Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization is the process of positioning a company's website as high as possible in the Google, Yahoo and Bing rankings, for terms that are most likely to bring the company good quality business leads.

What's the SEO secret?

Google keeps its algorithm a secret, in order to stop cowboy SEO companies 'gaming' the system, instead of focussing on good user experiences. However, the things you need to do to get good rankings are widely known and accepted.
Many SEO cowboys claim to know secrets to getting good rankings, but there is no magic button, and not even Google can guarantee specific placements. So wild claims that seem to good to be true should be filed in the same place as any other spam or con artists.
Those of us that are immersed in the world of websites and SEO know that there are no magic secrets to success - just like anything else it's a balance of skill, experience, understanding of the concepts, keeping up to date with new developments - but mostly just a lot of hard work.

How to improve your website's Google rankings

These are the things you need to do to get your website to the top of Google:
  • Provide lots of good quality content
  • Get lots of other trustworthy sites to link to your website
  • Focus on highly efficient keywords
  • Have a keyword rich domain name
  • Use a high quality fast server to host your website
  • Make sure the content on your site is correctly tagged
  • Ensure your site structure is logical and straightforward
If you do all these things better than your competitors, then you'll get to the top for the searches you want. But if your competitors are working harder than you in the areas above, they are likely to be ahead.

Why use Sentiva SEO services?

Of course, anyone can learn SEO, just like anyone can learn to be a plumber or fly a plane. But just like those other professions, it takes a lot of time and dedication. Those who think dabbling a bit in SEO will be easy are mistaken.
We have over five years' experience optimizing websites for Google, Yahoo and Bing, and have managed to gain the skills and experience to ensure we focus our energy in the right place to get the best results most efficiently.

It's tricky to publish results, because the rankings change daily, but our SEO efforts have gained us the following results for our sites and client sites:

  • a top 3 position on the term 'berkshire web design' (extremely competitive!)
  • doubled visitor numbers in one month for www.jimewan.com
  • front page rankings within two weeks for 'plasterers berkshire'
  • #1 position for 'showreels london' and #2 for 'actors services'
  • Front page for 'car repair reading' and 'car repair bracknell'
This is just a tiny sample of the results we've achieved, in fact all of our websites appear in position #1 or at least on the front page for relevant terms that their customers will be searching on.

What makes Sentiva SEO smarter?

As well as doing all the usual SEO work, we carry out a Keyword Analysis to ensure money and time are being well spent. This involves analysing the data associated with various search terms and working out a Keyword Efficiency Indicator.
In this way we can target terms that you might not expect people to use, but in fact they are, and also focus on terms that are not being targetted by huge numbers of companies.
For example, say you've ten hours to spend optimizing for a term - which of these terms do you think has the most searches?
  • web designer
  • web designers
You might decide to spend five hours on each, or just pick one to spend ten hours on and ignore the other. But in fact (on the day of writing) the search volumes were like this:
  • web designer = 49,500 searches
  • web designers = 550,000 searches
(data is in the last month in the UK)
Now, with that information, how do you think you'll spend your ten hours?
This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we also look at synonyms, misspellings, location based terms, phrase strings and competitor volumes. And that's why Sentiva SEO is smarter.

Convinced we know our onions?

We offer Search Engine Optimization services for existing websites, as well as carrying our SEO as standard on all the websites we build. Prices depend on required results and how competitive the industry is online. Get in touch for a Search Engine Optimization Quote.

I'm self employed, should I be on Twitter?

This is a question I get asked a lot by my clients and people I meet at networking events.
There is usually some helpful friend who has told them they absolutely MUST sign up for Twitter, as it's great for getting new business, and after all, it's free so it's a no brainer - right?

But the self-employed person looks around guiltily and admits that actually they don't really want to, and in fact find the idea of twitter quite annoying. But so and so says they're not up-to-date if they don't and missing a golden opportunity!

To quote Mr Dylan Moran: 'How can I be any more up to date? I'm alive now. That's pretty current where I'm from.'

The problem is the kind of people who eagerly leapt at the chance of joining Twitter are exactly the kind of people who like to shout a lot about their opinions, whether or not anyone gives a monkey's, and with evidence and fact optional.

