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Matt

February 13th, 2014.

(Another) New EU Directive: Will it Inhibit or Enhance Online UK Retail?

A new EU directive has made its way into UK law.

The purpose of this new legislation is to both increase customer rights when buying online, and make expectations of customers more consistent across the European Union, thereby increasing cross-border trade through online stores.

We all remember the cookie fiasco of 2011, the last major attempt at enhancing the rights of the internet user. The UK government not only failed to enforce it, but even to comply to their own law. Due to strong resistance and powerful arguments against the law, it was revoked in 2013.

Will this new push for user’s rights follow a similar fate?

10 Second Summary

To make customer rights more uniform across Europe via:

  • Increased minimum cancellation period

  • Obligatory refunds within this period

To increase customer rights by:

  • Forbidding auto-ticked checkboxes

  • Using clearer, less attractive language on the ‘Buy’ button

There are many other changes to be made in response to this directive, but the above represent the parts of the legislation most likely to affect online retailers in a big way.

When Will This Affect Us?

The law is set to come into effect in the UK on the 13th of June, 2014.

Some things are likely to need changing before this date rolls around. We’ll need to retrain our staff in regards to dealing with returns, cancellations, refunds, and customer service in general.

Terms and conditions will also be affected, as well as the code responsible for auto-ticked checkboxes, and the text for the ‘Buy Now’ button is going to get a little uglier, I’m afraid. Let’s get into specifics.

Shall I Click “Buy”, or “Order With Obligation To Pay”?

agt-buy-buttonWords like “buy”, “confirm” or “place order” are now apparently too vague and open to interpretation to describe the button that leads to payment.

“Order with obligation to pay” is the phrase our customers now have to read and agree to before buying from us.

One of the biggest arguments against the old cookie law was that it put other countries, particularly the US, at a significant advantage, since their websites didn’t include pop-ups which, to those that don’t know what cookies are, looked like a request to infringe on their privacy.

The buy button thankfully occurs a lot further in the buying process, and is likely to have less of an impact.

Sales may be lost, however, and they are not sales that depended on people not knowing what they were clicking on. It’s a wonder why this was deemed as a necessary change.

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Credit: Chris Lake @Lakey

If the cookie law was a reaction against the thought of websites tracking our movements, is the buy button law a reaction against the thought of the 1-Click button?

We can deviate a little from their suggested script, as long as it remains explicitly clear that by clicking the button they are entering into a contractual agreement that ends in payment. Clearly, it’s up to us to interpret this detail to a degree.

Whatever the case, the change to buy buttons is just one part of this legislation.

Say Goodbye to the Presumptuous Tick Box

When a page loads, any checkboxes that relate to a add-on service must be un-ticked.

checkboxFrom July onwards, if you want your customers to sign up to your newsletter or add some extra insurance cover to their purchase, you’ll have to make the prospect compelling enough to have them tick it themselves.

Most customers have now been trained through experience to look for checkboxes they have to opt out of before clicking confirm. No, it doesn’t build goodwill for a brand, but it still goes on. You can see how this is in the same line of thought as the buy button changes, the difference being that these checkbox changes are likely to be a genuine improvement in the buying experience.

Adopt a German Attitude Towards Refunds

The “right to cancel period” will be expanded from a minimum of 7 working days to 14.

This is to align the rights of customers buying from a UK retailer with those of customers buying from other EU countries, such as Germany, who already enforce a 14 day right to cancel period.

Refunds for products will be obligatory within the right to cancel period, on the condition that the product is returned with its value undiminished by carelessness. Even if the customer has cancelled, the retailer can withhold refund payment until the product is properly returned, which most of us will agree is fair enough.

It seems that these changes to refund policies are weighted to be fair to both parties, but they will require some attention be paid to our terms and conditions before enforcement comes into play in July.

The benefit is a consistent customer experience across Europe, which should result in more cross-trade online, and a wider reach for small UK retailers that don’t have the budget to expand operations overseas in a physical capacity.

