To Guest Blog or Not to Guest Blog… is that still the question?

To Guest Blog or Not to Guest BlogMurmurs about guest blogging relevance have been on the rise in the SEO and content marketing spheres. In close succession we’ve seen a few articles by SEO Andy, Matt Cutts and others all discussing the cons and some pros of guest blogging. I won’t go into guest blogging yeas, nays or how to’s here because that’s been done sufficiently already, but it seems that guest blogging and content is on the mind of many website owners and SEO managers. Call me crazy but I have to ask ‘why this is still being discussed?’

Guest blogging isn’t new or novel. In fact, SEO agencies have been using guest blogging to try to gain links for websites for many years. Guest blogging has gained a fairly bad reputation due largely to the placement of  irrelevant links, poor content, and the use of low quality  sites to support articles that exist purely for advertising purposes. Bad news.

Let’s think about this. Blogging as a company is important for many reasons; this was discussed in a previous blog. Guest blogging on the other hand is a tactic that should be used to help build community and connections not to merely garner a quick link. In fact, if you want to build a connection with another blogger, you should be seeking to help them out primarily or to form a relationship, not to directly promote your own site from the word go.

It’s more likely that you will find success for your site via your own company blog, social media, and onsite content than through potentially dodgy links gained from excessive guest blogging. Don’t get me wrong, there are definite benefits to guest blogging, if done correctly (and by correctly I mean over time, with much research and after connections and relationships have been respectfully formed).

It’s time to pull up your boot straps and start anew. Leave the dusty old guest blogging for links strategy behind.

Create a Confident Company Story

Confident Company Storytelling

I’ve said before that SEO in the past has had too high a focus on links. This was because… it worked (for a while). But the link profile of a site says far less about a company than does its number and confidence of customers.

Are you hoping to improve your site’s search visibility, build community and get noticed online? Guest blogging is not the answer. Effective site architecture and compliance checks are an important part of the process. Another important part is the story your company is telling through its content.

Confident, creative content tells a positive story about your company. This should be your focus.

Your company story should be constantly growing and adaptable and should reach time across various mediums. It incorporates company blogging, social media, onsite content and even how and where your company advertises.

How do you tell a confident company story?

  1. Use positive, clear, active language: imagine your site is a letter to your visitors. Based on the words you’ve chosen, what sort of person would they think you are as a company? Shy? Stern? Disconnected? Engaging? Happy?
  2. Be consistent: don’t change your tone. You can change your voice to meet different mediums but the overall tone and message should be consistent. Just like in personal relationships if someone is inconsistent it gets confusing and can breed distrust. Creating a well researched tone of voice document can help with this.
  3. Get Passionate: Do you like what you do? Let your language communicate that. Don’t hide what’s great about your company. Tell your story in whatever way you can.
  4. Get yourself out there: Use social media effectively. Show your human side and help your customers become confident about you and their choice to use your product or service. Give them a reason to believe in you!

Everything you do as a company is part of your story. So it’s important to think about the story you are telling with the actions you’re taking and the words you choose. If you do this you’re well on your way to communicating a confident company story.

If you decide to get involved in guest blogging just make sure you do so respectfully. This infogram clearly illustrates what NOT to do. But like most things in life the best practice is to ‘do as you would have others do unto you’.

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Another a451 Team Member to take up a Sporting Challenge

The a451 team is always up for a challenge. Our past events have included 10k runs, a marathon, a rollerblading marathon to name a few and, of course, Chris Wood’s numerous triathlons, decathlons and Ironman competitions!

So now it’s my turn to take up a challenge. I will be taking part in the Cardiff Half Marathon this Sunday 14th October. Not being a natural runner, it has taken me some time to get into a routine of training. However, to the shock of many (including myself), I can now say I enjoy it!

The cause that I am running for makes all the training worthwhile, even the early morning alarms to get up and out into the cold! I will be running along with several others to raise funds for Cancer Research.

Cancer Research has played a vital role in a friend’s father’s rollercoaster journey of being diagnosed with bowel cancer. He took up a place in May on a Cancer Research led trial, looking to see whether an additional drug to chemotherapy will help patients in the future. The cost of the research is not cheap. As a charity, Cancer Research funds over half of the UK’s cancer research, as well as supporting and spreading information about key cancer issues. It is very likely that you know someone who has benefited from the work they do too.