On the other hand, Twitter has stupendously improved the careers and exposure of many people and companies; just look at that Fry fellow.

So, to twitter or not?

The somewhat obvious answer is that you should look at it just as you should anything else in your business, with a critical eye and clear, specific objectives.

So the question 'Should I sign up?' is meaningless.

What you should be asking is, 'Will using this tool help me achieve my objectives?'

As with anything you need to look at Return on Investment - ROI (in simple terms this means that the amount you invest in some form of marketing should be less than the gains you get).

Many people say that social networking media is great because it's free. That's only true if you consider your time worthless. If you don't consider your time worthless, then utilising Twitter is most certainly not free.

The real cost of Twittering

To prove my point, let's look at the costs in a bit more detail:

How long does it take to think of a tweet?

This really depends on quality doesn't it? If you want to have something interesting to say, you might have to write an entire blog post to tweet, which could take around an hour, or you could trawl the internet for something useful and tweet that, perhaps getting down to about ten minutes if you're not too fussy about quality.

So let's say an average of 20 minutes per tweet if you're at all concerned about creating quality and not just 'noise' (pointless tweets that clog up people's streams and get on their nerves - usually involving sandwiches).

How often should you tweet?

Stagnant social media is worse than none at all.

If someone does visit your page and discovers that the last action was in 2009, it looks far worse than not having anything it all. It gives the impression you haven't done anything since then (although this is of course probably nonsense) and/or that you start things that you can't finish. Is that the impression you want out in the public domain?

So how many tweets is a good number?

The twitteratti says 'the sweet spot for tweets/day is between 10 and 20.'

If we take even around half of the lowest number and go for six tweets a day, at 20 mins per tweet, you're looking at TWO HOURS PER DAY of work. Would you like to multiply that by your hourly rate? Let's take a fairly modest hourly rate of £20 per hour. At that rate, Twitter would have to supply you with around £800 of work per month in order for you to just break even.

The summary for self employed Twitter virgins

The fact is you may find a way to Twitter without it infringing too much on your day - it depends what your day already consists of, but the principle is simple:

Work out how many new customers / contracts you need to get and monitor how long you spend Twittering (or predict how much you might). Do the sums and you'll be able to work out if Twitter is an asset or a drain.

Even if the maths works out, make sure you'll really be able to keep it up - if you're not going to be able to maintain a regular, quality presence, it's not worth giving yourself a headache trying to.

So don't be a twit, think it through and make an informed decision, don't just join the queue because there's already a load of people in it.

I welcome any feedback, particularly success stories of work and clients gained through Twitter, and an estimation of the amount of hours it took to pay off.

Sentiva are a Leeds Web Design company. Why not check out our website? We make websites, mobile apps, desktop applications and SEO miracles.

The Business Value Calculator

Are you a business owner? Do you want to know how much your business is worth?

Many business owners are unsure of how to value their business. However, this is important information for planning and growth, even if you don't want to sell your business right away - or even at all.

Working out the value of a business can be tricky, which is why the Sentiva software team has gotten together with expert Berkshire business advisor Nick Bettes, to create a free and easy to use business valuation tool to allow business owners to find out a rough value for their business.

This information can then be used to find quick and easy ways to increase the value of the business and identify core issues are areas for improvement. You can even request a personalized report from Nick!

Why not try out our business value calculator? Value your business instantly online!

Why can't I use whatever font I want on my website?

This post is a non jargon explanation of web safe fonts or browser safe fonts for non techie people. 

Our clients often request specific favoured fonts to be used in the titles on their websites, but it's not as simple as you might think.

This is because when a website is called into a browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari) of
your visitor's computer, it doesn't arrive complete with fonts. It just comes with a reference. As it jumps into the browser it tells the computer the name of the font it wants. Then as long as said font installed on the computer, the computer will oblige and supply the font for wherever it's needed.

The problem is that there are so many fonts out there, consistency across all computers is hard to get.

Meaning; if you use 'crazy funky cool font' as your main header font, but the visitor doesn't happen to have it, it will simply show as Times New Roman, which might completely ruin the design of your website.

