October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.
Today is the day that ad:tech came to town!
Behind the glass doors at National Hall, Olympia lay a smorgasbord of digital know-how; from online marketing guru’s to customer relationship management specialists and experts on mobile marketing.
With seminars to the left, conferences above and pop-up stands everywhere else, people from far & wide scattered about the building, shuffling papers and clutching iPad’s on a journey to learn how to be better at their job.
After circling the perimeter to check out some of the businesses on show, I found my way to Oban Multilingual‘s free seminar, where Jonathan Murphy covered tips on how to successfully run multilingual PPC campaigns.
Helpful tips on multilingual PPC campaigns:
- Some PPC campaigns are generally easier to rank in non-English speaking countries, because competition isn’t always as fierce.
- When setting up domains in foreign languages, Google translate should not be an option.
- Whilst Google is king of the search engine in the UK, this doesn’t always apply abroad; Asia favors Baidu and Yandex is popular in Europe – this should be taken into account.
- Webpages should be translated (by a qualified copywriter) after research has been carried out on things like colloquialisms or Americanisms such as “free delivery” that changes to, “free shipping” for websites in the USA.
- Call-to actions and the colour used to display them is important; red is popular in Asia whereas orange is something that would be used in the UK (where red is usually a no-go for a call-to action).
Other useful marketing tips:
After the above I milled about, popping in and out of other talks, to see what other gems I could pick up – Here are a few I particularly liked:
- New international website with no inbound links and no indexed pages? – Try PPC!
Instead of waiting for Google to trawl through the pages on your website and index them, think about how Google uses it’s robot: adsbot-Google.
Pages will be read if you are buying traffic to them, which can eventually lead to rankings, even when the website is relatively unknown.
- Using video marketing in Google’s display network? – Include a transcript!
YouTube allows you upload transcripts for your videos to determine the video’s keyword relevancy for a user searching for that topic. However, it has been tested and proven that Google also uses these transcripts outside of YouTube to index these videos too! So transcripts could help your video turn up in a Google search…
- Are your YouTube videos getting enough attention? – Stop other ‘related videos’ videos showing up after yours yours (when embedded on a website)
Suggested videos are great and all, but not when they could potentially drive business away from you. Simply disable related-video suggestions on YouTube before embedding them. Problem solved!
I hope you find this information useful, I did!
Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.
Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:
Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…
Now thought of as: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.
Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…
Now thought of as: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.
Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…
Now thought of as: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.
Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…
Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)
Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…
Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends”
Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…
Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)
Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…
Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.
Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…
Now thought of as: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.
Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…
Now thought of as: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…
Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…
Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)
Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…
Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.
Don’t get left behind…
May 22nd, 2012.
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’:
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-
“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
I am yet to find many examples of ways in which companies have implemented their Cookie alerts on their website.
This is probably not surprising as it’s yet to come in but the day is drawing near.
Here are some examples. I will add more as I find them. Please feel free to suggest your own.
Virgin.com – Wow you’ve got to be keen to bother reading all that. And still the buttons are confusing.
Quite sneaky here. BT have popped the box at the bottom right hand side of the page. Be quick though as it disappears after 20 seconds. Also you need to have a lot of time on your hands to decide which cookies to accept and which not to.
These guys have had their policy in place for over a year which is quite surprising. It reminds me of the moment in Blackadder II where on a voyage of discovery with Captain Rum the water runs out aboard ship and they have to turn to drinking their own urine only to find out that Baldrick has been drinking his own for a year already – he prefers the taste!
Nice simple solution though.
Simple solution, which disappears after about 10 seconds. Presumably they think that not actively agreeing is presumed acceptance? Is this legal?
So, what’s the problem?
Nothing, if you haven’t been massively over-zealous about how well optimised your website is. Being vigilant and up to date isn’t a problem, the issue Google is trying to fix relates to those link-fiends who have over-used their ‘white hat’ so much so, that is has turned a miserable shade of grey (In case you’re confused, I refer to this post).
Okay, so what is ‘over-opimisation’?
In a nutshell, it’s the act of doing everything that is possible to optimise your website, in a non-human and bot-like way.
Sure, over optimisation can include (and will probably be identified by inclusion of ) any of the following:
- Scraped, copied web content
- Too many ads on the page & not enough original content and copy
- That fact that your website loads faster than the speed of light
- When all links that are inbound and have identical anchor text
- Infinite forum links
- Hidden text (in a colour that matches the background, so it can’t be seen)
- Sites linking to you that are dodgy or malicious in any way
This list is not exhaustive as there are many more examples of things Google might suspect & then penalize you for.