There are 8 of us taking part on Sunday and we have set ourselves a high goal of sponsorship money we would like to raise. We believe with the generosity of many people we can reach it and help this fantastic charity.

This has been a challenge for most of us: our collective dodgy knees, shins and calf injuries prove that it hasn’t been easy! If you can please help us reach our target for Cancer Research we would be truly grateful and it will help us to cross the finish line on Sunday morning.

Thank you for the support!

For more information on the trial :

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Chris Wood to take part in World Duathlon Championships

The latest challenge our Marketing Associate Chris Wood is set to take part in is the 2012 World Duathlon Championships. It is being held in Nancy, France on 22 and 23rd September and will feature the Elite, U23, Juniors, Age-Group, Paratriathlete and Relay formats.

The course consists of a 10k run, 40k bike ride and a 5k run, which Chris and 3 other club members from the Black Country Triathletes will be representing Great Britain in. They will be up against an international field of athletes from Europe, USA, New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil.

After competing at the Powerman European Long Distance Duathlon Championships in Holland in April, Chris is expecting the competition to step up another level for the World Champs, and like last year, is set to deliver some very fast racing from the off!

After a couple of years representing Great Britain at Duathlon, next year Chris will mostly be concentrating on Triathlon and Ironman distance in particular, with the possibility of GB qualification for the World Long Course Triathlon Championships.

Chris would like to thank Fred Williams Cycles, High5 Sports Nutrition, Sutton Maddock Vehicle Hire and Oxyfit for their continued support.

The a451 HQ wish him the best of luck!

For more information on the event can be followed at,

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Occupy Online, Search Wanes for Faceless Companies

Online Connection - photo by lionyigit

We could blame Wall Street. People just don’t trust faceless giant corporations any more, not the way they used to, and this is changing many things, including how we navigate sites online.

Has the global ricochet of distrust of the “big guys” changed how people view companies both online and offline? It would appear so, but it might not be solely Wall Street’s fault. Here at a451 we’ve been noticing some changes in search traffic.

Popular pages are less likely to be services and are moving more toward information “about” companies.

With mobile phones getting smarter and now tablets and numerous apps to help us keep in touch, it seems we humans are more concerned than ever about “what’s happening” within the lives of people and communities around us, including companies!

The way we navigate the web is changing. Where we are seeing this most dramatically is in how visitors navigate company web sites.

Where once visitors would seek out service pages and look for the best information on what a company could do, now trends are suggesting that visitors want to know primarily who a company or service provider is; searchers want to know what people and businesses are about not just what they do.

I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise. The fact is that the most popular sites (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc) are personal, social, engaging and full of faces.

This trend could be problematic for the many companies still hiding behind the veil of services, thinking personality and insight will make them appear unprofessional or untrustworthy. So if that’s you, it’s time to have a re-think about how you present your company’s face to the web.

So we want to know…

  • When you look at a company website, where do you go first?
  • Do you look at their services or do you head straight for that “About Us” section?
  • What do you want to know when you’re looking at a company website for the first time? What leads you to make contact?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this trend, please leave your thoughts in the comments or message us on Twitter @a451

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Stop Building; Start Earning Links Through Quality & Community

Stop Link Building!

Are you still concerned about how many links are coming into your site? Still looking for quick fixes? It’s time to stop building and start earning links through quality and authentic community.

Earlier this month, Eric Ward of Search Engine Land posted an article on the Unbearable Torture of Link Building, adding his own voice to the sounds of woe coming from the SEO industry over the Panda and Penguin updates from Google. These updates penalised sites for obviously manipulated link profiles.

In his article, Ward invites those in the search engine optimisation industry to embrace link strategies that are custom-focused to the particular website and which take advantage of already existing high quality content. If a site isn’t worth sharing (linking to), then creating links for it is manipulation, it’s anything but genuine.

We agree. We would like to invite site owners to get on board with this too. Especially if you’re a site owner, and you’ve spent time worrying about number of links rather than the quality of your own site, please keep reading.

Linking to a site is a sign of confidence in a company or product. 

Linking without confidence creates a form of link slavery that holds everybody back, including your own site. It can also lead to penalties from Google. Why? It’s manipulative. Manipulation never leads to good things. At least not in the long run.

You need to ask yourself whether the site you intend to link, or get others to link to, to is actually worthy of links. If it isn’t, what needs to change?
When you’ve assessed that – go change it.