This is a big headache, but luckily, there has been some collaboration to try to help solve this problem. The solution has been the creation of a set of 'web safe fonts' which are installed as standard on every single computer.

As long as you stick to these fonts, you can be sure your web pages will display exactly as you expect.

Can't you specify cascading options?

Funny you should ask - yes, that's right. It's possible to set a list of fonts for your website, so that if the preferred one isn't there it searches for a second one, if that one isn't there it searches for a third, and so on.

As long as you make sure the last in the list is a web safe font, you have more chance of getting your crazy funky cool font in front of those that actually do have it installed, and can ensure the alternative option still looks good for those who don't.

What if using the crazy funky cool font is the most important thing to me?

Then you should probably get a hobby. However, if you absolutely must have that font, you can insert it as an image. An image shows exactly as it is.

BUT, we strongly recommend against this as you will be sacrificing some of your highest priority search engine optimization elements and essentially turning your back on Google.

If getting your website found is not a priority, fine - otherwise, this is not a good option.

The truth about W3C Triple A Compliance

W3C stands for World Wide Web Consortium, which is an international community that is widely recognised as the leading organisation when it comes to web standards and accessibility compliance.
W3C have created a document called 'Web Content Accessibility Guidelines', which give advice on how to ensure your website is accessible.

Within this document there are three Priority Levels, which correlate with the A conformance levels. Priority 1 'MUST' be satisfied (and doing so gives you 'A' rating), Priority 2 'SHOULD' be satisfied (and results in a Double A rating) and Priority 3 'MAY' be satisfied (and if you managed to meet all of these without exception, you'd get Triple A).
Double or Triple A?

We'll take it as a given that Priority 1 is followed by any web designer worth their salt, and A rating is achieved. Anything less would be a very poor website. Further than that, all websites should make efforts to conform to Double A and no website can realistically conform to Triple A. Any website that says it does is knowingly or unknowingly making a false claim.

Why is Triple A impossible in practice?
Experienced, honest practitioners agree that in reality, a Triple A standard is actually impossible to achieve. The most obvious evidence of this is checkpoint 11.3 which states:

Provide information so that users may receive documents according to their preferences (e.g., language, content type, etc.)

Therefore, in order to comply with this standard, the website would have to be available in every known language. Clearly this is not the case, and many sites that claim Triple A compliance do not even have a single alternative language.

This is just a single example, more can be found with thorough investigation of the checkpoints.
So if a web company claims to have Triple A compliance, it means they either haven't truly read all the checkpoints properly, or are aware they are making a false claim. So how do they get away with it? Well, because nobody is policing it.

W3S states: 'Claims are not verified by W3C. Content providers are solely responsible for the use of these logos.' (http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG1AAA-Conformance)
So if a company wants to say it has Triple A compliance it can, even if it doesn't even meet Priority 1 standards, and unless the client checks the checkpoints themselves, they will be none the wiser.

Why should you be wary of sites that claim Tripe A?
Because it indicates that they either don't understand web accessibility, or are outright lying. Below are some quotes by professionals who are passionate about genuine accessibility:

The showcased sites on Accessites.org that claim the Double-A compliance aren’t “lesser sites” at all. In fact, their refusal to claim something that they know cannot be reached demonstrates a far better understanding of web accessibility than all of the so-called Triple-A sites put together.

'In conclusion, in most cases, a 'AAA' claim should be taken as false, and even as an indicator of a superficial understanding of Web Accessibility.'

For more information on why Triple A is a misrepresentation, follow these links, or simply type 'Triple A Compliance' into Google.

Our conclusion
We hope we have put out enough evidence above to support our reasons for not wishing to claim Triple A compliance - as it would be impossible to do so truthfully.
Instead of pursuing an impossible goal, we believe a strong commitment to accessibility through every aspect of our design and coding is more relevent. That means in principle and spirit and well as checking the mechanical tickboxes (it is possible to get some compliance certification by just checking the boxes and still have a hopeless website - a bit like being overly reliant on spellchecker).
We find this area fascinating and would welcome further discussion.