Below, I’ve included a helpful video from SEOMoz’s very own Rand Fishkin that does well to explain what changes should be made to save your site from dropping in the ranks and possibly fading into obscurity online after Google’s next update:
April 11th, 2012.
1. Less is more
I could write you a list (but I wont) of the number of photo sharing applications, tools, add-ons and features the internet has to offer, that didn’t just sell for $1 billion dollars to Mark Zuckerberg. So what made Instagram so desirable?
To answer that question, we must look at what it actually does:
- Instagram is a free photo sharing program that allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it, and then share it online.
That’s it? Yep, that’s it! Whilst many developers often try to create something so innovative, exciting and unheard of, that it is often unnecessary. It’s popularity proves that all people really want to do is upload cool looking pictures to the internet and have people “ooh” and “aah” at them.
2. The company you keep speaks volumes about you
It’s true. It’s been true since you were old enough to know what street-cred meant and cheeky enough to be selective about what shoes your parents bought you for school because the popular kids were wearing them.
Once Instagram attached itself to the iPhone, it was the inception of something brilliant. In business, you are not trying to reach everyone on the planet because that is impossible. Greatness is often born out of a niche. That is exactly why Tesco and Waitrose can exist in harmony – each business appeals to the pockets of a particular consumer and does that really well. That’s all you really need; to please your niche consistently.
3. Make changes before completely giving up
Kevin Systrom created Instagram only 2 years ago in 2010. However before you call him an upstart that got lucky, consider his earlier attempts with Photobox in 2004 that allowed you to send large images to a friend online, followed by Burbn, a useful HTML project allowing you to update people on your location and then Instagram. Each idea was a good one, but Instagram, was and is a great one! Kudos Kevin!
March 7th, 2012.
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’:
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.
December 6th, 2011.
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:
- Where are you based?
- What kind of business are you?
- How many people work in the business?
- What other services do you offer besides SEO?
- How many clients do you currently manage?
- Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
- What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
- Your average charge per month for SEO services?
- Typical client retention period?
- Biggest issues facing your business today?
- Biggest barrier to sales?
- Biggest source of leads?
- What activities are included in a typical campaign?
- Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
- Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? )
- What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
- What keyword tools do you use primarily?
- How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
- What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
- How did you get into SEO?
- What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
- Have you ever had a site penalised?
The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:
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!
November 17th, 2011.
One of my colleagues here at Datadial talked about the peculiar QR code and its uses previously on this blog. Fast forward to now and it seems to have evolved (or caught up with Japan who created them, since technically we live in the stone ages in comparison).
eBay are getting in on the act…
A post from the good folks at Econsultancy informs us of a new-age phenomenon set up by eBay, that will see customers sent online to buy goods only after scanning their bar codes with QR compatible devices.
After reading it, I started thinking about the future of shopping as a whole, with Google taking over the virtual world and taking on everyone from Apple (with Google Music) to Facebook (with Google+) are we living in a world where soon instead of buying food in-store we will be asked to produce our phones first, to then scan a code, pay online and wait for said food to be delivered? Could it become as outrageous as to be used in convenience stores for quick snacks like a chocolate bar or a packet of crisps?
If this is the present already, what does the future hold…?
Both funny and annoyingly true right? …and that’s just online shopping. If we are entering into a world of offline/online mergers what else could happen? I mean sure, in theory there are many problems it could solve:
- Store space would no longer be an issue (just like it no longer was for Cassette’s, CD’s and vinyl after iTunes was born)
- No heavy bags to carry home
- Lesser feelings of guilt because money becomes virtual too; if we can’t see it disappear from our purses then we might forget what we spent
- Scheduling goods to arrive at a time that works best for us
However, what if the downfalls included…
- The wrong item turning up at the door
- The annoyance of having to exchange an item and there being no store front to take it to (or in-store employee to blame for the journey)
- No bag to carry (everybody enjoys a little logo-bragging from time to time)
- That silly little “sorry, you were out when we called” card that the postman surely writes before he even knocks the door in anticipation of you taking longer than he’d like to walk down the stairs & answer it…
To conclude, I agree that this pop-up store (due to launch near Oxford Street, London on Dec 1st) is a great PR stunt for eBay, but is there any real use for the QR code if most people are happy just Googling a URL? – Or perhaps it’s just me that really dislikes the matrix-esque appearance of those ugly squares being forced on the nation…