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Adam

August 21st, 2013.

How to Check a Link is Live (and Scrape It’s Anchor Text) Using Google Docs

I’ve been using Google Docs to keep track of links built to client sites and to track the progress of any link removal work. Occasionally I’ve noticed links have either been removed, the linking page no longer exists, or the links reported in that incredibly useless ‘sample link report’ are wrong. As SEOs/link builders/content marketers/inbound marketers/digital ninjas (select/insert your choice of title here) this is something you’ll want to check from time to time.

Whilst tools like ScreamingFrog are great for this sort of thing, sometimes you might want the convenience of checking this within Google Docs:

=lower(index(importxml(A1,”//a[contains(@href,'www.datadial.net')][1]“),1))

This lovely little formula grabs the lowercase anchor text of the first link containing ‘www.datadial.net’ of the URL in cell A1.

 

Very handy!

penguin2

Adam

May 22nd, 2012.

The Non-SEO Guide to The Penguin Update

There has been a lot of discussion around the search marketing industry over the past few weeks thanks to what many consider to be a pretty major update released by Google. There has been a lot of speculation that has followed with some good and not-so-good advice as a result.

With all of this information floating about it’s difficult for anyone without their ‘ear to the ground’ to get a concrete understanding of exactly what ‘Penguin’ is, and what the effects have been. I’ll put the speculation to one side for the moment and start with the facts:

What is it?

Google’s latest update aimed at rewarding high-quality sites in search results by targeting and demoting sites appearing ‘overly optimised’. Some sites that have used or are continuing to use outdated tactics (specifically tactics to get other websites to link to theirs for the purposes of improving rankings in search results) have been affected by this, however there are reports of websites that have never engaged in such tactics being affected by the update as well.

When did this happen?

Google released a blog post  stating that the update would roll out “in the next few days” back on 24th April- almost one month ago at time of writing. Most sites affected by this will have noticed changes around 24th onwards.

How to I tell if I was affected?

Sites affected by the update will probably notice a change in rankings and visits from organic search traffic (specifically visits from Google) around this time. If using Google Analytics you should be able to tell by navigating to ‘Traffic Sources’->’Sources’->’Search’->’Organic’, making sure you have a date range that spans a few weeks before and after this date. To be sure it’s best to limit the data you are viewing to Google only. Look for ‘Primary Dimenson’ and click ‘Source’ next to it to give you a list of organic search sources, and click on ‘google’:

Google penguin visits graph

The example above shows a drop in visits from organic search (specifically from Google)- if you see a consistent increase in visits around this time it is likely that a competitor may have been affected and your site may have improved in rankings as a result.

OK it looks like my site has been affected- What else do I need to know?

1- You’re not alone-

thousands of sites have been affected by this update- some undeservingly so (to the point where Google has created a feedback form  for sites that don’t believe should have been affected by the update)

2- Penguin is an algorithmic update- it isn’t personal.

Google has identified your site as being within this ‘category’ based on the data it has, not due to a human reviewing your site personally.

3- Reconsideration requests won’t help-

SearchEngineLand.com reported:

“Because this is an algorithmic change, Google has no plans to make manual exceptions. Webmasters cannot ask for reconsideration of their site, but we’re happy to hear feedback about the change on our webmaster forum.”

4- Noone that has been affected by Penguin has recovered… yet-

There is a wealth of speculation and tips for recovering from the penguin update online, however noone can confirm what the best solution to recovering from this update is. Currently there has been no ‘refresh’ or ‘reevaluation’- sites that were affected are still in the same boat.

5- Penguin isn’t ‘real-time’-

Like the ‘Panda’ updates before, the Penguin update isn’t continually reevaluated in real-time, meaning any changes that are made now won’t have any impact until Google reevaluates their data at a later date.

How can I get my traffic and rankings back?

The only certain answer at this stage is no-one can be 100% sure (as with pretty much anything within the SEO sphere), but the potential signs of redemption lie in evaluating the existing links to your website and the methods used to attract links from external websites.

Microsite Masters released some interesting findings of sites they analysed that had been affected by the Penguin update:

“every single site we looked at which got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money keyword” as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links. On the other hand, the sites that were not hit by the update had much more random percentages.”

This suggests that sites with a higher percentage of links that use the keyword they are trying to rank for (‘money terms’) in the clickable part of the link to their website (‘anchor text’) are more likely to have been affected by this update. This isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ issue, and I’m certain that Google would have considered several other factors rather than the percentage of keyword-rich links a site has, but suggests that Google are looking for more evidence of brand promotion rather than search engine manipulation when assessing the links to your website.