Techno austerity

More features = better, right? Wrong.

We've always been frustrated by the reverence in which many people hold complexity. Give someone a planning or proposal document with a lot of mysterious codes, references and jargon on the front and they'll assume whoever made it must really know what they're talking about. Same goes for software. Ensure the interface is jammed with buttons and options and they can be sure they've got a top quality programme here.

We heartily disagree. What makes a document or programme effective is achieving its primary purpose reliably and without distraction. The bumpf at the beginning of a document distracts and confuses, and fails to get across any constructive information. At best it wastes time (and I don't know about you, but my time is precious and I don't appreciate it being wasted without my consent - or at least a bribe) and at worst it makes whatever follows harder to understand and digest.

With software the same thing happens, but on a larger, more destructive scale. We've heard numerous examples of people who look at a programme - which has been bought or even built specifically in order to make some of their everyday tasks easier and faster - and refuse to use it. Why? Because they're afraid of it. It looks too daunting with all those buttons and options - what if they do something wrong? And they're sure they'd never be able to work it out anyway.

Programmes should be streamlined before being feature rich, and features should be designed into the interface that makes the most common tasks unmissable, and the extra options tucked away only for those with the strength of heart and inclination to find them.

To read more on less is more being applied to technology, visit:


Google AdWords Keyword Tool - probably the most useful optimisation tool available for free

Many people start the search engine optimization campaigns a couple of steps too late. This means a huge amount of wasted effort, time and energy.
The steps that many people are choosing the most efficient keywords in the first place. If you just pull them out of the air from guesswork, you're like an archer just shooting off in all directions without stopping to check where the target is. How many arrows do you think will actually hit bullseye?
So how do we find out what the best terms are? Well, handily for us, Google is happy to give us all kinds of useful information to aid us in our endeavours. One of the most useful tools is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. This free online service can give you detailed facts about which terms people are searching on, how many competitors there are in the UK (or your country if you're not in the UK), and how many competitors there are globally.
So instead of just guessing what terms people are searching on, you can find out not only what keywords their using, but how popular each of them are.
This information can be downloaded for number crunching and manipulation to work out the best terms based on search volumes v competitor volumes.
Thanks for reading!

Google Places or Google Local Business Centre

Are you a business owner? Are you listed on Google local business centre? (Recently renamed as Google Places).
If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, then you're missing out.
You can think of Google Local Business Centre / Google Places as Google's Yellow Pages - you can have a free listing there, giving details of your business address, phone number, website and much more. Then if someone searches for your services in your location on Google, your business will be listed above all the regular results.
It only takes a few minutes to set up and could mean massive exposure for your business, completely free - so what are you waiting for?
Click here to sign up now...
Of course, all of the websites we make are listed on Google Local business Centre as a matter of course.
If you'd like more free advice on making the most of your website, click here.

How do I get my website onto the front page of Google?

Ah, the $64,000 question. Well, there are a number of ways you can do it, but rest assured - all your competitors want to be on the front page of Google too, so if you think it's going to be cheap and easy, think again.

Get to the top of Google, guaranteed... as long as you have deep pockets

The only way to guarantee being on the top of the Google rankings for your chosen terms are by paying Google to be in their 'sponsored links' - via their system, which is called Adwords. It works on a bidding system, so if you sell knitted hamster handbags you may well be able to get their pretty cheap, but if your business has the word 'insurance' 'travel' 'flights' 'recruitment' or one of many other extremely popular and highly competitive phrases, you could be paying over £20 per click, and there could be thousands of clicks per day. Not for those on a tight budget.

Of course, you can try to use Adwords with pretty much any budget, but if you've only got £50 a month to pay and you're competing against the big boys, you may find your budget is spent before you've had a chance to say 'small fish'.

Tips for making the most of Adwords on a budget : as most business advisors will tell you aout business in general - niche niche niche. If you can show that you are THE specialist in a specific area/field/colour etc, you cut down your competitors hugely.

