marketing in general for that matter, can seem like a daunting endeavour to business owners and marketing execs who are just breaking out onto the web world. After all, you can quite easily sink a large budget into your online activity without being able to accurately predict the return on your investment in terms of traffic and subsequently possible sales. But the same could be said for more ‘traditional’ forms of marketing – billboards, flyers, radio adverts for example. If anything, it’s easier to foresee your ROI  with online marketing, as the statistics are all available if you know where and how to look for them.

Here’s how you can judge the value of SEO and get a grasp of how your online marketing strategy may play out:

1 – Estimate Web Traffic

It all starts with generating traffic. Without traffic, you won’t generate revenue from online search. It’s important to know the size of the marketplace and subsequently how much of that market you will realistically be able to attract to your site.

You can start by targeting one of your products or services to analyse, preferably your most popular. Take that product or service, and create a least of 10-15 keyword phrases that a potential customer may use when searching for that product/service. Easy peasy. Once you have your list, take it into Google’s Keyword Planner, which will give you monthly search volumes based on geographic location. This is a great place to start and will give you a general idea of the online market for your particular products and services.

Using this (estimated) figure, we can also get a rough idea of how much traffic you could potentially get based on your position in the Google search engine results page (SERP). The below table shows the relative average Click-Through Rate (CTR) based on rank:

Average Rank Average CTR (%)
1 17.6
2 9.94
3 7.64
4 5.31
5 3.5
6 1.63
7 1.09
8 1.04
9 0.44
10 0.51


So using the above table, we can (very roughly) use a formula to calculate average monthly web traffic you could be getting from organic searches.

The formula is as follows: Monthly Volume x CTR.

Simple right?

Of course it depends where your website is going to rank, and unfortunately you can’t predict this, but you can take a look at how your competitors are ranking for those keyword phrases and garner a rough estimate of what positions you can achieve and therefore what kinds of volumes you can expect from organic searches. We can then use this information to estimate potential revenue.

2 – Estimate Revenue

After determining how much traffic you could be getting a month, it’s possible to get a general idea of the amount of revenue you can generate. To do this, you will need to determine your website’s conversation rate. If you don’t know this information (you can gather this using Google Analytics), you can use the following generic conversation rates instead:

  • For an ecommerce website, use a 2% conversion rate
  • For a lead generation website, use a 5% conversion rate

You will also need to know:

  • Average Sale – What is the value of an average sale across your entire catalogue?
  • Close Rate – What percentage of leads your company receives are closed as a sale?

With all of this data, you can again use a formula to project your potential monthly revenue:

Monthly Traffic x Conversion Rate x Close Rate x Average Sale = Monthly Revenue

Of course, the above will only give you a guideline of what you can potentially achieve, and you will also need to calculate profitability and take into consideration the timeline of your strategy.

Are you looking to utilise online marketing to generate more revenue for your business? Is your company unconvinced by the idea of pursuing online search but you don’t have the time to gather the data above? Fill in your details below and we’ll do it for you, free of charge: