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Top Tips for a Digital Nomad in Australia

Invest in good headphones

When you’re working away from home or the office,  small things can make a big difference when it comes to productivity. I tend to work from home most of the time, but sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. When I’m anywhere with background noise though, I find it virtually impossible to concentrate fully without wearing headphones. I’ve had a pair of Bose QuietComfort headphones for the past three years and can honestly say that they’re amazing. Admittedly they’re not cheap, but you get what you pay for; the quality of the noise cancellation is incredible, they’re well built, hold their charge for hours (long enough for a flight to the UK) and they come with a good protective case. Genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever bought. Find them on Amazon here.

Bonus tip – I use brain.fm all the time while working. It’s a music player specially designed to help you focus. I love it because; one, sometimes I just don’t know what to listen to on Spotify; two; most of the tracks have the perfect frequencies to drown out background noise; and three, maybe its a placebo effect but I genuinely think there’s something special about the sounds that help me focus better than when I just listen to regular music. Get a one month free trial with this referral link.

Get a phone contract with a lot of data!

If there’s one thing that’s critical to working remotely, it’s a decent internet connection. I’ve found the speed and quality of wifi connections in hotels, cafes and the like in Australia tend to be pretty rubbish, and so never rely on them. Instead, I have a mobile contract with unlimited data (or at least more than you’re likely to need). I’ve used Amaysim since I settled in Australia and have always found it to be good. I use their Unlimited 45gb plan which costs $40 a month and also includes free international calls (great for when I need to call home). Use this link to get $10 of free credit.

Be honest with your boss

I’m a terrible liar so this isn’t really optional for me, but if you’re going to head away from home to work for long periods of time you really need to let your boss know. It’s inevitable that there’ll be times when you won’t have internet access, or your laptop battery will die or you’ll get stuck in traffic on the way back from a morning surf – which could all stop you from dialling in to a meeting or responding to a message on Slack, and thus lead to awkward questions.

I’m lucky to be working for an amazing company that has embraced remote working and really trusts its employees to get their work done; but it’s all based on trust. I catch up with my manager via Zoom at least twice a week, let him know where in the world I am, what I did last week and what’s on my to-do list for the coming week. 

Be realistic about where you can be productive

Don’t believe the hype about digital nomads laying around in hammocks with their Macbook in one hand and a pina colada in the other: It’s bullshit. For one, you’ll get a terrible back ache after a very short space of time; and two, it’s impossible to see a laptop screen in bright sunlight. You need to be realistic about the type of environment in which you’ll be able to be productive. 

Everyone’s different, and while some lucky people can work and be productive in a noisy and distracting environment with their laptop perched on a tiny table, I am not. 

I really like working in coworking spaces when I’m travelling because – as with working in a regular office – they give the sense of separation from being at home and provide a more distraction-free environment. In Australia though, the cost can be prohibitive, especially for longer periods of time. You can expect to pay around $500 per month for a decent coworking space, which is way beyond my budget. Instead, I prefer to set up the best work environment I can wherever I am staying. 

Create a good working environment

My desk setup on the balcony at the apartment in Noosa

Okay, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to carry a deluxe ergonomic chair around with you, but it’s worth spending some time setting up a workstation that’s comfortable and will allow you to be productive. 

Space is an important factor, so when deciding on somewhere to stay, think about where you can work. 

In my current adventures in Australia I’m travelling by car so have enough space to bring my monitor – which I’d highly recommend if possible. A lot of my work involves analysing datasets in Excel which is quite tricky with just my laptop screen, and definitely affects my productivity. I also have a folding laptop stand that is light, strong and sturdy and would highly recommend. You can buy it from Amazon here.

I’ve also been carrying around a portable camping table (see photo above) which has been really useful when my girlfriend and I need to work in the same place (we’ll take turns between using the ‘desk’ and dining table).

I also recommend bringing a couple of cushions with you (one to actually sit on, and another smaller one to act as a lumbar support). It can really make a difference to your posture and comfort when you’re sitting for long periods on dining table chairs.

Extension leads and powerboards are essential! Bring at least a couple each so that you can set up your work station in the best spot.