Natural search listings

If you're not paying to be in the 'sponsored links' you'll have to do it the hard way, via the 'natural' search results. This means convincing Google you are the best site and should be the top result for whatever phrase it is the user happens to be entering. There are two main sides to this:

On-Page SEO : your website has to be built to be Google friendly, and that means relevant text, no useful text in images, logical use of keyword rich headings, relevant page names, labels on all your images, keyword rich internal links and widgets and lots of relevant key-phrases scattered at natural intervals around the content. It means providing useful free information for passers-by and generally proving you know what you're talking about. If your website is not already built this way, it's painful to make it so later, so make sure it's built right the first time. Naturally, all of our websites are entirely Google friendly.

Off-Page SEO : Google counts a link to your website as a 'vote' for your website. The more of these you have, the higher up the rankings your site will go. But it's not entirely democratic, links from highly rankings sites count as more important than votes than from unknown sites. You can get links by adding the site to directories, getting other webmasters to link to your site, setting up social networking sites and publishing articles.

You can, of course, do this for yourself, but be prepared for rolling up your sleeves and spending many months of nights in. Simply learning about the methods will take many hours, let alone the hard slog of carrying it all out. And results can be slow and disheartening in the early days.

Or, you can hire a professional to do it for you. This is course is another minefield, but not one within the scope of this article. Read more about how to avoid some of the most dangerous SEO pitfalls here and read more about the elements of good SEO here.

Websites for cheap!

We are proud to announce the launch of a new product - websites for sole traders and small businesses. This is an affordable website deal, with guaranteed results! You can find out about our affordable business websites here.
We say - keep it simple! With a simple website that is guaranteed to make you more money than it costs. How does that work? Well, all of our client websites are on the front page of Google for the terms they need to be. This means they get lots of enquiries from people who are looking for their services, right at the critical moment. As long as they convert some of those enquiries, they are making more money than their website costs them.
We're so confident we'll be able to get sole traders more customers through the web, we're offering a special guarantee. If after twelve months, you don't feel your website is making you more money than it cost, we'll refund the full £200 setup fee!
So for affordable websites with minimum risk and maximum gain, visit www.affordablebusinesswebsites.co.uk

Sage websites: a study in poor user design

It’s lucky Sage have such a big name, because the usability of their websites are appalling. They have a professional appearance that gives an attractive first impression, unfortunately, it appears that they also left the build to graphic designers, as no self-respecting web designer would have built such a labyrinth of vague clues and disregard of convention.

Things the website should have avoided:

No phone number on homepage (Sage site) and cryptic options on the contact page
I want to buy some accounting software. I’m ready to buy. I just want to ask someone a few questions about which is the perfect one for me and then we’re away. I’ve got a very busy day on and don’t want to spend a long time hunting for information that might not be there, but a human rep should have to hand. But what is this? No phone number on the homepage? And it gets worse.

Click on the ‘contact’ button and you are confronted with four tabs of options. ‘Sales’ that’s what I want I guess, although from my point of view it’s not a sale, it’s a purchase. But I guess instead of trying to get into my shoes, as a smart company might want to, they are forcing me to get into theirs. Fine, sales. And FIVE phone numbers to chose from. FIVE! Count them! Now, am I ‘new to Sage’? Or is it a ‘general sales enquiry’. Well, both to be honest. Then under those ambiguous choices is a list of their products with yet another set of numbers. Perhaps the product I want is in that list – I don’t know, I’m three clicks in and haven’t been able to get any advice yet…

Constant Flash Movies (Sagepay site)
The central section of the website is constantly taken up with a distracting Flash movie. When I arrive at the site it bombards me with huge colourful splotches and non-information displayed at a 3-year-old’s reading speed, meaning it’s impossible to choose from any of the options and in fact even remember what you turned up there for in the first place. Even worse, it doesn’t end, but keeps repeating - presumably to hypnotize those who have the rest of the day to spend reading the trite ‘You can bank on us’ instead of getting on with something useful.
And there’s no relief, the attention seeking action continues on all pages, like a hyperactive child who climbs over the steering wheel while when you’re late for a meeting.