How Do We Protect Ourselves from Prosecution?

If you’re hoping for a similarly lax enforcement practice as we saw with the cookie law, you’re in good company. Perhaps a revision to the surprising buy button policy will occur in time, but until then, any UK business owner who acquires sales online will be at risk of prosecution without making the necessary changes.

You can read the official document here (PDF), which includes model cancellation forms and detailed descriptions of policies we’ve covered here.

The most visible loose ends we will need to tie up are the buy buttons at the end of our buying sequences, the add-on checkboxes that appear at the same stage, the statements made in our terms and conditions (even if it is only the enforcers who will read them), and the wording of any relevant forms available to our customers.

Be sure to educate yourselves and your staff on all the relevant changes. There are many others included in the document above, including changes to content classification, and to information available through customer support helplines.

 

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Matt

December 17th, 2013.

Good Guy Google – Nine Awesome Things Google Have Done That You Didn’t Even Know About

Love them or hate them, almost all of us these days use Google as our default search engine, and for increasingly other services beyond that, from email to analytics, document storage to translation. Some strange few even use their social media offerings.

But are Google ‘good’ as a company? There is plenty of deserved criticism surrounding privacy and tax avoidance amongst other things. supposedly Google still work on the simple premise of ‘Don’t be evil’, although many would claim that this ethos went out of the window a long time ago. Even Eric Schmidt has since come out and said that the claim was stupid.

However, Google do do a lot of ‘good’. Here are ten of the best examples of ‘good guy Google’, and of the search engine giant doing things that, while not driving their profits higher, help to benefit – potentially – all of mankind. And no, this isn’t a paid Google post..

Google.org

Google.org is perhaps the best example of Google doing good, as it exists purely to develop technology with a positive social impact.

Google-Flu-2013-France2Projects range from Google’s role in advertising and coordinating crisis response efforts, to heavily subsidised (or free) versions of Google’s commercial products for use by non-profit organisations.

Most impressive of all, however, are the Dengue and Flu Trends services, which detect the earliest indications of an outbreak of flu or dengue fever based on the number of people searching for symptoms and treatments.

These can predict epidemics even before doctors have noticed a significant increase in patients presenting with the relevant symptoms, allowing production of the right medicines and vaccines to be scaled up in preparation.

Googling ‘Suicide’

Search for ‘suicide‘ and you might expect the usual helplines and support services for your country or location to be among the top results anyway.

However, Google go further than that – in the UK, you’ll receive a specific message (which, admittedly, still appears below rather than above the sponsored links) telling you to call the Samaritans for help.

In the US, you’ll be presented with an equivalent message for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while in either country, the organic and sponsored results alike are packed with organisations who can offer advice and support to those going through troubled times.

Breaking Boundaries

Perhaps more than any other big brand, Google work to open doors – figuratively speaking – in developing countries, in order to give people there access to information on as much a free a basis as possible.

The company itself is physically present in over 60 countries worldwide, and the majority of its search results are served to non-US customers.

Google Search itself is available in over 130 different languages, while Google Translate translations can be manually improved by international readers to give a better version of the text than is possible through automated translation.

This is helping to make every web page – regardless of its original language – accessible to web users worldwide, putting all countries and nationalities on a level footing in terms of their access to knowledge and information.

Google Doodles

google-steve-jobs-link-1317903191When Google’s homepage logo changed to a ‘Doodle’ – originally a stylised version of the logo that paid homage to a famous person born on that date, or some other such achievement – it used to be big news.

These days, Google Doodles appear much more often, and are much more complex, often involving some kind of game or other interaction.

However, they also serve to raise awareness of scientific achievements, independence days and cultural celebrations, helping to unite people all over the world every time they make a search.

In rare instances, Google will also add a text message below the main search box on their homepage – they did this, for example, as a mark of respect to Apple innovator Steve Jobs upon his death – and this is a further means by which they can raise awareness, as well as showing a little of their human side on what is otherwise a sleek corporate homepage.