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Use a schedule – and be disciplined

One of the most difficult things about working remotely is being disciplined about work. When Mecha and I were in Byron bay, we’d look at the surf cams and be tempted to head out whenever it looked good, but this definitely affected our productivity. Being British, I have an intrinsic desire to make the most of every second of sunlight in case it disappears any moment (not much danger of that up here in Noosa) so I find it difficult to sit inside when it’s a beautiful day. As I mentioned above, though it’s important to be realistic about where you can be productive – and sitting outside in the sun isn’t ideal.

We’re now being much more disciplined about how we spend our time. We have three potential schedules depending on how the surf looks. Here’s an example:

6am – Wake up, check the surf cams. Coffee and breakfast (if not surfing)
6.30 – If the surf is good, we’ll be surfing if not we’ll have started work
9am – If we went for a surf, we’ll be back home and working by this time
1pm – Stop for lunch. Sit in the sun for a while or go for a walk and get a coffee
2pm – If we didn’t surf in the morning, we’ll check again now. If it’s good we’ll go. Otherwise we’ll go back to work.
4.30pm – If we went surfing at 2pm, we’ll be back home working again by now. If we went surfing in the morning, or not at all, we’ll be finished for the day.
6pm – If we went surfing in the arvo, we’ll probably finish around this time
7pm – Dinner

Keep your things organised

Let’s be honest, moving your stuff around every few weeks (or less) is a pain in the ass. But you can make it much easier by keeping organised so that you don’t need to sort everything each time you head to a new place. Because we’re travelling by car, Mecha are carrying quite a lot of stuff around (monitors, the camping ‘desk’, surfing stuff, yoga stuff, Mecha’s extensive clothing collection ;)) but we try to make sure that everything has a place. 

We keep foods like spices, herbs (and all those other little bags and jars you accumulate) in shoeboxes that we can lift in and out of kitchen cupboards easily. We have a similar box for toiletries. Wetsuits, beach towels and sunscreen are always kept in a readily accessible box in the car. 

Seek out good deals for accomodation

It’s been a tough year for the Australian tourism industry, but that has created opportunities for people like us who are looking for long term accommodation at an affordable price.

The first place we stayed in Byron (we booked at the height of the covid lockdown when prices were probably at their lowest) is currently listed on booking.com for nearly $2,000 per week. We paid the same amount for the whole month. We paid only slightly more for the second place, but still far less than the going rate. 

The single best piece of advice I can give is to contact places directly. Websites like Booking.com take a big chunk of the price you pay when you book through them, and the prices tend to only be set up for shorter-term stays, so you’ll nearly always get a better deal if you go direct.

This can be time consuming however, especially in places where there’s hundreds of holiday apartments to contact. That’s why Mecha and I built a script to scrape the search results for a term (in our case ‘holiday apartments Noosa’) and extract all the email addresses from those websites. We then emailed everyone in one time and watched the offers roll in. Sign up to our mailing list to hear when we post our next article with exactly how we did it, including the script itself, and the email we sent out to enquire about places.

Got any tips or questions about being a digital nomad in Australia? Leave them in the comments below!

The Mannequin Millionares

You weren’t expecting that title were you?

The main purpose of this article is to provide a not-too-spammy opportunity to add a backlink to a dropshipping e-commerce website I built with my mate Rafa (to help boost its SEO).

The site itself is pretty niche; it allows Australian customers to buy mannequins online. There are all types of mannequins; male, female and child – for display purposes and dressmaking. Me and Rafa dream about living in Koh Tao as digital nomads and making passive income from dropshipping sites and other projects. When we achieve this we will call ourselves The Mannequin Millionaires and maybe write a book about it or something.

We first built the site about three years ago and it’s taken quite a long time for it to rank on the first page for any keywords that have even moderate levels of competition. Right now, the main keywords that drive traffic are variants of ‘mannequins Australia’ and ‘mannequin shop’ (I think the exact-match domain helps somewhat with the latter).

We’ve recently had a flurry of orders come through which has reignited my excitement for the project and led me spend some time tweaking titles and meta descriptions and thinking about how we can get a few more links (hence this article).

I’ll come back and add some more details to this article once the changes have had some time to take effect.

 

 

Finding internal linking opportunities with Screaming Frog

Ever wanted to find instances of a certain keyword on pages of a site that you can use as anchor text when creating more internal links?

There’s a few ways of doing this, including a simple ‘site:’ search on Google, or using Screaming Frog’s search feature.

The Custom extraction method with Screaming Frog has a few benefits though:

–          You can search for several phrases at once

–          You can search only for occurrences of the keyword within <p> tags (to avoid returning occurrences that are already within links/nav menus/headings)

–          You can include a column to show if there is already a link to the page that you’re trying to build internal links to

It’s pretty easy:

  1. In screaming frog, choose configuration > Custom > Extraction
  2. Setup your xpath  extractors as per the screenshot below. (disregard the labels in the first column, I was lazy and forgot to change them from a previous search – you can name these whatever you want)
  3. Use the Xpath criteria below, entering your keywords and URLs of the page you’re trying to build links to.

//p[text()[contains(.,‘keyword or phrase’)]]

//p/a[@href[contains(.,’URL of page‘)]]

  1. Set the crawl to run. If you’re working on a large site, save time by changing the crawl settings to only crawl pages.
  2. Export the extraction. As shown in the screenshot below, the CSV includes the URL of the page in the first column, then each instance of the mention of the keyword in columns to the right of it.  If the page has a link to the page defined in the extraction criteria, this will be included in the right hand column.

 

Got a question? Leave it in the comments below

Scrape Email Addresses from Google Search Results | Free Tool

It was early in 2019, COVID had just hit Australia, and my lease was expiring on my over-priced and quite cockroach-y apartment in Bondi Beach. I needed somewhere to live, but didn’t want to commit to another six month lease as I was hoping to return to Europe for a few months once things got back to normal (that’s taking a while longer than expected!).

As travel restrictions and border closures being imposed across the country, the news was full of stories about how the tourism industry was in dire straights and then the idea struck me:

We should take advantage of this opportunity to travel around Australia and get some really cheap holiday accommodation.

We wanted to spend some time in Noosa, an upmarket resort town in Queensland. A quick Google search revealed literally hundreds of holiday rental properties, but how could we contact all of them to find the ones that were interested in offering cheap rates? 

 The Answer? We scraped the emails from the websites appearing in the search results, and emailed them all at once.

My girlfriend Mercedes is a machine learning engineer so is pretty handy with a Python script. I’m an SEO so know a thing or two about how Google works. Together we built an awesome script that allowed us to:

  1. Enter a search query and get the Google search results (in our case, ‘holiday apartments Noosa’)
  2. Scrape the top 100 URLs for the pages in the search results
  3. Look through the HTML code of those pages to find and extract a contact email address, and if there was none, look for a ‘contact us’ page and check that too
  4. Export the email addresses into a CSV file that we could download

After scraping the emails, I crafted an email which we sent out to all the addresses that we had found. The email I wrote basically explained our situation, what we were looking for, and our weekly budget (which was about a quarter of what you might usually expect to pay!).

It worked! After some emails back-and-forth emails with a number of resorts, we found a beautiful place called Bali Hai. The managers, Michael and Suzanne, were a lovely couple who were happy to have us stay there for a few months. We ended up paying $600 per week (less than half the usual weekly rate, and much cheaper than were I had been staying back in Bondi!).

How can you scrape email addresses from a Google search?

It’s really easy!

Click here to go to our Google scraping tool.

It’s built using Python script in a Google Colab file, but don’t be put off if that all sounds a bit technical!

  1. Clone the notebook so you are able to make changes and save the output your own Google Drive
  2. Enter your search query in the space at the top of the notebook where it says ‘Enter your search query between the speech marks here’
  3. Press CTRL + F9 (cmd +F9 on mac) to run all the cells.
  4. Give the tool a minute or two to run and voila! You will be prompted to download a CSV file containing all the email addresses found.

screenshot of a tool for scraping email addresses from google

 

Any questions? Let me know in the comments section below.

Living and working as a digital nomad in Koh Tao, Thailand

Back in December last year, my friend Rafa and I travelled to Koh Tao in Thailand to spend six weeks living and working as digital nomads. What follows is some interesting stories and hopefully useful tips for anyone wanting to do the same.

Why did we choose Koh Tao?

There were a number of factors that led us to choose Koh Tao as a destination to settle for some time and work as digital nomads:

  1. Fast, reliable Wifi is generally quite easy to find
  2. There’s a small but close community of fellow digital nomads
  3. The island offers some of the best diving in the world
  4. It’s fairly cheap to live
  5. The food is amazing
  6. The weather is good at that time of year

We had considered other places like Vietnam, the Philippines and Bali, but none fit the criteria above as well as Koh Tao at that time of year (please do leave a comment below if you disagree!).