 

As with other large updates introduced by Google in the past, this re-emphasises the importance of diversifying the sources of income your business as a whole has. Depending on one revenue channel alone can be risky- even when times are good, so it’s important to remember that channels such as paid search, email marketing, online PR, affiliate marketing and social can be profitable.

 

img credit: opencage.info

google

Adam

March 7th, 2012.

Does Google Places Trust Their Citation Sources Too Much?

Barry from Search Engine Roundtable posted an interesting find from a Google Webmaster Central forums post. The OP pointed out that PC World (a leading electronics chain in the UK) is ranking with “Mothercare” (a leading baby/parenting chain in the UK) as it’s title in search results for the term ‘PC World teeside park’:

PC World teeside park serps

 

I’m still very intrigued as to how this happened, but after some digging around I think I’ve found a reason why (which I posted on Barry’s post).

1- It’s showing up for ‘mothercare teeside park’ as well (suggesting it’s not ‘one way’). Both results show a Google Places result with the same address and a phone number: 01642 618325

2- A quick search for ’01642 618325 pc world’ returns http://uk.wowcity.com/hartlepool/?what=digital+camera+consumer+products

3- On this page the first result for Mothercare links through to PC World’s homepage (although the details are correct for Mothercare). Note this passes through an internal tracking script and isn’t a direct link.

This looks to me like an error in Wowcity’s listing as the cause of the problem, and probably isn’t anything to do with the folks at PC World or Mothercare (or the agencies they may be working with), but is an interesting fine nonetheless.

If my theory is correct it begs the question- Does Google Places trust it’s citation sources too much? Would love to hear your comments (particularly if you work for PC World, Mothercare and Wowcity!) below.

google-demographics

Adam

February 22nd, 2012.

Google+ Demographics: A Look at the Top 5 Countries Using Google Plus

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the possible success (or failure?) of Google+. Google themselves have been a little cagey when it comes to giving information on their userbase, and whilst Larry Page boasted 90 million users globally, Larry didn’t quite explain their metrics in their entirety, as this post from Forbes showed.

Last week Website Monitoring shared some interesting research showing the overall demographics for Google+ users, and whilst the findings are fascinating I wanted to find out how these averages differed by country. Having identified the US, India, Brazil, UK and Canada as being the top five countries based on the estimated number of users, I’ve looked at the relationship status, interests, sex and age of Google Plus users based on the locations stated in their profiles.

This has produced some interesting statistics, such as:

  • There are almost as many Indian men as there are Female Americans
  • 76.02% of sampled Indian Google+ users are single, and are more interested in forming relationships and dating combined than networking
  • Brazilian Google+ users have far more ‘it’s complicated’ relationships than the other four countries sampled
  • The trend of 18 – 24 year old users being the most popular age group within Google Plus’ userbase appears to be true across the top five countries sampled, however there is a larger percentage of 18 – 24 year old users in Brazil (69.90%)
  • Plus a whole number of other interesting nuggets!

Thus I present:

Google Plus Infographic

Embed this- Sharing is Caring!

Google Plus Demographics InfographicDatadial

Adam

December 6th, 2011.

SEO Industry Survey Results [Infographic]

A few weeks ago we asked a few folks on Twitter to complete a short (okay, maybe not that short) 22 question survey, looking specifically at the business side to working in SEO. We asked the all important questions, including:

  1. Where are you based?
  2. What kind of business are you?
  3. How many people work in the business?
  4. What other services do you offer besides SEO?
  5. How many clients do you currently manage?
  6. Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
  7. What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
  8. Your average charge per month for SEO services?
  9. Typical client retention period?
  10. Biggest issues facing your business today?
  11. Biggest barrier to sales?
  12. Biggest source of leads?
  13. What activities are included in a typical campaign?
  14. Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
  15. Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? ;))
  16. What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
  17. What keyword tools do you use primarily?
  18. How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
  19. What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
  20. How did you get into SEO?
  21. What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
  22. Have you ever had a site penalised?

The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:

SEO Industry Survey

Click to enlarge

Embed this:

We’ll be releasing the source data as promised in the next few days. Let us know how your company compares to these averages in the comments below!

Adam

October 27th, 2011.

Google AdWords: Updated Focus on Quality Score

Earlier this month Google announced changes to the importance Google AdWords places on Quality Score, which is likely to affect a number of advertisers. Based on tests carried out in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Google’s Adam Juda announced that the update will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.

The update places more importance on the relevancy of a landing page when calculating Quality Score- a component in the formula which determines where your ad displays in search results and your cost per click when competing with other advertisers. Essentially- it’s now more important than ever to ensure that landing pages used for PPC are as relevant and optimised as possible- rewarded by higher positions with lower cost-per-click costs.