The Return of Authorship

It’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the more recent ‘good things’ Google have done specifically for the way the web works.

For instance, since introducing their own Google+ social network, Google have made it possible for authors to effectively connect their work directly with their Google+ profile.

This in turn allows seasoned professionals to be given added significance in the search results by placing their author image alongside their work.

Supporting Journalism

The web has often been portrayed as the enemy of traditional journalism, with print news publications finding it difficult to compete with real-time ‘news’ via social networks, and to maintain editorial standards in the face of bloggers who are often not subjected to the same levels of scrutiny on grammar and spelling.

In February 2013 though, Google took the first plainly visible steps towards overcoming that (outside of simply carefully selecting the sources of content that are included in the Google News search index).

A total of eight students from 2,300 applicants were selected for fellowships at seven different organisations with links to journalism, from research centres and training facilities, to action groups that aim to protect investigative journalists while they carry out real-world research.

The response to the scheme was so great, Google had to extend the application review period by a full week, and received an application every two minutes on the last day of the deadline; the chosen students will also spend a week working at Google, and learn about how the worlds of journalism and technology can overlap in the years to come.

Safer Internet Day

Each year, on Safer Internet Day, Google make efforts to raise public awareness of online security – particularly among those users who might not be so experienced at using computers or searching from smartphone handsets.

The brand’s commitment to security is built into its products – Google Chrome automatically updates to apply any new security patches, while both Google Search and Gmail transmit data only via encrypted connections.

But its public awareness efforts go beyond automation, encouraging best practices among human users of its services, and of the kinds of technology on which those services are delivered.

In 2013, for instance, the Safer Internet Day campaign from Google focused on issues like locking and password-protecting PCs, laptops and mobile phones, to prevent unauthorised access.

Scrolls and Santa

In December 2012, Google made two announcements with close links to Christmas – one of which was a frivolous bit of fun, while the other was a major archaeological advance.

Google-Santa-Tracker-4-600x358Once again, the search engine ran its annual ‘Santa Tracker’ service, giving people worldwide the ability to “see where Santa’s headed next” on services like Google Earth, and on devices ranging from PCs and laptops with the Chrome browser installed, to Android-powered mobile devices.

Around the same time, Google unveiled the further digitisation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, putting 5,000 images of the scrolls online, and with detailed information for 900 individual manuscripts.

Google provided the storage for the data – which includes colour images at 1,215 dpi resolution, along with infrared scans – and added supporting information through Google Maps, their own imaging technologies, and even YouTube integration.

Whatever your religious beliefs (and that extends to non-religious beliefs like atheism too), Google strive to cater for cultures and communities of all kinds through these kinds of projects, whether they are academic in nature, or simply a fun way to celebrate an important date on the calendar.

Google Goats

goats2In 2009, Google stopped using noisy, air-polluting lawnmowers to clear the grass and brush from the hills around their Mountain View headquarters (a necessary task to reduce the risk of a grass fire close to the building).

They instead hired a herd of goats to come and eat their way across the hillside, clearing vegetation as they went.

‘Mowing’ using goats takes the company about a week each summer, and has the dual benefits of reducing carbon emissions while also naturally fertilising the land – and for approximately the same cost as using petrol-powered industrial mowers.

england-flag-facebook-cover-other

Sergio

December 11th, 2013.

Coming Summer 2014: .UK’s Biggest Domain change

 

Summer 2014  will see one of the biggest domain modifications in the UK ever. The roll-out of .uk domains will allow companies who currently use ‘.co.uk’ or ‘org.uk’ domains to also register for  ‘.uk’  e.g.  datadial.co.uk will be able to register datadial.uk.

Nominet will offer the current holders of the .co.uk or org.uk up to 5 years to register the domain before it is released to the general public.

In the event that one company holds .co.uk and another holds .org.uk, the shorter domain will be offered to the holders of the .co.uk domain.

If a domain is not currently registered to .co.uk or .org.uk, the domain will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on launch day.