Where did we stay?

We rented a three bedroom villa at the north of the island near the Mae Haad pier. It was a few minute’s scooter ride from Sairee beach, the main beach and where most of the Island’s bars, shops and restaurants can be found. It cost a little over AUD 2,000 for the time we spent there, including electricity and Wifi.

The place was amazing, with a beautiful balcony partially overlooking the ocean, and the lush green jungle that covers much of the island.

Top tip: check out Facebook groups for great deals on places to stay for longer periods of time. 

The veranda of the villa we stayed in

What was daily life like?

Other than a few days we took off to go diving, we were working regular full-time hours for most of our stay on Koh Tao – so it was important that we settled into a routine as quickly as possible. A normal day looked something like this:

  • 7.30am – wake up, get ready then head down the road on our scooters to the coworking space
  • 8am – Pop into the local coffee shop (Coconut Monkey – highly recommended) for coffee and something to eat.
  • 9am – Headphones on and start work
  • 12.30pm – Eat lunch. The coworking space often offered a cooked meal for a few dollars which was great. Everyone would sit around a big table and share delicious home-cooked Thai food and share stories of their adventures. Other times, we’d take a short trip into Haad Rin and get Thai food or (if we were getting tired of Thai food) a salad from a place called Vegetabowl.
  • 2pm – Back to work
  • 6pm – Finish work, get on the scooters and head off to the gym (or every few days a Thai massage)
  • 7.30pm – Finish the gym (or massage) and find a restaurant to eat at
  • 9pm – Head home and settle down for bed
The view while eating breakfast at Coconut Monkey

What was the coworking space like?

We spent all our time working at a place called Tao Hub. It was close to where we were staying, and within walking distance of our favourite coffee shop, Coconut Monkey.

We paid THB5000 for the entire month (about $220 AUD), but I think you could negotiate a better deal – particularly if you were staying for longer.

It was pretty basic – essentially just tables and office-type chairs, with a couple of air conditioned rooms and a large out-door veranda area. In all honesty, the price did seem a little steep for what they offered, but Koh Tao is one of the more expensive Islands in Thailand, and the digital nomad/ coworking scene isn’t that big so there’s not a lot of competition.

I really liked the friendly atmosphere there though, and met some really interesting people who we made friends with and occasionally met for drinks in the evening. Overall, I think it was worth the money as it provided a good escape from working at the villa and an environment where I could be fairly productive.

The coworking space

How did we travel around?

As soon as we arrived on the Island, we both hired scooters to get around. I must admit that I was slightly nervous as I’d read reports online of rental places charging ridiculous prices for damage but this can be avoided by taking lots of photos any existing damage before you drive away. We rented from a place called Tao Technology on Sairee beach and the guy was really friendly and easy to deal with.

Scooters are by far the easiest and most convenient way to get around the island. They cost very little to run, and are pretty safe if you drive sensibly (everyone on Koh Tao gets around by scooter, sometimes you see a whole family squeezed onto one!). Obviously, make sure you wear the helmet that’s provided.

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Would we recommend Koh Tao as a digital nomad destination?

100%. Though it might be a little touristy/ developed for some, I like being able to get a decent coffee, meet some fellow travellers and enjoy good-quality western food on occasions. The island is small enough to make travelling around really easy, and create a relatively normal routine. I also really like that they have a great gym on the island for a very reasonable price.

Of course there’s also the amazing food, cheap massages ($10 for one hour!) and great diving available too.

I’ve got lots more stories and insights to share from my time in Thailand. Check back soon to read more!

Rafa and I enjoying the pool at the villa

Calculating Pixel Length of Page Titles in Google Sheets

All SEO’s know that page titles are one of the most important ranking factors – and have a big impact on CTR too.

