December 18th, 2013.
Majestic SEO, the web’s biggest open link map, just recently updated their search explorer tool to version “Alpha v0.3”. The search explorer allows marketers to search on a specialised search engine which ranks pages based on how influential on the web graph they are. The approach is no nonsense and provides realistic search results, which exclude ads, authorship and the influence of temporal algorithm rankings.
So what should we expect?
Majestic says, we shouldn’t expect the tool to rival the major search engines, but it turns out they don’t have to as they believe the time is right for a subscription based engine with no advertising and which offers complete transparency. This makes it a great tool for digital marketers, because for the first time, we can more accurately see what factors are influencing high rankings in our niche.
The new update sees two new features that should have the mouths of SEOs watering: The new live rank factors and a new link prospecting methodology.
Live Rank Factors
Labelled as “transparency at your fingertips” by Dixon Jones (marketing director at Majestic), the live rank feature allows users to search by keyword to see what factors are increasing the rankings for theirs or their competitors sites in the SERPS. From this, SEOs can gain a better understanding of what it might take to rank for specific sets of keywords or topics. “For the first time, you can run a search query and see exactly why one search result appears above another”.
The Live rank feature search results tab allows users to analyse the corresponding data on a much granular level than anything before. When performing a search, your results are scored on variables such as InTitle, InAnchor and InURL. Majestic’s trusty flow metrics are also involved as well as referring domains and total external backlinks. These metrics when combined are giving us a great understanding of how Majestic are interpreting the search data.
Getting your hands dirty
From the Live rank factors page, you can dig deeper to get a better grasp of the data being presented. Go to the “Ranking Factors” tab and you can switch from “Data” to “Chart”, which allows you to easily digest the information being presented. From here you can see that if your site is dominating majestic’s search explorer but neither of the big search engines, then this may well mean that there are other factors which are at play, such as personalisation, ads, authorship and so on.
All of this offers great insight to us as SEOs because it allows us to know when enough high authority links have been built and the onsite optimisation of our pages is in good order. If you’re under pressure from clients or your boss to “BUILD MORE LINKS” then be sure to show them the data. Make them aware that although you’re ranking high in Majestic’s search explorer, building more links might not be the way forward and you may end up tripping the big search engines’ spam filters.
Majestic has commented on its plans for its live rank reports going into the future, saying that they’re looking to increase the variables in the algorithm which will be more closely aligned to those of Google and Bing, (well the ones that are perceived as common knowledge in the SEO field).
Link Prospecting Methodology
The link prospecting methodology makes use of AQS (advanced query syntax), our good old friend “site:”. Using this command will return sites that are more than likely to be authorities in their given fields/topics. You can also go further by using the command to bring up blogs on all kinds of platforms.
“Keyword site:blogger.com site:wordpress.com site:blogspot.com site:tumblr.com site:squarespace.com”
The “bucket list” feature allows you to save a list of competitors URLs and run a search against only those URLs. This is an amazing way of benchmarking against your closest competitors.
I love this new feature as it can be used to go beyond link building. I can use this tool for research by cherry-picking the types of results I want in my bucket list, such as trusted and accurate news sites. For example, if I want to research a specific celebrity, I can exclude any news source that offers little substance (red tops and glossy magazines). Majestic also commented that this tool can be used by PR professionals who want to work on reputation management.
To take a full tour of the tool you can view Majestic’s “how to” webinar below. It’s packed full of great instructions and tips for getting the most out of the tool.
I’m excited to see how it’s going to develop over the coming months as they start to add more and more data. I have but one recommendation for going forward…
The issue I found when using the tool for the first time was one that could quite often pop up for many SEOs. It is that of searching and building for branded terms.
Searching for “Sony” will return results from Sony TLDs and international sub folders such as: .com, .net, .co.uk, .jp etc. However, the same search in Google will come with geo targeting and return results such as: .co.uk, local, news, Wikipedia and Amazon, which would be a truer version of what my target customer would be seeing.
The only way I can think of to resolve this would be to include the Google results in my bucket list, but that can also be limiting in a way because I’d constantly be changing half my list due to the amount of variables in the results on any given day, such as news.
I would personally like to see a Geo toggle implemented within the search explorer to give better flexibility in the results. Other than that, I personally love what this new tool has to offer.