In an interview with Search Engine Land’s contributor Pamela Parker, Google’s Director of Product Management- Jonathan Alferness suggests that the current user experience for AdWords users could be improved:

What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction… This means the user experience isn’t what it could be…

In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.

 

How will this change affect you?

With added emphasis on landing page Quality Score, it’s important to be aware of this change and now is the time to assess your current landing pages. We can expect to see an initial change within AdWords as this change initially rolls out to the rest of the world:

As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance.

Past this, sites with lower quality landing pages may expect to see lower quality score values, lower ad positions, and possibly higher cost-per-click prices when competing against advertisers with better quality landing pages.

Adam

October 20th, 2011.

Google Trusted Stores

Google trusted storesTrusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.

Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.

When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.

With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.

While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.

Adam

October 20th, 2011.

Review Sites- How to Deal with Negative Comments

When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.

The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.

  • Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
  • Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
  •  A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours

We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.

 

1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy

When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.

Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.

 

2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem

If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)

Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.

If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.

 

3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem

While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.

Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.

 

Adam

October 17th, 2011.

Paid Ads Get 37% Improved CTR on Tablet vs. PC

Findings from Marin Software’s Paid Search Quarterly Benchmarking Report, suggest that if you use one of the new tablets, as opposed to a PC, it’s possible to increase the click through rate on paid ads by more than a third. The research was based on a mapping of how much was spent on paid search by almost a thousand agencies and advertisers across the world, giving a total for all of £1.3 billion.

More than 90% of the annual cost of spending on paid search came from PCs, tablet users spent only 2% and the other 5% cam from smartphone users. The trend tracking was undertaken in the third quarter. According to the report the CTR or click through rate for the ads on tablets was much higher than on PCs. However, when it came to the advertiser’s average CPC or post per click the rate on tablets was 29% less than on smartphones and PCs. The volume of clicks for advertisers with Bing and Yahoo was up 43%, yet there was a drop of 10% in CPC.

The growing use of tablets could mean a shift in advertisers’ strategies for paid search ads, according to Ed Stevenson, the Managing Director of EMEA and APAC for Martin Software He further added may change their strategies for advertising and spending to cope with the shift in browsing habits to things like the iPad. More importantly, advertisers may need to work on device specific programs to improve results. Coincidentally this report was released at the same time as the quarterly report from Google, stating that in the three months finishing the end of September, earnings rose to £6.16bn ($9.72bn), a rise of 33%.

Adam

August 25th, 2011.

Google’s hidden text in Google Plus posts- a violation of their own guidelines?

I’ve been playing about a bit with Google Plus posts this morning, and with the recent share of Vic Gundotra’s Icon Ambulance post I know a lot of people have been viewing the same page that led me to dig a little deeper into Google Plus pages.

Take a look at the source code of the cached version of this page- scroll down and you’ll notice a lot of names appearing in the source code within the <span class=”To”> tag. This tag appears to contain the names of almost everyone who has shared the post, and in this particular case this is a lot of names. On the page this either appears as:

or in some cases:

As seen in this example from one of Larry Page's posts

I’m not yet able to determine why some pages do display some of this text and why others don’t- it doesn’t appear to be influenced by the number of shares, comments or age of post from what I’ve seen. In any case this still contains a list of names hidden from the page:

hidden text google plus

In order to determine whether Google Plus pages were ranking for people’s names included in the hidden text I decided to run a small experiment. I took this Google Plus post from Matt Cutts and decided to check the rankings of the first 2 pages of Google UK for 38 of the names included in this span tag:

Out of the 38 names I tested for this URL only 2 ranked this URL within the top 20 results. This isn’t a massive feat but I’m sure we’d see more results if we rolled this out across the thousands of post URLs indexed, or expanded the depth past the second page of search results.

This goes to show that the usernames contained in the hidden text can (and does) rank which may be a violation of Google’s Guidelines on Hidden text and links.

Now I’m 100% positive that this isn’t deliberate- I think this is simply a classic case of a developers oversight… another classic example of why SEO needs to be baked into the development process from the very beginning- no matter how big an organisation you are!

Adam

August 22nd, 2011.

Visualizing your busiest PPC time periods using pivot tables & Excel

Ad scheduling can be a particularly useful tool to use within Google AdWords if you’re running a campaign on a tight budget. For anyone who hasn’t used Ad Scheduling before, it allows you to set time periods in which your AdWords ads within the selected campaign are allowed to show. This is useful because with a little research you’re able to find out when are the busiest hours of the day and adjust your AdWords campaigns accordingly, allowing your available daily budget for each campaign to be spent only within the time periods specified. I’m going to show you how I go about finding this out for each campaign, and how to set it up in approx. 10 minutes!