It’s important that page titles aren’t too long as Google will truncate them in the search results. I used the Google Sheets custom functions below to check my page titles in bulk

Thanks to François Joly for creating it.

var maxTitleWdith = 580;


function pixelTitle(input) {
 
 
  var letter = '«»àô€ÀÈÊÉéèê !"#$%&\'()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>?@ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ[\\]^_`abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz{|}~–\n\r‘’£';
  var pixel = [10,10,10,10,10, 12, 12, 12, 12, 10, 10, 10,5, 5, 6, 10, 10, 16, 12, 3, 6, 6, 7, 11, 5, 6, 5, 5, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5, 11, 11, 11, 10, 18, 12, 12, 13, 13, 12, 11, 14, 13, 5, 9, 12, 10, 15, 13, 14, 12, 14, 13, 12, 11, 13, 12, 17, 12, 12, 11, 5, 5, 5, 8, 10, 6, 10, 10, 9, 10, 10, 5, 10, 10, 4, 4, 9, 4, 15, 10, 10, 10, 10, 6, 9, 5, 10, 9, 13, 9, 9, 9, 6, 5, 6, 11,10,0,0,4,4,10]
  var total = 0;  
 
  for (var i = 0; i < input.length; i++) {
 
    total = total + pixel[letter.indexOf(input.substring(i,i+1))];
  
  }
 
  return  total;
}
 
function pixelTitleTooLong(input){
  if(pixelTitle(input)<maxTitleWdith){
    return false;
  }else{
    return true;
  }
 
}
function previewTitle(input){
 if(pixelTitleTooLong(input)){
     return reduceTitle(input)+" ...";
  }else{
    return input;
  }
}



function reduceTitle(input){
 if(pixelTitleTooLong(input)){
    return reduceTitle(input.substring(0,input.lastIndexOf(" ")));
  }else{
      return input;

  }
}

SEO for Piano Teachers

I wrote this article a while back for my friend and piano teacher, Andrew Eales.

A talented pianist, teacher and writer, Andrew is highly respected within the piano teaching community.

My original article is below, but you can also see it on the Piano Dao blog.

What is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimisation) is a term used to describe a number of techniques aimed at improving the visibility of your website when potential clients or customers are searching for relevant terms in search engines like Google.

Google is increasingly becoming the default ‘first step’ for consumers, whether looking for their next holiday destination, a recipe for dinner, or music lessons. And with the growing usage of smartphones and rise of technology like Google Home, internet search engines will only become more important in our day to day lives.

Furthermore, whilst word-of-mouth referrals remain an important source of business for music teachers, having a website that can be easily found in search engines will compliment this by offering more information to reinforce your credentials and experience as well as allowing the user a means of contacting you for more information or to book a lesson.

As an aspiring musician myself, I have used Google to find music teachers (including Andrew) and been surprised at how poorly optimised many websites are – generally due to a lack of understanding about the basic principles.

SEO can be a confusing topic for any small business owners, but it doesn’t need to be. A couple of days spent making small changes to your site, creating a Google “my business” account, and building some links from directories could have a massive impact on your search engine visibility, especially among users searching in the local area (Google is getting very good at presenting locally-relevant results).

I’ve broken out the basic steps of SEO for a music teacher website below.

Have a Way of Measuring Results

Before you start putting any effort into SEO, it’s useful to have a way of measuring success.

One of the most important metrics to monitor the effectiveness of your SEO activity is the number of unique visitors arriving on your site from Google. This information may be available ‘out-of-the-box’ with some website platforms, but most websites will need to use a third party analytics tool like Google Analytics which you can learn more about here.

Local SEO and Google My Business

If you’ve used Google to find a store or business near you, you’ve almost certainly come across these type of results:

Picture3

In the SEO world, we refer to this as the ‘local pack’, and it offers a huge amount of visibility if you can manage to appear in it – and in the frequently sub-optimised world of music teacher websites, that may not be too difficult.

To claim your Google My Business page, visit google.com/business. Google will verify that that you own a location by sending a PIN in the post that you’ll need to enter online.

Once verified, you should optimise your listing by completing all the relevant sections such as business description, photos, address and opening hours with as much detail as possible. Be sure to include relevant keywords like ‘piano teacher’ or ‘piano lessons’ in the description.

Microsoft-owned search engine Bing has a platform called places for business which works in a very similar way – so set that up too.

Keyword Research

Understanding what users are searching for.

This is all about understanding the exact phrases your potential customers use when they’re trying to find a teacher.

There are a number of online tools available to find this information, but my favourite is SEMRush. Essentially, you type in a keyword that’s relevant to your business (like ‘piano teacher’) and it provides you with the number of times that keyword is searched for each month in the UK (we refer to this as the search volume). It also offers a useful feature of providing related keywords and their search volume, allowing you to build a list of the most frequently searched terms relevant to your business.

