Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet Marc Heighway, Entrepreneur and SEO Expert

Marc Heighway is the owner of SEO Expert Bournemouth, one of the leading SEO agencies on the south coast of the UK. His company offers SEO services to Bournemouth businesses and companies that want to achieve higher search engine rankings and improve their online visibility. Learn more about Marc's services in the following video.

You can also watch this Expert SEO Bournemouth video directly on YouTube.

1. In your career, how did you first get into working with SEO?

I first started building small websites back in 1998 when the Web was a very different place. Google didn't even exist, and the search engines that did were quite easy to manipulate to make your website get listed high in the rankings. When Google came along a few years later, things began to change, and suddenly it became a more of a science to get your website ranking high. With more and more businesses coming online, the competition for search space increased which meant the theory and strategy behind SEO became much more specialist.

As I continued to build websites in my early twenties, it became clear to me that if I wanted these websites to succeed, then I would need to become very proficient in SEO myself. Over the years, I worked with a network of fellow SEO enthusiasts who shared new ideas and strategies on search engine optimization, continually testing new approaches as Google continued to roll out their incremental algorithm updates.

From a professional perspective, I was working full-time for an American company called Garmin; they are the leading GPS and satellite navigation company globally. I was their Online Marketing Manager for Europe and was living and working in Switzerland for a few years, managing a European web team. This gave me some excellent opportunities to test various SEO techniques with the team in what is a very competitive market. We were able to do this across multiple languages and countries which really gave some invaluable insights into SEO.

2. What are the benefits to companies when it comes to working with a SEO company local to them?

A local SEO company, such as Expert SEO Bournemouth, has an advantage over larger SEO companies because they know local business and local people. They should also have a good network of local contacts, all of which can be invaluable when it comes to finding relevant and local back-linking opportunities which are all part of the mix when it comes to achieving better search engine listings.

Also, you can't beat face to face regular contact with a client. Most of the clients Expert SEO Bournemouth work for, and also those of the FIMA Digital parent company I manage in Southampton, were first met over a coffee for an informal chat. My team build solid relationships with our customers--the ethos behind Expert SEO Bournemouth is that it serves as a strategic partner for clients rather than a traditional outsourced SEO company.

3. Why does SEO keep changing so much?

Unfortunately there are also some very unscrupulous people working in the search engine optimization business who try to play the system to get results. This kind of approach to SEO is known as "black hat" in the industry. The culprits tend to find a loop-hole in the search engine ranking calculations, and then abuse that. A couple of years ago you could rank a website by sending thousands of back-links to it, no matter what the quality or relevancy. This of course, meant that spammers could easily rank a website above a genuine business which offered a visitor true value.

Google has thankfully caught on to methods like this, and because of that is continually updating how search engine listings are calculated. This means that even for reputable SEOs, the way the search engines rank content is changing regularly.

Not only that, but the way in which users expect to find search results are changing. Social media is a very relevant factor nowadays, and over the coming year users will probably start to see search results based on social factors as well--so for example, if your friend recommends a business, then it might have some preference in the listings that you see.

In truth, there are many current factors influencing the current state of the search engines and SEO. As technology advances and the way in which we demand and view online content changes, then the landscape will continually shift. Expert SEO Bournemouth are thankfully at the coal-face of those changes and are constantly adapting working practices and strategy to benefit our clients.

4. What particular specialties does your company offer?

As a search engine optimization company we perform all the typical functions you would expect from an SEO agency. What I believe sets us apart from the competition is the expert level of knowledge we have and also the fact that we focus purely on SEO. SEO isn't part of larger portfolio of services that we offer--it's the only service we offer. It's not diluted with other digital marketing disciplines. The reason is quite simple: SEO is what our staff are trained in and they only use the most cutting-edge and advanced SEO techniques. I genuinely believe that you won't find a more dedicated and knowledgeable group of SEO people on the south coast of the UK which is why I am so proud of the team.

For local businesses we become an extension of their company and a real trusted asset. A lot of the companies we are currently working for are very focused on local listings. Google now offers up more relevant search results based upon where a user is located. As an example, this means that if a user searches for "web design," then they will get results including local web design agencies. This means more of our clients want us working on getting their local search engine rankings optimized, including influencing factors such as Google Places, business listings, and physical address citations.

5. If you could give just three pieces of advice to small business owners when it comes to working on their website and developing good online content, what would you say?

Firstly, try to think inside the mind of the customer. Try to think about what they need and what they might be searching for. Do your research, because once you know that the customer wants, then it becomes a lot easier to develop content for them. If your online web content reads like it's been developed for a search engine, with keyword stuffing, and over optimized SEO content, then it's not going to read well to a customer. Search engines are now not as easily fooled by this approach either, so keep it natural, keep it compelling, and make sure that it is unique quality content.

Secondly, I deal with so many businesses who developed their website and simply cut and pasted their corporate brochure online. Whilst of course this is going to be a far quicker and cheaper approach then developing bespoke web content, it is a huge mistake. From a user experience perspective, the way in which users read on-screen content and the way they read a printed page is vastly different. Online web content needs to be broken up with headings, smaller informational chunks, bullet points, numbered lists, and so on. This enables the user to scan for the information they need and read the web page a lot easier without the dreaded "click back" when you might lose them to a competitor.

Finally, invest in SEO. That should encompass on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and a social media strategy. The old adage "if we build it, they will come" could not be further from the truth when it comes to the highly competitive world of the Web. Your website needs to be optimized so it stands the best chance of beating the competition in search.

Thanks, Marc!