November 25th, 2013.
One of the biggest problems facing Content Marketers is how best to represent ‘The Brand’ when developing engaging content.
I’ve got a newsflash for you:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!!
In fact, I’d go even further and say you should always try to move away from your brand when building content. The less ‘advertorial’ the content is, the more engaging and sharable it will be.
Far be it from me to tell you your brand is boring, but unless you own a company that makes Star Wars costumes for cats, the internet won’t care what you have to say.
The best content is the stuff that:
- Fills a knowledge gap,
- Answers an important question, or,
- Gets people worked up into a frenzy of commenting and sharing.
You need to ask yourself one important question when planning your content:
Who Will Find This Interesting?
The best answer to this question is ‘Everyone’. You need to ensure maximum appeal to encourage maximum sharability. You need to be getting your content in front of high authority websites and bloggers. If they see the value of the content, they’ll be more willing to use it and provide you with that all-important link. You will never, ever, ever be able to trick people into posting an advert for your website. That’s just not how it works. However, if you’re offering something entertaining or useful that they can reuse to their advantage, they’ll be much more willing to promote your brand.
Here’s a nice thought experiment to explain what I mean:
You’re at a festival with two stages. On one stage, a man is stood talking about the history of his company. On the other stage, a man is riding a lion and juggling swords while a penguin tries to shoot an apple off of his head with a revolver. Who do you think would draw the bigger crowd? Which will be filmed and go viral on the internet and which will be ignored?
The internet is the world’s biggest festival. There’s plenty of content out there, so make sure yours stands out.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But, Joe! My brand is interesting. I’m offering something unique and my clients love it’. That may be true, and it’s a great system for driving sales. Unfortunately, web content for the most part isn’t about driving conversions – it’s about promoting the brand, building authority and increasing engagement.
I’ll agree your brand probably is very interesting, but I guarantee you’ll find your content more successful if you focus on using your unique industry position to inform your content, rather than define it. I’ll bet you’re sitting on a goldmine of insider information that would be perfect for filling knowledge gaps or creating a useful resource. Everyone has some information lying around – whether you’re a travel company with a great knowledge of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe or a rug manufacturing company with an insight into the psychology of rug design. Put a spin on your data and make it as interesting as possible.
Here’s a takeaway list of things to remember when planning content:
Interest: You need to make it interesting. Make sure nobody will be saying ‘So What?’
Emotion: Getting people worked up on a human level is a surefire way to increase engagement. Happiness and funny content are well shared, but (I’ll let you in on a secret…), making people angry is the best method. The more furious people get, the more active they become. That’s how the Daily Mail is so successful (See Matt’s post: ‘Why the Daily Mail became the world’s most read newspaper‘)
Topical: Try to tap into a current trend on Social Media or in the news. If you can give it a new slant, all the better.
Usable: Usability is a hugely beneficial trait of online content. If people think their friends might find it helpful, they’ll send it to them. Life Hacker is a fine example of this in practice.
In summary: sometimes it pays to step away from your brand a little in the name of creating good content. Especially on the internet.
Take a look through our Complete History of Viral Content and apply this criteria to see why things were successful.
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.
September 12th, 2013.
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!
August 23rd, 2013.
Spend enough time wading through spam emails and you’ll be amazed at what you find. From dodgy salutations to cringe-worthy formatting, on a very slow day this makes for a good few minutes of entertainment.
Here are some of the most ‘creepy’ elements of bad email-ship:
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
This is usually an attempt at making a company look uber-friendly, since the emails they send you are formatted like a buddy would send them.
The downside is that sometimes we sign up with nick-names, tags or misspellings which can quickly turn a harmless greeting into a spammy annoyance. Seeing “Happy Birthday JaneDoe101!” or “JaneDoe101 we miss you!” littering up your mailbox is usually the first step on the way to an unsubscribe!
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
“Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom this may concern” are clear-cut indicators of cold calling (or cold mailing) – sure they’re gender neutral but boy are they impersonal. They scream “Someone, anyone – please read me!” rather than seeming relevant to the recipient.