Creating a great site that speaks to your target audience, is well designed and well written and technically sound (this includes site architecture & compliance, among other things) is far more important than number of incoming links.

We’ve said this before, but this is especially true if your site is out of date, lacks good content, is difficult to navigate, contains errors, or is generally in need of improvement.

These days the majority of companies and businesses use the website as the primary way of selling their business and gaining sales. Before you demand that a company builds a bunch of manipulative links to your site, have an honest look at your site and assess the situation. A chance of heart may be in order. Stop and think.

Okay so let’s imagine your website is a house for sale: If you’re offering that house at a high price, people expect a certain level of quality. If the house is dilapidated, a fixer upper, or in blatant need of repair, then asking people to pay a high price is unfair, in fact it’s manipulative and kind of silly. Don’t you think?  You’re not going to get what you want and neither are potential buyers (unless they’re looking for a fixer upper, but then they won’t want to pay the high price).

If you still really want to sell the old house, you’ll put in the time, money and effort to do the repairs. You’ll make it presentable and worth a high price. Right? I thought so.

Earn those links, don’t simply gain them.

Building or earning links to a site is really about building community. For there to be a community, people need to care about your product or company. You can’t force people to care, you need to invite them. It takes time.

Here are a few tips for link earning & building your community online:

  1. Remember link manipulation was never going to last and this is a good thing. Look for people who can help you improve and optimise your website for your target audience.
  2. Create stuff worth sharing, whether it’s written content, videos, pdfs, images, infographics, whatever. Be creative and show people who you are as a company. Share it with others, talk about it and be engaging. This is how you build community.
  3. Be excellent! Don’t stop improving and growing. Be engaging. Continue to seek excellence in your site. Don’t let it grow stagnant. Continual content refreshes, updates, and additions help your site get found more often in search engines and also create greater opportunities for engagement and thus, linking and community building. Don’t be afraid to show the personality and human side of your company or organisation. It all helps!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and be excellent!



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a451 Associate Chris Wood beats his personal best at Ironman 70.3

With the Olympic spirit still very much in the air we are excited to fill you in on our very own Chris Wood’s latest sporting achievements.

Chris completed another successful challenge last month, the Ironman 70.3 in Antwerp.

Yes it is as hard as it sounds; Chris endured a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike, finishing off with a 13.1 mile run.

The target was sub 4 hrs 30 minutes. Chris finished with an impressive time of 4 hrs 27 beating his previous best of 4 hrs 37. His swim time was 29 minutes, bike ride 2 hrs 18 (he even beat a few pros in the process!) and his run was an impressive 1 hour 33 minutes, putting him in 85th place out of an incredible 1100 entries.

With this impressive result Chris qualified for the World Ironman Championship in Las Vegas due to take place in early September. However, as one who can never sit still Chris has regrettably had to turn down the Vegas championship in order to compete in another competition for which he had previously been booked: the World Duathlon Championships 2 weeks later in September.

Chris’ racing plans for the next couple of years are to concentrate on qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 and the Long distance World Championships.

He is also focusing on the full Ironman; this event is a grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon of 26.2 miles to top it off. His aim is to qualify for the World Championship held in Kona, Hawaii; I propose an a451 support team should accompany him on this trip!



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Is Google’s AuthorRank (Rel=Author) really worth all the fuss?

Authorship Rel = Author (Photo by Magnus68)

Are you an author? Do you write content that is published online? You’ll want to pay attention to this!

I recently decided to (finally) have a go at tackling Google’s somewhat elusive authorship code. I admit I was sceptical about it. As a freelance writer who has written for numerous blogs over the past few years, I wondered if I would be able to get attribution for all those past posts. Could Google really create something that would benefit authors and not just pure techie-search people? After numerous (somewhat confusing) hours of reading how-to’s and tutorials, I finally managed to get authorship working for me. These are my thoughts on it…

Google’s author rank, or Authorship Markup is a great idea. It provides a visual impact which can lead to “social proof”, which in turn can aid click-through rates.

What does that mean in non-SEO jargon?


Image credit: Red or Blue Digital

The way I understand it is this: it gives your content authority.

You become recognised for a niche, which in turn means when people see your name show up, they’re more likely to want to read it and to trust your content. This gives Google a clue that what you write can be trusted, which in turn positively affects your website/search rankings.