I’ve pulled together a list of the highest volume terms below (excluding terms which include a city or town name like ‘piano lessons London’)

You can see immediately how important this research is, given the vast difference in search volume. For example, if your website was optimised for the term ‘piano tuition’ you would only be gaining a fraction of the potential visibility for your business, even if you were to be ranking in position one.

Piano lessons8,100
Piano lessons near me4,400
Piano teacher1,900
Piano teachers near me1,900
Piano classes near me320
Piano tutors near me260
Piano tuition190

Deciding which keyword to target

Generally speaking, the aim is to optimise your website to target the keywords with the largest search volume. However, in some circumstances the competition for the top spots for these keywords might mean that you choose to target a lower volume keyword but with less competition.

One of the simplest methods of determining whether your site could rank for a given keyword is to see which sites are currently ranking in the top positions and comparing their domain authority (a score out of 100 of how important Google is likely to perceive a site to be) to your own site.

A simple to use tool is Moz Open Site Explorer– simply copy and paste the URL of your competitor’s site and it’ll give you loads of information about that domain including the domain authority. If the top few positions in the search engine results are held by sites which have a much higher authority than that of your site, then try optimising your page towards a less competitive term, and work on building the authority of your site in the meantime (more on that later).

Relevancy and Authority

How Google determines the order of search results

Before we get into the details of exactly how to optimise your website, I want to take a moment to introduce two concepts which are important in understanding how Google decides the order of the websites it ranks for a given term.

The first is relevancy. As the term suggests, this is how well Google thinks your site answers the needs of the user based on their search query.

Its algorithms analyse dozens of factors to determine this, including most importantly the keywords and phrases used on the page (discussed in more detail in the next paragraph) but also user behaviour (how quickly do users return to the search results after visiting your page? – if it’s less than a few seconds then your content probably isn’t what they’re looking for, and if that happens frequently, you may see your rankings drop) and the content on other sites that are linking to your site.

The second factor is authority. Let’s say two sites both have pages which are well optimised for the term ‘Piano lessons in Milton Keynes’ – how does Google decide which to rank first? The answer is domain authority, and the biggest factor in determining the authority of a website is the number of links from other websites, and the authority of those websites.

Consider that many of the highest authority domains on the web are major news outlets – why? Because so many other websites link to them, and they are a trusted source of content.

Onsite optimisation

Making pages relevant to the user’s search query.

Now that you’ve decided on a keyword or two to target, it’s time to optimise a page on your website to rank for that term. Essentially this means giving clear signals to Google’s algorithms that your page is relevant to the user’s search query.

I’ve listed the main elements that should be optimised on a page below – use this as a check list for your own website.

Page Title

This is the title that’s shown as the main (blue) heading for each listing in the Google search results, and in the browser tab when a user is on your site. The keyword you’re targeting should be at the beginning of the page title, and it should not exceed 60 characters in length. An example of an optimised page title would be Piano Lessons in Milton Keynes | Keyquest Music.

Headings

The most important heading on the page is the <H1> or first heading. This should be different to the page title but should include the search phrase, or a slight variation of that phrase. For example: Piano lessons for Children and Adults in Milton Keynes.

Body Copy

The term that your optimising for should be included at least four times in the main body of the page. It’s important not to overdo it though – the copy should be written in a natural way that provides useful information to the reader.

Hyperlinks

Links to a page are very important because they provide the means for Google’s ‘crawlers’ to find the page, essentially by navigating through the site via these links. As a minimum, the page should be linked from the main navigation menu.

Images

Any images on the page should have a relevant file name with words separated by hyphens. For example, if you have a photo of yourself sitting at your piano, it could be named joe-bloggs-piano-lessons.jpeg.

Bonus tip: Having a fast loading website will help your SEO. Compressing images to the smallest possible file size before uploading them to your site will help to reduce your page load speed, and thus give you an edge on competitor pages. Kraken is an easy to use tool which can help with this.

Page URL

Most website platforms do a pretty good job of doing this automatically, but the URL of the page should also include the keyword if possible – eg. http://www.musicteacher.com/piano-lessons.

Offsite optimisation

Getting links to build authority.