So in essence, if you have a .co.uk or a .org.uk, you will be able to simplify it to .uk next year.

 

hummingbird-dd

Joe Joe

October 10th, 2013.

Google’s Biggest Update in Years has Already Happened: Hummingbird

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.

adtech

Martina Martina

September 12th, 2013.

Things I learned at ad:tech London…

adtech

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! ;-)

daily-mailbullshit

Matt

April 3rd, 2013.

How the Daily Mail Became The Worlds Most Read Newspaper

Love it or hate it, the Daily Mail has always had the power to shock. With its daily obsessions over immigration and ‘human rights insanity’ to a determination to cover every tiny detail about the Royal family and celebrity stars, the paper has an almost equal share of critics and fans. Yet although this British national newspaper is not the biggest selling daily in the UK, never mind globally, it has been named as the biggest online news source in the world overtaking the New York Times (comScore, Feb 2012).

All the British national papers began their internet websites on a more or less equal footing in 2008. While the Times (in June 2010) decided to go down the route of paid subscription content, the Daily Mail and most of the other papers decided to monetise their websites through the use of paid advertising. The announced in June 2012 that they had become profitable for the first time.

However, the success of the newspaper’s online operations is set to continue growing. Guy Zitter, managing director of Mail Newspapers, told an industry conference in June that the advertising potential of the Mail Online was still “not even touching the sides”. Whilst advertising revenues are predicted to top £30m this year, two thirds of this still comes from the UK, whereas two third of the Mail Online’s audience lies elsewhere. – Four Media

For this strategy to work, they would have to be able to drive traffic to their websites in high volumes. Most of the newspapers translated their daily issues of the paper into online editions, using traditional journalism and headlines to create their websites. While this ensured that they kept their loyal readership, the websites were not able to maximize the attention of the search engines.

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Setting up a Dedicated Web Operation to Write up News

The Daily Mail from the start set up a separate web operation. Their homepage is made up of hundreds of stories, each clamouring to be read. The headlines read as summaries of the story, but they are also anchor text, a link that when clicked will lead the reader to the story. The story pages themselves are chock full of pictures, diagrams, commentary, YouTube clips, in fact anything that is vaguely relevant to the story. The links are designed to keep you reading and following other stories of interest on the Mail Online website, in the process maximizing their advertising revenue.

One section of the site that is deliberately written for the online version and doesn’t feature anywhere near as heavily in the print version is the celebrity news section. This is a deliberate ploy to target keyword with high search volumes as well as developing a loyal online readership around these topics. The popularity of the celebrity content is shown when looking at the directories on the site with the highest search visibility, with TV and showbiz capturing a larger share of visibility than news.

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There is a column of abbreviated stories, small pictures and anchor-linked headlines down the right hand side of every page. This public hunger for celebrity stories has driven trending articles upwards for the Mail Online and they are regularly updated. They will rewrite and republish stories in real-time if the interest is there.

The content is refreshed at a fast rate. The web team receive the articles from the journalistic team and tweak them to suit the online readership. Articles are also gathered from other news websites and rewritten. This enables the team to put together a large amount of news stories quickly, cheaply, and optimise them for the website and publish them. A frequent criticism of this tactic is that journalistic integrity is often compromised, facts aren’t checked as there isn’t time, and often articles are closely plagiarised from other sources.

Picture21

 

Source: FourNewsletter

Developing News for the US Audience

A large part of the Mail’s success is based on their growing US readership. Dedicated journalistic web teams were set up in Los Angeles and New York. The website has a link to its US edition across the top tabs of the homepage. The Mail’s strategy drives a high volume of web traffic to the website by offering popular stories. Most news websites advertising revenue is driven by page views and the Mail’s success in encouraging visitors to click more links is instrumental in becoming the most widely read news website online. The Mail Online aims at the English speaking world and there is no shortage of potential readers.