This is good, but like many of Google’s shiny new tools, it requires that the author has a Google + account.  Also, if  you don’t have one domain from which you blog regularly, author rank becomes more difficult to track (though not necessarily impossible).

My initial understanding was that claiming authorship for past posts would be next to impossible, however it seems that if your blog posts included your name and a mailto link (mailto: your email address), Google is smart enough to figure out the post was written by you. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! I discovered today that a blog I hadn’t remembered to include on my contributor list was now being attributed to me on Google + even though the blog uses my maiden name. Crazy.

Author Rank seems to be much more intuitive and intelligent than I had originally given it credit for, but it’s not perfect.

So, here’s how I managed to implement my authorship mark up:

  1.  Go to Google + account and make sure +1s are public. Check.
  2.  Make sure Google+ profile is public. Check.
  3. Edit Contributor to section on Google + profile to include blogs I write for. Check.
  4. Figure out where to add Author mark-up… Hmm.

If you have your own site/blog or want to tell Google that you are a contributor to a site, simply use a bit of code on your author or bio page and Google will figure out you are an author on the site. Here’s the bit of code you need (replace the x’s with your Google + account number; it’s the long number that’s part of your G+ URL).

<a href=””>Your name</a>

There are numerous other ways to implement Author Rank. I am still working out the details. Click here for a good tutorial by someone far more tech savvy than me.

So is Author rank really worth all the fuss? Yes. Mostly.

Is it everything it could be? Not yet. But it may be over time.

This may be controversial but I think where Google’s AuthorRank falls flat is in its direct (required) connection with Google+. I’d personally like to see a company develop author rank that is universal and less tied into one social network, but maybe that’s coming.

Still, if you’re an author, this is a great way to see your content brought together in one place. This  benefits you as an author and your site search & click through rates.

Once implemented, Author Rank through Google should help increase your site’s click through rates and it will increase your authority as a creator of content online. Score!



Note: Opinions expressed in this article are my own and not necessarily the opinion of everyone at a451. 

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New Tool for Keyword Research from Majestic SEO

keywords (art by_xthumbtakx-d36y0ad)On the 30th of July 2012, Majestic SEO announced a fancy new SEO tool: their very own keyword checker!

As someone who has been increasingly suspicious as to the accuracy of Google’s keyword tool lately and instead spent time using other more gorilla methods of keyword research, I was excited to hear news of a shiny new keyword research device.

The tool is available for free. If you are using the free version, you can check up to 50 keywords in one go. For silver users, that amount goes up to 150.

Admittedly, as the tool was only launched yesterday, we haven’t used it extensively yet, but here are three initial thoughts on Majestic SEO’s keyword checker:

1. On first play it seems fairly useful. However, the dictionary seems to be smaller than expected. Some search terms do not appear at all in the dictionary, though there is a note at the bottom of the keyword checker’s results page that states: “User submitted data will be used to increase the size of the dictionary”

So, in all likelihood the dictionary will expand over time to include more terms and phrases. This is encouraging!

2. As with most of Majestic’s tools, the interface is nicer to use than Google’s (at least it is for me). It also provides some handy little insights such as whether that term is included in the title or anchor text and a comparison between keyword appearance on a domain and URL.

3. The information Majestic’s tool gives also seems potentially more valuable than that of Google’s tool but we’ll have to give it some time before deciding on a final verdict.

Here at a451, we’re excited about the possibilities of a new keyword checker and we’ll definitely be testing this tool out in our client keyword research to see what kind of insights it gives us over time.

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Connecting with Search Spiders: Blogging Tips for Site Owners

Blogging hands Blogging is one of the very best tools in your website marketing toolkit.

Still, blogging isn’t always put to its best use. This is generally because many site owners do not understand the best use of blogging for search and site optimisation purposes. Blogging is a wonderfully effective way to engage with your audience, keep your site fresh and appearing more often in searches, and to target keywords.

Don’t believe me? Picture this:

The internet is a web (similar to that of a spider). Search engines like Google and Bing have a league of spiders that crawl and examine websites every hour of every day. Now, spiders do quite a bit of crawling in their lifetime regardless of whether or not a fly find its way into their web, but watch what happens when a tasty treat lands on that web. The spider leaps into action!