Sounds Great! How Do I Know What Times Searchers Are Most Active?

First of all you’ll need a sample period where Ad Scheduling isn’t used and you’ll need a fairly decent daily budget so that the display of ads isn’t limited by your daily budget. I’d suggest running the campaign like this over a month and work with the data available.

Step 1: Download the Report

Log into Google AdWords and select the date range for the sample period. Click on the ‘Campaigns’ tab and click on the reports icon, shown below:

AdWords report button

AdWords report button

 

The box will then expand to show the report name, format, and allow you to add segments. Click the ‘+ segment’ link, adding the three segments shown below:

AdWords report segments

 

Add the ‘Day’, ‘Day of the week’ and ‘Hours of day’ segments to your report and click ‘Create’ to download the report. Once downloaded open the report in Excel.

 

Step 2: Using Pivot Tables to Group Periods

Depending on the number of Campaigns and AdGroups you have running, chances are you’re going to have a spreadsheet with quite a few rows. To make sense of this we are going to break this down using a pivot table.

First delete the top row (containing the report name and the sample data period) so that:

becomes:

 

You will also need to remove the last few rows from the bottom of the spreadsheet containing the totals as well:

Next highlight all columns (my example goes from columns A to Q), and under the ‘Insert’ menu in Excel click ‘Pivot Table’:

 

You will then see a dialog box similar to the one below- click ‘OK’ to create a pivot table in a new sheet. After, click on the new sheet where you will see the empty pivot table:

Pivot Table Field List highlighted in Green

 

You can now start adding the fields required to the areas within the ‘Field List’. To start with, drag the ‘Campaign’ field into the ‘Report Filter’ box, ‘Days of week’ into the ‘Column Labels’ box, ‘Hour of day’ into the ‘Rob Labels’ box and ‘Impressions’ into the ‘Values’ box. The field list should look like this:

Next click the down arrow on ‘Count of Impressions’ value in the ‘Values’ box and click ‘Value Field Settings:

and select ‘Sum’ before clicking ‘OK’.

You should now see that ‘Count of Impressions’ has changed to ‘Sum of Impressions’ and the values within the pivot table have also changed. You can now see the total number of impressions for the selected campaign broken down by hour of the day for each day of the week:

Note you can filter by campaign by selecting the campaign name (highlighted)

This is pretty useful as you can see the number of total number of impressions for each hour of the day for each day of the week. The only problem is I’ve then got to compare the numbers, and since I prefer pretty pictures or graphs, I’d rather see this visually represented.

Step 3: Make It Pretty

To see a visual representation of more popular hours we can add conditional formatting to the table and highlight busier periods. To do this, start off by selecting all of the values for ‘Monday’ and under the ‘Home’ menu, click on ‘Conditional Formatting->Color Scales and select an awesome-looking colour scale:

 

Then do the same for the other columns for other days of the week (you’ll have to do each column individually). Afterwards you’ll end up with something like this:

Here you can see how the number of impressions differs by hour on each typical weekday, and more importantly when the quieter periods are. You can then apply this data to each Campaign (by changing the Campaign drop down in cell B1) and apply ad scheduling to these periods. This will allow you to show your ads only during the periods where searchers are more active, meaning your available daily budget is used more wisely.

Remember to consider different timezones- if your campaign is targeting more than one timezone you will need to account for this, and you may wish to separate different timezones into separate campaigns.

 

Adam

March 11th, 2011.

Is this the future of linkbait?

I’ve just come across The Print Effect by Cartridge Save. If you haven’t already seen it go take a look (then come right back… I’ll wait).

What is it? It’s a Twitter app that creates an infographic-like page for each Twitter user you enter. There have been similar things in the past, and this particular one I think is genius:

Barrack Obama twitter timeline

Why is this one a little different to the others? It appears the output content changes for different users (take a look at mine and Matt’s- I’ve got badgers, Matt has cows!)

 

Why Do I Think This is Such a Cool Idea? (Aside from the cows, obviously)…

Linkbait is getting harder and harder- people are getting bored with infographics and the sharing element to infographics is somewhat limited (I’ll happily forward on and link to good content but I’d do it even more if it’s about me, the selfish human that I am). This takes on a new twist- linkbait via dynamic infographics!

What I like about this is it’s a little different for every user, and people want to share (and link to) interesting things that are about themselves!

As an SEO I would’ve implemented a different URL structure to prevent creating hundreds of pages for each user, however judging by the shares this has already received I’d be surprised if it doesn’t pick up a decent amount of links too.

Perhaps it’s time to get a web developer involved as well as the designer or content writer when crafting your next linkbait campaign?

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