Successful SEO Strategy

SEO strategy has played a large part in the website’s popularity. The mini-article type headlines are long tail keywords, researched and utilised for their popularity in the search engines.
In-depth articles help to maximise long-tail search visits, and the incorporation of images, diagrams and rich media help to encourage other sites to cite them as a source to develop their link profile.

Backlink History   Majestic SEO

But the website’s most successful manipulation of the web involves social media. The Mail Online wants to be the news website that everyone is talking about and often the tactics involved could be considered as linkbait, that art of creating something controversial that provokes debate by manipulating emotion.

Samantha Brick – Successful Linkbait?

Samantha Brick, one of the Mail’s regular journalists wrote an article entitled ‘Why Do Women Hate Me because I’m Beautiful’ in April 2012. During the following 24 hours, the article trended on Twitter, over 200k Facebook likes and received 1.5 million comments, most of them uncomplimentary.
At the time she was one of the most talked about women in the world. The Mail Online received backlinks from trusted and relevant sources including other national newspapers, Twitter, and many different blogs which included the Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Gawker and Buzzfeed amongst others. Overall the article helped to generate more than 4,000 links to the site. There was also a follow-up article with Samantha Brick in The Independent and TV and magazine interviews which followed.

In SEO terms, this kind of exposure is pure gold and the Mail Online gained a lot of attention. However many of the commentators were concerned at how deliberately the furore was created and maintained.

The Rush to Publish – The Mail Online’s Public Mistake

This need to be constantly at the forefront of trending articles can turn sour as the Mail Online found out when it tried to publish the results of the Amanda Knox trial appeal in October 2011. Two versions of the appeal story had been written up. The wrong story was published which stated that the appeal had been turned down when it had in fact succeeded. The story was only published as fact for 90 seconds, but it had been noticed and the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint about it, citing concerns about the accuracy of the reporting.

Several large blogs picked-up on the mistake and the rest of the national press picked it up as a story. However even when they get it wrong, people are still talking about the Mail Online, discussing it on Twitter and posting the links.

Success At The Expense Of Journalistic Integrity?

The Mail Online’s success has been due in no small part to its ability to understand that it was important to differentiate between the newspaper and online news markets and to ensure that each was correctly targeted.

It tempts visitors to stay and click on two or three pieces with its anchor-linked teaser headlines and most articles are commented on. A quick check of the website today and the lead story has already collected 1099 comments; another story further down has 50 comments, yet another 531 comments. The Daily Mirror on the same day has its highest number of comments as 18 on one article; the Sun has a story with 50 comments.

The Mail has a knack of getting its readers to participate and that is one of the secrets of its success.

The Mail Online is the most successful of the British newspapers to translate to online readership, but it has adapted its techniques to achieve its goal. Coincidentally, the Times website makes more revenue from its subscription service, but it serves only a fraction of the readership of Mail Online.

Missed boat

Martina Martina

July 13th, 2012.

When missing the boat leads to being forgotten…

Missed boat
Image Source

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“?:


MySpace

MySpace

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.

AOL

AOL

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.

Yahoo!

Yahoo!

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.

Digg

Digg

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)

Facebook

Facebook

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

Instagram

Instagram

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)

Hotmail

Hotmail

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.

RIM/Blackberry

Blackberry

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.

Bing

Bing

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…

Last.FM

Lastfm

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“)

Kodak

Kodak

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…

penguin2

Adam 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

cookie-law

Rob

April 27th, 2012.

Cookie Law implementation ideas

 

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.

What about “Yes please, use cookies.”  “No thanks I don’t want cookies”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BT.com

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.

 

Zebedee Creations

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.eu-cookie-law.com

Simple solution, which disappears after about 10 seconds.  Presumably they think that not actively agreeing is presumed acceptance? Is this legal?

seo

Martina Martina

April 20th, 2012.

Over-optimisation: too much of a “good” thing?

Over-optimisation

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.

Examples?

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:

Parting words?

Good luck! ;-)

instagram

Martina Martina

April 11th, 2012.

Three things the sale of Instagram can teach us about business…

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! :-)

google

Adam 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.

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