Disregard for conventions (Sage invoicing site)
So, you want to download Sage’s free invoicing package (which incidentally shows another weakness, as I have searched for invoicing software in the past, and remained blissfully unaware Sage offered such a thing). Great, go to the download page. Most of the text is grey, with occasional small pink phrases. Ah, you think – I know what it means when a few words are not a heading, but in a different colour to the rest of the text – that’s a link! Think again buster. They’re just there for decoration, and because the Sage site demands a toll in useless clicks. Fine, you think. But here is a big shiny button – it has a picture of an arrow pointing down at a hard drive, but most of all, it has the words ‘download now’ in big letters. This time I can really put the clues together. If I click on that, the download will start. Nuh uh uh! That will actually take you to a new page, but look, the same button is on this new page. Perhaps it will work now. Nope. It just makes the page jump about in a funny way. There are a lot of warnings about pop-ups, so maybe that’s the problem. Try cancelling popup blocker. Nothing. Try a different browser. Nada. Eventually you realize you have to fill in a form with all your details in order to download the ‘free’ software. By which point you’re practically forgotten who you are, let alone who owes you money.

Better hope your name is big enough
I could go on, but I’m already short on time having spent about 45 minutes exploring websites that should have taken me ten. I will probably still have to hold my nose and buy from Sage because my accountant tells me I have to and they are in the enviable position of being industry leaders. But if you are hoping to attract customers online, you’d better make sure you think about your customers a bit better than Sage, because if you make them jump through hoops and chase their tails like that, they’ll soon realize they’re barking up the wrong tree and find a better alternative.

What is Cross-Browser Compatibility?

Cross-browser compatibility is something that all decent web designers have to offer as standard, but most non-techie people are baffled by, and don’t realise they need, let alone know whether their web designer is doing or not. So what does it mean, in theory and in practice?
Well, anecdotal evidence shows that an awful lot of people don’t know what the word ‘browser’ means, which obviously starts the confusion. For those of you that don't know, your browser is essentially the programme you use to view the Internet. Many people don’t realise they have a choice (which is probably why there is still such a high prevalence of IE6, and so many web designers tearing their hair out). Microsoft has the largest share of the market, with its Internet Explorer that happens to come with Windows.
Coming up second is Firefox, an open source browser from Mozilla. After those two are Safari (Apple’s offering), Opera and now Google have brought out their own browser, called Chrome. All browsers are free, and can be downloaded from the Internet (see below for links).

To add to the confusion, the makers of these browsers regularly improve and update them and bring out new versions, hence IE6, IE7, IE8 etc being earlier and later versions of Internet Explorer.
If you’re not sure and want to know what browser and version you are using, click on this useful link: http://www.findmebyip.com/.
So now you’re all in the know about browsers, I guess you want to know what the problem with cross-browser compatibility is.
Well, the problem is that the different web browsers interpret things in different ways. Websites are written in ‘languages’ and that’s a useful analogy. The Internet 'speaks' in a foreign language. Let’s call it Hutmel. IE, Firefox, chrome etc have all learned Hutmel, but at different schools, and so when they translate the Hutmel into a language you can understand – or see – they each tell you something slightly different.
Now, there are standards – an Internationally accepted Hutmel dictionary if you will – set out by W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium), but there is no legal obligation to abide by them.
So certain major browsers don’t. They take the attitude that they might be able to improve on what the web designer was doing in a ‘I think what they meant to say...’ kind of way. This is all very well as far as it goes, but falls down as soon as there are other browsers who don’t take liberties with the language, as the same phrase can end up having different interpretations – and as we all know, that’s how wars are started.
So cross-browser compatibility is where web designers must build some sections of each website multiple times in order for it to appear the same in the different browsers. Ignore one browser and the website will look broken to those users.
There are probably over a hundred browsers (source) so it would be impractical for web designers to make sure each website was compatible with every single one. So we tend to concentrate on the Big Five – IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome.
One final thing - if your browser check showed up as IE6, you are using one of the least standards compliant browsers around – upgrade now for a faster, better experience and to save web designers’ hair!
If you’d like to see what sort of interpretations are possible, visit http://browsershots.org, enter a URL and see the results. If they all look the same, the website is cross browser compatible!