I won’t dwell on what that spider does to the fly as if I think about it too much I’ll get the heebie jeebies, but suffice to say: fresh blog content is like a fly on the search spider’s web, when the content appears, the search engine spiders will leap into action and grab fresh content. Search spiders are decidedly less macabre than living spiders when dealing with things found on the web.

Now, why should you care about search spiders grabbing your fresh content? Your site will get indexed quickly; therefore it will appear more often in search engines. The rule is, the more often content appears, the more quickly the spiders will respond and index the content.


Here are 4 tips for blogging effectively so that your site gets the most benefit from those lingering search spiders…

    1. Update frequently and consistently: Decide whether you are going to update your blog once, twice, or five times a week and be consistent with this. Choose a day, or days, and time to update. Schedule it, and plan accordingly. The more consistent you are with your blogging, the quicker those spiders will find your content and get it into the search engines! Consistency also helps your blog readers to know when to expect a blog post, and can increase engagement with your blog (hooray!)
    2. Use your keywords:  Your site should have a list of relevant keywords. If you don’t, you’ll want to make sure you do some research and sort out those keywords. Once you have keywords, you can use them to help create blog topics and posts. You should also include keywords in blog posts from time to time. You don’t need to do this all the time, but including your site’s keywords helps your site too!
    3. Link! If it’s appropriate, try to link back to your own site, to different relevant pages when they are mentioned in a blog, just once or twice will do. This is very helpful for your site, and can help curious readers find their way into your site and discover more about your business.
    4. Finally, share it: Whenever you post a blog, be sure to share it on your social networks and try to get people reading it. Spiders are helpful but people are the ones that read and respond to your content so don’t forget to tell people you wrote something and get the word out.

Here at a451, we acknowledge that updating a blog regularly and consistently can be tough. Even our own blog is not always updated as consistently as we’d like… generally because we love to write blog posts and content for our clients!

With this in mind, it’s important to note that finding a dedicated blogger for your company can help tremendously in ensuring your blog is updated regularly. If you think you might need someone to help you plan or write your blog for you, please get in touch. We’d love to help you (don’t worry, we’ll keep writing our own blogs too!)

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Warning: Forget Content at Your Peril (Tips for New Site Building)

words____by_kefiruxWhen approaching the building of a new web site the first thing on everybody’s mind is design. This is for obvious reasons; however it’s important to remember that content (i.e. the words on the pages) is just as important as design when it come to creating an effective, user friendly website.

If your content is rushed, poorly written, contains errors, is under or over optimised,and inadequately communicates your company then no amount of design, no matter how impressive, will help you. If content is forgotten then your website will be lacking.

Surely, a brand new web site that is lacking in one area right out of the gate is not what you want. Yet, it’s amazing how many companies forget to take content into account when designing their site.

Ever wonder what could happen if you leave your site content ‘til the last minute?

  1. The design hasn’t allowed sufficient space to write content and need to be re-worked to fit the content onto your pages. This means that additional time is required for the designer to fix the design to fit the content, which could also delay your site launch.
  2. Your rushed site content is not optimised or not sufficiently optimised and so cannot be found in search engines.
  3. You haven’t researched your target audience, and therefore the content you write in a hurry is unfocused and won’t reach those you intend to reach.
  4. Your content is rushed and contains spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Your audience finds your site but doesn’t trust you because your content appears unprofessional.

Not good is it. It’s time to start putting content at the top of the list, right up there with your shiny new web site design. So, with that in mind…

Here are 4 ways to ensure your content goes hand in hand with the design, and your newly built site arrives on the web looking and reading its best:

  • Know who is going to write your content from the beginning. Be clear on who your audience is, and what you want to achieve. Solidify your goals and your company tone of voice. Clearly communicate this to whoever is writing the content.
  • Make sure your content writer understands search engine optimisation and set time aside for some keyword research to ensure you are properly targeting your pages to the most appropriate keywords or phrases.
  • Have your content writer and designer meet. Let them discuss how content will play into the planned design and provide opportunity to negotiate where necessary to ensure design and content can work together.
  • Have the content ready at least a few weeks before the site is launched. Review it and have it read by a group of people to ensure any inconsistencies, errors, or omissions are cut before the site is launched.

Design and content are equally important to site design and both are part of the whole. If you’re looking to build a new website, make sure you don’t forget words.

Words are a big part of the story your site tells to the world.

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