Offsite optimisation is particularly important for new sites, and in essence, it refers to building links to your website from other pages on the web. This can include social media profiles, local business directories, or professional bodies you’re a member of (like the Registry of Guitar Tutors, for example).

As we discussed earlier, Google uses these external links not only to find your site as it’s bots crawl links across the web, but also as a way of determining the authority of your site – the more links = the higher the authority.

One thing to note here is when applying for listings in local business directories, it’s important to use a consistently formatted address – as this will help Google to understand the physical location of your business and rank it more highly for users searching in your area.

A neat way to find link opportunities for getting links is to see which sites are linking to your competitor’s websites. The Moz Link Explorer tool is a great for this – just sign up for a free account, enter your competitor site, and click on the linking domains tab. You’ll see a list similar to the below, which shows the domain of the site that’s linking to your competitor, that sites domain authority, and the number of sites that link to that domain. Your aim should be to get links from the most authoritative site as possible, as these will have the biggest impact on your own SEO.

Picture1

Building links, and therefore the authority of your website is a time-consuming task and for many teachers, a few local directory listings will be adequate in order to rank for local terms. If you’re operating in a particularly competitive geographic location however, time spent researching website who may link to your site and reaching out to ask for a link will be worthwhile.

Restructuring my Google Ads account

A caveat about my Google Ads experience

I should start this post by l stating that I’m not an SEM expert.

In fact, my hands-on experience began only about six months ago when, a few months into my role as SEO marketing manager at Car Next Door, I was approached by our CEO who asked if I could take over managing ‘the paid side of things’.

I was hesitant. I knew from my experience working with SEM colleagues at my previous role in a digital marketing agency that you can waste a lot of cash in a very short amount of time if you don’t know know what you’re doing, and I explained this to the CEO, but he was nevertheless keen for me to take on the responsibility.

Thrown in at the deep end

So there I was, thrown in at the deep end with no idea what I was doing, a fairly sizeable budget, and a very broad brief to ‘bring in as many leads as you can without increasing the CPA too much’.

After completing Google’s training program on Ads get a grasp of the basics, I enlisted the help of my good friend and ex-colleague Brandon to perform an audit of the account. Brandon has a lot of experience in paid search and social and I hoped that he could suggest some areas for improvement, whilst giving me some pointers on how to implement the necessary changes so I could learn ‘on the job’.

The plan worked; Brandon’s audit highlighted a number of issues and opportunities to improve efficiency. After chatting through the audit with my manager, I learned that the account had been set up about four years ago, and that with the exception of some new keywords and ad copy tests, very little had been changed. All the campaigns were set to manual CPC bidding strategies, and many were limited by budget. We weren’t making use of any audiences, bid adjustments, dynamic search ads, and a number of other features.

Armed with this information, I set about implementing the changes. I’d never done any of this stuff before, so everything took a huge amount of time. I found myself googling every step just to navigate around the interface. As I became more proficient with the platform though, a bigger problem became more apparent; the account was huge and basically unmanageable.

Time for a restructure?

The guy that set it up was a fan of building highly granular account structures with single keyword ad groups- and he had convinced my predecessor that this was the way to go. They, in turn, used a tool to create dozens of new ad groups each time they wanted to add one new keyword variation. To add to the complexity, campaigns were also split out by the city that they were targeting.

Here’s a few screenshots which should help to give you an idea of the situation

These are the 18 campaigns that targeted Melbourne. Each city had an equivalent set of campaigns.
ad-groups-example
And here’s a sample of the 84(!) ad groups that one of the campaigns contained. Each campaign contained a similar structure.

Although I didn’t know it for certain, I had a hunch that this setup wasn’t ideal for a number of reasons;

  • It made managing the account virtually impossible (especially with my lack of expertise)
  • The vast majority of ad groups received very few (if any) clicks
  • I wanted to test smart bidding algorithms, but because the traffic was being split between so many campaigns, none of them received enough conversions.
  • Experiments took forever to run due to traffic being split across multiple campaigns
  • Terms like ‘rent car’ and ‘hire car’ were triggering ads from the wrong ad groups as close variants

Confirming my hunch

To find out whether my intuition about the state of the account was correct, I did a lot of reading and caught up with a couple of old colleagues to ask their advice. Everyone agreed; the account was a mess, and a restructure was the only way to fix it.