Too many imperatives
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s true that the call-to action is a huge part of the science behind a smooth conversion, so putting in punchy phrases like “click here!” and “buy now!” seem standard procedure, but there is such a thing of over-doing it.
Ultimately, I don’t want bossy emails, and legally anything being sold is an ‘invitation to treat’ so in your next sales email, try the passive approach with an A/B test to see what gains a better reaction.
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s been a while and there’s a lot to say, but how long do you think I’ve got? People are time conscious, say less!
If you need to explain something a nifty way of doing so is by linking back to a blog post published on your website. Not only is this considerate of your customers, it’s also potential for indirect conversions; they may just browse other parts of your website…
And in taking my own advice, I’ll keep this short and sweet – but feel free to add any other examples you can think of in our vowel to make electronic mail, sustainable!
August 21st, 2013.
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:
This lovely little formula grabs the lowercase anchor text of the first link containing ‘www.datadial.net’ of the URL in cell A1.
Searchmetrics is a brilliant SEO tool, the amount of insight that it gives on client and competitor sites is incredibly useful. One of my favourite reports, along with some manipulation in Excel is to run a quick rankings comparison report on your competitors so you can gain insight into what they’re ranking for, more importantly what they’re ranking for and you’re not, and also how your site matches-up a full range of industry keywords.
For this sample report I’m going to take a look at some of the bigger sites in the insurance sector.
Other good insurance companies do exist, along with quite a few terrible ones.
Run each domain through Searchmetrics and run a long-tail keyword report on each of the sites that you wish to compare.
Export and download each of these reports.
In Excel create different sheets for each of the exports along with the first sheet which should be named ‘comparison’ this is where all of the magic happens and your data will be pulled-in.
Paste each sites data into onto it’s own sheet, as well as cumulatively into the ‘comparison’ sheet.
Then under Data > Remove Duplicates remove duplicated keywords on the ‘comparison’ sheet.
Then delete the following columns in the ‘comparison’ sheet – URL, Pos, Title, and Traffic Index. This should leave just Keyword, Search Volume and CPC.
Next add columns for each of the sites that you wish to compare. This should leave you with a sheet that looks something like this.
Then, using VLOOKUP you’ll need to pull the ranking data from the other sheets into the comparison sheet. So for example into Column C all of the rankings for Aviva will appear.
The formula you’ll need is =VLOOKUP(A:A,Aviva!A:G,3,0) The easiest way to generate this is to use the insert formula function,
Lookup value – Is the value that you’re looking up, in this case is column A, the keyword.
Table array – is the table you’re finding the value in, which is the Aviva sheet, so click in the table array entry field, then go to the Aviva sheet and highlight all of the columns.
Col index num – is the column with the data in that you wish to import, so column 3, the ranking position.
Range lookup – Enter FALSE or 0 here to find an exact match. This will cause #N/A to be returned if the site isn’t ranking for the keyword.
Repeat this for each site. And then expand the selection by dragging the corner of the box down to apply to each of the cells in the sheet.
Tidy the sheet up by formatting as a table, and (hopefully) you should have something that looks like this.
If the #N/A results are annoying you can easily remove them by modifying the VLOOKUP formular from
You can also colour-code the rankings using conditional formatting.
If you would like to download this example sheet I have added it here – CompetitorReport
June 25th, 2013.
All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.
But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?
Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site.
Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:
Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.
But how should you respond?
People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.
So there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:
#1 Responsive Web Design
What is it?
In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..
– Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.
– Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.
– Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).
– Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.
– General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.
– Lack of Mobile Features – You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.
– Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.
Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone. But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.
#2 Dedicated Mobile Site
What is it?
Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.
The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.
– Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.
– Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.
– Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.
– Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.
– Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.
– SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.
We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.
#3 Mobile Apps
What are they?
Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).
– Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).
– Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.
– Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.
– Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.
– No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.
– Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.
– Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.
We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.
The 4th Option
So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile. There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing. Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options. This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.
So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump. If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.
And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:
You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,
But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,
And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,
To fix your SEO a little bit.
There are two points that must be mentioned here,
Two tags to put in your HTML,
(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)
They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.
Rel=”alternate” on the desktop
Make sure it points to the mobile and all…
And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop
On mobile: Rel=”canonical”
But other things cannot be avoided.
Like linking to mobile, just like I did:
So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:
Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>
Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>